08/23/14

Removing the “New” from Religion and Atheism

Screen Shot 2014-08-23 at 11.38.41 AMDuring the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, Lawrence Krauss, who is a physicist and relative newcomer to the New Atheism camp, debated Peter Rollins, who has become known as a leading thinker in Emerging or postmodern Christianity. Their debate was billed as “New Atheism” versus “New Religion,” although neither man sat well with the title his side had been given.

I have seen Krauss in other debates, particularly in Unbelieversthe recently released movie featuring him and Richard Dawkins arguing with a host of religious conservatives, primarily Christian and Muslim. What I found amusing in this particular debate, however, is that Krauss didn’t quite know what to do with Rollins. They had too much common ground. Rollins argued three things about New Atheism. First, he claimed that it can and has become for many an identity source just like religion, meaning that it is not functionally different from the religious traditions it decries. Second, he suggested that the direct attacks against fundamentalism serve to strengthen rather than weaken it. Lastly, he proposed that atheism does not have the “capital” to serve as a viable alternative to religion.

In terms of its function, it is undeniably true that atheism can become as much of an unthinking identity as religious tradition, but it should be unpacked a little bit. Rollins argues his case by suggesting that fundamentalism is not the problem, but the solution to a problem. It is this deeper problem that can be seen in fundamentalism and atheism alike, although I would add that the historical and fantastical accretions of religion make it a more hospitable location for dogmatism than atheism. In any case, while Rollins doesn’t specify what the deeper problem is, it can obviously take many forms in economic or social deprivation (or a defense for economic and social privilege), but almost always in a skewed sense of identity that needs reconciliation. I have spoken with people for whom atheism is clearly an identity, having shifted from a negation of religious belief to a positive affirmation of an absence of religion as a dogmatic stance.

In this case, it would be difficult not to agree with those Christians and Muslims who argue that New Atheism, or simply atheism, has developed into a position akin in many ways to religious tradition, which means that it can become unthinking. Krauss is much less able to recognize this position than is Rollins, because Krauss appears to be a clear and logical thinker. He doesn’t and doesn’t need to bank on an atheist identity. Consequently, while he acknowledged that atheism for some can become a positive identity, something more than “not-skiing” as a sport, he doesn’t understand it as a common, albeit illogical, approach. It is ridiculous to Krauss that an intellectual stance or what amounts to subjecting religious wisdom to scientific scrutiny could become a dogmatic stance, because it is clear that it shouldn’t. Indeed, it violates the principles of a scientific approach to form a dogmatic stance about it. In fact, it’s logically impossible to establish a dogma around a fundamental openness to new evidence. However, it is entirely possible to rest on such a stance based on what recent scientific thinkers have said about religion, namely that it is patently false. Without possessing the ability or will to question the truth of particular situations, one can easily and freely adopt the stance that all religion is false and religious folks are imbeciles, just as many religious folk are convinced that atheists are willfully ignoring God or are influenced by the devil.

Rollins, on the other hand, understands the paradox that even a belief in nothing, or the negation of belief in something, can become itself something. In a slightly different form, this has been one of the primary points of his critique of Christianity. According to Rollins, most Christians already know that the claims they make are untrue on some level. Consequently, when they are criticized from the outside for the ridiculousness of their claims about prayer or God’s will, etc., Rollins recognizes that, contrary to curing them of their illogic, it will often drive folks further into their irreconcilable positions. As a recent example, the Friendly Atheist was incredulous that the missionary doctor who received treatment for Ebola from an experimental drug spent most of his time in his first speech on release giving thanks to God for saving him rather than the drug and the doctors who nursed him back to health. However, the doctor no doubt didn’t refuse the experimental drug when offered so that God could do the work of healing. He simply holds two contradictory positions: one, that God healed him; and two, that modern medicine saved him. The first position makes no sense unless God likes the two white missionaries more than all those who have died from Ebola in the most recent outbreak. The second position makes enormously more sense: the missionaries received proper medical care and lived, others did not and died. Paul Farmer talks about this from a practical perspective in a recent interview on Democracy Now.

