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Thread: Reconciling Paganism and Science

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    sea witch thalassa's Avatar
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    Reconciling Paganism and Science

    Quote Originally Posted by prometheus View Post
    Cool, so am I. Or training at least, doing my PhD. in Raman Spectroscopy, focusing on stochastic modelling to try to get useful biomedical info from it. More machine learning than i'd have liked, but that seems to be the direction of science.

    You are the first pagan scientist i have met; i'd be very interested to hear how you balance what could be considered by others as two very different world views. I'd love to pick your brain about it, but maybe bot here as it might be off-topic. Or maybe i can ask you some god(s) related questions here?[

    pulled from this thread
    I started a new thread (obviously)...

    So...sure! I'd be happy to answer any questions you have or discuss anything about the subject.

    I guess I should explain my background (both the science part and the pagan part...)

    My undergrad is in biology, with an emphasis on EEB (ecology, evolution, and behavior) and conservation biology (I also have a minor in history and anthropology) and I have a masters in environmental science with a focus in environmental and natural resource management, I also just started a graduate certificate (which will probably become a 2nd MS) in ecological restoration. Currently however, I work in the field of industrial hygiene (occupational hygiene for anyone reading this in the UK/Australia) and environmental health (I work for the man). Once my kids get through college, my plan is to take a sabbatical and get my doctorate in UNF's interdisciplinary ecology program...but until then, I get paid too much to be a doctoral candidate (or to go into academia)!! I'm interested in restoration and reconciliation ecology (specifically in the area of watershed management) and the interplay between social and cultural attitudes, conservation behaviors, and environmental health.

    I've been Pagan for about 25 years now, longer than I've been a scientist, but shorter than the amount of time that I've loved science in general and various fields of biology in particular. I think I became both because I've been in love with the ocean (and books) for as long as I can remember (my first interest in science occurred two summers before my first interest in Paganism, both by way of books--the former, a biography of Eugenia Clark, an ichthyologist who studied sharks, and the latter, a children's book called The Egypt Game, which inspired my friends and I to start our own version)...after all, if Christians are "people of the Book," Pagans are "people of the whole freaking Library." I was raised though, in the United Church of Christ, which is one of the most liberal and progressive of the Christianities and (unlike many ex-Christian Pagans) I lack a lot of the uber-conservative baggage that those traditions tend to leave behind for people to deal with. I think this is important, because the UCC's (not to be confused with the Church of Christ) overall theological stance is generally compatible with most relevant scientific theory. Unlike many Christians, I was taught that the Bible is often allegorical, rather than literal, and that infallible in intent does not always mean unerring in fact--a book written by man inspired by God, rather that God's own hand must be constantly reinterpreted through the lens of a moral arc bending towards justice. I was raised with the understanding that humans evolved from a common ancestor with chimpanzees and that we are one branch among many in the long and storied history of our planet and with the concept of the Big Bang (my dad loves physics and astronomy). As a Pagan, I started out (where most Pagans at the time probably started, in the days before internet availability) with solitary Wicca via Scott Cunningham and Raymond Buckland, decorated with some inspiration from Margot Adler's Drawing Down the Moon regarding other traditions, Sprial Dance by Starhawk, and every book the public library had on mythology and other religious traditions and psychology and the occult. I graduated to initiatory Wicca in a lineaged Gardnerian (with some influence from Alexandrian, Druidry, and Egyptian paganism) coven, and then (after joining the military) to a multi-tradition eclectic group practice and a private Wiccan-lite/pan-Pagan mixed with some Druidry.

    Today I practice combination of bioregional witchcraft and an eclectic Paganism that combines PIE-derived (proto-Indo-European) traditions and deities and concepts with modern conceptualizations regarding the Earth and humanity. I look at faith from a three-part perspective: praxis (what you do/how you act), doxis (what you believe/how you grok the universe), and gnosis (what you know/what can be "proven")--when it comes to praxis, I'm polytheistic; when it comes to gnosis, I'm agnostic; and when it comes to doxa, I'm a pantheist. I also look at religion as a cultural adaptation subject to cultural evolution that arose (with the other traits that make us human, and somehow different from most other types of animals) as a result of one or more biological adaptations and was essential in our development as a species that could work together in extremely large cooperative groups that are seldom-to-never found elsewhere in nature in such a manner.
    Last edited by thalassa; 05 Sep 2018 at 10:42.
    “You have never answered but you did not need to. If I stand at the ocean I can hear you with your thousand voices. Sometimes you shout, hilarious laughter that taunts all questions. Other nights you are silent as death, a mirror in which the stars show themselves. Then I think you want to tell me something, but you never do. Of course I know I have written letters to no-one. But what if I find a trident tomorrow?" ~~Letters to Poseidon, Cees Nooteboom

