Science vs. Religion

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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby Serpent on January 20th, 2019, 6:52 pm 

doogles » January 20th, 2019, 4:58 pm wrote: My early reading of your first link suggests that Eskimos did attribute spirituality to animals, but you could argue pedanticaly that that is not strictly religion

I didn't claim that the attribution of spirit to other species, landmarks and forces of nature amounted to a religion. At that point, I was addressing the notion of the animating spirit only.
Such ideas and beliefs become a religion when they are organized into a system of thought that 1. imbues living things with an unearthly, or non-physical component 2. credits spirits, or other supernatural entities with the power to affect human life, 3. invokes the supernatural to the aid of human, or appeases it/them, or communicates with it/them [gaining influence] in some ritualized manner and 4. consecrates landmarks, dates, objects and/or places for the specific purpose of ritual.
That's an informal description, not a scholarly definition. For early peoples, the supernatural is all around, intimately familiar; it permeates everyday activities, dwelling-places and homely objects. Shamans, spiritual battle, atonement, rites of passage, cleansing ceremonies, talismans, etc are parts of any evolving religion.

It seems logical to me that if any of our remote ancestors attributes a life essence to humanoids, that they would logically extrapolate that to other living animals - just an hypothesis and not a theory. I'll get back when I've looked at most of the refs.

Perhaps. Or the other way around. After all, what and when is a hominid? Dogs are soulful but don't think or talk about it - though a bitch might her carry her dead pup around, bury and dig it up and try to coax it back to life for days, which shows that they don't unhesitatingly accept death. Apes are very like dogs in this respect. The death of strangers is routine - a couple of sniffs to ascertain whether it's edible or a good scent-camoflague. The loss of a loved one - even a loved member of another species - is tragic. The other anthropoid apes are not human in this respect, though they are humanoid in many ways.

What they don't do, any more than dogs, is worship a tree or dread unreal beings. They have preferences and desires; they have complex relationships with their environment, fears based on racial memory or childhood experience, but they're mostly pragmatic: don't try to persuade nature to change for them. And yet, and yet.... you can find precursors of superstition in animal psychology, long before great apes. The potential is evident quite a way back.

There is a leap of the imagination from 'me' to 'us' and then some steps to make 'us' more and more inclusive. Many animals are capable of taking some of those steps individually (or they wouldn't be domesticated). At some time after language had developed enough for the transmission of narrative, perception+emotion turned into concept - and maybe that's the origin of humans.

But I believe there is no conflict between science and religion until much, much later.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby BadgerJelly on January 20th, 2019, 6:59 pm 

Doogles -

Try reading Eliade if you’re really interested in religion. Cut to the chase.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby Forest_Dump on January 20th, 2019, 11:34 pm 

As a former Christian (very long time ago) turned reverent agnostic who has studied religion from an anthropological and archaeological perspective (and published on it) and more recently studied Midiwiwin (and shamanism) extensively and up close and in person, I might be able to offer some perspective. First I will note I sometimes get a little nervous when people employ arbitrary definitions to, for example, seperate state level religions (theistic or deistic) from others so as to imply they are more primitive etc or otherwise to be differently valued. But I suppose that is all too common given that almost all people tend to assume their own belief systems are superior in one way or another (I suppose obviously or they would change theirs so as to adopt whatever one was superior). And there I would certainly include many who seem to elevate some scientific philosophies to a religion-like status.

Anyway, my take on many/most traditional First Nations religions, including some traditional Inuit belief systems but certainly including Midiwiwin and some shamanism, which just tend to be relatively ritualistic, includes a belief in certain forces or powers (often referred to as medicine). To make this a bit more relatable we know electricity prefers to travel through some mediums like air, water and copper but not others. Similarly, the similar and related power called magnetism is strongest in iron. The more recently discovered power called radiation seems to prefer other minerals like uranium. So other powers simply have not been discovered by science as yet but appear to be strongest in areas that have not been as disturbed by humans (i.e., whatever the life force is has been allowed to grow, etc) and becomes concentrated in certain places and in certain plants, etc. Animals that eat these plants concentrate this/these power (s) in different ways and so the powers manifest themselves differently in different kinds of animals. These powers will also be present in different people in different ways, just like any other attribute or skill, although they can be enhanced or strengthened based on training, where you live, what you eat, undergoing different ritual practises, etc. And some people who have had unusual amounts and/or talents for controlling this power have been remembered as unusual religious leaders (e.e., Jesus, Moses, Mohammed, Buddha, etc.,) or otherwise great people, both good and bad, whether or not they knew what it was about (and maybe nobody yet really understands what it all truly is). But some rituals and practises do work or work better than others for controlling or manipulating this or these powers or medicines and science certainly hasn't gotten very far in this direction, at least so far. But is it religion? You may well get closer with Eliade.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby -1- on January 21st, 2019, 5:11 am 

