‹ First  < 6 7 8 9 > 
 
   
 

Noam Chompsky calls Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens Frauds!

 
After_The_Jump
 
Avatar
 
 
After_The_Jump
Total Posts:  538
Joined  31-01-2016
 
 
 
08 February 2016 09:02
 

@ Skeptic X

Empathy is much more about setting accuracy aside for the sake (or the perceived sake anyway) of the person

Yes, Harris appears to be putting aside the high unlikelihood that there is actually an omniscient god named Allah commanding people to murder anyone who doesn’t believe in the teachings of Allah, and acknowledges that - even though the accuracy of the view is under severe scrutiny - it appears to be the genuine view of the person. And Harris regularly notes that a plain text reading of the Quran or Hadith pretty clearly supports the view a Jihadist holds.

than understanding the actual issues and mechanisms in play though.

The two are not mutually exclusive though (“the two” I’m referring to being what someone believes - regardless of the accuracy of their belief - and the ‘actual issues and mechanisms in play’). If a person genuinely believes something and said belief motivates a certain behavior, then that belief would appear to be quite germane to the discussion about what ‘actual issues and mechanisms’ are ‘in play’.

This seems to reify religion.

I think the crucial point to notice here is that Religion is indeed reified in the minds of the people who believe it - what Harris is saying is that he acknowledges that this is perceived reality for a lot of people.

As I mentioned quite a while ago, a person X acknowledging that person Y actually believes something isn’t an example of person X validating the veracity of what person Y believes.

Religion isn’t a Thing Unto Itself that exists outside of the mind, it’s a category of human nature, ideation and behavior, and it’s very individualistic in a meta- or perceptual qualia kind of way, if I’m using the right terms. It’s an individual experience in terms of how believers transpose these aspects of their religious nature with their own internal concept of the outside world. The host culture has a great deal of influence in how any given individual works out this transposition and the end result, but it’s a socio-psychological thing. In this sense there is no religion involved—the religion is one of the products of the same social structures and mechanisms as well.

Yeah, I don’t disagree with any of that. The problem is that a lot of religious people do clearly disagree with that. God isn’t just some subset of socio-psychological process to them, but rather a real entity in and of him/her self.

And I think that’s where I see the biggest problem in dialogue around this issue; we are constantly trying to defend religious belief under circumstances where we’d never offer defense in any other domain.

Take by way of example, racism. Racism would seem to be something that would fit into the very same box you just outlined for religion. Racism is essentially a socio-psychological phenomenon - it doesn’t have an existence in and of itself outside the mind. Yet, when we see KKK members engaging in explicitly racist behavior (using one historically identifiable mark of racism), and we hear them state a specific motivation based on an ideal that black people are of lesser status than white people, we don’t tend to say “yeah, but we really shouldn’t blame racism…. we really should be looking at the long, complex life stories of these individuals. Racism isn’t the problem here; extremist racism is”. I don’t think anyone who fails to use this kind of language as it relates to racist behavior is discounting the possibility that a given person engaging in racist behavior may have had a parent condoning it when they were a child, or may either now or at some point lived in economic strife, etc etc. Rather, regardless of how it flushed out the belief is still the belief now, and it’s a dangerous one that needs to be appropriately identified and addressed.

Religion seems to be the only domain where we hedge on simply calling the belief what it is. When the dangerous belief’s a racist one, we call it racist. When the dangerous belief is a political one, we call it political. When the dangerous belief’s a religious one, a contingent of our populace goes to painstaking lengths not to call it religious. When Sam Harris speaks about the taboo of criticizing religion, it is this double standard that he seems to be in part referring to.

 

[ Edited: 08 February 2016 09:15 by After_The_Jump]
 
nonverbal
 
Avatar
 
 
nonverbal
Total Posts:  1838
Joined  31-10-2015
 
 
 
08 February 2016 09:57
 
After_The_Jump - 08 February 2016 09:02 AM

. . . If a person genuinely believes something and said belief motivates a certain behavior, then that belief would appear to be quite germane to the discussion about what ‘actual issues and mechanisms’ are ‘in play’.

What’s the difference between genuinely believing something and knowing about something? Or is there no difference?

 
After_The_Jump
 
Avatar
 
 
After_The_Jump
Total Posts:  538
Joined  31-01-2016
 
 
 
08 February 2016 10:04
 

@ nonverbal

What’s the difference between genuinely believing something and knowing about something? Or is there no difference?

I’m not sure what context you see your question in, so you may not find this answer to be relevant, but I could see a difference play out as follows: I know about the Bible, I know what it claims in its contents, but I don’t genuinely believe the Bible to be inerrant.

