12-21-13 11:03  •  Does Money Serve Life?

I was reading an article called 10 Common Sense Principles for a New Economy. It says, "It’s time we the people declare our independence from the money-favoring Wall Street economy."

I'm not sure I agree with everything on the list, but two of the items jumped out at me:

4. Markets allocate efficiently only within a framework of appropriate rules to maintain competition, cost internalization, balanced trade, domestic investment, and equality. These are essential conditions for efficient market function. Without rules, a market economy quickly morphs into a system of corporate monopolies engaged in suppressing wages, exporting jobs, collecting public subsidies, poisoning air, land, and water, expropriating resources, corrupting democracy, and a host of other activities that represent an egregiously inefficient and unjust distribution of resources.

5. A proper money system roots the power to create and allocate money in people and communities in order to facilitate the creation of livelihoods and ecologically balanced community wealth. Money properly serves life, not the reverse. Wall Street uses money to consolidate its power to expropriate the real wealth of the rest of the society. Main Street uses money to connect underutilized resources with unmet needs. Public policy properly favors Main Street.

This is at the heart of my objection to purely "free market" capitalism. Proponents seem to think that the "invisible hand of the marketplace" will answer all human needs, when clearly it never attempts to. "Free market" capitalism favors greed, hoarding, and power-mongering over any sense of fair play, ethical conduct, or any actual concern for the needs of the majority.

"Money" is not some force of nature. It is a social agreement and it will be whatever we agree it is. Why are we agreeing to let it all go up to the top and stay there?

Money is a tool that should be used by human society to meet needs of society, not as a route to consolidate unmandated, unchecked power in the hands of a few. Money needs to serve life. Does it?

Lucy: Money needs to serve life? What? I don't understand that.

Money is a system that humans invented to exchange value. The system should serve human life by meeting human needs. Right now it serves mainly the greed of a tiny few. The system should be changed so that it works better and serves the majority in addition to the few.

Lucy: I don't understand free market capitalism. Should I?

It is the centuries-old ideology, as espoused by Adam Smith in Wealth of Nations, that "the invisible hand of the marketplace" will naturally cause individual actors to produce the goods and services needed to run the society. It works okay, but it doesn't do everything and is easy to exploit.

Capitalism - that is, the exhange of value between individual actors - is a naturally occurring human behavior which can survive any attempt to suppress it. That is why black markets inevitably arise wherever trade is restricted. Capitalism is not going anywhere.

However, like any complex human system, it needs rules and oversight to prevent exploitation.

Right now the billionaires are hoarding all of the wealth in our society. People who have worked hard and made good choices are still struggling to get by, while an extremely wealthy few sit on trillions of dollars they are unwilling even to spend. The "invisible hand" has not acted to prevent exploitation, and it is hurting the majority.

In a New Economy, as proposed by this author, economic oversight and tax rates would return to the system that worked to build the middle class and economic prosperity after World War II. This would return hoarded wealth to the system where it can create value.

But, we would also begin to assess real value in non-monetary terms. We should be valuing the health and happiness of the people and the success and sustainability of the system over profits.

The power of natural capitalism can and should be used to generate commerce and distribute goods and services, but it needs strong oversight to prevent exploitation, and to protect that which is not measurable in money, but has more value nonetheless.

Lucy: So is money now an illusion, that should be done away with?

I agree that money is an illusion but I don't think that means it should be done away with. There needs to be a fungible medium of exhange. And people like it...doing away with money would like getting rid of the chips in poker. You might still be able to play, but what fun would that be?

However, since money is an illusion, I think we need to stop acting like we are constrained by how much there is available to do what we need to do. And since it is an illusion, we can make it be whatever we want it to be. We are not slaves to the illusion. We can make the system work in better ways.

Maria: I'm beginning to think the "burners" are brilliant...I'm going to have to find a way to get to Burning Man or a regional burn and live in a barter economy experiement - if only for a week!

The "barter economy" at Burning Man is not really very interesting or effective. In order to prevent the Burn from going commercial, there is a ban against any kind of vending. But the actual "barter" that takes place is mainly people exchanging handmade trinkets. People are expected to bring everything they will need...I don't think you could show up with only handmade trinkets and expect to barter them for food all week.

There are lots of places where you can get interesting food, or coffee, or booze, but it is simply offered to all comers while supplies last...you don't have to "barter" for it. People bring it to give away.

And if you want good drugs, you won't be able to exchange trinkets for that either. Bring cash.


Barter can be part of an economy, but it's really hard to get what you need with what you have using just objects. The guy who needs what you have may not have what you want.

A formalized system of fungible exchange is probably unavoidable for societies with any level of complexity. But, we should make it a system that is equitable.

12-06-13 8:14  •  Trust Not Your Own Understanding

Sharonie: The Bible tells us, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, on your own intelligence rely not." And our Torah says, "My child, do not forget My Torah, and let your heart guard My commandments".

Why the heart and not the mind? Because the heart is where we have our capacity to be awed. Our mind will immediately try to "explain" something that impresses us and reduce it to something banal.

Not me - I revel in unexplained impression.

Sharonie: Our hearts just feel the awe and that's something that's necessary to see G-d in all Creation.

G-d is a pretty banal reduction alright.

Sharonie: An all powerful being able to create the whole Universe with its perfection and balance is banal?

Yep. A real yawner.

It seems very "being-centric" to presume that only a "being" is capable of creation. In fact it's a real slam on the marvelous creative ability of non-sentient matter/energy.

Sharonie: If there's no Creator, then how did the Universe came into existence?

It is not known.

Sharonie: OK, I can see how that theory is more awe inspiring than an all powerful Creator...

"It is not known" is not a theory. It is a statement of fact. Nothing is currently known of how the universe was created.

And yes, it is an incredibly awe-inspiring prospect, unburdened by any preconception. I fairly tremble before it. It is the truth.

Sharonie: Then give me an alternative.

Perhaps the universe was created as an effect from another universe or a different kind of place. Perhaps it was not created. Perhaps it created itself. Perhaps the universe is building itself from the ground up.

Sharonie: How is that not a banal, random accident of physical forces and molecules?

It is not random because it is effects arising directly from causes. And there is nothing banal about the dance of matter and energy in our universe. It is a thrilling spectacle.

Physical forces and molecules exhibit abilities which are far more amazing when seen to be arising from their intrinsic properties than if they were being manipulated with intent.

Sharonie: Where do these "causes" come from?

It is not known. However that doesn't make it "random." If there is one thing effects arising from causes isn't, it's random.

Sharonie: I agree, but it's practically impossible that those forces and molecules are in perfect harmony just by chance.

Whoa, who said anything about "perfect harmony"? Everything in the universe is in a constant state of churning collision. Every possible extreme exists, from inferno to absolute zero, from absolute density to absolute void. In all the vastness of the cosmos, the conditions for life exist only in the tiniest of narrow margins between great extremes. Systems fall into balance only for a time, and then decay. All is transient. All will fail.

And, who said anything about chance? Effects do not arise from causes by "chance."

Sharonie: And how can you prove there was no intent in those seemingly unintentional abilities?

Upon examination, that is what it looks like. It is, as you say, seemingly unintentional. That is what we have to go on.

Sharonie: And could you give some examples of those amazing unintentional abilities?

The ability of molecules to make copies of themselves. It is entirely explainable - it is due to the electrical charges of the atoms which form the shape of the molecules. But how amazing it is that a few sticky spots on tiny specks can stack matter in ways that are organized, and become self-organizing as they become more complex.

Or, the ability of great masses to change the shape of space. The ability of stars to manufacture elements with fusion. The ability of black holes to trap light. How amazing it is that this is what stuff does.

Sharonie: You say, "All will fail." But that's the thing, isn't it? It hasn't failed.

Just wait.

Sharonie: Actually, the probability that something like this occurs without a controller is astronomical.