Forest Dump, you speak of Inuit shamanism as if it was based on facts, and you spake of their beliefs as if they were verifiable.

Or are you speaking of them as a faith, belief.

If you speak of them as a belief, you are contributing a pure description, nothing else. Which is useful, for certain approaches and inquiry.

If you speak of them as verifiable facts, please support your findings with verifiable documentation. Or at least point in their direction.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby Forest_Dump on January 21st, 2019, 9:21 am 

I neither could nor would provide documentary proof that would satisfy you any more than I could provide documentation that would convince many people of the proof of evolution, the lunar landing, global warming, etc. You and I have our beliefs based on a lot of factors relating to the environment we grew up in and what we have learned to accept as evidence. I think I can speak as an authority on things like the factual history and explanatory theory of evolution but I know many people from a similar cultural setting and education don't accept that. So it goes. Where I am I know people with university degrees who consider the existence of ghosts to be a trivial everyday truth. I have never experienced anything to convince me ghosts exist. Is that because they really don't exist or because I can't see the evidence? I don't have an answer to that.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby -1- on January 21st, 2019, 10:53 am 

So you are speaking of these things as of facts? Not as a description of a faith?

For your information, there is tons of evidence of the Moon Landing, of Evolution. If they are unconvincing to some, it is not the lack of evidence, but the ignoring of the available evidence that makes disbelievers of the mentioned. If you can't produce similar evidence (photographs, a theory that makes intuitive sense as much as logical sense, or similar, documentation of healing, etc.) then your faith is a religion: you can believe it, or disbelieve it, and it does not make an iota of difference in the physical world.

Your plea to believe the unsupported theory and unsupported poetry, if I may put it that way, is unconvincing.

Your plea is not similar to the Lunar Landing or to Evolution: it is similar, instead, to my telling you that Lightning is a product of gods being angry, and that prayer and meditation brings about knowledge, factual, real knowledge, about life on distant planets.

In other words, what you advocate, with all due respect, is nothing more serious or believable than the stories of Grimm. It's not even philosophy; it is just some ill-conceived blind faith in some supernatural something that you claim you can somehow sense, but which has no effect, no consequence on our world.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby TheVat on January 21st, 2019, 11:07 am 

I don't think Forest was offering life/spirit energy as factual or attempting to present evidence. I took his comments on panpsychist or animist belief systems to be more anthropological and addressing the great variety of metaphysical beliefs associated with religion. He was expressing open mindedness not advocacy, AFAICT.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby -1- on January 21st, 2019, 11:32 am 

Dear VAT, I honestly suspect that you are sworn to stand up for your old, tried-and-true, very good buddies.

I never said Forrest Dump was attempting to present evidence. Here we agree, and I HIGHLY resent being dinged for insinuating that I stated that FD is presenting evidence. That is not true!!!

Dear VAT, I feel once more the undue pressure from you to silence me. Your word around here is not that of a participant; you are a moderator, furthermore an administrator. You wield power others of us do not. You incite resentment and fear, because you are obviously more powerful than any one of us other than you.

So I wish, I really wish, that you would not meddle in common dialogue on the posts. You may want to do that, under a different and UNKNOWN alias. But as a Moderator and Administrator, you ought to wear only one hat, and not create power-differences, and you ought not to come to the defense of one or another member as a powerful, to-be-feared protector. This is hugely unfair.

I hope you can appreciate that if you came under a different alias, which was incognito yours, I would be more free and unrestricted in my reply as to content.

You simply stifle opinions by presenting your mighty presence. Is this what your aim is, or is your aim to put in logical, convincing arguments? Is your aim to intimidate people like me, and keep us in check by fear, or else is your aim to convince us that we are wrong when we are by intellectual means?