 
SkepticX
 
Avatar
 
 
SkepticX
Total Posts:  14817
Joined  24-12-2004
 
 
 
08 February 2016 10:09
 
After_The_Jump - 08 February 2016 09:02 AM

Yes, Harris appears to be putting aside the high unlikelihood that there is actually an omniscient god named Allah commanding people to murder anyone who doesn’t believe in the teachings of Allah, and acknowledges that - even though the accuracy of the view is under severe scrutiny - it appears to be the genuine view of the person. And Harris regularly notes that a plain text reading of the Quran or Hadith pretty clearly supports the view a Jihadist holds.

...

The two are not mutually exclusive though (“the two” I’m referring to being what someone believes - regardless of the accuracy of their belief - and the ‘actual issues and mechanisms in play’). If a person genuinely believes something and said belief motivates a certain behavior, then that belief would appear to be quite germane to the discussion about what ‘actual issues and mechanisms’ are ‘in play’.

...

I think the crucial point to notice here is that Religion is indeed reified in the minds of the people who believe it - what Harris is saying is that he acknowledges that this is perceived reality for a lot of people.

As I mentioned quite a while ago, a person X acknowledging that person Y actually believes something isn’t an example of person X validating the veracity of what person Y believes.

I think we may be talking past each other to an extent, while at the same time it seems we’re doing so in pretty full agreement—at least that’s what it looks like from here.

My main points in my post that seem to have gotten a bit mixed up in transmission (or seem to have at least) are that because the believer is the active creator of the religious beliefs, and much more so the personal inner circles of the believer’s culture/society, and that the religious beliefs are entirely the product of that process. What a given holy book actually says is a secondary matter—whether it’s even important or not is just part of the cultural/personal product rather than somehow the religion’s doing. So yeah, a whole lot of pretty serious nastiness is supported by Islamic doctrine, and I agree that’s it’s pretty unique in that regard as compared to other major religions, but people have never had any trouble with interpreting those things away either. This is why there are plenty of nasty religious options for nasty bastards and plenty of benevolent options for people who make better neighbors. But Islam has a lot more reforming to do in order to push the nastiness into the background as other religions have already done to a far more significant degree. What the doctrines/books actually say is unimportant as compared to how the believer reads and understands and applies it. These days a lot of Muslims make the actual text important, but that’s just what the process is producing now. It’s certainly significant, but humans are a social species and we tend to develop in cooperative ways—to play well with the other children by nature. Of course there are other strategies for that which have quite dramatically different implications for the quality of life which we’d do well not to dismiss because we’ve been socialized in a more positive and functional process system.

 

After_The_Jump - 08 February 2016 09:02 AM

Yeah, I don’t disagree with any of that. The problem is that a lot of religious people do clearly disagree with that. God isn’t just some subset of socio-psychological process to them, but rather a real entity in and of him/her self.

And I think that’s where I see the biggest problem in dialogue around this issue; we are constantly trying to defend religious belief under circumstances where we’d never offer defense in any other domain.

Couldn’t agree more on that one.

It’s similar to the dramatic shift in standards/expectations for supporting the belief that there are no gods vs. “normal”/more or less sociopolitically inert beliefs vs. theism.

 

After_The_Jump - 08 February 2016 09:02 AM

Take by way of example, racism. Racism would seem to be something that would fit into the very same box you just outlined for religion. Racism is essentially a socio-psychological phenomenon - it doesn’t have an existence in and of itself outside the mind. Yet, when we see KKK members engaging in explicitly racist behavior (using one historically identifiable mark of racism), and we hear them state a specific motivation based on an ideal that black people are of lesser status than white people, we don’t tend to say “yeah, but we really shouldn’t blame racism…. we really should be looking at the long, complex life stories of these individuals. Racism isn’t the problem here; extremist racism is”. I don’t think anyone who fails to use this kind of language as it relates to racist behavior is discounting the possibility that a given person engaging in racist behavior may have had a parent condoning it when they were a child, or may either now or at some point lived in economic strife, etc etc. Rather, regardless of how it flushed out the belief is still the belief now, and it’s a dangerous one that needs to be appropriately identified and addressed.

Religion seems to be the only domain where we hedge on simply calling the belief what it is. When the dangerous belief’s a racist one, we call it racist. When the dangerous belief is a political one, we call it political. When the dangerous belief’s a religious one, a contingent of our populace goes to painstaking lengths not to call it religious. When Sam Harris speaks about the taboo of criticizing religion, it is this double standard that he seems to be in part referring to.

