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TEoG Spillover Thread 
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Post Re: TEoG Spillover Thread
My objections to TEoG were not subject driven they were solely limited to the abilities and effort put forth by the author. I believe he was inept and lazy. He had an idea which he knew would appeal to a niche market, slopped together a haphazard book and laughed all the way to the bank.

Far from a disservice to me by inviting me to the discussion you did yourselves a disservice by discouraging me from continuing and attempting to compartmentalize the discussion by creating this 'spillover' thread. I find it a joke. TEoG should never have had the problems which rendered in unreadable.

A much better and interesting book is The Tomb of God.


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Sat Nov 06, 2010 5:51 pm
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Post Re: TEoG Spillover Thread
stahrwe wrote:
My objections to TEoG were not subject driven they were solely limited to the abilities and effort put forth by the author. I believe he was inept and lazy. He had an idea which he knew would appeal to a niche market, slopped together a haphazard book and laughed all the way to the bank.

Far from a disservice to me by inviting me to the discussion you did yourselves a disservice by discouraging me from continuing and attempting to compartmentalize the discussion by creating this 'spillover' thread. I find it a joke. TEoG should never have had the problems which rendered in unreadable.

A much better and interesting book is The Tomb of God.


So your dissatisfaction with the book has nothing to do with your view that the Bible is the inerrant word of God? Well, never mind. I doubt that you have the introspection to answer that honestly. That you participated in the discussion at all was nothing more than a farce.


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Sat Nov 06, 2010 6:21 pm
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Post Re: TEoG Spillover Thread
stahrwe wrote:

A much better and interesting book is The Tomb of God.


The Tomb of God: The Body of Jesus and the Solution to a 2,000-Year-Old Mystery

Synopsis:

Andrews and Schellenberger return to one of history's greatest unsolved mysteries--the precise location of Jesus Christ's bodily remains. This book is sure to spark controvery. The authors make startling new claims about the tomb which holds the body of Christ. Illustrated 16 color, 50 b&w, first print of 20,000.

Card catalog description

It began as an attempt to solve an intriguing historical puzzle. But years of painstaking research revealed something more: the exact geographical location of Christ's tomb, in southern France. In The Tomb of God, Richard Andrews and Paul Schellenberger take you along step-by-step as they track down the most closely guarded secret of the last two millennia. Their starting point is Rennes-le-Chateau, a small village in France's Languedoc region that is at the center of legends about a fabulous treasure - the Ark of the Covenant, according to some; the Holy Grail, according to others. Late last century, a village priest discovered encrypted parchments secreted in the altar of the local church. What these parchments mean - and how they relate to the fabled treasure - has long been the subject of scholarly debate. But now Andrews and Schellenberger provide the answers - and in the process uncover Christianity's secret history.

Hmm. So they know where Jesus' tomb is. Wow, that would be a find. Why don't they dig it up?


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Post Re: TEoG Spillover Thread
stahrwe wrote:
My objections to TEoG were not subject driven they were solely limited to the abilities and effort put forth by the author. I believe he was inept and lazy. He had an idea which he knew would appeal to a niche market, slopped together a haphazard book and laughed all the way to the bank.

Far from a disservice to me by inviting me to the discussion you did yourselves a disservice by discouraging me from continuing and attempting to compartmentalize the discussion by creating this 'spillover' thread. I find it a joke. TEoG should never have had the problems which rendered in unreadable.

A much better and interesting book is The Tomb of God.

To set the record straight, when I accepted the role of discussion leader and you asked whether it was going to be an open discussion, I said it was and welcomed you. At least once after we had begun, I recall encouraging you to have at it if you wanted. That's the mea culpa part, as I see it now. For I was too taken with the idea of having as diverse as group as possible to realize that the number one goal when setting up a discussion is to preserve the integrity of the topic. The participants hoping to gain something from the discussion will go away disappointed if they see that the announced topic is too rarely in evidence. And this is what one member said to us before bowing out. The people in the group don't have to be on the same page, but they have to be in the same book. Otherwise you'll get chaos and bickering. Your attempts to make your treatment into a case of free speech denied I can't take seriously.

