Atheism and Wicca: The Discussion So Far

I’ve been doing a long series of posts on atheism and Wicca.  I’m about mid-way through–  after taking break for the weekend, I’ll be back on Monday with posts about the Wiccan god and goddess; then on to the Wheel of the Year, reincarnation, and magic.  At this half-way point it’s a good idea to take a break and list the posts so far:

Atheism and Wicca

The Wiccan Deity

The Wiccan Deity: An Initial Philosophical Analysis

The Wiccan Deity: Related Concepts in Philosophy

On Atheistic Religion

Nine Theses on Wicca and Atheism

Atheistic Holidays

Criticizing Wicca: Energy

Atheism and Beauty

Do Atheists Worship Truth?

Some Naturalistic Ontology

Criticizing Wicca: Levels

Atheism and the Sacred: Natural Creative Power

Atheist Ceremonies: De-Baptism and the Cosmic Walk

Atheism and Possibility

The Impossible God of Paul Tillich

Atheism and the Sacred: Being-Itself

Pure Objective Reason

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • http://richarddawkins.net/profiles/51655 Peter Grant

    I’m all for truth and beauty, but reincarnation and magic? Seriously?

    • http://www.ericsteinhart.com Eric Steinhart

      The point of the discussion is to be critical.

    • http://richarddawkins.net/profiles/51655 Peter Grant

      OK, I can do that :D

  • davidct

    It is hard enough to tell what is real from what is not as it is. Adding in some belief system does not really help. Valuing what is true only becomes confused when one adds in the trappings of religion. Humans being who they are it is hard to keep superstition from creeping in. Let atheism remain a single position on a single question and stop trying to keep incorporating it into some alternate system of belief.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Atheism is what it is. But people inevitably have views about other things and therefore they need good philosophizing about those other issues. That’s why (I think) Eric is giving the outlines of a full rationalistic metaphysics which makes no reference to supernatural agencies.

      And to the extent that broadly speaking “religious” practices are universally recurring in human cultures, due in no small part to deep-seated ways that the human brain functions and human groups organize, Eric is arguing (I think) that if atheists are to help people to avoid superstitions and to avoid theism, they need to find alternative ways for people to meet their brains’ non-cognitive needs in ways consistent with a rationalistic metaphysics.

      “Just leaving atheism alone” does not do atheism any good if it means leaving atheists with impoverished metaphysics and emotional and social practices. That harms atheists directly since their thinking and living is emptier and it harms atheism indirectly, as it gives atheists a disadvantage in persuading and educating people. Religions are willing to use whatever false metaphysics and whatever useful practices that will net them the most fish possible. If atheists cannot have coherent alternative thoroughgoingly rationalistic pictures of the world and practices for living, atheists will always be at a severe disadvantage in the struggle against irrationalism.

      Finally, Eric is emphatically not saying to turn atheism into Wicca, only to learn from some of Wicca’s strategies for developing naturalistic religious practices that evade the trap of simply reproducing theism again. Eric has and (I’m quite sure) will continue to criticize all the woo and superstition of Wicca and not suggest that atheists should give it any credence or use it mythically, etc.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1127827774 neleabels

      Daniel:
      Atheism is what it is. But people inevitably have views about other things and therefore they need good philosophizing about those other issues.

      May I ask why? I have seen this repeating claim for quite a number of times in this series of articles. But why actually do “people” need philosophizing because they have views about things? To be frank, if people in the real world encounter real world problems, they tend to solve them in one way or the other without any actual help from philosophy. At least this has been case for the last 300 years or so – the influence of Enlightenment philosophy on the contemporary philosophical discourse is a completely different issue and has to do with real-world polito-philosophical discourse, not with metaphysical philosophy. So, why does anybody need “good philosophizing”? In my opinion, the role of philosophers has been reduced a long time ago to a role of commentators mumbling their irrelevant musings at the side of the road, while nobody of importance listens or pays heed.

      So why does anybody actually need “good philosophizing”? What are the problems which cannot be solved either scientifically? Or, if you prefer to stay in the field of humanities, which cannot be solved using valid empirical methods, e.g. the historical method – which is the field I am qualified in.

