The Raving Theist

Dedicated to Jesus Christ, Now and Forever

Out of the Cave

October 14, 2005 | 62 Comments

Comments

62 Responses to “Out of the Cave”

  1. There Is
    October 14th, 2005 @ 2:30 am

    Meditation seems to me just a different chemical brain state. You can be at peace smoking marijuana, just as you can be at peace simply clearing your mind through medidation. Slap on some massage therapy, and girls, you have a deal!

    I disagree with the statement about Socrates, and skeptics always having to be miserable. Why can’t a person be happy being skeptical? If you can medidate, or simply have a strong enough demeanor to not be phased in your personal sense of self, who’s to say you can’t also be skeptical here? I disagree with the idea that skepticism is lock linked to pain. Over time one can develop a personal view on life that doesn’t require being bogged down with all things angst-ridden.

    Think of it as a zone area where the you’ve reached a runner’s high in the cave allegory to enlightenment ;-)

    Choose your emotions people, and choose them high!

    If you need something help juicing yourself up, listen to some ‘Cake':

    He’s going the distance.

    He’s going for speed.

    He’s all alone, all alone, in the time of need.

    He’s racin’, and chasin’, and plotting the course,

    Chasin’, and riding on his horse. :-O

    How do you get avatars going on this thing?

  2. a different tim
    October 14th, 2005 @ 7:32 am

    We can and do hit a “selfless state” a lot of the time. Consider, a lot of the time we spend “awake” we take very little in. How many times have you been driving and, at the end of the journey, realise you remember nothing of it?

    On a larger level, I would question whether this “selfless state” is of any value. What do these mystics do that benefits a single other human being? What do they achieve? At least if I hit it while I’m driving I’ve arrived somewhere at the end.
    My feeling (which I can’t justify except on personal grounds and don’t intend to, Steve G, if you’re listening) is that the highest things humans do is creating stuff (broadly “art” and “engineering”) and discovering the universe (broadly “science”). I don’t see how attaining Nirvana helps either of these goals. So I say Nirvana’s a cop out.

  3. There Is
    October 14th, 2005 @ 8:04 am

    “So I say Nirvana’s a cop out.”

    You don’t believe you can reach a state of ultimate rest, and relaxation, to zone out completely?

    “How many times have you been driving and, at the end of the journey, realise you remember nothing of it?”

    Happens to me in the shower, but I mean really good relaxing showers. No, it’s nothing sexual. It’s seems more ambient, as if I become lost in the zen process of showering. I can only imagine what it must be like in a tub with beads, scented oil, various flower petals. Mmmmmmmmmmm….. Aaaaaarrrrgggghhhh…. Doooooonuuuuuts…..

  4. There Is
    October 14th, 2005 @ 8:05 am

    Mmmmmmmmmmm…..

    Who! Wha!? 42!

  5. June
    October 14th, 2005 @ 8:15 am

    Suppose meditation is the inverse of sarcasm. Then
    TRA’s sarcastic approach to it means he will never understand it. He is doomed to walk the beach at sunset, wondering why people say it is a mystical time.

  6. a different tim
    October 14th, 2005 @ 8:22 am

    “You don’t believe you can reach a state of ultimate rest, and relaxation, to zone out completely?”

    I think we can reach it. I just don’t think, as a lifestyle, it’s of any value.

    Donuts. Now donuts have value. Blessed are the donut makers. But making a good donut takes engagement with the world….

  7. franky
    October 14th, 2005 @ 8:32 am

    This is the most contemplative post you’ve had in a while TRA. It was a refreshing change of pace from the usual vitrol.

  8. There Is
    October 14th, 2005 @ 8:36 am

    “I think we can reach it. I just don’t think, as a lifestyle, it’s of any value.”

    Well, it’s of no value to anyone except oneself. There’s nothing wrong with it, if you can afford the lifestyle.

  9. There Is
    October 14th, 2005 @ 8:37 am

    “I think we can reach it. I just don’t think, as a lifestyle, it’s of any value.”

    Well, it’s of no value to anyone except oneself. There’s nothing wrong with it, if you can afford the lifestyle.

  10. June
    October 14th, 2005 @ 9:58 am

    The idea of a God is just a projection of the human ego onto the universe. Meditation helps to remove the last vestige of a personal godhood (namely the concept of “I”) from one’s thinking. And so atheists should welcome the idea of meditation.

  11. Qalmlea
    October 14th, 2005 @ 10:09 am

    If you read very far into Zen or Taoist thought, a supreme goal is to be able to maintain that egoless state while going about your everyday life. When washing the dishes, just wash the dishes.

    Eat when hungry. Drink when thirsty. That’s all.

