Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Hey look, look! I'm a mime!

By posting I don’t mean to cut the “Ah-reason, let’s talk” post short. Please, continue this. I love it.

Grace pointed out earlier today that we seem to be slowly defining where the walls between viewpoints lay - A frustrating, but rewarding process. Let it continue. I hope, however, that this blog can not only reiterate differences and build walls between viewpoints but also break walls, or at least make them transparent.

This post: What is the greatest weakness you find in your own beliefs? Which parts of the opposing viewpoints can you most identify with, and does this compromise your stance at all?


John Kamman said...

Well, I’ll go first, I guess:

1. Origins & Existence. First, big bang theories and fancy theoretical physics can take us back only so far. The argument of God as “The First Mover”, to me, seems like a solid argument based firmly in reason (or my reason…ahhh). Granted, when we rewind that far, things like time and space get all muddled, but the question remains. What is the Origin? The big bang starts with an infinitely small and infinitely dense point, but where did that point come from, and where did the energy it contained come from? Maybe Science will answer these questions some day (or maybe it has and I fail to comprehend it). Second, the questions of “Why?” remain unanswered. Science gives proximate answers to “why” questions? Religion gives ultimate answers. Why are we here? Science attempts to provide an evolutionary, molecular, genetic, and historical answer, but never approaches ultimate reasons. Why does life exist? Even in the absence of life, why do physical bodies, atoms, “strings” exist? Where Science fails, religion takes over. I believe the answers provided by religion are incorrect, but I have no better alternative. Science fails to answer those gigantic questions, and in that sense religion does a much better job (be it right or wrong, at least it provides an answer).

2. Free Will (Sorry Joe, I’m impinging on your turf and would love to hear your take on the matter): There is an assumption within science that the world is deterministic. Every effect can be traced back to multiple causes that influence the outcome. If the cause-effect relationship can’t be pinned down, it is the failure of the method or the scientist (or the chaos/randomness), not the absence of a relationship. Everyone has heard the timeless “nature vs nurture” debate. But if all we are is nature and/or nurture, how can we be held accountable? Why should we blame Hitler or praise Gandhi? Just two products of different genes and environments. Is the conscious mind worthless? In the scientific approach free will does not exist. I hate that. I’d like to believe in free will. Religion doesn’t provide much of an alternative, but it is definitely a shortcoming in a purely scientific mind…. at least to one who wants to believe in free will.

Krista said...

Fuck. I forgot to send a message before I left last week - for a conference. And now it is almost Wednesday and I missed out on a shit-ton of conversation.

Hola people - my name is Krista. I was a Theo major at CSB - and I also study Gender & Women's Studies. I would consider myself a used to be Catholic???- who has issues with Jesus??? I am not really sure.

The question that John poses are difficult for a woman who is processing this everyday.
My biggest weakness - and hole theologically is not so much theological but faith. If it had a name it would be titled "Jesus and Krista's quest to make everyone not have to believe in this Jesus yet she still would like to believe in Jesus". So point being - I would like to think (and I do think) that people have their own ways to reaching and connecting with this God figure. Sometimes through Jesus- sometimes not. However, this creates problems when I come back to the point - of what is the point of me actually believing in a Jesus character then? If the point of Jesus is that he died to erase sins - does that really work for people who could care less? And should it matter?

Does this make any sense? I am such a vocal person it's hard to make it come out while typing.
To comment on John's idea's about free will..
Personally I have huge issues with the concept of free will and prayer. (Here comes Kelly- back at me- but I am going to say it anyways) If we have free will- we have the ability to make choices- yes and no and everything in between. However, then what would be the point of prayer? "Dear God, please keep Grace safe in Japan." What the fuck? That doesn't work if Grace has free will to do what she wishes. Would God have authority over people like puppets? I would like to say, no.