Yet, here we are. So - all the more amazing without a creator than with one! Hardly banal.

In fact I would say that regarding a highly improbable, readily apparent, self-creating, self-organizing and self-purposing universe is far more awe-inspiring than reducing it to an artificially manufactured one where things need to be "run" by an undetectable being.

Sharonie: And again, just because it's seemingly uncontrolled that doesn't mean that it is.

It may as well be.

Sharonie: And you can prove that we are here without a creator, I'm assuming?

I don't think anyone suggested it could be "proved." But, that is what it looks like.

Sharonie: And there's strong evidence to suggest those things couldn't possibly happen on their own.

Not at the level of the happening. If you watch the actual things happening that is what it looks like.

Sharonie: That's not what it looks like to me.

You, previously: "And again, just because it's seemingly uncontrolled that doesn't mean that it is."

That it seems uncontrolled is a fact obvious even to you.

Sharonie: I, from personal experience know God is real.

MyMyOhMy: Then lay down something more than empty claims.

Sharonie: No, I won't. Certainly not with you. As I said, they are personal experiences that I hold sacred.

If you have some evidence that what you are saying is true, why not share it?

Sharonie: I want to protect what I believe in. Don't you?

No way. I would rather know the truth.

Sharonie: If I felt comfortable enough to share them with you I would, but I know from this conversation we are having right now that you would rip my experiences to shreds. So, I'll pass!

If it was true, it could not be ripped to shreds and attempts to do so would be no more than amusing. Truth can withstand any scrutiny.

This is a dodge.

Sayette: I'm not a theist, but I'm not sure that's a "dodge."

Since so far every theist who claims they have "evidence" that their god is like their book says, or whatever, then fails to present the "evidence" because it's "too personal, " well....if it's not a dodge, it certainly is convenient. It's a "get out of providing evidence free" card.

That is equivalent to not actually having evidence.

Sayette: I don't blame her for not wanting to share her deep experiences.

Oh, I don't either. However if I was making a claim, and claiming that I had evidence to support it, I would not hide the evidence from the scrutiny of others. I would rather know if it can really withstand scrutiny than "protect" claims which might not. But then, I have the courage of my convictions.

Sayette: but if someone wants to keep their deeply held, emotional and spiritual experiences private....I have to respect it.

I respect it just fine. I didn't say she should share it if she doesn't want to. I am saying it does not constitute evidence.

Sayette: But sometimes emotional stuff...baggage type stuff...can't be shared.

Of course. But the problem is not with not sharing. The problem is thinking that emotional baggage type stuff counts as evidence of anything. This is a fallacy. Thinking that emotional baggage stuff counts as evidence is one of the great flaws in our reasoning ability as a society and it is having negative effects at every level.

Sayette: Which is why I stand by her decision to not share.

So do I. But I would not stand by the continued use of the word "evidence" to describe what theists will not share. It is not evidence.

Considering "emotional stuff" to be evidence of the truth of an interpretation of a deity from a book shows a major disconnect from what really constitutes evidence.

Sayette: Occasionally, it's important, it's morally more important to not hurt someone than to give them the truth.

Maybe, but I have never felt a religious debate forum was that kind of occasion.

Occasionally it is important, morally more important to stand up for the truth and for reason. I usually find a debate forum to be more like that kind of occasion.

Sayette: I just feel like it's important to not fuck up something that keeps someone going, at least not until they want that.

Discussing this in a calm, civil manner is not fucking anything up. At least, it shouldn't be.

Sharonie: I'll have to check, but I don't recall saying my experiences were proof.

MyMy had said, then lay down something besides empty claims, and you said, I would but you would tear it to pieces. That would seem to imply you had something to back up your claims but perhaps not.

In any case, I was speaking generally. I have heard this exact conversation many times in the world of religious debate, even on this forum in recent threads.

The "I have evidence of my supernatural claims, but I'm not going to share it with you because a) you wouldn't understand or b) you have closed your heart to god or c) you would tear it to pieces, etc." argument is very frequently deployed in religious debate.

In fact, I have seen this deployed so often that it seems, as I said, like a dodge, or at least very convenient.

It mainly becomes problematic when people continue to insist that what they will not share still counts as evidence of their claims.

Sharonie: I just knew and I felt so at peace with my decision that I couldn't deny that God was behind my decision 100%.

Well, perhaps He was. Or, perhaps it was just a feeling of peace. Who can say? Nothing is known of what causes these feelings.

What I don't see is how these feelings can be extrapolated to support the specific supernatural claims of any specific religion. How do people figure this means the Bible is true, or that Christianity is correct?

12-05-13 10:11  •  Would You Elect an Atheist?

Maybelle: Recent polls say that over half the country would not elect a president they knew was an atheist. If he were otherwise qualified, would you vote for an atheist?

Vicky: Yes, I would. I wouldn't care. Personal beliefs have very little to do with ability to lead a nation and solve problems.

I disagree. If a guy was, say, a Scientologist, I would have to seriously wonder if the disconnect between reality and what he thought was reality would cause him to make errors.

Principia: You believe what you like- I'll believe what I like.

How things really are is unimportant.

Vicky: If the Scientologist was able to set aside his personal delusions beliefs...

Do you think people can set aside delusions? Can you give me an example?

Vicky: Do you need an example? Because it's not difficult. We have a healthcare crisis in this country. Aliens are not going to fly down and fix that. If our POTUS can address the specifics of the healthcare system, without the aliens, then there ya go.

I can see what you are saying, but I suppose it depends on the content of the actual belief being discussed.

Vicky: I say the president can believe in aliens all he wants. As long as he doesn't expect them to come down and fix things, we're good.

What if his religion required believing that aliens do sometimes come down and fix things? Would that change it at all for you?

Suppose his religion stated that because humans had offended "aliens" a long time ago, the aliens cursed them and they are all now terribly prone to evil. Do you think a person with that delusion could set it aside to deal with humans as they actually are?

Or, suppose his religion stated that "aliens" caused life to be created on this earth and were in control of the progress of it and would soon be coming to stage a Last Times. Do you think he could put aside that delusion to make competant environmental and geopolitical decisions?

Most of all, if a person was able to seriously believe obvious delusions, like that "aliens" are interacting with humans, doing them favors, and running the universe, I would wonder at what disconnect had impaired his logic and reasoning processes, and wonder where else that impairment might show up in his decision making.

I would ask, if a person had certain types of encompassing delusions about what humans are, how the world came to be like it is, how it currently works, and what the future is supposed to be like, along with a serious disregard for how reality stands up against his ideology, do you think all that could be "put aside" when he shows up at the Oval Office?

Vicky: Beliefs in aliens does not automatically have to influence problem-solving and leadership capabilities.

I didn't say "belief in aliens." That is so vague it could be anything. I listed very specific beliefs and how they could directly affect policy decisions by a disconnect with reality.

Vicky, if that's how you feel I won't try to change it. But it doesn't make sense to me.

Are you saying that when you are in the voting booth, you could think, "Well, he actually thinks that humans are cursed by aliens. He thinks aliens designed this planet and all of us, and that the aliens have a plan for our armegeddon which we will be following. He thinks that people can speak to the aliens in their head and the aliens will come and do magical favors for them. There is no evidence that any of this is real, it is just his personal delusions beliefs."

...and it would not trouble you at all?

This gives you no pause to wonder why this guy is valuing his ideology over observable reality? It gives you no hesitation at all to wonder what else a guy with no respect for reality might choose to believe? Would it give you no reason to question how he determines what is real and what is important?

Don't you think the people we elect should at least be sane?

Vicky: Raver, your description fits most Christians, Jews, and Muslims.

I haven't heard many in the AFs mentioning much about aliens, but I know what you mean.

Vicky: Are you implying that we aren't sane?