I beg you: Please pick up an alias, and move among us like a king in disguise, and do not meddle in our affairs unfairly.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby Serpent on January 21st, 2019, 11:34 am 

Believability doesn't come into the matter. For the believer, that's not an issue, because he knows what he knows. For the unbeliever, it's not an issue, because he has his own truth. For the unbiased observer, it's not an issue, because all beliefs are interesting.

It becomes an issue only when either one desires to foist his own belief on the other.
Or when somebody with pretensions of superiority goes around upbraiding other people for the style of their discourse, their world-view, affiliations or whatever.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby -1- on January 21st, 2019, 11:36 am 

Serpent » January 21st, 2019, 11:34 am wrote:Believability doesn't come into the matter. For the believer, that's not an issue, because he knows what he knows. For the unbeliever, it's not an issue, because he has his own truth. For the unbiased observer, it's not an issue, because all beliefs are interesting.

It becomes an issue only when either one desires to foist his own belief on the other.

I would also add to this, rightly or wrongly, that to present the unbelievable as an option is wrong.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby Forest_Dump on January 21st, 2019, 11:40 am 

I suppose l (we?) All sometimes believe in things that end up having no real effect or consequence to this world. Personally I tend to believe what I interpret to be the latest results of the research at CERN and the Higgs-Boson stuff and that there are no real particles, etc. Hypothetically I suppose there might be some technological result such as a better smart phone but for now I can't see any real effect or consequence of this change in knowledge (and by the way I fully support this kind of pure research and it's funding for many reasons). Similarly I have a considerable interest in the dryopithecines of the Miocene. Personally I reject the uber adaptationist explanations of the Dawkins types and prefer pointing to things like the mosaic environments created by the expansion of the tropical forests into Europe creating Founder Effects followed by Gene flow between the populations millions of years later when the tropical forests shrank in the late Miocene. Real effects or consequences of this? None that I can see beyond the philosophical,aesthetic, etc. On the other hand I could recount a story where I brought in a traditional native healer to address a case where many people (but not me) had been troubled by a ghost and he was fully able to solve the problem. So there was, in fact, real consequences and effects that I can't fully explain. But I know I will never convince you any more than I could ever convince many die hard evangelical Christians of evolution or Trump supporters (or haters) of the errors of their ways, etc. To me the important point is you/we need to recognize that not everyone is going to agree on what counts as viable evidence, rational logic, etc. Until you start to recognize and acknowledge where the other person is coming from you are not going to have much luck convincing them your point of view is much better. Instead as often as not you end up sounding as bad or worse, closed minded, etc., as the worst of "them".
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby Serpent on January 21st, 2019, 11:43 am 

-1- » January 21st, 2019, 10:36 am wrote:
I would also add to this, rightly or wrongly, that to present the unbelievable as an option is wrong.

By what rule? By what moral standard? By what standard of credibility?

When discussing faith, religion, supernatural beliefs, spiritualism, etc., leaving out what some find unbelievable would be to stop the discussion dead in its tracks. There is literally no world-view that is believable by all.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby -1- on January 21st, 2019, 11:55 am 

Serpent » January 21st, 2019, 11:43 am wrote:
-1- » January 21st, 2019, 10:36 am wrote:
I would also add to this, rightly or wrongly, that to present the unbelievable as an option is wrong.

By what rule? By what moral standard? By what standard of credibility?

When discussing faith, religion, supernatural beliefs, spiritualism, etc., leaving out what some find unbelievable would be to stop the discussion dead in its tracks. There is literally no world-view that is believable by all.

I did not say "leave out". I said "present as an option the unbelievable". You said that nothing is believable by all. But you did not deny that some things are unbelievable by all.

I am checking out for a while. I need to have some assurance that we are democratically equal in opinion around here, and some stomping giant is not going to pulverize me (so to speak) because I stepped on the toe of one of his darling protegees.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby Serpent on January 21st, 2019, 12:37 pm 

-1- » January 21st, 2019, 10:55 am wrote:I did not say "leave out". I said "present as an option the unbelievable". You said that nothing is believable by all. But you did not deny that some things are unbelievable by all.

