Robert C. Priddy

Writings on diverse themes from philosophy, psychology to literature and criticism

  • Robert Priddy


    In this blog I post information and critical views concerning ideologies, belief systems and related scientific materials etc. I am a retired philosophy lecturer and researcher, born 1936.

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Archive for June, 2010

God is in everyone?

Posted by robertpriddy on June 23, 2010

The title of this blog is but one version of the ‘mystical’ teaching of various sects of Christianity, Sufism, esoteric Judaism, New Age pseudo-religions and, above all, numerous branches of Hinduism, as propagated by swamis and gurus. It is sometimes extended to the proposition ‘Everyone is God, God is everyone’ and even outright pantheism ‘Everything is God and God is (in) everything)

Though I have already blogged about this, I consider this doctrine one of them most dangerous which can spread widely in the future. Due to the increasingly obvious fact of the relative futility of mainstream and sectarian religious doctrines, these pan-theisms are employed in self-help and meditation sects in the vain pretense that they lead to ‘self-realization’ and solving the world’s problems. However, if anything they multiply the problems by overpopulating the land of clouds and cuckoos into which millions are misled, thinking the have found the real teaching of Jesus, the ultimate truth about God and mankind.

In order to look into these claims, I have written a somewhat lengthy analysis which shows the degree of conceptual and general confusion that reigns throughout these sectarian ideas.

God is everything, in everyone – as a spiritual teaching
Advaita – historical flight into abstraction and speculation

See also The Ultimate Fallacy, which I wrote here some time ago.

Posted in Belief, Disinformation, Ideology, Philosophy, Religion, religious faith, Spiritual propaganda, Uncategorized, Understanding | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Stemming the flow of uninformed beliefs and superstitious misinformation

Posted by robertpriddy on June 18, 2010

I want to draw attention to a website by a write with an excellent web journal. He is a theoretical physicist currently Director of UCITE (University Center for Innovation in Teaching and Education) at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. He has written three books:

God vs. Darwin: The War Between  Evolution and Creationism in the Classroom (2009),
The Achievement Gap in US education: Canaries in the Mine
(2005), and
Quest for Truth: Scientific Progress and Religious Beliefs (2000).

Since the Internet became widely available, religions which have been relatively isolated from world communications which have always had – and still have –  millions of believers have emerged to struggle against the more rational civilizations they find threatening. They often attack other religions and also of course the sciences wherever they see fit and depending on their inherited prejudiced and untested beliefs. This backlash against the progress world society has nevertheless made under the rule of humanism, law, science and improved and extended social institutions has taken many by surprise. An effort is required to deal as humanely and rationally as possible with this wave of cultural-religious reaction which washes over us. The work of Manu Singham helps to plug this leak in the dam against superstitions, extremely unfounded beliefs and what these bear with them in the current flood.

THIS JUST SHOWS SOME OF THE VAST PROBLEM OF EDUCATION FACING US ALL

THIS JUST SHOWS SOME OF THE VAST PROBLEM OF EDUCATION FACING US ALL

 

Posted in Creationism, Evolution, Philosophy, Religion, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Freedom and fate, cause and choice

Posted by robertpriddy on June 14, 2010

The key issue – do humans have any degree of free will – is a very involved one. To elucidate its many convolution one must deal with philosophical and scientific investigations (especially in physics, neurology and biology), but also with far-reaching cultural and religious beliefs and behaviour. To illustrate this with brief examples: the philosophical issue deals with the meaning of ‘freedom’, ‘willpower’, ‘causation’ and numerous related words and also with the scope and logical consistency of the conceptual frameworks of ideas involved. In physics there is the issue of whether experimental and theoretical physics allow of uncaused events – and if so, how and to what extent (i.e. the nature and consequences of ‘indeterminacy’). In neurology, the issue is influenced by the increasingly sophisticated study of neural connections and the neurological nature of consciousness and its inevitable role in any freedom of the human will. The cultural and religious roots of the question of free will are closely intertwined with belief in the supernatural – where various powers vie with one another over human fate and freedoms and/or a creator divinity who either omnipotently runs and rules everything or allows some measure of freedom to the subjects he has created. From such widespread and hugely varied beginnings, differing theologies have developed, each with their doctrine for or against human freedom.