    “We still carry this primal relationship to the Earth within our consciousness, even if we have long forgotten it. It is a primal recognition of the wonder, beauty, and divine nature of the Earth. It is a felt reverence for all that exists. Once we bring this foundational quality into our consciousness, we will be able to respond to our present man-made crisis from a place of balance, in which our actions will be grounded in an attitude of respect for all of life. This is the nature of real sustainability.”
    ~~Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

    "We are the offspring of history, and must establish our own paths in this most diverse and interesting of conceivable universes--one indifferent to our suffering, and therefore offering us maximal freedom to thrive, or to fail, in our own chosen way."
    ~~Stephen Jay Gould, Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History

    "Humans are not rational creatures. Now, logic and rationality are very helpful tools, but there’s also a place for embracing our subjectivity and thinking symbolically. Sometimes what our so-called higher thinking can’t or won’t see, our older, more primitive intuition will." John Beckett

    Pagan Devotionals, because the wind and the rain is our Bible

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    Re: Reconciling Paganism and Science

    Quite a lot there; i'll try to keep this thread on topic as i ask questions.

    What does it mean to be polytheistic when it comes to how you act (praxis)? You act as if there are many gods? How does that differ from acting as if there were one creator god or no gods at all?

    What does it mean to be pantheist with regard to what you intuit about the universe (doxis)? That upon your meditations/insights you come to see the divinity in all?

    What does it mean to be agnostic with regard to gnosis? That we can not know the true nature of god(s)? But then you have above described two properties to god(s) - that when you act there are many, and when you feel the universe is divine. Or do you mean agnosis in a more general sense - not limited to god(s)?

    Unless you refer to the above in allegorical rather than literal terms too? Then i can understand.


    With regard to science is it fair to say that you prefer the study of emergent systems, rather than reductionist approaches? If so, what are your thoughts on mathematics, which has proven indispensable to modern science, to approaching emergent phenomena?

    How does your scientific outlook influence your religious and/or spiritual outlook, if at all. In particular how does empiricism fit into this picture?

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    sea witch thalassa's Avatar
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    Re: Reconciling Paganism and Science

    Yay, I have some time! I don't know if I can get to all of this, so I'll take a little chunk at a time, I tend to be long winded...long type-ed?

    I'm breaking up my response to you and rearranging it a little bit simply because I think if I answer you in a different order, it might flow better...


    Quote Originally Posted by prometheus View Post
    Unless you refer to the above in allegorical rather than literal terms too?
    Why is it one or the other?

    There's a (fairly well known) quote from Alice in Wonderland that fits here, I think: “Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

    Sometimes it's both, sometimes it's neither, sometimes it's one or the other...sometimes it depends on whether or not it's a sunny day or if I've had breakfast or not. Right now, sitting on my patio, drinking tea as the fluffy clouds roll by and a tree frog sits in my tomato plants, its both.

    Allegorical and literal don't have to be mutually exclusive, except when sometimes they are. Allegory's best use is when literal exists but is beyond the human comprehension to fully understand and/or ability to express an experience or concept.

    For example, we think that schizophrenia is a neurodevelopmental disorder where neurons misbehave and neurotransmitters are out of whack that results in *within* experiences (cognitive and perceptive) that are not reflective of the *without* observation from the perception of a "reasonable person standard" (as in it is reasonable that the majority of persons would not be able to identify a *without* cause for the *within* experience. Someone with schizophrenia is experiencing something that isn't actually occurring and that experience is a real event that creates real sensations, thoughts, ideas, emotions... In Western contemporary history, these people have been treated as diseased, but in other cultures (where unsurprisingly they have better outcomes) they have not. And those other ways of thinking about schizophrenia--which has been presented as the idea that the schizophrenic is the uncured or untrained shaman--may actually be the better way to treat schizophrenics...the objectivity of medical science is inadequate to assist the human experience of this condition. And who knows, we may find (as you see in kids with ADHD, autism, and sensory processing disorders) that they are simply more perceptive, maybe because they lack the ability to filter out what neurotypical brains see as extraneous information, and that their experiences are just being distorted and amped through the lens of our fleshy grey matter and that their experience can be transformed through our ability to adjust our own experiences.

