I have to agree with Anna; human fallibility does not imply the divine. If I were to roll a ball down a ramp w/o being able to prove that gravity was influencing it, the default would not be "God is pushing it the rest of the way". I am by no means an atheist, but the "justifications" that many religious people use seem to be circular in nature, and that simply is not enough for me. In fact, I pretty much am at the point where trying to prove or use any verbal justification for the existence of the divine is futile... you either feel it or not, you either have faith in it or not, and that is all. Hell, I have even had persons attempt to use mathematics to prove the existence of God to me, with them even quoting thermodynamics as a basis, and that usually ends with me destroying each and every attempt, in a very simple manner.
My "burden of proof" was an attempt to describe the current state, not necessarily what I believe the state should be. As for not being impressed by Solomon... I don't know. He really has yet to say anything that I have not contemplated myself, and as I took almost exclusively science classes in college (and rural public schools are not big on philosophy and literature), it is not like I picked these things up from class, they were there. I say the same thing about art: if it looks like something I could not make, it is something, but if I could easily replicate w/o any real training and get a similar if not equivalent effect, it cannot be that interesting. The statue of David is amazing because I know I could not make that, the splatter paintings are not because anyone could do that. "Paradise Lost" is amazing because I know I could not complete with Milton, and though maybe I could not write an "Ecclesiastes" as eloquently as Solomon, the points could be represented. The thing that Solomon's work most greatly confirms for me is that one of the most universal aspects of human nature is that there will always be people who think about this stuff, and though they may not be the majority, at least they exist.
What poll was taken?...
Pickles are cucumbers soaked in evil!
> From: [address removed]
> To: [address removed]
> Subject: RE: [questioningrel-83] Stop talking about absolutes...
> Date: Tue, 13 Jul[masked]:56:15 -0400
> Great series of exchanges folks...
> (a few comments - chronologically ordered for your pleasure)
> From Doug,
> I appreciate the Ideal Gas Law example and how while in all practical
> situations we fall short of actually "proving" it we can see where
> everything seems to be pointing. I sometimes use the idea of "trajectory"
> or "confluence" to also provide clarity in situations where limited
> knowledge is the rule. While I may not know the big picture, if what is and
> can be known seems to have a certain common vectors (emphasis on direction
> here) I continue moving in that direction and judge that if it is the
> "right" direction that I will generally pickup more supporting data along
> the way while always open to adjustments as necessary. Good science
> operates in a very similar fashion, but sadly this openness to adjustments
> is not guaranteed by this method as the history of science itself bears out
> (how much more for philosophers!). Now in the end certainty is of course
> limited by our own limitedness, but that does not mean we are condemned to
> existential passivity as some seem to argue since our decisions are
> generally going to be based on less-than-perfect knowledge. Proofs seem to
> always be demanded in certain instances while completely ignored in others.
> From Anna,
> While I do think that Solomon is making universal statements regarding
> various aspects of human nature the poll we took at our last session
> regarding this question displayed both extremes as well as a fair range
> between the two. Frankly, I am happy to leave it at that. The recent
> exchange seems to have gone into the exploration of whether any
> universals/absolutes exist at all, but I am still of the opinion (and maybe
> I'm the only one) that the insights expressed in the book offer poignant
> commentary on the human condition. And here I would echo Doug's point that
> the criticism directed at this book ("subjective," "the view of one man,"
> "his opinions" etc...) can be directed at any book or other form of
> expressed human thought. While it may be tempting to simply dismiss all of
> human consideration and exposition in the same vein, this view is nothing if
> not unfair given that our own judgments are always conveniently excepted
> from this selfsame criteria. Again, perhaps I am the only one, but I do
> believe that the wisdom and discernment embodied in this book has tremendous
> weight, not only due to the fact that it has withstood the millennia, but
> because it speaks not only to the mind, but the heart/soul as well (and here
> I will put a serious disclaimer on that statement - I am not the
> touchy-feely type so it takes a lot for me to say this). Since I am more
> than content to allow each one to exercise his or her liberty on this
> matter, I don't expect everyone to agree with me on this, but I do expect to
> be given the same consideration. That is until I become the cult leader...
> From Cori,
> I think you are right on with the observation that Solomon makes certain
> absolute statements without attempting to prove they are true. I think he
> also makes many observations regarding the state of affairs of mankind
> without pointing to the universal(s) behind them expecting us to make that
> connection (which makes this a very difficult book to understand on some
> levels). I think practically it is very hard to "walk alongside" an author
> depending on what your own presuppositions are regarding your own beliefs as
> well as the presumed beliefs of the author. Personally, I don't usually
> assume the tenets of an author in order to try to understand him/her (but I
> can see this way of thinking as helpful in the arts though). I hope to be
> fair-minded, considerate and even sympathetic to as great a degree that I
> can humanly manage, but if the author has something compelling to say and it
> holds some sort of promise for me personally, then the onus is on him/her to
> drive that home. But again, that's just me...