      That harms atheists directly since their thinking and living is emptier and it harms atheism indirectly, as it gives atheists a disadvantage in persuading and educating people.

      Nope. I don’t think so, the point hasn’t been mady by Eric at all. All he has done, is juggling words and concepts, applying free-wheeling dialectics, trying to somehow construct the idea that there must be something “divine” and “mystical” behind rationality which offers meaning which is somehow “more” than simple common sense and an open mind for the real world. But in his thousands of words of philosophical meandering so far, Eric has not yet succeed in making this point convincingly. When people actually could be bothered with engaging into a discussion in the comment sections, it became quit clear that his central phrases and concepts are still not at all unambiguous. When his arguments were opposed clearly, e.g. the issue whether “truth is divine and holy for atheists”, Eric has tended to let the matter quietly slip and to move on to another longish essay of his. This is certainly not the way to do it, because this means that basically it is not relevant to prove points by EVALUATING THEM BASED ON REALITY – for Eric, it seems sufficient to use an obfuscating language and to drop as many footnote-bombs at possible.

      I am utterly and completely underwhelmed by this…

      This certainly could be understood, as another commentator has phrased it, as a masturbatory exercise in reasoning. But I see other problems: what this kind of reasoning and argueing actually could do, is to establish the idea that atheism and critical reasoning actually are accompagnied by something very comparable to theological writing. That for atheism and and critical reasoning some kind of esoteric text corpus is necessary, which offers un-understandble knowledge, e.g. à la Tillich, which is based solely on terms and concepts invented and modelled at the whim of fictional writers.

      I have asked the question before, but the question is to my mind still open: what is the structural, the discoursive difference between Eric’s writing and the writing of theologists?

      Finally, Eric is emphatically not saying to turn atheism into Wicca, only to learn from some of Wicca’s strategies for developing naturalistic religious practices that evade the trap of simply reproducing theism again.

      Just do add this last point: sorry, but the claim itself is preposterous. Atheism certainly is in no danger of “reproducing theism again”. And even if it were so, “learning lessons” from any other superstitious and delusional religion would be no help at all.

    • SAWells

      ““Just leaving atheism alone” does not do atheism any good if it means leaving atheists with impoverished metaphysics and emotional and social practices.”

      The idea that atheists are impoverished vis-a-vis metaphysics and emotional and social practices is a religious trope, not a fact about atheists, and you should really be a lot more critical of it before deploying it so unthinkingly.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      The idea that atheists are impoverished vis-a-vis metaphysics and emotional and social practices is a religious trope, not a fact about atheists, and you should really be a lot more critical of it before deploying it so unthinkingly.

      Sorry, SAWells, I think for myself. I don’t check the list of “things atheists aren’t supposed to say because some religious people say them” before I write.

  • http://www.ericsteinhart.com Eric Steinhart

    Dan gave a good summary of my thoughts here.

    It needs to be stressed that almost everything I’m talking about is based on activities that are already going on in America. There are atheists who pray, who believe in reincarnation, who celebrate the solstices, who do the Cosmic Walk, who do all sorts of things.

    Any atheism that wants to be left alone will be left alone. It will be socially and culturally ignored. It will fade into irrelevance.

    Our brains are wired for religion and it’s pointless to try to deny that. So I’m arguing (based on what I’m seeing in the USA) that there can be an atheistic religion, specifically, an atheistic nature-religion. On the basis of what people are actually doing, I think that atheistic nature-religion will incorporate many elements from American neo-paganism as well as from certain forms of Christian pantheism (e.g. Catholic eco-theology and Protestant evolutionary spirituality). All of this is really happening, very slowly, in small steps. But it’s there.

    • SAWells

      Firstly, this: “Any atheism that wants to be left alone will be left alone. It will be socially and culturally ignored. It will fade into irrelevance.”

      So, as I said before and you tried to avoid, you really do see yourself as John the BaptAtheist: you are proclaiming the coming of the new religion which will save the atheists. Seriously, and I say this with every ounce of the respect which I feel is due to you: piss off. The whole point of normalising atheism is to make not believing in gods no more remarkable than not believing in leprechauns, and nobody needs or wants to found a religion based on aleprechauny.

      Secondly, this: “Our brains are wired for religion and it’s pointless to try to deny that.”