THE MEANING OF ‘FREEDOM’

Few words have been used for so many things as ‘freedom’ has. The term is imprecise and so can have many different meanings. As preliminaries for discussing the nature of freedom and trying to decide what is true or false about the subject, we may try to make it clearer by asking
1) freedom from what? and
2) freedom for what?
It may also be worth remembering that the interpretations and standpoints involved are important really only because of the various consequences they have for our lives, thought and activities, such as what kind of society and culture they are likely to support. The issue of whether the individual has any degree of free will is inseparable from the question of what kind of ‘freedom’ is intended.

TWO ‘POLES’ IN THE DEBATE

In essence, the sphere of discussion covering the subject human freedom and causal determinism has two poles. At the one is the idea that our will is ‘completely free’ in essence, though it may be ‘conditioned’ by the various different circumstances surrounding each person. At the other pole are the extreme doctrines of total fatalism or unalterable causal determinism. Other relevant standpoints fall somewhere between these ‘polar extremes’. It is interesting to note that the fatalistic pole is occupied both by many religious fundamentalists and many natural or physical scientists. The other extreme is hardly populated, except for some philosophers of the existentialist variety, such as Jean-Paul Sartre. The ‘tropics and temperate zones’ represent the middle way theories, which admit in one way or another of the ‘necessity’ of there being some free will while recognising that the conditioners and limitations operating upon us are either more or less powerful. Most thinkers in the social, historical and political sciences are found well away from the poles, as are those who contribute to some form of ordinary common sense, especially in modern and more Westernised cultures.

The most serious challenge to the possibility of human free will comes from speculations around the philosophy of science. Since science aims to trace the cause of every possible event or phenomenon, it is always close to absolutising the assumption that there is no freedom in that everything that happens in any shape or form must inevitably be caused by directly preceding events. This leaves no room for human freedom whatever. Therefore this issue is dealt with first of all, before the many theological speculations that also would deny any kind of freedom. Since the theological speculations all depend ultimately on belief or non-belief in a God and a doctrine surrounding this (i.e.on some irrational assumption), it primarily in the sphere of philosophical analysis, logic and empirical science that the key issue is sought illumined through purely rational and empirical means. In short, no belief in any omnipotent creator is presumed here so that the issue can be examined better on its merits independently of doctrine.

SCIENTIFIC CONFUSION ABOUT CAUSES

The keystone of science is the principle, “everything has a cause”. Yet how can an act of genuinely free will be caused? Likewise, how can any chance event occur, i.e. one that is uncaused? When confronted with these dilemmas, natural scientists twist and turn with arguments that almost always amount to denial of the phenomena of free will and chance.

However, many sciences operate with a multiplicity of causes, due to the complex interactive and many-facetted structure of matter, mind and society. Werner Heisenberg’s famous intervention is the deterministic Einsteinian physics can be summed up simply in his own words: “With the mathematical formulation of quantum-theoretical laws pure determinism had to be abandoned.”(1)

Many supporters of scientism will still not fully accept the possibility of ‘uncaused’ phenomena, and it appears that none of them accept that both meaningless random coincidences and meaningful synchronous ‘coincidence’ of events can occur. Scientists also ignore how some people experience ‘extraordinary’ meaningful coincidences argue that synchronicity is nothing more than chance or random ‘coincidence’ without statistical significance, for all meaning or purpose in such ‘coincidences’ is rejected by scientism as a merely subjective interpretations of events. This standpoint is controversial, since many thinkers are convinced that ‘meaningful’ coincidences occur, perhaps best known of these being C.G. Jung with his empirical materials to support his theory of synchronicity. In many religious and ‘spiritual movements’ the meaningful nature of coincidences is recognised, such events being somehow controlled by a higher power or god. Be this as it may, the issue alone opens a major field of discussion about the interpretation of events and, where even what little serious empirical research available is inconclusive.

