[FoRK] Re: "Thanks for the Facts. Now Sell Them."

Lion Kimbro <lionkimbro at gmail.com> on Tue Apr 17 23:18:46 PDT 2007

  Tom Higgins,

  Atheists scare people, when they say that their lives
  are all wrong, that nothing that means anything to them
  actually has any meaning, and other interpretive
  fallacies.  [1]

  It's not "what they say," but rather "how they say it."
  It actually matters-- a lot.

  Atheists also go wrong, in that they don't give people
  any social space to celebrate life, and living, and so on,
  but that's a separate discussion.

  If people felt that atheism was "a better party," they'd
  be there in a heartbeat.  And there's no reason atheists
  can't be throwing a better party-- it's only their thoughts
  and interpretations of nature that are out of order.

  The words "cold," "hollow," and "soulless" were NOT mine;
  They were a personification of the universe invoked by
  Jeff.  [2]

  Jeff Bone,

  What is it that you don't like, in what I say?

  I don't get what you object to.

  Am I lying to people, or misleading them?

  Perhaps I'm saying something that inspires people to
  avoid science and/or technology, or a scientific mindset?

  Dave Long,

  Many people here, I would wager, "submerge themselves"
  in the following big story, which provides a great
  many answers:

    1. Big bang.
    2. Galaxies.
    3. Solar System.
    4. Life on Earth.
    5. Dinosaurs!
    6. Comet
    7. Some... creatures...
    8. People!
    9. Today!  -------------------
    10. ...
    11. Outer Space!

  This grand narrative can answer questions like,
  * "What might we look forwards to,
     if we survive this century?"
  * "What do I support?"
  * "What do I care about?"

  Maybe someone hears this story, and develops into a
  transhumanist, [3] or maybe they pay more attention
  to shuttle launches, or decide to study biology or
  chemistry, or advocate space exploration.

  This "grand narrative" (and I suppose we are rightfully
  suspicious of *all* grand narratives) has consequences,
  and is widely subscribed to, by "our type."

  As for personification:  Quite fair, to question
  the tendency, and yet, it is what happens.  As we all
  saw here, Jeff *did indeed* personify the universe.

  I do not know why we do it, I only know that we have
  great difficulty completely segregating thought from
  feeling.  I'd wager that they are intertwined by vast
  networks of association.

  People who hang out with mountains DO tend to
  care for them, and even to personify them.  I think,
  contrary to what you wrote, it DOES enhance the
  enjoyment of the mountain for them.  I do not know
  why this is the case, but it DOES seems to be the

  If we are all, ultimately, rock, water, meat,
  ("thinking meat!",) and so on, ... ...then why would
  it be absurd to feel affection for a mountain?

  I remember the elation I felt, climbing up to Mirror
  Lake.  I swore to myself:  the whole damn place was
  alive. [4]

  I do not seek to try to see "the mountain, as it
  really is."  Such a thing is arguably impossible,
  even.  What I think is valuable, though, is to say--
  "If we MUST personify this mountain, then let us
   personify it in a loving, healthy way."

  And perhaps there are things around the mountain that
  ARE worthy of at least some sympathy -- birds in trees,
  worms in the ground, and perhaps we can afford a feeling
  of gratitude towards a plant or two.

  One of the things Michael Dowd says [5] is,
  "We participate in this cosmic creativity by
   way of LANGUAGE, which is inherently symbolic,
   meaningful, consequential, and ever changing."

  Show me a single falsehood in the statement..!

  Translated into other language:

  "Humans communicate by way of language, which is
   inherently symbolic, transfers switching signs,
   and is in constant flux.  The choice between
   what are, on the surface, equivalent signifiers,
   itself carries significance."

  If we take seriously the "consequential" factor in
  language, though, then evolutionary spirituality
  naturally falls out:  let us take care that our
  language affirms life, since that is a consequence
  that we want.

  Look, if Michael Dowd can practically guarantee
  that kids are going to be enthusiastically adamant
  that Evolution is real, to the degree that they would
  be *earnestly disappointed* if it were not, because
  it would mean that they were no longer kin of the
  fish, dogs, and stars,...  If Michael Dowd can do
  all of this, **merely by a choice in
  language,** without uttering a single lie or
  mis-leading statement or mis-truth, ...

  ...then I say, "BY ALL MEANS, GO FOR IT!"

  Sounds like a winning strategy, for atheists!

  If choice of language has the power to bring people
  together, and to establish feelings of love and
  admiration and reverence, ... ...then what the
  hell are we debating this for?!

  I think imagination is a gift.  I think visionary
  art is a good thing, a positive thing, something that
  brings life into the world.  I think emotion and
  personification and feeling can coexist in harmony
  and balance and beauty with reason and logic and

  I don't think we need to be afraid of imagination,
  of feeling, of heart, and sincerity.  I don't think
  we need to try to live diminished, humble lives, for
  fear that we may feel too much.

  I think we should stand up and say, "YEAH!"

  "I AM a part of the universe.  The universe sees
   itself through me, and through humanity, and through
   the other creatures."

  "The universe and I are not separate things.  It
   made me, and it bore me.  When my mom took care of
   me, it was the evolution of millions of years at
   work at work.  When she told me she loved me, it was
   in a language that took centuries to work itself out."

  "My daughter is my participation in the continuity
   of life."

  These are not false thoughts.

  These are not un-scientific.

  These do not say, "You can't make your own purpose."

