Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: The Missionary Position

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  • giovanni tiso,

    And, what really fascinates me, why this neurochemical reaction to this particular thing, and not that one? Why is this thing beautiful, but not that?

    Evolutionary psychology offers the most compelling theory of origin, namely, that the Darwinian crapshoot equipped us with complex brains to help us to deal better with the challenges of our environment, but of course that discourse can and has been taken way too far - I've heard very serious people explain why we're supposed to like thundras, or the look of people with symmetrical features. Well, I always feel like saying, explain to me the dolce stil novo, then, Pointdexter. Thing is, the origins of our complex brains may reside in evolution but we haven't been hunting or gathering for quite a bit and the interaction of those instruments of cognition and communication with ever-more sophisticated cultures have moulded us into quite different beings, with a tremendous palette of different tastes and attitudes and affinities. Evolutionary psychology may be useful in constructing a theory of how we got there, but it doesn't really understand us in the here and now, I feel - and similarly thinking in terms of chemical reaction is unhelpful.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    I'm not convinced you understand the meaning of the word spiritualiy, in the same way that I do

    Then I'll try this. I'm uncorking a bottle of wine I have been saving. What better time than when one is facing the daunting job market, the aroma is intoxicating enough, the tasting will be sublime Im sure.
    I leave it to breathe and walk to the stereo, a prized possession with speakers a friend has made for me by hand. It took him 8 years in his spare time, but he is a perfectionist, and the crossover coils are tuned to the exact amount of turns (even half and quarter turns) to match that specific speaker the speaker cabinets are made from a deliberately chosen wood and hand rubbed with oil which I have to reapply periodically. The final part of the process was each cabinet's internal volume is tuned by ear to match the speaker(and apparently each speaker that is manufactured is different so the internal volume of the cabinet will always differ).
    I chose an album I love( not telling) gently turn the volume up till the gorgeous sound fills the room( did I mention it comes with a subwoofer so it can rattle windows and beats the best concert sound you have ever heard by miles).

    I've planned a meal to suit the wine( one bottle only Im no lush) and we wait for our company to arrive.
    Of course I will have to turn the volume down. But this moment is sending all manner of pleasure thru my brain and body. I relax close my eyes, and breathe barely at all.

    Whatever rebuffs I will face over the coming weeks, maybe months recede. I feel complete.

    Hows that? "spiritual"?
    If no I'll have to rethink

    Oh fuck it some one lit incense next door

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1890 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Rofflenui

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    I'm just groaning at the implied "getting incensed" pun.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1940 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    I know, I know - no tangible relationship at all.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    I'm just groaning at the implied "getting incensed" pun.

    So much for moderation: clearly he was quite incensible before dinner even began.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1609 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Even so, why some feelings and not others?

    I guess the more simply functional the feeling, the easier it is to ascribe biological reasons. Hunger is something you usually feel right in your gut, and eating gets rid of it, so you can put it down to biology (although I have to say, I think a lot of the time when I'm hungry, it's actually in my mind). But subtler emotions, like love, can present themselves less physically, so you might be inclined to think of them as part of the magical mind.

    Even the physical location of the mind is something that opinions varied on in the past. Many ancient peoples thought that their various thoughts were contained in different parts of the body. The heart was a popular choice.

    Remember that the most beautiful things in the world are the most useless, peacocks and lilies for instance.

    I personally think it's a mistake to think the Utilitarians had no time for beauty. So far as I can tell, they would have considered the beauty itself to be utility. If something that was beautiful brought happiness to people, then it was a very valuable thing. But it is certainly not the only valuable thing to Utilitarians.

    Evolutionary psychology may be useful in constructing a theory of how we got there, but it doesn't really understand us in the here and now, I feel - and similarly thinking in terms of chemical reaction is unhelpful.

    I totally agree. Evolution generally has excellent explanatory power for a lot of things but people tend to forget that:
    1. Evolution is not just genetics. Many systems evolve, including society and ideas. And they evolve far, far faster.
    2. Evolution totally ignores a great many things, if they have no influence on survival. Some things are just that way by chance.
    3. Evolution is sometimes (but not always) aided by diversity, so having a large number of things which are very far from the median, actually helps the species at times. So you shouldn't always look towards the trends.

