Re: Dealbreaker?

1

'Cuz unlike Christianity and most other religions, astrology makes predictions that are testable and are reliably proven false. Thus, anyone subscribing to it, especially a practitioner, must either be willfully blind, patently dishonest, or irrational in a way that's singularly unattractive.

Just a guess.


Posted by: Chopper | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:00 AM
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Yeah, astrology's definitely a dealbreaker for me. If he doesn't actually believe the crap though, but sees how he can use it to both make a buck and do some interesting "unlicensed therapy", then for me it would still say something a little bad about his character, but I would still consider dating such a person. (Were they female.)


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:03 AM
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especially a practitioner

Someone who charges for astrology readings is not only willfully blind and/or patently dishonest, but also a charlatan. (This from somebody who used to charge for Tarot readings -- I can only plead that I was young, only did it for a short while, and was not particularly successful as a con artist.)


Posted by: The Modesto Kid | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:05 AM
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I think he does believe in it. I didn't quote the rest where he said it was one of his "passions" (along with screenwriting.)


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:07 AM
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And it's cloaked in faux-rationalism. The whole 'charting', complex mathematical calculations of where your planets are in relation to each other, 'influences' and other bullshit is a structure of intellectual intimidation: you aren't allowed to dismiss it because you don't understand it and it's complicated and hard. (By contrast, a religious person isn't pulling that intimidation card -- they're just claiming to know some simple facts you don't.)

Believing in astrology is evidence of contempt for rationality, or of a willingness to abuse it, that being religious isn't. (And it's really, really freaky how many people will talk respectfully about astrology. I never know what to do when the conversation turns that way -- I usually end up making self-deprecatory grumpy noises, but not saying what I really think with the force that I think it.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:08 AM
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A non reader, AND an astrologer, AND a screenwriter.

LOSER.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:09 AM
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I have the same disrespect for astrology, for all the reasons given by comments 1 though 3. But I think also astrology is a deal-breaker because I associate it with the yucky side of the 1970s, with things such as est and macrame.


Posted by: dagger aleph | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:09 AM
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No, no, Graham is the non-reader. I don't know whether or not this guy reads.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:10 AM
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Ok, quick recalculation.

Reads fucking astrology + astrology is a "passion" + screenwriter ...carry the 5...

LOSER


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:14 AM
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Those sound good; and perhaps, unlike religious beliefs you disagree with, astrology is unserious. A coherent world view formed by one of the major world religions could still be interesting and rewarding; astrology, I don't think so.

Religions have also produced a lot more good (also bad) stuff than astrology has; I think if you look at history of science astrology is important in the development of astronomy, but maybe more as a spur to research than anything else, and anyway current astrologers don't get to pimp off that. And here's a thought experiment for you; I bet I would be much more sympathetic to someone who took astrology seriously if they came from a culture in which that was widespread. (Biodata!) Though if someone actually refused to marry someone over incompatible stars I might have to punch him.

[On preview: In short, what ćaleph said.)


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:14 AM
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Believing in astrology is evidence of contempt for rationality, or of a willingness to abuse it, that being religious isn't.

Umm, how, exactly, is that different from religion?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:15 AM
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Someone who charges for astrology readings is not only willfully blind and/or patently dishonest, but also a charlatan. (This from somebody who used to charge for Tarot readings -- I can only plead that I was young, only did it for a short while, and was not particularly successful as a con artist.)

I had a job in college working in a store that sold geological specimens and semi-precious jewelry. It had pre-existed the crystals craze as a store that just sold pretty stuff, but by the time I worked there the clientele was there for crystals as magic, and we were expected to prescribe. I got into it; I do enjoy recreational lying, and it seemed pretty harmless ("Dude, have you been having issues at work? Because this piece of smoky quartz totally resonated when you came in.")

I quit after one day when a woman came in and asked what was good for mind and brain problems. I told her that amethyst resonated with the third eye chakra, and would focus cleansing energies in the mind and brain, and sold her a three hundred dollar chunk of uncut amethyst in its matrix. As I was wrapping it, she told me that she was going to give it to a friend with brain cancer, and all I could think was "Lady, your friend has brain cancer. Why are you wasting her time and bothering her with this bullshit?" So I quit.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:16 AM
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Can anyone take a stab at articulating why I might be reacting this way?

Maybe it was just in the stars that you'd react that way.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:17 AM
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It's more irrational because he presumably didn't grow up in an astrologer household, with his parents doing his chart for him every Sunday. Religion may seem equally irrational but it offers a belief system, sense of community, a place to help explore ethics and morality, etc. Astrology is something people get involved with because they are flakes with poor critical thinking who want to transfer responsibility for their lives to Uranus.


Posted by: schmagittarius | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:21 AM
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Or, perhaps, let me be more specific. I view astrology as a parlor game. Not at all useful for making decisions about anything, but a diverting pastime. Like anything else, taking it too seriously makes one look silly, but not dangerous. Just annoying.

However, what it purports to reveal is not any less serious than religion. I don't say this to offend any of the religious folks here; believe whatever works for you. I've already laid out devout anything as a dealbreaker for me (also Capricorns, but that was being lighthearted), so I see nothing untoward about astrology as a "passion" being one also.

But the idea that it's somehow less reputable or more silly than any of the major religions? Nuh uh. It's all crystal-gazing, baby.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:23 AM
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Enjoy Hell, apostro-tate.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:26 AM
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Hey this is a good thread for me to ask a question that's been bugging me all week. I spent last week visiting my parents. My mom is training to be a homeopathic therapist and that's just about all she talks about, prescribing people remedies as fast as they can complain about their aches, pains and psychological problems. (Faster really -- she does not need the actual presence of a complaint to spring into action, just the hint that some complaint might be present.)

So okay, I found that annoying and am prepared to write homeopathy (of which I know little) off as superstition. But what about my daughter? Sylvia suffers from an allergy to insect bites which my mom thought might be susceptible to homeopathic therapy. Reckon we should probably try it out -- what do we have to lose? -- but if it works I will be on uneasy epistomological territory.


Posted by: The Modesto Kid | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:31 AM
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epistomological

Ewwww.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:33 AM
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(1) Homeopathy is harmless -- homeopathically diluted medicines are water. (Although you do sometimes see herbal remedies, which can, depending on what they are, have effects both good and bad, labelled as 'homeopathic'. Those can possibly be harmful. But so long as your mother is giving Sylvia 10x diluted whatever, it won't do her any harm at all.)

(2) Don't worry about it. Most health problems get better, and particularly allergies to insect bites often go away as a kid gets older. If Sylvia's allergy improves, you can be kind to your mother by giving her the credit, but you don't have to believe anything at all about homeopathy.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:36 AM
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#1: I dunno, Chopper. here's a testable hypothesis in Christianity:

And he said unto them ‘Verily I say unto you, there be some here of them that stand by, which shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God come with power.’ (Mark 9,1)

Predictive assertion by Jesus (H Tapdancing) Christ, circa 33 a.d. I suggest this could be plausibly said to have failed by now.

OTOH, I can sympathise with Tia not writing off Christians as dating material, because most of them, including the leaders of the major denominations, don't actually believe a word of this shit and are quite comfortable with that. Astrologers, by contrast, tend IME to be like the ID nuts, changing their rationale every time they lose an argument. It's tiring and irritating.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:37 AM
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Dealbreaker.


