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Old 11-28-2013, 03:55 AM
 
Location: 'greater' Buffalo, NY
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ohio Hello View Post
I feel the same way as you, ovcatto.

Although an atheist, I loosely "follow" naturalistic pantheism. It rejects any sort of supernatural gods or forces, but recognizes that we're all a part of and interconnected to this vast, complicated, and beautiful universe. It also recognizes that humans are a part of nature and therefore should be protecting it and not fouling it up.




In bulmabriefs' thread questioning logical atheism, I made a couple references to many atheists being in their own way as deluded about the universe as theists. I think the sentiment(s) expressed above demonstrate my point (although NDT refuses to be characterized as an atheist, FWIW). Anyway, IMO, this tendency to describe the universe as beautiful is not all that far removed from religious delusion. At its core, there is nothing beautiful about the machinations of physics. Nothing. But some of our best scientists (and, believe me, I can and will endorse a well-written Sagan passage as much as the self-proclaimed "naturalistic pantheist" might) are "victimized" by (and/or gifted with) this default (and/or fortunate) bias.

I'd like to challenge Tyson or Krauss (can't challenge Sagan, unfortunately) or anyone else (including you the reader) to spend some length of time where they TRULY consider the workings of physics that are occurring (mostly invisibly) all around them on a daily basis. Not simply as some distant or semi-distant phenomenon...but as the moment-to-moment reality that it (collectively) is.

I personally think any conception of beauty is significantly, perhaps entirely, a function of some form of ignorance. Or in lieu of ignorance, intoxication...which is why I thank my naturalistic non-gods for the existence of EtOH, as I have a difficult time imagining beauty aside from when I'm under its influence. I don't at all mean to imply that I'm not ignorant in many ways...but I do have a hard time finding beauty in day-to-day sober existence when my default mindset is to attempt to "think rationally" about everything....

But combine IPAs with music and, voila, synergistic effect:


The Flaming Lips - Embryonic (FULL ALBUM) - YouTube

On the other forum I post on semi-regularly, someone recently posted an Einstein quote about how, to paraphrase, he couldn't conceive of a reductionist explanation for everything, because to do that would be to reduce a Beethoven symphony to being a mere variation in wave pressure. Well, sure...and like him I'd have my same subjective reasons for wanting to withstand a theoretical explanation for everything. Doesn't mean it can't be done, though (to some as-yet-unknown margin of error). "Should" is a different question entirely. I'll end this rambling discursive post by saying that at some point in the near future we may have to take seriously the question about whether or not to try to institute a (surely futile by that point, but) moratorium on scientific research, so as to try and preserve some of the "wonder" in life.

(Dawkins being another who, say in "Unweaving The Rainbow", makes the argument for a sense of aesthetic appreciation being augmented by actual knowledge of the true workings of things...I disagree entirely. I used to be entranced by things when I did not really know what they were or how they worked. I still don't have a practical understanding of many things, but the theoretical understanding exists for, well, everything. There is a real sense of loss there, and I entirely disagree with his thesis and those that are more or less advanced in Ohio Hello's post above)
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Old 11-28-2013, 07:17 AM
 
Location: Northeastern US
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Marcinkiewicz View Post
(Dawkins being another who, say in "Unweaving The Rainbow", makes the argument for a sense of aesthetic appreciation being augmented by actual knowledge of the true workings of things...I disagree entirely. I used to be entranced by things when I did not really know what they were or how they worked. I still don't have a practical understanding of many things, but the theoretical understanding exists for, well, everything. There is a real sense of loss there, and I entirely disagree with his thesis and those that are more or less advanced in Ohio Hello's post above)
Even as a child who spent most of his childhood deep within conservative theism, where being in awe of god, the universe and its idealized expressions was encouraged, I never really understood how frequently and durably most people get the hairs raised on the backs of their necks and go "oooh". I also noted that more than a few people seemed to be faking it.

I still have enough appreciation for beauty that I am making a stop with the family today at a spectacular waterfall, but it seems a pro forma exercise as I know that no one in my little tribe will actually ooh and ah over it. It just seems kind of obligatory to stop because my son and stepdaughter haven't seen it yet, and one feels vaguely guilty for speeding on past on the way to where we're actually going.

