1. Donationrwingett
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    20 Dec '07 23:52
    A very interesting interview with theologian John Haught on evolution and other topics. Haught is among the seldom heard brand of theists who accept evolution. In fact, he goes so far as to say that Darwin is a "gift to theology." However, despite saying some things I agree with, Haught also says some things I disagree with. I'm sure the theists would probably say the same thing, but perhaps for different reasons. For those of you willing to read four pages, I would like to get some input from both theists and atheists on Mr. Haught's position.

    http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2007/12/18/john_haught/
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    21 Dec '07 00:12
    Originally posted by rwingett
    A very interesting interview with theologian John Haught on evolution and other topics. Haught is among the seldom heard brand of theists who accept evolution. In fact, he goes so far as to say that Darwin is a "gift to theology." However, despite saying some things I agree with, Haught also says some things I disagree with. I'm sure the theists would proba ...[text shortened]... sts on Mr. Haught's position.

    http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2007/12/18/john_haught/
    "My chief objection to the new atheists is that they are almost completely ignorant of what's going on in the world of theology. They talk about the most fundamentalist and extremist versions of faith, and they hold these up as though they're the normative, central core of faith. And they miss so many things. They miss the moral core of Judaism and Christianity -- the theme of social justice, which takes those who are marginalized and brings them to the center of society. They give us an extreme caricature of faith and religion."

    I haven't read the entire article yet, but I will. It sounds very interesting. I took this quote out. This has been how I've felt since I first started posting here.

    It seems the message of the Bible is largely lost on folks these days.

    When I have time I'm going to read the whole article. This could lead to some interesting debates.
  3. Standard memberDoctorScribbles
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    21 Dec '07 00:25
    Originally posted by josephw
    This has been how I've felt since I first started posting here.
    But you are the very caricature of which he speaks.
  4. SubscriberAThousandYoung
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    21 Dec '07 00:30
    Originally posted by josephw
    "My chief objection to the new atheists is that they are almost completely ignorant of what's going on in the world of theology. They talk about the most fundamentalist and extremist versions of faith, and they hold these up as though they're the normative, central core of faith. And they miss so many things. They miss the moral core of Judaism and Christian ...[text shortened]... ve time I'm going to read the whole article. This could lead to some interesting debates.
    Theology is the study of something that does not exist. Why would an atheist care about what people tell each other about ninja leprechauns and other nonsense?

    This writer of that passage has a biased view of these religions. He misses the immoral core of Judeo-Christianity - the theme of absolute obediance to an overwhelmingly powerful tyrant, an angry, jealous, Big Brother sort of monster who demands infanticide, genocide, and other horrible things. This coexists with the roses and lollipops version he writes about which is indeed present as well.

    Atheists do tend to show up more in the more Christian societies. This does say something for that religion. Muslims I imagine are far less tolerant of atheists than Christians are.
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    21 Dec '07 01:18
    Theology is the study of something that does not exist.

    Atheism is the study of making grand assertions to be taken as facts.


    At least in the hands of someone like you.
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    21 Dec '07 01:45
    Originally posted by jaywill
    [b] Theology is the study of something that does not exist.

    Atheism is the study of making grand assertions to be taken as facts.


    At least in the hands of someone like you.[/b]
    "An atheist is someone with no invisible means of support." (I heard Chuck Misler say this, but I don't know if he came up with the quote. He's reputed to be a plagarist, so who knows?)

    "Atheism is a non-prophet organization."
  7. Donationrwingett
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    21 Dec '07 01:48
    Please stick to the topic, people.
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    21 Dec '07 02:161 edit
    Originally posted by gaychessplayer
    "An atheist is someone with no invisible means of support." (I heard Chuck Misler say this, but I don't know if he came up with the quote. He's reputed to be a plagarist, so who knows?)

    "Atheism is a non-prophet organization."
    The American Athiest Society has reported that their founder Mrs. Marian O'Hare has been missing and is fear to have been forcibly kidnapped.

