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dusktilldawn

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dusktilldawn last won the day on December 31 2012

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About dusktilldawn

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  1. dusktilldawn

    The Argument From Morality

    Thanks - an interesting read. I must admit that I found Birch's arguments as to why mental events can't arise from the physical to be full of a number of basic conceptual errors that really should be cleared up in Philosophy 101 - errors standard enough that they have names: the division fallacy, argument from incredulity, Sorites etc. His misrepresentation of mainstream science is odd as well - he depicts "classical scientists" who think atoms are like billiard balls, reject quantum theory and hold views on mental phenomena allegedly summed up in an obscure quasi-mystical book published in 1923. Now obviously none of this means there's no merit in panexperientialism, but in my view this article completely fails to make the case. At the root of many rejections of materialism, including this one, is an instinctive commitment to dualism often called the hard problem of consciousness - the physical is like this and the mental is like that. Yet this kind of thing doesn't trouble us in other areas - we're comfortable that e=mc2 gives us equivalence of mass and energy even though energy is like this and mass is like that. Another reason for rejecting materialism is that matter is seen as being dead, inert and basically a bit dull - not special enough to account for consciousness. If it really was the collection of billiard balls Birch thinks physics treats it as there might be some merit in the claim. You, however, are made of 7 trillion cells, each an intricate structure in its own right, made of elements that were created in the heart of stars. Look into the night sky and you can experience light that, even though it travels fast enough to circumnavigate the equator nearly 4 times a second, has traveled for millions of years just to fall on your retina, across a space in which, we now speculate, every infinitesimal point might contain a tiny 7-dimensional Calabi-Yau manifold. I can't help thinking that to look at all this and to say that it isn't special enough betrays a very great sense of our own importance.
  2. dusktilldawn

    Belief.net Religion Quiz

    There is, and there's also one for atheism, which is where I came out. I think the quiz puts you in the humanist category if you agree that there are ethical views which are important to your belief group and in the atheist category if you don't.
  3. dusktilldawn

    The Argument From Morality

    Thanks for that soma. It seems to me that the results you identify are all themselves subjective states - only the most pedantic of materialists would dispute that one subjective experience could give rise to another. I too have experienced a sense of deep reality and oneness, but I don't associate the experience with anything external to myself. The reason I find this topic confusing might well be that I don't know whether you would consider that last step to be important. "The laboratory of the mind" is a good metaphor but I can't help thinking that more would be needed than finding that some other people report similar experiences. The same could be said, after all, for experiences of alien abduction which seem to be similar for a number of people.
  4. dusktilldawn

    The Argument From Morality

    A fascinating point and one I'd be very interested to discuss further. I've been thinking about the points of difference and similarity between my own science-based atheism and Christianity which is understood in a non-theistic way. From what I've read here and in other places I suspect this point might be the key difference.
  5. dusktilldawn

    Religious Belief, Behavior And Democracy

    The article doesn't specify what it means by democracy or support for democracy. It's often a rather vague concept. Is it the practice of voting for governments or a broader idea involving liberal values? We usually trace democracy back to classical Athens but an integral part of Athenian democracy was ostracism. Every year the citizenry would vote for someone to banish from the city. So perhaps the petition to deport Piers Morgan is a truly democratic event after all.
  6. dusktilldawn

    Religious Belief, Behavior And Democracy

    The article talks about how the answers people give to opinion polls depend on what questions are asked first - something I think this clip illustrates nicely.
  7. dusktilldawn

    Fundamentalism As A Failure Of Society

    Thanks guys. I don't intend to try to dissuade him - this church probably won't do him serious harm, although they might. As Joseph says, it's his choice either way. What struck me was that it's sad that nobody except this one church have offered him this opportunity to feel welcome and valued. We aren't short of churches around here, nor of human beings for that matter. That's why I came to think of the rapid expansion of this new church as a sign of a deeper social failing - a failing on my part as much as anyone else's. It also challenged my own prejudices against Christians of this type - just now they're the ones walking the walk as well as talking the talk. I guess Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels would have spent time with this guy, but then Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels would probably have been the first to try casting demons out of him. Go figure.
  8. dusktilldawn