So I don't know that I feel the loss as keenly as you do, but I get where you are coming from. And I don't object to others getting their jollies in this manner. I have just never been able to truly pull it off for myself.

My relative semi-indifference to things like this is more a function of my personality than my unbelief, but as you suggest, hiker, it's probably fueled by my education and awareness of the mechanics behind the world and how that demystifies things. I believe that in the long run this is a good thing, but I can understand how it would feel subjectively like much more of a loss to many people than it does to me.
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Old 11-28-2013, 10:11 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Marcinkiewicz View Post
I personally think any conception of beauty is significantly, perhaps entirely, a function of some form of ignorance.
Well you in the grand scope of human history, you are pretty much alone on that one.

Quote:
At its core, there is nothing beautiful about the machinations of physics.
Well they say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder... and I'll leave it at that for now.

Quote:
I don't at all mean to imply that I'm not ignorant in many ways...but I do have a hard time finding beauty in day-to-day sober existence when my default mindset is to attempt to "think rationally" about everything....
I seem to recall that you've stated that you suffer from clinical depression so it is unsurprising that you view of the world around you through opaque lenses. But those of us on this thread do not share your disaffection, so please, as a favor to us and yourself, save your barely coherent rants for your next therapy session (and I mean this in all sincerity and with the best intentions because if you are not getting help now, you need to get help in the very near future).

Quote:
I'd like to challenge Tyson or Krauss (can't challenge Sagan, unfortunately) or anyone else (including you the reader) to spend some length of time where they TRULY consider the workings of physics that are occurring (mostly invisibly) all around them on a daily basis.
Seriously??!?!? Either you have found a new definition of "TRULY" or you are absolutely clueless about the work of Tyson or Krauss.
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Old 11-28-2013, 10:47 AM
 
9,877 posts, read 6,750,565 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ovcatto View Post
That's ok. I don't personally believe that some god out there kicked off the Big Bang, but I'm also not about to get into an argument with some deist that holds out such possibility. But when it comes to the god of Abraham I feel that I am on pretty solid ground arguing that god (and all the other human manifestations of such things) don't exist, hence this thread.
Sure, the Bible is a fairy tale and written by men of another era. No arguments from me.

We don't know what set off the Big Bang or Ex nihilo creation. I rather be an agnostic Catholic. In that manner I can enjoy the cultural heritage of western civilization.
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Old 11-28-2013, 10:47 AM
 
Location: Northeastern US
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ovcatto View Post
But those of us on this thread do not share your disaffection, so please, as a favor to us and yourself, save your barely coherent rants for your next therapy session (and I mean this in all sincerity and with the best intentions because if you are not getting help now, you need to get help in the very near future).
Matt is a self-confessed depressive, but what I think he was speaking to in this case was not a bleak view of the world, but a clinical one. I see a rainbow as a refraction through a natural prism. Does this not inherently alter my reaction to it, compared to someone from the prescientific era that never saw the output of an optically perfect prism, or at least a depiction of it?

Looking at it from the other direction, if I had a time machine that could convey a serf from the Middle Ages to my living room, what would his reaction to my flat screen TV be, relative to yours? He would probably pass out from terror and sensory overload.

A little closer to our time: up into the 1920s, John Philip Sousa often toured giving concerts of his marching compositions, usually capped by a rousing rendition of The Stars and Stripes Forever. Most of these concerts were free or inexpensive concerts for the common man, many of whom had never had a personal experience anything like that. People were literally fainting in the aisles, so overwhelmed were they by the stirring music. An identical concert today would be thinly attended and probably boring. It's a combination of a loss of innocence, a loss of novelty, and a general retraining of our sensory thresholds by constant media bombardment.

