From deities to data - "For thousands of years humans believed that authority came from the gods. Then, during the modern era, humanism gradually shifted authority from deities to people... Now, a fresh shift is taking place. Just as divine authority was legitimised by religious mythologies, and human authority was legitimised by humanist ideologies, so high-tech gurus and Silicon Valley prophets are creating a new universal narrative that legitimises the authority of algorithms and Big Data." [more inside]
In his follow-up to Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari envisions what a 'useless class' of humans might look like as AI advances and spreads - "I'm aware that these kinds of forecasts have been around for at least 200 years, from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and they never came true so far. It's basically the boy who cried wolf, but in the original story of the boy who cried wolf, in the end, the wolf actually comes, and I think that is true this time." [more inside]
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari - "The book delivers on its madly ambitious subtitle by in fact managing to cover key moments in the developmental history of humankind from the emergence of Homo Sapiens to today's developments in genetic engineering." Also btw, check out Harari on the myths we need to survive, re: fact/value distinctions and their interrelationships.
On the Nature of Things Humanity Was Not Meant to Know: Cosma Shalizi considers Lucretius' De Rerum Natura ('On the Nature of Things') as a "real-life Necronomicon, a book full of things humanity was not meant to know."
Teleotheism and the Purpose of Life - "Please give this sermon a try. I think it has much in it that will be of interest to a wide range of readers: philosophy, cosmology, evolutionary theory, and science fiction, as well as theology. And nothing in it depends on believing in God at all." Abstract: As an enlightened form of atheism, I turn to teleotheism. Teleotheism is the view that God comes at the end, not at the beginning, where I am defining “God” as “the greatest of all things that can come true.” In this view, the quest to discover what are the greatest things that are possible is of the utmost importance. The best of our religious heritage is just such an effort to discover the greatest things that are possible. (via; previously)
Wanted: A Theology of Atheism by Molly Werthen [New York Times] [Op-Ed] What do people who don’t believe in God believe instead?
Some Paths to the True Knowledge[*] - "Attention conservation notice: A 5000+ word attempt to provide real ancestors and support for an imaginary ideology I don't actually accept, drawing on fields in which I am in no way an expert. Contains long quotations from even-longer-dead writers, reckless extrapolation from arcane scientific theories, and an unwarranted tone of patiently explaining harsh, basic truths. Altogether, academic in one of the worst senses. Also, spoilers for several of MacLeod's novels, notably but not just The Cassini Division. Written for, and cross-posted to, Crooked Timber's seminar on MacLeod, where I will not be reading the comments."
Religion in China: Cracks in the atheist edifice - "Yang Fenggang of Purdue University, in Indiana, says the Christian church in China has grown by an average of 10% a year since 1980. He reckons that on current trends there will be 250m Christians by around 2030, making China's Christian population the largest in the world. Mr Yang says this speed of growth is similar to that seen in fourth-century Rome just before the conversion of Constantine, which paved the way for Christianity to become the religion of his empire." [more inside]
The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown is a nine-part series posted by sci-fi author and statistician Michael F. Flynn to his blog last year, covering the historical conflict between heliocentrism and geocentrism, with a special focus on Galileo. They are based on an article (pdf) by Flynn which originally appeared in the Jan/Feb 2013 issue of Analog. [more inside]
""Pastrix" is a demeaning term used to refer to female ministers by certain Christians who believe in male-only pastoral ministry. But Denver-based Lutheran Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, a tattooed yet traditional liturgist, has reclaimed it as a title for her brand of faith. “It was an insult, and anytime you can reclaim an insult as a good thing, you win,” says Bolz-Weber." [more inside]
Social Evolution - The Ritual Animal "Praying, fighting, dancing, chanting — human rituals could illuminate the growth of community and the origins of civilization." [more inside]
"Most of us are introduced to God at about the same time as we hear about Santa Claus, but over the years our views of Santa mature and change, while our notion of God often gets stuck at an infantile level."
The NewStatesman asks "After God: What can atheists learn from believers?"
The NewStatesman asks "After God: What can atheists learn from believers?"
I told them to take a hike. I can't work where feminism is not celebrated. I'm proud to call myself a feminist. - Pastor and playwright Kristine Holmgren responds to being asked not use the word feminism in the title of her blog on a faith based site.
Over a thousand monks and laymen are revered in Tibetan Buddhism as the incarnations of past teachers who convey enlightenment to their followers from one lifetime to the next. Some of the most respected are known by the honorific "rinpoche." For eight centuries, rinpoches were traditionally identified by other monks and then locked inside monasteries ringed by mountains, far from worldly distractions. Their reincarnation lineages were easily tracked across successive lives. Then the Chinese Red Army invaded Tibet in 1950 and drove the religion's adherents into exile. Now, the younger rinpoches of the Tibetan diaspora are being exposed to all of the twenty-first century’s dazzling temptations. So, even as Tibetan Buddhism is gaining more followers around the world, an increasing number of rinpoches are abandoning their monastic vows. Reincarnation in Exile. [more inside]
Fast tracking kebal - Plugging the cord into an electric socket, I was instructed to place my foot on top of one of the plates. Pak Edi held the other plate under his own foot, and immediately his leg began to quiver from the electric current.
"It is while running or thinking of running, Hall said, that he feels most conversant with and dependent on God."