      So all those of us who are not religious, feel no need to be religious, and actively dislike religion: are we brain-damaged? Mutants? Nonexistent? Not part of your ontology? Come on, if you really are a philosopher by profession, you ought to be better at thinking than this.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Seriously, and I say this with every ounce of the respect which I feel is due to you: piss off.

      You do know that Eric is not sneaking into your room and opening your computer and typing all these words on your computer. If you have so much contempt for the writing on this blog and want it to go away, you can do the pissing off.

    • SAWells

      Because obviously the worst possible thing that can possibly happen to a philosopher is to be exposed to robust criticism, right? Other people might read it and we can’t have that.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Who said anything about Eric not being able to receive “robust criticism”? You were not offering “robust criticism” but childish abuse that expressed an extreme discomfort with these readings and a fury at being disagreed with so intense that you were telling Eric to “piss off”. My advice was simple, if you want him to go away, you can leave. If you don’t want him to go away, of course, you’re more than welcome to stay. But if you find him so personally abusive and contemptible, I am just warning you that he is not leaving on your account.

      If you’d like to persuade him to change his mind, you’re more than welcome to stay and keep screaming at him until you’re blue in the face and calling it “robust criticism”. You just don’t seem to be enjoying all this very much and you don’t seem like you’re in the mood to treat those you disagree with, or their expertise in areas you don’t have expertise, with the slightest modicum of respect or open-mindedness.

      But, if this is what floats your boat, keep coming back and keep throwing tantrums that Eric is not responding to whatever points you don’t think he grasps. I can use the hits.

    • Anat

      Any atheism that wants to be left alone will be left alone. It will be socially and culturally ignored. It will fade into irrelevance.

      As long as atheists are involved in the political aspect of religion/state separation atheism will remain relevant. And if that is ever achieved atheism will be irrelevant, but so will religions. People’s religious stance will become a private matter, as it should be.

    • http://www.ericsteinhart.com Eric Steinhart

      @Anat – I think religion, because it is so intensely social, will always make political demands. Religion satisfies deep social needs that are pretty much hardwired into our brains. If atheism is going to compete, it will have to satisfy those same needs.

    • Anat

      To the degree that religion will always make political demands (I’m not even sure about that) political atheism will always be relevant, no ceremonies or other cultural elements required.

      As for us being hard-wired for something that religion fulfills and atheism needs to fulfill too – I find my personal experience is different. When I believed I followed through with religious ceremonies ‘the way they should properly be done’ because I thought God wanted them done that particular way, but other than that they meant nothing. The moment I stopped believing I had no need for the ceremonies and attempts to participate in ceremonies, whether those I was familiar with, those of other traditions and cultures or made up ones simply make me feel silly. I’m not interested in an atheism-compatible religion, I have no such need.

    • http://www.ericsteinhart.com Eric Steinhart

      The notion of the “religious brain” that comes to us from psychology (that is, from neurotheology) doesn’t mean we’ll all want to do ceremonies. There’s more to it than that, mostly having to do with pattern recognition and projection. Most ceremonies are no fun, so I’ll agree with you. But check out “Burning the Grump” in Crested Butte. That sounds like fun.

  • Steve Schuler

    Hey There Eric!

    Thanks for all the posts that you have made so far as you work your way through this series. I very much appreciate the effort that you have made to do this. You are helping me ‘expand my horizons’, which is always good!.

    Thanks

    Steve

    • http://www.ericsteinhart.com Eric Steinhart

      Thanks Steve! Stay tuned…

  • http://www.ericsteinhart.com Eric Steinhart

    @Neleabels -

    I’m surprised that you think American culture is so enlightened. Looking around, I’d say American culture is dominated by Christian social organizations, and by the Christian philosophy that goes with them. Christians do lots of philosophizing, and it drives public policy. Christian metaphysics about persons, about the creation of the universe, and on and on, drives all sorts of public policy issues from abortion to stem cells to evolution and on and on and on.

    I’m even more surprised that you think I believe “there must be something “divine” and “mystical” behind rationality”. In post after post, post after post after post, I say that reason itself is sacred, holy, and indeed even divine. There is nothing at all behind rationality. I have never talked about anything “mystical” at all. You can surely criticize me for saying that reason is sacred, holy, or divine. Fair enough. But please represent my views accurately before you criticize.