For those who have difficulty following, amendment:
In a discussion of religion, attitudes to the the supernatural, otherworldly belief-systems, faith and individual spiritual experience, refusing to include, or forcefully excluding as an option that which any participant declares unbelievable would be to shut down the discussion. As there is no belief acceptable to all, neither is there any belief that's unacceptable to all.

Afaics, no toes have been damaged in these proceedings. I don't anticipate stomping or pulverizing, either, but a third mild reprimand is not out of the question. Histrionics are entertaining up to a point, but they can escalate to distraction and even derailment.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby Forest_Dump on January 21st, 2019, 12:45 pm 

For whatever it might be worth, I think I remain a skeptical but reverent agnostic but also a weak agnostic (according to some Web sites I checked) in that I think it at least possible, maybe even probable, that there are additional "forces" not yet discovered by science that are currently dismissed by some for not having the right kind of evidence (perhaps not unlike the skepticism over the existence of the Eastern cougar in my neck of the woods). So, in fact,the contribution I began with above actually comes pretty close to my belief system. I can assure you, however, I have absolutely no interest in converting anyone as I can foresee absolutely no practical benefit to your conversion (I definitely don't like the tourism from New Age natives coming up around here to get a weekend'so worth of spiritualism to take back to their downtown condos). But I definitely do believe we would all be better off with a lot more tolerance when it comes to religious questions. My own curiosity is definitely aroused by dogmatic, closed minded missionaries who insist on espousing and tolerating only their own views, whether they be hardcore evangelical christians, jihadist Muslims or devout athiests. It is these kinds of extremists who, IMHO, tend to cause the most problems for others.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby Forest_Dump on January 21st, 2019, 12:56 pm 

While I certainly happy that at least Brain in Vat agrees with at least some of my position, I did not see him as coming to my rescue in any way (and I know we have disagreed in debate in the past). For one thing I can assure you in absolutely no way did I feel threatened or challenged in any way. Truth be told the only reason I entered this thread was in an attempt to clarify what I thought were some misconceptions about what some traditionalist Inuit and other First Nations religion was about. Of course I also know from my discussions with them that there is a ton of diversity there and even among those who identify themselves as devout christians there can be some real surprises when you scratch a little. I do get a chuckle in that even the high catholics and hardcore Baptists in some of the northern communities retain beliefs and interpretations that would stun their brethren down south.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby Serpent on January 21st, 2019, 1:26 pm 

Forest_Dump » January 21st, 2019, 11:56 am wrote: I do get a chuckle in that even the high catholics and hardcore Baptists in some of the northern communities retain beliefs and interpretations that would stun their brethren down south.

Like disarming witches or exorcising demons? I wouldn't be surprised if it sometimes worked, too, in much the same way that a shaman can persuade a ghost to leave. There is a lot of power in belief.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby TheVat on January 21st, 2019, 1:59 pm 

-1- » January 21st, 2019, 8:32 am wrote:Dear VAT, I honestly suspect that you are sworn to stand up for your old, tried-and-true, very good buddies.

I never said Forrest Dump was attempting to present evidence. Here we agree, and I HIGHLY resent being dinged for insinuating that I stated that FD is presenting evidence. That is not true!!!

Dear VAT, I feel once more the undue pressure from you to silence me. Your word around here is not that of a participant; you are a moderator, furthermore an administrator. You wield power others of us do not....

So I wish, I really wish, that you would not meddle in common dialogue on the posts. You may want to do that, under a different and UNKNOWN alias....


The above is inaccurate. I was offering my impression of Forest's post to help with what seemed to be a misunderstanding. Here is an excerpt from your reaction to that post:

In other words, what you advocate, with all due respect, is nothing more serious or believable than the stories of Grimm. It's not even philosophy; it is just some ill-conceived blind faith in some supernatural something that you claim you can somehow sense, but which has no effect, no consequence on our world.

( -1- )

If you read my comment carefully, I don't believe any undue pressure was exerted, except to correct what seemed to be a misrepresenting of Forest's post. That is PRECISELY the job of a moderator here, and I do it with more restraint than many moderators we have had in the past.

