Hemmingway and sports

In a comment to the topic Paley's moral compass, Cliff Martin said, "Here is my challenge to you if you wish to contend that [everyone's] world-view should be driven by reason alone. I have always thought that Earnest Hemmingway showed us where that leads. Atheistic rationalism > Existentialism > Disillusionment > Despair > Suicide."

What Cliff seems to be asking is how atheists employing the rational argument can avoid being blinded by science. If everything is rationalized, how can you ever let loose? If you keep whittling it down, you find we're just a clump of molecules interacting with other molecules in the world and this thing called Life is going to end. These molecules that make up our body will not be under any transcendental control that we are able to impose on them while we're living. No more creativity. No more emotion. We'll simply rot.

I tend to error too much on rationality, trying to see all sides, that I remain frozen with inaction. Movies and jokes that I would have once found hilarious I see now as juvenile or just plain stupid.

Why do we play sports? The rationalist looks at a sport and sees people running a ball down the field and trying to keep others from doing the same. To what goal? It's nonsense and temporal. What is inside the game that transcends its futility?

What is the atheistic rationalist to do to find the world beautiful, mysterious, and enjoyable when it is temporal and seemingly futile? Is the theist too scared to confront the realization of mortality?

10 comments:

psiloiordinary said...

Blinded by science? Blinded by your eyes?

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Science does not negate love, fun, family etc.

Science does provide awe, wonder, understanding.

It provides the means to cure disease, save lives, feed people etc.

Have a look at this clip of Feynman and the appreciation of the beauty of a flower;

addition not subtraction

Or read weaving the rainbow by Dawkins;

"The feeling of awed wonder that science can give us is one of the highest experiences of which the human psyche is capable. It is a deep aesthetic passion to rank with the finest that music and poetry can deliver. It is truly one of the things that make life worth living and it does so, if anything, more effectively if it convinces us that the time we have for living is quite finite."

Or read any of Carl Sagan - Demon Haunted world, Cosmos, or The Varieties of Scientific Experience are good.

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I have exactly the opposite problem;

Your god is just too small and unimaginative whilst the universe is just too big and too damned complicated and interesting.

Just look at the pictures from the Hubble and tell me its all about your ghost getting to party forever/tortured forever.

Look at the latest maps of the size of the observable universe and tell me its about this pale blue dot.


Look at the huge gaping depths of time and tell me its all about your old book.

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Anyone have any sources of figures for suicide versus religiosity?

Cliff Martin said...

Psiloiordinary,

You say, “Your god is just too small and unimaginative whilst the universe is just too big and too damned complicated and interesting.” That might be a meaningful challenge to (I’m sorry to say) many of my fellows in the faith. But, you see, for me this is not an either/or, but a happy both/and. All of those joys of science you list ... I share them. I have been delighting in Brian Greene’s books (The Elegant Universe and The Fabric of the Cosmos). I love the Hubble photographs. I do!

Two of the perplexing riddles I have gnawed on for 20 or 30 years are the two you mention. Granted, most Christians never given them a thought. But, my friend, I have, and do. I find that atheists everywhere bring them up. But these challenges have been deep in my thoughts long before I read them in Dawkins, or here. 1) The enormity of the cosmos, 2) the billions of years of cosmic history and 3) the audacity of claiming that humans have any significance, let alone central purpose, in the mind of a Creator in light of #s 1 and 2.

I have come to conceive of creation, and a possible purpose of the cosmos into which a solitary planet in an average solar system between two outer spiral arms of a nondescript galaxy in an incredibly vast cosmos makes perfect sense. And I have come to see a possible purpose of man, in that same context, whose history spans a few tens of thousands of years following 13 billion years of cosmic “work-up”. I say all of this is “possible”, because it involves some speculation. But it also fits into what I read in the Bible. And it utilizes contributions from current cosmology, physics, and biology. It is the big picture that I am methodically unfolding on my blog site. I couldn’t begin to lay it out in a comment like this. But I can assure you, it works substantially (for me!) in my rational thought processes.

salient said...

"But it also fits into what I read in the Bible."

Then what are you doing on an atheist blogroll?

Meaning and purpose are psychological needs and we must find them for ourselves. Belief in a nonexistent God will not furnish them, nor will it allay your fears. Religion leaves frightened people fumbling in the dark. False promises and threats do not help.

As to death, you are here now, so enjoy life. Once we are dead, we will all be past caring whether we ever existed. Religion feeds platitudes to the egotistical need not to vanish into oblivion.

Tom said...