    You want to know “what is the structural, the discoursive [sic.] difference between Eric’s writing and the writing of theologists [sic.]?”. Apart from the fact that I don’t believe in any gods or goddesses, the difference is none. And that’s completely consistent with atheism.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      You want to know “what is the structural, the discoursive [sic.] difference between Eric’s writing and the writing of theologists [sic.]?”. Apart from the fact that I don’t believe in any gods or goddesses, the difference is none. And that’s completely consistent with atheism.

      No, there is another crucial substantive difference—there are no faith posits here, just appeals to evidence and concerns for formal consistency among a priori concepts.

    • http://www.ericsteinhart.com Eric Steinhart

      Good point Dan – I reject faith entirely; but still, there’s a long tradition of natural theology in Western thought. I’d put myself down as doing natural atheology.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      Eric,

      When you say that you reject “faith” entirely, what do you mean by faith?

      I’ve defined it before as being holding the truth of a proposition with more confidence than is strictly warranted by the evidence you have. But my definition would include having faith in a friend that they didn’t do something wrong or didn’t betray you even if the evidence suggests right now that they did. Is that a faith that you can reject? Or what, then, is faith to you?

    • http://www.ericsteinhart.com Eric Steinhart

      @VerboseStoic – Thanks for your support! As for faith, Dan has written lots about it, and so for the purposes of this blog I’m using his notion. You’re right that it’s a kind of over-confidence; but Dan adds that the overconfidence becomes caught up in an authoritarian social matrix. Dan’s posts on faith are very good, and bear reading (or re-reading).

  • SAWells

    Daniel, if Eric were here writing fiction, and saying so, I wouldn’t give a damn and I wouldn’t get involved.

    But he is claiming to be saying things that are true, and he is doing so on the front page of FTB. I care enough about ideas that I like to challenge bad ones, if only so that other people seeing the discussion can see that disagreement is permitted.

    Right now, Eric has made a clearly false claim: “Our brains are wired for religion and it’s pointless to deny that.” If he can tell me that my brain is hard-wired for religion, when it is not, I know, I live here, then he can cope with a little profanity in the responses. A few posts back he described his critics as being possibly driven by a hatred of all abstract thought. That’s stunningly rude.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Daniel, if Eric were here writing fiction, and saying so, I wouldn’t give a damn and I wouldn’t get involved.

      But he is claiming to be saying things that are true, and he is doing so on the front page of FTB. I care enough about ideas that I like to challenge bad ones, if only so that other people seeing the discussion can see that disagreement is permitted.

      Right now, Eric has made a clearly false claim: “Our brains are wired for religion and it’s pointless to deny that.” If he can tell me that my brain is hard-wired for religion, when it is not, I know, I live here, then he can cope with a little profanity in the responses. A few posts back he described his critics as being possibly driven by a hatred of all abstract thought. That’s stunningly rude.

      Disagreement is surely permitted. But your contempt and mischaracterizations of his positions and your demands that he drop what he is doing and write post after post replying to your positivism are becoming repetitive and unilluminating. I don’t agree with everything Eric says and have spent many many hours as his friend vigorously debating with him. But you are not trying to understand what he is saying. You are vitriolically and dismissively anti-metaphysical. I would even say prejudicially. Eric is sourcing his arguments with appeals to philosophical texts which come from as reputable sources as Oxford University Press and citing absolutely undeniably leading philosophers like David Lewis and the most influential theologian of the 20th Century Paul Tillich, and profoundly influential historical philosophers like Spinoza and Nietzsche and Peirce.

      He’s not just name-dropping. He’s not appealing to authority. What he is doing is a fascinating synthesis of historical and contemporary philosophy of religion and metaphysics, all while investigating the nature of an ill-understood minority religion. He’s making arguments that have quite a bit of peer review philosophical credibility behind them. Does that make them right? Not necessarily. But does it make Eric a crackpot danger to society who must be scrubbed clean from Freethought Blogs lest he corrupt the atheist youth? Give me a break! Do you know how fundamentalist you look getting so agitated about what we are allowed to say or think here?

      Do you really think that you’re qualified to dismiss everything he’s saying as fiction about a fiction and by so trivializing all Eric’s arguments about universals, ignore all the authority of the peer review process of contemporary academic philosophy which has rigorously vetted numerous vigorous defenses of them? Sure, nominalists and, I guess, some positivists exist among adequately educated and trained philosophers. Personally, I am quite torn on these issues in some ways and for years was far closer to your views than to Eric’s until I spent many hours debating with Eric myself and came much closer to his side. So, by all means, raise objections and ask questions. But the implication that what Eric is saying is something contemptible on the order you claim and to treat him with as much hostility as you have, and then to whine over what? Being accused of hating abstraction? From your comments what else are we to include? Do you have any idea how you sound? Do you have any idea how ignorant you look conflating all metaphysical rigor with theological sophistry? Do you have any idea how arrogant it is for you to treat like a moron a professional philosopher who has spent 25+ years engaged on these questions as his full time occupation and who is citing the highest quality academic sources for further reference as to the justifications of his position?

      I know—of course, everyone just knows everything about philosophy as simple matters of common sense. Of course, you’re just equally qualified to know a good philosophical argument from bullshit as anyone else. In FACT! You’re better than professional philosophers. You can set yourself up as their policeman and expose them for their true nefarious intentions of brainwashing and deceiving people. Or, I don’t know, maybe you know that there is no need for philosophy and so philosophers should stop pretending we know anything or that our decades of research and teaching have yielded us the slightest right to any special respect whatsoever when it comes to philosophical questions. I know, you can just dismiss the entire philosophical library of Oxford University Press if anything in there counters your own infallible intuitions. Why should you bother to understand a way of thinking that is foreign to you when you can seize on one foundational disagreement and dismiss with contempt every other word which is said thereafter? Why try to at least understand the logic of this foreign way of thinking when you can piss and moan that not every further word is spent addressing your specific concern? How DARE an author go on with his own pre-planned agenda!

      There is a line between vigorous criticism and trolling, SAWells. Your hostile tone, your repetitiveness, and your fixation on one issue to the dismissal of all the unique points and lines of inquiry raised by any given new post are what bring you towards the trolling line. And it’s frustrating to see as I liked some of your objections as things started. But as Eric replied to them, you showed little to no ability to actually keep up dialectically but instead just kept getting angrier and more contemptuous and started ignoring the points of the new posts and showing less and less willingness to actually think.

      But again, why should you think. You know all the truth there is to know about metaphysics—that it is all theological bunk—and like a fundamentalist you are out to just protect your sacred truth about what true atheists are like and not like, what true knowledge MUST consist of, and anyone who raises a dissenting opinion from New Atheist’s scientistic postivistic orthodoxy must be opposed as a corruptive heretical, blasphemous influence. And OH FOR IT TO BE HERE AT FREETHOUGHT BLOGS!!! Defiling such sacred ground!!! The horror! The horror!

    • SAWells

      Your imagination does you credit; your reason, less so. The fact that you write this: “Eric is sourcing his arguments with appeals to philosophical texts which come from as reputable sources as Oxford University Press …” is thoroughly indicative of the problem. Argument from authority proves nothing. Argument from “You’re trolling” also proves nothing. Argument from “I’m a professional philosopher” proves nothing. Nullius in verba, right?

      If Eric were claiming “Leibniz said this:…” and quoting Leibniz, not a problem. But if Eric says “This is true:…” and in fact his evidence is that Leibniz said it, then there’s a problem. Eric keeps harping on the idea of the power of being; this concept is based on the idea that things remain in existence by exerting a power to resist non-being; but that idea is not based on evidence, only on imagination; and until the idea is established, we cannot assert that this “power of being” actually exists. Does the muon run out of power-to-be after 2.2 microseconds? How do you distinguish metaphysics from just bad physics?