    To that end, I think that the study of evolution can be very weak at shedding light on human behavior, and mental states.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    incensible before dinner even began.

    Oh behave.

    the study of evolution can be very weak at shedding light on human behavior, and mental states.

    Thats because the Theory of Evolution's explanatory power is still in its infancy in this regard, when it comes to the more complex workings of the mind. Darwin was acutely aware of this I think. Another factor is, maybe, because our ancestors believed that their mind was a divine creation they just werent equipped to understand mental function, and it workings at times so bizarre it was a taboo.
    Although there was a lot of describing of mental states with housing imagery, room upon room, castles in the sky etc.
    Also they were very bad at leaving good records of why they did things. And would periodically destroy, what would today be valuable information, because they thought their god wanted them to. The obvious example the Library at Alexandria.
    And Evolutionary Psychology is, I think, better described as cultural archeology with a bit of speculation thrown in just to make it interesting and relevant.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1890 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    So the wine was good?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Thats because the Theory of Evolution's explanatory power is still in its infancy in this regard, when it comes to the more complex workings of the mind.

    Or it could be completely inadequate for the task. It's a possibility. If you really have a scientific mind then you have to countenance it.

    Evolutionism vs Creationism strikes me as in many ways parallel to the Theism vs Atheism divide. In many ways the same motivations can drive people to opposite views, and they find it very hard to realize how similar that they have become to what they consider mortal enemies. Just as Theists seem to think they have all the answers, I've noticed Atheists do too. To take a strong position on the non-existence of God is to give a lot more of a shit about God than agnostics do. To wish to explain all of creation on terms that humans can handle is something that both Evolutionists and Creationists share. It can be hard sometimes to accept that both are just theories, one is just older and more discredited than the other.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    To take a strong position on the non-existence of God is to give a lot more of a shit about God than agnostics do.

    Agree. My father was a devout atheist.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I'm as Atheist as I am Evolutionist. Which is: Leaning towards, but totally aware of the possibility of being totally wrong. I'm not sure if that's technically Agnostic, and these days, I really don't care.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    I don't know enough yet to apply labels to my own leanings or understandings. Maybe I'll get there eventually..

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Believe it or not, the copyright thread has been fun tonight - check what Jon found.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I don't know enough yet to apply labels to my own leanings or understandings. Maybe I'll get there eventually..

    It's better to just describe them, and let the semantics fall where they may. A word is just name for an idea, you could call your position "Sachaism" and be totally safe.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    Would that make my position "lingerie"?

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1940 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Only if you want it to be. But I've got Bendon covered....

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    So the wine was good?

    Yes t'was.

    Oh Ben Ben Ben.
    There are so many fallacies in this statement, I just dont know where to start and sorry I dont have time at present to go over them so, I'll just have to leave you to ponder them further.

    Or it could be completely inadequate for the task. It's a possibility. If you really have a scientific mind then you have to countenance it.

    Could be, but lets give it a chance.
    Enquiry into the workings of the human mind in a scientific way, starting with the Vienna school I suppose. That is now virtually dead in the water, except for New agers who still like to quote Jung.

    So 80 - 100yrs? It only really kicked off when Freud and Jung made it to the US where a gullible populace awaited eager to fill their leisure hours wondering about themselves. Not an auspicious start.
    Psychology has languished thru most of the last 2 decades, if it's ridiculed in sitcoms you know it's screwed.

    Evolutionary Psych well could be still born if it overreaches itself, like the various therapies dreamt up by those Austrian Herr Doctors.
    And so far this has been the case, most writings of EP's is excretable. As I said speculation, educated of course but there's just no way any of it can be backed up. But let people put their thoughts into words I have no objection to this and it's a start.
    Lets not reject possibilities before they have been explored.

    Because clearly the religious explanation, that a supernatural being blessed us in with this marvellous gift and we should all just have faith cause he might be back one day (I dont buy into Pascal's Wager), is crap.

    Just as Theists seem to think they have all the answers, I've noticed Atheists do too.

    You observations are probably based on the ?atheists you know, not a good platform.

    To take a strong position on the non-existence of God is to give a lot more of a shit about God than agnostics do.