What I was trying to explore with Matt was not his psyche, but the pros and cons of how modern society and science have desensitized us to subjective things like awe and wonder. I think there are both pros and cons to that. Though I do wonder sometimes if viewing everything clinically will eventually leach the curiosity and drive out of us. In order to be mentally healthy, is it important that we always have some frontier of ignorance to conquer? I don't know the answer to that one.
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Old 11-28-2013, 11:05 AM
 
31,385 posts, read 32,123,757 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Marcinkiewicz View Post
I'll end this rambling discursive post by saying that at some point in the near future we may have to take seriously the question about whether or not to try to institute a (surely futile by that point, but) moratorium on scientific research, so as to try and preserve some of the "wonder" in life.
Quote:
Originally Posted by mordant View Post
I still have enough appreciation for beauty that I am making a stop with the family today at a spectacular waterfall, but it seems a pro forma exercise as I know that no one in my little tribe will actually ooh and ah over it.
I am perplexed. Is there anything about a waterfall that we do not understand in toto? I think not. We know how geology shapes the flow of water, we know how gravity powers its flow, we know all there is to know about fluid dynamics that produces the turbulence, spray, and the look and appearance of the water as it moves over the rocks and becomes misted as it flows through the air, so what is it about a waterfall that we do not know, nothing I would suggest. But does that strip it of its beauty and majesty? I think not. I know the geological history of Niagara Falls, I know that its flow is regulated by a hydro control dam yet none of that detracts from its shear power and beauty.

If anything, knowledge is essential to the appreciation of beauty. Understanding the process of creation can be at times far more impressive than simply the end result. Place two Katana swords next to each other, one made by a Japanese master swordsmith and one manufactured by a machine. They may appear to be identical but when understand the process of their creation, the sword made by the master craftsmen whose intimate knowledge of metallurgy, and possesses the ability to shape and craft a piece of iron ore into a work of art, increases the swords beauty, and value a thousand time more. When just listen to a blues guitarist like Lighten Hopkins play a song, I am viscerally enthralled but when I come to understand the theory of how the song was played, the combination of chords, arpeggios and manipulations of strings to seamlessly bend notes into another, my visceral reaction is transformed in to abject appreciation do to my knowledge of how the song was produce. Knowledge informs our subjective sense of beauty, it never detracts.

As for wonder, wonder drives us to understand to explore to reach an higher state of appreciation. So to get this back to the topic at had, simply looking up at the heavens and proclaiming that god did it is for the ignorant and jaded. As a child I would look up at the sun and realize that it produced light and heat... interesting but not particularly important other than it regulated the amount of time that I could play outside, but as an adult, coming to understand that the sun is a huge furnace of nuclear fusion, producing I look at our sun, and come to understand that it is a huge nuclear reaction, a fusion of atoms that releases 400 trillion trillion watts of energy and that in the grand scheme of the universe it is essentially the minor actor why appreciation AND awe of the universe if vastly multiplied.

So, what does this all have to do with my belief or non-belief in the god of humans. As knowledge increases our appreciation of things that are real and beautiful, so does our knowledge of those things which are not. The more I know about the universe, the more implausible becomes my belief in any god that has been presented to me while at the same time increasing my awe and appreciation for the forces that do exist in your universe.

Happy Thanksgivings

PS - When I take the time to write anything this long, I am not about to go back and edit for typos and grammatical errors. I am too fracking lazy to do that.
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Old 11-29-2013, 12:30 PM
 
Location: Northeastern US
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ovcatto View Post
I know the geological history of Niagara Falls, I know that its flow is regulated by a hydro control dam yet none of that detracts from its shear power and beauty.

If anything, knowledge is essential to the appreciation of beauty.
Yes and no. Knowledge can make the mundane more amazing than it appears, but it can also make the apparently amazing less so by demystifying it. For example, if that comet had not apparently broken up in its passage yesterday through the sun's gravity well and radiation, it would have produced, potentially, the sky show of the century in the coming weeks. In one sense it would be both unusual and aesthetically interesting in its own right, and yet, unquestionably it would be far less impressive to most denizens of 21st century Earth than comets were to, say, 15th century Earth. In the 15th century such a thing would have inspired much fear, loathing and superstition, and terror because for all anyone knew, it could be a harbinger of the end of days. We know better now.