    Religion is about our experiences, specifically the experience of relationship (or perhaps related-ness). Its a weird quirk of our neurodevelopment that we (as individuals and as a species) are generally capable of developing a relationship with things that are not capable of developing and sustaining an active relationship with us in return in an observable interaction. Meaning we can have real, valid, valuable, and authentic relationships with inanimate objects, concepts, animals, ideas, etc. all in our head, that have the capacity for just as meaningful and/or tangible effects upon the physical, shared existence of us, as individuals and as a collection of individuals. These experiences are both individual and (across a shared faith), collective or communal. The experience (of god, for example) is personal, but we interpret it with the added lens of culture. Our biases help shape our experiences which are further interpreted according to our biases, and when we retell those stories, our brains (amazingly plastic organs that they are) apparently constantly (or at least every time we recall information) reinforce and rewrite how we re-experience the original experience until the re-experience is memory.

    Basically, what I am saying (to borrow some ideas from Kant) is that there are noumena and phenomena--(this is simplified in a way that probably takes away from the Kantian idea, but) noumena are things-in-and-of-themselves independent of human perception, while phenomena are our observations/perceptions of those noumena. We (humans in general, but also philosophers specifically) "know" (because we have experiences in perception...philosophy=the place where good words go to die ) that phenomena exists, we argue about whether or not there really is a noumena (I think, yes, there is an objective reality, whether or not we can perceive it).

    Where religion goes is to the place where phenomena exists that may or may not be in concert with (And may actually be indirect conflict with) noumena. Most (non-philosophers) people (in my experience and observation...in my phenomenon?), if you got into the conversation about it (and generally explained the terms since most people are not familiar with them being used in this manner (for phenomenon--from here on, lets just call it P) or at all (for noumena--we'll call it N)) fall into two camps. Grossly generalized and put into mathematical shorthand, people tend to think that P≈N or that P≈∞, N=0...and that these are the total of their experiences, period.

    What I think though (allegorically, because there is no language that really works), is that P=P, N=N, and if we thought about P and N visually and in math ideas, P is a very long and perhaps infinite line (but not really infinite, since it has a start point) defined by constraints the human experience, N is a very long and perhaps infinite line determined by possibilities and probabilities that the human concept can barely comprehend and that very occasionally we might get a hint of the area where P⊥N, existing at the same point. Mostly though, I think we are lucky if we can even manage to exist where P≈N, and much of humanity exists in a place where not only does P≠N, but P and N are even in direct conflict.

    And ultimately, while my personal religious "quest" is finding that perfect moment where P and N exist as the same point, I can appreciate P for P's own sake (P as a thing-in-and-of-itself?). Religion, as I understand it, is the paradox that experience of P is the N of what it means to be human, whether or not that N actually exists, and that that is not only okay, but incredibly meaningful.



    What does it mean to be agnostic with regard to gnosis? That we can not know the true nature of god(s)? But then you have above described two properties to god(s) - that when you act there are many, and when you feel the universe is divine. Or do you mean agnosis in a more general sense - not limited to god(s)?
    When I say agnostic with regard to gnosis, I mean agnostic in the sense of T. H. Huxley: who believed “it is wrong for a man to say he is certain of the objective truth of any proposition unless he can produce evidence which logically justifies that certainty.” Huxley (to quote the article), "believed that irrational beliefs had social consequences, and so it was a duty to weigh the evidence for beliefs." Huxley (in the essays "Agnosticism" and "Christianity and Agnosticism ") further says:

    Agnosticism, in fact, is not a creed, but a method, the essence of which lies in the rigorous application of a single principle. That principle is of great antiquity; it is as old as Socrates; as old as the writer who said, 'Try all things, hold fast by that which is good'; it is the foundation of the Reformation, which simply illustrated the axiom that every man should be able to give a reason for the faith that is in him, it is the great principle of Descartes; it is the fundamental axiom of modern science. Positively the principle may be expressed: In matters of the intellect, follow your reason as far as it will take you, without regard to any other consideration. And negatively: In matters of the intellect, do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable. That I take to be the agnostic faith, which if a man keep whole and undefiled, he shall not be ashamed to look the universe in the face, whatever the future may have in store for him.
    From a social/global standpoint, I personally think that there is an argument that can be made that the evidence of beneficent (or at least benign) utility of those beliefs is more important than the evidence of the beliefs themselves, but ultimately, I'm saying that we don't *know* anything about the existence of god. The existence of god (or not) is noumena. Our experience of god is phenomena. As long as an individual P=benefit to humanity based on consent and respect for the other inhabitants of this mudball, then that P>N when that N is perceived as P=asshole quoting N (whether or not N is, in this case, the existence of god, ghosts, reincarnation, or any other undemonstrable phenomenon).
    And, if this is the case (that one's individual or group religious practices are some combination of benign and/or beneficent for the self and/or society...well then I don't think it matters.

    There are religious agnostics out there, I know quite few Christian agnostics--they accept the inevitable unknowableness of Jesus-as-Christ and choose (generally because they find value in the beneficent teachings of their chosen Christianity (whatever denomination it may be) that they choose some form of suspending or ignoring disbelief about what they don't know in favor of the value of ritual action and religious behaviors.




    What does it mean to be polytheistic when it comes to how you act (praxis)? You act as if there are many gods? How does that differ from acting as if there were one creator god or no gods at all?
    I'll have to get to the rest of this later...but, one of the things I wanted to leave you with because it is similar to my underlying view is this blog post:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbec...ce-deeply.html

    The difference though, is that he chooses polytheistic belief and I do not. But, the idea of holding one's beliefs loosely (while still practicing and experiencing deeply) is one I agree with.




    What does it mean to be pantheist with regard to what you intuit about the universe (doxis)? That upon your meditations/insights you come to see the divinity in all?



    With regard to science is it fair to say that you prefer the study of emergent systems, rather than reductionist approaches? If so, what are your thoughts on mathematics, which has proven indispensable to modern science, to approaching emergent phenomena?

    How does your scientific outlook influence your religious and/or spiritual outlook, if at all. In particular how does empiricism fit into this picture?
    I'll have to get back to these later as well...
    “You have never answered but you did not need to. If I stand at the ocean I can hear you with your thousand voices. Sometimes you shout, hilarious laughter that taunts all questions. Other nights you are silent as death, a mirror in which the stars show themselves. Then I think you want to tell me something, but you never do. Of course I know I have written letters to no-one. But what if I find a trident tomorrow?" ~~Letters to Poseidon, Cees Nooteboom

    “We still carry this primal relationship to the Earth within our consciousness, even if we have long forgotten it. It is a primal recognition of the wonder, beauty, and divine nature of the Earth. It is a felt reverence for all that exists. Once we bring this foundational quality into our consciousness, we will be able to respond to our present man-made crisis from a place of balance, in which our actions will be grounded in an attitude of respect for all of life. This is the nature of real sustainability.”
    ~~Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

    "We are the offspring of history, and must establish our own paths in this most diverse and interesting of conceivable universes--one indifferent to our suffering, and therefore offering us maximal freedom to thrive, or to fail, in our own chosen way."
    ~~Stephen Jay Gould, Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History

    "Humans are not rational creatures. Now, logic and rationality are very helpful tools, but there’s also a place for embracing our subjectivity and thinking symbolically. Sometimes what our so-called higher thinking can’t or won’t see, our older, more primitive intuition will." John Beckett

    Pagan Devotionals, because the wind and the rain is our Bible

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    sea witch thalassa's Avatar
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    Re: Reconciling Paganism and Science

    What does it mean to be polytheistic when it comes to how you act (praxis)? You act as if there are many gods?
    So, I pray to different, multiple gods; I worship different, multiple gods in ceremony...we have shrines to different, multiple deities in our home... My religious practice (the actions that I undertake as religious ritual) recognizes that there are different, multiple deities. For all intents and purposes, if you could only base a 3rd party assessment of my beliefs based on the outward appearance of what I was doing, it wouldn't look any differently if I were someone that was polytheistic in belief.