I like to use violence for more or less that same simile because I think it’s more appropriately complex and there’s a positive component in defensive violence and sport (a positive factor which is also really a conflation of the subject with positive social ideas and behaviors). But again, yeah ... couldn’t agree more. The bottom line is that violence hasn’t changed, our relationship with it has ... pretty dramatically. A lot of violence that was accepted as perfectly appropriate in the past is socially unacceptable today, and a lot of it isn’t merely unacceptable but actually criminal.

 
 
nonverbal
 
Avatar
 
 
nonverbal
Total Posts:  1838
Joined  31-10-2015
 
 
 
08 February 2016 10:30
 
After_The_Jump - 08 February 2016 10:04 AM

@ nonverbal

What’s the difference between genuinely believing something and knowing about something? Or is there no difference?

I’m not sure what context you see your question in, so you may not find this answer to be relevant, but I could see a difference play out as follows: I know about the Bible, I know what it claims in its contents, but I don’t genuinely believe the Bible to be inerrant.

Sorry—no real context, but I don’t want to seem to be trying to derail you and SkepticX. I’ll bring it up again when you guys have finished.

 
After_The_Jump
 
Avatar
 
 
After_The_Jump
Total Posts:  538
Joined  31-01-2016
 
 
 
08 February 2016 11:00
 

@ Skeptic X

My main points in my post that seem to have gotten a bit mixed up in transmission (or seem to have at least) are that because the believer is the active creator of the religious beliefs, and much more so the personal inner circles of the believer’s culture/society, and that the religious beliefs are entirely the product of that process.

Yeah, I think I’m tracking your emphasis here now better than I did in the previous post.

I too would agree with your assessment that we appear to have very similar views on the topic - perhaps we can find some points of discussion in the margins smile Specifically, to the exert here: while I don’t disagree with the general notion that a person’s interpretation of scripture is greatly impacted by the culture they’re born into and continue to live in(*1), I do think that’s becoming less and less of a justifiable reason to defend believers. I say this in large part because of technology. Any hundreds of years ago, it was a plausible for a person to be born into a tribe, a cave, or some remote part of a countryside and live their whole life without ever being exposed to any other worldview than the one of their parents/immediate acquaintances. Now though, we’ve got groups like ISIS whereby the members of the group are arguing about their religious beliefs with nonbelievers on Twitter. It’s not as if these individuals aren’t aware that there’s another way of thinking out there, and it’s not as if they don’t have instant access to those other worldviews. In that way, once the belief is adopted, it does seem to take on a life of it’s own - separate from the sum total of life experiences that may have led to the adoption of the belief.

I think that reality is also relevant to the discussion about how to go about addressing such destructive beliefs. I say this for 2 related reasons; (1) the cross sections of backgrounds people have come from who’ve eventually accepted radical and extremism interpretations of the Quran/Hadith (*2)is pretty difficult to summarize into an action plan of preventive engagement (i.e. - the idea that if we were just to address issues x,y and z, we wouldn’t need to address the belief itself because the belief would diminish on it’s own volition). and thus (2) In my opinion, if one puts too much emphasis on tangential factors that may have led to the adoption of a given belief for any one individual, one may undersell the importance of addressing the belief itself. At some point, it seems the belief itself needs to be taken head-on.
————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

*1 - While it’s an impossible scenario to set up, I think it would be infinitely fascinating to expose an adult to a Holy Book after they’d spent the first 25-30 years of their life without ever being exposed to any mention of ‘religion’; the concept generally or any specific Holy Book. I wonder what the review of the Bible would be from someone who read it with no pretext? What are the odds that, without pretext, someone would be wholly convinced of it’s divinity only through the contents within it?

=============================================

*2 - I’m specifically referencing this part of the cited Sam Harris blog article:

the idea that most jihadis are radicalized owing to poverty or lack of economic opportunity is a fiction (1, 2, 3).

The “1, 2, 3” in the article are hyperlinks to articles supporting the basic thesis.

 

[ Edited: 08 February 2016 12:05 by After_The_Jump]
 
sojourner
 
Avatar
 
 
sojourner
Total Posts:  5970
Joined  09-11-2012
 
 
 
08 February 2016 19:38
 
After_The_Jump - 08 February 2016 09:02 AM

Take by way of example, racism. Racism would seem to be something that would fit into the very same box you just outlined for religion. Racism is essentially a socio-psychological phenomenon - it doesn’t have an existence in and of itself outside the mind. Yet, when we see KKK members engaging in explicitly racist behavior (using one historically identifiable mark of racism), and we hear them state a specific motivation based on an ideal that black people are of lesser status than white people, we don’t tend to say “yeah, but we really shouldn’t blame racism…. we really should be looking at the long, complex life stories of these individuals. Racism isn’t the problem here; extremist racism is”. I don’t think anyone who fails to use this kind of language as it relates to racist behavior is discounting the possibility that a given person engaging in racist behavior may have had a parent condoning it when they were a child, or may either now or at some point lived in economic strife, etc etc. Rather, regardless of how it flushed out the belief is still the belief now, and it’s a dangerous one that needs to be appropriately identified and addressed.