    So you would think of yourself as an "I dont give a shit agnostic".
    I have no objection to talking to anyone about anything. I am not dogmatic, but I do require more than just a persons's say so or unsubstantiated quotes from an old book. And I have had people resort to threats of eternal damnation because I dont believe as they. So if my position is strong in the face of such language, so be it.

    To wish to explain all of creation on terms that humans can handle is something that both Evolutionists and Creationists share.

    The explanations are different and this does make a difference.
    There is a huge difference between Evolution and Creation. They are not equal and competing theories.
    Only Creationist wish to explain ALL of creation "on terms that humans can handle". But that explanation is woefully inadequate. And all societies have creation myths. Are all of them right? All of them wrong? Or all of them wrong except one? Which One?
    And I am happy to say I have no fucking idea about a lot of things.

    It can be hard sometimes to accept that both are just theories, one is just older and more discredited than the other.

    How are you using the word theory?

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1890 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    andin, I already said I favor both Evolution and Atheism as positions. I'm just not dogmatic about them. I'm not quite ready to commit to the idea that Evolution can explain everything about the human mind, because so far it has not. It is a possibility that it never will, and if you are not dogmatic you have to accept this. I have no objection to attempts to explain, in fact I think that generating these ideas is a vital part of the process of discovering truth, and that it is a highly worthy pursuit. But something being a highly worthy pursuit does not mean it will be a successful pursuit.

    It seemed to me that you were taking the position that evolution will absolutely certainly be able to explain it one day, which seems like a very bold claim, going well beyond the evidence.

    I imagine that I have a far more inclusive view of the word science than you do. Again this is because I don't want it to become a church. To that end I have no qualms about saying that people who theorized about creation in the ancient world were scientists. Having a theory is better than no theory at all, even if it is a totally wrong theory. At least it gives you something to disprove.

    What stands in the way of scientific progress is not bad theories. It is the dogmatic insistence on the truth of theories, backed with power to stop other research.

    To that end I would say that the science of inquiry into the workings of the human mind has been going on in a highly systematic fashion for thousands of years. Theories have been proposed, discussed, debunked, refined, etc, probably since people began talking. The modern science of psychology built on this, and made fantastic progress in some areas for a period of time. The audacious idea that the mind could be studied as a biological process opened whole worlds of inquiry. But it is fallacious to see that which is progressing more rapidly at one time as the certain way of the future.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Brent Jackson,

    I guess I'm what people call a strong Atheist. (I like the term "radical atheist" as used by Douglas Adams. I also like the way he stated that he didn't so much "believe that there is no god", but was in fact "convinced that there is no god".

    I am the same. I am sure that there is no god. Principally because I can see no evidence at all that there is one.

    I am perplexed when I am constantly reminded that many (obviously intelligent) people do believe in a god. I do not understand why they do. The best explanation that I have come up with is that they are unable, or unwilling, to acknowledge that after you die you will cease to exist.

    In the words of Monty Python "...you come from nothing. You're going back to nothing. What have you lost? Nothing!". Some people seem to think that if there is no life after death, then it is impossible to be happy. It didn't seem to stop the Pythons (as nicely summarised here).

    Obviously I am conflating "belief in God" with "life after death", but as Rob Hoskings stated :

    It seems to me that most religions seem to take three very distinct questions and bung them together.

    How did the world get here? What happens when we die? How should we live our lives?

    It's also interesting that many religious people seem to think that if somebody thinks the answer to the second question is "cease to exist", then their approach to the third question will be uncaring, selfish hedonism. This is palpably untrue.

    I'd be interested to hear why you think that there is (or might be) life after death.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 620 posts Report Reply

  • liam,

    @Emma:

    Posted at 3:28PM on 6 Mar 09.

    A friend of mine put it like this: atheism is not a religious belief any more than not collecting stamps is a hobby.

    I have always put Not-Applicable or N/A on forms which query my religious status. Religion, for me, is something other people do. I have no emotional concept within me that allows me to understand what religion is to one who has religion.

    I don't answer either atheist or agnostic as both those are words that seek to define something within the context of religion - something I have no concept of, so cannot describe myself in that context.

    To me it's the same as putting a question like "What WoW guild are you", and giving me a list of choices like richmen, poormen, beggarmen, thief, other (specify), I think guilds are wrong, I think guilds don't exist.