Posted by: Joe Drymala | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:38 AM
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I suggest this could be plausibly said to have failed by now.

Aha! You forget the Wandering Jew!


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:39 AM
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Yeah, what LB said. The dilutions are so extreme that basically there's nothing left of the original "medicine" That's actually what helped homeopathy's popularity in the 1800's, it was less harmful than many other mainstream practices.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:39 AM
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here's a testable hypothesis in Christianity

Not to mention every miracle in the Book.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:44 AM
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OMG, am I the only person here who knows plenty of people who "believe" astrology and homeopathy and the like, and who thinks they're kind of confused, but perfectly nice people anyway? Please, someone, tell me that I'm not the most tolerant person in the room, or my entire self-image will crumble.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:46 AM
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most of them, including the leaders of the major denominations, don't actually believe a word of this shit

This has not been my experience at all, but given that you're OneFatEnglishman and I'm OneFatSoutherner, there may be regional differences at play.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:47 AM
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How are those testable? The story is 'Miracle happened when (Jesus, some other saint) was there. It wouldn't have happened without that.' Without Jesus or some other saint in your presence and cooperating, I don't see how to test it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:47 AM
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If you want to hear some funny shit, get her talking about "Constitutional Types" It's good stuff.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:48 AM
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Dealbreaker. I suspect that someone who described himself as a committed, passionate evangelical would be off your list, too; it's the intensity of the belief, not just its existence, that would be a problem.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:49 AM
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25: See my parenthetical comment in 5. I know people like that (I actually had a law-school friend who was a serious astrology/Tarot person. I was polite about it, and felt bad about being polite.) I just think that they are very, very silly, and am ashamed on their behalf. And then I try to put it out of my mind when they aren't talking about it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:49 AM
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25: That's pretty much how I approach astrology and religion, B. Also frat boys and people who can't stop chalking everything up to the patriarchy.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:50 AM
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25 - I have friends who believe stuff like that but that doesn't mean I'd date them. Something like that in a friend can be papered over as "charmingly quirky" if they have other virtues. In someone I'm dating, no. Dealbreaker.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:51 AM
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Well, the leaders are one thing. But the followers? Another. I think any full adult regularly attending church and professing belief is going to be too religious for my taste. If they don't attend but profess, maybe. If they attend but don't profess, maybe.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:52 AM
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I totally blame the patriarchy for having taught us all to cynically reject astrology and other old wive's tales as nonsense. Solidarity with the midwives and witches!


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:55 AM
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Apo @26, I'm sure you're right. I had in mind people like Ratzinger and Williams, who probably don't resonate that much in your part of the world. OTOH, Falwell is a laughing stock everywhere outside the borders of the United States, to the limited extent that anybody's heard of him, so therein lies your regional difference.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:55 AM
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I have friends who believe stuff like that but that doesn't mean I'd date them. Something like that in a friend can be papered over as "charmingly quirky" if they have other virtues.

It's pretty hard to get past, even if they've got the perkiest, most perfectly formed virtues I've ever seen.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:56 AM
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WitchPhD is burned!


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:56 AM
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If this guy is fun, why do you care what (non-illegal) thing he does?


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:59 AM
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"It's pretty hard to get past, even if they've got the perkiest, most perfectly formed virtues I've ever seen."

I think it's very possible to have sympathy for religious people. It takes a certain kind of education and experience to be able to realize what kind of evidence is necessary to really validate those kinds of beliefs, and how that evidence doesn't exist, and how the evidence that they think validates those beliefs isn't good evidence. That kind of education isn't very easy to come by.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:59 AM
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I once made one of my roommate's dates cry by casually calling her belief in astrology and UFOs "bullshit."

It can sometimes just be difficult being around patently irrational people.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:01 AM
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made one of my roommate's dates cry

Seems like if you were going to hold such beliefs, you'd be used to hearing them dismissed as bullshit and have developed some thick skin about it.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:05 AM
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LB @30 has it about right. My brother in law is a Christian, tendence Rowan Williams, and the only difference it makes is that he knows what to do at funerals without being told. To be honest his obsession with early 70s prog rock is far more of a problem. But Tia is talking about a guy who draws star charts for a bloody living - what's his conversation going to be like, not to mention his sex life: "Sorry, not tonight, Mars is in opposition to Venus". Blech.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:09 AM
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Homeopathy is harmless

Not if it's used as a substitute for actual medicine.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:12 AM
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To be honest his obsession with early 70s prog rock is far more of a problem.

That's not a non-trivial problem.


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:15 AM
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12: See, you'll be valuable to the resistance when the fascist takeover is complete. I was just saying this weekend, prompted by Army of Shadows, that when the brownshirts are marching past the Washington Square Arch, I'm going to be utterly useless. There was this character, Mathilde, who was endlessly praised as "methodical," and "organized," and I realized I'd be all, "wait, was the signal three long and one short or three short and one long?" "Where the fuck did I put my cyanide caplets?" "Uh, you want me to jump out of a plane?" Plus, I giggle when I lie. I haven't thought of anything I could do besides stay at headquarters and pass stuff out.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:15 AM
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42: Over the years I've known a few people who were heavily into astrology.

They didn't really use it as a way to predict the future or as guidelines for micro-managing their daily decisions. They used it to explain an individual's personality, i.e., to explain why they had the character traits they did. Astrology is kind of like sitting around with the DSM-IV and diagnosing your friends with mental disorders, and only marginally less scientific.


Posted by: dagger aleph | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:17 AM
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That's not a non-trivial problem.

I'm not sure I misunderstand.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:19 AM
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I meant 39 to apply to all manner of irrational beliefs, not just religious beliefs.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:21 AM
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Astrology is kind of like sitting around with the DSM-IV and diagnosing your friends with mental disorders, and only marginally less scientific.

That sounds like good fun to me.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:23 AM
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sitting around with the DSM-IV and diagnosing your friends with mental disorders, and only marginally less scientific.

Which is a totally fun parlor game.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:24 AM
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Crap, Tia-pwned.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:26 AM
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Jinx personal jinx 1-2-3 no takebacks!


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:26 AM
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Bitchphd, bitchphd, bitchphd.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:27 AM
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Sweet! What's the group's consensus on my particular personality disorder? If it helps any, I'm Sagittarius with Gemini rising, so OCD is pretty much off the plate from the get-go.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:27 AM
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Clearly, Tia, you are obsessive-compulsive.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:27 AM
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That was weird.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:28 AM
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What was weird?


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:31 AM
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Gemini is rising, which means that there will be lots of doublings and synchronous occurences this month.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:32 AM
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Please, someone, tell me that I'm not the most tolerant person in the room

I know lots of people who are into astrology. A lot of gay and lesbian people like it: religionesque thing that they can use as psychological comfort/explanation tool, as opposed to unforgiving, gay-hating religion of their birth. So in that sense, seems all right.


Posted by: ac | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:32 AM
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25

Right now I have a lot of friends who are into a wide variety of alternative medical practices, including some people who (shudder) refuse vaccination. I'm actually in a very complicated position w/r/t them and their beliefs, because I also have an ongoing critique of the medical establishment, but I also know superstition when I see it.