Religion seems to be the only domain where we hedge on simply calling the belief what it is.


FWIW, this may be true for some people, but it is not true in my case, and probably not in many people’s cases. I would say the same thing about the racist as I would the jihadist. I don’t think racism is some random illusion that falls out of the sky into people’s heads at random; any more than I think that when people go to a therapist with a belief that is problematic the therapist should say “Let me explain to you why this belief is false. Stop believing it, it makes no sense. Done and done. That will be $200.” Racism stems from xenophobia which stems from a long evolutionary history of out-groups trying to kill each other, resulting in people developing a tendency to find arbitrary standards for “in group” membership (here’s a fun fact - a study found you can eliminate a great deal of racism by putting people of different races in the same team jersey, as people then attend to the team jersey as the arbitrary ‘in-group’ symbol - the same is not true of sexism, though, as the evolution behind that was probably a bit different). I also think that a child who grows up feeling inferior, threatened, has a lot of unvented frustration that they’d like a target for, etc., is far more likely to accept such beliefs than a child who is exposed to racist beliefs but feels confident, secure, and generally happy and warm towards others.


Interestingly, when I looked up the names you gave in your posts on which jihadists Harris might be referring to, a common theme was that many of them didn’t say much of anything about their motivations. (I could be wrong on that, as admittedly searching such names brings up a lot of websites that I’m just not comfortable clicking on, but from what I saw in the more mainstream press.) But I did not see heartfelt speeches about their love of God and how, tortured though they were about it, they thought this was some “Go and sacrifice Isaac” situation. So while I do think religion as a tribal identity is an important factor in tribal-style violence, it’s just not clear to me that it’s quantitatively or qualitatively that different than any other kind of tribal flag. We have gangs, cartels and militias all over the world - I don’t see compelling evidence that jihadists are particularly different in that respect (I think religion may have more influence in other areas - women’s rights, for example - but this is not the topic of this particular thread.)

 
 
Poldano
 
Avatar
 
 
Poldano
Total Posts:  3333
Joined  26-01-2010
 
 
 
08 February 2016 20:04
 
After_The_Jump - 08 February 2016 06:03 AM

@ Poldano
...

Does this make patriotism, or the United States Constitution (to which they claimed to be patriotic) guilty as an accomplice to their illegal actions?

First, it should be noted that the Constitution doesn’t purport itself to be of divine origin. In fact, the Constitution builds directly into it an objective, viewable process by which to update and evaluate its contents (If only we had such an objective process for the Bible). ...

That’s what I mean by being open to new experience and interpretation. Christianity has it scripturally via Jesus statement to Peter, “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Judaism has adopted the Talmudic tradition to do much the same thing, despite no mention being made of such thing in any of the Hebrew scriptures proper.

After_The_Jump - 08 February 2016 06:03 AM

...

Is there no possibility that something in their individual backgrounds may have contributed to their motivations and individual conceptions of the notion of patriotism to the U.S. Constitution?

Of course there’s a possibility of this; in fact, it’s a virtual guarantee that this is the case. Taking it back to Harris; he talks all the time about religious belief often times being planted into a child’s psyche over mother’s knee during childhood. As far as the Bundy’s go, it seems highly likely their dad was doing same thing with them regarding their dogmatic beliefs about “Patriotism”.

So where does that leave us? People have beliefs, and those beliefs matter because they influence people’s behavior. We can’t rightly change the Bundy’s past life experiences. They can however simply not choose to believe destructive things about Patriotism. Unfortunately, they are very open about their unwillingness to change their view (losing in a court system set up by the document they claim to be defending clearly wasn’t enough to change their beliefs). This isn’t an issue of a lack of information; it’s an issue of cognitive dissonance.

I think it’s better to characterize the choice via action rather than belief. They can choose to believe what they want without penalty, but they cannot choose to act in any way they want without penalty. There was an old sense of “belief” that I came across that seemed as though, at one time, it was not considered possible to believe something and not act on it. That’s an archaic sense not found among elites since the “Age of Consciousness” (one of C.G. Jung’s notions, in my own words), but possibly still common among the less neurotic (so to speak). With that form of belief, it might not be possible to address the actions without addressing the beliefs.

I’m not sure I would call it cognitive dissonance in the Oregon cases. They do not hold contradictory opinions in their own view. They regard the courts as illegitimate. In effect they pick and choose the portions of the Constitution they believe. This is indicated by their appeal to “common law courts”.

