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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)
youkrst wrote:
Harry wrote:
Traditional theology is pretty coherent


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…

These are not particularly good examples of incoherence.

Yes, "scripture alone" ignores the fact that the Biblical canon is of the same type as other tradition, but in the context of Luther's rejection of the current state of the church, scripture is decisively different. The reason, as everyone at the time with any education or worldly acquaintance knew, was that the church had been pursuing worldly power for centuries and the scripture stood outside that stream of history.

Yes, Luther called James the "gospel of straw" but his reasons are quite compelling. James addresses evidence of faith, but does not engage whether faith is salvific. To rest on the words of James, as the defenders of indulgences did, is to ignore the real sense conveyed by the other epistles in order to justify something corrupt.

I had to look up "common grace" and "prevenient grace." I don't see that either one is problematic for coherence.

If you are going to argue that any time theologians disagree it means the whole structure is incoherent, then my side of the argument has been defined away. I still think coherence means that the different parts fit together and support one another. I would not argue that pre-Modern Christian theology is completely coherent, but then physics is not completely coherent in that sense either.

In my view plenty of theology is wrong. But that is not the same thing as showing it to be incoherent. An example of incoherence that I would find convincing would be: idea A is important to the structure of theology, idea B is important to the structure of theology, and idea A and idea B cannot both be true.

The closest thing to it that I know of is the argument (pre-Christian) from Plato that God cannot be both omnipotent and omnibenevolent. But of course God can be both, if there is a large amount of significant information about alternatives that we do not have. If you take omnipotence to mean "there is nothing that can possibly be done that God cannot do" then the loophole of "can possibly be done" lets all kinds of conceivable alternatives be swept under the rug as "impossible for reasons we do not yet know." It's just Liebniz - a truly formidable intellect.



Mon Jan 25, 2016 4:30 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
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.

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.

I took your proposal to "make the unconscious conscious" to be something like Freudian dream interpretation, in which a person becomes able to recognize hitherto incomprehensible experiences as results of forces which can be described and analyzed. I see now that you are satisfied with any process which analyzes the unconscious of anyone, so that it does not necessitate a change in internal perspective by the person experiencing the unconscious phenomena.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Otherwise you seem to be arguing that we should respect blatantly false assertions on relativist grounds. Traffic rules are not like virgin birth.

I am arguing first that you should assess values propositions by different criteria than fact propositions. Values propositions can be apparently contradictory but in fact both true or correct. "Truth" about a should is not the same as "truth" about an is. The epistemology is different, and the notion that contradictory claims cannot both be true simply fails to understand the nature of truth in the context of values.

It would be good if you would query that if you disagree, because I find it frustrating to proceed without it having been clarified when you regularly show evidence of confusion on the point.

I am arguing second that you should distinguish between assessing the motivation for beliefs and assessing the truth of beliefs. You have repeatedly, on this thread, dismissed the possibility that worthy motives could be behind a belief on the basis of your belief that it is factually incorrect. I understand the notion of "bad faith", in which wrong motives can be uncovered based on refusal to consider evidence, but that is itself easily used as an excuse not to assess the actual motivation involved.

Robert Tulip wrote:
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.

That gets into chancy ground. We are claiming to understand the reasons why a myth (or a presidential candidate) "resonates" in a force of which the resonated person is not aware. Some of it operates like movie music: going on in the background without conscious processing. But let's face it, people are often all too aware of why they respond to what they respond to.

A broken myth is essentially a parable, or perhaps if it operates on a more limited scale, a symbol. And since the whole point is to learn to process these effectively, recognizing the reasons for their effects, I think it would be a good idea not to start with claims of superior insight until that has been demonstrated.

Robert Tulip wrote:
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.

The distance between our positions on this material is not very great. I like exploring this question, I think you understand the matter and have valuable insights, but I fear I am giving the impression that I consider you wrong on the subject. That would be the wrong impression. However, I remain dissatisfied on some relatively minor aspects, and one of them is the requirement that the function of myth must operate by means of unconscious factors.

It seems to me that suspension of disbelief works primarily by excluding the distraction of fact-checking. We don't really care whether Hamlet talks with a ghost or the whole conversation occurs in his head, or whether Macbeth got some reassuring guidance from wielders of dark power or just decided "to hell with it, I am going for the crown." The interesting use of the plot device is to raise aspects of the matter that would lose their emotional force if we had to keep assessing whether we believe that things happen that way.