You keep harping on Wright making a bunch of money off the book. I don't know the sales figures, but I'd guess that a book on this topic that was 10 years in the making yields a per-hour return for the author that you or I wouldn't accept. You say he's an incompetent writer. I prefer to think the Pulitzer committee knew better when they made his book a finalist for the prize.



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Post Re: TEoG Spillover Thread
"We have trouble achieving comprehension without achieving sympathy."--Robert Wright in The Evolution of God. page 419.

I checked out page 419 and it lead me to a footnote which further lead me to an online appendix at http://www.evolutionofgod.net/blame

I found an undercurrent in TEoG whch I felt flirted with being radical. The frequent metnions of Marx made me uneasy, but the online appendix is problematic. It seems that Wright has reduced the 9/11 attack to competing ideologies where neither is at fault when in reality isn't the question whether the people who died in the towers, or the planes, or the pentagon, were to blame for anything? Did Wright even mention 'the victims' or use the word in his academic discussion?


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Last edited by stahrwe on Mon Feb 28, 2011 9:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Feb 28, 2011 8:34 pm
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Post Re: TEoG Spillover Thread
stahrwe wrote:
"We have trouble achieving comprehension without achieving sympathy."--Robert Wright in The Evolution of God. page 419.

I checked out page 419 and it lead me to a footnote which further lead me to an online appendix at http://www.evolutionofgodonline.net/blame

I found an undercurrent in TEoG whch I felt flirted with being radical. The frequent metnions of Marx made me uneasy, but the online appendix is problematic. It seems that Wright has reduced the 9/11 attack to competing ideologies where neither is at fault when in reality isn't the question whether the people who died in the towers, or the planes, or the pentagon, were to blame for anything? Did Wright even mention 'the victims' or use the word in his academic discussion?

The link you gave didn't work for me. I don't know about Wright's discussion of the 9/11 attacks. If he posits moral equivalence between the terrorists and victims I disagree strongly--but does he? Regardless, his view isn't linked to Marxist belief stated or implied in The Evolution of God.

I recall trying to explain to you his use of the word "Marxist" (he placed it in quote marks). It might not have been the smoothest writing in the book, but by it he didn't mean to bring in Marxist philosophy. The use occurred in the discussion of functionalists vs. "Marxists" regarding two distinct views about religion. Functionalists (such as Wright himself) see the many ways in which early religions furnished the foundations for later institutions such as law and government. Today, religion continues to have benefits for both individuals and society, along with unfortunate drawbacks. "Marxists," much less sympathetic to religion, stress the exploitation of "the masses" by a powerful religious elite. You can see the analogy he's making, but it's not to be taken literally, and therefore the quote marks.



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Post Re: TEoG Spillover Thread
DWill wrote:
The link you gave didn't work for me. I don't know about Wright's discussion of the 9/11 attacks.


Odd as the 9/11 attacks are mentioned on page 419 and are a pivotal aspect of his discussion of blame.

As for the link, excuse the error, it is http://www.evolutionofgod.net/blame
It is footnote #1 on page 539.


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Last edited by stahrwe on Mon Feb 28, 2011 9:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Feb 28, 2011 10:26 pm
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Post Re: TEoG Spillover Thread
stahrwe wrote:
Odd as the 9/11 attacks are mentioned on page 419 and are a pivotal aspect of his discussion of blame.

As for the link, excuse the error, it is http://www.evolutionofgod.net/blame
It is footnote #1 on page 539.

I'll have to ask you to cut me some slack here. My library copy of the book has long since been returned and I just don't recall page 419. I scanned the essay the link led to. Are you saying he excuses the 9/11 killers in the essay? I don't see a reference to that event.