  Of course you can make your own purpose:  Life demands
  that you do so!  Intelligences always seem to bubble
  up contexts and motives and purposes, almost

  What this IS, is:
  * life-affirming
  * something with a REAL CHANCE at making it

  Take care,
    Lion  =^_^=

[1] Napoleon Hill used to say:  Look over your whole life,
    and think about every single bad thing that happened
  to you.  Think about each thing, with the single question
  in mind:  "How did I grow from this?  What great thing
  did I gain from this, that made the experience worth it,
  horrible as it was?"  Don't stop, until you've found an

  What I mean to say is:  If someone was in a religion, the
  goal isn't to shame them, or make them feel bad about it.
  The thing to do, is to help them get past it, see the good
  that has come to them from it, and then to help them close
  the box.  This is the way we can move forward.

  People can't throw out their babies that are in the
  bathwater.  Atheists have to understand this.

  I also mean to point out the power of interpretation over
  our lives:  Interpretation can transform bad into good,
  both looking into the past, and towards the future.

[2] http://www.xent.com/pipermail/fork/Week-of-Mon-20070416/044514.html

[3] Transhumanists may be interested in what Michael Dowd
    is preaching about the future:


[4] http://bulgar.no-ip.info/downloads/snimki/wall/Mirror%20Lake,%20Mount%20Rainier,%20Washington.jpg

  "Mirror Lake..." ... suggests "reflection."
  Perhaps we should call it "Lake #5AC3?"
  But that suggests Sci-Fi...
  How can we name it, to suggest nothing at all,
  not even nothingness, void, and so on?

  I challenge you to look at the image linked here,
  and to **feel nothing.**

  If it's impossible to suggest nothing, then atheists need to
  seriously look at what they *are* suggesting, and if they
  think that it's warranted, or not.

[5] http://www.thegreatstory.org/charts/7-post-bib-chart.html

  I'm referring to point #2 on the page.

On 4/17/07, Dave Long <dave.long at bluewin.ch> wrote:
> >  2.  **Choice of interpretation MATTERS.**
> >
> >  Jeff Bone, people should "get a grip."  Well told, and I agree.
> >  But what are they going to get a grip ON?
> >  A cold, hollow, soulless world?  I see clearly why most
> >  people are refusing.
> This seems to be the same error that the new Pope makes.  He preaches that
> the only alternative to faith is a cold, hollow, soulless world that leads
> straight to battening down the hatches on the siege bunker.  I would've
> thought (especially after the last guy, who didn't seem all
> vale-of-tears-y) that with all those cardinals they would have been able
> to find someone a little more -- what's that word again? -- *beatific* for
> the job.  One might think that he, of all people, would know that it's
> easy enough (especially with a little hope and a little charity) to find
> joy in this world -- just because the universe is big, and mostly empty,
> and entirely indifferent, it doesn't follow that personal joy is rare[0].
>  From the outside, maybe our space-time world-lines, our little bits of an
> indifferent universe will be insignificant -- but as Kimbro points out, we
> don't live life from the outside, we live it from the inside, where our
> world-lines are all tangled up in each other, and our parochial point of
> view magnifies these very local spheres of control and concern
> tremendously[1].  Are people really looking to submerge themselves in a
> "big story" with all the "answers"[2]?  Or should we merely strive to
> treat each other with a little more cishumanity[3]?
> -Dave
> :: :: ::
> >  1.  **Interpretation is unavoidable.**
> >
> >  But the point is-  interpretation is unavoidable, even if you're an
> >  atheist.  You may personify the universe as an indifferent, glassy
> >  eyed person staring vacantly into the distance, or even as wicked,
> >  cruel, and sinful, but personify you must.
> Why must we personify?  Every year here, several tourists (mostly those
> without guides, a few with) die from accidents incurred while freeriding,
> off-piste skiing, and just general mountaineering.  If you succumb to
> personification, you might say that the mountain is "out to get" people.
> If you don't succumb, it's clear that the mountain is cold, parts of it
> (if not exactly hollow) are not as solid as the unfortunate departed
> thought they were, and it is quite literally soulless -- it is not some
> animate spirit that cares whether someone lives or dies, and it follows
> that one is much more likely to have a more enjoyable than dramatic alpine
> adventure by treating the mountain as a mountain, and not as some
> personification that can be propitiated or bribed or wheedled or cajoled
> in the ways that one might treat a human functionary.
> :: :: ::
> [0] I'm not sure why absence gets such a bad rap; one approaches elegance
> by leaving things out, not cramming things in.  For those who prefer
> practical arguments to aesthetic ones, we can always look to Lao-Tzu:
> > Thirty spokes unite in one hub
> > Where there is nothing, we can turn the wheel
> > We fire clay to make pottery
> > Where there's no substance, we can fill the jugWe chisel out doors and
> > windows
> > Where there's empty space, we can use the room
> > Therefore, having something may be helpfulBut having nothing is useful
> [1] MKG:
> > Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you
> > do it.
> [2] Vonnegut:
> > Tiger got to hunt; eagle got to fly
> > Man got to sit and wonder 'why, why, why?'
> > Tiger got to sleep; eagle got to land
> > Man got to tell himself he understand
> having answers is nice, but it isn't half as interesting as figuring out
> how to ask questions.[0]
> [3] Ladies, gentlemen, the text for today is from "Bill and Ted's
> Excellent Adventure":
> > Be excellent to each other.Party on, dudes.
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