Thursday, 15 March 2007

A load of tosh

Prof PZ Myers has had a dig at the word Spirituality. He feels it's another word for lies and empty noise.

In many contexts he's right. The word is so wooley in its definition, it can be bent to pretty much any meaning. That said, it can be of some use; Not everyone who uses the term is a dim wit.

As ususal with Pharyngula, the value is in the numerous comments. I encourage you to go and contribute. In the mean time, here's some of the more thought provoking ones;

Nodoze: people also blather on about art, morality, metaphysics, and a host of other vague things of a transcedent or metaphysical nature that are "real" but defy science and, for that matter, truth. they are the serious business of mankind, in Popper's words the "ultimate questions," and there is no way to distinguish their serious answers from nonsense, as far as science can say. obviously science isn't enough. it has limits. oh well!

Neolotus: PZ, try reading the Introduction portion of Roger Ames translation of "Sun-Tzu: The Art of War" where it deals with the differences between the two-world view of the West and the one-world view of the East or watching "The Last Samurai" or perhaps just learning about Eastern philosophy.

Shorter version of spirituality: treating the living world/universe with respect and humility and learning to live in harmony with it.

The feeling of commiseration is the beginning of humanity. Is there something in this you fail to understand?

Oh, something you might understand is Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" as a place to begin.

Al: There's nothing vague or "transcendent" about art, morality or metaphysics. As far as aesthetics and ethics, science can't tell us the "oughts," but there are certainly reasonable descriptions for why aesthetics and ethics exist from an evolutionary, psychological and sociological standpoint.

As for metaphysics, there are reasonable discussions one can have about epistemology, ontology and other areas of metaphysics while sticking to reason and empiricism and without the need to invoke anything "mysterious," "transcendent," or "ineffable." The latter is the hallmark of bad philosophy anyway, as it just means you've thrown your hands up and given up on attempting to come to an understanding.

MartinC: Too much spirituality can obviously be bad for you. I think the maximum recommended dose is 3 milligrams per kilo. Unfortunately its taking rather a long time to invent a spiritual weighing scale. Don't worry though, I'm sure it will turn up soon, just like Demski's 'Specified complexity measurer'.

SAM: I would have thought the maximum dose for a human was 21 grams. Overdosing woud be more than a spirit could handle without accidentally evolving. Perhaps I am wrong.

Potenilla: Guys, have you ever considered that the consciousness of being connected with something greater than onesself - or, better, the "feeling" or "sensation" thereof, has a genetic substrate and there is individual variation within the human species?

Just because none of you have this consciousness/feeling (and I don't, either), doesn't mean to say it doesn't exist in ohers. Sometimes (often) is gets translated into religion, and sometimes into something more like treating the living world/universe with respect and humility and learning to live in harmony with it.

We would do better in concentrating on reducing the political effects of (organised) religion, and making sure that people who don't have the spiritual consciousness/feeling don't feel they have to pay lip-service to religion, than in wasting our time trying to convince those people who do have it that they are wrong to do so. IMHO the latter is much like trying to convince gay people that they shouldn't be gay. Or, perhaps, to convince heterosexual men that looking at a woman's legs as she walks down the street is ALWAYS wrong and "treating her as a sex object".

Daenku32: consciousness of being connected with something greater than onesself
Does earth count?


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