    The members of the Society have asked everyone not to pray.
  9. Donationbbarr
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    21 Dec '07 02:461 edit
    Originally posted by rwingett
    A very interesting interview with theologian John Haught on evolution and other topics. Haught is among the seldom heard brand of theists who accept evolution. In fact, he goes so far as to say that Darwin is a "gift to theology." However, despite saying some things I agree with, Haught also says some things I disagree with. I'm sure the theists would proba ...[text shortened]... sts on Mr. Haught's position.

    http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2007/12/18/john_haught/
    Haught is a typically obtuse apologist for a corrupt and morally bankrupt worldview. He simply asserts, without argument, that atheism leads to nihilism and thus cannot justify hope. He simply asserts, without argument, that atheism is committed to scientism and the claim that the only legitimate evidence for belief is scientific evidence. If Haught had bothered to take an introductory course in ethics or epistemology he would not be so cavalier about declaiming on the possibility of secular justification of ethical norms, or on the availability of a priori knowledge. Anyone who has read Aristotle, Hume, Kant or Mill knows that there are resources available to the secular ethical theorist who endeavors to justify ethical norms. Anyone who has read the continental rationalists knows that there are non-empirical evidential relations that can obtain between propositions. Also, Haught is simply a terrible reader of Neitzsche. Nietzsche certainly did not think that atheism entailed nihilism. To claim this is simply to ignore Nietzsche's repeated emphasis of ethical exemplars, intrinsic aretaic value, and the instrumental value of those states of affairs that conduce to our personal excellence.
  10. Hmmm . . .
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    21 Dec '07 03:23
    Originally posted by bbarr
    Haught is a typically obtuse apologist for a corrupt and morally bankrupt worldview. He simply asserts, without argument, that atheism leads to nihilism and thus cannot justify hope. He simply asserts, without argument, that atheism is committed to scientism and the claim that the only legitimate evidence for belief is scientific evidence. If Haught had bot ...[text shortened]... and the instrumental value of those states of affairs that conduce to our personal excellence.
    Nietzsche seems to be forever doomed to being wrongly saddled with the nihilist label.

    I would say that Haught has not much understanding of the non-dualistic religions either. Taoism particularly came to mind as I read his three theological principles.
  11. Donationrwingett
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    21 Dec '07 11:43
    Originally posted by bbarr
    Haught is a typically obtuse apologist for a corrupt and morally bankrupt worldview. He simply asserts, without argument, that atheism leads to nihilism and thus cannot justify hope. He simply asserts, without argument, that atheism is committed to scientism and the claim that the only legitimate evidence for belief is scientific evidence. If Haught had bot ...[text shortened]... and the instrumental value of those states of affairs that conduce to our personal excellence.
    Those were some of the things that I had objected to as well. I see that you have honed in on them exclusively. The claim can easily be made that Haught does not understand atheism, humanism, or secularism, but I wonder if you'd care to comment on his claim that atheists do not understand the religious point of view. Is it the case that both camps are equally incapable of understanding one another?

    But more to the point, I wonder if you have any comment on his acceptance of evolution, his apparent acceptance of the separation of church and state, and his rejection of biblical literalism. If the two camps are incapable of understanding one another, or if they have fundamentally irreconcilable viewpoints, then I wonder if Haught's position is the best possible one that atheists could hope for from theists.
  12. Donationbbarr
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    21 Dec '07 23:55
    Originally posted by rwingett
    Those were some of the things that I had objected to as well. I see that you have honed in on them exclusively. The claim can easily be made that Haught does not understand atheism, humanism, or secularism, but I wonder if you'd care to comment on his claim that atheists do not understand the religious point of view. Is it the case that both camps are equal ...[text shortened]... onder if Haught's position is the best possible one that atheists could hope for from theists.
    I doubt that much sense attaches to the claim that atheists fail to understand the religious point of view. First, atheists and religious folk constitute heterogenous groups, so one wonders just which atheists and religious points of view Haught is talking about. He certainly cannot mean that atheists fail to understand any religious point of view, since his conception of religious belief is such that atheists qualify as religious. Presumably, Haught means that the New Atheists fail to understand the point of view of non-fundamentalist Christian theists that reject Biblical literalism. If this is what he means, then his claim is uninteresting. Some New Atheists certainly fail to understand this religious view, but others understand it perfectly well and still think it is epistemically unjustified, unnecessary or pernicious.