  12. sternwallow
    October 14th, 2005 @ 10:15 am

    Seems to me, he says chiming in abruptly, that the “loss of self” and not being able to remember a trip is equivalent to using sleep as an escape from painful or stressful situations. It turns out that the sense of self is governed by a particular structure in the brain that allows us to recognize the boundary between our self and everything else. When that organ is suppressed by meditation, by drugs the feeling of self or ego disappears. Having never been in the nirvana state myself, it sounds an awful lot like plain unconsciousness which I have been able to achieve on occasion with liberal application of ethyl distillates. I’ll take my happiness as deliberately directed activity, like having thoughts and posting them in places like this.

  13. DamnRight
    October 14th, 2005 @ 10:46 am

    I am happiest when engaged… in playing music, woodworking, playing a sport, having a conversation, eating a meal, petting my dog… strikes me that unless I am involved, it is not full happiness… the pain of sore muscles, the exhaustion, the sharp sting of a scrape on my shin, makes me feel alive, involved in life & really happy…

  14. a different tim
    October 14th, 2005 @ 10:56 am

    Yeah, I kinda feel that way too. I certainly get most satisfaction (not quite the same as happiness but it’ll do for me) out of successfully doing something that requires my full concentration.

  15. June
    October 14th, 2005 @ 11:28 am

    When you say “I am involved” — who is involved?
    When you say “I feel that way” — who is feeling?
    When you say “I have a thought” — who is thinking?

  16. a different tim
    October 14th, 2005 @ 2:02 pm

    I am. Who wants to know?

  17. DamnRight
    October 14th, 2005 @ 2:17 pm

    ME ME ME!!!… it’s all about ME!!!… but, my happiness is usually a result of sharing these things with others…

  18. Debbie
    October 14th, 2005 @ 4:10 pm

    I have always thought that the meditating mystic alone for 20 years in the cave has nothing. Sure, he has no problems or no stress but no external experiences or stimuli either. He has abdicated being involved in society and enjoying all that life has to offer. By being celibate and self-centered he has such a limited perspective on the world.

    Sure the mystic is happy in his own way, but so am I and I would argue that he has very little insight to offer about the life, I have chosen which seems much more diverse, stimulating and richer.

    The only real insight he has to offer is to make sure you run your life in a way where any problems and negative stress are under control and are far below the level of positive experiences.

  19. tarkovsky
    October 14th, 2005 @ 4:30 pm

    Why are we pre-occupied with happiness? It is survival that is the name of the game. Happiness is not a survival strategy.

    As a species, encouraging happiness as a strategy is dubious. Encouraging meditation is a different cookie; throughout the ages meditation has been associated with wisdom, more specifically wisdom with the intention of doing something. What I personally conclude is reaching for wisdom or for nirvana are radically opposed in attitude. Nirvana is self-centered; wisdom and clarity of thought is rooted in intention (well maybe Machiavelli would say I am a damned fool :-)

  20. Mijae
    October 14th, 2005 @ 7:34 pm

    Trying to spend much of your life achieving a “selfless state” seems like a wasteful and redundant purpose to me when we’re all going to end up with a completely final absence of self one of these days anyway…

  21. leon
    October 15th, 2005 @ 2:45 am

    I’m thinking…
    Some people call it meditation.
    What’s the difference?
    Meditation is thinking.
    No, it is day dreaming.
    No, it is thinking.
    It is fantasying.
    It’s day dreaming.
    It’s thinking.
    For want of an word to make it seem sophisticated, elitist, a misanthropist of commoners, an enabled rodomont, then; meditation it is.
    ————————–
    Meditate on this: “What will your sex life be like when Roe/Wade is reversed?

  22. Kenosh
    October 15th, 2005 @ 3:46 am

    “For want of an word to make it seem sophisticated, elitist, a misanthropist of commoners, an enabled rodomont, then; meditation it is.”

    I never realized medidation meant, Person A’s better than Person B. Dictionary:

    1. a spoken or written discourse treated in a contemplative manner and intended to express its author’s reflections or especially when religious to guide others in contemplation

    2. a private devotion or spiritual exercise consisting in deep continued reflection on a religious theme

    3. the act of meditating : steady or close consecutive reflection : continued application of the mind

    I probably agree with definition 3 best, not whatever invective remark defined by the previous poster.

  23. jack*
    October 15th, 2005 @ 4:15 pm

    Harris is a boob if he thinks a person can be happy all alone in a cave. Happiness requires engagement; disengagement leads to nothingness. Happiness probably also entails some amount of ego, otherwise who is happy?

    Meditation — at least the Bhuddist varient as I understand it — is not about achieving happiness but about eliminating suffering. Since suffering comes from ego-desires, get rid of the ego and, poof, no suffering. The state is described by Joseph Cambell as “joyfull participation in the sorrows of life.” The goal is laudable, I just question how practical the enterprise can be. A lot of people meditate, but I don’t see a lot of people walking around with egos and incapable of suffering.

