Best of Spirits

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Best of Spirits

Theologians Mud-Wrestle Scientists

For intelligent debate on intelligent design.

Ignore the sociopolitical bent of unscientific professors of science. Science per se is just information. What we have managed not to refute, the preponderance of evidence, suggests certain theories are more practical than others, but theories are always approximations we continue to refine. Science doesn't decide. Science doesn't take sides. Science doesn't determine. Science doesn't moralize, philosophize, or theologize. Science measures. True scientists do not presume to suggest that science could ever prove anything theological. God, being infinitely beyond nature, cannot be proved by the study of nature. Nature may be nigh-infinitely complex in its potentials, but it is always natural, and study of it cannot reveal anything supernatural, not motive, not purpose, not intelligence.

Scientist startled by SpiritThe only revelation of God in our daily experience is each other: Here we are! Scientists, philosophers, theologians, each of us, relating to one another and (at our best) studying together to understand the natural world, to appreciate and live up to the moral and the ideal, praying and striving to improve our faith in God, and our devotion to lives of love and service with God. Science does not reveal the hand of the Almighty. but as scientists we can recognize that, if we exist seeking God, it MAY BE because God made everything this way. That's the theory. We can't prove it. We may have our belief, but without proof, it's only belief, a working theory, with perhaps a preponderance of evidence but still in process of refinement.

And as fascinating as a theory can be, one could not be driven to passion by a mere good idea. The most fascinating theory will not inspire people to go out and face persecution and mortal threat. Such passion and inspiration can only come from a surety of truth, and truth we cannot have by any study of science, law, morals, philosophy, or theology, but only by a magnificent jump of personal perspective, a leap of faith, that propels us from thinking about and wondering about to living as if.

Broadly speaking, I hold with the scientists, as far as the science goes, but side with the Intelligent Designers as far as theism. I oppose the politicization of scientific culture, and abhor inappropriate applications of science whether atheistic or theistic. The fight against these things is all to the good. However, Creationists frequently remind me of Will Rogers's saying (also reflected in some psalm or proverb I'm too lazy to look up) about not arguing with a fool lest onlookers can't tell which one is the fool.

A great movie about the scientific-theologic debate is Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus (2006) (links to iMDB page). It's great because of the contrast between the self-styled Scientists, mean-spirited, self-inflated, closed-minded, arrogant elitists (familiar in our modern "progressives") and their counterparts the even-tempered, sweet-spirited, self-abnegating, open-hearted believers. I'd trust those believers with my greatest treasure and I wouldn't trust the scientists to walk my dog across the street. If science were determined by the friendliness, honesty, and general good spirit of the people studying, rather than by objective measurement, then the believers win. It's sad to see the separation preventing either side from appreciating the position of the other. Neither seems to fully appreciate that, however much we may appreciate the hand of God in the wonders of nature, however much living daily in the presence of God may sustain and nourish our souls, science simply cannot speak to theology, likewise, living in faith may be proof enough for one's soul, but it still cannot speak a word about science.

Related Mindful Best of Spirits Webwork: The Question of Cosmic Personality

Best of Spirits

Thou Shalt Do No Murder

Murder is a subset of killing.

Hardly the scriptural scholar I'd like to be, but isn't the translation more appropriately "do not murder"? Murder reflects perverse motivations -- unearned gain, lust, revenge. Murder is a subset of killing, not its equivalent. Killing may be always awful, yet justifiable, in defense of self, others, groups as in the nation.

MurderAs God is the author of good sense, God's laws would be sensible.

There is a time to yield, avoid conflict, turn the other cheek, put away the sword, die under a Chinese tank, or on a cross. Some would say that those who truly take on the full mantle of apostleship of Christ on earth might even eschew normally-excusable self-defense. However, if employing lethal force seems the only recourse for such a horrible prospect as defending the innocent from a threatening sociopath, I expect that the Judges on High can differentiate the sin of murder from the horror of a self-defense killing, at least as well as any good judges on earth.

The ugly but necessary right to lethal self-defense, extrapolated to the group, means civil police and national armies. This sometimes means scenarios on a large scale -- war -- that reflect the same ugly but necessary value. Although war, in practice, is more the realm of the guy with the horns and hooves than anything of the realm of harps and hymns, those who fight for the good causes on the front lines are as justified as those who defend a single innocent from a maniac.

This sensibleness regarding "do not murder," as with all the commandments, derives from there really being just one law -- as Jesus well emphasized, the love of God as the Parent, and the inevitable consequence, filial love of one's fellow. Murder from sinful motive is loveless, the killer's ego vaunted, the victim devalued. Conversely, by the measure of the golden rule, that which is done in a necessary service of defense is done in love. This can include loving as best one can that poor confused soul dispatched of necessity to higher judges. And, since so many have fallen in defense of others, laid down their lives for others, recall that Jesus said, there is no higher love.

Best of Spirits

On the Road to Success

A chance meeting of two perspectives on life's highway.