My friend Rainbow once gave me some literature on doctors over prescribing antibiotics, saying essentially, “we are on the same side on this issue, right?” I think that’s a good illustration of the level of tolerance we have. On the other hand, I am totally prepared to tell anyone who refuses to vaccinate their children that they are free-ridding on everyone else’s immunity.

(Yes, I have a friend named Rainbow. Her full name is Rainbow Love [redacted], and her children are Autumn and Dharma.)


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:38 AM
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I would like to add, very late in this conversation, that when I was dating on Nerve, it always seemed wisest to trust my instincts. The first guy I went out with was a reader and had a cute picture of him making some girl laugh out in a street. He was a terrible speller. I kept saying, "AWB, down, girl! Just because he can't spell doesn't mean he's a bad person!" Besides, he had some hard authors in his favs list. Maybe he was dyslexic or something. But the bad spelling kept coming, in more embarrassing ways.

We met for the longest 30-minute date I've ever been on. "So, uh, I was thinking we could buy a bottle of hooch and drink it out of a bag on a bench. Feeling adventurous?" Uh, no. "You know, I guess I like books, but, like, I really hate it when the ending is sad, so I make sure to never finish them." Uh, no. "My dad is a prof at your school. You should totally work with him." Uh, no. "Let's go to Welcome to the Johnsons' for $2 Rheingolds!" Uh, no. I skedaddled as fast as my legs would carry me.

And I never went out with someone I got a bad feeling about again. We're not talking about college admissions here. This is your companionship. Be picky.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:39 AM
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Heterosexual guy into astrology, different story.

I'm told all the time that I am so very, very scorpio.


Posted by: ac | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:39 AM
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Should I have posted someone's full, real name to this forum? Can it be deleted?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:40 AM
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Maybe Tia can put slashes in it for you.


Posted by: ac | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:42 AM
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What do you want deleted? Just the last name?


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:42 AM
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I redacted her last name, Rob. Is that sufficient?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:43 AM
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that looks good. Thanks.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:44 AM
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What was weird?

The OCD comments coming simultaneously. It's like it was written in the stars.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:48 AM
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Tia, do you feel the need to be open and forgiving of the personality traits of those you feel guilty about feeling are inferior in some way to you? This post and the one about your movie date seem to have that in common.

It's true that dating puts you in a lot of situations with people who might not be as smart or as well-informed as you. But wouldn't those people be better off dating someone who doesn't have to "tolerate" them?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:59 AM
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And he said unto them ‘Verily I say unto you, there be some here of them that stand by, which shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God come with power.’ (Mark 9,1)

Predictive assertion by Jesus (H Tapdancing) Christ, circa 33 a.d. I suggest this could be plausibly said to have failed by now.

Not so. To "taste of death" means to eat meat or other dead things. Some of Jesus's followers became breatharians and pledged to wait until the end times before they would ever again dive into a plate of ribs.


Posted by: My Alter Ego | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:01 AM
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BTW, I totally didn't mean that in a "Tia, you're so condescending!" way. I meant that as someone who has been the tolerating one (and felt it did the partner no good) and the tolerated one (which made me feel like shit).


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:03 AM
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I don't feel guilty, AWB. It's more that I don't want to accidentally screen out someone cool. But I'm perfectly comfortable believing that scads of men are unworthy of my attention.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:03 AM
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Also, I thought posing a question about the difference between astrology and religion would start a good discussion thread. I'm not that conflicted about it.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:05 AM
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Of course it's total bull, but I had plenty of fun doing charts for friends many many years ago. And in the pre-personal-computer age, it was an interesting math exercise to get all the positions of the planets right, make adjustments for latitude, and all the rest.

Didn't interfere with my dating life, but it was another time . . . (although my repeated disclaimers that it was obviously complete bull probably mitigated the 'passion' effect).


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:09 AM
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I guess it's my hangup then. As a teacher, I always feel guilty about disliking the stupid students, and I think it transferred to my dating life.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:11 AM
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Now that this thread has safely wandered off-topic (phew!), I'm solliciting feedback on a slight redesign at my blog. Obviously, it still looks like a generic blogspot site (how does one get rid of that stupid Blogger header?), but, um, does it suck more or less now?


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:12 AM
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What's with the big gap in between the columns? I'm using firefox.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:13 AM
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73: The major difference between astrology and religion is that astrology doesn't have a set of rules for personal behavior associated with it. An astrologer qua astrologer will not tell you fornication is wrong.

Also: Schmagittarius's comment at #14.


Posted by: dagger aleph | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:14 AM
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That was kinda on purpose, Tia; the thought-process was something like: "ah, it will be airier!" Does it just look dumb?


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:15 AM
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60 - I know a guy (not particularly well, through work) whose given name is Rainbow. Cool, until you think about the amount of time he must spend dealing with that on a daily basis...


Posted by: mike d | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:15 AM
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I really don't like it. There's a space right where my eye starts to look for text.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:16 AM
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"So, uh, I was thinking we could buy a bottle of hooch and drink it out of a bag on a bench. Feeling adventurous?" Uh, no.

How come? That can be fun.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:16 AM
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What Tia said about the column layout, and about what browser I'm using. I like the fact that you changed your comment page to look more like a normal comments page, with the "post a comment" box at the bottom.


Posted by: The Modesto Kid | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:16 AM
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I vaguely remember a DF Wallace essay on LA in which he meets two men in one day both named "Balloon."


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:18 AM
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Thanks, guys. [Goes back to tinkering.]


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:20 AM
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"So, uh, I was thinking we could buy a bottle of hooch and drink it out of a bag on a bench. Feeling adventurous?" Uh, no.

How come? That can be fun.

I agree, given the right delivery.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:21 AM
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82 - Not a good way to start a first date with a complete stranger. His justification was that it would be a way-cheap way to get totally wasted.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:21 AM
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79 -- It makes it look like there should be an equal amount of content in the two columns, when in fact there is much more in the right-hand, so the left-hand comes up short. If you allocated less space to the left-hand column it would look like it had sufficient information in it.


Posted by: The Modesto Kid | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:21 AM
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I went to school with a girl named Fleur-de-Lis.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:22 AM
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76 - I'm having a little trouble reading the text with the background color that dark, but that could just be me.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:23 AM
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89: Yikes. I attended the same high school as a girl named (I kid you not) Happy Hussey, though she was there during my younger brother's tenure rather than mine.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:28 AM
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81: There's a space right where my eye starts to look for text.

He went to Nashville, remember?


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:28 AM
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There was an apparently serious commenter on some baby naming usenet group (that I'm aware of through an "isn't that hilarious" type digest) who wanted to name her boy Toolie DeSac.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:31 AM
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One more vote against the big gap; it looks as if something went wrong.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:32 AM
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Sorry, it was actually "Toolio DeSac".


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:51 AM
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Fixed both problems, I think...


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:52 AM
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I woke up suddenly and irrevocably at 5am, hence the site tinkering and the total lack of perspective on that tinkering. Anyway, I appreciate the feedback, and you guys are welcome to continue or not as you desire.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:54 AM
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I like the new background and link colors.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 11:09 AM
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w00t! Now, as they say, I need more cowbell.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 11:13 AM
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Umm...

100?