Well, I was responding to your term for a Scientologist's ideas - "personal delusions beliefs." If you feel that applies to Scientology but no one else I'd like to hear why.

So using your term, I might rephrase, Don't you think the people we elect should at least be non-delusional?

Vicky: I would submit that we all have delusions, of one form or another.

I suppose some people are willing to settle for that. But, there is such a thing as working to shed delusion.

Vicky: Be it as mild as believing that I'm really the Mother of the Year, or as wild as believing that aliens originally colonized the planet.

Do you really think the specific content of the delusion doesn't matter? There is evidence that you are a very good mom. Is that really as big of a stretch as aliens colonizing the earth?

Vicky: As long as the delusion does not interfere with rational problem-solving, it's no big deal.

How do you figure a belief that all humans are cursed, or that aliens can be entreated to solve human problems, could not interfere with rational problem-solving?

Republican Candidates Don't Believe in Evolution

If a guy is running for office who does not understand how evolution fits the evidence, I'd have to wonder what other bizarre departures from reality he was capable of.

Same for an "atheist." That's pretty vague. What does he, specifically, think? If he didn't believe in god but believed in, say, unregulated capitalism, I'd also have to wonder what other departures from reality he could be expected to make.

Principia: Wow! Elect an athiest? Seriously? Anyone who says yes, I feel sorry for you!

I could never vote for an atheist. Atheists tend to treat people that believe like they are stupid. I would not want that in a president.

And believers "tend" to say, "I feel sorry for you!" I wouldn't want that in a president either.

But just because some believers say it in a debate on an internet forum doesn't mean any particular believer would do it. I would not generalize from a politician being Christian that he feels sorry for non-believers. Likewise, I would not generalize from a politician being an atheist that he would treat people like they are stupid.

In fact I doubt a person who openly displayed either of those traits would even be on the ballot.

Maybelle: We should all be willing to have our beliefs challenged, as it helps us get stronger by adjusting our beliefs to match realities in the universe.

Well said.

Maybelle: Thanks Raver. I admire your posts about as much as anyone I have seen on here, so feel honoured that you support what I have posted. :):):)

Well, that's very cool of you to say, thank you. I do feel your point is a very important one which is often overlooked.

In fact this is why I find attitudes like, "Oh, who cares if he's delusional, everybody's delusional!" to be so disturbing. Why shouldn't we expect better than that?

Delusion is a problem. It is a degree of error. How serious it is derives from what, specifically, the delusion is about. The amount of the problem can be measured in how far the delusion differs from what can be known about reality.

There may be no way to eliminate all delusion, but it can be greatly lessened, in just the manner you describe - by finding out what the reality is and being willing to change one's ideas to correspond to it more accurately.

I would hope that if I have a delusion, I would not try to hide from an examination of it. I wouldn't simply say, "Well, everybody's delusional, so you be delusional about that and I will be delusional about this, the end."

If the difference between reality and my delusion could be reliably demonstrated, I would attempt to stop having the delusion. I would change my mind to fit the reality as can be determined.

Shedding delusion is a great triumph, an act of transcendence. It leads to better understanding and less error. Why shouldn't we expect this of people?

Maybelle: I do expect that of people.... I'm just often disappointed.

Well, I understand what you are saying. But what I meant is, whatever our private views, why aren't we all demanding a public dialog that is free of delusion, or demanding that our politicians strive to be free of it?

Why are ideas that cannot be distinguished from delusion treated as if they were just as valid as facts in the making of public policy?

Vicky: But who determines what is a "delusion"?

Verification against observable reality.

Vicky: Some people think believing in aliens is delusional, and other might think that believing in God is delusional.

Believing "in" aliens or believing "in" God is pretty vague. Believing what about them?

Vicky: Some people think that it's delusional to believe that a man died for all the sins of the earth, while another person think's it's delusion NOT to think that.

That's why you check. Is there any way to confirm that a man died for all the sins of the earth, or could it be delusion? If it could just as easily be delusion I see no reason to give it the same weight as fact.

Vicky: Which beliefs are delusional and which are simply beliefs?

Check and see.

Principia: And there you have it. This is why most people don't feel comfortable with voting for an atheist. You mock their beliefs as delusional.

First of all, I am usually satisfied with terms like "unsubstantiated claims." It was actually Vicky who introduced the term "delusion" to the conversation, referring to the personal delusions beliefs of a Scientologist.

Second of all, I wouldn't generalize too much about "atheists" from me, I am not an atheist.

Principia: I was just responding to the perception that many atheist hold, that believers are delusional.

Maybelle: I think that is part of the problem with this discussion. You are interpretting the reference to delusion as being mocking. Why not just respond to it? Why is a belief in a God not delusional? I am interested in the answer.

This is not in any way intended to be mocking, my own beliefs can be questioned in the same way. Rather than look at it as mocking (which I am certain is not Raver's intent), why not consider how to address it as a question? As I said in an earlier post, I am proud to attempt to answer any question that is addressed to me and will look to modify my beliefs if the question challenges me well enough.

Maybelle, thanks again for making the point.

As I mentioned, I usually use the term "unsubstantiated claims" rather than "delusions." I wanted to see how they differ so I looked it up.

delusion - a fixed false belief that is resistant to reason or confrontation with actual fact.

So I would say that rather than being interchangeable terms, there is a sliding scale from unsubstantiated claims to delusions, and the more resistant ideas are to reason and fact the more they take on the meaning of the latter.

Vicky: So if it can't be observed in reality, it's delusional?

It certainly could be. How can we know? At the very least it is an unsubstantiated claim.

If an idea can't be verified, what reason do we have to think it is not delusion? We can't just accept every single claim that people make. People can claim anything. We have to have some criteria by which to differentiate. How do we know what claims to accept and what claims to dismiss?

There is only one way I know of to determine what claims to credit, and that is to check and see if they can be verified. If they can't, then they are just another claim...in a vast sea of them.

Vicky: Believing "what" about them, you ask? For one, believing they exist.

That's still pretty vague.

Vicky: Believing that they answer prayers.

That's a bit more specific.

Most studies of intercessory prayer have shown that it has no effect, or can even have a negative effect. Older studies seemed to show some minor benefits, but these were later called into question and could not be replicated.

Long-Awaited Medical Study Questions the Power of Prayer - http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/31/health/31pray.html

If prayer is being "answered" in some way, the effect is so negligible that it cannot be reliably detected or measured, and so it cannot be said to have any predictable effectiveness. It cannot be harnessed to create any particular outcome.

So, I would say there is not currently any way to verify that anyone out there is "answering prayers," therefore basing public policy around the idea that "prayers are answered" would be unwarranted. In other words, prayer is not a plan.

Vicky: Ok.....so Christians are delusional since it can't be verified?

The term would refer to the content of specific ideas. "Unsubstantiated claims" and "delusions" refer to ideas, not people.

I would say that Christians are definitely making a lot of unsubstantiated claims.

Vicky: Or are you saying that this particular belief isn't delusional, but just shouldn't be considered a fact?

Christianity, like any religion, is made up of a myriad of different claims, some of which hold up under examination, some of which are completely unsubstantiated, and some of which are so contrary to observable reality that they definitely seem to be edging into the "delusion" territory.

I would say that if a Scientologist's ideas - that we are reincarnations of aliens planted near volanoes by Xenu, and we are doomed to fall because of negative experiences encoded on our engrams - can be considered "personal delusions beliefs"....

...then there is no reason why Christian ideas - that we are descendants of two people planted in a garden by God, and we are doomed to fall because of Original Sin - should be examined under a different lens.

Vicky: Beliefs can be based on the unobservable....that's my point.

Of course! In fact that is a very convenient place to put them, because there aren't many pesky facts available to get in the way.

But if the truth of a claim is "unobservable," then you still have a fact - the fact that it is unobservable.