The Soul of Despair
and the Soul of Prosperity
Met on the Road to Success.

I fear, cries Despair,
We shall never get There, or we'll
get There, but There will be Less!

Prosperity spoke.
It's a lie. It's a joke, to think,
One day I'll finally arrive.

How you get; Why you give;
Success is how you live,
Every moment awake and alive.

Position and Property,
Raising a Family,
All of that comes at a Cost.

So I must reach success,
wails Despair, and stay there,
or everything else will be lost.

Two roads go from here,
frets Despair. I will take
Quick Wealth and Ease All of my Days.

I wish you success,
smiles Prosperity, but
I believe this is where we part ways.

Best of Spirits

Perceptual Pareidolia

In order to imagine an alternative to your perception, you must admit to the possibility of perceptual confusion.
Second in a series on perception and awareness.
First: Discerning Compound Problems — Problems are sometimes simple. More often problems are compound and complex, and complicated.

tree faceThe boyfriend says to the girlfriend, if there's 2 ways to take something, and one is mean and hurtful, I meant the other one.


But if you don't see the other one, that's meaningless. You only think, he's being mean and hurtful.

First, you must own your own emotions. Always take responsibility for being upset. "I am upset" is truth. "You upset me" avoids responsibility; it's not true in the same way. If the same words, same speaker, different listener, causes no upset, it's not the speaker, it's the listener. The manner of reaction is based on internal realities rather than external. The inverse would be a person who fails to get it when someone is being insulting or manipulative. Like when an old friend turns on you, and at first you think they're joking, until the preponderance of evidence is, no, that person really is being a jerk.

Second, in order to think "he meant the other one," you have to at least imagine that there is another one.

In order to imagine an alternative to your perception, you must admit to the possibility of perceptual confusion. You have to be able to have a second thought after the first impression. Even though it seems like the other person must be "making a dig" or "guilt-tripping" or something else, you might be imagining it.

It's not so much a matter of disregarding your perception as allowing for the possibility of misperception, despite how real it might
seem, despite the powerful and instantaneous emotional reactions which lend credence to your perception.

A negative perspective creates negative interpretations. If you have chronically and for years misunderstood and misinterpreted, the negative perspective seems all the more real. It's like in A Wrinkle in Time, where at first they're inside the darkness and it seems to be the main thing, but when the witches take them to a higher level of understanding, they see the reality is, the darkness is only a patch, and the light is the whole reality. Except that quite often the darkness isn't even real, you're just "blind" to the light.

Key is honesty, sincerity, in being able to accept that, for whatever reasons, you have had and continue to have perceptual problems which cause you to perceive things in a way that upset you, and have evolved whole perceptual milieu which are fooling your brain. It's a kind of emotional pareidolia.

"I wasn't angry," is often shouted angrily. Here is an article that seems to beg some conclusion, but is nevertheless good for definition:

Anger: An Often Mislabeled, Often Misperceived Emotion

[A]nger should be seen as a spectrum of reactions and feelings ranging from the mild to the severe. It may be a case of irritation, frustration, being upset, resentment, hatred, madness, aggression, hostility, violence, or rage. ... People need help in self-awareness to discover the source and magnitude of their anger. Questions like, What makes me upset or resentful? and Why do I get so easily frustrated? help clarify whether it is a manifestation of selfishness and narcissism or a mobilization of necessary zeal on an existential level to face violation, stop injustice, and overcome evil.

So: Anger is a range, not a single state. Self-awareness helps discern whether it's a result of internal confusion or actual external attack.

Similarly to the definitional limitedness of the above, here are just a couple of lines from a message on PsychForums (BPD = Borderline Personality Disorder):

Upthread are these "sub-genre" for BPD:
  • Avoidant PD (social anxiety)
  • Self-Destructive PD
  • Dependent PD
  • Oppositional[ly] Defiant [PD]
  • Obsessive-compulsive PD"

My (flawed) impression of people with BPD is that they see emotional triggers that aren't there. Things become greater or more significant than they really are. The sky is falling-in. Or they have just met the most amazing person in the world and everything is now perfect.

I hate the idea of feeling or thinking something that isn't real. I'd rather have too few emotions than ones based on misperceptions. I'd rather be missing data than have flawed data in my system.

There are three things I see here that are important:

  1. "emotional triggers that aren't there"
  2. "emotions... based on misperceptions"
  3. "missing data"

You may perceive abuse, but while there may be a nit of basis for the perception, you're missing the broad fabric.

When I say "misperception," it's really more a matter of failure to perceive the greater context and an amplification of imagined hurt that fills the void of understanding.

This can be hard stuff to incorporate. Like the forum comment, one may dislike the idea of having false information and reactions thereto. But facing truth is vital.

Shocking illusion - Pretty girls turn ugly!
Uploaded to YouTube by TangenCognitionLab on Jul 7, 2011
How does that work?
[h/t to Maetenloch at Ace of Spades for the link!]