I don't think that means the emotional force is unconscious, only that it is a whole lot more work to access it and work with it by explicit means than by a good story.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
Why did the Church latch onto the Virgin Birth? I doubt if it was an unconscious purity need
But the mythical content in virgin birth dogma is not the purity need, ... 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.

Well, the need for femininity to be controlled by masculinity strikes me as an example of an unconscious force at work, but I fear I cannot see how it is at work in the Immaculate Conception material.
(edited for inappropriate quote brackets)
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.


Robert Tulip wrote:
Your driving example would only be relevant to cultural relativism if someone said one or the other side were better,

I chose it deliberately for its extreme obviousness. I am claiming that some cultural relativism is inevitable. I do not hold that it is impossible to ever make judgments about which values are better (though I do believe it is impossible to demonstrate them with the methods we use for adjudication of factual claims), only that it is an incomplete system of comparison. It works sometimes, but in many, many cases one cannot give arguments from one perspective that a different perspective will find persuasive, nor demonstrate that the reason for this is a violation of moral principles. Liberal tolerance emphasizes cultural relativism for good reason, and the inevitability of cultural relativism, that is, the dependence of a principle's value on the conditions in which it is held, is part of that reason.
Robert Tulip wrote:
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.

We had some of those debates on the "banning the hijab" thread. But if you underline the word "understood" in the Wiki quote, you can see that accepting the onus to understand is not the same as being required to agree or even tolerate.

Robert Tulip wrote:
You are confusing a value (something that is perceived as good) with a rule or convention. Road rules are not moral values.

Road rules are a particularly pedestrian (ouch) example of values.
Your seat belt example is better - we are in no position to judge which risks are worth taking as evidence of lack of intimidation. I doubt if all Russians share the perception you cited, but even if they do, how do we distinguish that from the question of whether a person should ever risk, say, talking back to a teacher? I know people who will not drive on Third World roads. Are they just sissies, or are they going by sensible precautions? That is not adjudicable because right and wrong are internal categories. And for the same reason, cultures may differ in the relative emphasis they put on competing values.

Robert Tulip wrote:
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.

Okay, we see eye to eye. I agree with your second statement, and I am happy to consider the first to be "practical agreement."



Last edited by Harry Marks on Tue Jan 26, 2016 3:10 am, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
yeah Harry i was posting from a tablet after a champagne, always a challenge.

that was just a quote from one of the links, a catholic puzzling on protestant theology.

the image at the top was much better at making my point.

lemme have another go.

Harry wrote:
Traditional theology is pretty coherent




Image

Image



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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
Harry

i just cant let a statement like "traditional theology is pretty coherent" pass

i would say "traditional theology is one of the greatest examples of intellect rationalising insanity that there has ever been."

traditional theology is absurd.

lemme find an example

http://www.crivoice.org/tulip.html

Harry can you give an example of this coherent theology?

even it were coherent, it would be coherent bullshit.

theology does not sit well on a thread with the words "Good Thinking" in the title.

theology is smart people trying to justify dumb thinking.

Quote:
“A philosopher is a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat that isn't there. A theologian is the man who finds it.”
― H.L. Mencken



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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
Harry, here's a great one

Quote:
“Popular religions all over the world, for the most part, are misunderstandings of … poetic images. The chief way to misunderstand an image is to imagine that it is a fact. One says to one’s beloved, “You are a rose,” “You are a swan,” and she says, “Make up your mind, which is it?” She’s what I would call a theologian.” (laughter from the audience follows)



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Mon Jan 25, 2016 8:36 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
for example i read in the NT

Quote:
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven


add perspectives to your mind, great stuff.

and i think, right on! i've been doing that the last three weeks and it is great!

then along comes a theologian....heaven is a real place you go when you die if you kiss the holy ring...

Image



Mon Jan 25, 2016 9:37 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
youkrst wrote:
i just cant let a statement like "traditional theology is pretty coherent" pass
traditional theology is absurd.
even it were coherent, it would be coherent bullshit.
theology is smart people trying to justify dumb thinking.

Okay, so I am not neurotypical. I have this strange idea that "coherent" has a specific meaning, and "dumb" has a different meaning.

Sue me.