Great Western thinkers have almost always pursued the goal of discovering order in life and the cosmos, whether by religious, philosophical or scientific means. Early forms of civilisation already sought to account for the cause of events by what is now widely considered to be ‘mythology’, by explaining natural events as the result of actions of deities. Superstitious as they may seem to the casual observer, such systems of belief contributed to a kind of ordering of ideas and of social relations.

The science of nature developed by the early Greeks started from ideas of an underlying order in nature itself, a ‘logical cosmos’ (cosmos as logos). The nature of certain regular physical events were examined and described, which led to ideas about underlying structures or laws of nature that determined the ordering of events in time and space. With the human mind’s propensity to seek regularity, such as causes and effects, order became a guiding ideal of rational thinking, the basis of the development of discursive reason and logic and also of systematic scientific research.

The ultimate origin, meaning and purpose of the cosmos and all its events has been sought by metaphysicians and theologians, artists and mystics, of many cultures. The ideal is all-embracing explanation and is set against the apparent chance happenings of the world and the fearful notion of ultimate chaos. Seeking solutions and explanations of the conflicts of human life and society led thinkers to the conception of an ethical order. This had already arisen in India centuries before with the concept of karma or the universal law of action and reaction in all things, including human actions. The Jews and the Greeks both adopted such conceptions of an ethical order operating on human destiny, which became a cornerstone of Christian and European thought.

POLITICAL AND SOCIAL FREEDOM

Political freedom is desired from suppression of individuals or groups and for individual justice, as appropriate in each instance. Nations or races seek freedom from external forces, whether military , economic or otherwise and they desire the freedom to exercise socio-economic and political justice. Democracy is based on the ‘freedom’ of the individual to vote on who should govern. (‘freedom’ thus interpreted as ‘choice’). That such freedoms can and do exist is a historical and social fact. But the particular extent or scope of such ‘social freedoms’ obviously varies with time and place. Social freedom is also for the good of all society, being the rights a person should have so as to be able do his duty as a member of society. It is not a right or an open license to do whatever one wants; that is anarchy. Our ‘human rights’ are whatever is necessary or reasonable to enable us to serve our fellowmen and thereby also God. Whatever denies human beings the minimum of means of doing those duties is a compulsion from which they must seek freedom. Some examples of compulsion are the suppression of the right of religious belief or worship and the denial of the general opportunity of caring for others through work (and of not being an undue burden oneself).

See a fuller exposition at  http://robertpriddy.com/Treatise.htm

A.C. Grayling has written that we require a clearer conception of free will.
“Its formal identifier is the “genuinely could have done otherwise” requirement: but not only does that itself require unpacking, we also need to look for the fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) traces that suggest which structures in the brain import novelty into the world’s causal chains, making their possessor a true agent, and not merely a patient—a sufferer—of the universe’s history.”

Posted in causality, Free will, Philosophy, scientism, Uncategorized, Understanding | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

P.Z. Meyers gives the Catholics’ “bottom line”

Posted by robertpriddy on June 4, 2010

“The Vatican is reaching out to atheists. They are creating a foundation called “The Courtyard of Gentiles” to encourage discussion between Catholics and the godly — I can hardly wait. Except, alas, it turns out their invitations are only going to a select few.”

Pharyngula ps a weblog by a biologist/associate professor at the University of Minnesota: He make a most relevant point about the manipulations and anxieties of the Vatican, as follows:-

“The foundation, he said, would only be interested in “noble atheism or agnosticism, not the polemical kind – so not those atheists such as [Piergiorgio] Odifreddi in Italy, [Michel] Onfray in France, [Christopher] Hitchens and [Richard] Dawkins”. ”

” … apparently they only want faitheists in their little clubhouse, because as we all know, the primary weapon of the atheists is irony and sarcasm…the two weapons of the atheists are irony, sarcasm, and ridicule…wait. Man, we are so danged vicious. We actually mock Catholics, so we’re just too mean to come to their party.”

Posted in Belief, Catholic Church, Evolution, Religion, religious faith, Spiritual propaganda | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »