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Hellbent

Making sense of reality (philosophical discussion)

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So it's been awhile I had a good philosophical discussion. And the topic that always lingers somewhere in the recesses of my mind, the one that has caused so much angst and awe over the years, is like, how to make sense of reality and is there a greater purpose/meaning to it all beyond the physical reality we experience day to day? Where to start? Can humans know anything when they are trying to know things within the construct of their brains which are ostensibly responsible for the reality they experience (our brains are our reality)? And if so, how can we make more progress? (If you ask me, we have a looonnggg way yet to go).

A major tenet of my interest in investigating the reality in which we live is to try to reconcile the conflicting worlds of the materialist/Darwinist approach and the intelligent design approach. Basically, my principle interest in the mystery of existence is trying to understand, one, what is the point to existence, if any, and two, why is it so important to so many people to feel life has purpose? From that tenet, I had the idea of making two lists: one lists all the things that support a Darwinist or materialist viewpoint, and the other lists all the things that leave open the possibility for intelligent design. Please feel free to make suggestions to add to the lists! as well as other contributions to the discussion.

Things that support Darwinist/Materialist viewpoint:

  • Fossil record shows gradual evolution
  • Competition in nature
  • No reason to believe in more than what you see. (ie. what you see is what you get)
  • Why so much suffering in the world?
  • Why so little direct evidence or experience of something more?
Things that leave open the possibility of more outside of the Darwinist/Materialist viewpoint:
  • still many missing links in fossil record.
  • humans have rhythm/music
  • sexual reproduction (why/how did it evolve?)
  • how did anything come into existence in the first place, why?
  • Why are there dolphins, humans, and other wonders?
  • Too many unlikely interlinked relationships between organisms.
  • It's unintuitive that so much beauty and horror can result from 'blind evolution'.
  • Why so much dark matter (what is it and what is its significance?) Does it indicate how little we know about the universe?
Basically I find the materialist approach to be a bit limiting and unsatisfactory, and want to hear some good arguments for both and when I have more time to add more that I think of.

Let's try to keep the flame cannons out of our posting. I know its asking a lot given the way I've constructed the thread, but for me this is always an interesting topic to explore.

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Hellbent said:

try to reconcile the conflicting worlds of the materialist/Darwinist approach and the intelligent design approach.

...

Basically I find the materialist approach to be a bit limiting and unsatisfactory, and want to hear some good arguments for both and when I have more time to add more that I think of.


Trying to "reconcile" evolution and intelligent design is a mistake. Evolution is science. Intelligent design is pseudoscience.

And I'm not aware of any "good argument" supporting intelligent design.

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Sounds like you want to talk about phenomenology and/or existentialism, not darwinism/materialism vs intelligent design. The meaning of being is the being of beings.

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Being of beings?

Mistake? How so? I would put ID in the realm of philosophy more than pseudoscience. I'm not even sure ID qualifies as pseudoscience.

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Hellbent said:

I would put ID in the realm of philosophy more than pseudoscience.

Isn't philosophy itself a pseudoscience?

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I am a little of both. I am a Christian, so I obviously believe in creation. But I also believe in evolution (I just think God did it).

My only reason, aside from faith, is that everything is too perfectly imperfect to be the result of a cosmic accident for me. The same way I wouldn't expect pouring a bunch of paint on the ground to create a masterpiece.

I also believe in an afterlife because I have never witnessed or experience nonexistence. I find the concept unfathomable. But I have witnessed and experience life, so I can easily wrap my mind around that idea.

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Hellbent said:

I'm not even sure ID qualifies as pseudoscience.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligent_design

EDIT:

TraceOfSpades said:

But I also believe in evolution (I just think God did it).


Evolution is not something you believe. Either you accept the biological fact of evolution or you don't.

TraceOfSpades said:

My only reason, aside from faith, is that everything is too perfectly imperfect to be the result of a cosmic accident for me. The same way I wouldn't expect pouring a bunch of paint on the ground to create a masterpiece.


This is why. It seems pretty obvious you do not understand how evolution works.

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I apologize if my answer came out as rude / condescending, it was not my intention.

What I mean is that evolution is a fact, regardless of you believing in it or not. Comparing evolution to a "cosmic accident" is a clear indicator that you are not aware of the mechanisms involved in evolution, which can hardly be described as a cosmic accident by someone who has at least a basic understanding of the theory of evolution.

Or at least that's how I see it.

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TraceOfSpades said:

My only reason, aside from faith, is that everything is too perfectly imperfect to be the result of a cosmic accident for me. The same way I wouldn't expect pouring a bunch of paint on the ground to create a masterpiece.

The mistake many people make is assuming that because evolution is driven by "random mutations" then the process of evolution itself is therefore random. This is not the case; you're focusing on the "mutations" part of the process and not the "natural selection" part. Evolution is not a random process or an accident, and to compare it to pouring paint on the ground is to misunderstand how it works.

Nothing guides paint as it falls to the ground, so how it falls is pretty arbitrary, but if there's something guiding how it falls then the result may be something non-random. The temptation as humans is for us to assume that any such "something" must be intelligent just like we are. But that's not true - there are plenty of examples like sand dunes or crystals where order arises naturally as a result of physical laws. The same is the case in evolution - natural selection repeated successively over many generations continually promotes better adaptation and improvement.

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Zed said:

I apologize if my answer came out as rude / condescending, it was not my intention.

What I mean is that evolution is a fact, regardless of you believing in it or not. Comparing evolution to a "cosmic accident" is a clear indicator that you are not aware of the mechanisms involved in evolution, which can hardly be described as a cosmic accident by someone who has at least a basic understanding of the theory of evolution.

Or at least that's how I see it.


I forgive you.

You misunderstood me though. I believe evolution to be real, and it is reality itself that I can't believe to be a cosmic accident. Evolution is just a part of reality.

Edit: I do not believe any evolutionary process to be an accident of any kind. On the contrary, evolution is a product of necessity and undeniably precise.

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TraceOfSpades said:

My only reason, aside from faith, is that everything is too perfectly imperfect to be the result of a cosmic accident for me. The same way I wouldn't expect pouring a bunch of paint on the ground to create a masterpiece.

I'm sure others here can better expand on this point, but the comparison of pouring paint on the ground and getting a masterpiece is a grossly oversimplified analogy for what we currently know about the history of humanity, Earth and the universe. I've never liked the use of the term "accident" because it implies intent, more specifically that a being had a particular intent and didn't fulfill it.

The entire thing is hypothetical, which is fine - the world needs philosophers, but an unfortunate outcome is that many, many people are content to stop asking questions once the blank is filled in, even if what we've filled it in with is based on nothing but "what if's".

Religious people who don't deny science / scientific discovery are totally okay, in my book. It's when people start trying to replace rigorously tested theories* with random bronze-age guesswork that I start to recoil in fear. I wish a higher percentage of religious people out there were willing to assimilate facts into their faith rather than trying to battle them. For example, I have no issue whatsoever with "Man, evolution is an incredible way to get life to progress, God really thinks up some amazing stuff!" but I absolutely cannot stand shit like "Everlewshin is evul liiies from say-tun! Gawd made me as I am, I iz wut I iz, I ain't no gart-dayum munkie!" which is the stuff you get from the crazy fundies. It bothers me because it completely ignores rigorously tested peer-reviewed evidence that we've been building up for decades upon decades and replaces it with what is essentially mental complacency which I feel simply isn't healthy (and is often a tactic used by people with a twisted agenda to control/manipulate the population. Oh, and don't try and feed me any of that "evolution is an agenda too" crap, there's no way to control the population with the knowledge of evolution, unlike with the fear of "God's wrath".)

*I'm using the real definition of the term 'theory': "A well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment. Such fact-supported theories are not "guesses" but reliable accounts of the real world." Stuff like gravity falls under the 'theory' umbrella. I always get some weird form of frustrated amusement when people try to use the term "theory" to mean "guess". Such people are so ignorant that it baffles me.

(I'm sorry for the massive rant, I just woke up and found this thread pretty damn thought provoking, even if my response is a little off to the side from the OP's original questions/points.)

Soundblock said:

I don't think existence has any intrinsic meaning. It is what you make of it + what it makes of you.

Agreed!

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TraceOfSpades said:

I forgive you.

You misunderstood me though. I believe evolution to be real, and it is reality itself that I can't believe to be a cosmic accident. Evolution is just a part of reality.

Edit: I do not believe any evolutionary process to be an accident of any kind. On the contrary, evolution is a product of necessity and undeniably precise.

How magnanimous of you to "forgive" him. Your position is highly questionable itself, so there's little wonder it can be understood wrongly.

The core principle of the theory of evolution is that life evolved from monocellular organisms via natural selection of benefitial random mutations over time. It's a brilliant and inoffensive concept that's quite obvious to anyone except literal %HOLYBOOK%thumpers, because we can observe it everywhere around us. Within our lifetime, if we look carefully enough.

