Media Casualties Mount
Administration Split On Europe Invasion
Administration In Crisis Over Burgeoning Quagmire
Congress Concerned About Diversion From War On Japan
Pot, Kettle On Line Two...
Allies Seize Paris
Gore Book Sales Tank, Supporters Claim Unfair Tactics
Satan Files Lack Of Defamation Suit
Why This Blog Bores People With Space Stuff
A New Beginning
My Hit Parade
Instapundit (Glenn Reynolds)
James Lileks Bleats
Winds Of Change (Joe Katzman)
Little Green Footballs (Charles Johnson)
Eject Eject Eject (Bill Whittle)
Alan Boyle (MSNBC)
Space Politics (Jeff Foust)
Space Transport News (Clark Lindsey)
NASA Space Flight
A Voyage To Arcturus (Jay Manifold)
Dispatches From The Final Frontier (Michael Belfiore)
Personal Spaceflight (Jeff Foust)
The Flame Trench (Florida Today)
Rocket Forge (Michael Mealing)
COTS Watch (Michael Mealing)
Curmudgeon's Corner (Mark Whittington)
Tales of the Heliosphere
Out Of The Cradle
Space For Commerce (Brian Dunbar)
The Speculist (Phil Bowermaster)
Spacecraft (Chris Hall)
Space Pragmatism (Dan Schrimpsher)
Eternal Golden Braid (Fred Kiesche)
Carried Away (Dan Schmelzer)
Laughing Wolf (C. Blake Powers)
Chair Force Engineer (Air Force Procurement)
JesusPhreaks (Scott Bell)
Nanobot (Howard Lovy)
Lagniappe (Derek Lowe)
Geek Press (Paul Hsieh)
Redwood Dragon (Dave Trowbridge)
Turned Up To Eleven (Paul Orwin)
Cowlix (Wes Cowley)
Quark Soup (Dave Appell)
Assymetrical Information (Jane Galt and Mindles H. Dreck)
Marginal Revolution (Tyler Cowen et al)
Man Without Qualities (Robert Musil)
Knowledge Problem (Lynne Kiesling)
Cut On The Bias (Susanna Cornett)
The Funny Pages
Cox & Forkum
Day By Day
Happy Fun Pundit
Amish Tech Support (Lawrence Simon)
Scrapple Face (Scott Ott)
Quasipundit (Adragna & Vehrs)
England's Sword (Iain Murray)
Daily Pundit (Bill Quick)
Daimnation! (Damian Penny)
Z+ Blog (Andrew Zolli)
The Kolkata Libertarian
Midwest Conservative Journal
Protein Wisdom (Jeff Goldstein et al)
Dean's World (Dean Esmay)
Yippee-Ki-Yay (Kevin McGehee)
Spleenville (Andrea Harris)
Random Jottings (John Weidner)
On the Third Hand (Kathy Kinsley, Bellicose Woman)
Inappropriate Response (Moira Breen)
Inadvertent Comic Relief
Warblogger Watcher (Cowardly Anonymous Idiotarians)
Other Worthy Weblogs
Ain't No Bad Dude (Brian Linse)
A libertarian reads the papers
Anna Franco Review
Ben Kepple's Daily Rant
Dropscan (Shiloh Bucher)
End the War on Freedom
Insolvent Republic of Blogistan
James Reuben Haney
Mind over what matters
Page Fault Interrupt
Sand In The Gears(Anthony Woodlief)
The Blogs of War
The Fly Bottle
The Illuminated Donkey
What she really thinks
Where HipHop & Libertarianism Meet
Zem : blog
Space Policy Links
The Space Review
The Space Show
Space Frontier Foundation
Space Policy Digest BBS
USS Clueless (Steven Den Beste)
Unremitting Verse (Will Warren)
World View (Brink Lindsay)
The Last Page
More Than Zero (Andrew Hofer)
Pathetic Earthlings (Andrew Lloyd)
Spaceship Summer (Derek Lyons)
The New Space Age (Rob Wilson)
Rocketman (Mark Oakley)
Site designed by
Born To Believe
Razib over at Gene Expression has an interesting interview with Heather McDonald on faith and conservatism, and her disillusionment with much of what conservatism seems to have become. I disagree with her that George Bush hasn't damaged the cause of conservatism. While I agree that he's not a conservative, and that his policies shouldn't do so, the popular mythology is that he is a conservative, and so they will.