  24. jack*
    October 15th, 2005 @ 4:16 pm

    I meant “without egos” of course.

  25. oliverwxyz
    October 15th, 2005 @ 5:13 pm

    I thought I’d just paste in my comments from the forum today on this subject if no one objects to me recycling them like that!

    I think that ‘final enlightenment’ is a myth and thre is no such thing. have you ever met anyone – such as a Buddhist – who claims they’ve got there? It’s there as a theoretical goal, but no one ever gets there… The only people who say they have, are either charlatans or, I guess, people who take their own limited experience – such as those resulting from ‘good meditation sessions’ – as being this inflated concept of final enlightenment. It’s purely subjective.

    It’s a thoroughly ‘religious’ idea – and as meaningless as any other. How, for example, could you function in life if you really attained the Buddhist goal of losing all sense of self and all sense of any ambition or desire? You’d just sit there in your lotus position and starve probably if you lost all will to think about answering desires or planning for the future, or condidering yourself as an individual etc. It’s utterly impractical for successful living in the real world.

    I think it comes from some of the same roots as the CHristian promise of Heaven – dissatisfaction with real life and hoping to escape from it to a nicer state. Also it appeals to the poor and oppressed etc like Xtianity does – it says don’t even try to be prosperous and happy in this life – life is just suffering – follow these rules and you will attain a state that is much nicer than the pleasures of the world.

    But these days there is more chance of a reasonably happy and healthy life than most people had in the past thanks to modern science and medicine (if you';re lucky enough to live somewhere like the US or western Europe) , so we don’t need to ‘escape’ if we focus on making the most of what we’ve got.
    Even the Dalia Lama refers, in his books, to how he would have liked to get more ‘spiritual pratice’ done (ie meditation etc) and that he feels he has not progressed as much as he would have liked because he is so busy – but his religion claims he is the reincarnation of a Buddha! If he’s not ‘enlightened’ yet – by his own admission that he needs to do more spiritual work – then who IS?

    I think religions like Buddhism as useful in a very watered-down form, but not taken too literally. For example meditation practices might help in improving concentration and inner calm etc perhaps. And a bit of work on being more compassionate towards others etc and not being EXCESSIVELY materialistic (so all your happiness is invested in having a certain lifestyle or possessions etc), but learning to live relatively simply if you need to, is all conducive to a happy state of mind and positive society. But thinking the body and material world are corrupt and meaningless and that you must renounce all desires and ambitions and all wish for sesual pleasure, as distractions from the goal of ‘one-ness’ with everything and ‘final enlightenment’ – is just unhelpful drivel, I believe.

    I suppose the same can be said for elements of Christianity – eg my post about liberal versions thereof.

  26. oliverwxyz
    October 15th, 2005 @ 5:14 pm

    I thought I’d just paste in my comments from the forum today on this subject if no one objects to me recycling them like that!

    I think that ‘final enlightenment’ is a myth and thre is no such thing. have you ever met anyone – such as a Buddhist – who claims they’ve got there? It’s there as a theoretical goal, but no one ever gets there… The only people who say they have, are either charlatans or, I guess, people who take their own limited experience – such as those resulting from ‘good meditation sessions’ – as being this inflated concept of final enlightenment. It’s purely subjective.

    It’s a thoroughly ‘religious’ idea – and as meaningless as any other. How, for example, could you function in life if you really attained the Buddhist goal of losing all sense of self and all sense of any ambition or desire? You’d just sit there in your lotus position and starve probably if you lost all will to think about answering desires or planning for the future, or condidering yourself as an individual etc. It’s utterly impractical for successful living in the real world.

    I think it comes from some of the same roots as the CHristian promise of Heaven – dissatisfaction with real life and hoping to escape from it to a nicer state. Also it appeals to the poor and oppressed etc like Xtianity does – it says don’t even try to be prosperous and happy in this life – life is just suffering – follow these rules and you will attain a state that is much nicer than the pleasures of the world.

    But these days there is more chance of a reasonably happy and healthy life than most people had in the past thanks to modern science and medicine (if you';re lucky enough to live somewhere like the US or western Europe) , so we don’t need to ‘escape’ if we focus on making the most of what we’ve got.
    Even the Dalia Lama refers, in his books, to how he would have liked to get more ‘spiritual pratice’ done (ie meditation etc) and that he feels he has not progressed as much as he would have liked because he is so busy – but his religion claims he is the reincarnation of a Buddha! If he’s not ‘enlightened’ yet – by his own admission that he needs to do more spiritual work – then who IS?