Psi,

I am in awe of nature and perpetually driven by curiosity. A good scientific hypothesis is one that generates more questions, even when proved true or false. I enjoy the pursuit of problem solving which is why my career is in science and software engineering.

At the same time, there seems to be a level of emotional happiness given to naive, simple people who aren't so inquisitive and rational as me. They can find sitcoms genuinely funny and entertaining. I usually find them a pathetic brain drain.

Creationists and theists use the same awe in talking about God and nature as most scientists do. I never said science negates love, fun, family, etc. and like you (and Feynman and Dawkins) say, it can actually add to it. (Great Feynman interview, BTW).

I guess what I'm trying to ask is what beyond awe, aesthetic appreciation, and curiosity does the rationalist have? The meaning of life is to make life meaningful, and what I want to discuss over several posts is what can make the atheist life enriching, especially presented to theists who see that such a tack ultimately leads to doom. There is a solace one finds when imagining they are immortal that humanism has not yet been able to compete with. People are literally scared to death of atheism.

Convincing believers to lose that one bit of irrationality known as faith requires rationalism to demonstrate that one can accept mortality without seeing it as futile, moving us out of the sitcom life religion affords to more entertaining levels of programming.

That said, the meaning of life to the theist is also lacking. When asked that question, it is often met with “…to live in eternal communion with God.” Their theology is typically too shallow to imagine at all what that means, but they have faith that it will be something good. In short, the theist seems to perpetually keep the big questions at bay, holding out some vague carrot of the future, because they cannot imagine how coming to grips with our mortality can lead to anything other than despair.

Unfortunately, rationalism has not yet presented better fixes for those jonesing for Jesus.

psiloiordinary said...

Hi Tom,

I respect what you are asking.

I also respectfully point out that you have my answers already.

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Hi Cliff,

Have you read "Why people believe weird things" by Shermer?

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You want somone to give you a purpose? Can't you work out one for yourself?

You are a grown up aren't you?

That's a key part of being human imho.

Use your intelligence, emotions, preferences and human experience to work out a purpose and go for it.

Get rid of those intellectual and emotional crutches and stand up for yourself in this huge universe and decide for yourself. Fulfill your potential - make a choice.

7K said...

"Your god is just too small and unimaginative whilst the universe is just too big and too damned complicated and interesting."

What can this mean to a theist who sees God as making everything with an obviously incomparable imagination? All this statement does is to blow up the universe in importance and diminish the God who made it, at least to the theist. Thus, it is a statement of put-down: "Poor ignoramus theist that would not understand the wonder and complexity of the cosmos with his tiny, anachronistic faith to go with his miniscule brain."

"Anyone have any sources of figures for suicide versus religiosity?"

It looks like it may be a mixed bag. Certainly, some suicides might be attributed to religious guilt. There is the opposite effect of suicide being discouraged in some religious circles, which might minimize it a bit. Many suicides are related to mental illness and other factors that are neither related to theism nor atheism.

"Religion leaves frightened people fumbling in the dark. False promises and threats do not help"

Broad brush; but some truth in it. I have moved away from scary religion, personally. Augustine-thinking has propelled the church toward a kind of spiritual paranoia. The scriptures, viewed through the lens of a compassionate and just God, completely dismantle the concept of eternal punishment that has harmed so many. Many are just beginning to realize the harm that has been done.

"Once we are dead, we will all be past caring whether we ever existed. Religion feeds platitudes to the egotistical need not to vanish into oblivion."

Isn't that a presumption? There is no scientific evidence anywhere that oblivion follows death, other than physical decomposition. Do you think the resurrection evidence of the Bible simply feeds the ego, that Jesus and other religions are manufactured to stroke egos that might be damaged by the brevity of life? Life is great (in America) but is it very meaningful alone? Isn't that part of the existential dilemma? What about the stillborn and those who never see daylight? How meaningful was their existence, or of the myriad lifeforms over millions of years of evolution? Alone, there is not much to say for it.

"Get rid of those intellectual and emotional crutches and stand up for yourself in this huge universe and decide for yourself. Fulfill your potential - make a choice."

Isn't "religion the crutch" a tired cliche? And what does it have to do with living a fulfilling life? Was Bach as creative as DaVinci? Everybody, maybe most people, aren't looking for much. Maybe half of people, religious or not, are simply trying to survive. "Fulfillment" may just be a luxury of the rich and educated. And even that output is eventually forgotten or relegated to the dustbins of history. What tends to really matter in life are acts of love and courage, and those things aren't sequestered with the religious. Atheism has some things going for it, but I don't think it has a monopoly on fulfillment.