    The Argument From Morality

    I think ethics only really makes sense because there are no objective moral facts. That makes your choices genuinely yours. Take ownership of them. Live them.
  9. In my local community there's a rapidly growing fundamentalist evangelical church which seems to have all the undesirable features I'm sure everyone here is familiar with. Here in the UK these groups are somewhat outside the mainstream, certainly compared to their ubiquity in parts of the US. Recently I met someone I hadn't seen in a while - a very vulnerable guy who's been mixed up and suffering all his life. He seemed better and happier than I've ever seen him and the reason was that he'd joined this church. Where before he might shut himself away for weeks on end without meaningful social contact, now people were inviting him into their homes and he was spending a few days a week helping out other members of the congregation with odd jobs. The change in him was astonishing.Though it sticks in my throat to say it, it really seems to be the best thing that's ever happened to him. I worry because I know that on at least one other occasion people in this church have told people with mental health problems that they should trust God instead of taking their medication and publicly attempted to cast demons out of them. But can I tell this guy he shouldn't be involved? What are his alternative options? What sad reflection on society that vulnerable people have to get involved in this kind of madness just to get a little human kindness.
  10. dusktilldawn

    America's gun violence

    To a Brit like me following this discussion that quote perfectly sums up the cultural chasm that divides our countries.
  11. dusktilldawn

    America's gun violence

    I remember it well - I was in central London that day. The thing is, the manufacture and possession of the explosives used were both illegal under UK law. Even collecting the ingredients could have led to prosecution. You made earlier the very good point that banning something doesn't necessarily make it unavailable, and that's particularly true in the case of homemade bombs. We've also seen figures that show that in countries such as Switzerland, Finland and Serbia availability of weapons doesn't lead to increased homicide. When you make a law you obviously have to think about how to enforce it. Nonetheless, in the US situation where you have regular mass killings with legally held guns you don't even get to start considering how to take that second step. ETA: This xkcd cartoon seems apposite - you have to hover over one of the pictures for the punchline. http://xkcd.com/970/
  12. dusktilldawn

    America's gun violence

    Mental health services should be provided because those who suffer need support on their own account. What does it say if investment is only made because of the risk of people with mental health problems harming "normal" people? Someone with a major psychiatric diagnosis is many times more likely to harm themselves than anyone else, and far more likely again to have a poor quality of life without harming anyone. They get forgotten.
  13. dusktilldawn

    America's gun violence

    Looking at recent events, though, what weapon other than a gun makes it possible for one person to enter a school and kill 26 without being stopped?
  14. dusktilldawn

    Hello...

    It is quiet isn't it? But then I had to step back from my favourite fora because taking part properly took too much time - before you'd composed your thoughts 5 more posts had arrived and you'd been left behind. Dabbling was not an option. I found this via Bishop Spong's site and I gathered there had been some issues. My experience of the skeptical sites, especially Richard Dawkins' original site and its post-meltdown successor, was very positive. Sure, there was plenty of flaming and negativity but also a community of real warmth and wit. I laughed often and learned a great deal. Obviously every site gets to have its own rules and in-house etiquette and if you don't like them you don't have to post. It's certainly not my intention to tell this site it should do anything differently. Searching for the perfect rules just leads to navel gazing. I remember a particularly surreal argument with moderators at another site which came to the conclusion that "your post makes you sound like a ****ing ****" was fine while "you are a ****ing ****" was sanctionable. How many abusive angels can dance on a profane pinhead? I have to admit I haven't read Harris or Hitchens. I wasn't impressed with Dennett or with Dawkins (at least on religion - he's superb at explaining science in layman's terms and it's a shame he doesn't do it any more) and I think it put me off the whole Four Horsemen thing, probably unfairly. If you want something provocative I strongly recommend the British philosopher John Gray, whose central theme is that secular humanism and progressive thinking are simply the successors of Christianity because they're based on the same view that humans are fundamentally different from other animals. He memorably describes Nietzsche as "trapped in the chalk circle of Christian hopes" and atheism as "a late flowering of the Christian fetish for truth". Fantastically bracing stuff.
  15. dusktilldawn

    Hello...

    Thanks for the welcome, folks, and thanks Joseph for the guidance there. Oddly, the same is true of a large proportion of people who identify as atheists. Common ground already...
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