    I think religions like Buddhism as useful in a very watered-down form, but not taken too literally. For example meditation practices might help in improving concentration and inner calm etc perhaps. And a bit of work on being more compassionate towards others etc and not being EXCESSIVELY materialistic (so all your happiness is invested in having a certain lifestyle or possessions etc), but learning to live relatively simply if you need to, is all conducive to a happy state of mind and positive society. But thinking the body and material world are corrupt and meaningless and that you must renounce all desires and ambitions and all wish for sesual pleasure, as distractions from the goal of ‘one-ness’ with everything and ‘final enlightenment’ – is just unhelpful drivel, I believe.

    I suppose the same can be said for elements of Christianity – eg my post about liberal versions thereof.

  27. oliverwxyz
    October 15th, 2005 @ 5:16 pm

    Saying things are ‘one’ is one of those concepts that sounds initially meaningful , but isn’t.

    It is a favourite of religious mystics of all kinds from Christians and maybe Sufis (?), and Hindu gurus, Buddhists and New Age-ers. In some traditions the goal of life is to lose the sense of ego and merge into the One in some way, sometimes described as becoming ‘one’ with ‘God’, depending on how thesitic the tradition in question is.
    It sounds kind of liberal and nice – that we shouldn’t judge or hurt others, because we are all ‘one’ etc.. And it can take away from the feeling of being alone or misunderstood etc that we sometimes feel as humans. But it is meaningless as a blanket phrase, as Metman suggests.

    We are ‘one’ in that our fundamental building blocks may, theoretically, be the same
    (doesn’t ‘string theory’ suggest this? – the basic particles are these tiny ‘strings’?) and I guess initially everything is said to have come from the same source in the Big Bang and have been made of pure energy at first (actually, what IS energy anyway, for that matter?). Also there is the ‘chaos theory’ sense in which we are all ‘connected’ that (as I underatnd it) says anything that happens can affect everything else – the buttefly flapping it’s wings causing a storm across the world is the usual illustration (sounds unlikely to me, but I get the basic idea – small changes/actions can be part of a long chain of events with unforseen results). I guess also, moving on from that, there is the sense in which the universe is ‘one’ in that it is a self-contained system. Also Humans are also ‘one’ figuratively-speaking, in that we share similar drives and emotions and basic experiences etc. But there is no sense in which everything is literally one with everything else. Our experience is that ther are discrete things, things that are objectively different from each other.

    Sometimes people claim to experience ‘cosmic consciousness’ through meditation etc, in which they feel ‘at one’ with everything, but this is a transitory state, probably cause by shutting off certain parts of the brain that deal with maintaining awareness of the body. I’m, sure it’s nice, but it’s not necessarily as meaningful as such people claim. Also if such a person was truly ‘at one’ with everything in such an experience, he sould be able to say exactly what every person in the world was thinking or feeling at the time – which is not the case. It is just a subjective feeling of onbe-ness, not a literal, objective one.

  28. oliverwxyz
    October 15th, 2005 @ 5:18 pm

    oops, sorry for the double post, can;t work out how to delete it

  29. oliverwxyz
    October 15th, 2005 @ 5:21 pm

    Most likely our consciousness is a product of our brain and it is impossible for it to literally connect with everything else. It might be possible to temporarily disengage those brain parts that create a sense of (bodily) self and/or the feeling of being a being seperate from the rest of the universe, but I doubt the on-going value of doing so. Anyway, we lose our ego completely every night when we go to sleep.
    Having a sense of slef is essential to daily life and all normal human pleasures.
    To say we should forego these and seek a different kind of ‘ultimate’ happiness is just more religious nonsense.

    OLiver

  30. leon
    October 15th, 2005 @ 6:44 pm

    Students of Buddhism are told to think a certain way. When the masters are happy with how the student thinks, the student is then told he is meditating.

  31. leon
    October 15th, 2005 @ 6:54 pm

    Kenosh said:
    3. the act of meditating : steady or close consecutive reflection : continued application of the mind

    In other words ‘meditating’ is really really hard disciplined and controlled thinking.

    If I cross my legs make a circle with my finger and thumb, then place my hands on my knees, I am thinking really really hard.

  32. Kenosh
    October 15th, 2005 @ 8:48 pm

    Meditation is not one person claiming elitist over another. Definition 3 states nothing of finger and thumb, hands on knees, etc. If you feel that’s what medidation means for your own person, the so be it.

    Continued application of the mind does not necessarily mean thinking hard. One may be an air-traffic controller thinking very hard at all times, but not in meditative rest.

  33. MBains
    October 16th, 2005 @ 5:28 am

    I think most of you, despite some reasonable definitions of meditation and its value to our species – individually & at large – missed the real point of the post:

    TRA said: (“heaven” is) exactly what we seek while alive and awake, only better, wetter and hotter.

    THAT is the point of meditation: Thinking you are Alive in Heaven while you’re actually ignoring being actually alive. – (read that twice if necessary.)