> From Anna,
> I love pickles...
> From Doug,
> Raising the ante on proofs does show some of the inherent human tendency to
> assume that all dogmas are wrong except our own. Honestly I don't believe
> the "burden of proof" lies on any one side, per se. No one has the luxury
> of hanging around with their own set of beliefs taunting others to disprove
> them (nah-nah!). I would challenge everyone (and myself first at that) to
> dissect their own beliefs with the same chainsaws, augers and scalpels that
> are regularly used to dismember (in the very best sense of the word) their
> fellow enquirers.
> What do you mean you are "not impressed with Solomon??!!" OK then, you're
> From Anna,
> You are correct, the majority vs. minority opinion has little bearing on the
> question of absolutes (these are not voted upon or subjective by
> I think I pretty much agree with your "base absolutes" engendering a vast
> number of "unique non-absolute phenomena." And I take you at your word when
> you say that you are not saying absolutes don't exist, but is it
> intellectual hari-kari to posit that there may be reasons to believe they
> exist even if those reasons are not personally compelling?
> I can't agree that the sciences that you mention have done a great job of
> telling us who we are. They can weigh my heart, tell me how many cubic
> centimeters are in my cranium, but they can't ever come close to telling the
> world how funky I am... (keep an eye out for an e-mail with a certain
> cartoon attachment).
> I appreciate your analytical approach to the subject. I think Solomon's
> views are much more than anecdotal or a blog-type rant and he himself states
> that he did indeed approach his topic as very much an experiment or case
> study. Though Doug is not as easily impressed (at least to date), Herman
> Melville said "the truest of all books is Solomon's and Ecclesiastes is the
> fine hammered steel of woe." Thomas Wolfe said that "Ecclesiastes is the
> greatest single piece of writing I have ever known and the wisdom expressed
> in it the most lasting and profound." While I take all human opinion of
> any author with a grain of salt, one has to consider carefully that the same
> is not easily said of just any author or just any work.
> I'm not sure that I quite understand the phrase "willing to accept as
> absolute." While my autonomous self would like to think that my own will
> grants me the power to accept or deny any reality, that just isn't so. My
> assent is not at all necessary or even considered in the matter. I'm
> working on an angle to change that, but I've come up with nothing so far.
> Becoming a prominent cult leader may be as far as I get...
> From James,
> In other words, "To err is human." Anyone disagree? The deeper matter here
> is that an error or wrong of course implies a correct or right way of
> being/doing...standards of some sort. Of course many of these are very
> human conventions (a strikeout vs. a grand slam, perhaps), but I don't think
> that quite covers everything. So where do the standards come from?
> From Anna,
> Pontius Pilate seems to me to be just one poignant example of a lack of
> absolutes leading to a horrific series of events. He was able to ask during
> the trial of Jesus, in proper philosophical (agnostic?) fashion, "What is
> truth?" yet soon after concluded, based on the evidence, that the man before
> him was innocent ("I find no fault in him") only to deny that very
> conclusion for political expediency. For all his feigned protest regarding
> truth, he knew what it was and chose to ignore it. The symbolic "washing of
> the hands" seems to have been his means of dealing with this dissonance.
> This truly odd little event makes me wonder why the potentate of Judea,
> representative of the most powerful nation on earth at the time would have
> to put on such a quaint show? Was it for others or for himself? But that's
> a different discussion... Others probably have other examples, but this one
> came to mind.
> OK, enough already... you guys are killing me... I'm done for the night...
> -----Original Message-----
> From: [address removed] [mailto:[address removed]] On
> Behalf Of Anna
> Sent: Monday, July 12,[masked]:28 PM
> To: [address removed]
> Subject: Re: [questioningrel-83] Stop talking about absolutes...
> RE: James's comment
> "Nobody's perfect" does not mean God exists, nor are the two even
> necessarily related.
> And to state again, I'm not saying NO ABSOLUTES exist. I'm saying that
> you'd better be damn sure that what you're seeing is an absolute
> because acting on something as though it is an absolute for some set X
> while having no or little evidence of such has given human cultures
> problems for as long as human cultures have existed. Have there been
> such issues as a result of assuming that things aren't absolute for
> some set X?
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