    Just to be clear, to me asking me what religion I am is *exactly* like asking how I fit into WoW. I've never played WoW, I wouldn't know if there are guilds in it or not - so I'd answer N/A.

    My two missionary experiences:

    1. When I was in secondary school a couple of Morom boys came to the door and talked to my mother for a short while as I lurked and listened. I commented on what they said after to my mother, and she said I should have talked to them, that I could have convinced them that they were wrong. I pointed out that I couldn't try doing that as I had nothing to offer to replace their belief system. I think that was a disappointment to my mother (my parents actively regected religion).

    2. I was waiting across the street from the local Deka waiting for my then G/F to finish work. Next to the wee urban-park there was a trailer of missionaries from a new-wave fundamental church that had come over from a neighbouring town to bear witness. About when they wrapped up for the night a guy I was at school with in the 3rd form sat down beside me. He had been one of the party crowd. Well, apparently he had found his god, and it was much better than all the other things he had found when he was at school. When my G/F arrived he finished his sermon and went on his way. One of the people from the other town, who had born witness earlier, came over and *sympathised* over what I had just had to listen to!

    I think my Sydney Scientology story doesn't fit the 'missionaries' thread....

    Here in the US South, I just don't mention religion, and I duck the question if it's in my direction. It's a scary place to be sometimes, and there are people who will damn well make religion applicable to you!

    Cheers, Liam

    NC, USA • Since Oct 2008 • 11 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Is N/A somehow different from "None"?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    I'm not quite ready to commit to the idea that Evolution can explain everything about the human mind, because so far it has not. It is a possibility that it never will, and if you are not dogmatic you have to accept this.

    Evolution only explains how we got this mind. Explaining its workings could take eons or never, who knows not me.
    So I guess we agree.

    It seemed to me that you were taking the position that evolution will absolutely certainly be able to explain it one day, which seems like a very bold claim, going well beyond the evidence.

    Um no, not taking that position or being that bold.

    I imagine that I have a far more inclusive view of the word science than you do.

    Now thats a bold claim.

    Again this is because I don't want it to become a church.

    Im guessing here but you saying this because you see theist's and atheist's as two sides of a coin, ying and yang? Yet you say you are an atheist but of a different stripe?
    Im completely nonplussed as to why you say this.
    Are you trying to insult me or something. I find it bizarre.

    To that end I have no qualms about saying that people who theorized about creation in the ancient world were scientists. Having a theory is better than no theory at all, even if it is a totally wrong theory. At least it gives you something to disprove.

    And I thought the usual descriptions for people in the ancient world who theorized about creation was priest, shaman or holy man. But if you want to think them scientists go ahead.
    And I thought that once a creation theory was um created. Its creators didnt try to prove or disprove it, they just passed it on to the next generation.But I'll never know I wasnt there.

    Nice chatting ciao.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1890 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    So I guess we agree.

    Not sure yet :-)

    Im guessing here but you saying this because you see theist's and atheist's as two sides of a coin, ying and yang?

    Hardcore ones, yes.

    Yet you say you are an atheist but of a different stripe? Im completely nonplussed as to why you say this.

    I'm, softcore. I think there is no all powerful and benevolent God, but there could be any number of gods which don't fit one or other of those adjectives. Furthermore, I'm not convinced when the Argument From Evil is refuted with "It's not for us to know God's divine plan". But equally, I find the ability of Evolution to explain absolutely everything, given a good enough story, to be a weakness rather than a strength sometimes. There is almost no way the general theory could be refuted. So my conviction on the non-existence does not have the diamond hardness of most Atheists.

    Now thats a bold claim.

    Heh, I'm always happy to be proved wrong on those - they're just to get the ball rolling.

    Are you trying to insult me or something. I find it bizarre.

    Nope. Just discussing the topic raised. No insults intended.

    And I thought the usual descriptions for people in the ancient world who theorized about creation was priest, shaman or holy man. But if you want to think them scientists go ahead.

    Cheers. You left out "Philosophers", btw.

    And I thought that once a creation theory was um created. Its creators didnt try to prove or disprove it, they just passed it on to the next generation.But I'll never know I wasnt there.

    My guess is that like most mythology they are constantly built upon, and what seems silly at the time is just not used and eventually forgotten. And you only have to read ancient works about science to see that they looked for proof and disproof of the ideas a lot.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

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