The Certainty of Religious truth*

[And the Fallibility of Faith]

     One of the major concepts that tend to be an underlying theme or thread of my works in both the academic and extracurricular realm is a pursuit of and a struggle for the truth. Just because a person is offended does not mean that they are in the right, especially when they are insulted by the truth; for they only have themselves to be angry with in that instance. This is partly why I never feel insulted by lies or misinformation for they are simply not true. Likewise one cannot and should not take issue with the truth. If an idea, concept, or theory turns out to be true there is no arguing with it. To waste energy in that manner is easily akin to banging one's head against the wall or repeating the same processes in an expectation of yielding a different result - which incidentally is the definition of insanity. These detachments from reality leads to a rabbit trail of epistemological disconnect.

     So embracing the truth now becomes a necessity and consequentially the only viable channel in which one should embrace reality. I often find people who make the claim that "Christianity is the foundation for their epistemic justification and knowledge." While this may [in their eyes] be a noble act of faith, I find that it is in principle inherently flawed. For the purposes of this line of thinking I will only be dealing with a posteriori knowledge. Also to be taken into consideration for the context of this is that this is just an 'out-loud' thought of sorts.

      If your world view is necessarily predicated upon and connected to your religious belief in such a manner that you 'see through a glass dimly' as a result of using that lens as your overall frame of reference, an interesting quandary seems to arise. Your knowledge of why Christianity seems to be right and just in your mind is mainly a product of what you have gleaned only after accepting Jesus Christ as your lord & savior. This is, as previously mentioned, what is referred to as a posteriori knowledge meaning that what you now know is based from experience. It is only your experience of Christianity from the lens of Christianity that now supports the main pillars of your faith. My two metaphors for this concept are 1) Like trying to pull or lift yourself up by your own hair and/or 2) Supporting a boulder with toothpicks. The proper philosophical term for this thought process is called the 'Cartesian Circle.' Its basic reasoning is that you know God exists with a certainty therefore you are capable of certainty because God exists. This pattern of reasoning functions as a retroactive reassurance mechanism.

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The Overall Claim Effectively Being Made is This:

1) How do I know what I know and How can I be certain of what I know?
2) I know God exists with a certainty; ergo I am capable of certainty;
3) Therefore because I am capable of certainty, my epistemic justifications are certain;
----[**Here Appears to Be the Jump**]----
4) and Since certainty is a finite property in my nature and reasoning abilities regarding the formation of justifications, I have been certain of my knowledge the whole time;
5) I have all along been certain so everything I know is epistemically justified; therefore certainty can be applied retroactively to what I already know, regardless of how I came to it at the time;
6) Therefore I have been right all along!

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     This works for the religious believer; as this process is the cornerstone of the faith claim. However, for Atheists, Empiricists, and/or Skeptics this process of thought cannot be conveyed. Even looking at it from a broader perspective, in regards to anybody who has not accepted Christianity or is themselves not a Christian, the logic of the believer cannot be transferred to the other. It's akin to attempting to use something that is Windows PC formatted on an Apple Mac computer; it just simply isn't compatible. But the way the typical Evangelical Christian approaches their form of Apologetic-Proselytization doesn't consider this in their approach, for whatever reason. So when you confront the believer about this, [which I have done numerous times and is itself unavoidable in the buckle of the Bible belt known as Oklahoma], they repeatedly reference the content of the Bible in the justification in regards to the validity of the Bible. It goes without saying that the contents of the Bible can be used to critique, explain, or justify what is in Bible. Here is the fatal flaw, the believer will equate what I just mentioned in the last sentence as reason to empirically justify the Bible itself; further relying on a form of The Cartesian Circle or essentially saying "It's turtles all of the way down." Again, while this may work for the believer's mind for epistemological requirements, it will not and indeed cannot suffice as justification for the Atheists, Empiricists, and/or Skeptics. Because according to them, which I also deem to be a correct and logical assertion, the Bible has to be justified, demonstrated, and proven externally from outside of anything that is espoused in the Bible.