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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
youkrst wrote:
Harry, here's a great one

Quote:
“Popular religions all over the world, for the most part, are misunderstandings of … poetic images. The chief way to misunderstand an image is to imagine that it is a fact. One says to one’s beloved, “You are a rose,” “You are a swan,” and she says, “Make up your mind, which is it?” She’s what I would call a theologian.” (laughter from the audience follows)

I like that one. I laughed. But what does "theologian" have to do with "popular religion"?

These days, if you can find a theologian who claims that heaven and hell are real places, you are looking at a denomination that treats professors as hired hands to be told what to think.



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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
Harry Marks wrote:
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.
The meaning of coherent and consistent are not that simple. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criteria_of_truth explains that coherence and consistency are primary criteria of truth, and suggests quite different meanings of these terms from yours. It argues “To be coherent, all pertinent facts must be arranged in a consistent and cohesive fashion as an integrated whole. The theory which most effectively reconciles all facts in this fashion may be considered most likely to be true.” Consistency is just when a theory does not contradict itself.

A theory that is internally consistent but which ignores relevant facts is usually seen as an incoherent rationalisation. The use of such incoherent methods is a primary reason for the low intellectual reputation of theology. While there is some excellent theology that does strive for logical coherence, the widespread use of questionable assumptions puts the general coherence of theology into doubt.

Traditional theology suffers from intense political bias. For example, hidden agendas regarding bolstering the power of the church are at play regarding which theologies are preferred. The false assumption that the Bible is largely historically accurate is a common failing, as is the magical view that reality is actually very different from what our senses reveal, instead being governed by an invisible and undetectable personal intentional entity, known as God.
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.

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.
You are wrongly applying just one specific meaning of “because” here. Aristotle was responsible for the philosophy of the four causes, the material, efficient, formal and final. It looks reasonable to me to say that lack of method and interest was responsible for his error about gravity, perhaps as the final if not the formal or efficient cause. That hardly looks an incoherent argument.
Harry Marks wrote:
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.
Yes, I am still missing that point. My particular interest is to show that astrotheology shows the truth value of conventional theology is weak, since the claims of religion have a better explanation in allegory than fact.

I can accept that there is sincere motivation among Christians, for example creationists, who see their community cohesion as blown away by the observation that Christ was not in any literal sense the Second Adam. If Paul’s claim that Christ repaired Adam’s sin is incoherent, then the central faith idea that we are washed in the blood of the lamb starts to look false.

But this sincere motivation is irrelevant to efforts to construct an ethic that coheres with evidence. Your argument reminds me of an analogy with the labour theory of value. Marx held that economic value is a function of labour, and therefore of effort. But if you put immense effort into something no one wants to buy, your labour is worthless. Similarly, sincere motives that rest on false premises have little worth.
Paul's argument in 1Cor15, that without Christ raised our faith is in vain, should therefore only make sense when we understand resurrection as allegory rather than fact.
Harry Marks wrote:
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.
Your argument implies we should respect people who are manifestly deluded. Medieval popes thought that geocentrism bolstered their values of social order. Their motive may have been sincere, but the growth of science showed that the popes were deluded, and their worldview was subject to tectonic breakage once the pressure became to great.

I accept that condescension of science towards fantasy can be sometimes partly misplaced, since fantasy can serve useful social functions, and can conceal unconscious science, for example with the social and psychological value of worship and ritual. But I don’t agree it is ever completely wrong to point out that a fantasy is factually incorrect. A sound evidentiary basis in knowledge is rather what I contend is the real basis of sound values.
Harry Marks wrote:
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.
This discussion raises the vexed problem of the relation between facts and values, a central theme in philosophy brought to focus by Hume’s assertion that you cannot logically derive an ought from an is, that factual statements never entail a decision about what we should value.

While perhaps logically coherent, I think that Hume’s view, at the basis of positivism, fails in practice because we do routinely believe that facts entail moral response. For example, in Churchill’s insistence on war against Hitler, the British people accepted that the fact of German aggression morally required British resistance as an expression of cultural values.

But again, motivation that lacks sound epistemic foundations deserves stringent critique. That is not at all to say people should not have faith, because we can never base a decision solely on evidence, but must always bring to bear general moral principles.
Harry Marks wrote:
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.
Really, that is an excellent point you are making here Harry, and I am alive to the dilemma you raise. Political stability depends on social consensus and trust. That is why Constantine insisted on a common dogma with the Nicene Creed, and why the government of the People’s Republic of China retains its assessment that Mao was 70% good and 30% bad to secure social stability. But there is also a slow tectonic issue at play here, that rigid beliefs eventually become obsolete, and so far removed from experience that they collapse.

Creationism and supernaturalism enable some very helpful social values, but their incoherence also leads to a broad social contempt on the part of the secular world for the whole of the associated theological package of Christianity. That is why I call for faith to shift its base from myth to reason, to develop a theory of social evolution that builds upon the valuable precedents within religion rather than proposing some revolutionary abandonment of all faith.
Harry Marks wrote:
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
I certainly do not dismiss anyone’s entire life purpose. However, when a person sincerely believes that their purpose in life is to get to heaven after they die, I try to find a valid unconscious meaning within this delusion. For example, Weber argued in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism that such heavenly aims enabled deferment of pleasure and promoted an investment culture.
Harry Marks wrote:
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
That is another good point, but it raises some complex problems in religious psychology. Believing in Jesus in the fundamentalist sense has proven a highly adaptive moral system, justifying stable conservative values and protecting against anarchic experiment. That seems to me a big part of why Christianity still has such strong social purchase in ways that appear superficially irrational, such as fear of hellfire. I would like to be able to respect conventional values while promoting a conversation about how they can be rationally justified.
Harry Marks wrote:
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.
Far from it, but the point here is that sexual fidelity is a central example of a good social ethic that is supported by a delusional theory, the emotional comfort of a personal Lord and Savior. It is a very difficult problem how to rebase good outcomes on logical foundations, helping to show how our brains are not completely rational. I see the recognition that the Bible has powerful allegorical meaning as central to this problem.
Harry Marks wrote:
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. [/quote] We can look elsewhere for discussion of Crossan. An example is http://vridar.org/2013/01/09/crossans-p ... did-exist/ which argues that Crossan applies dogmatic presuppositions to defend the incoherent belief that gospel fiction is compatible with the existence of Jesus.
Harry Marks wrote:
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.
Ehrman has been cited by some rather rank rationalisers as providing proof that mythicism is incoherent, even though his slapdash review does nothing of the sort. This helps to illustrate the power dynamics at play in this debate, that serious analysis is trumped in some circles by superficial nonsense because that is what people want to believe.

I think the fidelity dynamic you mentioned is an important subconscious background here, especially considering Carrier’s rather disturbing comments about polyamory. Many Christians would accept the ad hominem argument that a person who promotes adultery cannot be a serious scholar.
Harry Marks wrote:
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.
Recall I did say “and elsewhere”, so I was just citing that blog as a first port of call. To really explore this topic in detail, see the brilliant collection of essays http://www.amazon.com.au/Ehrman-Quest-H ... B00C9N0WBI which are the best source I have seen describing the emerging paradigm. Incidentally I am particularly supportive of Frank Zindler’s argument about Jesus Christ as Avatar of the Age of Pisces, a topic which routinely falls stillborn from the press, to use Hume’s phrase about his own work.
Harry Marks wrote:
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).
The complete absence of all mention of astrotheology from Carrier’s work is to my mind evidence of serious prejudice on his part. Freke and Gandy focus on the secret mystery schools as the foundation of Christianity. I am yet to see any coherent engagement with their work by Carrier.
Harry Marks wrote:
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.

Your mention of motivated reasoning helps show the strong relevance of this very extended discussion to the thread topic, how confirmation bias, motivated reasoning and anchoring beliefs distort our logical processes. I simply believe that religion is the best example of that broad problem.

When even a writer as distinguished and intelligent as Crossan can be acknowledged by you as applying motivated reasoning, it helps to show that this is all a topic very worthy of careful analysis. My citation of critique of Crossan above does in fact cast his methods into question, illustrating that mysterious commitments to religious tradition exercise a power over people’s thought processes which can be hard to explain and understand in purely rational terms.


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Last edited by Robert Tulip on Tue Jan 26, 2016 4:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
Yes Harry

Possibly I was thinking of theology as in a bunch of crap that justifies absurd doctrines that ruin lives, the word traditional there may have been the red rag.

But perhaps you were thinking of something other, say some fine Tillich essays or such.