    (even drunk I figured this much out)

    Subtle boss. Very subtle… ;-}

    That’s why the Dalai Llama misses his slaves back home in Tibet: unlike his acolytic traveling companions, the slaves know no enlightenment so they make the meditative state even more appealing than mere-mindlessness on its own by confronting Dalai with the obvious pains and dissappointments of actual interactual existence of being Alive on Earth.

    The slaves make “Life in heaven” possible, but by doing so, add gratitude (responsibility) to the list of things meditation allows Dalai et al to escape.

    … there

  34. DHR
    October 16th, 2005 @ 4:54 pm

    The meditaing mystic is dead.
    Without social interaction thoughts are fantasies.

  35. DHR
    October 16th, 2005 @ 5:04 pm

    “exactly what we seek while alive and awake, only better, wetter and hotter.”

    You have just described the heaven that allah gives to all believers.
    Ready to bump head to Mecca?

  36. Brian Macker
    October 17th, 2005 @ 12:23 am

    Let me get this straight. I am meditating so that I can enjoy happiness, yet in the process I will no longer exists. Then who gets to enjoy this happiness if it isn’t me?

    In different words. I am meditating for the self interested goal of personal happiness and yet the process is suppose to destroy the self. Isn’t that like commiting suicide to get the insurance money for oneself.

    Now if meditating oneself into a state of selflessness resulted in other peoples happiness that might make sense.

  37. hashbrownz
    October 17th, 2005 @ 2:33 am

    every human act is inherently selfish. the idea of selflessness is absurd. you do it because it feels good in some way, it satisfies some urge deep within that occassionally you are unaware of.

  38. Kenosh
    October 17th, 2005 @ 3:31 am

    “every human act is inherently selfish. the idea of selflessness is absurd. you do it because it feels good in some way, it satisfies some urge deep within that occassionally you are unaware of.”

    Every act you make is human, and selfish. This includes meditating. There’s nothing mystical about meditating; it’s just a continual process of reflection to settle down stress. Sort of like breathing exercises.

  39. June
    October 17th, 2005 @ 9:26 am

    Tiny Hint: The cave is a metaphor for the skull.

  40. heretic slayer
    October 17th, 2005 @ 10:30 am

    “every human act is inherently selfish.”
    That is adolescent “philosophy”. Put down Ayn Rand and stick your nose out of doors. The world is so full of unselfish acts that only those who haven’t lived very long (or are themselves sociopaths; probably not the case here) can believe it.

  41. Dada Saves
    October 17th, 2005 @ 11:52 am

    heretic slayer: Please give an example of an unselfish act. I think I’m with hasbrownz on this, and I’m pretty sure it has nothing to do with that hack Ayn Rand.

  42. Heretic Slayer
    October 17th, 2005 @ 12:42 pm

    Do the names of the four chaplains: Rabbi Alexander Goode, Rev. George L. Fox, Rev. Clark V. Poling, Father John P. Washington mean anything to you? They chose to give up their life jackets and go down with The U.S.A.T. Dorchester, in order to save more lives. Their whole story can be read at http://www.homeofheroes.com/brotherhood/chaplains.html

    There are many, many, many more stories like this out there. Not to mention that everyone who has ever loved child or spouse knows what unselfishness is.

  43. Dada Saves
    October 17th, 2005 @ 4:18 pm

    Why do you suppose they would do such a thing? (Hint: they were chaplains.) You might think of them as ‘self-less’ until you consider their motives — and they always lead back to number one. Try again.

  44. Heretic Slayer
    October 17th, 2005 @ 4:23 pm

    Oh give me a break. They could have escaped. They chose to give up their lives to save a few others. What was in it for them? To not see this is to lack some critical component of your humanity. Try again.

  45. M C
    October 17th, 2005 @ 5:49 pm

    So little reflection on the “experience = brain chemicals” equation. So much evidence that reality is more than just materialistic reductionism.

  46. Kenosh
    October 17th, 2005 @ 10:58 pm

    “Oh give me a break. They could have escaped. They chose to give up their lives to save a few others. What was in it for them? To not see this is to lack some critical component of your humanity.”

    No component is missing. They did it to fulfill their own goals through those they saved. All acts are selfish, even those you claim selfless for other selfish reasons, whether they be to follow any religious ideas or whatever else. If you choose not to see this it is only, because you selfishly like the idea of selflessness.

  47. Heretic Slayer
    October 17th, 2005 @ 11:03 pm

    Well, there is no disputing that logic. Good luck with your life. Love and friendship will never be yours with that attitude.

  48. Kenosh
    October 17th, 2005 @ 11:05 pm

    “Love and friendship will never be yours with that attitude.”

    That is the most selfish egoist thing I’ve ever read. Love is a very selfish thing, and I’m glad my lover feels she must keep me to herself equally.