Also, to correct a false impression of moderators here. We are volunteers and we are participants. We have always joined in with discussions and often remove our moderator hats to simply offer opinions. I offered no official ruling in the post which seems to have upset you, and simply tried to represent a less combative view of what Forest was saying. That is the right of EVERY member here, regardless of their status.

Now, with moderator hat on, I think you need to do the following to continue in this discussion:

1. Stop attacking me and telling me how to do my job and how I should develop an "alias" and post under that.

2. Understand that moderators do have certain discretionary powers here. This isn't an elected democracy where everything is put up for a referendum vote. If you don't like this format, then I would think you'd be happier avoiding message boards entirely.

3. Please stop calling certain members proteges, when I take issue with your hectoring and combative remarks to them. They are simply members who deserve respect. And off-topic feedback goes in the feedback forum.


Good luck, and I look forward to more of your thinking on the topic of this thread.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby doogles on January 21st, 2019, 5:43 pm 

Sorry for the delay in response Serpent; I spent 9 hours working in sun yesterday when the shade temperature was 34 degrees C, and was a bit worn out when I got home.

I finished your first link, and have already sent you a reference to Eskimos having a belief in animal spirits which was in response to your conviction that "I notice you added the spirit of animals, which certainly does not appear in mainstream modern religions." Perhaps Eskimo belief systems do not count as mainstream modern religions? But my working hypothesis on how the notion of souls (or etc) originated allows for extrapolation to animals, and any other object for that matter (animism).

Apropos of such notions, -1- came up with one of his own, which was okay, and your first link suggests a few others -- eg "Tylor thought the idea of the human soul must have been the elementary religious idea and the model for all other supernatural beings." This doesn't provide any clue about the origin of the notion, but is evidence that at least one other person believed that the notion of a soul 'must have been the elementary religious idea'.

Durkheim believed it started with totemism.

Frazer argued that magical arts were the basis of belief in superior beings who could do better magic than humans.

So far, it appears that several people have postulated something about the origins of the notion of the 'soul', but there is no evidence to suggest that any one hypothesis is any better or valid than the other.

For now, I'll stick to my own working hypothesis until I get around to your other links. I still have an open mind and no solid convictions.

I thank you for the effort in providing the refs.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby Serpent on January 21st, 2019, 8:17 pm 

No problem.
Perhaps Eskimo belief systems do not count as mainstream modern religions?

Not in my book, they don't. (By the way, I'm not keen on the word 'Eskimo' for Inuit peoples. I do have some older books that used outmoded terminology, as well as somewhat outmoded anthropocentrism.)
I make a strong distinction between organic cultures and civilized ones, as well as indigenous belief systems and institutionalized religions. The difference is not so much in the ideas or root beliefs, as in the function and behaviour of the institutions. I imagine that all modern religious doctrine began in a natural-grown beliefs, but they've undergone significant changes.

I do have a minor quarrel with assuming that the idea of an animating spirit starts with the human and is only then conferred on other species. I'm convinced that the notion begins with self and is then conferred to others, but not species by species, but by proximity and significance. I don't believe that hunter-gatherers had a greater spiritual or philosophical affinity to rival tribes than to their own pack animals, totems, dream guides and principle prey.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby doogles on January 21st, 2019, 10:52 pm 

Yes Serpent, I used the word Eskimo because that was the usage in the first link you gave me. It was the Encyclopedia Brittanica article on animism. It deals mainly with minor tribal belief systems rather than major world religions.

I'll get through the other links you sent me in the next couple of days, and see what evidence there is about hypotheses on how the original notions of spiritualism came about.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby Serpent on January 22nd, 2019, 12:22 am 

I can see why you might be interested in hypotheses for comparison. But I don't see how that will give you an insight into the mind-set of the originators themselves. For me, the native stories are far more compelling, far more engaging, far more revealing than their explanation by someone from a very different (especially a Christio-Enlightenment European) culture. Just for reference to my own prejudice.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby BadgerJelly on January 22nd, 2019, 3:43 am 

Birthdays may well be considered “religious”. This is because they are common means of making time sacred. The birth site too may be considered a religious site.