     This shows just how futile the believers attempt to debate with the Atheists, Empiricists, and/or Skeptics is. I say this because no person, no believer can assert with 100% confidence that the requirements of this process can be sufficiently filled without invoking the phrase "you have to have faith" or something akin to that affect. The believer is attempting to establish their belief structure on an incompatible foundation. So while knowledge and understanding of one's own religious beliefs in terms of the rhetoric, dogma, and historicity therein is a noble trait, just because the believer knows about their own religious theology does not mean they are informed or knowledgeable in the realms of religions and/or philosophy. That is why in this discussion, [between the believers and  Atheists, Empiricists, and/or Skeptics], the believers revert and default back to their knowledge, dogmas, and rhetoric of their own religious tradition and think they are adequately passing it off as philosophy and knowledge of other religions. This is a false attribution of what is entailed by their understanding of their own religious knowledge caused by their strict adherence of using Christianity as their foundation for all of their epistemic knowledge. Remove the Christianity and it follows that the knowledge based upon that is also removed; and since that has to be done to externally justify the Bible without invoking its contents as proof or evidence, they are repeating the same process over and over expecting there to be a different end result from each attempt. Thus by definition they are demonstrating a key component of what we know to be 'insanity' and when summed up this attests partially to the nature of religion and demonstrates that religious belief predicated and contingent upon faith is not rational or logically justifiable. Once this is acknowledged, the conclusion indeed has to be that 'truth' can never take the place of 'Truth' and to attempt to do so verifies and further illustrates the fallibility of faith.   

[* truth is intentionally spelled with a lowercase 'T' because it is a subjective truth and not an objective truth claim. I.E. an Objective Truth is like saying the sky is blue or that matter cannot be created nor destroyed (the first law of thermodynamics); whereas a Subjective truth relates to the claims of Jesus being a savior and an incarnation of God or that the Toronto Maple Leafs are the Best hockey team of all time. ]

I Smoked the Competition

Location: Waterloo, ON Norman, OK, USA
Quit Now or Miss My Future Posts...

First I examined Oklahoma's Sharia Law Ban [SQ. 755]. I followed that up by examining the accountability of politicians when dealing with the federal budget. My third piece examined the minefield of morality associated with the execution of Osama bin Laden. Now finally, my fourth and newest topic examines the role of secondhand smoke when considering public health and welfare on the University of Oklahoma's Norman campus. I took a look at the prevailing arguments currently being used by the opposition [those taking exception to the proposed campus wide smoking ban set to start at the beginning of the spring 2012 semester] and eviscerated the top 3 points they had attempted to make. While some could say that an Op-Ed is just a platform to spread heresy, conjecture, and logical fallacies, I [like ALWAYS] avoided this potential problem by directly quoting from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's [The CDC] data sources they have available for public viewing and consumption. You probably already knew that secondhand smoke was dangerous, but if you read my article you will find that it eventually leads to a guaranteed fatal encounter.

If you would like to read the Op-Ed in its original form on the OUDaily website CLICK HERE or simply click the title to this posting and you will be redirected to my Op-Eds page.

On a separate note, the honeymoon phase associated with the beginning of each semester has now officially ended for the Fall 2011 academic session. While this signals and symbolizes the end of the beginning for my Junior year here at The University of Oklahoma, this prime intellectual setting and scenario which is now being ushered in upon this transition from the dog days of summer into the awesomeness of academia...

I'm Ready... Are You?

[UN]- "Intelligent" Design

Location: Waterloo, ON Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, Norman, OK 73019, USA

     I attended the premier of the Metamorphosis movie Monday night on behalf of the Atheists & Skeptics Association for Progress [A.S.A.P.] to represent the voice of opposition. I went to the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History and watched the entire film, stayed for and participated in the questioning of the presenters, and stuck around after to follow up on my questions and join a more candid discussion. Here is my letter to the editor concerning this film and the issue of Intelligent Design-Creationism:

     The way the film 'Metamorphosis' tries to make its case for Intelligent Design-Creationism is horrible, fraudulent, and overall deceptive in nature. What the participants in the movie do try and quote, from other scientists not in the film, are both taken out of context and misrepresented. Furthermore these pseudo-Scientists then try to over explain and complicate the fairly simple processes portrayed, as they insist that these are the best minds in regards to the subject and even they cannot explain the overstated and artificially complicated intricacies of metamorphosis; effectively establishing the fallacious principle of irreducible complexity. Once they perform this sensory and comprehension overload they offer you the safety rope of the Intelligent Design-Creationism conclusion to make you feel like you can then understand the life of butterflies.