  49. Brian Macker
    October 18th, 2005 @ 12:53 am

    Hashbrownz, Kenosh,

    I disagree with you two about selfishness. I’ve read the Selfish Gene, various books on Sociobiology and Evolutionary Ethics, plus all of Ayn Rands published non-fictional works. I understand that from certain perspectives things that look selfless are actually selfish. I like some of Rands ideas but I just don’t buy into Rand on the issue of selfishness, nor do I buy into her foundationalism.

    Just because some behavior is selfish from the point of view of some gene does not mean it was not selfless on the part of the individual. Suppose the genetic distribution in a population is such that an individual is very likely to be around people that he is related to, such as a tribal or clan based society. One where most people remain close to where they were born. Under such a system a gene mutates that makes the individual carrying it more likely to sacrifice himself for those around him when great suffering is occuring. Under the right circumstances this can lead to increased fitness for that particular gene. That does not mean however that the individual is being selfish. The individual is made up of more than that one gene. He is a unique combination of other genes, experiences and beliefs. All of which could potentially be replicated. In addition there is more than one way for a replicator to be selfish than replicating. Replicators can be selfish by maintaining longevity. Thus when such an individual sacrifices himself it is truly a sacrifice even if it happens to benefit one particular gene he is carrying.

    Generally, it will hold that such sacrifice will also tend to benefit the other genes and memes of the individual, since by definition in this environment the individual is closely related, and so the other genes are likely to be shared also. But there can be situations where the burden of sacrifice is not evenly distributed between the entire collective that makes up the individual. For instance, suppose a gene can influence the building of the somatic line in such a way that it can recognize it’s existence in other bodies.

    If you want an example of such selfless behavior on the part of the individual you need look no farther than the ant.

    Selfless behavior can and does happen in the world, even from the perspective of the gene. There is nothing from preventing back mutation, and delirious recessives, and other mechanisms from maintaining a ready pool of genes to build a continuous supply of self sacrificing suckers. The same sort of mechanisms that keep us readily supplied with homosexuals. After all isn’t that what you are basing this on, the idea that true self sacrifice gets weeded out of the gene pool because it is an unfit trait. Well natural selection can’t get rid of homosexuals and that certainly is an unfit trait also.

    I really wonder how you two guys get along in the world if you can’t recognize selfish vs. non-selfish behavior. I have met plenty of people who are self sacrificial to the point of idiocy. Haven’t you ever heard of givers and takers? A perfect example of this is Ayn Rand and her husband. She was a taker and he was a giver. Do you think he actually wanted to have his wife fucked by some young nerd stud? Do you think his genes “wanted” it. No he loved his wife so he put up with it, and you can go read about the whole sorted affair if you want to, it’s been written up from several peoples perspectives.

    It really is a shame that Ayn Rand titled her book “The Virtue of Selfishness” when in fact it the only thing she was able to defend in it was “The virtue of enlightened self interest”. She did this to sell books, not to make a proper argument. Selfishness and “Enlightened Self Interest” are not synonomous. When I originally read the book I though she was being cute and took it with a grain of salt. Read it as if she didn’t mean it, and it sort of made sense. It was not till later that I found out about her cult-like following and the crappy way she treated everyone around her. It was only then that I realized she really meant selfishness all along. So if it is Ayn Rand you are getting this stuff from then please be warned by an Atheist who is probably a little longer in tooth than you. She was on the wrong track on many issues.

    I do agree with her on one thing. People who believe they are going to live in paradise in the afterlife are not in any since acting selflessly if they live their lives in such a way as to attain this goal. The 911 suicide hijackers behavior only looks like self sacrifice if you forget the 72 virgins. So this act from the perspective of the individual was selfish. From the perspective of the gene it was total self sacrifice since there were no copies of themselves in other bodies that were in jeopardy. It was definately selfish from the perspective of the islamofacists religious memes. It was super replication party as millions of muslims flocked to read what this guy Osama was teaching (more accurately the teachings of the clerics that spawned Osama and the hijackers).

    So I disagree with you both, and it still doesn’t put me in the same camp as Heretic Slayer. I don’t think Mother Teresa was any sort of true altruist.