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 12:34 PM
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As a practicing Christian who probably ressembles OneFatEnglishman's brother-in-law (Hell, we pray for Rowan Williams every week) I don't really appreciate everyone's equation of relgion with atrology. I also don't feel like arguing the point right now. This is the sort of thing that ogged (health be upon him) was good at discussing.

I don't think that I could date an astrology person either, but hw does this rank in your hierarchy of deal-breakers. I, for example, consider Scientology to be a much worse sin. I suspect that this stems from my belief that Scientology actively harms people whereas I don't know that astrology does. Relying on astrology to plan your life could be dangerous, but learning how to chart your stars doesn't seem so awful. Getting audited as a Scientology initiate seems really dangerous psychologically. (I agree that a lot of religious people have done a lot of damaging things not least of which are scarring people psychologically--but it's often not as consciously manipulative as teh Scientology racket.)

In short, I'm not even sure that I could be friends with a Scientologist.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 1:22 PM
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One thing I've always wanted to ask a devout astrologer, but haven't had the opportunity lately, is: since the traditional 12-sign zodiac was invented in the Northern Hemisphere, does it still "work" in the Southern Hemisphere, where some of those constellations might not be visible, or might look different?


Posted by: sw | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 1:38 PM
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I don't really appreciate everyone's equation of relgion with atrology.

Just in the hopes of decreasing any bad feelings, check out comments 5 and 10. Not everyone did.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 1:38 PM
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89, 91, 93, 95: My mom once had a student named Tiziana DeHorney.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 1:43 PM
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LB, I did see those posts, and I appreciated them.

It does seem that peop;e who make fun of Christians don't have the same bone to pick with reasonably observant, cultural Jews. It may be because Judaism is an avowedly non-proselytizing religion.

I just wouldn't agree that my religioud belief was about claiming to knwo some simple facts that you don't. Discussion of facts in the context of religion seems to me to be beside the point.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 2:40 PM
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I was thinking of "God exists, Jesus was resurrected (or whatever your brand of theism calls for), etc." Describing your belief is facts of that nature as claimed knowledge may be off -- from an outsider's perspective, I'm not a believer because I don't know facts of that nature to be true. If I knew them to be true, I would be a believer.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 2:43 PM
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I would be a believer.

You and Davy Jones both.


Posted by: The Modesto Kid | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 2:46 PM
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Well, I mean, I guess what I would say is that Jesus's resurrection is only true in as much as one sees it and the possibility of renewal in the life of the church.

I guess what I'm saying is that you could tell me that the whole thing was a myth (although clearly some of the figures in the New Testament were historical creatures) and that God was just a metaphor, and I'd say, "so what? That doesn't mean it isn't true."


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 2:50 PM
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But there are certainly Christians who would get very angry if you told them that.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 2:52 PM
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I don't really appreciate everyone's equation of relgion with atrology

And folks deep into astrology probably don't appreciate being equated with Catholicism, and Baptists probably don't appreciated being equated with Mormons, yadda yadda yadda. As I said, I'm not out to offend anybody here, though I was pretty certain it would happen nonetheless. However, every faith-based belief system looks absurd to those standing outside it, and attempts to rank them according to legitimacy look equally absurd.

Shrug.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 2:55 PM
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Hey, the Mormons were staying out of this!


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 2:57 PM
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I guess what I'm saying is that you could tell me that the whole thing was a myth [...] and that God was just a metaphor, and I'd say, "so what? That doesn't mean it isn't true."

See, I don't grasp how that's any different from the adherents of astrology.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 2:58 PM
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...which, from my limited reading, is all about myths and metaphors.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 2:59 PM
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Exactly. I reiterate 34.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 3:03 PM
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every faith-based belief system looks absurd to those standing outside it

See, what you need is a ritual-based religion reflexively followed by cynical atheists. But where would we find such a thing?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 3:05 PM
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The mall?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 3:14 PM
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I think some different standards of truth might be at work here. Some are applying Enlightenment standards of what is true--that which can be empirically proven through science--to a document that pre-dates the Enlightenment. While some Christians do the same thing, not all Christians hold the Bible up to a standard of literal, empirical truth. Among lefty types, there seems to be this idea that metaphorically minded Christians are somehow less *Christian* than the ones who would take the Bible literally, and this seems to be behind some of the blanket assessments of Christianity. (It is entirely possible that I'm wrong about this last statement.) I would argue that metaphorically minded Christians are actually respecting the pre-Enlightenment standards of truth that the folks who wrote the Bible operated under.


Posted by: anon | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 3:15 PM
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I'm not really in much mood for a fight, but I do think one could rank beliefs in terms of coherence, and on that I think I could argue that some forms of Christianity are more rational than astrology, at least for reasons similar to LB's 5.

Even if you think it's all delusion, certainly delusion admits of degrees.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 3:22 PM
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I know a-theistic Christians, but they're generally not cynical.

apo, you didn't offend me. I just disagree, and it's not really worth arguing about, since neither of us will ever convince the other of his/her point of view. I never said that I was offended; I said that I didn't particularly appreciate the comments. At a minimum, I was saying that I couldn't endorse them.

I'm not fully in the myth/metaphor camp, although many people whom I respect are.

I guess that I would have to say that the texts of the great religions have great stories and are often beautifully written. The Song of Solomon is wonderful poetry, people.

I don't know of any astrology texts used by contemporay astrologers that could be described as beautiful or sublime. That alone seems to be a big enough difference.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 3:22 PM
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See, what you need is a ritual-based religion reflexively followed by cynical atheists. But where would we find such a thing?

Unitarians? I mean, they're idealistic atheists, but close enough.

117: Two things. First, I would argue with your sweeping claim that pre-Enlightenment standards of truth were different. While there was certainly a greater belief in the supernatural in earlier centuries than now, I don't believe it's defensible to say that before the Enlightenment that people generally did not distinguish between true and 'metaphorically true'.

Second, you sound like the sort of person who may comment here repeatedly. Could you pick a handle? I hate guessing if 'anon' is the same 'anon' who was here last week.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 3:23 PM
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I like the Book of Job: 'Did you tame the fucking Leviathan? Didja? No? Biotch!'

But said all pretty-like.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 3:24 PM
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Also, what anon said in 117.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 3:25 PM
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The Song of Solomon is wonderful poetry, people.

Dirty, too. Job is indeed awesome, as is Jonah.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 3:27 PM
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distinguish between true and 'metaphorically true'.

I still maintain that "true" includes "metaphorically true"--e.g., "there is much truth in the Bible" or "Anna Karenina really speaks to the truth of human experience"--and that what people mean when they talk about non-metaphorical truth is "fact," or "literal truth."


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 3:34 PM
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"However, every faith-based belief system looks absurd to those standing outside it, and attempts to rank them according to legitimacy look equally absurd."

I think that absurdity is rankable. More relevantly, I think the damage to one's rationality that adherence to a certain set of beliefs causes is rankable. A smart, rational person who happens to believe in astrology might be talked out of it with a bit of effort. A Scientologist, not so much.

"I guess what I'm saying is that you could tell me that the whole thing was a myth [...] and I'd say, "so what? That doesn't mean it isn't true."

And then I'd say, "What's true? How do you know?" What I'm asking is, do you hold religious truth to a lower standard than normal truth? This is the core complaint that rationalists have with mostly-reasonable religious people, I would tentatively assert.