Is it more or less empathic to take their backgrounds into consideration when weighing possible motivations?

Perhaps you could clarify? Are you implying that’s it’s more empathetic to consider a person background as it relates to their possible motivations to then call them liars in regard to what they say motivates them? No, I don’t see that as ‘more empathetic’ than acknowledging what they say they’re motivations are.

Put your implication into practice for a second: Imagine the Bundy’s giving their stated motivations for their actions, and someone responding by saying “Yeah, you may think that, but you’re actually doing what you’re doing because you’re dad told you a bunch of stupid things about Patriotism when you were little”. Not only does that not appear empathetic, it doesn’t fundamentally change anything about the discussion that’s been had here. Ultimately, the Bundy’s have a set of beliefs that they are actively choosing to maintain, and those beliefs constitute destructive thoughts about ‘Patriotism’.

It doesn’t appear empathetic because it’s not. Empathy is not about reaching a legal decision or a moral judgment. It’s about getting information to understand better what an appropriate judgment or penalty is. It’s not at all empathetic to someone to brusquely disregard their cherished illusions. That betrays a lack of empathy concerning what their subsequent reaction is likely to be.

At the same time, it’s not all that easy to get rid of beliefs. In situations like you describe, it feels exactly like betrayal of a dear person’s trust. The illogic of the beliefs do not really matter to the subject. People are seldom logical with respect to their beliefs, and when they are the logicality is often accompanied by significant emotional turmoil. Beliefs are tied to sense of identity, self-worth, affiliation, social acceptance, and so forth. Stressing those emotional underpinnings by challenging beliefs may lead to true cognitive dissonance or to something worse, like outright rejection of logic.

My question was really directed at your disagreement with NicLynn about empathy. I wanted to understand your rationale. Now I do, and I responded accordingly. Sometimes empathy matters. In the Oregon case it probably doesn’t. In Jihadists’ case it might, if it provides information that can be used to deter recruitment.

After_The_Jump - 08 February 2016 06:03 AM

...

Is their patriotism bad simply because they claimed it as their motivation, when there exist many others who claim the same patriotism without engaging in illegal acts?

Yes, their brand of “Patriotism” is indeed bad when viewed through the lens of objective human well-being. Others who interpret patriotism differently should not be implicated in that brand of bad patriotism in so far as their interpretation of ‘patriotism’ leads to different (and less destructive) behaviors.

On the religious side, this is rather easy to see. Harris regularly cites Jainism as a prime example. Jainism is a religion dedicated to non-violence; to become a ‘radical’ Jain, one would hypothetically become so non-violent as to try to dodge stepping on ants as they walk down the sidewalk. ‘Radical’ Jains then should not be pooled in with ‘radical’ Islamists and Jihadists, because their beliefs clearly don’t motivate the same kind of destructive behaviors as radical Islamists and Jihadists.

That’s an example of two different religions, but the same basic idea could be applied within the same religion too. That’s why - as it relates to Muslims - Harris and others have spent a lot of time outlining what percentage of the group appears to hold the kinds of beliefs that, when acted upon, are destructive as it relates to objective human well-being.

It is practically difficult to do as you describe, since most people seem to think in labels rather than ideas, but it should be attempted and emphasized nonetheless.

Altogether a well-reasoned response. Thanks.

 

 

 

 

 
 
sojourner
 
Avatar
 
 
sojourner
Total Posts:  5970
Joined  09-11-2012
 
 
 
08 February 2016 20:41
 
Poldano - 08 February 2016 08:04 PM

Put your implication into practice for a second: Imagine the Bundy’s giving their stated motivations for their actions, and someone responding by saying “Yeah, you may think that, but you’re actually doing what you’re doing because you’re dad told you a bunch of stupid things about Patriotism when you were little”. Not only does that not appear empathetic, it doesn’t fundamentally change anything about the discussion that’s been had here. Ultimately, the Bundy’s have a set of beliefs that they are actively choosing to maintain, and those beliefs constitute destructive thoughts about ‘Patriotism’.


A quibble (it’s interesting, I realize I find out a lot about my primary interests on this board, based on the topics that I will quibble about down to the finest detail vs. the ones where I’m like “Yeah, yeah, so, what with the sports - they slam dunked the puck into the basket and the Yankees won the Superbowl. Or something. Close enough. Geez, do we really need to parse this any more, it’s like you’re obsessed with every little detail! Just cheer that they won the World Cup or whatever and be happy.”)


Anyways, my quibble is that empathy talks about the ability to feel what another person is feeling, not analyze it or understand it at an abstract level. Now, with that in mind, perhaps empathy is not really the thing we even want to be talking about in these situations - maybe detached third person analysis is really more helpful, and perhaps what Harris would talk about if he had the chance to rephrase (it would be hard to have every off-the-cuff remark analyzed into oblivion, after all, so maybe that was just a hasty word choice.) But yes, I do think if you are talking about empathy, understanding the life story and emotional circumstances that hold a belief in place are key to that. If someone in a cult says “I believe this comet is going to take me away!”, I would be both surprised and very alarmed if anyone on this board felt immediate empathy for that, like “Yes, I myself have often felt that! I totally relate!”. If, on the other hand, you knew they had faced this or that circumstances that led to a desire for escapism, ok, then that you might be able to empathize with (we all know what it’s like to want to get out of a hurtful situation, even if it’s just dreaming of going to the beach while your boss is on rampage or whatever.) So I think the implicit point being debated here is how much we want to approach these topics empathically (staring into the abyss and all that) vs. analytically.

 
 
After_The_Jump
 
Avatar
 
 
After_The_Jump
Total Posts:  538
Joined  31-01-2016
 
 
 
09 February 2016 07:24
 

@ Poldano

Christianity has it scripturally via Jesus statement to Peter, “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Judaism has adopted the Talmudic tradition to do much the same thing, despite no mention being made of such thing in any of the Hebrew scriptures proper.

Yeah, there’s no question the aggregate interpretation of a given scripture has changed with time. My reference to the built-in process of change and evaluation as it relates to the Constitution is that it’s formal and specific, whereas the change process for interpretation of religious text really has no stated boundaries. While modernity seems to have forced a great many religious people to interpret their books differently, there is no objective theological measure by which to tell a religious person that maintaining a first century interpretation of a given religious book is ‘wrong’. I don’t think you disagree with any of that; just further clarifying the purpose of my reference to the Constitution.

I think it’s better to characterize the choice via action rather than belief. They can choose to believe what they want without penalty, but they cannot choose to act in any way they want without penalty.

Yes, indeed, the action is ultimately the thing that we should be judging, more or less. And I think your point about someone being able to maintain a belief without acting on it is a salient one as well.

With that form of belief, it might not be possible to address the actions without addressing the beliefs.

It would seem the claim to divinity is really where such a distinction has the most application. If indeed one actually believes a divine authority is evaluating one’s chances at eternal happiness on how one behaves, it’s hard to picture a scenario where a believer would maintain the belief in said divine authority, but would choose not to act in the way they think the divine authority wants them to act. Some people may hold the belief about the divine authority and simply not feel they’re capable of living up to the divine authority’s standards, but that would appear to be different than actively choosing to damn one’s self to hell via intentional engagement in unsanctioned behavior.

My question was really directed at your disagreement with NicLynn about empathy. I wanted to understand your rationale. Now I do, and I responded accordingly. Sometimes empathy matters. In the Oregon case it probably doesn’t. In Jihadists’ case it might, if it provides information that can be used to deter recruitment.

Yes, I think the primary disagreement I had with Niclynn was in the way Niclynn was characterizing ‘empathy’, as opposed to the way Harris seemed to use it. It appeared Harris used ‘empathy’ in the same sense that it was being used as a criticism of him - specifically, Harris mentioned how his critics often criticize him for allegedly not showing empathy for the people he talks about (in this context, Jihadists and Islamists). Harris’s point was simply that he takes Jihadists and Islamists at their word when they state their motivations for their behaviors, and that doing so is ‘more empathetic’ than not doing so (Harris attributing the act of not doing so to his critics who often say religion isn’t actually motivating Jihadists/Islamists).

That really was the full extent of how Harris referenced “empathy” as it related to Jihadists and Islamists, and yet Niclynn used that one quote to imply Harris didn’t really know what he was talking about - and wasn’t really being empathetic - because Harris failed to mention any specific Jihadists and Islamists by name in that one quote.

To your point - I don’t think Harris would argue with the notion that empathy as it relates to Jihadists/Islamists may provide helpful information to deter recruitment, and I certainly wouldn’t argue that point either. Harris’s newest book with Maajid Nawaz would actually appear to be a perfect example of taking an empathetic approach to the phenomenon of radical Islamism - specifically, he has a dialogue with Nawaaz (a former Islamist) regarding exactly what Nawaaz’s path to extremism was, and how that information can be used to deter others from taking the same path.

A related side note about empathy: Have you read or listened to Paul Bloom talk about his upcoming book tentatively entitled “Against Empathy”? I found it to be quite interesting. I’m eager to read the full book because his commentary thus far appears to take on some pretty entrenched taboos that seem to be in need of taking on.

