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Materialism as a religion
#1
I debated whether to put this in Philosophical Discussions or Other Topics. Philosophy won, but I guess I can move it if necessary.

Physicist Sean Carroll recently came out with a new book, The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself (https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books...101984253/).  

In this book he apparently tries to make materialism or naturalism into a sort of poetic secular naturalist religion and a trustworthy guide to living, claiming to fulfillingly address the deepest human questions of meaning and morality. According to reviews, his exposition mainly is trying to present materialist science as the only rational alternative to religion, and that it can also be a very good way to live a life. Of course as usual this also ignores the long and growing tradition of non-religious spiritual thought, and the esoteric traditions within the major religions. 

The book is an interesting and ironic comment on how easily a very intelligent person seems able to entertain a massive cognitive dissonance, or to massively kid himself into rationalizing a fulfilling way of life out of what is actually an icy, brutal and empty view of reality. And a comment on just how far a committed atheist will go in such a misfounded enterprise to promulgate his personal belief system. This view of reality is well expressed by Richard Dawkins: “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”

Apparently, Carroll even has a "poetic naturalism as religion" Facebook option on his webpage. It's sad to see what Carroll must hold as his deepest values, bedrock truths and commitments. 

I like the comment of one of the reviewers: "My own point of view on all of this is that I just don’t think theoretical physicists have anything useful to tell the average person about meaning and morality, other than that it’s a mistake to search for it in our discoveries about physics. ...the best advice to people who come to physicists looking for the meaning of life seems to me to politely tell them that they’re looking in the wrong place and asking the wrong person."

I think these observations on Sean Carroll's opus apply whether or not his materialist philosophy is actually the truth.
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#2
(10-17-2017, 06:39 PM)nbtruthman Wrote: I debated whether to put this in Philosophical Discussions or Other Topics. Philosophy won, but I guess I can move it if necessary.

Physicist Sean Carroll recently came out with a new book, The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself (https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books...101984253/).  

In this book he apparently tries to make materialism or naturalism into a sort of poetic secular naturalist religion and a trustworthy guide to living, claiming to fulfillingly address the deepest human questions of meaning and morality. According to reviews, his exposition mainly is trying to present materialist science as the only rational alternative to religion, and that it can also be a very good way to live a life. Of course as usual this also ignores the long and growing tradition of non-religious spiritual thought, and the esoteric traditions within the major religions. 

The book is an interesting and ironic comment on how easily a very intelligent person seems able to entertain a massive cognitive dissonance, or to massively kid himself into rationalizing a fulfilling way of life out of what is actually an icy, brutal and empty view of reality. And a comment on just how far a committed atheist will go in such a misfounded enterprise to promulgate his personal belief system. This view of reality is well expressed by Richard Dawkins: “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”

Apparently, Carroll even has a "poetic naturalism as religion" Facebook option on his webpage. It's sad to see what Carroll must hold as his deepest values, bedrock truths and commitments. 

I like the comment of one of the reviewers: "My own point of view on all of this is that I just don’t think theoretical physicists have anything useful to tell the average person about meaning and morality, other than that it’s a mistake to search for it in our discoveries about physics. ...the best advice to people who come to physicists looking for the meaning of life seems to me to politely tell them that they’re looking in the wrong place and asking the wrong person."

I think these observations on Sean Carroll's opus apply whether or not his materialist philosophy is actually the truth.

He's quite an impressive personality, I think it's fair to say.  Quite a funny guy, too with a polished repertoire including the indispensable trusty "ghost jokes."  You can't go far wrong with those if you want to feel the applause when standing up for "science" and "reason" and giving what's considered "bunk" a damn good "kicking !"

His Achilles heel though is that he's told us he doesn't need to look at the evidence (NDE's in particular). I don't know if he realised just how stupid a mistake that was. You have to at least pretend you've looked at the evidence like the majority of the so called 'sceptics' do, even if you've never been near it.

He won't look, though, not now, not ever but like every other human, one day he will quite likely find himself floating on the ceiling looking down (at himself).  Simple deduction (gee...there's my head/brain down there) will then instantly enlighten him.
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#3
(10-17-2017, 06:39 PM)nbtruthman Wrote: I like the comment of one of the reviewers: "My own point of view on all of this is that I just don’t think theoretical physicists have anything useful to tell the average person about meaning and morality, other than that it’s a mistake to search for it in our discoveries about physics. ...the best advice to people who come to physicists looking for the meaning of life seems to me to politely tell them that they’re looking in the wrong place and asking the wrong person."

Seems as good a person as any... Who else would you ask? A priest? A New Age Guru?

The physical is certainly more 'magical' than we credit it. Religions have been built around much less.
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#4
Anyone not peddling certainty. Tends to pique my interest.