    How does that differ from acting as if there were one creator god or no gods at all?
    Well, considering there are Pagan atheists and non-theists that still do ritual, etc., maybe not much. But, from a polytheistic standpoint, the only difference between an atheist and a monotheist is one god... I was raised in a Christian denomination (though a liberal one), their god has certain traits, among these, omniscience, omnipotent, omnipresent, transcendent, infinite, etc.); polytheistic deities aren't (unless one has a soft polytheist or monist perspective).

    If you think of divinity like the internet, each website is an independent deity. To a soft polytheist, all the websites are gods but are also aspects of an overarching internet god...from this perspective, while individual gods can live and die and be killed, and they have areas where they have more power or less, or specialization, etc., the internet itself has the same attributes as the god of Abraham. To a hard polytheist, there is no overarching internet god, there are just many gods, each with its own perspective. So, for me, I mainly worship Seshat, Sedna, Psamathe, Spartina, as well as a few others.
    “You have never answered but you did not need to. If I stand at the ocean I can hear you with your thousand voices. Sometimes you shout, hilarious laughter that taunts all questions. Other nights you are silent as death, a mirror in which the stars show themselves. Then I think you want to tell me something, but you never do. Of course I know I have written letters to no-one. But what if I find a trident tomorrow?" ~~Letters to Poseidon, Cees Nooteboom

    “We still carry this primal relationship to the Earth within our consciousness, even if we have long forgotten it. It is a primal recognition of the wonder, beauty, and divine nature of the Earth. It is a felt reverence for all that exists. Once we bring this foundational quality into our consciousness, we will be able to respond to our present man-made crisis from a place of balance, in which our actions will be grounded in an attitude of respect for all of life. This is the nature of real sustainability.”
    ~~Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

    "We are the offspring of history, and must establish our own paths in this most diverse and interesting of conceivable universes--one indifferent to our suffering, and therefore offering us maximal freedom to thrive, or to fail, in our own chosen way."
    ~~Stephen Jay Gould, Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History

    "Humans are not rational creatures. Now, logic and rationality are very helpful tools, but there’s also a place for embracing our subjectivity and thinking symbolically. Sometimes what our so-called higher thinking can’t or won’t see, our older, more primitive intuition will." John Beckett

    Pagan Devotionals, because the wind and the rain is our Bible

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    bibliophibian volcaniclastic's Avatar
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    Re: Reconciling Paganism and Science

    Hey, I just thought I'd put my two cents in as well. Although I haven't practiced my field of study in a few years, I too, am one of those scientist pagan types.

    I take a really humanistic standpoint on my spiritual practice. To quote from https://humanisticpaganism.com/humanistic-paganism/:

    Humanistic Paganism, also called Naturalistic Paganism, is a unique Pagan orientation for those who are uncomfortable with or skeptical of the supernatural or metaphysical elements of contemporary Paganism. Individuals may use other self-descriptors, such as “Atheist Pagan”, “Atheist Witch”, “Pagan Humanist”, “Druid Naturalist”, etc. Humanistic Paganism has been described as Paganism without the “woo”. In affirmative terms, Humanistic Paganism is Paganism that is firmly rooted in the empirical world.
    Much like Thal, to an outsider, I might appear to be a woo-worshipping pagan. I practice the tarot and other means of divination, I on occasion cast spells, I use crystals, I worship gods, etc.

    Theologically, I'm either an atheist or an agnostic. Are the gods actually real? Hard polytheist/soft polytheist real? No. Probably not. Are they a source of universal energy and focused self consciousness that I can use to harness positive thinking in myself? Yeah. Probably.

    As a geologist, I don't actually think that rose quartz helps harness love in the world, or that quartz can trap negativity. When during its long geologic cooling process would those properties have occurred? But, they do make me reflect upon myself, harnessing those properties within myself, and that's pretty close to the same thing.

    I don't believe in the occult. I believe in naturalism, I practice a lot of herbalism and kitchen witchery and self-reliance upon the land. I am respectful of the land spirits (because you can never really know), and I am respectful of the gods (all gods, because again, you can never really know). It's the polite thing to do.