In other words, if something is unobservable, it is unknown.

The unsubstantiated claims begin when people start saying they do know something about it. The more they claim to know about it, the larger the departure from the fact - that it is unknown.

Vicky: Do you specifically think that those who believe in God are delusional?

I guess that would depend on what they are claiming about God, how fervently they are claiming it, and how resistant the claims were to contrary facts.

That said, I am not an atheist, and it seems readily apparent that humans are capable of profound spiritual experience. Calling that experience "God" seems fairly common.

However any claims beyond that which I cannot verify I would probably consider unsubstantiated.

Principia: It's not just people who believe who are delusional.

"People who believe" are usually the ones making unsubstantiated claims.

However it is no use to ascribe delusion to people based on a gross generalization, like are they "believers" or "unbelievers." The question is, what are they claiming?

The degree of delusion is in the individual claim, not the person, and it is measured in how far the claim differs from what can be known.

KJJJ: Hell No I wouldn't elect someone who didnt believe in Jesus! and the Bible. And you people who did vote for Obama (who is Muslim) are crazy and you will regret it in the future.

He is the WAY, The Truth, And The LIght!!!

Case in point, thanks.

11-16-13 11:11  •  Soul and Truth

Sayes: Where do souls come from? What are they? What are they made of?

SpringMeadow: The soul is the spirit and body together. The spirit is a literal offspring of God, created from a less-developed form of energy.

Apples: Souls are the result of spiritual experiences.

Priya: The soul is to the spirit as the mind is to the brain.

Sayes: This all sounds like random conjecture to me.

SpringMeadow: There's something wrong with random conjecture? ;)

When it is stated as fact, yes.

SpringMeadow: I meant, I believe it, not that it's a fact. You should realize this, since it's a religious discussion forum.

I was not talking about this forum. I was talking about the random conjecture that comprises all knowledge of "the soul" among the human race.

SpringMeadow: One's definition of "soul" is always going to be a matter of belief, isn't it?

It will always be a matter of conjecture. That should tell you something.

SpringMeadow: True, it is all conjecture. There's no way to prove it one way or another.

It's not conjecture because it can't be "proved." It is conjecture because nothing is known of it. All discussion of the nature of "souls" has to be manufactured by the human imagination.

SpringMeadow: Not necessarily...I mean there is a part of us that is not physical. Our personality, out likes, our dislikes, whom we love or don't...This all makes up who we are.

How do you figure that's not physical?

SpringMeadow: We are more than flesh and bone.

A computer is more than hard drives and circuits. It is also software. But software is still physical.

SpringMeadow: We have free will, we make choices. Everything a computer does has to be programmed and they also don't have much of a personality. Humans have minds and personalities.

I don't see how that makes the personality not physical, or something "more" than a personality. Yes, personalities and minds exist and things are known of them. But "soul"? That is just an extra word. Nothing is known of it which is not personality, mind, etc.

SpringMeadow: I'm talking about the part of us that lives on after we die. Get it?

So, back to conjecture. Nothing is known of what, if anything, "lives on."

SpringMeadow: So what if it is only an idea?

People can have ideas about whatever they want of course. But when the conjecture is stated as fact - the way it is by religions - people totally lose sight of the fact that it is conjecture. It comes to hold the same level of truth in their minds as actual truth. This leads to a big disconnect between what people want to think and what really comprises fact.

The preference for action based on what we think over what is real - "ideology" - is a serious threat to civilization.

Hence, why I said it is a problem.

Apples: The problem is that you only accept facts as truth, so when someone accepts a truth that is not a fact, it blows your mind.

What is a truth that is not a fact?

Apples: I rest my case.

Provide an example of a truth that is not a fact.

Apples: There are so many, you are blind if you can't see them. Like, my husband and kids love me...

How is that not a fact?

Apples: ...the sun will "rise" tomorrow...

If you mean that it's not really rising, how is that truth? If "rising" is close enough, how is that a truth but not a fact?

Apples: ...Satan does not exist.

How do you know that is truth or a fact?

Apples: "My husband and kids love me."

It's not a fact because it is not proven. There are only evidences to this truth.

You could just as easily say, "It's not truth because it is not proven. There is only evidence to support this fact."

Either your statement corresponds to reality or it doesn't. If the statement does not correspond to reality then it's not truth or fact.

You may not be able to tell if your original statement is true - though, I'm sure you can - but if your husband and kids do love you then it is truth and fact that they love you.

Apples: I meant that the sun will appear to rise tomorrow.

It probably will, but as Yoda would say, always in motion is the future. That is no more truth than it is fact.

So, let's back up a day. You could say, "The sun appeared to rise this morning." That would be both truth and fact.

Apples: "Satan does not exist."

It is truth because I accept it based on all available evidence. It is not fact because it is not proven.

"Does not exist" statements are inherently fallacious because it is impossible to prove a negative. The statement is not known to be true or fact.

Apples: My statements are "truth", not "fact"! Those two words are not the same thing.

I think you are trying to use truth as a "softer" version of fact, but that doesn't correspond to the definition of truth or fact.


1. the true or actual state of a matter: He tried to find out the truth.
2. conformity with fact or reality; verity: the truth of a statement.
3. a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle, or the like: mathematical truths.
4. the state or character of being true.
5. actuality or actual existence.


1. something that actually exists; reality; truth: Your fears have no basis in fact.
2. something known to exist or to have happened: Space travel is now a fact.
3. a truth known by actual experience or observation; something known to be true: Scientists gather facts about plant growth.
4. something said to be true or supposed to have happened: The facts given by the witness are highly questionable.

Clearly, In both cases the words refer to that which is actual. So, I don't agree that a statement can be "true, but not a fact." At least not based on your examples.

Apples: It is possible for something to be true, even if it's unproven.

Sure, it might be true, but if you don't know, "accepting" it as true/fact doesn't change the fact that you don't know.

That it might be true, or that you "accept" it as true, wouldn't make statements like "Souls are the result of spiritual experiences" or "The soul is to the spirit as the mind is to the brain" anything other than what they are - pure conjecture. They cannot be shown to be fact - or true. You don't know is the fact and truth.

This is exactly the wishy-washy relationship with the truth which shows why unsubstantiated claims are problematic.

Apples: Most believers are well aware that their beliefs are not facts, that they are....beliefs (or conjecture if you prefer).

That may be true of most of the people in this conversation. However I don't know that it is true of most believers in this country.

The fact is, there is a substantial portion of the American body politic dominated by religious fundamentalists. These are people who claim their beliefs are literally true.

Is it a coincidence that fundamentalist Christians were the largest voting block in support of the Iraq invasion? Is it coincidence that this is the demographic most likely to have believed the ridiculous, utterly unsubstantiated lies about Saddam Hussein that started the war?

A wishy-washy relationship with the truth, even by less than "most," is a problem for everyone.

Apples: You just don't get it. Truth doesn't require proof. Facts require proof. Truth is subjective. Facts are not.

Not according to the dictionary.

Apples: Dang, I'm not being clear then.

You seem to be clear, just wrong.

Apples: The definition you provided is talking about absolute truth. Truth is subjective and doesn't always reflect what is actual.

Sorry, wrong. The definition I provided was for the word "truth." It says nothing about "believed" or "subjective." It says actual.

One of the most troubling aspects of a wishy-washy relationship to the truth is the idea that you get to pick it. Not only do you get to pick "truth" based on whim, you get to change the definition of truth to make your whim count as truth.

Apples: Here's a better example. Suppose your husband gives you a ring. It's cubic zirconia, but he tells you it's a diamond, and so you tell your mother, "I got a diamond ring." You told the truth. And yet that truth is not reality.

That would be stating more than you know. You would be incorrect.