To put it another way, religious believers cannot fully accept the world scientifically until they address its incompatibility with their belief, but the only way to address the fallacy of their belief would be to fully adopt an open and questioning stance, a scientific stance. What many atheists are unwilling to admit is that this is much more than an intellectual shift. It carries tremendous social and psychological baggage, and it is predicated on sufficient cultural capital, on social, political, and/or economic stability. Rollins thus realizes, I believe, that directly exposing the contradictions of particularly conservative religion is inefficient at best, which was revealed by his third point against New Atheism, that it lacks the cultural capital to provide religious folks with an alternative. This point, too, is fundamentally inconceivable to Krauss and the like, who cannot grasp that the lies we tell ourselves rival the power of truths about the universe, even when the latter are demonstrably true and the former are not.

In terms of a paradigm shift, then, Rollins’ position is perhaps more viable. It is true that he has an economic interest in maintaining ambiguous ties with Christianity because liberal or postmodern Christians are primarily the folks that come to hear him. To the outsider, of which Krauss provided a quintessential example in this debate, Rollins’ circumlocutions seem unintelligible. His is the language of the existentialist, the language of deconstruction, but it is also storytelling, narratives that Christians are familiar with. If he could succeed in recasting Christianity not around dogmatic principles about the world and the afterlife, but around breaking down those principles and questioning our dogmatic assumptions about the world, the fundamental and unthinking ways that religion allows folks to operate in would be shifted. Religion would not provide a safe haven for rigid belief and unthinking behavior. It is certainly not to say that it would eliminate it. The very fact that atheism can provide that same haven for unthinking should be an indication that institutionalization, not the content of an institution, is all that suffices to become dogmatic.

02/10/14

Thoughts on a live debate over the existence of God…

Screen Shot 2014-02-09 at 4.32.16 PM I attended a debate on Friday put on by the Secular Student Alliance at Boise State entitled “Does God Exist?” To my surprise, the room was packed, with about three hundred people in attendance. The debaters were Dan Barker, a former evangelical pastor and founder of Freedom from Religion, and Bill Pubols, a director of Athletes in Action, a “community striving to see Christ-followers on every team, every sport, every nation.” I’ve never attended a debate like this before, but I’ve heard about Dan Barker for some time and wanted to see the type of arguments each side trotted out.

I will say up front that Pubols (who valiantly came in as a last minute replacement for Matt Slick) was inexperienced and outmatched by the veteran Barker. However, the arguments he brought forth were similar to those of more experienced debaters, albeit not deployed as skillfully or confidently. For his part, Barker was not as charitable as I would have liked in his characterization of Christians, though I agreed with nearly all of his points.

While the constructing and dismantling of arguments was interesting, I noticed a distinct change in tactics on Pubols’ part over the course of the debate. He began with the Kalam cosmological argument, made arguments from universal moral principles, and contended for the validity of the New Testament based on its historical accuracy. Barker in turn dismissed the cosmological argument for making a category error (assuming that the universe itself obeys the same laws of things within the universe), denied that morality had to be universal to be valuable, and suggested a number of irreconcilable contradictions in the Biblical text.

As the debate continued though, Barker retained the same approach while Pubols shifted from making arguments to using anecdotal evidence and making emotional appeals. I recognized both the rhetoric and the tone of his altered argument from time spent listening to innumerable sermons on Sunday mornings.

I sensed that Pubols was more comfortable with anecdotes and emotional appeals than philosophical arguments, and rightly so. Christianity situates the individual within a narrative that spans both time and eternity. Seen from within, this narrative creates purpose and meaning, but as Jean-Francois Lyotard notes in The Postmodern Condition, this grand narrative is incompatible with scientific knowledge. Lyotard concludes that “it is…impossible to judge the existence or validity of narrative knowledge on the basis of scientific knowledge or vice versa: the relevant criteria are different” (26). The two epistemologies speak a different language, and this became apparent during the debate.

(One might argue then, as many have, that religion and science just occupy mutually exclusive registers of reality. But Lyotard’s point is that narratival justification is no longer possible in the postmodern world, and the best we can do is little narratives that make no claim at universality. In a sense we know too much for the grand narratives to continue to function. And if it were true that religious or scientific beliefs were held in a vacuum, their potential conflict would be inconsequential. In our world, though, they vie for position in politics and culture. This is one reason I can’t buy the argument that freethinkers should just leave believers alone if their belief gives them comfort. It’s not that simple.)

Both men made appeals to scientific knowledge, and I’m curious to know whether a scientific argument is appealing to other folks when arguing over religion. Pubols told of the unimaginable improbability of the universe being constructed so as to support life–which for him points to a knowing creator–but Barker was well-versed in scientific jargon to support other examples in the universe of order coming from chaos. Those arguments did little to convince me on either side. It may be because my deconversion was initiated from a more practical and social standpoint. I was more convinced by the arguments from morality and the problem of evil.

