To escape counterapologetics, we can step back and view ourselves from the evolutionary perspective. One of our evolved traits is to assume free will, to see ourselves as unconstrained agents. But either natural selection or memetic selection shape all of our traits. While we think we're where the action is, we are not what counts going forward. Gene and meme ratios in their respective populations, that's the real action. We're like chess pieces, pushed and pulled by nonsentient "players." Each generation, some genes are winners and others losers. On time scales orders of magnitude faster, some memes are winners and others losers. We chess pieces come and go, having served "our purpose" for the players.
While it's easy to see opponents as memebots, the greater challenge is to accept the extent to which our entire frame of reference is distorted by inherted traits and memetic blinders.
How is this helpful? If we accept, not only intellectually but internalize, what science tells us about human traits, we would approach the theism dialogue differently. Paul MacLean showed that we decide what's real and true not with the neocortex but the limbic system. [The Triune Brain in Evolution, 578] This is how our brains evolved. We know many of the tricks incorporated into religious memeplexes, that exploit such genetic weaknesses. We need an entirely new approach to "dialogue" that incorporates all of this knowledge. But so far the information has frightened us (nonverbal limbic system response) and we turn our attention away, and go back to useless reasoning with the infected.
I can’t see us evolving out of the causal web…
That is exactly right, Alice. Where I think I might agree with Ruth here is that we may not be fully determined, in that it would be possible to predict exactly what would happen given complete knowledge of prior conditions. But what I do agree with you on is that regardless, what we are and what we do is fully caused. I was a strict determinist, but now I think I can give that up in favor of being a causalist. It's a subtle difference, but an important one I think. And from the causalist perspective, free will is either 1. not caused and therefore impossible, or 2. is caused by some intricate process in the brain, perhaps just like the recursive process which Ruth is trying to give us. But along these lines, I don't see any mechanism for greater control over ourselves or our environments. All this extra complexity seems to give rise to is a possibly more uncontrollable set of causes in our brains which lead to greater unpredictability. If we are able to reason more effectively through science, memetics, logic, or what have you, this is perfectly expected and explainable from a causalist perspective.
I agree that I’m shy of getting involved with rituals that I don’t understand and fear the implications. But I’m quite happy to go along to my old childhood cult and sit with them in meditation and listen to their scriptures once in a while – and although I come away with lots of thinking about how mad they all are and wonder how they quite managed to keep going – I’m not scared of them or their rituals – I grew up with them – I understand their knowledges and I disagree.
Perhaps it is simply difference that we fear – not rituals as such – we all have rituals. The last thing we want to do is have a group of people forcing us to do something because we performed a ritual that said we were committed to doing it – even though we didn’t see or sign any such agreement.
We already see in our own culture that we are so dependant on the state that if it disappeared many of us would indeed die out. When we leave school we have zero % survival ability – we must go and get a job and be prisoner of the state. Hunter gatherers at puberty had 100% survival ability – if they were left alone they could find food and make shelter.
I’m interested to hear more about how you propose to gain more control by understanding our limbic system.
I know what you mean about seeing holistically – in the sense that sciences seem to be broken into parts or sections that are studied separately and therefore don’t see the cross over and relationships. I have the same problem with diet, gut flora and immune function connecting to mental health – it’s just not very well researched and yet has massive implications.
It makes sense that we need to have concrete experience in order to assimilate facts.
I’ve faced a lot of my anxieties – I find that a lot of them are paper tigers of my own construction – based on cultural values or ideas about what ‘should’ happen, rather than what is happening.
I don’t have a problem with understanding that everything is fully caused. I totally agree it is very complex – unimaginably complex. I see no reason to disbelieve that it is fully caused just because it is complex. Our minds might not have the capacity to understand the complexity as logically fully caused events one after the other looking at any one situation – but all the situations I’ve looked at I can work backwards and see a fully caused event. I see no reason to doubt that everything is fully caused and I see not alternative either.
Chaos theory is supportive of this idea – and of course slight differences early on have exponential consequences millions of years up the track.
We all see the same reality – we just use different words to describe it based on our experience and use of meaning. I’m sure we agree – as I agree with what you’ve said – but you have a problem with my use of the word determinism – I find the word doesn’t cause me the same problems – I haven’t read so many books with the word used in a linier context – to me determinism simply implies that everything is fully caused.
Determinism does not "simply imply that everything is fully caused", because determinism is a slightly stronger claim about reality. Determinism claims that you can tell precisely what will happen in the next instant if you had perfect knowledge about the present one. But there is indeterminacy at very small scales, for example at the quantum level. Electrons for example don't follow precise paths, rather thay fall along probability shells. Until you take a measurement of them and look at the electron itself, there is only a chance of the electron being on any one place on the shell. Once you measure it, it "collapses" into a single point as if to allow for a measurement. Its really weird stuff. Anyway, there is some clear indeterminacy in physics, which is one of the points Ruth was making about the pendulum experiments. But this does not show that the world isn't fully causal, which is why I have recently switched from calling myself a determinist to a causalist. I think you should do the same! :-)
Leveni, you said, "I think because of our proven ability to change our surrounding environment on a grand scale, we will continue to live, one way or another. This is what makes us unique. I'm not saying we are immortal. But this unique ability of ours definitely does increase our ability to survive."
I disagree. Our proven ability to change our environment by following our genetic and memetic programming threatens our species survival. Climate destabilization is a symptom of a failure of large scale planning. While we plan by building infrastructure and creating corporations to generate profit, there is no planet-scale planning. The problem arises because we're driven by genetic and memetic programs, each adapted to maximize gene and meme reproduction in an "unlimited" commons. But our commons, the Earth, has limits and we've been exceeding them. You have to understand that genes and memes operate by evolution, they don't plan. Our capacity to plan has functioned within parameters set by gene/meme selection. We perceive danger with algorithms honed for efficiency against predators on the savannah. We respond to danger with flight or fight, not with the organized objective assessment and cooperative projects needed for planet-scale changes.