Time and space matter to humans. When it comes to delineating some given time and/or space from others we step into new cognitive territory that is partly removed from the physical world by the manner which we understand relation of past to future. The Sacred is different in that it is held as being either atemporal or aspacial - it is boundless.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby doogles on January 22nd, 2019, 6:05 am 

Good day to you Serpent. I started diligently to read the rest of those links when I got home this afternoon, but when I opened the first couple, they turned out to be blogs on the books you had referenced (to my disappointment).

There was no meat about early theories or anything. I'm not that keen on reading indefinitely in order to check what others may or may not have in mind about how the notion of spiritualism came about. As -1- suggested, along with myself, it probability happened among early hominids, and we'll never be able to check on its origins.

The hypotheses of Tylor, Durkheim, Frazer, -1-, and myself are probably as valid as each other.

I'm not willing to accept that any are not plausible -- unless somebody can provide good arguments or evidence of any kind. To say that you've read something somewhere is not very convincing.

If you do dig up other material like that in the Encyclopedia Brittanica ref, I would like to read it.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby Serpent on January 22nd, 2019, 9:46 am 

doogles » January 22nd, 2019, 5:05 am wrote: I started diligently to read the rest of those links when I got home this afternoon, but when I opened the first couple, they turned out to be blogs on the books you had referenced (to my disappointment).

I'm sorry about that. These are physical paper books on the shelf behind behind me, some of them quite old. When I refer to such books online, I use Goodreads, because they have an extensive archive of reviews and are not commercial outlets. I have no idea whether these particular contents are available to read free, but I'm sure at least some native myths are.
There was no meat about early theories or anything.

Well, there wouldn't be! People just kept passing down stories. By the time white anthropologists started collecting them, nobody could possibly remember where they came from.
You get all kinds of theories from 20th century white historians and anthropologists; some crackpottery, but mostly earnest scholarship. Only remember, all these modern guys are the product of imperial, urban industrial Christian cultures. It's difficult for them to imagine the perspective of peoples who had not yet invented monarchy or slavery or money or sin.

I'm not willing to accept that any are not plausible -- unless somebody can provide good arguments or evidence of any kind. To say that you've read something somewhere is not very convincing.

Fine. Just read a few actual stories for the mood. Imagine yourself barefoot in a forest, where every sound, every smell, every texture is as familiar and intimate as your own exposed skin.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby Forest_Dump on January 22nd, 2019, 11:08 am 

Speculating on the origins of religion is dangerous, to say the least, because we would be talking about times hundreds of thousands or millions of years before the first written documents. Citing the opinions of Durkhiem Tyler Frazier etc is equally or more problematic because these guys were writing before there was much if any professional data collection and before anyone realized the extent that contact with Europeans etc was influencing people and prompting them to give the answers they thought missionaries, etc wanted.

Nonetheless I suspect the first religions were created around addressing questions of importance to people and that probably related to understanding and predicting the behaviour of important anaimals. Hense the belief that animals had or were controlled by some kind do of unseen power and that power could or might be manipulated. Religious beliefs might also come from trying G to understand some natural phenomenon like lightening, fire, earthquakes, etc. Possibly also some disease controlling as viewing sickness etc as a result of witchcraft which was probably the closest they came to considering religion for social controll. I don't think any kind of deity was likely until very much later except possibly to explain some patterns of behaviour but the use of Devine retribution, etc was unlikely since control by friends and family is much more immediate and predictable than anything related to an afterlife. Similarly I don't suspect there was much concern over the idea of a human soul because I can't see what might prompt such a belief other than grief in the loss of a loved one but truth be told those people had to be aware of people dying long before they saw any need to be concerned with that unless they had reason to suspect there was such a thing seperate from the physical body. That could have originated through the hallucinations caused by some plants or fasting etc related to shamanism and hunting magic of souls travelling in search of game or to bewitch someone. So the oldest likely evidence of religion seems to be most likely cave paintings related to animals, only rarely with people, could well be related to hunting or controlling the animals. Viable evidence of burial showing some concern for a soul or afterlife is much much later (since the evidence of association with neanderthals is sketchy at best). There is other stray indications or artifacts that might be related to religion such as the use of red ochre, Venus figurines, human animal mixes, etc but the meanings/interpretations are really too ambiguous to say what they might mean in this kind of context. Just to give an example, some years ago we had a bit of a debate about whether the Venus figurines of Europe in the Paleo lithic were related to fertility rituals and beliefs or simple porn. Fair enough so it certainly appears unlikely we can ascribe them to any kind of belief in a soul.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby Serpent on January 22nd, 2019, 5:56 pm 

That's exactly my central problem with the Europeans' interpretations: they were looking for religion most particularly, and finding it in acts that could as easily - perhaps more easily - be recognized as expressions of respect or affection. Death may have been commonplace, but so was love, and the loss of a beloved companion - even if he's a dog - is an event that matters, that needs to be commemorated in some way.