The case of morality is particularly interesting because the believer is sincerely convinced that life is not meaningful without ultimate purpose (think Rick Warren and the Purpose Driven Life here), and the freethinker is just as sincerely convinced that life can (and must) be meaningful without ultimate purpose because there is none. This suggests that understanding how individuals pass from one paradigm to another is critically important to understand.

The problem of evil is much more straightforward, and it remains difficult to understand how one can employ notions of the goodness of God, or divine love, in the face of the human condition. As Barker noted, if God is whimsical or bad, he would be more convinced of his existence, but the insistence that God is good in the face of good and bad acts in the world requires a redefinition of linguistic terms that is only possible when one starts with the answer. To use a crude but applicable example, if a friend or partner beats you and then tells you he loves you, others would recognize it as manipulation or abuse. On the global scale and when talking about the divine, many religious folk are comfortable with calling it love.

In the end, although the arguments Pubols first employed were attempts to justify his belief on the basis of philosophy or science, they weren’t the foundation for his belief, nor are they (I think) for most Christians. They certainly weren’t for me as a believer. Christianity was true because I was part of a narrative, one that plotted me in the course of human history and guaranteed my righteousness for eternity. Thus, when his attempts at reasonable justification were thwarted, Pubols resorted to the familiar tactic of narrative, the means by which he and others have been sincerely convinced. He referred to, among other things, the “knowledge” of the heart, the “Truth” of Jesus’ statements such as “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” and the felt “need” we all have for ultimate meaning.

According to the anonymous entrance poll, the majority of audience members were Christian, and there was about a four percent shift toward the nonexistence of God by the exit poll. I came away entertained but wondering if the debate format was worth the effort if the aim is to sway the opposition. Changing the question from the existence of God to the validity of faith would likely have improved the discussion, but lessened the draw to the debate. Overall, it seemed akin to the recent debate between Bill Nye and Ken Hamm (which I didn’t see). One commenter summed it up by saying that the only thing that would change Nye’s mind is evidence, and the only thing that would change Hamm’s mind is…nothing. But people do change, somehow. If I could only figure out how…

08/5/13

Is science the key to morality?

81vhPlG1sNL._SL1500_The only one of the “New Atheists” I have ever read is Sam Harris. I recently finished his The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values. I think it was the seeming audacity of the title that drew me to the work. As a student of religion (and the humanities more generally), I am reluctant to believe claims that science can directly replace the position that religions have traditionally held in society, even as I am a failure at religion myself. I have written on the topic before, as well as the relation of scientific knowledge to the senses.

After reading The Moral Landscape, I looked at my notes for the other Harris book I read back in 2007, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, which is the work that first put Harris on the map. Though the earlier work talks more specifically about religion, they both contain some of the same ideas, namely that religion is an illogical and insufficient guide for morality, and does more harm than good (or at least it does enough harm to outweigh the good). Even reading his book back then, as a Christian, I conceded that he did seem to have a genuine concern for the growing violence in the world and its connection with forms of religion. However, I had several general objections at the time, all of which I now consider insufficient (and all of which he anticipates in The Moral Landscape).

First, I objected that Harris criticizes faith for not being testable, when the very definition of faith—at least in one Pauline Christian interpretation—is belief in things unseen, belief despite lack of evidence. Harris also noted that the extent to which religious adherents are tolerant is the extent to which they don’t believe what their tradition tells them. I am much more inclined to agree with this statement now than I was as a Christian.

The other major objection I lodged is embarrassingly common among religious adherents. If you take away a person’s religion, what else will they have to give them a reason to live? It is easy to see that this is not an adequate defense of religion; it is simply a plea to allow people to continue believing something that cannot be proven. The frequent complaint lodged against atheists is that it is just mean to pick on someone’s beliefs if they aren’t hurting anyone and it gives the person comfort. One response is that it does hurt society for people who don’t existentially rely on religion to continue to affirm belief in it, both because of the systemic forms of intolerance and violence it can support, and the continued support it gives religion in general for those groups we would label as “fundamentalist.”