If you wanted to avoid this kind of error, you could be scrupulously accurate and tell your mom, "I got a ring. My husband said it was a diamond." You could refrain from unsubstantiated claims until you have verified that the stone has the physical characteristics that differentiate diamonds from zircons.

It would be a shame if all that was necessary of course. I think it is particularly telling that you had to use an example of a dysfunctional relationship where one partner deceives the other to make your definition of "truth" work.

In any case, your claim that I'm just "not getting" what truth is and you are is completely unwarranted.

Apples: You cripple your thinking with your demands for "truth." You may not like conjectures, but they can be a useful tool in progressing our understanding, rather than hibernating in the comfort of the proven past.

Yeah, the quest for truth is all about "hibernating in the past." That's why science has produced monumental discoveries, cures and technologies and advanced human understanding by a thousandfold, while supernatural conjecture about "the soul" has not changed human understanding of it by a single iota in thousands of years.

Apples: The definition that you submitted is referring to actual truth (ie. Absolute truth).

Actual truth, yes. Absolute Truth, NO. The definition I used is not for Absolute Truth. That is a philosophical term with its own definition, and it's different. The definition I used was for plain old truth.

Apples: Take a look at another dictionary definition of the word "truth":

1. A statement proven to be or accepted as true.

Well, for one thing, I could not find this as a #1 definition in any dictionary. "Conformity with fact or reality" or some variation thereof was number one in every dictionary I looked in and many did not say anything like "accepted as." So I would say that the correlation with fact is clearly the primary quality of truth.

For another, accepted by who? This is pretty vague, but I would surmise it means "generally accepted" or "accepted as part of the body of knowledge." If you seriously think it means that anything ever accepted by anybody is correctly referred to as "truth," I disagree. I think that would dilute the idea of "true" so far that it could not be distinguished from "false." And that would not be very useful.

But, there is no sense in getting into a dictionary war when I am talking about conformity with fact or reality and you are talking about anything accepted as truth by anybody. It would be better to refine our terms.

So, by all means, I would be willing to use the term "actual truth" to refer to what I am talking about, if you would be willing to use the term "not actual truth" to refer to what you are talking about. That should settle the confusion.

Apples:lol..ok, I accept your terms with the following provisions: 1. that I may add "...to Raver" on the end of "not actual truth" and 2. that you call me "Mistress Apples" from now on. Deal?

No chance. That would be claiming that your "not actual truth" is actual truth..."to somebody." However conformity to fact or reality doesn't work that way.

You are the one who referred to my usage as "actual truth." Now you want to dilute that term to include "anything accepted by anybody" too?

You just keep lowering the bar. That's unfortunate. Actual truth matters.

Apples: I just don't think you always understand the nature of things that aren't facts.

There is no evidence that you understand "the nature of things that aren't facts" any better than I do.

Apples: Actually, there is lots of evidence that I understand it better than you. Just none that you would accept. There is plenty of evidence from my point of view.

Well, you have already demonstrated that your standards are pretty low.

Apples: What do you mean, conjecture has not progressed our understanding? Of course it has.

Well, let's see how it's working. A lot of people have proffered up their conjecture about the soul in this thread. Has your understanding of the soul "progressed" as a result? What do you now understand about the soul that you didn't before?

Or...are we still exactly where we started, and where we have been for thousands of years - with absolutely no knowledge whatsoever of the soul?

Apples: Yes, my understanding has progressed. I learn something every single time I interact with others.

I didn't say "learn something about what other people think." I said learn about the soul. You know no more about the soul now than you did before.

Apples: But when I tell you that I do have knowledge of the soul you presume to know me better than I know myself.

I know that you are a human being like any other, and there is no reason to think you posses some mental power that other humans don't have.

No human has knowledge of the soul. It is all conjecture, as everyone here is perfectly willing to acknowledge.

Apples: So I'm hoping that in time you'll grow to respect me enough to give me the courtesy of taking me at my word.

That you have knowledge of the soul? Nope. Why should I accept an unsubstantiated claim of extraordinary knowledge?

But that's an easy one. Substantiate your claim. If you really have knowledge, prove it.

Apples: When I interact with others, I learn about their soul, by learning about them and where they stand philosophically and spiritually.

Unless "the soul" is imaginary, in which case you just learn about them and where they stand.

Apples: You THINK I'm a human being like any other. You don't know. ;)

Unlike you, I'm willing to substantiate my claim. This conversation is fairly conclusive evidence that you are a human being like any other.

If you had this much evidence to support your claims about the soul I would have no trouble agreeing that you actually know something about it.

Apples: I accept my beliefs as truth.

Yeah, and in March 2003, 80% of Americans accepted it as truth that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. You can see how good that turned out.

Accepting belief as truth leads to error.

Apples: You claim that this conversation is "proof" that I am an ordinary person. If you accept conversation as evidence, then can tell you that I talk to God at least twice a day, every day. Much more than you and I talk. So I have at least as much evidence to support my beliefs.

This is ridiculous. I have evidence of our conversation that would stand up in a court of law. Do you?

Apples: You mean in that same court of law that had you put your hand on a bible and swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God? Perhaps.

Let's see it. Show us the evidence of your conversations with God that would be admissible in court.

11-11-13 11:11  •  A Pussy Riot in Siberia

In 2012 members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot were convicted of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" for staging a performance on a religious altar to protest the church's support of Putin.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova was sent to a women's prison in the Republic of Mordovia. On September 23 she went on a hunger strike to protest prison conditions. In an open letter, she described the forced labor, the blood on the sewing machines from constant injuries, no sleep, sudden doubling of quotas, only broken toilets, regular beatings, and worse.

After a short while on hunger strike she reportedly collapsed and was hospitalized, and soon it was reported that she was transferred to another prison, probably in Siberia. Neither her lawyer or her family has been able to contact her since.

Nadezhda is an incredibly brave young woman, fighting for something important. Her story of the condition of Russian prison was haunting. I can't believe anyone is made to suffer this way, in this day and age, and now she is being disappeared for speaking out about it.

I don't know what anyone can do but I thought you should know.

AnxietyRat: Alright, so I might not be drawing proper parallels here.....

First, clearly it's horrible what's happening to her. Our justice system is far from perfect, and abuses happen in the system every day, but something like this? I feel it's far less likely to occur here.

Something similar is happening at Guantanamo Bay at our behest.

AnxietyRat: Now, as to the parallels. In your "Peaceful Resistance" post, I feel as though you were pointing out that the fall of the Soviet Union was peaceful, right? While the technical "fall" may have been peaceful, do we really want to be like Russia?

Do you really think the peaceful fall of the Soviet Union caused this? No, this is not a parallel.

If you read what I wrote, I suggested we could more be like Denmark or Finland, which have some of the lowest prisoner populations, and some of the best prisoner treatment, in the world. They also have some of the lowest crime rates. Go figure.

Finnish Prisons - No Gates or Armed Guards

AnxietyRat: I feel as though the discussion of moving to a more socialist government could be related to Russia. Aren't they a socialist government, or am I completely off base there?

They aren't even a democracy. Trying to see "socialism" as the villian here instead of as the success it is in Finland is a bit of a stretch. How do you figure socialism is responsible for what is happening to Nadezhda?

Kimmie:I always laugh when people complain about the conditions in American prisons. They are like a resort!

The criminals are down right catered to in our prison system. Aside from the three square meals a day...they have weights and exercise equipment free for their use, activity rooms, a commissary where they can buy pretty much anything they want, TV's and radios in their cells, free medical care anytime they need, postage paid envelopes for their correspondence...I could go on.

Is it any wonder our prisons are a rotating door? Why go out and earn an honest living and pay for all that, when you can get it for free. Because guess who doesn't pay taxes?

If you are suggesting that Americans in prison would rather be in prison than free because of all the perks, I can't agree. As far as I know, most prisoners are counting the days until they get out, and would rather be home with loved ones and freedom of self-detmination and members of the opposite sex than locked up with weights and TV. People plea bargain and rat out others and try to get probation and agree to attend 12 steps and try to get the shortest possible sentence.