To me great tomes dedicated to an imbecilic misreading of mythology was the sort of thing the term "traditional theology" was bringing to mind.

It is much easier to fool someone than it is to convince them they have been fooled, as the saying goes.



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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
Incoherence means the parts do not relate correctly to each other, not inconsistency with evidence. ... You should be clear in your own mind that lack of evidence is your issue, not incoherence.
The meaning of coherent and consistent are not that simple. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criteria_of_truth explains that coherence and consistency are primary criteria of truth, and suggests quite different meanings of these terms from yours. It argues “To be coherent, all pertinent facts must be arranged in a consistent and cohesive fashion as an integrated whole. The theory which most effectively reconciles all facts in this fashion may be considered most likely to be true.” Consistency is just when a theory does not contradict itself.

That is a highly specialized use of "coherent" and applies to explanatory systems, or systems of formal logic, but not really to "working mental models of the world" in general. It is also far from universally accepted even among scholars of epistemology.
From wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coherence_theory_of_truth
"coherence theories have been criticized as lacking justification in their application to other areas of truth, especially with respect to assertions about the natural world, empirical data in general, assertions about practical matters of psychology and society, especially when used without support from the other major theories of truth.[3] The response has been that empirical data does not often form a consistent whole, and that truth should not be used in contexts where consistency fails."
So somebody wants to reserve the term "truth" for theories that are both consistent and comprehensive. I note with some skepticism that they have not proposed an alternate term for theories that can't handle some of the data. "Incomplete" is the one most favored in economics, but we also have a huge category known as "partial", reserved for cases where a theory can be derived which is "general" (even though the evidence is much stronger that partial equilibrium forces actually function, than general equilibrium forces). Note that only the consistency part of the criterion is generally accepted as disqualifying a theory for the label "truth".

And none of this even applies to the subject matter of theology. It is neither explaining facts nor making predictions using them. (Oh, I know, some people think that a prediction of judgment of the immortal soul after death has been made, as well as a prediction of the end of time at some definite time in the future. I kind of doubt they are trying to do science using that prediction.)

An account of the relation between the self and the absoluteness of moral truth is not explanatory but advisory. It is an encounter in itself, and as Martin Buber has pointed out in "I and Thou", you cannot do such an encounter in an instrumental mode, trying to achieve some goal that is external to the person encountered, and have it be genuine encounter. Heisenberg in the context of relationship.

To assess such an account using criteria suited for science is to exclude the possibility of success, since as soon as you posit a "truth" that is external to the person being encountered, you have stepped outside of genuine engagement with the subject matter. One can only do theology successfully when one relates genuinely to another concerning the relation between self and the absoluteness of moral truth.

Robert Tulip wrote:
The use of such incoherent methods is a primary reason for the low intellectual reputation of theology. While there is some excellent theology that does strive for logical coherence, the widespread use of questionable assumptions puts the general coherence of theology into doubt.


The primary reason for the low intellectual reputation of theology is the ignorance of the people holding that reputation. :tease: If people like Richard Dawkins had the intellectual moxie to take on reading Kierkegaard or Buber, they would know better than to spout the nonsense they do. :shock:

Robert Tulip wrote:
Traditional theology suffers from intense political bias. For example, hidden agendas regarding bolstering the power of the church are at play regarding which theologies are preferred. The false assumption that the Bible is largely historically accurate is a common failing, as is the magical view that reality is actually very different from what our senses reveal, instead being governed by an invisible and undetectable personal intentional entity, known as God.

True enough.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
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.
Yes, I am still missing that point. My particular interest is to show that astrotheology shows the truth value of conventional theology is weak, since the claims of religion have a better explanation in allegory than fact.

Okay, but you also said you are motivated by the hope that restoring a nature-based worldview will unite environmentalist values with a general ethic (or something like that). Such a motive may be worthy, someone else's motive may be terrible, but the validity of the motivations is independent of the truth value produced by the results.

So it is incoherent to say, "Their motivation is all wrong, because they build on epistemelogical foundations of sand." Some of the motivation is wrong when it willfully leads a person to repudiate evidence. But it is quite possible for them to do this thinking that it is required for a greater good, and their motivation to still be a good one.

Suppose J. Edgar Hoover had gathered evidence of Dr. King's giving in to sexual temptation, and asked me to distribute it to discredit Dr. King. Whichever choice I make, distributing it or not, will be a less than perfect choice, with some element of compromise of ideals involved.