My conclusion in my review of End of Faith was that, despite good arguments that Harris made, science was simply not advanced enough to replace religion as a source of values. Religion has traditionally been that source, and that gives it a historical advantage. Looking back, that amounted to dragging my heels and applying a standard to science that I exempted religion from because of its lengthier history. My reading of the Moral Landscape affected me in a different way.

The gist of The Moral Landscape is that our brain, our consciousness, is the primary determinant of how we view, interact with, and understand our world. As that is the case, it is science that offers us the best method for understanding the way we operate, particularly the way we interact with the world and each other. We call the standards that guide us morals, and many think those are given by God or a religious tradition, but for Harris, we must look to science for keys to a more sustainable well-being than religion has offered.

At the beginning of the work, I found myself making the same critique: science doesn’t lay out an exact map of morality. I am much less confident than Harris in the ability of science to help solve moral quandaries, especially “science” in the generalized way he seems to be using it. His focus on the brain seems a little too cold and clinical at times. For example he explains that the chemicals oxycontin and vasopressin have to do with the way we emotionally bond to others. Children raised in orphanages do not experience the same surge of these chemicals when interacting with adoptive parents as other children do with biological parents. While to me, as with Harris, it is clear that this altered chemical makeup affects the emotional and psychological responses of these children, the implications of solving these problems on a chemical or biological level would look much different than solving them on a psychological one, and involve looking at the human in a different way. At the least, this shows that while our morality may depend in part on the human brain—and a complete picture of morality may not be possible without it—it does not depend solely on the brain.

However, the critiques that Harris makes of our current moral hang-ups are poignant, and offer experts in religion a significant challenge. He strongly criticizes the kind of moral and cultural relativism that seems to prevent any critique of a particular value system. The idea that we cannot criticize the head-to-toe veiling of women is preposterous, Harris argues, based on any system that would suppose to value societal well-being. He dismisses the response that these women may be happy with their situation by contending that even if this were the case, it is quite clear that we often do not know what is best for us.

This is dangerous territory for Harris, who might be accused of playing God, but no more or less so than the major religious traditions themselves do. What is overwhelmingly practical about his approach, however, is that it does not claim to have the right answers, although it certainly does admit to their possibility. Rather, Harris sets broad parameters and says it is clear that a world in which everyone’s well-being was maximized would surely be better than a world where everyone misery would be maximized. We know the direction to go, although we may not have the definitive answer to every moral dilemma. Maximizing well-being is good, maximizing misery is bad.

The study of religion, and that of morality in general, is heavily influenced by anthropology and its story of the noble savage, the cultures and tribes that we cannot judge since they are culturally independent. Who are we to say they are unhappy, even if they are sacrificing each other to appease bloodthirsty deities? This complex is in part rooted in a reaction to a past history of Western imperialism, to be sure. However, Harris suggests it is also connected to a confusion between ontology and epistemology. Our experiences are subjective, but this does not mean we can know nothing about them, particularly in a comparative sense. Harris seems to take this approach much farther than I can, seeming to claim that there are right and wrong answers to questions of morality. In a conditional sense, I would agree. In a universal sense, I cannot, if only because I don’t see us being privileged with anything approaching that level of knowledge in the near future. However, this doesn’t and shouldn’t stop us from making moral judgements.

As I prepare to teach a class on ethics, Harris’s commitment to “changing people’s ethical commitments” resonates with me. Where we differ is that Harris thinks our ethical commitments can and should be grounded in science. We should be nice to one another because that rewards us with the highest level of such-and-such chemical in our brains, and the presence of such chemical is the highest indicator of subjective levels of happiness based on multiple experiments. I am skeptical that we can ever explicitly base our morality on this. As Harris seems to admit on some level, we may need a more elaborate story, some sort of Nietzschean tragedy to found our morality. I think, though, that we might be happier with founding our morality on the level of social construction, with the help of scientific insight of course. Brain chemicals just don’t make the same story that Joseph Campbell’s hero myth does. This doesn’t prevent criticizing the inadequacy of our current stories and searching for better ones, ones more inclusive of current culture.

In any case, there is much to recommend in Harris’s book and little to fear.

02/26/13

Eusociality, Multilevel Selection, and my Smartphone

Harvard Emeritus Professor E. O. Wilson posted an interesting opinion piece in the New York Times over the weekend, entitled “The Riddle of the Species.” (I subsequently found/remembered another piece written last year, conveying similar information with more religious language.)Wilson is one of the few scientists I like to read because he writes accessibly and is conversant with the other side of the aisle, i.e., the humanities.