When people rooted in the Christian tradition consider religion, they tend to look for solemn ritual, fear and trembling. But when you hear the stories about the supernatural entities familiar to native Americans, they are full of fun and mischief, oneupmanship and trickery, hard lessons and clever bargains....
Granted, these stories, except perhaps the creation myths, are culturally sophisticated - a long time advancement on, and probably far removed geographically from, those early gropings toward "the numinous". Still, they must have been perplexing and displeasing to the Europeans. Jehovah has no sense of humour at all! I don't think his worshippers could imagine gods who might be good company, or a prospective grandmother-in-law, or just plain annoying.

I don't see any danger in speculation, except being wrong. But then, most everyone is, so what's the threat? As long as we don't let it determine government policy.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby doogles on January 23rd, 2019, 5:19 am 

This is getting off track of the OP, as are the last few posts, but I can't help making a comment on Forest's post. I generally like Forest's and Serpent's posts, but somehow, in this thread, they both appear to be 'knocking' or have 'knocked' speculation -- to some extent. Serpent's most recent post has modified that and he has stated "I don't see any danger in speculation ... ." That's all good, but very recent.

I probably would not have bothered writing this, but I'm a little concerned that the very fact of 'knocking', may be deterring members from contributing to threads. I'm old enough and ugly enough now to take whatever any of you wish to throw at me for saying what I'm about to say, but I believe there's a slightly bigger issue at hand. Our number of contributors is dwindling to a handful of regulars, each of whom contribute at length, often without citing evidence for what they are contributing. I have a feeling that this may be off-putting to younger contributors.

This thread contains a good example of 'knocking' (without evidential support). It does involve a contribution of mine but that is of no consequence. It may be a good example of what I'm talking about. I presented my own working hypothesis on how hominoids might begin to consider the existence of 'souls' ('animating spirits', 'life spirits' or whatever you like to call them).

Serpent has been showing a tendency recently to dissect posts bit by bit and then, almost acting as a devil's advocate, commenting mostly negatively on the substance of each part of the contribution, and in my case, with conviction, but no substance. His main negating sentence was "The spirit idea doesn't come from death or absence, it comes from the aliveness of nature". It didn't put me off, but I imagine that such dissections of other less-mature member's contributions may be off-putting.

I hope Serpent can accept this as a constructive comment, because I generally find his contributions quite interesting.

-1-, in addition, could be taken to have negated my hypothesis by presenting his own view as "Where the spirit idea comes from is beautifully and quite comprehensibly written down in a book the title and author(s) of which I never noted.", and at the finish, he added "So these what I wrote earlier, are facts, or approximations of facts, not speculation, according to my feeble memory of the beginning pages of a book I read in a library 15 years ago." Subsequently, -1- admitted that his opinions were just based on 'belief'. I found that quite acceptable.

It is my opinion that speculation, in the sense of creating hypotheses for unexplored areas of thought is a good thing, and should be encouraged rather than be dogmatically contradicted.

So getting to Forest who's opening paragraph was to knock speculation -- "Speculating on the origins of religion is dangerous, to say the least, because we would be talking about times hundreds of thousands or millions of years before the first written documents. Citing the opinions of Durkhiem Tyler Frazier etc is equally or more problematic because these guys were writing before there was much if any professional data collection and before anyone realized the extent that contact with Europeans etc was influencing people and prompting them to give the answers they thought missionaries, etc wanted."

This is all acceptable. The opinions of Durkheim, Tylor and Frazer, were all presented back in Encyclopedia Brittanica times and provided from a reference supplied by Serpent. At least they made an attempt to explain something. Nobody has presented a reference to this forum since then, but in spite of the fact that he knocked speculation in his first paragraph, Forest has provided a speculation or hypothesis of his own in his second long paragraph. It's too long to copy into this post, but it's there for anyone to read. It's probably more acceptable than the others in that it is more 'up-to-date', but that doesn't mean that it is any more or less valid than any other.