Knowledge and technology also combine to make rare creature comforts commonplace. A hot bath in 1800 was far more luxurious and anticipated (and time consuming to make happen) than it is today when such things are available on a whim at the touch of a faucet. People can get upset now if their hot water heater malfunctions and they have to go for a day without hot running water -- a state of affairs that used to be unremarkable.

Observations like this lead me to think that awe and wonder is a little like capitalism, it's a great thing but one must always be expanding the frontiers to sustain the benefits. And just as capitalism seems to be running out of things to exploit, I don't know where the new frontiers of human hopes and dreams are at, particularly given our seeming lack of will to colonize space. People seem to be getting pretty jaded and bored.
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Old 11-29-2013, 01:08 PM
 
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Originally Posted by mordant View Post
Yes and no.
Quote:
Knowledge can make the mundane more amazing than it appears, but it can also make the apparently amazing less so by demystifying it. For example, if that comet had not apparently broken up in its passage yesterday through the sun's gravity well and radiation, it would have produced, potentially, the sky show of the century in the coming weeks. In one sense it would be both unusual and aesthetically interesting in its own right, and yet, unquestionably it would be far less impressive to most denizens of 21st century Earth than comets were to, say, 15th century Earth. In the 15th century such a thing would have inspired much fear, loathing and superstition, and terror because for all anyone knew, it could be a harbinger of the end of days. We know better now.
So because we understand that comets are icy bodies that from time to time enter our atmosphere, that the denseness of our atmosphere cause friction which release energy in the form of light and heat that causes the comet to disintegrate in a brilliant display of light is any less impressive to the modern eye than that of people in the 15th century? Frankly, the fact that we stand watch and enjoy instead of running in abject terro searching out witches to burn is hardly an argument against knowledge.

So... there is far more yes and absolutely no, no to the proposition.
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Old 11-30-2013, 07:14 AM
 
Location: Northeastern US
14,197 posts, read 9,097,133 times
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Originally Posted by ovcatto View Post
So because we understand that comets are icy bodies that from time to time enter our atmosphere, that the denseness of our atmosphere cause friction which release energy in the form of light and heat that causes the comet to disintegrate in a brilliant display of light is any less impressive to the modern eye than that of people in the 15th century? Frankly, the fact that we stand watch and enjoy instead of running in abject terror searching out witches to burn is hardly an argument against knowledge.

So... there is far more yes and absolutely no, no to the proposition.
I can't resist pointing out that comets do not enter our atmosphere and if they did it WOULD be cause, even in the 21st century, for running in terror of the end of the world ;-)

"Absolutely no "no"?" Seems an extreme view. Everything has pros and cons. It's just a question of which wins out. I suspect we both agree that knowledge is far more a good thing than a bad thing though. I was speaking to a very limited aspect of knowledge, that causes us to have a more clinical and matter of fact approach to things, which itself is both good and bad. Good in that we make more objective decisions, bad in that some subjective sense of wonder can at times be lost or under-appreciated. That's all. Let's not over think it. The answer to that downside, in my view, is not to remain ignorant, but to appreciate subjective beauty despite knowing the mechanics of why any thing is as it is.

I am working with my son with respect to this. I get him to stop and look at fall colors, a waterfall, a rock formation. He shrugs and says, in essence, "so?" Somewhere in there I know is someone who is capable of some sort of "wow" factor. Look, I'm not exactly one to waltz through the meadow casting rose petals as I go, but good grief, he's extreme that way. And part of the reason is that he's bright and educated and sees everything as just another mechanism to examine and move on ... not to appreciate for its inherent aesthetics. The closest he comes to enthusiasm is to get a new technology toy or to laugh at a good joke. I'd like him to branch out a little, to add the word "awesome!" to his vocabulary just once in awhile. Somehow I doubt that creatures such as my son existed in 1813 vs 2013, that's all. I could be wrong, I guess. But I think they are at least in part, creatures of the technological age. It's both a way of looking at things and a way of insulating oneself from the natural world.
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Old 11-30-2013, 05:09 PM
 
Location: 'greater' Buffalo, NY
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What I ultimately speak to is that a clinical view of the world is a bleak view of the world...mordant can be my mouthpiece.

ovcatto is not a person I care to engage. He tries too hard and gains too little.
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