Now suppose I decide it is fabricated evidence, not based on any evidence of my own but just because I think J. Edgar Hoover would do such a thing, and giving credence to the evidence would be a destructive act. Am I acting in bad faith? Do I have an obligation to get the evidence assessed for its truth? I would say there are competing values involved, and my motives are not assessed by assessing the validity of Hoover's evidence. They are related, but separate, issues.

Robert Tulip wrote:
I can accept that there is sincere motivation among Christians, for example creationists, who see their community cohesion as blown away by the observation that Christ was not in any literal sense the Second Adam. If Paul’s claim that Christ repaired Adam’s sin is incoherent, then the central faith idea that we are washed in the blood of the lamb starts to look false.

I think they believe the general issue of biblical authority is involved more than the particulars of repairing original sin. Paul's presentation of the Second Adam is not the developed doctrine that Augustine used, but more in the category of a useful metaphor for a sermon illustration.

Robert Tulip wrote:
But this sincere motivation is irrelevant to efforts to construct an ethic that coheres with evidence.

Fine, but your condescension about their methodology does not have to lead to you being condescending about their motivation.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Your argument reminds me of an analogy with the labour theory of value. Marx held that economic value is a function of labour, and therefore of effort. But if you put immense effort into something no one wants to buy, your labour is worthless.

That is actually a rather unsophisticated presentation of the matter. Marx's labor theory of value was taken from Ricardo, who was presenting a stripped down version of the full modern theory: the use of a scarce factor of production will, over something like "the long run" have to justify the foregone alternative uses of the factor. So it is reasonable to propose that the cost of the product is determined by its use of mobile factors of production, which in the context of early 19th C. Britain, meant labor.
Marx extended it to a moral claim, that only humans have a claim on the value produced. Property is essentially a fiction from the standpoint of morality - it has no legitimate claim on the value produced. (That interpretation can be critiqued, but the standard right-wing claim that it means "whatever gets produced must be valuable" is simply wrong.)
Robert Tulip wrote:
Similarly, sincere motives that rest on false premises have little worth.

But it is your confusion to imply that the motivations rest on the false understanding. The motivations may be good or bad, and the beliefs with which they surround themselves may be accurate or inaccurate, but inaccurate beliefs do not make motivations bad.

As an example, I would use eugenics. The core of their beliefs were correct. Their motivations were wrong. People like Stephen Jay Gould have gone to a lot of trouble to poke holes in their beliefs, and that is all to the good. But nobody besides the eugenicists believed that the facts they adduced led to the conclusions they advocated, and in fact William Jennings Bryan's opposition to Darwinism was entirely due to his opposition to eugenics. Gould did a far more valuable service in showing why eugenics is not implied by genetically inherited properties, than by demonstrating the bad science that was motivated by eugenics.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Your argument implies we should respect people who are manifestly deluded. Medieval popes thought that geocentrism bolstered their values of social order.

I think that is an enormous oversimplification of the matter. It is true that Galileo's work was suppressed, but not because somebody believed that geocentrism per se was important to the social order. Galileo thought that his former relationship with the Pope, who had actually supported Galileo's research, could be used to trounce traditionalists who believed the scripture should be the decisive factor. He made the mistake of ridiculing his adversaries, and his former patron paid more attention to the pressures of his job than to the lofty goal of supporting learning, which he had previously pursued. You could think of the Pope's choice as being similar to democracy: letting the procedure be correct, in the light of their understanding of the world to that point, (e.g. letting a large order of friars have a say commensurate with their contribution and claim to authority) rather than opting for this strange new claim to revelation by telescope. I am not saying we should take a vote about science, but I am saying we have the benefit of four centuries of hindsight in assessing that question.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Their motive may have been sincere, but the growth of science showed that the popes were deluded, and their worldview was subject to tectonic breakage once the pressure became to great.

Why is it that people have trouble saying "wrong" and feel they must use terms like "deluded?" The church did not, in fact, systematically oppose heliocentrism after the time of Galileo. The universities of the Catholic countries went right on participating in science as equal partners with the Protestants (and eventually the rest of the world).
Robert Tulip wrote:
I don’t agree it is ever completely wrong to point out that a fantasy is factually incorrect.