It's certainly my core complaint with many astrologists. They don't believe in astrology enough to put their life on it, or even a serious amount of money, but they're not willing to admit that it's any less true. They think "truth" is just how something makes you feel, even though they have an intuitive understanding that "truth" is correspondence with reality. Or something. I'm not explaining very well.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 3:36 PM
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Me too. We've a lot of believers here, just not literal believers.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 3:38 PM
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Didn't we just have this conversation, in the ensoulment thread? I'm on apo's side, but that may just be because I'm a cynical atheist.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 3:42 PM
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To expand, if you say, "oh, the Bible contains metaphorical truth", then you're probably verifying that it's true using some extra-religious standard, which means that it's true in the same sense anything else is, and that you're just using the Bible as a parable to remind you of what you already believe, or something like that. But a single assertion can't be both true and not true.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 3:44 PM
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I'm less cynical, I think, then apo, but I'm with the both of you on not understanding the 'metaphorically true' thing. I just can't see how anything that was only metaphorically true, rather than, you know, true in the sense of corresponding to reality, could be all that important.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 3:45 PM
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I can see how it could have value as a parable or something (much like fiction, as B mentioned above), but what I don't see is how one kind of metaphorical truth (say, religion) is more true than another kind (say, astrology).


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 3:50 PM
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Haven't read this whole thread, so I apologize if I am reiterating something someone already said, but I do agree with the notion that you can rank absurdity. Though some mainstream religions may believe things that appear absurd to the outside observer (e.g. transubstantiation), the things they prescribe you to do are, in most cases, pretty sensible. Love your neighbor, don't kill people, don't steal, be honest, give to the poor, etc. A lot of us atheists end up using a decision-making process not totally unlike Catholics, or Jews, or Muslims, or whatever. The reason astrology is more absurd is because the decision-making process it prescribes doesn't seem sensible. Buy things on this date, don't travel when Uranus is in retrograde, or whatever-the-fuck (totally making this up). That seems a lot more nonsensical a decision-making process, than, say, the golden rule.

Of course, believing in God is probably as objectively absurd as believing in the stars, but these types of belief differ greatly in the absurdity of what they tell you to do, rather than to believe.


Posted by: silvana | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 3:52 PM
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"To expand, if you say, "oh, the Bible contains metaphorical truth", then you're probably verifying that it's true"

By "it" I mean, the intended literal truth or truths behind the metaphor. An interpretation of the metaphor that leads to something you wouldn't agree with is dismissed as "the wrong interpretation".


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 3:58 PM
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Crap, for once the error message really was an error message.

I don't see how you can dismiss metaphorical truth if you find fiction moving or meaningful. And I think I'd say, offhand, that one measure of the quality of a metaphor is its ability to sustain interpretation without being exhausted; another would be the simple "stands the test of time" criteron, which is a rough measure of a things' ability to speak to and/or influence a lot of people. Although of course, in the case of religion, one has to temper that argument somewhat because, like all canonical texts (but more so), religious texts have a lot more behind their success than simply people finding them meaningful.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 4:01 PM
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silvana,

I agree that belief sets can be ranked on the rationality of the prescribed behavior, but my comment was saying that belief sets can be ranked by their inherent absurdity. Roughly, by the number of distinct internal contradictions and conflicts with reality. (I'm not sure if it's possible to draw a clear line between a certain belief's conflict with reality and the behavior prescribed by the belief's conflict with reality.)


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 4:07 PM
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"An interpretation of the metaphor that leads to something you wouldn't agree with is dismissed as "the wrong interpretation"."

And by that, I mean that there is no way to rank interpretations of a metaphor by validity, where validity is not related to the literal truth of that interpretation. So your only criterion for the validity of a particular intepretation of the metaphor is the independent truth of that interpretation.

By these lights, metaphors can be better considered as "creative sources for discovering new truths", but where you have to independently verify the truth of the conclusions you draw from them.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 4:13 PM
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I do not see why it is obvious that non-believers have to find belief absurd. I am a long-time athiest, but I do not view the beliefs of my Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist acquaintanaces as absurd. I just do not believe them. I am not an agnostic. I believe that there is no God. But I could be wrong. It is not absurd to believe in God or miracles or reincarnation or many of the other things I do not believe. They are just things I do not believe. For sure, part of the reason I do not believe them is that many of the details in many religions are hard to prove--created the Earth in 6 days? not so much evidence of that, etc. But still, I could be wrong, and I do not see why these people with whom I disagree are being absurd--there likely are many many more believers of one stripe or another than there are atheists. It takes a fairly high level of self-confidence to believe that all those believers are not only wrong, but absurdly wrong.

I think (as was aluded to at various points up-thread) that many people view astrology as absurd because most people (in my experience) who follow it in one way or another do not seem to take it seriously--it's an interesting amusement found on the comics page or with Ann Landers. I have never met someone who believed in astrology in the same way people believe in Christianity etc. If people really felt that way about it, I suspect that people, in general, would accord it the same respect as they show other religions (to the extent they are according respect to religion).


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 4:16 PM
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metaphors can be better considered as "creative sources for discovering new truths", but where you have to independently verify the truth of the conclusions you draw from them.

Hm. This seems reasonable to me.

But the whole ranking interpretations thing gets right at the central problem of literary criticism, no? The one the students always bring up? "If there's no right or wrong answer, then any interpretation is equally valid!" Only no, it's not.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 4:16 PM
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Well, toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. Mrs. Broadwater said when she was a child and received the host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the most portable person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. I then said, in a very shaky voice, Well, if it's a symbol, to hell with it.

Irrational beliefs will kick metaphorical beliefs' ass every time.


Posted by: Joe O | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 4:17 PM
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1 gets it exactly right.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 4:28 PM
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Buy things on this date, don't travel when Uranus is in retrograde

Once again, I'll step in to (half-heartedly) defend something to which I don't prescribe. My friends who are seriously into astrology—and I have a few—would equate what's described in the quote above with fundamentalism. Their take on it is that it doesn't predict the future, doesn't tell you what to do on X day, but provides a picture of grand themes/challenges of one's life. They would also say it's much more abstract painting than photography, IYKWIM. In other words, metaphorical truth.

Unlike Idealist, I am not an atheist; I'm an agnostic. I can't disprove a god any more than I can prove it. However, what seems more or less "rational" depends entirely on the cultural setting in which it sits. Beating yourself bloody with whips and chains seems godawful weird here, but not so much in Basra. Having your buddies nail you to a cross seems weird here, but not so much in Manila. Sacrificing your children to a disembodied voice seems weird here, but not so much in Abrahamic times, apparently.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 4:30 PM
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I am not an atheist; I'm an agnostic. I can't disprove a god any more than I can prove it.

Maybe I have used the terms incorrectly. I absolutely agree that I cannot disprove God any more than I can prove it. I believe that there is no God, just as a believer believes that there is one.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 4:37 PM
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"So your only criterion for the validity of a particular intepretation of the metaphor is the independent truth of that interpretation."

"'If there's no right or wrong answer, then any interpretation is equally valid!' Only no, it's not."