[ Edited: 09 February 2016 07:29 by After_The_Jump]
 
sojourner
 
Avatar
 
 
sojourner
Total Posts:  5970
Joined  09-11-2012
 
 
 
09 February 2016 08:06
 
After_The_Jump - 09 February 2016 07:24 AM

Harris’s point was simply that he takes Jihadists and Islamists at their word when they state their motivations for their behaviors, and that doing so is ‘more empathetic’ than not doing so (Harris attributing the act of not doing so to his critics who often say religion isn’t actually motivating Jihadists/Islamists).


Who has said this?

 
 
After_The_Jump
 
Avatar
 
 
After_The_Jump
Total Posts:  538
Joined  31-01-2016
 
 
 
09 February 2016 08:18
 

Who has said this?

Reza Aslan’s the most notable one (notable in that he seems to voice it the most often, and the most vociferously). But, again, if you’ve viewed the multiple debates I’ve cited multiple times, you’ll see this kind of argument coming from Chris Hedges, Reza Aslan, David Wolpe, William Lane Craig, and many others. They articulate a view of religion that is essentially infinitely elastic - that it really doesn’t motivate anyone to do anything (unless one cites the good stuff, then God’s influence is *obvious*); that even when one state’s their religious beliefs as a primary motivation for behavior, the actual motivation is an amalgam of other things that aren’t religious in nature.

 
sojourner
 
Avatar
 
 
sojourner
Total Posts:  5970
Joined  09-11-2012
 
 
 
09 February 2016 08:29
 
After_The_Jump - 09 February 2016 08:18 AM

Who has said this?

Reza Aslan’s the most notable one (notable in that he seems to voice it the most often, and the most vociferously). But, again, if you’ve viewed the multiple debates I’ve cited multiple times, you’ll see this kind of argument coming from Chris Hedges, Reza Aslan, David Wolpe, William Lane Craig, and many others. They articulate a view of religion that is essentially infinitely elastic - that it really doesn’t motivate anyone to do anything (unless one cites the good stuff, then God’s influence is *obvious*); that even when one state’s their religious beliefs as a primary motivation for behavior, the actual motivation is an amalgam of other things that aren’t religious in nature.


I mean an actual quote. And “if you viewed the multiple debates” doesn’t count, I’m not the one making the assertion, you are, so if you made the statement it’s assumed you have a referent in mind. Sorry, hope that doesn’t come off as rude (no tone online), but I am on a “thinking about details and why they are important” kick lately.

 
 
After_The_Jump
 
Avatar
 
 
After_The_Jump
Total Posts:  538
Joined  31-01-2016
 
 
 
09 February 2016 09:30
 

@ Niclynn

And “if you viewed the multiple debates” doesn’t count, I’m not the one making the assertion, you are, so if you made the statement it’s assumed you have a referent in mind. Sorry, hope that doesn’t come off as rude (no tone online), but I am on a “thinking about details and why they are important” kick lately.

The ‘specific referent’ I have in mind is a solid 45 minutes of the debate. You claim to be on a ‘details matter’ kick, but you seem insistent on dismissing the entire context of a conversation to instead only focus on one or two sentences of the conversation. For example, you just said this:

“Sorry, hope that doesn’t come off as rude (no tone online)” yet you insist on only talking about isolated quotes if they are presented in an online text format - where you admit “no tone” can be effectively communicated.

But, if you absolutely insist on plucking just a few lines out of a full debate, reading them only in text form and thus with ‘no tone’ communicated, and talking about them in that vacuum, then here goes:

ASLAN: “The point that I’m making by talking is that by talking about this conflict as a religious conflict as you are explicitly doing, you’re essentially doing the same thing the extremists are doing. And that is by overlaying this religious significance upon this that turns an earthly conflict into a cosmic battle”. (1:07:50)

What I love about this often-used line from Aslan (he broaches it again at the 1:09 mark) is that he uses it as a refutation of Harris’s point, when all it does is validate Harris’s point. Aslan tacitly acknowledges that, yes, extremists do indeed view their actions as being motivated by a “cosmic battle” of religious principle (again, a point Aslan disagrees with when Harris makes it). Yet, virtually every second he’s not conceding this point, he’s arguing against the notion that the point exists at all (for example, at the 58:00 mark Aslan disagrees with Harris that Bin Laden’s justifications were religious in nature - even though later Aslan chastises Harris for allegedly believing exactly what the “extremists” believe - namely, that religious belief motivates their behaviors) . As Harris states around the 1:08:30 mark, the problem is that extremists DO see things explicitly in religious terms. That’s what Harris is focusing on, and his point about the gradations of religious belief that filter out between the ‘extremists’ and the ‘moderates’ stem from the example of the extremist - who is often explicitly religious - down to the moderate, who may not be as religious (or not religious at all in that sense).