Then there's abiogenesis, a somewhat minor part of the theory of evolution, yet extremely controversial for people of faith. It's the part that deals with the origin of life. It suggests that primitive chemical compounds combined in a "warm little pond, with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts, light, heat, electricity, &c., present" to create gradually more and more complex organic compounds that eventually started combining and procreating on purpose. This step from chaos to order is harder to swallow for many God groupies.

And finally there's the prime mover theory, aka "well, maybe all of the above is true, but God made the Big Bang, so checkmate, atheists". It suggests that there may or may not have been an entity that flicked a domino piece that kickstarted the Universe. It's impossible to prove or disprove, but it has nothing to do with evolution itself. At this point, you're technically not disagreeing with evolution at all, so going all "yes yes, evolution, BUT..." is an empty argument.

And now, intelligent design. It's a disgusting pathetic attempt by the most hardcore biblethumpers at discrediting everything I just mentioned. It's not trying to reconcile anything, it flat out rejects the Big Bang, abiogenesis AND evolution. All of it is false, because the Bible says so. It is absolutely laughable from the scientific standpoint.

A good discussion should be focused on what Decay suggested. The meaning of being is much more interesting than bullshitting about the shape of bananas and missing crocoducks.

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I don't think there's any objective meaning to the universe/life/reality as the very idea that -everything- must have meaning is a human construct. Even if there really is a meaning to it all, I think it's beyond our comprehension.

For example, imagine a "society" made out of intelligent, rational Quarks(the smallest particles if I'm not mistaken). Suppose that they lead "lives" just as complex as ours, but at the same time completely different.
Their entire existence is too different, and too insignificant to us. And to them, our world is so vast and infinite that we, the humans, may just as well be metaphysical fairy tales to them. Our concepts of "love", "ethics", and "life" would be too alien to them, because it's completely different from their subjective view of what it means to be. Their minds wouldn't be able to fathom what our world is like.

That's our relationship with the universe. There's no way we can know why the universe is, and if there's more to it. That's not to say that our lives don't have a meaning though. We live on Earth, which is a closed system, everything that ever mattered, and ever will matter to us is here(unless we live long enough to colonize other planets, but that's a story for another day). Animals on earth, even down to microbes live for two reasons: Reproduction and survival. Why? Who knows. It's just what we're supposed to do.

Just like the Quarks people. They don't know why they exist. But by existing and doing their own things that might seem pointless in the grand scheme of things, they're playing their part in the infinite "machine" that is the universe.

So to summarize the brain dump I just took:
Yes, there may be more to reality outside of what we experience daily. We may never know what it is, and if we do, there's no guarantee that we will be able to understand it. In the end, the only things in life that matter to us, are the things that we can perceive, produce and do within our system. The only reason we even care what's beyond is because we're humans, and humans ask too many questions. Just look at dogs. Do you think they give a shit about metaphysics? Fuck no

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In a civilized society where thinking and acting on how you're going to survive today is a non-issue, we have the luxury of choosing our own purposes in life. Whether its religion or ethics or morals or whatever. The need to have a purpose in life is probably a way to control the psychological effects of depression that seem to come when you realize you're just a cosmic speck of dust clinging to a space rock orbiting around a giant burning ball of gas that will eventually burn out and make the world freeze over and that your life and experiences are a tiny insignificant micro fraction of the infinite timeline of the universe.

*wraps a blanket over shoulders and gently lays on the floor*

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I've been an atheist since age 8, more or less, but it still happens to me: When I hold the concepts of evolution up to the complexity of the human organism (including dat brain), I still think, man. The problem with intelligent design, however, is that it requires me to accept the existence of an unseen, prepreprehistoric being/presence/force of almost unimaginable foresight and genius (imagine sitting down and designing a human being with no fatal bugs that with run OK with proper food and water for 50+ years). That mental leap is way worse than puzzling over whether 8 million years was really enough to to evolve from bug-pickin' apes to the Roman Empire.

When people talk about the pursuit of "meaning" in life, they're talking about the pursuit of different mental states, I think. Sometimes people have kids seeking love and wholeness. Then they find that drugs are a better source of those feelings, at least in the short term, and neglect those snotty kids. It happens all the time and people find it just horrifying that those terrible, heartless junkies would let their kids go hungry (I know addiction is a disease that warps the brain, but still).