      I’d also like to note that you seem to have formed the idea that I am ignorant of philosophy without considering that maybe a person can be rather well informed about philosophy without, for example, being a Platonist, which appears to be the only position Eric takes seriously.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      SAWells,

      The sad thing is that it seems that you didn’t actually bother to read Dan’s reply to you, but instead pulled out a couple of phrases that made you angry and replied to them. For example, your whole discussion of “this is not an argument” misses the point as it ignores that Dan quite bluntly and repeatedly said that he didn’t necessarily agree that Eric was right, and so he wasn’t claiming that those were arguments for the position. Instead, he claimed that those were reasons, at best, to stop simply dismissing it as fictional. These are not arguments or claims that Eric invented in his head for some unknown reason. These are claims that have been built out over many years inside a properly academic philosophical background. It may not be right, but it’s not mere fiction, anymore than, say, multiverse theory is mere fiction (even if it hasn’t been proven yet).

      You also ignore that Dan thought that some of your initial objections were good ones, but that as things went on you lost the thread of discussion, in Dan’s opinion. Taking a minute to consider why he might be saying that surely would not be amiss.

      And if you want a specific example, you rant about how you might know a lot about philosophy but might not be a Platonist, which you claim is the only philosophy Eric respects. But what you’re missing is that Eric’s viewpoint may well be ground in his Platonism. If it is, then in order to criticize it you will need to do more than simply argue for other philosophical views, and get upset when they are ignored. You will need to raise objections that undercut his belief in Platonism and cause problems inside that framework. Just as, for example, if you want to challenge me on Stoic ethics it will not do to simply talk about Utilitarian views; I am aware of them but don’t think they work. I’m not saying, per se, that you didn’t do any of those sorts of arguments — that Dan liked some of your objections suggests otherwise — but the comment here smacks more of an objection to Eric not just accepting your philosophical views than of his not accepting your arguments that address his view.

      But you can start by demonstrating what your argument would mean thusly: I imagine that your comment about muons is meant to say something meaningful, and so believe that if Eric is forced to say that muons don’t “run out of power-to-be” that would invalidate his view. Maybe it wouldn’t, but let’s run with that for now. What, then, in detail, would it mean if Eric simply said “Yes”? What problems would that introduce for his view, philosophically? What claims of his would that contradict? Or is it just a conclusion that you find intuitively problematic?

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      SAWells,

      So, you say that your brain is not wired for religion, and that you obviously know this, right?

      First, psychology has proven that you may not know as much about how your brain is wired than you think, so that’s not a conclusion that you can rationally hold with such certainty as to warrant profane responses.

      Second, one can make a claim that the brain is wired in such a way without having that imply that everyone’s brain is wired that way. For example, it is a reasonable claim to say that our brains are wired for empathy and yet we can find groups of people who aren’t so wired (autistic spectrum cases, for example). We can also say that our brains are wired to desire sex and yet we can find people with exceptionally low to non-existent sex drives. So it isn’t something that you should necessarily take personally.

      Third, before reacting to that angrily, if Eric is saying something that seems to conflict with your intuitions the solution is not to take it personally, but ask what he means by that. It is clear — even from my skimming of the arguments — that he does not mean it in the sense of a theistic religion. If he doesn’t mean it that way, what does he mean? And could he thus mean it in a way that you would have to accept that your brain is indeed wired that way, even if you could argue that that is not “religious” in a proper sense?

  • Anat

    There’s more to it than that, mostly having to do with pattern recognition and projection.

    Eric, those attributes of the typical human brain that make some fallacies appealing and intuitive are things to be wary about, not things to feed and encourage.

    But check out “Burning the Grump” in Crested Butte. That sounds like fun.

    We participated in the local arts council’s Beltane celebrations some 3-4 times. It’s sort of OK with a small kid but I find it mostly cringe-worthy. I doubt I’d fit in with the Crested Butte crowd either.

    • http://www.ericsteinhart.com Eric Steinhart

      I’m a rationalist, so I oppose irrational thinking. But what’s the strategy? Our brains naturally generate woo and there’s little point telling most people to stop it – they won’t listen. On the contrary, many of them will resist. And the woo-generation is said to go hand in hand with high sociality; thus the most socially cohesive groups are the most saturated with woo, to which they become committed as a group – it becomes part of the group identity. What to do? I’d say that the right strategy is to develop ways to train those brain mechanisms, ways that people find self-affirming rather than self-negating or ways to build the woo up into an aesthetic-emotional system that properly interfaces with rationality (with the neocortex).

    • SAWells

      Ah, the Noble Lie breaks cover at last! Thought so.


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