My complaint was with your insulting characterization of their motives, when in fact your contempt is for their beliefs. You persist in claiming that the two are inseparable. Perhaps I should diagnose your subconscious motivations for persisting in this error.
Robert Tulip wrote:
A sound evidentiary basis in knowledge is rather what I contend is the real basis of sound values.

I prefer Gould's analogy to bipedalism. Without being able to use both legs, sound knowledge and sound motivations, we are crippled. But they are still separate legs.

Robert Tulip wrote:
This discussion raises the vexed problem of the relation between facts and values, a central theme in philosophy brought to focus by Hume’s assertion that you cannot logically derive an ought from an is, that factual statements never entail a decision about what we should value.
While perhaps logically coherent, I think that Hume’s view, at the basis of positivism, fails in practice because we do routinely believe that facts entail moral response.

How can you claim it fails in practice when it is simply a proposition of logic? You seem to have in mind some program of action (or inaction) implied by Hume's observation, but that would be a derivation of ought from is. You need to spell out what you think the link is, so we can look at it explicitly.

Perhaps you are arguing that we "ought not to" separate values from factual assessments because you believe every set of facts carries with it an inescapable moral conclusion. Hitchens argued that. I think it fails utterly.

It may be rhetorically useful to claim that we "ought to" exclude all immigrants from the U.S. because some of them are criminals, but that would obscure the choices to be made about what is right and wrong.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
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.

Really, that is an excellent point you are making here Harry, and I am alive to the dilemma you raise. Political stability depends on social consensus and trust.
But there is also a slow tectonic issue at play here, that rigid beliefs eventually become obsolete, and so far removed from experience that they collapse.

Sure, and I have not argued for holding rigid beliefs, but I do argue for respecting the motivations behind them, which are treasured by the people involved. (Well, some of the motivations are contemptible, but they should be rejected as motivations, not wrapped up in a package with the rigidities of belief).
It is often possible, for example, to show how the rigidities can be by-passed and the values safe-guarded. The motivation to do this may find its emotional strength within the old framework, once an alternative is pointed out.

Robert Tulip wrote:
That is why I call for faith to shift its base from myth to reason, to develop a theory of social evolution that builds upon the valuable precedents within religion rather than proposing some revolutionary abandonment of all faith.

Okay, and I applaud that. I am also pleased that you recognize there may be more than one way to connect reason to a particular value.

Robert Tulip wrote:
I certainly do not dismiss anyone’s entire life purpose. However, when a person sincerely believes that their purpose in life is to get to heaven after they die, I try to find a valid unconscious meaning within this delusion. For example, Weber argued in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism that such heavenly aims enabled deferment of pleasure and promoted an investment culture.

It could also be that educated, cultured children are an investment requiring steadiness of purpose, and are facilitated by marital commitment.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Believing in Jesus in the fundamentalist sense has proven a highly adaptive moral system, justifying stable conservative values and protecting against anarchic experiment. That seems to me a big part of why Christianity still has such strong social purchase in ways that appear superficially irrational, such as fear of hellfire.

You think?



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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
Robert Tulip wrote:
We can look elsewhere for discussion of Crossan. An example is http://vridar.org/2013/01/09/crossans-p ... did-exist/ which argues that Crossan applies dogmatic presuppositions to defend the incoherent belief that gospel fiction is compatible with the existence of Jesus.

Of course "gospel fiction" is compatible with the existence of Jesus. Carrier makes this point many, many times. It is possible that Jesus existed historically and was later elaborately surrounded with legend.
The Neil Godfrey passage you cited, reviewing a minor part of a book aimed at a different point, does raise reasons for questioning Crossan's objectivity, but he does not refute any of Crossan's methods. And he engages in so much motivated reasoning himself (such as implying the complete uselessness of the argument from embarrassment because its use has been challenged) that one is hardly left with any reason to decide between their views from that review.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Ehrman has been cited by some rather rank rationalisers as providing proof that mythicism is incoherent, even though his slapdash review does nothing of the sort.

I gather Ehrman turned to a full book-length treatment of the topic, and I hope he did a better job of it than he did with the review that Carrier was so scathing about, but I don't really care.
My skepticism of mythicism is based almost entirely on what I have read of Carrier's OHJ, which is such a brilliant example of motivated reasoning that it could be used in university courses on critical thinking. No matter - as I said, I think motivated reasoning is part of the detective process, and I am reasonably confident that the evidence will shake out when the name-calling is done. I am a great believer in the adversary system in ambiguous cases.