I think you underestimate the psychological stress of confinement. People avoid it any way they can.

People are not going to prison so they can get free cable and avoid taxes, they are going to prison largely for non-violent drug offenses like having weed. Being in prison was not their intent. Once inside, however, people are immersed in violent criminal culture, with no one to interact with except criminals and brutal zookeepers, and like anyone immersed in a total institution, they become a part of it.

Our prisons are revolving doors because of our punitive approach. When people are ignorant and disenfranchised and ill they make bad decisions. Making sure they suffer for their choices does nothing to teach them how to make better choices, and neither does giving them only others who make bad choices for companions.

The U.S. has the world's largest prison population and also some of the highest crimes rates in the developed world. Our private prison industry has every reason to hope this continues to be the case. Russia has one of the world's most brutal prison systems and also one of the world's highest crime rates. So obviously making people do harder time has done nothing to prevent more crime.

By contrast, in countries where people who make mistakes are taught to do better instead of punished, and where there is social support for people throughout the system, the crime is low, the prisoners are treated well, and the low recidivism rate shows that it is working.

From Gentle Justice, a study of the criminal justice system in Finland:

"The conclusion of the study is that, the introduction of the policies which laid emphasis on rehabilitation rather than using the prison institution as mere punishment tool in Finland have contributed to a better understanding of the structure and functioning not only of prison populations but of social groups in general. In addition, these methods of prevention and rehabilitation in conjunction with correctional, educational staff within and outside the prison walls steadfastly upholding these policies have contributed to the low recidivism rate in Finland."

Kimmie: Typical. You don't know anything about prisons. And by the way, the "brutal zookeepers" you refer to...my husband is one of them.

Well then I'm sure he must be an exception, but I didn't exactly pull this out of my ass.

From Torture: America's Brutal Prisons:

"This programme shows that abuses like those documented in Abu Ghraib are commonplace in the USA's overcrowded and understaffed prisons. Prisoners are shackled and hooded for their own protection; pepper spray is used as an alternative to physical force, but in sufficient quantities to cause second-degree burns; beatings are frequent and sometimes fatal. The programme suggests that the cause is not a few bad apples, but a pervasive culture of dehumanization and brutality."

Kimmie:I'm sorry, but it's not a huge deterrent to stay out of prison when you are handed everything and don't even have to work for it.

It's not a deterrent when when the conditions are brutal either. In fact prison has never been shown to work as a deterrent regardless of the conditions. Deterrence is a flawed philosophy.

Kimmie: Did you know that prisoners here do get schooling while they are incarcerated? Again, free to them.

Schooling should be free to every person willing to sit in a classroom. People who are having trouble need it more than anyone else. Prisons should be nothing if not schools.

Kimmie: Drug offenders are not non-violent people thrown to the wolves. Drug culture is violent.

Illegality is responsible for almost all of that. Drugs shouldn't be a criminal matter in the first place and a more enlightened drug policy would solve all of that at a stroke.

The point is that no person who has been convicted of a non-violent crime should be confined at all, because if they are non-violent they are not a danger. Confinement should be a safety measure when the offender is a danger.

Kimmie: You say private prison industry, but it's not private.

Much of the prison industry is paid for by the states but run privately for profit.

From How Private Prison Companies Make Millions:

"We are living in boom times for the private prison industry. The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation's largest owner of private prisons, has seen its revenue climb by more than 500 percent in the last two decades. And CCA wants to get much, much bigger: Last year, the company made an offer to 48 governors to buy and operate their state-funded prisons. But what made CCA's pitch to those governors so audacious and shocking was that it included a so-called occupancy requirement, a clause demanding the state keep those newly privatized prisons at least 90 percent full at all times, regardless of whether crime was rising or falling."

Kimmie: I just can't share the "Kumbaya" attitude about teaching people who made mistakes a better way.

Yet it works.

Kimmie: My husband works on the sex offender block. These sickos don't deserve to be helped, and anyway, you can't.

Sex offenders are among the violent who should be confined. I agree rehabilitation would be futile in some cases because there isn't really any known way to rehabilitate sexual predators and psychopaths. So life in prison may be the only choice for some people as a matter of public safety.

But first of all, sexual offenders make up less than 20% of prison population, so basing policy around them makes no sense. Secondly, since brutal conditions won't fix anything anyway, why have them? What is the rationale?

Kimmie: How dare you insult my husband!! They aren't supposed to be helping those horrid filth - how dare you suggest they do anything less than what it takes to get home safe to their families at night. In case you didn't realize it, prison guards are sons, brothers, husbands, fathers, friends...and good men.

I did not intend to suggest otherwise, but that does not mean they aren't brutal, particularly since you suggest they have to be brutal if that is what it takes to get home safe. The point is that the system is brutal, and ineffective, and largely because of the ancient, flawed idea that making people suffer deters them from doing crime. That's not the guards fault, but it is incorrect and it needs to be fixed.

Kimmie: If your problem is with non-violent drug offenders being incarcerated, then that's an argument for the justice system. Prisons have no control over who ends up on their doorstep.

Agreed, but it would help the prison situation in general immensely if the prison population was cut in half. Overcrowding is a large source of the problems.

Kimmie: I realize that my husband's safety means nothing to you, since articles have told you how awful those employees are...

No, I said, brutal, and you agree they have to do whatever it takes. I think you are exaggerating my position for effect, but suffice it to say there is room for improvement in the system.

Kimmie: The prisoners should have to do something more productive with their time than watching TV, working out, or sleeping all day.

Again I agree. What do you suggest?

Kimmie: I wasn't trying to exaggerate your position, but your stance of "brutal guards victimizing these mostly non-violent inmates" pisses me off. That's just not the reality.

I understand, and thank you for informing me. But, my point was that putting people into violent circumstances with *mostly* violent companions doesn't teach them to be less violent. And at the very least, I think you would agree that prison culture is a violent culture.

Kimmie: Your chart is no good, it's for federal prisons. Drug offenders aren't the big population in state prisons. Of the over 1 million state inmates in the prison system, half are incarcerated for violent crimes.

So, that number would be cut in half if people were not incarcerated for non-violent crimes. If non-violent people aren't a danger when they go into prison, keeping them with violent people who value violence - I'm talking about prisoners - is not going to keep them away from violence. It will accentuate the place that violence has in their lives.

Kimmie: Prison guards don't lose their souls when they do the job of keeping those bastards off the streets.

So, run the argument without including the guards and the answer is still the same. Prison culture breeds violence.


Kim, this conversation has strayed far from the OP but I think these topics are important and I'm glad for a chance to address them, so thanks again!

Kimmie: You don't understand. It is drug culture that is violent.

The bootleg culture was extremely violent in America during the Roaring Twenties. When alcohol was legalized, all of that disappeared from the alcohol supply chain. There is practically no violence associated with the production and distribution of alcohol.

There is no reason why we should put up with violent black market supply chains for anything else either.

Kimmie: I think the disconnect we are having here is because of your view on drugs. You think they should all be legalized and you don't think drug offenders are violent.

Whoa, way overstating my position. Let me clarify.

What I said is that we need a more enlightened drug policy. Don't jump from there to "legalize everything."

Drugs need to be acknowledged within a regulative framework. The word "drugs" is a blanket term - many different things are "drugs," with varying degrees of risk and very different usage patterns. Substances need to be in different places in the regulatory framework based on what they are and what they do.

Marijuana should be in the regulatory framework next to alcohol and cigarettes, being far less dangerous than either of them. Very addictive drugs like opiates should be available through medical channels, so their use can at least be supervised and unadulterated. Drugs which are not addictive, like psychedelics, could be available to adults for legal sale, perhaps with licensing to promote safe procedures.

