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Religulous [Oct. 6th, 2008|02:39 pm]
Okrzyki, przyjaciel!
Some impressions:

1. Bill Maher needs to figure out how groom his hair so it doesn't look like greasy seaweed. Seriously, on the big screen it's really an uncomfortable distraction.

2. All of the interviews were very dishonestly edited. Several times I saw cuts after something Maher said to a reaction shot of the interviewee, where the interviewee wasn't reacting to what Maher said. Any time there's an edit like that, it's just to make the interviewee look like an idiot.

3. You can always have the last word if you're editing the interview. You can also cut out any part where the interviewee makes a reasonable rebuttal to Maher's premise.

4. His whole thesis in this movie -- that religion is bad -- can be refuted thusly:

Everyone from Paul of Tarsus to Gödel has shown that all knowledge is incomplete, that all models of the universe are provisional. Religious people have their imperfect models of the universe, and atheists have theirs. You can make an effective argument (as Maher does, up to a point) that a scientific empericism is closer to describing the 'real world' than religious faith.

But you can't make an effective argument that an atheistic or agnostic world view is 'better' -- for two reasons: 1) Assuming that you can objectively judge the outcomes of decisions, in both the religous and secular can you argue that one is 'better'? 2) Can you even judge anything objectively?

This is a functional argument for religious faith -- even if some of the things you believe are silly, you may in fact be a better person for your faith. The same thing goes for atheists -- you can argue atheism meaning there is no a priori morality. Atheists can choose to be go wild on the world, since nothing has any particular meaning. Or you can work from human tradition, common sense, and come to a human idea of moralty.

But what you can't say, scientifically, is "those people over there are nuts." Which more or less is what Maher's movie is all about. You don't know enough about the universe to make that judgement!
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: calmdahn
2008-10-06 10:31 pm (UTC)
My main complaint with the movie is that it is very mean spirited. I liked it, though. It was very entertaining and as an atheist it was important to me that it got made and got out there.

I don't understand why you don't agree that people who believe in something that isn't scientifically provable are nuts. Belief in God is a superstition, straight up. Faith is nonsense. Why don't you agree that science is better than religion because science is fact?
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[User Picture]From: curly
2008-10-06 11:31 pm (UTC)
is love for family/friends nonsense? You can't prove it scientifically, either. Beauty can't be scientifically quantified either; does that invalidate it as a reality? I'd argue there are a number of wonderful things in this life that aren't bound, limited or measured by science. And I still live science. :)
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[User Picture]From: calmdahn
2008-10-06 11:38 pm (UTC)
I think things like love and beauty will (or at least could, given sufficient data) both someday be proven scientifically, as might be the reasons why some people believe in things they cannot sense such as gods. That doesn't make gods real. They're pure fantasy, bordering on mental illness.
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[User Picture]From: curly
2008-10-07 12:15 am (UTC)
that's pure conjecture and speculation, at this point; you lack the data and only have your guess. why is that any saner than belief in God? is love or beauty something people "sense" any more than God?
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[User Picture]From: calmdahn
2008-10-06 11:42 pm (UTC)
Oh, and, I think we're much closer to proving that love is a purely biological process than we are to proving that god is.
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[User Picture]From: curly
2008-10-07 12:17 am (UTC)
"think?" based on?
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[User Picture]From: bitterwhiteguy
2008-10-07 04:29 am (UTC)
Have you ever taken any biopsychology courses Rachel? Most emotions are pretty straight-forward biological functions that can be traced to specific areas of the brain. If I still had my biopsych books from my days at UT, I'd send them to you so you could read up on it(if you haven't already).
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[User Picture]From: calmdahn
2008-10-07 09:59 pm (UTC)
Thanks for backing up my guess. Can you recommend a particular book that deals directly with this sort of thing, maybe I can find it in a library or on Amazon?
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[User Picture]From: chaircrusher
2008-10-07 10:15 pm (UTC)
I work for the Dept of Psychiatry on brain imaging, and believe me, the more one knows about brain imaging, the less one draws strong, confident conclusions based on brain imaging.

Everything significant that happens in the brain is the result of a combination of electrical and chemical phenomena, which we're only beginning to understand. Any thoughts that involve emotion, or emotions that involve thought, are global phenomena of the brain with feedback loops through the endocrine system.

And we're only down to about 1mm resolution in scans -- the FMRI studies of brain activity in real time are much fuzzier and lower resolution than that. Consider the size of a neuron vs 1mm and it's clear to me we don't know diddly yet. These are very early days, and anyone getting reductionist about it are talking out their ass.

Not to mention the fact that 'the subject does X and these parts of the brain use more oxygen' doesn't really tell you much of anything. You can get a very general map of brain functions, something we've been refining for 50 years, but we're nowhere near knowing at the fundamental level how consciousness works.



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[User Picture]From: chaircrusher
2008-10-07 12:12 am (UTC)
Because 1. Religion is an imperfect model of the universe, which has proven over time, its utility in helping people live their lives. and 2. Science is an imperfect model of the universe, which has proven, over time, it's utility in helping people live their lives.

I don't believe that Jesus Christ is my personal savior, or that there is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his profit. I don't believe that God is a physical being that lives on a planet circling the star Kolob. I don't believe in ghosts or reincarnation, or the many armed God Ganesh.

But I do believe that all models of the universe, including science are provisional and subject to revision. To say 'science is better than religion because science is fact' indicates that you have a faith in science as blind as any born-again Christian's faith in Jebus.

Look up 1st Corinthians 13 and meditate on last 5 verses. Paul of Tarsus was the don.
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[User Picture]From: curly
2008-10-07 12:18 am (UTC)
To say 'science is better than religion because science is fact' indicates that you have a faith in science as blind as any born-again Christian's faith in Jebus.

this is the part i am so continually surprised to find that people completely miss.
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[User Picture]From: calmdahn
2008-10-07 12:28 am (UTC)
I have no faith in science, because science defies faith. Uncertainty principle aside, facts are facts. Recordable observation is recordable observation. Data is data. It's pretty straightforward.
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From: (Anonymous)
2008-10-07 01:52 am (UTC)
your arguments are all good, but i thought you were a buddhist?
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[User Picture]From: pipecock
2008-10-07 02:07 am (UTC)
your arguments are all good, but i thought you were a buddhist?
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[User Picture]From: calmdahn
2008-10-07 02:16 am (UTC)
Yeah, I dabbled in the non-religious aspects of buddhism for a bit. As a method of training the mind it's a great tool. The religious aspects are completely ridiculous, and buddhism as a state religion in Tibet has historically committed as many if not more crimes than any other religion, including some really fucked up patriarchal bullshit. The current Dalai Lama is one of my heroes, though, as he constantly presses for human rights, and he's obviously been one of the only world religious leaders to promote a vision of peace, harmony, and equanimity amongst religions. He's not really very into the supernatural bits.

So, yeah, while I did briefly identify as buddhist, it wasn't really from a religious perspective, more from a philosophical/meditation perspective. Meditation can be easily removed from religion and can be examined by science, really.
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