Monday, February 27, 2006

A Stupendous Example of Doublethink

After reading and re-reading this post at The Poorman to make sure that I'm not missing something, I've come to the conclusion that it really does say what I thought it said the first time I read it. This is either an example of truly bad reasoning or willful myopia or, god, I don't know what. It starts off reasonably enough as a disagreement with P.Z. Meyers about the utility of recognizing religion. Sifu Tweety appears to support the contention that religion is irrational and is the result of selective pressures, a good and useful analysis. The argument is that, rather than disregarding religion entirely, we should seek to understand its evolutionary wellsprings and the resulting need for religious authority. Fine and dandy. But then the discussion veers off in a quote about seeing a choir in church and numinous experiences at Burning Man. How can a person who, just sentences above, talked about religion being the process of selection, possibly treat these experiences in a positive manner? The cognitive dissonance should have caused their head to explode. If religion is, fundamentally, a result of biological hardwiring, then when you're out at Burning Man you're experiencing the equivalent of eating 25 pounds of chocolate. The sense of unity or the spiritual or whatever is nothing more than neurotransmitters bouncing around in your head. You're not communing with something greater than yourself, you're getting high. That's not to say that this particular version of getting high doesn't have characteristics which make it different from other types of getting high. Nor does this criticism mean that there's no value to this specific mode of getting high. We can acknowledge its value without needing to cloak it in religious garb. Decloak it, study it rationally, and then put it a bottle for all of us to enjoy. But for god's sake don't conflate it with some kind of transcendent, supernatural experience.


Anonymous Sifu Tweety said...

Getting high is fun.

It can be quite stupendously, supernaturally transcendental.

As humans, we jones for it.

As Democrats, we can't ignore that.

So dissonant?

(Sorry to get to this so late after the fact. Technorati can suck a nut)

5:05 PM  
Blogger GG said...

No worries about the late reply, I'm just glad that I'm not mumbling to myself in the dark.

Agreed in regards to fun and jonesing.

Dissonant as follows, first in your own words:

"[M]y current sense is that we are evolutionarily wired to accept religion as a historically useful, prototypical hierarchy."

My read on this is that you think we're evolutionarily hardwired with a desire for religious authority. Maybe I over-extrapolated, but it seems to me that the natural implication of this is that religion is a man-made construct and doesn't actually refer to anything "out there". I also interpreted the above statement as a rejection of the supernatural on your part.

Hence my comment on dissonance. Getting high may feel "supernatural", but what's actually happening is purely biochemical in nature. Ditto listening to the choir in church, etc. If its only biochemistry then we should refrain from characterizing the experience in other than mechanistic terms.

Its like ecstasy. Sure, you may love everyone, and may feel like you're all joined to each other etc. etc. etc. But there's no need to invoke a spiritual dimension when a simpler explanation is that you're feeling what you're feeling because E makes you more emotionally receptive.

Your take on the above?

2:43 PM  

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