    Haught has a mistaken conception of scientific naturalism. He thinks that a commitment to scientific naturalism is a metaphysical commitment to materialism, but this is false. Scientific naturalism is a methodological view, not a metaphysical one. The idea is that scientific inquiry ought to proceed via the postulation of causal explanations that are subject to experimental disconfirmation. But this constraint on inquiry does not entail that there is no supernatural realm, but merely that science may not be equipped to explore such a realm. I say "may not" rather than "is not" because some claims about the supernatural have publically observable entailments, and hence are appropriate for scientific inquiry. As a silly example, a theist could claim that Hell is in the center of the Earth. This is a claim about a supernatural realm that has publically observable consequences. If we find that there is no such realm in the center of the Earth, then we have reason to reject the claim. Of course, it is open to the theist to revise their claim; they can claim that Hell is invisible or whatever. If so, then it is appropriate to ask just what sort of evidence we could have that their claim is correct. If no scientific inquiry would be capable of disconfirming their claim, then of course their claim is beyond scientific inquiry. This doesn't entail that their claim is false, but that their claim admits of no scientific evidence. Of course, it is entirely possible that there are a priori or philosophical grounds for rejecting the theist's claim. Haught simply fails to notice that many New Atheistic arguments are philosophical, not empirical, in nature.

    Haught believes in a teleological universe. That is, he thinks that there is some ultimate end or goal built right into the universe. He calls this the "intensification of consciousness". Now, if this is right, we would expect evolution to be directed unerringly towards the existence of creatures with greater consciousness (more inclusive, expansive, deeper,...?, I'm unsure how to rank types of consciousness). Now, I'm not sure just what Haught thinks consciousness is, because he sometimes equates it with phenomenological "feel", the "what it's like" to be an entity of a certain sort, and other times he equates it with subjectivity simpliciter (e.g., the having of beliefs and desires). I admit that this first notion of consciousness is mysterious, and I personally think it gives us reason to doubt materialism. This second notion of subjectivity, however, is not in principle mysterious. There is no principled reason brain science can't identify "having a desire to know" (Haught's example) with some token, functionally identified brain state.

    At the end of the day, Haught is stuck between the recognition that the evidence overwhelmingly supports some version of the theory of evolution and the desperate hope that there are answers to questions like "why doesn't the universe just stand still?" and "why do we observe increasing local complexity in the universe?". The problem is that we can give scientific answers to these questions, but these answers will not be teleological and hence will not satisfy Haught. He wants a certain type of answer to these questions, one which ultimately explains evolution as a process that aims at the realization of some ultimate value. But, of course, this isn't evolution at all. This is merely the "great chain of being". As an interesting exercise, imagine what the observable consequences would be if evolution actually aimed at the development or manifestation of consciousness.
  13. Standard memberDoctorScribbles
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    22 Dec '07 00:311 edit
    This forum is so enriched by your contributions, it could make baby Jesus weep with joy. You have no idea what a wasteland it is here when you abandon us.
  14. Donationkirksey957
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    22 Dec '07 00:48
    Originally posted by DoctorScribbles
    This forum is so enriched by your contributions, it could make baby Jesus weep with joy. You have no idea what a wasteland it is here when you abandon us.
    This would be the one area where the Christian fundamentalists on the site might have a case in rebuking him for "hiding his light under a basket."
  15. Donationrwingett
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    22 Dec '07 02:57
    Originally posted by bbarr
    I doubt that much sense attaches to the claim that atheists fail to understand the religious point of view. First, atheists and religious folk constitute heterogenous groups, so one wonders just which atheists and religious points of view Haught is talking about. He certainly cannot mean that atheists fail to understand any religious point of view, since his ...[text shortened]... actually aimed at the development or manifestation of consciousness.
    I guess what I was aiming at was not really clear, perhaps not even to myself initially. But I'm not so much interested in whether you think Haught is right about what he says. It goes without saying that you'll disagree with him on most issues. So do I. I guess what I really want to know (at least from the atheists) is whether these disagreements are of the type we can live with in harmony.

    I think perhaps you do yourself a great disservice by dismissing Haught so quickly. After all, theists still make up a great percentage of Western civilization. They're not going away anytime soon, so we have to live with them for the foreseeable future. You paint yourself into a very narrow corner by dismissing all theists out of hand. I wonder if it might be a better strategy to encourage Haught's brand of theism to better combat the real enemy, which is the fundamentalist scourge.

    By opposing all theism equally, you only alienate liberal theists and push them into the fundamentalist camp. By making peace with liberal theists and showing them more respect (if not agreement) you could draw more away from the fundamentalist cabal.

    I started a thread about Bishop John Shelby Spong not too long ago. He's the kind of theist I could easily co-exist with. But that may be too much to hope for. It may be that Haught's brand of theism is the best it's going to get for a while. If so, it may be that the best strategy is to encourage him in his work.
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