The Petulant Ignorance of the New Age


Once in a while you strike Facebook gold. The kinds of discussions I used to have here on BSJ seem to be migrating, with everyone else, over to what has turned out to be the irresistable social media platform. Blog integration will eventually happen, and unfortunately will require a total rework to bring the two worlds together. In the meantime, please friend me on FB to keep up with the latest stuff I used to post here.

Now, presented for your entertainment, the discussion between BlackSun and BV, prompted by this tweet:

Reliance on God is like software that has to phone home for authorization. Atheism is the patch (crack) that lets it run on its own.

BV: And some just observe with no religion or ideology

BlackSun: BV, everyone has an epistemology. Some rely on revelation, subjectivity, direct unchecked experiences, scripture or authority. Others rely on their wits and double-checked observations under laboratory conditions from multiple observers.

BV: Fair nuff. Let me say this: God doesn’t matter.

BlackSun: Not to me, and maybe not to you. But to billions it does, and they vote, fight, and miseducate their children based on those ill-formed concepts.

BV: Yes. None of which negates what’s still existing as the life neither me nor thee created.

BlackSun: So let me see–you want it both ways.

BV: Life doesn’t exist without our say so? I was under the impression it did.

BlackSun: First you said God is not important, then you implied he/she/it created life. Which is it? Or are you one of those permanent fence-sitters who uses both sides of the argument depending on what’s convenient?

BV: Are you one to jump to hasty convenient conclusions? I never implied there was a god that created life. I’m talking about life not god.

BlackSun: OK, fair enough. Life exists. What is the point of that tautology?

BV: Where did it come from?

BlackSun: Life? Abiogenesis is pretty close to being understood. Evolution through natural selection is very well understood.

BV: Are you satisfied to let that stand as your definitive answer to the question Prophet?

BlackSun: It’s what I said, isn’t it, BV? What are you, the host of “Who wants to be a theist?” Um, “Sir, is that your final answer??”

In case you didn’t really get it, I’ll make it easy for you. Abiogenesis and Natural Selection.

BV: No I’ll make it easy for YOU Sean. You don’t know where life comes from. And your answer, even with your flatland theories, pales to what is truly being asked.

Tis a mystery, life. It certainly is alive though and I’m sure I’m better served to put it in that category of what can be better observed than to know about. …a position that allows a crack to let it run on its own, as it were. It’s alive for chrisssake! Who did that and what shall we call it?!

BlackSun: A fine surrender, sir. Well played.

BV: No surrender at all Prophet. Sword or olive branch suits me equally.

Nobody gave us life, there’s never been a god. There’s only just been life, the creator, upbuilder and sustainer of all. This life doesn’t need us a whit but by its absence it can drop the body in a minute. Therein is the source of us, a higher power to our quaint thinkers. How may I increase its grace or marshal it to do my bidding? Only by the more aliveness in me, that is the church worth finding!

Call it evolution if you like but abiogenesis or selection didn’t create this ground of being. This ground of being has always been, and gives rise to our gardens and apples and discrimination and separation and good and evil. Every sacred scroll from every culture has been grasping at these dynamics through mythology. It’s the literalists and logical positivists who turn symbol into concrete.

Concrete > Symbol > life. Which direction? Peace.

BlackSun: “ground of being” = meaningless in your vernacular–doesn’t really explain or even describe anything, just a vague sense you have. Atoms and molecules and people give rise to gardens and apples through well understood physical and biological principles. Plants are a highly advanced form of nanotechnological self-replication, and in a sense, so are we.

But the way you describe it, everything = nothing = a tree = a pack of bubble gum = sword = olive branch. That is intellectual surrender by any definition.

A lot of words to say not much. Doesn’t really add to knowledge or even “being.” Back to the tautology, or down to a weak relativism. This is very primitive stuff. Avoids discipline, taking sides, separating known from unknown, boundaries. It’s easy to claim advancement when there are no wrong answers and everything is everything.

Which works as a kind of Zen poetry I guess, but myths are myths and understanding what this whole experience of life is about takes a lot more than metaphor. It takes hard work, which is why few people bother. But somehow, we’ve got to move beyond this simplistic stage to a place where people stop being so threatened by knowledge and begin to value it.

By the way, this was not at all the subject of my post, but new agers always take the bait, because it seems you want everything to be “connected” by some form of energy that ties back to God even if you don’t want to give it that particular name.

If I had to give it a name it would be “physics,” I suppose, which underlies all chemistry and biology. We are not physics, though our existence may be defined by it. If you wanted to call that a “ground of being” then I wouldn’t disagree. But it’s not alive, doesn’t communicate or form personalities. It’s a definition of how the component parts of this whole experience relate to one another and give rise to stars, people, apples, swords and olive branches.

The bottom line of what I was really saying is just rely on yourself and accept your place as an advanced mammal in a flesh and blood world–who’s going to live a short time and then die without a trace. That’s it. If you just stick with “the more aliveness in me” part as long as you possibly can, you’ll be fine. And I think a little appreciation for the hard work done by scientists is in order. They’ve certainly made our lives better. We’re incalculably lucky to have been born at all. Luckier still to have been born at a time of such profound understanding unprecedented in human history.