"Is,is,is, how I loathe the word. I don't know how anything is. All I can say are how things seem to me now."
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#5
The above is credited to R.A. Wilson
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#6
(10-19-2017, 08:31 PM)malf Wrote: Seems as good a person as any... Who else would you ask? A priest? A New Age Guru?

The physical is certainly more 'magical' than we credit it. Religions have been built around much less.

Perhaps it would be best to go to ones who have visited a place where they acquired a new attitude toward meaning in life through direct personal experience, like deep NDEers. And to consider the near unanimity of their opinions based on their own experience. And to consider the veridical aspects of their experiences. To retain a balanced view, one also needs to honestly consider the age-old problem of suffering, a major problem, that is, to true spiritual believers in various systems. And of course, to remain completely rational, one also needs to deliberately maintain a certain remaining doubt because the only thing we can be absolutely sure of is that we each exist as thinking beings. 

But Sean Carroll certainly isn't anyone to reliably go to in this enterprise. Here's a sample of Carroll's quality of thinking. (He first points out that we know better than to believe that the moon is made of green cheese) - "We also know better for life after death, although people are much more reluctant to admit it. Admittedly, "direct" evidence one way or the other is hard to come by -- all we have are a few legends and sketchy claims from unreliable witnesses with near-death experiences, plus a bucketload of wishful thinking. But surely it's okay to take account of indirect evidence -- namely, compatibility of the idea that some form of our individual soul survives death with other things we know about how the world works.
Claims that some form of consciousness persists after our bodies die and decay into their constituent atoms face one huge, insuperable obstacle: the laws of physics underlying everyday life are completely understood, and there's no way within those laws to allow for the information stored in our brains to persist after we die. If you claim that some form of soul persists beyond death, what particles is that soul made of? What forces are holding it together? How does it interact with ordinary matter?"

Such self-serving deliberate ignorance of the full array of afterlife and afterlife-related evidence, and complacent confidence in the supposed completeness of the present Standard Model of physics to apply to absolutely all of reality. Since he refuses to look at the evidence (like the ecclesiastics with Galileo's telescope) his views have no credibility whatsoever.
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#7
(10-19-2017, 08:31 PM)malf Wrote: Seems as good a person as any... Who else would you ask? A priest? A New Age Guru?

The physical is certainly more 'magical' than we credit it. Religions have been built around much less.

Seems as good a person as any if your goal is to seek the opinion of "any".

You could insert podiatrist, waiter, or any other vocation for that matter.  What special insight does a scientist have into "meaning and morality"?  I don't see anything compelling to put a physicist in an elevated position.
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#8
(10-20-2017, 03:53 PM)Silence Wrote: Seems as good a person as any if your goal is to seek the opinion of "any".

You could insert podiatrist, waiter, or any other vocation for that matter.  What special insight does a scientist have into "meaning and morality"?  I don't see anything compelling to put a physicist in an elevated position.

Right. But I also see a lot of ‘proponents’ appealing to the authority of academic physicists who are sympathetic to some sort of psi. I guess we can dismiss those in the same way?
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#9
(10-20-2017, 07:32 PM)malf Wrote: Right. But I also see a lot of ‘proponents’ appealing to the authority of academic physicists who are sympathetic to some sort of psi. I guess we can dismiss those in the same way?

Surely we have to consider what they say and why they say it? Proponents have to quote pro-psi scientists in order to counter the deliberately fostered impression that there is no evidence and that no scientist takes this stuff seriously. Those impressions are encouraged by people like Carroll and Dawkins because of their ideological position.


Carroll says "all we have are a few legends and sketchy claims from unreliable witnesses with near-death experiences"  which, if you have gained anything from your time on this forum (and Skeptiko, of course) you will know is just not true. It is plain wrong to categorise everyone who reports an NDE as unreliable without even looking at the evidence or hearing about the experience. Is that how science is supposed to work?

The fact is that Carroll and Dawkins have an atheistic axe to grind. When someone posts an article from the Discovery Institute we can expect protest from sceptics pointing out that the DI has a religious motivation. Yet Dawkins et al can loudly and proudly proclaim their atheistic motivation from the rooftops and expect everyone to cheer in approval. 
"I shall not commit the fashionable stupidity of regarding everything I cannot explain as a fraud.” ― C.G. Jung
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#10
(10-20-2017, 07:32 PM)malf Wrote: Right. But I also see a lot of ‘proponents’ appealing to the authority of academic physicists who are sympathetic to some sort of psi. I guess we can dismiss those in the same way?

I'm interested. Can you cite some appeals by proponents to the authority of academic physicists in areas they have no special expertise in, like the topics of meaning of life or morality?
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