In light of your comment Bitch, I'll revise this a bit. You can rank interpretations of most metaphors, except the simplest, by their consistency with the metaphor itself. Some interpretations really do bring in more aspects of the work and the metaphor, and more consistently, than others do.

I'm not sure that interpretations consistent with an elaborate and beautiful metaphor, that are factually incorrect, can have any claim to truth, though.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 4:40 PM
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'Maybe I have used the terms incorrectly.'

No.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 4:41 PM
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"I am a long-time athiest, but I do not view the beliefs of my Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist acquaintanaces as absurd. I just do not believe them."

I don't believe those things are facially absurd, and I disagree with atheists who do. I believe the contradictions and errors are fairly subtle, even arguable, but ultimately, those beliefs reduce to absurdity. I only mean by "absurd" the same as one means in "reductio ad absurdum". I don't mean it to be an insult.

Now, some belief systems are worse than others.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 4:46 PM
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If by "prove", you mean "show that a purely rational intelligence would believe with a very high probability", then I think it's possible to disprove the existence of God.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 4:48 PM
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Could you demonstrate?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 5:15 PM
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I don't mean it to be an insult.

No, I don't either. I mean that things that require a measure of faith to accept as true will seem self-evidently untrue to those who don't approach it with that faith.

I think it's possible to disprove the existence of God

As we move toward acceptance of an 11-dimensional universe that humans can only perceive 3 or possibly 4 dimensions of, it's pretty difficult to rule much out definitively.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 5:16 PM
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I think it's possible to disprove the existence of God

Where are the damn epistemologists when we need them?

My (admittedly very thin) understanding is that the question of God's existence is beyond the phenomenal realm, that it's a question of something beyond the scope of rational human investigation, that it's a question of the noumenal, and therefore, by definition, unknowable.

Now: attack me for my simplicity!


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 5:19 PM
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In the "Discernment" thread linked to in the body of the post, I said, "OK, much worse than all of this religiosity or lack thereof talk, I cannot talk to (once it's brought up), let alone date, anyone who talks about astrology as if it's at all meaningful. I have in fact walked out of rooms in order to avoid insulting people I don't know to their faces when this comes up."

In that same thread, Apo called astrology a parlor game, as he does here. The mysteriously absent commenter Jeremy Osner contended that it was fine to "talk[] seriously" about astrology if stoned. My frequently pot-consuming roommate moved to Argentina for two months before he starts law school, so I haven't checked).

LB told that crystal story somewhere before, and I found it very sad that time too. Not that there's anything wrong with repeating it, it's an interesting and relevant story.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 5:27 PM
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The mysteriously absent commenter Jeremy Osner

As through transsubstantiation, he has become another commenter, yet remains Jeremy Osner. I cannot prove this, yet I believe it--as do many others.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 5:44 PM
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interpretations consistent with an elaborate and beautiful metaphor, that are factually incorrect, can have any claim to truth, though

Well, I'm not sure what you mean, so I'll waffle and say "it depends." So like, if one says that Hamlet's father's ghost is a metaphor for the weight of obligation, for Hamlet's own id, for the imperatives of primogeniture, or whatever, then obviousy that's not factually true in a literal sense, since Hamlet isn't a real person and therefore doesn't *have* a psychology. But you could say it's true in a broader sense of representing some kind of "facts" about human psychology, say. Then again, what if one argued, no, the ghost really *is* a ghost, and should be understood as such to make sense of the play; it's not true in the sense that ghosts don't exist, but it's surely true in the sense that it's true to the spirit of the play (say) if one came up with a strong reading based on it. No?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 5:48 PM
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mysteriously absent

I believe he's in M-d-st-, IYKWIM. No kidding.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 5:48 PM
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And yes, parts of the Bible are extremely beautifully written. Not so much the "begat" parts, but still.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 5:50 PM
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Where are the damn epistemologists when we need them?

Empirical research indicates:
1) Drunk
2) Wondering whether they have hands.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 5:51 PM
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The begat parts are boring as shit. But aren't they at least semi-factually true?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 5:52 PM
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Well, if you accept that the characters in the Bible are based on actual historical people... then probably still no. But that doesn't mean we can't still appreciate the begats for the insight they can give us into our own lives.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 5:55 PM
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154: Can they still get drunk if they don't have hands? What if they don't have straws either?


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 5:57 PM
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In the "Discernment" thread linked to in the body of the post, I said, "OK, much worse than all of this religiosity or lack thereof talk, I cannot talk to (once it's brought up), let alone date, anyone who talks about astrology as if it's at all meaningful. I have in fact walked out of rooms in order to avoid insulting people I don't know to their faces when this comes up."

In that same thread, Apo called astrology a parlor game, as he does here. The mysteriously absent commenter Jeremy Osner contended that it was fine to "talk[] seriously" about astrology if stoned. My frequently pot-consuming roommate moved to Argentina for two months before he starts law school, so I haven't checked).

LB told that crystal story somewhere before, and I found it very sad that time too. Not that there's anything wrong with repeating it, it's an interesting and relevant story.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 5:59 PM
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But that doesn't mean we can't still appreciate the begats for the insight they can give us into our own lives.

Such as that we also were begotten. And can beget. And that lists of things are almost always dull.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 6:13 PM
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But they also tell us who our ancestors were and who we should hate. (Well, they tell me, at least. Y'all can fend for yourselves.)


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 6:23 PM
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157: Somehow, they manage it. I think they manage it by refusing to consider the possibility that they don't have hands.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 6:23 PM
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Stupid double post.

153: Really?


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 6:34 PM
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"the question of God's existence is beyond the phenomenal realm"

To be more precise, I think the existence of the sort of god that would do the sort of things that many people ascribe to god can be disproven (in the probabilistic sense). For any significant role you can claim God to play in the universe, it can be disproven. Now, of course, one can't disprove a completely powerless and inconsequential god, any more than one can disprove the presence of an invisible, intangible dragon in my garage. (Didn't Professor Frink have something to say to this effect yesterday on the evolution trial episode of the Simpsons? I wish I could remember his exact words.)

The general outline of such a demonstration is the absence of any measureable effects from a supernatural entity, and Occam's Razor. Now, for every situation where we can ascertain that God has not acted in the physical world, we can exclude the class of God-beings that, had they existed, would have acted in that situations. The more situations we observe, the more types of possible Gods we can rule out.

A basic knowledge of biology, astronomy, cosmology, and physics serves to rule out a large number of specific claims about the nature and past acts of God believed by huge numbers of people.

Now, if you start having no belief one way or another, by observing different situations your belief in God should decrease over time. Since there's nothing that's strong positive evidence for the existence of God, there's nothing to counteract that effect. Incidentally, human reports of supernatural experiences (due to cognitive biases, and especially nth-hand ones, due to retelling effects, and ones where the practitioner has a financial interest in gaining others' belief) are extremely weak evidence.