    Otherwise, I just take great concern over the condition of the earth I walk upon, and I try to be as knowledgeable as possible about the area I live in. I forage, I feed myself off the land.

    That's paganism to me.
    “The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” – John Muir

    Mostly art.

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    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: Reconciling Paganism and Science

    I'm not a scientist, but I enjoy science.

    As far as reconciliation... Why waste time and effort reconciling my paganinity with science? Science is a description of reality based on observable & testable data.

    Shouldn't pagan beliefs be reconciled with science - i.e.: If it doesn't match observable and testable data, it must be wrong. The Dali Lama was asked "What will you do if science proves that a thing you believe is wrong?" The Dali Lama answered "Change what I believe."

    If more people took their religion as seriously as to check it against reality, the world would be a better place.
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    Re: Reconciling Paganism and Science

    Quote Originally Posted by volcaniclastic View Post
    Are the gods actually real? Hard polytheist/soft polytheist real? No. Probably not. Are they a source of universal energy and focused self consciousness that I can use to harness positive thinking in myself? Yeah. Probably.
    That's how I see it as well. To many people it's either one or the other: science or religion. That's why I used to struggle a lot with my beliefs, until I found a way in which both science and paganism can coexist in my life (I'm not a scientist, but I am fascinated by science). I do pray to a god (mainly Pan) and goddess regularly, but I don't believe they are 'real' real. They are as real to me as I need them to be and to help me achieve my goals.

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    Live and learn anunitu's Avatar
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    Re: Reconciling Paganism and Science

    My mind sees,"the gods,ourselves" our gods live within.
    MAGIC is MAGIC,black OR white or even blood RED

    all i ever wanted was a normal life and love.
    NO TERF EVER WE belong Too.
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    Re: Reconciling Paganism and Science

    Quote Originally Posted by thalassa View Post

    Allegorical and literal don't have to be mutually exclusive, except when sometimes they are. Allegory's best use is when literal exists but is beyond the human comprehension to fully understand and/or ability to express an experience or concept.
    Point taken. But where a literal interpretation does conflict with evidence we should discard the burden of our beliefs in favour of what nature is telling us through that evidence. In this way science can aid people on a spiritual/religious path.

    I do not think science will ever allow us to fully understand the universe: even our most accurate scientific theory is a model of a phenomena, but not the thing itself. It seems to me science approaches reality asymptotically; like Achilles approaching the tortoise (i mean that literally and allegorically).




    Quote Originally Posted by thalassa View Post

    For example, we think that schizophrenia is a neurodevelopmental disorder where neurons misbehave and neurotransmitters are out of whack that results in *within* experiences (cognitive and perceptive) that are not reflective of the *without* observation from the perception of a "reasonable person standard" (as in it is reasonable that the majority of persons would not be able to identify a *without* cause for the *within* experience. Someone with schizophrenia is experiencing something that isn't actually occurring and that experience is a real event that creates real sensations, thoughts, ideas, emotions... In Western contemporary history, these people have been treated as diseased, but in other cultures (where unsurprisingly they have better outcomes) they have not. And those other ways of thinking about schizophrenia--which has been presented as the idea that the schizophrenic is the uncured or untrained shaman--may actually be the better way to treat schizophrenics...the objectivity of medical science is inadequate to assist the human experience of this condition. And who knows, we may find (as you see in kids with ADHD, autism, and sensory processing disorders) that they are simply more perceptive, maybe because they lack the ability to filter out what neurotypical brains see as extraneous information, and that their experiences are just being distorted and amped through the lens of our fleshy grey matter and that their experience can be transformed through our ability to adjust our own experiences.
    This is a discussion that deserves its own thread. I accept the premise of your point: these people are experiencing a reality no less real than ours, just one they don't share . I agree that these people are valuable to society and we shouldn't necessarily try to 'cure' them. In some instances that would be as bad as 'praying the gay away'. But there is a point at which reality can be so out of sync with one's surroundings that you become a danger to yourself and maybe even others. I think we should as a society accept some risk, but there is a line to be drawn somewhere.