The article opens with the idea that the humanities (history, philosophy, art, religion, etc.) cannot give us the full picture of humanity and that science must contribute to this endeavor. I appreciate this approach because science is often presented by both sides as being an exclusive harbinger of truth, one that cannot or doesn’t know how to share. It can contribute a valuable piece of the puzzle, Wilson says, in helping to determine why we are the way we are.

He continues, “A majority of people prefer to interpret history as the unfolding of a supernatural design, to whose author we owe obedience. But that comforting interpretation has grown less supportable as knowledge of the real world has expanded.” There’s a lot to comment on, just in this one sentence. First, it is in one sense astonishing that the majority of people on earth “prefer” a supernatural explanation to the reason things are than a non-supernatural one, scientific or not. I’ve never thought about it quite this way, but perhaps one reason is that supernatural explanations are great equalizers in that they require, on their surface, no specialized knowledge. On the one hand, you have a complex explanation of the evolution of the human species as in part a result of eusocial behavior and multilevel selection, and on the other, “God made the world.” The latter is more immediately accessible.

I might make a comparison with my smartphone. I have very little idea of how it works. If someone asked, I might offer up lame suggestions of electricity and microprocessors, but I don’t know how it all fits together. One could argue that I treat it as supernatural. It just works, and when it doesn’t, I don’t know why and my lack of knowledge makes me extremely frustrated because it should just work. Its lack of functionality exposes my severe lack of understanding. If I knew just a little bit more, I might be able to deal with problems—at least smaller ones—myself, and I would likely be less frustrated or dogmatic about its reliability. But most of the time, I am satisfied to treat it like magic. This is not to say, necessarily, that a detailed knowledge of how electricity works with the components of the phone is equivalent to an objective knowledge of how it works, but it is a more justifiable and reliable understanding than, “It just works.”

Wilson attributes some of the success of humanity to euscociality, “cooperatively rear[ing] the young across multiple generations.” This requires protection, creating a “home base” in which to harbor the weakest and watch over them with a smaller number while others venture forth to forage. This transition, in turn, may have been enabled by a transition to meat-eating, which allowed less work by less people for more energy gain.

These elements required alliances and group formation in order for some to go out and hunt while others stayed behind. The alliances, in turn, require constant negotiation and inference, staying up to date on the feelings and associations of others and being aware of one’s own. Wilson identifies these group formations as based in part on individual competition and cooperation within groups and in part on the same across groups.

This background provides a lead-up to the last three paragraphs of the article, which are the most interesting to me. Wilson comments that although violence—as a result of competition in and across groups—has been a part of society as long as we have record, we do not have to conclude that they are part of our nature. “Instead,” he claims, “they are among the idiosyncratic hereditary traits that define our species.” What’s the difference? Rather than explaining our violence by man’s sinful nature, or the secular equivalent of there existing intrinsically good and bad people, we can locate the reasons for competition in meaningful explanation in order to look for alternatives to the kinds of violence we collectively believe cause more harm than good. We are the way we are because we became that way, not because we were made that way.

For Wilson, this biological genealogy means a couple things. First, as people begin to process the connections between science and the humanities, it will make a substantial difference in the way we understand our history, which will include pre-history as well. We may also take better care neither to treat the world as a temporary home that will soon be abandoned, according to traditional Christian theology, or an object we can control at our will, according to certain earnest scientific communities.

The moral of the story for me is that science doesn’t have to be pitted against the humanities in a life-and-death competition for the explanation of the universe. Both offer necessary avenues to the fullest explanation of the human species. Religion is an intricate part of the development of human understanding as well, but it is gradually losing its influence as an explanatory value. For Wilson, it has no place left; for most, it will take more time. Even if its explicit value disappears from the scene, however, its legacy will live on its cultural influence for many years.

02/18/13

Can our Senses be Trusted?

The Friendly Atheist posted a clip from a BBC show about Big Questions. The clip was addressing the question, “Is faith compatible with reason?” The clip was mildly interesting, and the non-believers certainly came out looking more “reasonable” than the spiritual folks (Christians, pantheists, etc.) There were a few points worth discussing further.

First, the representative reasonable figure noted the importance of confirmation bias for people of faith, meaning that they start with the conclusion (that God exists) and apply a massive filter to the information they receive. Information confirming their bias is accepted relatively easily, while information criticizing it is rejected very quickly. The bias is operative in other areas of life as well, which is why it is much more difficult to change someone’s mind once they have already “decided” something. It’s also a reason why 86% of people who become Christian do so between the ages of four and fourteen (according to this documentary).