The people who say the point is just being are probably the closest to right.

And the point of Doom is to punch that damn exit button.

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Hellbent said:

Things that leave open the possibility of more outside of the Darwinist/Materialist viewpoint:

  • still many missing links in fossil record.
  • humans have rhythm/music
  • sexual reproduction (why/how did it evolve?)
  • how did anything come into existence in the first place, why?
  • Why are there dolphins, humans, and other wonders?
  • Too many unlikely interlinked relationships between organisms.
  • It's unintuitive that so much beauty and horror can result from 'blind evolution'.
  • Why so much dark matter (what is it and what is its significance?) Does it indicate how little we know about the universe?


I sort of take offence to the word "Darwinism", no one but creationists trying to discredit evolution call it Darwinism. Also, there are non-Materialists who don't think in the terms of ID. Its not a dichotomy.

Anyway, to answer this list,
1. Well of course there are "missing links", we don't and won't find every fossil of every species that's ever existed, which would be the only way to get rid of all the "missing links".
2. I don't know how, not being an evolutionary biologist, but I see this more as a "why"? Why does there have to be a why? There's no reason, at all, to assume a why here. Purpose implies an entity desires. The only way we'd know the why is by asking it. What reason to we have to believe that such an entity exists in the first place?
3. Again, no why involved, as far as we know. Also, I'm sure an evolutionary biologist could answer the how.
4. From what I've read, this is a hard question to answer. I'm sure a cosmologist could point you in the right direction, but again with the 'why'. Maybe there is no why.
5. These are only wonders to you, as a human. There is nothing inherent about dolphins, humans, etc. that makes them "wonders", and there can't be, because it's subject to a mind. And in this case, human minds.
6. Why do you think it's unlikely? Do you have evidence that it is unlikely? What does these relationships being unlikely even mean?
7. Evolution is a process, and processes follow "rules" (or more accurately, follow predicable patterns). It's not "blind", well maybe in the sense that it has no purpose. Also, horror and beauty are human constructs. They exist solely in the minds of humans. So, therefore, nothing has inherent beauty or horror. We as humans just see it that way. Nothing special really about it, so why assume that there is.
8. I'll give my best shot here and just say, well that's how it is. There is no "significance" to it.

Your list is very loaded and filled with bias. It makes assumptions about how the universe "should be" and asks why it's not like that, then assumes a reason, ie Creator(s). I guess what I'm getting at here, is that starting a discussion off with a list like this isn't going to garner a lot of thought-provoking insights.

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Aquanet said:

The people who say the point is just being are probably the closest to right.


I think Bill and Ted got it right myself, "be excellent to eachother". At least, it can't hurt. Best philosophy I can think of.

Granted, that includes being excellent to yourself.

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Hellbent said:

is there a greater purpose/meaning to it all beyond the physical reality we experience day to day?

This question is such a doozy, We don't even know everything we're experiencing. There's likely more to what surrounds us then we know. Look at radio waves, Radiation and UV light for example. We only have so many ways to experience the "physical reality" and we're not 100% we're understanding all the info we are actually getting. Think about describing color to a man that's been blind all of his life, It would get hard to describe the big picture to him.

As for a greater purpose? This is assuming that; 1. We've a purpose. 2. That any purpose can be greater than another. 3. That we think we understand the purpose we think we have. What is good Conan?

Hellbent said:

Can humans know anything when they are trying to know things within the construct of their brains which are ostensibly responsible for the reality they experience (our brains are our reality)?

Our brains are not our reality, they do however hold and construct our perceived reality. We Don't really "know" anything, But we might have some very educated guesses. This is something I'v had to educate myself quite a bit about. I'll chat more on this topic when I get home.

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Hellbent said:

A major tenet of my interest in investigating the reality in which we live is to try to reconcile the conflicting worlds of the materialist/Darwinist approach and the intelligent design approach.

Reconciling science and dogma? Can't be done. While you're free to question and reject any part of evolution that doesn't fit you world view, intelligent design (with all its flaws) must be accepted in its entirety as an article of faith, otherwise you'll burn for eternity in the lake of fire. ;)

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The biggest issue with Darwinist is that they only belive in what they can prove or see.... Well 200 years ago, Humans were not able to see or prove a lot of things that with today modern tech we can. So that means they did not exist back then? No, they did exist, but we didn´t have the means to prove it.

Same goes with God and a lot of things, because we can´t prove they exist it doesn´t mean it proves they don´t exist.. We just don´t know yet...

