Friday, December 01, 2006

The God Delusion, Altruism- a Blessed Mistake

I promised I would finish my review of this book. I finished a long time ago, and got caught up with stuff. Its a great book. You can see Dawkins read pertinent excerpts on video from YouTube at Lynchburg Virginia where he makes some hysterically funny comments to some lunatics from Liberty University (the shithole Jerry Falwell founded).

Anyways, in observing Dawkins' talk about his views he plainly says that there is no adequate explanation for the seeming fine-tuning of the universe. The multiverse idea, where there are so many universes that eventually you would get one with the right constants for intelligent life - is far fetched according to Dawkins. So he is just as amazed by it as everyone else. His view is that the only way we know of that complex intelligence can form is through evolution, so to postulate a god who is already complex is more unlikely than there not being a god. Its a good idea, but it is not satisfying to me. I think there is certainly something beyond comprehension going on, but we would not understand it, and it doesn't appear to care about us, unless somehow we are consciously connected to it, which would be our only semi-religious hope left that hasn't been utterly refuted (imo). The Yogis and Buddhists who have taken the "God-contact" issue to it's finality all but prove it's uselessness, especially it's uselessness at giving us answers that make a difference to our understanding. That path is frought with hallucinatory delusion.

Sadly, any inkling of possibility of a creative intelligence is used by creationsists to bolster their opinions that somehow this makes it likely for Christianity or Islam or whatever story to be true. I can't remember what it was like to have such a small and limited mind.

Dawkins spends roughly a small paragraph discussing the mystery of consciousness if I remember right. So, to me, this book is merely a refutation of theistic beliefs and most deistic ideas, which is fairly easy. Something like the NDE was mentioned maybe once in passing. I think Dawkins sees it is a non-sequitur that NDEs are not evidence of a soul.

To me, all of nature cries out that there is no spiritual reality. Whether there is a creator is not as important to me as whether there is a spiritual reality. My most powerful argument against a spiritual reality would be - all of natural science, evolution, and human/animal behavior. Books like the "moral animal" spell it out. Everything that we think is altruistic, our most meaningful well thought gestures of social caring and our love for our offspring etcetera are nothing but genetically induced "rules of thumb" (as Dawkins would put it) which create social leverage. In fact all our most positive attributes, to their very core are simply schemes of nature. Can someone explain to me how this is not obvious? The feelings are so powerful and well disguised that it takes a tremendous amount of insight, disgruntledness, and education to even *want* to know whether this is really true. It will put you into the fetal position once you realize it. Once you realize it, you will realize that all of us mock humanists are merely nihilists afraid of telling the truth. Our goal is to create a more pleasant fantasy world, not to end the world. So I am not ashamed of calling myself a nihilist the way I define it. May as well play the only game in town.

And have I said how much I love all of you lately?

As Julia Sweeney put it: "It's so hard to accept that even those qualities that I strive to perfect in myself: compassion, love, sacrifice and so forth, stem from the most unwily and advantage-seeking impulses."

Thats a mild and politically correct way of putting it. I would have said something like "no matter how hard we try to be good and loving, we are being fraudulent because even the act itself was derived from a natural process which continuously rewards fraudulence and deception with genetic perpetuation. Altruism is probably the most airtight way of securing social leverage. You fake right and move left, grab the prize, ask forgiveness, then do it again. Wash, rinse, repeat. Wash, rinse, repeat."

I have trouble being in any social setting without noticing the body gestures, the vocal intonations, the choice of words which scream out to my ears "pay attention to me, owe a debt to me, secure me, and notice that I am superior to you".

Praise Jesus. To think there is a loving spiritual reality based on perhaps our most insidious form of self-righteous powermongering- namely our sense of altruism- is unimaginable to me anymore. This is my number one reason for not believing.

As Dawkins said, our present day altruism is based on rules of thumb our brains enact that derived as we evolved amidst small bands of relatives where reciprocity was guaranteed, and you had to play social politics much more carefully. We no longer live in these small communal bands so when we help someone on the street we don't expect to ever see them again and then we wonder "wow, how did my desire to help a random stranger evolve?" Well, when it evolved, there were virtually no such things as "random strangers". But we enact the same rules of thumb our brains developed. Dawkins calls it an evolutionary mistake, -a blessed, wonderful, important mistake

Many of us come to these realizations before ever coming across Dawkins'idea, but this idea secures the mechanism. It is only so so obvious. Every primate does it. Throw in language and sexual selection and it doesn't take a genius to say how humanity got to be where it is.

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