There is no reason to act like all drugs are very bad, or worse than alcohol. When it comes to actually inducing violent behavior in the user, alcohol puts every other drug in the shade for association with domestic violence, assault and non-premeditated homicide. Yet having alcohol illegal does not help with any of that, it only makes it worse.

Humans are very prone to use of psychoactive substances. They are used for celebration in every human culture, and almost every person indulges in them to some degree. A smart regulatory framework educates, evaluates risks and works for harm reduction, while still acknowledging that adults have the liberty to make their own recreational choices.

Kimmie: Just because someone isn't convicted of a violent crime, doesn't mean they aren't a violent person.

You can't put people on the hook for crimes they haven't committed yet.

Kimmie: Who is going to decide which inmates are violent, and which ones aren't?

It is determined by who is convicted of violent crime.

Kimmie: You suggest segregating the violent from the non-violent...I don't think that's possible.

It's not hard to determine who has been convicted of violent crime. Nobody expects the criminal justice system to be psychic and segregate out the violent before they commit the crime. People are treated based on what they have been convicted of, and are innocent until proven guilty of anything else.

When a person has been convicted of a non-violent crime they don't have to be imprisoned as a matter of public safety. They can be penalized with fines, home confinement, monitoring, classes, community service, suspension of driver's licence and other privileges, and many other forms of punitive and rehabilitative activity. They are less of a burden on the system and they have a chance to learn something positive. It would certainly be better for them than to be removed from their work and their family and every positive influence in their lives and forced to live in close quarters with murderers and sickos and thugs who prize violence. What kind of positive behavior can be learned from them?

If the non-violent offender doesn't learn, and goes on to be violent, then like any person convicted of violence they may have to face confinement for public safety.

Kimmie: For the vast majority of inmates, crime and violence is a life style they were born into and it's all they know. That is the cycle that needs to be broken.

Agreed, but locking people up does nothing to break the cycle. Nothing at all. Sometimes it's necessary because of public safety, but there is no use pretending it's helping with the cycle.

In fact it is perpetuating it, because people with criminal records are barred from voting and unwanted for jobs, so when they leave prison they are disenfranchised and unemployable. There are currently very few ramps to a decent life from there, so where else do they have to go but back into the cycle?

The way to break a cycle is to give a lot of easy ramps out of it, not make it harder and harder to break free.

Kimmie: I think if we had a society that valued family more than the "all mighty dollar", that would make a hell of a lot more change than trying to teach people a whole new way of life once they are incarcerated.

I agree with that too and we should be working on that, and on forms of healthy prevention lifelong. But, we have all these people who we didn't do that with. Do we refuse to try to educate them now because we failed to educate them before?

As you say, they should be doing more than sitting around watching TV. What more should they be doing? They don't have anything better to do with their time than learn a whole new way of life, and what better system could we, as their jailors, spend our time and money on for them? It may not work with everyone, but it will work with some and it's better than doing nothing, just having millions of people sitting in cages. If you look at how they manage the criminal justice system in Finland you can see a working example of what I am talking about. People are literally educated out of the system and into society. If they can do it so can we.

11-08-13 4:20  •  End of Marriage

Heilly: It seems like people are just not as interested in marriage anymore. Do you think marriage will continue to exist?

Humans tend to form long-term, mostly monogamous relationships under any circumstances. Even serfs in feudal Europe and slaves in 18th century America, who were forbidden to marry, came up with their own informal ceremonies which they performed in private to celebrate commitments.

However the "ideal" of marriage is seldom strictly adhered to.

For one thing, there are usually a significant portion of adults in any social grouping who never marry at all. "Bachelor uncles" and "maiden aunts" are common. Sometimes this is where homosexuals find themselves when they are forbidden by social mores to marry their true loves. Some people are simply not interested in pairing or do not find a suitable mate.

This actually has advantages for the group. In many animal populations there are adult members who do not produce offspring. But this ensures that there are "extra" adults around to help parents with the rearing. Raising the next generation is difficult and parents often need assistance. Since the non-producing "aunts" and "uncles" do share genes with the offspring, their help does ensure that their genetic material is passed on.

Another deviation from the "ideal" of marriage is the fact that there is no society, no matter how rigid or puritanical, that has ever been able to prevent marital infidelity. It occurs in every human group. Among nobility, powerful lords were often expected to have mistresses, and ladies could ask for "special services" from their houseboys and horsemen.

Such affairs were not usually considered grounds for ending the marriage. Marriages among the rich and powerful were as much or more for the purpose of political alliances as for romantic reasons, and people were not really expected to find their entire sexual needs fulfilled within the bounds of the alliances. These "outside relations" were acceptable as long as the dalliance was discrete. As one British lady put it, "I don't care what people do as long as they don't frighten the horses."

So, my conclusion is that people today are not different than people have ever been. Marriage will continue to exist, and it will continue to have many deviations and alternatives, as it has for thousands or perhaps millions of years.

11-04-13 4:20  •  Religious Discussion and Missionaries

Surveyor: Does it seem logical to put people on the defensive by using terminology they would find insulting?

It is my experience that the best communication happens in an environment where there is no ones who feels defensive.

I'll bite. Who are you talking about?

Surveyor: To anyone who uses negative words in the conversation. You and I have discussed this.

Let's not be coy. Are you saying that I am acting inappropriately?

Surveyor: When words like "ridiculous" or "imaginary friend" or "myth" come into play they will definitely take the conversation to a new level, not always a good one.

First of all, who said imaginary friend?

Second of all, I am unfailingly civil. If you are asking me to refrain from using gentle, straightforward language like "ridiculous" and "myth" when talking about Christianity, you are asking too much.

If that bothers you, maybe you should ask yourself why Christianity appears to be a ridiculous myth.

Surveyor: You are the one who claims to be logical. However it's logical that putting someone on the defence with your choice of language is not going to invoke the best conversation or allow you to enlighten them as you would like.

Actually, I think this is some of the best conversation I've been involved in in months. It has been generally civil and has touched on some important topics. Of course I've been very busy lately and I happened to have a little time on my hands this week, so I had more to invest.

And, while I am flattered that you think my goal is to "enlighten," I would say that it is not my only goal - at least not in every single post. Sometimes my goal is different and I choose language appropriate to the goal of a particular post.

I know that becoming outraged over my style is a great way for people to avoid examining what I am actually saying.

However, there are times when I am prepared to take that risk.

Bystander: Does causing discomfort really create a catalyst for thought though?

Sometimes it does. This is part of what makes George Carlin so funny.

Bystander: I've always found that when people go on the defensive, which happens as soon as you apply to much pressure, they basically stop listening and start reiterating the same points over and over.

I've always found that when people go on the defensive that easily, even for the mild and precise language I am using, they were not really listening in the first place.

For example, a lot of outrage was generated over the term "imaginary friend" and nobody even said it.

Bystander: As soon as someone takes a hard line position or says something inflammatory the level of the conversation goes way down and the opposition comes out with teeth bared.

Surveyor is being cagey, but I imagine she is talking about a recent thread in which I said:

"Claiming that you "know" more about God than they do is ethnocentric, not to mention ridiculous."

As I recall, Surveyor once said I should be using the word "far-fetched" instead of ridiculous. So, allow me to rephrase:

"Claiming that you "know" more about God than they do is ethnocentric, not to mention far-fetched."

So now that I have translated this into Surveyor's preferred terminology, is anyone willing to discuss the actual content of the phrase?

What about the fact that people are going around the world claiming to "know" something about God that other people don't know? That seems dishonest. People should not be claiming that their far-fetched pure speculation is true, or trying to convince people in other cultures that our far-fetched pure speculation is somehow superior to their far-fetched pure speculation.

I am certainly willing to discuss this topic with scrupulous courtesy. I would be very interested to see the actual point addressed.