I think we are a product of everything we come in contact to each day. Because I work with immigrants everyday - I cannot help but be impacted by this. Thus it will change my lens. Ergo when I am making life choices I am a product of what I have learned about immigration - but also about what my family taught me, what my school taught me, and what America has taught me about immigrants. So is any desision that I made really "free"?

sbowe said...

Hi Krista, Interesting choice for the first word of your first post. :) You'd fit in well at our family gatherings.

OK,I can answer this one rather quickly so I'll give it a shot before I go to the drunken orgy we call "open mic night."

The greatest weakness that I see with the scientific version of atheism, as John mentioned, is that it can't answer the big "why" questions. However, I'm quite comfortable with this. I'm able to accept that there may be no why. There doesn't need to be. I find religion's answers to this question to be weak and lacking in substance.

John, From our conversations and your comment it seems to me that you may be falling into a version of the "god of the gaps" argument. Science not being able to answer questions about the origin of the universe is no reason to invoke god. We don't know yet, we may never know. Big deal. We didn't know about evolution for 200,000 years, so god got all the credit. Now we know better.

Free will--Science does assume that the world is deterministic. However, not 100%, just enough to be able to determine probabilities. I was once told "you can do as you will but you can't will as you will." I think that sums up the extent to which science is required to be deterministic. It still allows for free will...err...choice to act upon will.

The only part of "the opposing viewpoints" I can identify with would be that I used to believe those things. I feel that I believed them for the wrong reasons though. So, no, this doesn't at all compromise my stance.

sbowe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sbowe said...

Any idea why I keep getting duplicate comments? I've deleted them, but they are a little annoying.

John Kamman said...

I'll buy into your god of gaps argument, shane... thats why I said "maybe science will answer these questions some day". I hope so. But right now science is inadequate in providing the ultimate explanations of how and why.

I would disagree with your free will refutation. To science, every decision I make is a preprogrammed chemical and electrical response to environmental cues. There is no room for free will in this view of decision making. I would go on a limb (this might be unpopular) in saying that if you want to believe in free will you have to believe in god. I don't mean of a specific religion, of course, but you must believe in something higher than our current scientific understanding of the natural world. You must believe in some "self" that transcends nature. Off topic for this post, I know, but...thoughts?

Ishmael said...

Hey everyone—I don’t have much time, so this is probably going to be short. I just wanted to put in my two cents here (and hopefully convince Sbowe that I indeed do not think of my faith as impervious to reason—I’m not trying to poke at you here Sbowe, but a couple of times you’ve mentioned that you don’t think I’m being really fair with examining my faith. Well, I hope here is some evidence that I am—or at least trying my best).

I think I’d agree with Cardinal Walter Kasper on this point (he explains it in his book “The God of Jesus Christ”)—the most solid challenge and critique that modern atheism puts to Christianity is, bar none, the problem of evil in the world. There are all sorts of fun nuances and subtleties that Christian scholars have put together throughout the ages to answer the question of evil, and I think that as a whole they satisfy reason well enough, but… Well, on this side of Auschwitz, I’m not sure they do a satisfactory job. Irving Greenberg (I think) once said basically that the only theology that should be done should be credible in the presence of burning children. That’s a harsh point, but I think it’s one that’s valid. I’m by no means ready to let go of Christianity yet (Kasper addresses this problem well), but it’s probably the biggest challenge to my faith that I see.

As far as strengths of the opposing side (scientific atheism/agnosticism), it does a very nice job of explaining empirical reality. And as long as it’s humble enough to realize that empirical reality is the extent of what it explains, it’s all good with me. It just doesn’t satisfy the rest of my human experience, however (I tried out atheism for a bit, but I couldn’t shake the idea, born of both reason and experience, that I was being presumptuous with reality—this is not to project on any of my conversation partners, it’s just what I experienced). Just because we can explain so much does not mean that that is all there is (as my conversation partners have already pointed out), and I happen to subscribe to the belief that there is indeed more. All the same, I acknowledge that there isn’t a definitive reason for that leap of faith to be found in the empirical world.