Bitch,

<tangent> think that we can truthfully say "Hamlet has quality X", even if Hamlet only exists fictionally, because we're not asserting that Hamlet exists, even implicitly, since we're talking about fiction. Whereas, if I were talking about someone that I thought existed, but who didn't, I couldn't say "Mr. Fictional has quality X" truthfully.</tangent>

I'm not sure how the rest of your comment relates to mine. What I was trying to say was that, if a metaphor somehow implies an assertion that has to do with the real world somehow, it doesn't matter what the metaphor is, that assertion is true or false based on its accordance with reality. The prettiest and most profound metaphor in the world can't make it true if it's not true, not in any sense.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 6:48 PM
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A creator that does not actively intervene cannot be ruled out by any process of which I am aware.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 6:54 PM
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PDF, I can go along with that. And it's surely true, for me, that the liits of my supposed "faith" pretty much hinge on the question of whether religious truths are claiming to be factual representations of the real world, and to what extent.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 7:01 PM
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Damn, where's Op/helia Ben/son when you need her?


Posted by: The Modesto Kid | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 7:03 PM
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Is an intelligent process who started the Big Bang distinguishable from an unintelligent one? See, the differences at that point between metaphysical naturalism and whatever God belief you have are extremely small. Thus, it's kind of silly to care one way or another.

And as far as origins of the universe go, there are a bunch of multiverse theories, some of which have our universe being created by superintelligence in other universes, or simulated by the same. At this point the "god" terminology doesn't really remain that useful.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 7:59 PM
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Thus, it's kind of silly to care one way or another.

Word.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:15 PM
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Thus, it's kind of silly to care one way or another

Ding ding ding!


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:45 PM
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But I still say the method I outlined can disprove God's existence, because how many deists do you find around anymore? At least God the social construction. And God in any meaningful sense.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:49 PM
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But you can always retreat to belief in an undisprovable God who doesn't do anything and retain your nominal theism. I don't see why people have such a problem with this.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:52 PM
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In other words, the only kinds of God that method of proof would still allow for the existence of are exactly as interesting as the invisible pink elephant pleasuring apostropher ATM. And we rightly think crazy people who continue to assert the existince of such elephants. (We may forgive apostropher, perhaps, for such assertions.)


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:56 PM
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Part 4 in my serial comment:

And how is it any different with such an undisprovable God?


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:57 PM
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Part 5:

We can't really think crazy those sorts of theists, of course, because of the memetic reality of religion. People are susceptible to such beliefs. But the two cases compare in the rationality of the belief, if not the indication of sanity.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 8:59 PM
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The problem is this, pdf23ds. I don't particularly believe in an interventionist, attention-paying god because it assigns so much more importance to us than makes sense. But I've created an awful lot of things that I've abandoned or watched passively once it was done. Whether a creator is uninteresting to us is irrelevant to its existence. It's inherently unknowable, so not much worth staking a position on.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:04 PM
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What I think is that "God" is the name we have given to our sense that our creation, and the creation of life, is a good thing. Which is, from our pov, obviously true. Hence, I think god "exists," in the sense that we created him/it as an explanatory mechanism for something that, no matter what our scientific understanding is, we can't get past the *sense* of its having intentionality, that is, being "good," rather than merely a completely random and neutral accident.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:09 PM
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173: It isn't. My undisprovable God is exactly the kind of God still allowed by your proof. But it's still a God, and believing in it is still theism, so you haven't disproved the existence of God. And as apostropher points out, it doesn't matter if this kind of God is interesting or not; it could still exist (even though there's no positive evidence that it does).


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:10 PM
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I would say, it's inherently unknowable, and thus taking a position on it is irrational, a waste of time, and, in many cases, such as with many Christian aplogists, stupid. Believing in undisprovable strange creatures is an indication of insanity. Feeling the presence, and the need to believe in, various numinous entities is a fairly normal thing--evidence of strange artifacts of our neurology (with interesting speculation into evolutionary pressures). And also irrational and a waste of time.

Did you hear about that experiment where certain brain stimulation would make people feel a "oneness with the universe"? It was found that experienced meditators brains activated in the same way in normal meditation, IIRC. When the stimulation was attempted on Richard Dawkins, he felt nothing. :-)

I'm not saying everyone would be immediately better off if we could convince them all that God doesn't exist, either, any more than a beginning student of English as a second language should start out reading James Joyce or e. e. cummings. A belief in God is a sign of scientific immaturity, and without the relevant scientific perspective, people are hardly better off not believing.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:26 PM
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See, that's the vehemence I don't understand. Why do you care if other people believe in God (however defined)?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:30 PM
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OK, I can think of one sense in which it isn't irrational. Maybe.

People have weird brains. Adopting certain clearly irrational beliefs can improve one's state of mind and increase the chance of reaching certain goals because of the heightened performance, and *maybe* increase overall hapiness. I.E. "believing in yourself". That is, if those irrational beliefs don't end up blinding the person to reality in ways that cause missed opportunities and over-exuberant risk-taking or over-conservateness or other mistakes. We've evolved to over-estimate our own ability in a wide variety of contexts. We overestimate our agency in situations with favorable outcomes, and underestimate it in those with poor outcomes. There's lots of different cognitive biases, and a lot of appear to be geared toward keeping our self-esteem and optimism up. I can see how a belief God can help one's optimism, etc.

Now, the question of whether it's irrational to adopt (or not bother dispelling) irrational beliefs in order to manipulate one's irrational brain into staying in a more chemically hospitable state is a pretty interesting one.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:36 PM
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One can concede that a belief in God (god, G-d, whatever) is undisprovable and still have faith. Such a position is non-rational, but not provably irrational.

And this from an agnostic...


Posted by: Stanleyh | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:39 PM
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I don't know why these conversations always degenerate into evolutionary neurology.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:40 PM
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The vehemence? I guess you're talking about this:

"and thus taking a position on it is irrational, a waste of time, and, in many cases, such as with many Christian aplogists, stupid."

Irrational, because the belief is unjustified. A waste of time, because time spent thinking about God could be better spent thinking about real things. And "stupid", I reserve for those who vehemently defend their own dogmatism. The strongest adjective I would warrant giving this weak theism we're talking about would probably be "disingenuous".

But whenever someone uses God to justify an attitude or an opinion, it's getting in the way of discussion about whether that attitude or opinion is actually justified. That creates real problems.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:41 PM
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154, 157, 161, etc.: lalala I can't hear you....


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:42 PM
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184: Cala, come quick! They don't have ears either!


Posted by: Stanley (no h, oops) | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:46 PM
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"but not provably irrational."

Yes, because it's irrational to start out with a positive null hypothesis.

182: You don't see the segue?

"Why do you care if other people believe in God"

I think the more rational people become, the better the world will be. And God is part of human irrationality. So are a lot of other things, many of which I care more about. But theism isn't exactly a trivial thing, either.

And again, how many "other people" believe in a non-interventionist God? It's a small minority view. Either that's a strawman or you're being sloppy with phrasing.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:46 PM
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153 and 155: I kind of like the begats. Hell, I've even been mesmerized by catalogues of ships in Homer oncea charismatic professortoldme what they signified.

Actually, I think that these points about the historicity of the genealogies, or teh lack thereof, provide a nice illustration of teh difference between what we've been calling "literal truth" and metaphorical truth. The genealogy of Jesus that the Gospel according to Matthew provides us is making an important theological statement. In biblical times where and who you came from were who you were. The writer(s) chose to include Jesus female ancestors. The inclusion women, an unusual feature in genealogies of the period, tells us how radical Christianity is: it's for men and women alike. It tells us that Jesus, the king of kings,is descended from the Kings of Israel--the ur-jews, but he's also descended from outcasts--harlots and those who are not members of the People of Israel. Jesus's geneaology shows him to be more than just a Jew of exalted lineage. There are a lot ofdifferent interpretations, but one of them is that Jesus belonged to both the high and the low, the insider and teh outsider. The genealogy tells us that Jesus is a savuour not just of the Jews but of the Gentiles too. And it also shows the value that God placed on women in a time and culture when that was not the norm.