Also noted was the difference between reason and faith as a difference between deductive and inductive reason. The first starts with the premises and reasons to a conclusion, the second begins with the conclusion and then finds premises to (in this case) affirm it. What I found most interesting, though, was an unchallenged comment made on the “reason” side that said the senses can’t be trusted. This was in response to a pantheist noting that her heart told her that her beliefs are true. Though I grasp the point the respondent was trying to make (that the warm fuzzy you feel in your heart doesn’t make God real), the principle that we cannot (or should not) trust our senses is problematic for me.

Let’s set aside for a minute the fact that we do trust our senses almost all of the time, though they do sometimes mislead us. For example, on the main drag of the town where I grew up, planters were placed at the sidewalk corners of the intersection, probably as part of a beautification project. Their inconvenient placement near the crosswalks means that nearly every time I drive that street, there is a split second where I almost begin to brake because I think a person is trying to cross the road. I might interpret that as my senses misleading me. (There is also some confirmation bias there, in that we tend to try, anthropocentrists that we are, to discern faces and bodies in places where they are not.)

But let’s try another scenario, that of the famous Romeo and Juliet. If I recall the climax of the play, it involves Juliet taking a drug that makes her appear dead. Upon finding her dead, Romeo takes poison and dies, and upon Juliet waking up, she finds Romeo dead and stabs herself to death. Romeo obviously experienced a great deal of sadness as a result of finding Juliet and his senses confirmed that she was dead. In turn, Juliet’s senses confirmed that Romeo was dead, and she too killed herself. The only justification we would have for saying Romeo’s senses deceived him and Juliet’s did not is that we know the outcome, that Juliet was not dead but that Romeo was. We have no significant reason to suggest that his senses were more impaired than hers. (They both seemed a little emotional, if you ask me.) Juliet was, for Romeo, dead when he saw her. His senses conveyed that truth accurately.

What I am arguing is that the claim that the senses lead us astray is not based just on the senses, but the reasoning that we do from them, reasoning done over time. We might argue that had Romeo waited a bit longer, his senses would have shown that Juliet was not dead, because she would have opened her eyes and sat up. What if took longer? What if it took days? Years? How long would we have Romeo wait?

There is a social element here. Let’s say several others came and confirmed Juliet was dead and she was buried. Hundreds of years later, her grave is accidentally disturbed and it is found she was buried alive. Would we say that the senses of all who confirmed her death deceived them? Why? From whose perspective would we make that judgement? Perhaps from a scientific perspective that might claim she was in a comatose state with an extremely low heart rate that nonetheless kept her alive for days. Assuming it could have been done, should extensive scientific testing have been done to confirm her death? What if it was done, and it also confirmed that she was dead? It would only be with the element of time that we would be able to know otherwise.

The point is that the senses are momentary, but that judgement is made over time. This implies no necessary limitation on the senses. I understand the argument that science needs to be empirical and not merely sensory, but this is not applicable in all areas of life. To shut off the emotions because they are connected to unreliable senses is to close off life itself. Sadness, anger, and love are all emotional responses that appear most real when one is feeling them, and may seem diminished or even inaccurate later. Do we explain that variance of emotion by imposing present reality on the past, by saying that from our current neutral state that the presence of emotion in the past was wrong? Or do we acknowledge merely a different emotional state, a different sensory perception than before? (I realize I’m slipping from senses to emotion, which are not necessarily the same thing, but feelings and reason are often contrasted in the same way in common discussion that senses and reason are.)

I find it a problem that the senses can be dismissed in favor of science. It seems to me another version of faith. Both argue, at one point, that what I sense around me does not give me an accurate representation of what there is. It cedes my ability to make judgment, to perceive reality, to an external system. For social purposes all must participate in this to a certain extent, but that does not necessarily or always relegate the senses of the individual to a secondary status. In the birth of the scientific age, scientific conclusions were often dismissed in favor of theological dogma; in the present day, the opposite is the case. Is the reason because we had a lesser grasp on reality in the past, that we were dumber? Or is it related to the fact that less people assented to a scientific worldview in the past than they do now? The basis of a greater acceptance of scientific or reasonable method is not because on its inherent truth, then, but because of its social acceptance.

Anyone have any thoughts?