  50. Kenosh
    October 18th, 2005 @ 2:52 am

    Brian, I understand your aversion to Rand’s philosophy, but in every reference you made to genes, you still made reference to them acting on their own behalf. It acts as it does, because its purpose is to selfishly care about the grander group. Having children I love, I want to take care of them. I selfishly care for them, and I’d never let anything happen to them to point where I’d give my life for them. Notice in all this speech of loving my own children I constantly bring up #1. Why, because it’s impossible to separate yourself from the choices you make. You are a selfish creature. It’s intrinsically built into to you, because you make choices you decide on. Now, whether you wish to see this as good/bad is really up to you. Do I see as extremely wrong the selfish activities done by terrorists on 9/11? Of course. Because I’m selfish, and they were in their acts as well, does that mean my acts automatically equate to those done by terrorists? Of course not. Do I agree with Rand’s extremely callous egoist nature toward her lover. No, of course not. I like empathy, so I don’t act as Ayn did. Still, this is me choosing my acts in life, with the family I love. They aren’t the choices Ayn Rand made, and in fact, I don’t quite hold the aversion to collectivism she did, but this still doesn’t mean I’m not selfish in my pirsuits in life. Look at it in terms of whether you wish choose a socially benign or malignant kind of selfishness, not in terms of selfish inevitably being the lead to all wrongs.

  51. Reluctant Atheist
    October 18th, 2005 @ 3:22 am

    Heretic Slayer: I have to agree that there is the occasional altruistic act. It is not exclusive among the religious. Clarence Darrow (an atheist who’d go to bat for ANYONE), Ingersoll, who did a lot of pro bono work in his day.
    I was raised to do the right thing, not because of any reward, but because it’s the right thing to do.

  52. Reluctant Atheist
    October 18th, 2005 @ 3:31 am

    As a long time practitioner of Qiqong & Tai Chi, what the actual meditation is, is a flattening of the Alpha state, into what is known as a Beta state. Here’s a good link: http://www.ananael.net/brain.html.
    While the author is a practitioner of Thelemic magic (not a proponent myself, before anyone pounces: still an atheist), the article makes a great deal of sense. Being in Beta can be a good thing: it calms the chaos of the mind (while some may say chaos is wonderful, well, human beings under stress wear down tremendously).
    The article also goes on to talk about the hypnotic effects of revival meetings, religious gatherings, etc. (Read the article 1st, before passing judgement).
    Embracing a void doesn’t really sound that terrible to me. It seems peaceful. “Who wants to live forever?” – Queen.

  53. Kenosh
    October 18th, 2005 @ 3:40 am

    “I have to agree that there is the occasional altruistic act.”

    No such thing. Even the sense of altruism is merely a euphemism for being selfish. It’s doing good for others, because you feel good doing it. Of course, the selfish acts done by Darrow, and Ingersoll I consider to be very good indeed.

  54. Reluctant Atheist
    October 18th, 2005 @ 4:06 am

    Kenosh: For the most part, you’re correct. Most of us do indeed go in for the ‘warm fuzzy feeling’. An historical anectdote, if you will. I am old enough to recall seeing a picture of a Buddhist monk immolating himself in protest of the Vietnam war (too young to be drafted). I can’t for the life of me understand how that was an altruistic act. How was he going to feel better about it afterwards?
    We are an innately selfish, introverted species, this is a given. Some of the more seemingly ‘unselfish’ acts are indeed done in lieu of a reward. Pavlovian conditioning, & all that.

    I’m an idealist at heart. I’d like to think our species capable of rising above the baser instincts.
    On our own.

    We can be so much more than what we are, if we but try.

    It’s just that damned reptilian hindbrain that keeps getting in the way.

  55. Kenosh
    October 18th, 2005 @ 4:16 am

    “I am old enough to recall seeing a picture of a Buddhist monk immolating himself in protest of the Vietnam war (too young to be drafted).”

    The monk’s sense of “altruism” differs from yours Reluctant. The monk was Buddhist, and he felt the only way to bring peace to his people was by sacrificing himself through the very selfish act of killing himself. Sometimes the idealism is stronger than the base reptilian tendencies. Or perhaps, they may still stem from the same selfish source.

    If I cared about you enough Reluctant, or if I felt there were a greater cause to donate my life toward, such as the monk had in his mind, then perhaps then I’d selfishly embark in the act of self-sacrifice. Would I really do so? No, not unless I could see how the lives of my loved ones were at stake, but that’s just me.

  56. leon
    October 18th, 2005 @ 8:05 am

    Heretic Slayer said:
    http://www.homeofheroes.com/brotherhood/chaplains.html

    I do not believe this story. Was there a camera crew recording this? There would have had to be a camera crew for each of the 4 men recording everything they did and said. . There is too much detail, the story is obviously embellished. What bullshit!

  57. heretic slayer
    October 18th, 2005 @ 10:41 am

    No, Leon, no cameras. There were merely a couple hundred witnesses. No wonder you don’t believe the eye withness accounts of men long dead, when you don’t believe the accounts given by men, some of whom are still living.

    In your honor, I am changing my handle to Weenie Slayer.

  58. leon
    October 18th, 2005 @ 1:35 pm

    heretic slayer said:
    There were merely a couple hundred witnesses.

    Hundreds? Only 230 lived, I guess that is 2 hundreds.