    Quote Originally Posted by thalassa View Post
    Religion is about our experiences, specifically the experience of relationship (or perhaps related-ness). Its a weird quirk of our neurodevelopment that we (as individuals and as a species) are generally capable of developing a relationship with things that are not capable of developing and sustaining an active relationship with us in return in an observable interaction. Meaning we can have real, valid, valuable, and authentic relationships with inanimate objects, concepts, animals, ideas, etc. all in our head, that have the capacity for just as meaningful and/or tangible effects upon the physical, shared existence of us, as individuals and as a collection of individuals. These experiences are both individual and (across a shared faith), collective or communal. The experience (of god, for example) is personal, but we interpret it with the added lens of culture. Our biases help shape our experiences which are further interpreted according to our biases, and when we retell those stories, our brains (amazingly plastic organs that they are) apparently constantly (or at least every time we recall information) reinforce and rewrite how we re-experience the original experience until the re-experience is memory.
    I like to think of it as one manifestation of the universe called Me building a relationship with other manifestations of the universe. Ultimately we seek meaning because our brains are organs that creates meaning. I suspect it evolved along with our propensity to see faces in everything.

    But there is value in seeking such meaning in a way that is consistent with the evidence - not least spotting the tiger amongst the leaves. Science also allows us to see beauty at levels otherwise inaccessible to us, from sub-atomic particles to galaxy clusters.


    Quote Originally Posted by thalassa View Post
    Basically, what I am saying (to borrow some ideas from Kant) is that there are noumena and phenomena--(this is simplified in a way that probably takes away from the Kantian idea, but) noumena are things-in-and-of-themselves independent of human perception, while phenomena are our observations/perceptions of those noumena. We (humans in general, but also philosophers specifically) "know" (because we have experiences in perception...philosophy=the place where good words go to die ) that phenomena exists, we argue about whether or not there really is a noumena (I think, yes, there is an objective reality, whether or not we can perceive it).

    I agree. But in terms of the quantitative sciences we have mathematics. Its an extremely powerful tool to model reality, it really gives us quite a deep insight. And we also see beauty manifest in the equations we derive, just reinforcing the beauty we see in nature. Dirac in particular is famous for talking about the beauty of mathematics.

    Quote Originally Posted by thalassa View Post
    Where religion goes is to the place where phenomena exists that may or may not be in concert with (And may actually be indirect conflict with) noumena. Most (non-philosophers) people (in my experience and observation...in my phenomenon?), if you got into the conversation about it (and generally explained the terms since most people are not familiar with them being used in this manner (for phenomenon--from here on, lets just call it P) or at all (for noumena--we'll call it N)) fall into two camps. Grossly generalized and put into mathematical shorthand, people tend to think that P≈N or that P≈∞, N=0...and that these are the total of their experiences, period.

    OK, makes sense. It's funny though, whenever you you said P or N i couldn't help but think of yin and yang.



    Quote Originally Posted by thalassa View Post
    (but not really infinite, since it has a start point)
    It would still be infinite: the set of real numbers both has a starting point and is infinite. But there are different sizes of infinity.


    Quote Originally Posted by thalassa View Post
    Well, considering there are Pagan atheists and non-theists that still do ritual, etc., maybe not much. But, from a polytheistic standpoint, the only difference between an atheist and a monotheist is one god... I was raised in a Christian denomination (though a liberal one), their god has certain traits, among these, omniscience, omnipotent, omnipresent, transcendent, infinite, etc.); polytheistic deities aren't (unless one has a soft polytheist or monist perspective).

    If you think of divinity like the internet, each website is an independent deity. To a soft polytheist, all the websites are gods but are also aspects of an overarching internet god...from this perspective, while individual gods can live and die and be killed, and they have areas where they have more power or less, or specialization, etc., the internet itself has the same attributes as the god of Abraham. To a hard polytheist, there is no overarching internet god, there are just many gods, each with its own perspective. So, for me, I mainly worship Seshat, Sedna, Psamathe, Spartina, as well as a few others.
    I was unaware of the terminology hard/soft polytheism, thanks. So Hinduism would be soft polytheism as the many gods are but particular manifestations of Brahman? Like the website analogy.

    I guess the question i mean to ask is whether you believe god(s) created man, man created god, or whether they came into being almost together.
    Last edited by thalassa; 21 Sep 2018 at 06:38.

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