But more interesting to me is this tangent, brought up by the Derb:
I don't want to rain on Heather Mac Donald's parade, especially after the sweet compliment she paid me in that Q&A Ramesh linked to, but consider the following:
He goes on to make an amusing comment about what the conservative view on gene tweaking will be when parents want to make their kids more religious, but I think he's right--the tendency to be religious, or believe in a god probably is partially heritable, which makes me think that, in some ways, it's similar to the homosexuality debate. Derb wrote once (or at least that's my recollection) that while he wasn't enthusiastic about religion, it wasn't possible for him not to believe in God (he'll hopefully correct me if I'm wrong). I'm the opposite. No matter what kind of case people make to me for it, I don't find it possible to believe. It just doesn't fundamentally compute. I have no sense whatsoever of a higher being that has any interest in me or my activities.
If both Derb and I are born that way, then there are probably people in between (to use my homosexual analogy, call them bi) and they're the ones on whom proselytizing works, because they have a disposition to buy it. Some, like Derb, need no instruction in the matter, and others like me, are immune to it, but for many (perhaps most) religious training is important, and they have "a choice." And like bi-sexuals, they assume that everyone is like them, so that if they've made a choice to not believe, then someone who believes anyway is mentally ill, and for those who choose to believe, those who don't are immoral. As with homosexuals, I just assume that people who believe are born that way, just as I was born not to, so I don't get my skivvies in a knot about it either way.
[Update mid afternoon]
An enterprising commenter has found a link to Derb's current religious views, which is an interesting read. The quote that I referenced above was, I think, prior to 2004. I hadn't realized that his views had been evolving so much (and so much away from religion) in the last couple years. If I had, I'd have asked him about it when I saw him in DC a couple months ago.Posted by Rand Simberg at January 15, 2007 10:49 AM
I think Bush is one of those people who is hard to classify, politically. In fact I think MOST people do not fall squarely into a standard political classification, IE conservative or liberal etc. Reagan was a Conservative, period. Gore is a liberal, period. Bush is very conservative on some issues, not so much on others. Clinton (take your pick) is liberal on some issues, not so much on others.
Trying to pin "conservative" on Bush is a lot like anonymous tagging Rand as a "neo-con". Sure Rand has some beliefs that fall in line with conservative thought, but he also has some that are traditionally liberal territory. Trying to label either with a one size fits all title is just simplistic, which is why it's the best that anonymous can come up with.
Here's Derb discussing his religion. He does state that he believes in God "to his own satisfaction," but he reels of enough qualifications that he doesn't sound like a good example of someone who is on that side because he was "born that way."
Er, was that the hetero side or the homo side?Posted by ArtD0dger at January 15, 2007 12:33 PM
Er, was that the hetero side or the homo side?
It doesn't really matter for the sake of the analogy, but it would probably upset the believers if I put them on the homo side, so I'll take that one. Also, it makes sense, because I think that they're more prevalent, at least judging from polls.Posted by Rand Simberg at January 15, 2007 12:35 PM
Don't take this the wrong way Rand, but you just made me into a homo, too.Posted by ArtD0dger at January 15, 2007 01:15 PM
I've coined a term, "wistful agnostic", for my views. I'd *like* to believe, I can tell from observation that believers enjoy believing, and I don't begrudge others their faith- but I just can't feel it. Maybe it's a bit like other heritable traits such as color receptors, and I'm simply godblind.
No amount of proselytizing will work on me either, certainly enough people have tried.Posted by Doug Jones at January 15, 2007 02:05 PM
I would partially agree with Rand's "continuum" position--that some people are more disposed to pure heterosexuality, some more disposed to pure homosexuality, and some more in between.
However, this presents a dilemma. Ignore, for the sake of discussion, those on one extreme or the other, and consider those in the "middle." What causes them to "choose" to act as one or the other? My position is that we do indeed have free will, and these people can make their own choices. But if you believe in genetic destiny, and also that everything that occurs (including all the actions of the neurons inside your head) is merely the causal result of everything that came before, it seems to me that these "middle" people really had no choice in the matter at all--their "choice" was just a natural consequence. My position allows for free will, but requires a "supernatural" capability in our minds that is not allowed for in a purely naturalistic world. I think that if you believe in compete naturalism/materialism, you can't believe in free will, and so any discussion of making a choice makes no real sense. So if you want to discuss choice at all you have to deal with causes outside of what we usually call the natural world--and now you have to deal with the question of if there is a creator or not, and what he might think about these issues.Posted by Jeff Mauldin at January 15, 2007 03:10 PM
God gives us faith through grace. It's as simple as that in my opinion. I count myself blessed to be able to believe.
Its when we get down to specifics that things get nasty and ugly. On the other hand if one restricts oneself to the gospels, hey, I can buy that its easy. The rest of the Bible...I can't reconcile Jesus injunctions and example against violence with the rest of it.