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Post Re: TEoG Spillover Thread
DWill wrote:
I'll have to ask you to cut me some slack here. My library copy of the book has long since been returned and I just don't recall page 419. I scanned the essay the link led to. Are you saying he excuses the 9/11 killers in the essay? I don't see a reference to that event.


That's rather odd as you quote from pg 419 in your signature.
No matter, online, Wright stresses the importance of page 419. On it he says, "Are you saying America was to blame for 9/11? ... The short answer is no. But it's a "no" with an asterisk, a "no" in need of elaboration - and since the elaboration is a bit arcane, I've relegate it to an online appendix."
TEoG page 419


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Post Re: TEoG Spillover Thread
The chapter in question is entitled "Moral Imagination."

http://www.cato-unbound.org/2009/06/08/ ... -of-peace/

Moral Imagination

The way hatred blocks comprehension is by cramping our “moral imagination,” our capacity to put ourselves in the shoes of another person. This cramping isn’t unnatural. Indeed, the tendency of the moral imagination to shrink in the presence of enemies is built into our brains by natural selection. It’s part of the machinery that leads us to grant tolerance and understanding to people we see in non-zero-sum terms and deny it to those we consign to the zero-sum category. We’re naturally pretty good at putting ourselves in the shoes of close relatives and good friends (people who tend to have non-zero-sum links with us), and naturally bad at putting ourselves in the shoes of rivals and enemies (where zero-sumness is more common). We can’t understand these people from the inside.

So what do things look like from the inside? Consider a case where an interior view is available—the case of a good friend. Your friend tells you about an arrogant prima donna at work who drives her nuts, and you are reminded of an arrogant prima donna in high school—the football star, the valedictorian—who drove you nuts. With a friend this process can be automatic: you scour your memory for shared points of reference and so vicariously feel her grievance. It’s part of the deal that sustains your symbiotic relationship: you validate her gripes, she validates yours. You work toward a common perspective.

This is the work you aren’t inclined to do with rivals and enemies. They complain about some arrogant prima donna, and you just can’t relate. (Why are they such whiners?) And that’s of course especially true when they say—as a rival or enemy might—that you are an arrogant prima donna. Then you certainly aren’t struck by the parallels with that prima donna in your high school.

So too on the geopolitical stage: if you are a patriotic American, and people who are burning an American flag say America is arrogant, that prima donna probably won’t spring to mind.

This doesn’t mean you’re at a loss to explain their behavior, or totally blind to their interior lives. When you see people burning flags and they look enraged, you can, even while hating them, correctly surmise that somewhere within them lies rage. You may also grant that flag burners perceive America as arrogant. But you don’t relate to this perception, so you can still characterize them in unflattering terms. You say they are driven by “resentment” of American power and “envy” of American success. And, since envy and resentment aren’t noble motivations, the moral coloration of the situation suggests it’s the flag burners who are to blame. And because America isn’t to blame, you resist the idea that it should change its behavior.

At this point in the discussion, if not sooner, an ominous question is often asked: Wait a minute—are you saying America is an arrogant prima donna? Are you saying that America, not the flag burner, is to blame for the burning of the flags? The question has even more bite if you’re talking about terrorists: Are you saying America was to blame for 9/11? After all, that’s what it would seem like if you really got inside the mind of a terrorist.

The short answer is no. But it’s a “no” with an asterisk, a “no” in need of elaboration–and, since the elaboration is a bit arcane, I’ve relegated it to an online appendix. It’s recommended reading, because if you buy the argument it may radically alter your view of the world. But for now the point is just that the ability to intimately comprehend someone’s motivation—to share their experience virtually, and know it from the inside—depends on a moral imagination that naturally contracts in the case of people we consider rivals or enemies.

In other words, we have trouble achieving comprehension without achieving sympathy. And this puts us in a fix because, as we’ve seen, some people it is in our profound interest to comprehend—terrorists, for example—are people we’re understandably reluctant to sympathize with. Enmity’s natural impediment to understanding is, in a way, public enemy number one.

It’s easy to explain the origins of this impediment in a conjectural way. Our brains evolved in a world of hunter-gatherer societies. In that world, morally charged disputes had Darwinian consequence. If you were in a bitter and public argument with a rival over who had wronged whom, the audience’s verdict could affect your social status and your access to resources, both of which could affect your chances of getting genes into the next generation. So the ability to argue persuasively that your rival had no valid grounds for grievance would have been favored by natural selection, as would tendencies abetting this ability—such as a tendency to believe that your rival had no valid grounds for grievance, a belief that could infuse your argument with conviction. And nothing would so threaten this belief as the ability to look at things from a rival’s point of view.

In dealing with allies, on the other hand, a more expansive moral imagination makes sense. Since their fortunes are tied to yours—since you’re in a non-zero-sum relationship—lending your support to their cause can be self-serving (and besides, it’s part of the implicit deal through which they support your cause). So on some occasions, at least, we’re pretty good at seeing the perspective of friends or relatives. It helps us argue for their interests—which, after all, overlap with our interests—and helps us bond with them by voicing sympathy for their plight.

In short, the moral imagination, like other parts of the human mind, is designed to steer us through the successful playing of games—to realize the gains of non-zero-sum games when those gains are to be had, and to get the better of the other party in zero-sum games. Indeed, the moral imagination is one of the main drivers of the pattern we’ve seen throughout the book: the tendency to find tolerance in one’s religion when the people in question are people you can do business with and to find intolerance or even belligerence when you perceive the relationship to be instead zero-sum.

And now we see one curious residue of this machinery: our “understanding” of the motivations of others tends to come with a prepackaged moral judgment. Either we understand their motivation internally, even intimately—relate to them, extend moral imagination to them, and judge their grievances leniently—or we understand their motivation externally and in terms that imply the illegitimacy of their grievances. Pure understanding, uncolored by judgment, is hard to come by.

It might be nice if we could sever this link between comprehension and judgment, if we could understand people’s behavior in more clinical terms—just see things from their point of view without attaching a verdict to their grievances. That might more closely approach the perspective of God and might also, to boot, allow us to better pursue our interests. We could coolly see when we’re in a non-zero-sum relationship with someone, coolly appraise their perspective, and coolly decide to make those changes in our own behavior that could realize non-zero-sumness. But those of us who fail to attain Buddhahood will spend much of our lives locked into a more human perspective: we extend moral imagination to people to the extent that we see win-win possibilities with them.

Given this fact, the least we can do is ask that the machinery work as designed: that when we are in a non-zero-sum relationship with someone we do extend moral imagination to them. That would better serve the interests of both parties and would steer us toward a truer understanding of the other—toward an understanding of what their world looks like from the inside.

And this is what often fails to happen. The bulk of Westerners and the bulk of Muslims are in a deeply non-zero-sum relationship, yet by and large aren’t very good at extending moral imagination to one another.

So a machine that was designed to serve our interests is misfiring. The moral imagination was built to help us discriminate between people we can do business with and people we can’t do business with—to expand or contract, respectively. When Americans fail to extend moral imagination to Muslims, this is their unconscious mind’s way of saying, “We judge these people to be not worth dealing with.” Yet most of them are worth dealing with.

We’ve already seen one reason for this malfunction. Technology is warping our perception of the other player in this non-zero-sum game. The other player is a vast population of Muslims who, though perhaps not enamored of the West, don’t spend their time burning flags and killing Westerners. But what we see on TV—and what we may conflate with this other player—is a subset of Muslims who truly, and perhaps irreversibly, hate the West. We accurately perceive the stubborn hostility of the latter and our moral imagination contracts accordingly, but in the process it excludes the former.


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Post Re: TEoG Spillover Thread
DWill,

why are you quoting pg 419 in your signature?


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Post Re: TEoG Spillover Thread
Well, I certainly think he's right about the arcane part. His explanation has that elaboration that's typical for him. And it is an academic discussion that doesn't pretend to focus on the painfulness of that incident or any other. I don't know if you want to discuss the essay in depth or you just want to protest that he didn't use the occasion to show proper respect for the victims. It does seem to me that there could be a link to Christian ethics, which doesn't recommend unthinkingly lashing out in revenge and which might encourage use of the kind of moral imagination Wright is telling us about.

As for what else besides my quote is on page 419, oh come on! In case you're wondering, I haven't trained my memory as did the guy who wrote the book you told us about.

The statement on p. 419 just appealed to me as pretty significant, that's all. When we remain controlled by our pre-wired impulse to view those who are culturally "other" as also morally lower that we, we can't sympathize and so miss out on the opportunity to learn something valuable (to us) about why they feel or act as they do. You need to keep this ethic or attitude separate from the ways we can justifiably react when crimes have been committed against us.



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Post Re: TEoG Spillover Thread
Wright sums up his argument in the link I posted:

"This excerpt is a chapter that comes near the end of the book, after I’ve made an argument that, at the risk of oversimplification, boils down to this: In general, when a religious groups sees its relations with another religious group as non-zero-sum, it is more likely to evince tolerance of that group’s religion. When the perception is instead of a zero-sum dynamic, tolerance is less likely to ensue."

Wright makes many good points in the essay and I don't really have a problem with what he says. We have a natural distrust of foreigners and, as Wright says, we see a steady stream of negative images in the media. It's going to be very difficult to see the other side as human to the point of showing tolerance, although most of us understand that 9/11 was committed by terrorists who don't represents all of the Muslim world. Perhaps the biggest hurdle, however, is that our economic/cultural differences will always make it difficult for us to see eye to eye. And ultimately it might be easier to hate them. One might also make the argument that the Islam religion is not very tolerant of other viewpoints. If the majority of Muslims see westerners as infidels, I'm not sure there will be many opportunities to forge non-zero-sum relationships. Then again, not coming together doesn't seem a very viable option.


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Post Re: TEoG Spillover Thread
'oh come on' nothing, I wanted to know the attraction of the phrase to you. A few months ago, in some thread, I kept getting people talking about empathy. This seems along the same line though I don't quite get it. Especially after reading page 419 and the online Appendix. I am not sure why the appendix was online, it wasn't that long. As for the academic slant, I don't have much patience for it either because it is bogus; Is the US to blame? What about Spain, or Britain, or Scotland, or France, or ...? The people to blame are the terrorists who plan and carryout attacks that kill innocent people. I was no fan of the book prior to the online appendix which I had not reviewed before. Wright sure seems to be skirting very close to the blame America line.


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Tue Mar 01, 2011 8:15 am
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Post Re: TEoG Spillover Thread
stahrwe wrote:
'oh come on' nothing, I wanted to know the attraction of the phrase to you. A few months ago, in some thread, I kept getting people talking about empathy. This seems along the same line though I don't quite get it. Especially after reading page 419 and the online Appendix. I am not sure why the appendix was online, it wasn't that long. As for the academic slant, I don't have much patience for it either because it is bogus; Is the US to blame? What about Spain, or Britain, or Scotland, or France, or ...? The people to blame are the terrorists who plan and carryout attacks that kill innocent people. I was no fan of the book prior to the online appendix which I had not reviewed before. Wright sure seems to be skirting very close to the blame America line.

When the answer Wright gives to the question "Is the U.S. to blame for the 9/11 attacks/" is "No, with an asterisk," is that equivalent in any way to "yes"? What I hear you saying is that discussing the larger issue of Western/Muslim relations is somehow the same as blaming our side for crimes committed by Muslims, and I don't get that.

It occurred to me that you think I adopted that signature line specifically to endorse what you think is a "blame the U.S." line of Wright's. Say it ain't so.



Tue Mar 01, 2011 9:07 am
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