My plea is simply that posters be more open-minded about any contributions they disagree with. And in addition, please don't phrase your objections to ideas in any manner that could be described as 'knocking', unless you have checked and provided your evidence for doing so. Do everything you can to comment positively on fresh (or different) ideas, and then try to diplomatically provide evidence or arguments as to why you believe the statements of others may not be credible.

I don't give a buggar who disagrees with me and I expect to receive flack from this post, but I'm very concerned about the dwindling numbers of contributors to this forum. I feel that some of the current contributions could be modified to make the general tone of the forum more contributor-friendly.

My suggestion -- please regard every contribution with respect as plausible; consider its positive aspects and comment on anything you could possibly regard as positive before you even consider any negatives. Then, and only then, and if you believe there are better alternatives, be as diplomatic as possible while supplying plausible evidence to the contrary.

I hope none of you take this personally. I like all of you as 'chat mates'.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby Forest_Dump on January 23rd, 2019, 7:24 am 

I am sympathetic to your points about encouraging new members to contribute and the value of speculation. However I also think it is important to remember that there has been lots learned over they years including limitations of past scholars. I know I have a copy of Frazer's Golden Bough looming in my in-basket (which means I may get to it within a year) but that is not unlike any bibliophile having new copies of Shakespeare or Hemingway coming up for a read (and I also have both looming for a reread ). But I also am very aware of the limitations. Durkhiem Frazer and Tylor, as well as many others from the time, we're deeply embedded in the paradigms of the time including , in particular, a now discarded evolutionary belief that "modern primitive religions" were like fossilized stages of an evolutionary development. This is not unlike treating moderns apes, for example, as representative of fossilized species rather than the product of their own equally long evolutionary history. I think most studying the subject would recognize that modern Christianity has changed substantially over the last few thousand years and is not some kind do of Stage that other religions are evolving towards. Similarly I think most engaged in anthropological studies of religion would recognize that concerns over souls, life after death, etc., are not universal concerns or questions common to all belief systems and so we can't simply assume these were characteristics of the earliest religions. Truth be told, one bottom line is find is that most (almost all, particularly on Web sites) people who speculate about religion do so with unambiguous (to me at least) influence from the judeo Christian mind set and an assumption that all or most religions revolve around some concept of a sentient supernatural force. I find that to only be true of societies influenced by state level cultures which, granted, may be nearly universal. (Although I would also note that I do not think the responses to any world-level processes are universal. So yes, as noted above, in some remote northern communities, some versions of christianity, on closer inspection, appear to have some uniquely local and traditional elements blended in kind of like voodoo.) So I don't mind speculation but I think it is important to be clear of the foundations. Speculation that begins with implicit assumptions like "imagine if the laws of thermodynamics don't apply..." or "imagine if Piltdown wasn't a hoax..." are in a slightly different box than others.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby Forest_Dump on January 23rd, 2019, 10:27 am 

Just to expose some of the dangers of speculation, I have little doubt that at least one appeal of speculating about the origins of religion relates to some desire to validate our own current beliefs (including mine, of course). Here it is very easy to see that many or most will assume some kind of direction in the evolution of religion (this is in mine too) perhaps leading to something like atheism (I would say common here but not shared by me). However, since I am very much interested in a somewhat dogmatic adherence to evolutionary theory, part of my belief system includes that evolution has very little to do with morals or ethics (so there is no "right" or "wrong" direction even if I have personal preferences) and no universal directions (i.e., selective pressures might make polar bears white but the same pressures don't work on peacocks or grosbeaks). Consequently while I would acknowledge that there might well be a selective pressure towards atheism in some places, there are also selective pressures towards various forms of religious extremism in others. While I am aware of and am comfortable with a lot of my preferences I cannot as easily conclude alternatives such as extreme atheism, jihadist or young earth creationism are any less evolved etc because clearly these ideas are held by many others and seem to be increasingly popular in some contexts. I think it is useful to speculate about the past and future of some of these ideas but it is also important to recognise that I might be a dinosaur in the coming new age of Gilead.
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