The last thing I’ll say about this (in this comment anyway) is the following: I don’t deny that Aslan often times hedges this point. For example, in an op-ed for CNN, Aslan states the following:

After all, there’s no question that a person’s religious beliefs can and often do influence his or her behavior.

That seems like a rather straightforward endorsement of the sentiments often articulated by Harris. But, Aslan’s very next two lines are:

The mistake lies in assuming there is a necessary and distinct causal connection between belief and behavior

So, in one instance, Aslan says religious belief can and does influence behavior, but then in the next breath says there’s no necessary and distinct causal connection between (religious) belief and behavior. Scientist Jerry Coyne offered a great response to this seeming juxtaposition:

In truth, Aslan wants us to think that it’s only religious beliefs that don’t determine (“necessarily and distinctly”) behavior, because his interest is in defending religion, Islam in particular.  But what does “necessarily and distinctly” mean? I’d say that if there is a purported mix of factors that are said to determine a behavior, and that the behavior never occurs without a certain one of the factors (say, religious belief), then, yes, religion necessarily and distinctly influences that behavior. It’s like a multifactoral statistical analysis, in which you partition out the contributors to an outcome and find one has the overriding influence.

That, to me, is the perfect articulation of the difference between views like Harris and views like Aslan’s. Harris doesn’t deny that all kinds of things can and do play a role in why people do what they do. But, Harris has identified that, in some instances, religion seems to be a primary motivation. Aslan seems never willing to concede this point (Aslan regularly dances between using the term “exclusively” instead of “primarily”, as if they are interchangeable). Whereas Harris has no problem acknowledging that, sometimes, people’s behaviors are primarily motivated by politics, socioeconomic status, states of oppression, etc., Aslan seems insistent on never acknowledging that sometimes religious belief is the primary motivation too.

And that’s why I think it’s important not to pluck one or two sentences out of context; because on balance, it’s quite clear during that debate which side of the discussion Aslan comes out on.

[ Edited: 09 February 2016 10:03 by After_The_Jump]
 
sojourner
 
Avatar
 
 
sojourner
Total Posts:  5970
Joined  09-11-2012
 
 
 
09 February 2016 10:30
 
After_The_Jump - 09 February 2016 09:30 AM

The ‘specific referent’ I have in mind is a solid 45 minutes of the debate. You claim to be on a ‘details matter’ kick, but you seem insistent on dismissing the entire context of a conversation to instead only focus on one or two sentences of the conversation.


But, if you absolutely insist on plucking just a few lines out of a full debate, reading them only in text form and thus with ‘no tone’ communicated, and talking about them in that vacuum


Ok, tangent again, but I do want to say I think this is a clever argument (I don’t have to give a quote because we all know taking things out of context is bad). There is much to be said about what constitutes “taking something out of context” (Harris, to my mind, has a rather different standard on this when it comes to his own words vs. discussing the role of religion in extremist violence - he often says his own direct quotes are taken out of context but is happy enough to grab isolated statements from jihadists without providing names in many cases). However, using the same logic, I could say “There is proof in the Bible that God exists, it’s on you to read it and understand that”, and then, if you object, claim you have clearly taken this or that statement out of context. Context is - back to this again - subjective.


Anyways, to the actual quote, juxtaposing these two statements:

(Harris attributing the act of not doing so to his critics who often say religion isn’t actually motivating Jihadists/Islamists).

ASLAN: “The point that I’m making by talking is that by talking about this conflict as a religious conflict as you are explicitly doing, you’re essentially doing the same thing the extremists are doing. And that is by overlaying this religious significance upon this that turns an earthly conflict into a cosmic battle”. (1:07:50)


Again - just my opinion, but I don’t see this as particularly backing up the assertion made above. It’s a somewhat ambiguous quote, but to me Aslan does acknowledge the role of religion here - he says himself that it is entirely possible to turn said conflict into a “cosmic battle” (presumably this would not be possible if people didn’t actually believe in religious tribal ideals) and that this is the same thing the extremists are doing. To me, ‘same thing’ pretty well does acknowledge at least some religious motivation, no? Otherwise, what does he mean by that term, ‘same thing’?


Again, my interpretation, but all he seems to be saying is that at this point such thinking is more limited to extremists, and we should want to keep it that way by not playing into the “holy war!” narrative. Whether you agree or not is another topic, but again, I’m not seeing the blanket denial of religious influence I think you’re seeing.

 
 
‹ First  < 6 7 8 9 >