     This film’s method of presenting evidence, production and editing, and arguments from ignorance make the tone and theme of the film one of deception and misrepresentation. Production value does not by any means aid in how the film represents the truth; just because it looks shiny and well put together does not mean there is a grain of truth behind their outlandish and unfounded claims in regards to the connections of Intelligent Design-Creationism. Also, if intelligent design was such a valid answer, why did they have to go to a subject that is so minuscule, abstract, and unknown in terms of what is understood about it to establish what they assert to be the foundation for all existence? Whereas say in evolution we can find examples well over 70% of the known biological world. So why do they have to resort to isolating their entire focus on such an obscure concept in such an unknown field? 

     It's quite simple. There is no consistent evidence in support for Intelligent Design-Creationism. This fact represents the deceptive nature of the film. Even though the Biological Institute is well staffed with qualified scientists and well funded by the conservative and religious right, they have yet to publish a credible, accepted, and peer-reviewed journal, paper, and/or thesis. Even within the model they are operating under, it is in their best interest to suppress and hide any data or research that would oppose the idea of intelligent design, because the Biological Institute's only purpose is to support Intelligent Design-Creationism. This debauches the entire basis of what science is; it should be the examination and exploration of the unknown leading to a destination. The position they take is a ‘God of the gaps’ argument anyway you try to frame it. This opinion and position was first legally expressed by the majority opinion in Kitzmiller vs. Dover School District on the topic of teaching creationism in the public school classroom. The judge in that case ruled that there is no way Intelligent Design-Creationism can be or even should be considered science because of the requirement of a presupposition that a 'God' exists. Furthermore, once a scientific concept has been determined to be a result of 'Intelligent Design-Creationism' it effectively eliminates the need to delve further into inquisition and exploration of that natural event and scientific concept.

     Their assertion is that there are alternatives to evolution and that the controversy should be taught. The only motivation behind this is an attempt to coerce theologically conservative principles into an academic environment. While that last statement may be loaded with heavy and sticky implications, it is undeniably true. There is not a single group or movement wanting to teach the opposition to any other theories that are on the same level as Darwinian Evolution & Natural Selection. How come there are not opposition groups wanting to teach alternatives to the germ theory, gravitational theory, or Plate Tectonic theory? It would be absolutely absurd if there was a mandate or movement calling for the teaching of astrology vs. astronomy, alchemy vs. chemistry, geocentricity vs. heliocentricity, or flat-earth vs. spherical earth concepts. It is because of an ignorant and irrational understanding of the natural world that leads to these absurd ideas. But thankfully the gaps for which the delusional pseudo-Scientists & Creationists are placing their 'God' on are shrinking more and more every day; this point is also evident in this latest last-ditch effort in the form of the creationist documentary 'Metamorphosis’ and their misguided efforts to attempt to prescribe legitimacy to their dying cause. Their deception was further solidified as they were trying to have their documentary ‘Metamorphosis’ be passed off as legitimate scientific subject matter by leeching off of the esteemed credibility of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History as a venue for the film’s premier. I myself cannot wait for the day that this Intelligent Design-Creationist pseudo-Science is finally eliminated when all of the gaps become closed and the true light of scientific exploration and explanation can shine even more brightly on the inquisitive mind of free thinkers.

Stupid Design:

     While this 'Metamorphosis' movie was a colossal waste of my time, and probably also served as a detriment to those who attended as well. Fear Not! For I have a means to which you can recover your lost time... Here is an enthralling perspective from Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson on the topic of what he calls 'Stupid Design' you can watch the video here:

     This short 6 minute clip of Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is part of a larger 30 minute lecture he gave at the 'Beyond Belief' conference back in 2006. Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of the most likable and relatable in the New Atheist Movement. His work often involves humor, but keep in mind he is a highly accomplished PhD in astrophysics and is close friends with the likes of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. The full lecture given by Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson was a larger topic focusing on the 'God of the Gaps' fallacy that occurs when a confidence of an explanation of a scientific process is placed in a position to where it relies on what we don't know rather than on reproducible evidence we are currently in possession of. Here is the video to watch the full 30 minute lecture of Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson at his best:

Why So Serious?