There's a lto fo stuff in those boring begats.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:47 PM
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You don't see the segue?

I see it, I just don't understand why it's necessary to go there.

I think the more rational people become, the better the world will be.

I'm highly skeptical of this claim.

And again, how many "other people" believe in a non-interventionist God?

No idea.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:52 PM
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How much ethnic/racial/religious hate is based on an irrational misapprehension of the group qualities of the hated group? How much more manipulable are the public because they're susceptible to certain forms of progaganda? That's irrationality in action.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 9:56 PM
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How much is based on rational self-interest?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:01 PM
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"How much is based on rational self-interest?"

Comparatively little.

As far as the ev psych bits go, it's just that I'm interested in how humans actually do approximate rationality in real life, and when and how they fail, and to what exentent rationality can be applied to human motivational systems. I mean, at one level of description humans are purely arational. The behavior of the brain is what it is. People want what they want, and do what they do. You could write a computer program that does exactly what a human does.

Yet rationality plays a big part in the higher-level abstractions of behavior, such that we can speak of rational and irrational beliefs and decisions. But ultimately, rationality is only applicable in the context of decision-making, not of goal-setting (except in the service of higher-level goals). And forming plans and acting towards acheiving certain goals doen't necessarily involve valuing true beliefs above false ones, where the value of beliefs towards acheiving a certain goal depends less on the truth of the belief than on its secondary psychological effects.

It's just interesting stuff, is all.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:12 PM
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On the other hand, I accede that there's no rule that says increased rationality necessarily leads to increased social good, any more than a superintelligent recursively self-optimizing process will necessary lead to a utopia instead of the destruction of humanity.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:16 PM
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I would correct myself and say "concede", but I hear I'm not supposed to admit my mistakes.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:20 PM
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I guess I just don't find rationality as interesting a topic as you do. And 192 is pretty much all I was going for.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:22 PM
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The reason I've been more interested in rationality as of late is its potentially world transforming potential. Otherwise the topic might be a bit boring compared to, say, wondering whether I have hands.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:27 PM
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I think the idea that we'd transform the world through reason is as messianic as any religion. And as irrational.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:31 PM
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We? Not we. An artificial intelligence. We would create it, and possibly create something besides what we intended, but the creation of recursively improving intelligence is inevitable. Messianic? In its broad outlines, but not in the suggestion of dogmatism, nor in the presence of a single leading figure. Irrational? I don't see how.

Anyway, here's my quick take on it.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:41 PM
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Okay, how about we call that recursively improving intelligence "God"? Then everyone's happy.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-15-06 10:50 PM
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I prefer RPOP. (Really powerful optimization process.)


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05-16-06 6:41 AM
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YHWHP


Posted by: The Modesto Kid | Link to this comment | 05-16-06 6:43 AM
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Ok, I have to admit that the idea of creating some massive computer that will then perfect the universe totally freaks me out.

And also, that what you're talking about sounds a lot like my 176, only with a more literal (and, imho, freaky) angle on it. God is created by people. The idea of god is "that which we think is good."

Of course, the computer scenario leads to inevitable sci-fi movies in which That Which is Rational and Perfect realizes that we are irrational and imperfect and therefore must be wiped out.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05-16-06 10:15 AM
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astrology: The practice of foretelling things by the knowledge of the stars; an art now generally exploded, as irrational and false.


Posted by: Samuel Johnson | Link to this comment | 05-16-06 10:22 AM
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I have long consider’d the gross abuse of astrology in this kingdom, and upon debating the matter with myself, I could not possibly lay the fault upon the art, but upon those gross impostors, who set up to be the artists. I know several learned men have contended that the whole is a cheat; that it is absurd and ridiculous to imagine, the stars can have any influence at all upon human actions, thoughts, or inclinations: And whoever has not bent his studies that way, may be excused for thinking so, when he sees in how wretched a manner that noble art is treated by a few mean illiterate traders between us and the stars; who import a yearly stock of nonsense, lyes, folly, and impertinence, which they offer to the world as genuine from the planets, tho’ they descend from no greater a height than their own brains.

I intend in a short time to publish a large and rational defence of this art, and therefore shall say no more in its justification at present, than that it hath been in all ages defended by many learned men, and among the rest by Socrates himself, whom I look upon as undoubtedly the wisest of uninspir’d mortals: To which if we add, that those who have condemned this art, though otherwise learned, having been such as either did not apply their studies this way, or at least did not succeed in their applications; their testimony will not be of much weight to its disadvantage, since they are liable to the common objection of condemning what they did not understand.


Posted by: Isaac Bickerstaff | Link to this comment | 05-16-06 10:44 AM
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The idea of god is "that which we think is good."

I don't think this has historically been the case, and I don't even think it's all that true now, except for a relatively small number of the people who believe in a god or gods.

Lots of religious belief has and continues to be based on "that which is more powerful than us or beyond our control", although if something is "good" simply because a god says so, and he or she has the firepower to back it up, then I guess you can say it's "that which we think is good (because we're afraid not to think that)".


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 05-16-06 10:46 AM
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Well, you're right--I didn't mean that as an exclusive definition. Upthread I said something about god being the idea of *creation*, which is both powerful and (from our point of view) good. But yeah, a lot of gods are the one and not the other, although the primary claim of Christianity, at least, seems to be that god is good.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05-16-06 10:50 AM
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Uh, dude? I was kind of kidding about that.


Posted by: Jonathan Swift | Link to this comment | 05-16-06 11:10 AM
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Woah, I totally missed 176. Quite interesting, thanks.

It seems like something like that is behind the continued recurrance of theism and spiritualism in history, but, like Mitch, I wouldn't use it to describe actual religious beliefs as much as the role they play in psychology.

"Ok, I have to admit that the idea of creating some massive computer that will then perfect the universe totally freaks me out."

You and me both. That and the very, very real chance that we will massively screw it up and create something that destroys humanity. (Basically, if the first recursively self improving AI that gets created (the first one that's smart enough to understand and improve its own source code) isn't created specifically with a knowledge of how to avoid massive screw ups, then we're finished.)

"Of course, the computer scenario leads to inevitable sci-fi movies in which That Which is Rational and Perfect realizes that we are irrational and imperfect and therefore must be wiped out."

Eh, that's not too likely. Failure scenarios end up being more like, "Oh, I'm programmed to calculate Pi. Let me calculate it to 100^(100^(100^100)) digits, using up all the matter in the solar system to do so." Or, say "Oh, I'm programmed to make humans smile. Let me tile the solar system with microsopic human-shaped smiley faces."

A real superintelligent AI would have no difficulty eradicating humanity, contrary to what the Terminator movies would have you believe. It would be over in hours. I would say most likely malignant nano-machines or some other microscopic killer. And that's if the AI even bothered to kill us before converting our matter into computronium.

So it's important to get it right the first time.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05-16-06 11:28 AM
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