    While all these people were struggling for their lives they took time out to witness what the four holy book thumpers were doing? Who are you shitting? I don’t see any affidavit. If there is one, I would still be skeptical.

    You are obviously a biased, prejudiced, partisan, idiot who was born yesterday.

    You probably also think a man who’s been dead for 3 days got up and floated up into the sky and a woman still had her hymen when she gave birth.

    The story is scripted with fabrications.

    Petty Officer John J. Mahoney, reeling from the cold, headed back towards his cabin. “Where are you going?” a voice of calm in the sea of distressed asked?
    “To get my gloves,” Mahoney replied.
    “Here, take these,” said Rabbi Goode as he handed a pair of gloves to the young officer who would never have survived the trip to his cabin and then back to safety.
    “I can’t take those gloves,” Mahoney replied.
    “Never mind,” the Rabbi responded. “I have two pairs.” Mahoney slipped the gloves over his hands and returned to the frigid deck, never stopping to ponder until later when he had reached safety, that there was no way Rabbi Goode would have been carrying a spare set of gloves. As that thought finally dawned on him he came to a new understanding of what was transpiring in the mind of the fearless Chaplain. Somehow, Rabbi Goode suspected that he would himself, never leave the Dorchester alive.

    See the bold? If Goode is dead, how would the writer know what Goode was thinking??

    The story was fudged. If part of it is false, the entire story is a lie. Typical theist lying.

  59. Weenie Slayer
    October 18th, 2005 @ 2:03 pm

    Sometimes I despair. What idiocy comes over so many of you that you cannot distinguish between a narrative version of a true event and reportage? If you had bothered to look at the bottom of the page, you would have seen a number of sources listed as well as some not at all prettied up facts, eg. On May 28, 1948 the United States Postal Service issued a special stamp to commemorate the brotherhood, service, and sacrifice of the Four Chaplains.

    On July 14, 1960 by Act of Congress (Public Law 86-656, 86th Congress), the United States Congress authorized the “Four Chaplains Medal”. The Star of David, Tablets of Moses, and Christian Cross are shown in relief on the back of the medal, along with the inscribed names of all four heroic Chaplains.

    On January 18, 1961, Secretary of the Army Wilbur M. Brucker presented the award posthumously to the families of the Four Chaplains at Fort Myer, Virginia.

    Yeah. The whole nation is consists of “biased, prejudiced, partisan, {idiots} who {were} born yesterday.

  60. leon
    October 18th, 2005 @ 2:52 pm

    That’s not a source you fucking geeezuzz-shit sucking ass hole of an moron.

  61. Brian Macker
    October 20th, 2005 @ 7:41 pm

    Kenosh,

    “but in every reference you made to genes, you still made reference to them acting on their own behalf.”

    I don’t believe I stated it that way. They don’t directly act on their own behalf. They influence processes that can lead the individual to act in certain ways. I don’t know of any genes that “act on their own behalf”.

    “It acts as it does, because its purpose is to selfishly care about the grander group.”

    I totally disagree with this statement. Genes don’t have purposes in that way. Genes happen to influence the construction of bodies in certain ways. Some in ways that tend to be detrimental to their replication and some in ways that aren’t. Some in ways that are both detrimental and supportive of their replication. They don’t have a “purpose” they just are what they are.

    When I use the term selfish in ordinary conversation I almost always do so in the context of the individual. I do not use any special meaning unless I explicitly say so. So if I say that a particular parent was selfish for squandering his childrens trust fund on whores for himself instead of the childs education. On the other hand if the individual works extra jobs and curtails his spending, an refrains from producing more illegitamite children to pay for his current childrens education then he is behaving selflessly. It’s pretty simple to understand. From a genes point of view the best behavior would be if the man would sleep with as many women as possible getting them pregnant (in our welfare society) since there is little chance the children will starve in our society he can maximize the spreading of his genes. Not to do this in order to invest more in a few children is a selfless act from the perspective of the genes. Of course the genes aren’t making any of the decisions, it’s from their perspective only in terms of the costs in reproductive success.

  62. MBains
    October 21st, 2005 @ 1:51 pm

    From a genes point of view the best behavior would be if the man would sleep with as many women as possible getting them pregnant (in our welfare society) since there is little chance the children will starve in our society he can maximize the spreading of his genes.

    Regardless of the Welfare Society, this is the best way to ensure the spread of the genes. Human individuals are such that the whole “Horatio Algier” myth is based on a kernel of truth. In other words, the probability that at least one (or several) of that large number of children will rise above even the most heinous odds against their ability to thrive is actually fairly high. This is regardless of the probability that a majority of those kids will live in abject poverty and misery.

    As you say though, the genes simply are incapable of caring either way.

    It is also another reason abortion needs to be an option for individuals. Having children is the parent’s choice; not the childs nor their genes’.

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