A mere few hundred years ago, we didn’t know our ass from a hole in the ground, or a black hole. Now we understand a great deal about the universe and our place in it. We also understand how our bodies and minds function. Come on, you can at least stop feeling above it all long enough to manage a golf clap.

BV: Dear Concrete: All the science and scientism I’m sure gets a clap for more data and understanding. And none of it can explain what grows the grass besides late-stage catalytic events. It is life itself you cannot know objectively because that is what’s looking. And you cannot account for it. I’m “above it all” not enough to at least know to admit that.

BlackSun: Using the word “scientism” is basically a cry of “I won’t, I won’t” uttered with eyes shut, fingers jammed in the ears. BV, now you’ve sent up the white flag in a mighty blaze of fireworks.

What a waste of breath and life that whole discussion was. Stubborn and petulant to the very end. But I’ll manage to use it somewhere somehow to illustrate for someone’s benefit the true depths of ignorance we humans face. It’s a wonder any of us have learned anything at all. You say “none of it can explain” when you’ve just failed to either look at or accept the explanation. The fault in that situation, I’m afraid, doesn’t lie with the explainer. Now you’ve officially and permanently exhausted my patience.

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Comments (42 comments)

Amaterasu / January 31st, 2010, 12:02 am / #1

"Who did that and what shall we call it?!"
Evolutionarily we are wired to look for a "who" cause, so that we can fend ourselves from threat of danger.
Not everything has a "who did it" cause. Science has been taking the "who" out of these questions and will continue to do so.

BlackSun / January 31st, 2010, 12:31 am / #2

This is epistemological patternicity. It's virtually the same miscues that cause people to see faces in rocks, trees, fences, or conspiracies in human events. We're far less equipped to comprehend or deal with the emergent properties of mechanistic systems or random choices. Consciousness is one of these. People just can't imagine how particles which move with predetermined probabilities can give rise to music, laughter, love, sadness, and free will. But they do.

I find this most beautiful and comforting of all. We are a precision symphony of tiny particles and yet we feel. We can choose our goals and purposes. We care because our very existence depends on it. We are the finest machines yet made on Earth, and still we will be superseded by the greater intelligences we will build. This is a thought that makes me profoundly happy. I hope I live to see it.

vallor / January 31st, 2010, 2:16 pm / #3

In which facebook group can we find this discussion, please? :)

BlackSun / January 31st, 2010, 8:27 pm / #4

or add Sean Prophet as friend.

JBV / February 3rd, 2010, 3:50 am / #5

Oh good I'm famous.

On this page you'll get nothing but supporters Sean but for some of us your faith in the vagaries of science is unpersuasive. Direct contact with the deep unconscious, as Jung would call it, is much more nourishing and gnostic.

Some worship rhetoric and mechanistic science as though it were the litmus for all that's true, while yet undivided life itself is a higher power to our quaint tinkers and science *cannot* account for it! That is where the rub is.

I would speak this for myself on the proper thread but unfortunately someone brought censorship into the picture.

JBV / February 3rd, 2010, 3:58 am / #6

There was no personal "who" being asked for.
My point was there is no accounting for how life got here and nobody brought it into being, least of all us. My point is that life itself stands as the eternal constant, and if you had followed the thread you would have seen that.

There is no "who". In the beginning there was just life.

JBV / February 3rd, 2010, 4:11 am / #7

I've never seen a face in a tree.

"People just can't imagine how particles which move with predetermined probabilities can give rise to music, laughter, love, sadness, and free will"

Sure I can. What moved the particles? What it something alive? Where did that aliveness come from? What should we call it?

JBV / February 3rd, 2010, 4:14 am / #8

"In which facebook group can we find this discussion, please?"

I'll be happy to recreate it for you here.

BlackSun / February 3rd, 2010, 4:24 am / #9

It's not censorship. I'm just not interested in the discussion. You are using "god of the gaps" and "argument from ignorance," two of the weakest and lamest forms of apologetics ever devised.

This is not evidence, but bluster. It's against the comment policy, so I'm disallowing you here as well. I'll leave your comments up so people can see where you're coming from. It's exactly as I said, Brandon, and you haven't brought any new information or tactics to the table. Only repeating the same old trope.

End of discussion.

bob / February 9th, 2010, 7:44 pm / #10

you wrote
If I had to give it a name it would be “physics,”

dude it's not called "physics"
it's called "metaphysics"

you know that wild and wacky world of
multiple dimensions etc and so on?

BlackSun / February 9th, 2010, 7:52 pm / #11


What distinguishes "metaphysics" from imaginary?

Liquid Egg Product / February 10th, 2010, 6:38 pm / #12

They don't let you take the square root of -1 in metaphysics.

Cathy Sander / March 6th, 2010, 12:00 pm / #13

Simple [and complex], as always: chemistry. However, there's been gross apathy towards this branch of science. Ever since we were able to synthesis identical molecules found in the biosphere, the gap between life and non-life in our understanding has to a great degree vanished.

Bill / May 29th, 2010, 2:36 pm / #14

I've seen faces on trees, in piles of rocks, clouds and in wood grain. The human brain is quick to notice face -like patterns, it kept our ancestors from getting eaten. Insects, birds and fish have all separately evolved face mimic patterns and "eye spots" to give pause to predators. So maybe face recognition came early "down" the evolutionary ladder.

This ability may, in part, account for the evolution of the religious meme in humanity.

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