7K said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
psiloiordinary said...

Hi 7K,
I said; "Your god is just too small and unimaginative whilst the universe is just too big and too damned complicated and interesting."
You said;
What can this mean to a theist who sees God as making everything with an obviously incomparable imagination? All this statement does is to blow up the universe in importance and diminish the God who made it, at least to the theist. Thus, it is a statement of put-down: "Poor ignoramus theist that would not understand the wonder and complexity of the cosmos with his tiny, anachronistic faith to go with his miniscule brain."


I apologise if this is what you read into what I wrote. Try this instead. Rules about bathing in birds blood to cure leprosy vs black holes.

Rules about homosexuals being sinners compared to the number of stars in our own galaxy.

Rules about abortion compared to the age of the universe.

Requests for "Praise" from a entity capable of creating this. Oh and b the way if you don't then you will be tortured by this being for eternity. Oh and by the way he already knows what you will do because he knows everything, oh yes and he is definitely a he as well. So yes he knows even before you come into existence that you will spend eternity burning - its all part of his plan. Parochial power plays by bronze age politicians.

Hundreds of planets now detected in our own tiny little wedge of one huge galaxy out of billions of other galaxies we can see and getting a virgin pregnant and a son being nailed to a tree?

Christianity's silly absurdities are no sillier and more absurd than any other religion I have looked into and none of these religions are set on a cosmic stage - they are set on a stage sized to suit the people who wrote the holy books.

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"Once we are dead, we will all be past caring whether we ever existed. Religion feeds platitudes to the egotistical need not to vanish into oblivion."

Isn't that a presumption? There is no scientific evidence anywhere that oblivion follows death, other than physical decomposition.
There is no evidence for resurrection either. Why presume a supernatural explanation. Decomposition of the only substrate in which we can find consciousness seems like evidence to me - no not 100% - but its the only evidence we have - and in a case like that simply claiming you can't prove it doesn't happen is not a balanced view based upon the evidence.

Do you think the resurrection evidence of the Bible simply feeds the ego, that Jesus and other religions are manufactured to stroke egos that might be damaged by the brevity of life?
Second-hand hear say about a leader so influential non of his own writings survive, written more than a century after the event, doesn't seem very persuasive evidence to me. If we are to accept it as persuasive then presumably we must accept every similar claim with the same level of evidence or we are being inconsistent. We now find ourselves worshipping most of humanities gods.

Life is great (in America) but is it very meaningful alone? Isn't that part of the existential dilemma? What about the stillborn and those who never see daylight? How meaningful was their existence, or of the myriad lifeforms over millions of years of evolution? Alone, there is not much to say for it.


Veracity doesn't depend on how much you want something to be true.

"Get rid of those intellectual and emotional crutches and stand up for yourself in this huge universe and decide for yourself. Fulfill your potential - make a choice."

Isn't "religion the crutch" a tired cliche?

Yes it is - I wonder why? - You have not addressed the point.

And what does it have to do with living a fulfilling life? Was Bach as creative as DaVinci?


Everybody, maybe most people, aren't looking for much. Maybe half of people, religious or not, are simply trying to survive. "Fulfillment" may just be a luxury of the rich and educated. And even that output is eventually forgotten or relegated to the dustbins of history. What tends to really matter in life are acts of love and courage, and those things aren't sequestered with the religious. Atheism has some things going for it, but I don't think it has a monopoly on fulfillment.

Atheism is simply a lack of belief in the supernatural so can not be fulfilling at all - what it can do is free you from the parochial view of humanity, the view of yourself as inherently a failure, the view of eternal fire if you don't do what some man is telling you to do because of a book.

Yes you need much much more to have a fulfilling life - reason, valuing your life as the only one you have, valuing other all the more because of this too can at least start you on this road.

Living this one life you have to meet some of the absurdities I listed above would be an awful waste.

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Pascals wager anyone?

Tom said...

Psi,

I always enjoy your posts and challenges. While I also want to express most of what you present in your comments, you do it with a wit and fresh, succinct vocabulary that displays your honesty while continuing to spur discussion. Thanks for your involvement with this blog! I think all the readers enjoy and respect the spirit of your opinions.

psiloiordinary said...

Hi Tom,

Thank you for this.

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Sounds like a chance to get a plug in.

I like to think I can take it as well as give it out.

Any and all are welcome to test my ability to do so on my blog.

http://cogitatute.blogspot.com/