About the meaning of life, well that depends on everyone and what they want. Now as a race well there is no meaning, we are just alive, we can choose what we want to do as race, yet we don´t a destination yet......

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Wild Dog said:

The biggest issue with Darwinist is that they only belive in what they can prove or see.... Well 200 years ago, Humans were not able to see or prove a lot of things that with today modern tech we can. So that means they did not exist back then? No, they did exist, but we didn´t have the means to prove it.

Same goes with God and a lot of things, because we can´t prove they exist it doesn´t mean it proves they don´t exist......

My take on it is that anything we can't prove is speculation. Some people speculated that Earth was round, but it wasn't known for sure until they had a means of proving it. The same applies here. I personally don't like to base my values on speculation, I just try to do what's right and treat others the way I'd like to be treated. I would never flat out say "there is no (insert various gods/prophets here)", I'd just say there isn't substantial evidence for me to really give it much consideration. Especially considering that there are literally thousands of religions out there with conflicting theories about god(s), the beginning of the universe, and rules man must follow - who am I to say which of them has the right or wrong theory? Until we have the tools to prove or disprove any of these claims, it's all just guesswork, which is why I choose not to partake in any of them (and frankly think they're hundreds of years overdue on the tax payments).

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^I'm with you on the moderate stance. Just like you're fine with religious people who don't flat out ignore scientific facts, I have no problem with atheists who don't care if someone is religious or not.

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Wild Dog said:

The biggest issue with Darwinist is that they only belive in what they can prove or see....

I don't see the problem with this line of thinking, yet you are acting like it's a bad thing. Why should you believe something without any reason to do so?

Wild Dog said:

Well 200 years ago, Humans were not able to see or prove a lot of things that with today modern tech we can. So that means they did not exist back then? No, they did exist, but we didn´t have the means to prove it.

I feel like this is a strawman. No one is saying that thing that haven't been proven yet definitely don't exist.

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Wild Dog said:

The biggest issue with Darwinist is that they only belive in what they can prove or see.... Well 200 years ago, Humans were not able to see or prove a lot of things that with today modern tech we can. So that means they did not exist back then? No, they did exist, but we didn´t have the means to prove it.

I liked your post more when I thought you were disputing the existence of humans 200 years ago.

Wild Dog said:

Same goes with God and a lot of things, because we can´t prove they exist it doesn´t mean it proves they don´t exist.. We just don´t know yet...

Yeah, God should start believing in a lot of things as well, that Darwinist jerk. Who does he think he is?

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Doomkid said:

My take on it is that anything we can't prove is speculation. Some people speculated that Earth was round, but it wasn't known for sure until they had a means of proving it. The same applies here. I personally don't like to base my values on speculation, I just try to do what's right and treat others the way I'd like to be treated. I would never flat out say "there is no (insert various gods/prophets here)", I'd just say there isn't substantial evidence for me to really give it much consideration.


I know where you're coming from, and I tend to agree with a lot of the stuff you say here, but this time I just don't.

I have the feeling that you are trying to be "politically correct" no matter what, even if that means "giving the benefit of the doubt" to what is, frankly, a bunch of nonsense. Yes, you can flat out say "there is no Vishnu / Thor / Ganesha / Quetzalcoatl". Sure, you can't prove it, but come on, I think it's pretty obvious there aren't no such gods. And from my point of view the same could be said about any other god, but that would be arrogant, so, as you said, it's better to just say "I'd just say there isn't substantial evidence for me to really give it much consideration", which in my opinion is just a politically correct way of saying "yeah, for all I know it's probably bullshit, but I don't want to hurt your feelings so I'll just say 'I can't prove it, so I don't know'". Yeah, we can't prove it and we don't know for certain, but any scientifically educated person knows it's probably bullshit. I think it is.

Doomkid said:

Especially considering that there are literally thousands of religions out there with conflicting theories about god(s), the beginning of the universe, and rules man must follow - who am I to say which of them has the right or wrong theory?


The fact that there are thousands of religions out there doesn't mean there's more likely one of them (at least) may be correct. That's like saying "there are hundreds of fairly tales in the history of the cultures of the world, who I am to say at least some of them aren't true?".

Look, I generally agree with you Doomkid, and I like your train of thought, but I think you are trying too hard to avoid "hurting the feelings" of religious people. A debate is not about being politically correct, it's about arguments. And I don't think your arguments really bring a lot more than "justification" to the discussion.

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