Surveyor: I guess that's a little better. I'll try to discuss the topic - missionaries.

Which do you think will be more harmful in the long run, sending missionaries to China, or teaching them about McDonalds and Drive through's?

I think providing anyone with information that can be verified as true is legitimate. Teaching them information that could just as easily be false, and claiming it is true, is dishonest.

It doesn't matter if it's McDonalds or missionaries, dishonesty is harmful.

Surveyor:Yes, there were negatives but there were also positives.

That does not justify presenting unsubstantiated claims as if they are truth.

Surveyor:As far as claiming to know more about God than another, almost every religion does that.

That doesn't mean it's a good idea. In fact that is the problem with most of them. No one has any business claiming that their religion understands God and yours doesn't. It is all speculation.

Surveyor: So why is it a bad thing if missionaries offer an ideology to a people...

Because ideology is a problem. Valuing what people think inside their heads over the reality as determined by observation is creating a great deal of error.

Surveyor:Are the missionaries doing harm to individuals by offering to share an idea?

If they are sharing speculation as truth, yes. It is not honest.

Surveyor: People welcome missionaries. If someone came to me and they truly had peace and joy and were humble and loving and forgiving in every aspect of their persona I would be very interested in what they had to say.

If people were spreading no more than teachings of peace and joy, as described by great sages such as Jesus, the Buddha, Epicurus, etc., then I would probably not feel they were making unsubstantiated claims.

However I don't see any correlation between being peaceful and humble and knowing what day off God wants people to take. The dogmas of a religion are not proved by peace and joy.

Christians think God wants people to have Sunday off and Muslims think God wants people to have Friday off and the fact is that no one can confirm "God's Will" in this matter. Claiming that one is true and the other is false is far-fetched, and unwarranted.

Surveyor: You seem to think that Christians are dogmatically committed to the Sabbath. I actually know many Christians who work every Sunday.

What difference does that make? The point is, it is a standard of Christain dogma that God has a favorite day He wants you to take off and they know what it is. It's also a standard of Islamic dogma that God picked a day. But, they say it is a different day.

So, who is right? How can we find out? There is no way to check. There is nothing observable in reality to confirm that Sunday is the day and Friday isn't. So, we have a conflict with no possible resolution.

In fact, upon examination, there is nothing in reality to indictate that human schedules are invented by anything other than humans.

Therefore, there is no way to know that Sunday is right and Friday is wrong. Either speculation is equally likely...or equally unlikely, considering there is no evidence of either at all.

Sure, people say they know. But people can say anything. It is not actually known. What they are saying could just as easily be 100% wrong. So, the statement, "We know something about God. We know what day he wants us to take off of work," is untrue.

It may not seem important when it's just a day off. Sure, I thought it was weird when I lived in Saudi Arabia, because I went to school on Saturday and Sunday and had Thursday and Friday off. But other than the word, it didn't really make any difference.

However when the claims are about things that strongly affect people's behavior, like what you have to do to get the good afterlife, and when the claims diverge significantly from observable reality, such as those concerning human origins, a huge disconnect exists between what people say is "true" and what can be known to be actually true.

This disconnect creates a great deal of error.

Surveyor: But if people could see that The Word gave them the peace and joy in their lives then it would have more credibility. If it was able to produce the attributes and character that I desired I would take it as truth.

That would depend on the specific nature of the claim. The presence of some verifiable claims is not evidence that all the claims are "truth." Each has to be evaluated by what it is claiming.

However if this is your criteria I don't know why you would lean towards Christianity at all. It doesn't exactly have a reputation for actual peace and joy. Throughout history, Christianity has a dismal record of inquisitions, witch trials, holy wars and persecutions, etc.

In our time, Christians cannot be especially noted for peace or joy either. Of course there are billions of happy, peaceful Christians. But statistically, Christians do not suffer from depression, commit crime, divorce, avoid addiction, etc. at rates any lower than people in other faith categories. And evangelical Christians were the largest support block in favor of our destroying Iraq and using torture.

So I would say that Christianity does not appear to have more "credibility" than any other religion in the peace and joy department. There is no evidence of it.

In fact if you are truly interested in the criteria you describe, it sounds like you would prefer Buddhism. Buddhism has a spectacular history of both peace and joy. For example, in the last 2,500 years, there have not been any wars or persecutions in the name of Buddhism. And statistically, Buddhists can be shown to actually be happier than people in other faith categories. There is significant evidence of it.

Surveyor: I wouldn't condemn someone just because they wanted a different day off. I would know one of us is wrong about something though...

That is why it is important to check.

Bystander: There are different types of missionaries, at least that I've seen. There are your basic church planting missionaries, but they are only the tip of the iceberg. There are lots of medical missionaries, missionaries who help build villages and improve sanitation etc.

It is possible to help others in need without making unsubstantiated claims. The Peace Corp builds villages and improves sanitation. Doctors Without Borders provides medical care. It is not necessary to have one to produce the other. The improved sanitation does not justify the unsubstantiated claims.

In fact, if the missionaries were there just providing sanitation and not making any unsubstantiated claims then I might not raise any objection. The good work is not the problem, the unsubstantiated claims are the problem.

Surveyor: We have covered all of these bases before, maybe word for word and still it is all repeated here.

There may be people here who have not seen it. You are not the only person I am talking to.

Surveyor: I perceive that my relationship with Christ gives me all of the things I have listed and that they are visible in my life.

That's great, but you are not the only person in the universe. The disconnect between reality and Christianity is creating a lot of error. Just because you like it does not prove that it is correct or that it should be presented to anyone as if it was correct.

Surveyor: That relationship would not be available to me under the beliefs of Buddhism.

Perhaps you do not understand Buddhism. There are Buddhist Christians. Buddhism does not require that you discard your traditions. It only provides the opportunity to see them as they really are.

However this is what you said:

Surveyor: If they truly had peace and joy and were humble and loving and forgiving in every aspect of their persona I would be very interested in what they had to say.

This is what Buddhism does. It can be shown to. So why would you claim this would "not be available" to you in Buddhism?

Surveyor: You will never understand. The only way I know of to experience what I speak of is by initiating your own relationship with Christ, which I understand you are not willing to do.

That is quite an assumption. I would say that you don't really know what I have been willing to do in my life.

I would add that this statement - that "the only way" to experience this kind of peace, joy, love, etc. is through Christ - is completely unsupported. Some people in other religions, and in no religions, truly have peace and joy and are humble and loving and forgiving. Christ is NOT the only way and it is not even the only one "you know of" because I have told you about another.

I'm not trying to convert you. I'm just showing why I think you are incorrect.

Surveyor: It seems we have reached a familiar impasse.

I don't think it is an impasse. I think my posit for this discussion:

People should not be claiming that their far-fetched pure speculation is true, or trying to convince people in other cultures that our far-fetched pure speculation is somehow superior to their far-fetched pure speculation.

has so far not been refuted, and so it may be a tenable debate position. That's good to know. If not, that would be good to know too.

Surveyor: Language maybe but you are always civil, thank you for that.

Thank you as always for speaking with me of these matters.

Pio: What makes you think people who becomes outraged over your style want to avoid examining what you are saying?

Because that is when they usually stop talking about it. They change the subject to talking about me, or leave off the discussion.

Pio: Perhaps, they are just completely and totally rejecting what you propose because they've already examined it and are lead to a different thought process than you.

Possibly. That would certainly be fun, wouldn't it? But after they have changed the subject or stopped discussing it, who knows?

If there is some "different thought process" which is reason to completely and totally reject what I propose, or show that it is incorrect, or not factual, or illogical, or unwarranted, I am very interested in hearing about it. In fact that is exactly what I want to discuss.

Perhaps the "different thought process" is superior. Who knows? Let's hear it and then decide.

Read more in the Archives.