A Runner’s Belief: God Is His Coach. [NYTimes.com] "As he prepares for the London Olympics, the marathoner Ryan Hall has embraced an evangelical Christian faith and has found biblical reinforcement for his training."
Varieties of irreligious experience - modern believers "may not accept the idea of God as an actually existing entity, so arguments for atheism will not disturb them"
"I suppose people can go through an entire lifetime without questioning God and a religion that they were born into"
A few months ago, The New Statemen asked a number of public figures "why they believe in god." Last week, they asked a number of public figures "to explain why they don't."
Lack of Belief in gods by Qualiasoup. SLYT; 10.00; "Explaining the concept, refuting common objections and giving a number of reasons that atheists are sometimes 'fervent'."
For millions of addicts around the world, Alcoholics Anonymous's basic text - informally known as the Big Book - is the Bible. And as they're about to find out, the Bible was edited. After being hidden away for nearly 70 years and then auctioned twice, the original manuscript by AA co-founder Bill Wilson is about to become public for the first time next week, complete with edits by Wilson-picked commenters that reveal a profound debate in 1939 about how overtly to talk about God.
Nearly a third of Texans believe humans and dinosaurs roamed the earth at the same time, according to a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll. Meet the Flinstones.
Which of these fribbles looks more intelligent? Please click the link and decide before you read [more inside]
"The government of the United States is in no sense founded on the Christian Religion." ~ George Washington / "I do not find in Christianity one redeeming feature." ~ Thomas Jefferson / "The Bible is not my book, nor Christianity my religion." ~ Abraham Lincoln / "A just government has no need for the clergy or the church." ~ James Madison / "I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end... where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice." ~ John F. Kennedy / "We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers." ~ Barack Obama
The Cornell Evolution Project, which polls prominent evolutionary scientists about their religious beliefs, is part of a PhD thesis by evolutionary paleontologist and UCLA lecturer Greg Graffin. Mr. Graffin is also the lead singer of a band named Bad Religion, whose influential album Suffer turns 20 years old this week. [more inside]
"Cultures at the far edge of the world" (YT) and "The worldwide web of belief and ritual" (YT). Two TED talks by anthropologist and explorer Wade Davis (previously) on the diversity of the world's indigenous cultures and their beliefs, and the richness of the "Ethnosphere," which he describes as "the sum total of all thoughts and dreams, myths, ideas, inspirations, intuitions brought into being by the human imagination since the dawn of consciousness." [Via Mind Hacks]
Darwin's God. "A scientific exploration of how we have come to believe in God." This article tracks the possibility that belief in a higher power is the product of evolution.
"This may very well be the single greatest biological discovery of our age" - rods, or skyfish, are the subject of a documentary by Jose Escamilla. While some are skeptical, Jose and others aren't dissuaded and Kozo Ichikawa claims to catch them bare-handed. Japanese TV reports, and USA's unit 13 investigates. Heres a guide to photographing them or filming, or buy an instructional video and rod-rod, known as a spoodle and try to catch some yourself.
"Killing the Buddha is about finding a way to be religious when we're all so self-conscious and self-absorbed. Knowing more than ever about ourselves and the way the world works, we gain nothing through nostalgia for a time when belief was simple, and even less from insisting that now is such a time. Killing the Buddha will ask, How can we be religious without leaving part of ourselves at the church or temple door? How can we love God when we know it doesn't matter if we do? Call it God for the godless. Call it the search for a God we can believe in: A God that will not be an embarrassment in twelve-thousand years. A God we can talk about without qualifications." I particularly enjoyed The Temptation of Belief, by a Buddhist exploring evangelical Christianity, and My Holy Ghost People, by an unbelieving daughter in a praying-in-tongues family.
Happy "Good" Friday, MetaFilter. Why not spend some time today contemplating your extreme fanatical beliefs? From the good people at MungBeing.
P.S. watch out for the falling eggs.
P.S. watch out for the falling eggs.
"What Do You Believe Is True Even Though You Can't Prove It?" For its 2005 "World Question," Edge.org invited a "who's who of third culture scientists and science-minded thinkers" to respond to the following: "Great minds can sometimes guess the truth before they have either the evidence or arguments for it (Diderot called it having the "esprit de divination"). What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?" They received 118 responses, some of which are also excerpted here. (See also 2003, 2002 discussions).
The alternative to blind belief is not simply unbelief but a different kind of belief - one that embraces uncertainty and enables us to respect others whom we do not understand, in friendship that serves to forge connections among individuals across their differences - we see deconstruction in action.
Walgreen's Pharmacist refuses to fill prescription. Do pharmacists have the right to refuse to fill a prescription because of religious beliefs? Should they? Well, they do in Florida.
Belief in Astrology up 3% to 28% and belief in ghosts up 13% to 38%. I find the new Gallup Poll on Americans' Belief in Psychic and Paranormal Phenomena depressing, but not surprising. Aren't we supposed to be headed in the other direction?
The Flintsons: Based on a True Story According to a recent survey, half the adults surveyed didn't know that the Earth revolves around the sun, and 42 percent said they thought early humans lived side by side with dinosaurs. Seems like we hear about some survey of this nature every year ("87% of high school children can't find the US on a map of the US!"), although this article at least has a citation. I couldn't find any mention of said survey on the CAoS website. (Although if you take a look at their masthead, you can see why some people may be confused about scientific issues, as it seems to show fish revolving around the DinoWorld ...)