Interesting topic Rand, and particularly appropriate for MLK day. We would be so much less of a country if not for the non-violent faith and persuasion of MLK.Posted by Toast_n_Tea at January 15, 2007 03:21 PM
And what will the ramifications be of parents selecting designer babies with a genetic predisposition to have lots of children - perhaps in response to intense would be grandparent or even religous pressure? Maybe the world's population will not plateau like we currently think.Posted by pete at January 15, 2007 03:38 PM
Like Rand, I'm one of those people who seems to be completely immune to the attractions of religion. It has simply never made a lick of sense to me and I have never felt its appeal at all. Indeed, the whole religous concept (particularly the "abrahamic ones) has come across to me as nothing but jibberish. Yet, at the same time, I know many people who subscribe to many different religions who simply cannot live and be happy without it. I don't begrudge these people at all and, unlike Richard Dawkins, have no desire to "convert" them to atheism. It is the same with redical life extension and transhumanism. I am into these things very much and am well aware that most people have no interest in them whatsoever. Just like my non-religous beliefs, I have no desire to "convert" other people to radical life extension and transhumanism.
I came to the conclusion many years ago that the propensity for religous believe must, no doubt, be inheritable. How else is it possible that some people cannot live without religion and others feel absolutely no need for it at all? There is no other plausible explanation.
The only problem I have ever had with religion is not with religion per se, but with the fact that religious people, mainly those into the abrahamic ones (christianity and islam) refuse to consider the possibility that maybe, just maybe, that people like us exist who simply have no need for religion. For ever reason (must be rooted in personal anxieties), they have this obsession with the notion that their religion has jurisdiction over all of us and that we should all sign up for their religion. It is precisely this and only this that irritates me about many people who are into the abrahamic religions.
I credit my lack of desire to "convert" others to my way of thinking to my fundamental sense of self-security. I am very comfortable with my world-view and do not have any personal anxieties that would make me question it. I think that what I am into works best for me, but readily admit that it may not be best for everyone else. I simply do not care about what religious and other people do with their lives, as long as they are content to allow me to pursue my own life-choices as a free person. In other words, live and let live. I consider this attitude to be the example of a supremely self-confident psychie.
For some reason, many religious people (especially those of the "abrahamic" religious) seem incapable of recipricating the same "live and let live" ideal with me. This suggests that these people lack a sense of self-security or self-confidence in their own beliefs and personal choices, that their religious belief is a reflection of personal anxiety. This is the only plausible explanation I can think of for why they cannot treat me in the same 'live and let live' fashion that I treat them. I cannot think of any other possible explantion. I'm sure that there is no other explanation.Posted by Kurt9 at January 15, 2007 04:11 PM
I have to agree with Kurt9's last paragraph. Some of the most self-secure people I know are agnostic, whereas some of the most insecure people I know, and some of the least likely to explore the evidence the real world presents to them are "religious".
Maybe the word "religious" is too wide a classification. There are all kinds of "religious" people. We need sub-types. I'm in the band of those of who feel religion has to have some aspect of the ecstatic as Martin Buber describes. Like those Hindus, Christians, Moslems or Jews who enter a different mental state in worship.
Now do some of us have a genetic pre-disposition to this? Maybe. Maybe all it does is hit the anxiety pathways just like a stiff gin and tonic but without the consequences. Aha, a cheap fix? Somehow I think its more than that, but how can I expect someone else to experience the same thing? That's why I can't stand those who proselytize with a book and a point of view.
As a great-uncle of mine, long passed away used to say, if God really thought we could not find him without the Bible, every child born would pop out with a little signed copy. And he was, as I am a Christian.Posted by Toast_n_Tea at January 15, 2007 04:32 PM
"This is the only plausible explanation I can think of for why they cannot treat me in the same 'live and let live' fashion that I treat them. I cannot think of any other possible explantion. I'm sure that there is no other explanation.
So, you have lots of faith in your conclusion, Kurt?Posted by Doug Jones at January 15, 2007 04:56 PM
Movable type trimmed my last line:
Grin, duck, & runPosted by Doug Jones at January 15, 2007 04:58 PM
rand, you might find this post of interest. i am in your boat, though i have never wanted to believe in god....Posted by razib at January 15, 2007 05:12 PM
To me the need for religion or believing in god isn't so much a genetic disposition. Instead I think people may fall into certain camps in which their brain's like to organize and store information into a parable like structure. For these people religion is a good method of tightly packing highly complex ideas, emotions, and attitudes into a neat little parable package.
There was an episode of Star Trek the Next Generation where a race of aliens communicated through parable. They were able to side step lengthy dialog with one another by simply calling out the title to a particular event in their history. Religion serves as a code for relaying highly detailed thought and ideas through scripture and then in the real world these lessons learned could be used to explain expressions with one another with simply naming a book and a chapter:verse. I think as we have evolved that religion has been supplanted by science to a certain degree and chapter:verse has been replaced with a=b.Posted by Josh Reiter at January 15, 2007 07:31 PM
There was an episode of Star Trek the Next Generation where a race of aliens communicated through parable. They were able to side step lengthy dialog with one another by simply calling out the title to a particular event in their history.