Currently I do not have any papers in the works, but I do have a polished opinion on how religion works with the brain in purely psychological terms. I submitted this as an Op-Ed for the OU Daily, but due to the proximity to 9/11 the editor decided to focus on more periodically relevant subject matter. I hope you enjoy!

     There are quite a bit of 'grey matters' about the brain's relation to cognitive dissonance, rationality in religious belief, truth & epistemology, and how the brain reconciles justification. It's uber-interesting stuff; why do people take offense when there religion is criticized to the point of seemingly physical discomfort and mental conflict? Why is it such a touchy subject, when I can insult your car or job, or physical feature of a person, and not get much of a rise; but then attack their beliefs and people go berserk.

     As of now, Personally, I compare Stockholm Syndrome to religious belief. In both you have a single powerful aggressor [the Captor or the God] that has significant power over the victim [the Prisoner or the Believer], There has been a direct, implied, or interpreted threat conveyed from the aggressor to the victim. This constant state of vigilance and awareness changes how a healthy and normal brain were to function. The changes, as a result of a built-in coping mechanism in the victim, very much alter how certain aspects of the victims brain operate; heavily distorting reality, perception, and cognitive functions of the victim. The end result is something where the victim sees or feels like the absence of a detectable implied, direct, or interpreted feeling of receiving aggression, is in itself an act of kindness and compassion. The longer this continues, the longer the victim's cognitive abilities are messed with, and the delusional coping mechanism of the victim just further deepens and spreads to the brain.

     This applies to religion amazingly because people see an absence of evil occurring, even when nothing directly positive is happening, they attribute that experience to the 'will' or 'grace' of god. It becomes even more intense in nature when it is an increasingly positive event that occupies the space between negative experiences. The way the world works, unfortunately, is that we are constantly bombarded by negative experiences and situations. So any break from this triggers our brain's self-defense / coping mechanisms and gives attributes to the highest power they can think of, usually God, Karma, the Dao. While this would be mildly acceptable in small doses, due to the human condition it is a constant and increasing process. The constant onslaught of negative stimuli in combination with the breaks between the actions of the aggressor and the associated stressors, gives this process a terminal velocity quite quickly as this whole function is self-perpetuating as long as the victim is unaware of the change, not actively counter-acting against, and merely passively resistant. This process repeats and builds upon itself becoming more and more galvanized in a person as time and events take place.

     I believe it is this case-hardening effect on mental processes that creates the mental blocks in people, which inturn makes them so actively and readily defend radically irrational beliefs. They draw confidence from this storage of coping rationality... But over a long period of time, from a weak-minded person, they are oblivious about this, and when this is mentioned they will try to write it off, discredit it, or just flat out deny it. Thus perpetuating the delusion of a loving form of a higher power, thrusting forward the passively masochistic mindset that has quietly crept into the rationalization faculties a person has, rendering the processes of rationality ineffectual in order to dampen the experience of the true cosmic world.

Finally an Update on Potential & Upcoming Updates!

     As many have noted to me, this blog had last left off at the beginning of my third week in Turkey over the summer. Due to circumstances outside of my control I was not able to log into Google Blogger from Bogazici University's internet connection on the campus or in the dorms. This was a truly unfortunate development for those who were eagerly following my adventures. Although I do not have any current papers or essays to add to this site, this semester is starting to ramp up so new content will be added in the coming days and weeks. As far as the missed posting from when I was in Turkey, I have a total of ~4.8 Gb of pictures and a few videos that I need to organize and arrange, and then I will provide links and instructions on how to access and view my spectacular imagery. I look forward to directly contributing material over my first all Upper-Division semester and am eager for feedback, discussion, and criticisms. Stay Tuned!...
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