Robert Tulip wrote:
I think the fidelity dynamic you mentioned is an important subconscious background here, especially considering Carrier’s rather disturbing comments about polyamory. Many Christians would accept the ad hominem argument that a person who promotes adultery cannot be a serious scholar.

I am not one of them. I don't care that Jung had an atypical sex life, or Warren Buffett, or Jean-Paul Sartre. I don't care what Carrier has said about sex. If he has persuasive arguments to offer (and he certainly has interesting ones) I am interested.
Robert Tulip wrote:
My citation of critique of Crossan above does in fact cast his methods into question, illustrating that mysterious commitments to religious tradition exercise a power over people’s thought processes which can be hard to explain and understand in purely rational terms.

I understand that social dynamics affect people's perception of the arguments. When I went to work for Office of Management and Budget, for awhile, I found myself adopting the perspective of the OMB. Why? The questions that seemed most relevant were different from the ones that had mattered to me before I was hired.

I was expected to do well a job that entailed questioning the arguments of anyone asking for money. Sure, I might prefer that the people asking prevail, but it was part of my job to see that they do it honestly, and so I began to adopt skeptical perspectives I would not have employed before.



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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
Hi Harry, and all.

i really enjoyed these and i thought you might enjoy them as much as i did, in the case that you hadn't already seen them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gHSKdX66tY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilRzf6SRfZI

and another you might like

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhQhBtHjqAA

:toast:



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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
youkrst wrote:
Yes Harry

Possibly I was thinking of theology as in a bunch of crap that justifies absurd doctrines that ruin lives, the word traditional there may have been the red rag.
As something of a ‘theology tragic’ myself, I often look at the theology section in second hand book shops and book fairs. My rough estimate is that about 90% is delusional junk, and of the remaining 10%, much of it is redeemed only by the fact it sticks to evidence rather than speculation. Most theology is fundamentalist in some way. For example “Christian book shops” tend to be the outlets for evangelical churches and will not stock books by authors like Paul Tillich. That is why theology has such an extremely bad reputation in the secular world, with the term “theological” used as an insult to mean an argument that lacks evidence and logic but is solely based on proselytising ideology.
youkrst wrote:
But perhaps you were thinking of something other, say some fine Tillich essays or such.
That illustrates the disjunction some readers have regarding The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. His book was addressed to mass thinking, and he states at one point that he is happy to have a conversation with intellectuals like Spong but does not at all see such coherent work as representative of Christianity.

So when theologians said that Dawkins was constructing a straw man, they were expressing a largely emotional and political argument. Dawkins was pointing out that theology involves bad method, and to gain any respect should learn something from science. He has not been refuted on that, despite extensive apologetic efforts.

I think that there is a similar problem in both Christianity and Islam, that rational critics point to the craziness of the extremes, and observe that so-called moderates seem incapable of properly dissociating themselves from the extremes. For example, I do not know of a church which would welcome a sermon disputing the existence of Jesus Christ. That means the supposed rational liberal Christians provide the sea in which the extremist fish can swim.
youkrst wrote:

To me great tomes dedicated to an imbecilic misreading of mythology was the sort of thing the term "traditional theology" was bringing to mind.
Yes, it is amazing when you see multi volume works supposedly dedicated to systematic theology, where the founding premises of the system stand in sharp conflict with science and history.
youkrst wrote:

It is much easier to fool someone than it is to convince them they have been fooled, as the saying goes.
Great saying youkrst! People have a natural pride regarding their personal beliefs, an insistence that their beliefs are rational and sensible. And yet the syndrome of the Emperor’s New Clothes is alive and well, as an important and accurate parable for social consensus.

People simply cannot tolerate heresy. Some of the great heretic theologians of the twentieth century were ignored until their deaths, such as Teilhard de Chardin. I see the Christ Myth theorists as great heretics who are still ignored – to wit Ehrman’s comment that he was blissfully unaware of that entire tradition of thought.


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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
Robert wrote:
Great saying youkrst!


yeah i loved it, from Mark Twain i think, he had so many beauties.

great post too Robert, it is always such an encouragement to me when i see someone totally "gets" what i'm saying.

may the Barry be with you :lol:



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