For what it's worth, I thought that was one of the dumbest ST episodes, ever. It's like the old joke about prison, in which the prisoners just call out numbers to each other, indicating which long-worn joke they're telling. When a noobie calls out "Fifty Three," no one laughs. His bunkmate says, "you just don't know how to tell the joke."Posted by Rand Simberg at January 15, 2007 07:40 PM
Absolutely fantastic piece, rabiz.Posted by ArtD0dger at January 15, 2007 08:59 PM
Two points. Everybody has a religion, a system of axioms and first principles by which they parse the universe. The question is, is your religion the one that you are submerged in on a daily basis or one that's at odds with the cultural default. If there's a genetic component to "believers" I'd say it's more likely at this time and place to be people who can maintain a healthy sketicism in the face of the dominant agnostic/atheistic values of the media sea we all swim in.
Second, if I were a member of at well organized church, I'd be taking the "Religious=genetic dysfunction" and running the well worn victim algorithm. Make burning churches a hate crime and have TV shows where nice interesting people come out of the closet as (gasp!) practicing Christians. Some how though, I don't think this will work as well as it did for the gay folk in Hollywood.Posted by K at January 16, 2007 12:04 AM
Number fifty-three! That is funny, I have not heard that one before. :-)
Here is my favoured moral position on the matter; Your right to wave your beliefs around ends where my nose, or anyone else’s nose, begins.Posted by pete at January 16, 2007 06:10 AM
I've seen as much fire-bellied faith in the rightness of personal cosmology from atheists as I've seen from the "religious".
Here's the thing: Neither to most people who would call themselves 'religious'.
It's my dream to be on TV, and to have someone ask me whether I believe in God. I'd paraphrase Neil Gaiman..."Yes, I do; but that isn't what you're asking me. You're asking me whether I believe in some mysterious force that lives in the sky and controls everything. And of course I don't. I can't imagine how the world can be the way it is if there's a God watching all of us and changing the world in human terms, for human ends."Posted by DensityDuck at January 16, 2007 10:56 AM
Er, yeah, and I hit the "Post" button before I finished typing.
What I do believe in is the idea that there does exist an absolute moral standard; that it's possible to objectively describe the morality of an action or situation. I consider that the equivalent of a belief in God; after all, how do you test a moral comparison? We have no way of doing that; any statements of morality by humans are essentially subjective. But if you try to build a moral structure based on subjectivity, you can't justify anything more complicated than eat-kill-hump-shit. On the other hand, an objective moral standard justifies itself.
Therefore we proclaim the mystery of faith: We can never define a truly objective moral standard, but we must have faith that such a thing exists, because without it no moral statement is justifiable.Posted by DensityDuck at January 16, 2007 11:03 AM
Duck, I think you ignore a lot of very difficult philosophy on the nature of the development of moral systems. You don't need to point to God to tell you not to hurt other people any more than you need to point to him to explain what holds the moon up.
Consider evolutionary biology. We all have an inherent empathy (sociopaths excepted) which allows us to get along with one another in the small groups in which we evolved. It's a survival trait selected for by millenia of evolution, just like the inherent physics that teaches us that heavy objects will fall before Newton figured out exactly how they do so.
If you don't like this argument, consider the "intersection set" argument. All the belief systems of the world, and the obviously ethical and kind nonbelievers as well, basically concur on what constitutes decent behavior. No mystery there.Posted by Jane Bernstein at January 16, 2007 07:01 PM
Jane, one could -- and a lot of people do, from what I've seen -- argue that all of your points do actually bolster their case for the existence of God.
Or for an intelligent designer, or whatever label they're trying to use this week.
But then, nobody ever promised that faith would be falsifiable. ;-)Posted by McGehee at January 17, 2007 06:42 AM
"You don't need to point to God to tell you not to hurt other people any more than you need to point to him to explain what holds the moon up."
Really? Use game theory and logic to show that what Raskolnikov did was wrong.
"If you don't like this argument, consider the "intersection set" argument. All the belief systems of the world, and the obviously ethical and kind nonbelievers as well, basically concur on what constitutes decent behavior. No mystery there."
I didn't even actually discuss what morality I thought there ought to be. What I did say was that you can't make a moral system work without an appeal to some kind of objective authority.
"We all have an inherent empathy (sociopaths excepted) which allows us to get along with one another in the small groups in which we evolved."
We have a learned empathy, learned by example and by indoctrination. It is not inherent. Sociopathy is the basic state of the human mind. That we can rise above this level speaks to our potential, but it isn't a question of destiny.Posted by DensityDuck at January 17, 2007 03:17 PM
Post a comment