What defines us as athiests is that we reject the concept of a Deity. We assume this posture by using logic and reason. A deity is logically extremely improbable. We then go on to rely on logic and reason to construct our cosmology based on observation, scientific inquirey, rational deduction and so on. We each have a belief system on which our sense of the world is constructed, our reality so to speak.
I've been reading a bit about quantum mechanics and multi universe theories. None of this fits neatly into my cosmology. Even so, the theories are reached by logic that I can follow and can't really dispute at my level of understanding.
To approach concepts like the nature of our consciousness reveals the limits of logic and reason. Logic and reason would ascribe them to chemical reactions in the brain that interperate stimuli. But we only have five senses with which to evaluate the world (if an external world actually does exist!). Is it not reasonable to assume that there are things imperceptable to these five senses? If consciousness is indeed a chemical function of the brain, then we rely on the eyes, the ears, the nose, the skin to give us all the interaction with the physical world and supply all the data that the mind asesses. Can we trust that these mechanism are supplying accurate interperatations of the physical world?
And what's going on in the next person's head? Are we sure it's similar to what's going on in our own? Is each person a unique universe? Do they really connect in a physical space? One of the theories is that all matter is a congealing of possibilities enacted by consciousness, that in fact the universe does not exist on it's own without consciousness to define it. This begs the question, do any of you exist outside my head?
What I'm getting at is that religion provides a rudimentary construct for us to understand and relate to the universe. I believe our logical, reasonable, scientific cosmology is no less an invention of our mind than religion and is dependent on your intelligence level, understanding of science and philosophy, life experience, indoctrination to other cosmologies, level of inquirey, and psychological makeup among many other factors.
Who are we to be so disdainful of religion when our concept of reality is no less an invention of our minds? Is it essential to the human condition to have a cosmology? If it is, doesn't religion provide an essential construct for some?
I would like to point something out. The mind, that is pretty much the effect of the brain, when wants to explain something it first starts with the idea. That idea that you refer to as a 'construct' is what defines reality. The thing is, for the idea to be true you need to bring evidence that is induced from reality to make it a fact. If evidence is not present, then the idea has no connection to reality ( i.e. the idea is imaginary ). After all, reality is a concept that lives in our mind and it can look more or less like the real reality. That's why it is important to follow scientific views since those best match the universe as far as humans know.
Based on that, religion does not compare to other forms of 'ideas' since it has no connection to reality. It is just an imaginary construct ergo I wouldn't call it arrogant.
I think you left off the last bit of your thought here. I think you meant:
"It [religion] is just an imaginary construct, ergo I wouldn't call it arrogant to reject it."
Maybe you didn't see the video recently posted by Monica:
Having lived with these prejudices and double standards for decades, I can assure you that we atheists are not the ones who are arrogant. In fact, I am a bit put out that an atheist would even raise the question in the manner you did.
I think I need to clarify what I'm getting at here. It's not that I think religious thought has validity and is comparable to reason and logic. I'm just becoming aware of a school of thought in theoretical quantum physics that completely alters the view of the world that I and most of you probably base our sense of reality on.
Just as the religious see their world as created by a being that remains in control with rules to follow and rituals to perform and supernatural explanations for things, we have an equally solid set of beliefs about the world. Our view is that it is empirical, it is three dimensional and our physical bodies are plopped into it. We are interacting with it as a mind created by brain chemistry through our senses. We believe the same world exists for everyone and we are all interacting with it in an actual physical space. We believe that time is a constant that we are all moving through together. We think that all things obey the laws of physics.
At the cutting edge of physics is a whole school of thought that that decimates this view of existence. It is science tackling questions that have previously only been dealt with in philosophy. The nature of consciousness, the structure of time, the sub atomic structures that combine to form matter and the processes that make that happen.
One school of thought (and pardon my clumsy description. I don't pretend to fully grasp these concepts.) sees the universe as waves of possibility that coalesce into matter by being acted upon by consciousness. In other words, consciousness (in a very large sense, not individual consciousness) constructs the universe. It's not a passive observer and not a product of brain activity, in fact it creates the brain. Again, this is probably a very clumsy description. The point is these theories are being reached by scientific inquiry into the behavior of matter on a sub atomic level that defies the known laws of physics and calls into question our currently held view of the nature of the three dimensional universe.
What I'm getting at and why I used the term arrogant is that I am still firmly of the current version of the world. Three dimensions, consciousness observing and resideing in the brain just like all or most of you. These quantum theories are very interesting to read about and have some validity with me, but have not been incorporated into my belief system. They do not yet alter my fundamental cosmology.
But what if they did? What if I became truly convinced that this model of the universe is correct? What would that process be like, to give up faith that the empirical universe exists in all the order I ascribe to it? I simply can't imagine it. I have no idea what it would be like to live in a universe with completely different rules and structures. The very foundation of what I see as real would have to change completely. That's a pretty huge mental undertaking!
Are any of these physicists who are developing these theories convinced? Have they made the shift in their own sense of reality? If so, do they look at our cosmology as antiquated and primitive the same way we tend to look at religious cosmology? If they are in fact correct, isn't our cosmology just as fictitious as the religious cosmology?
Atheism was easy for me. I wasn't that strongly indoctrinated into religious belief and dismissed it at a pretty early age. To most of us it seems like just common sense to acknowledge the ludicrous nature of religious doctrine and move on. But when we ask a truly religious person to give it up, we're asking them to change their cosmology from an ordered one based on a creator and rules and rituals to one that they can't imagine. It's the same enourmous leap.
I'm just saying that my sense of the world is being challenged a bit by these things I'm exploring and I'm willing to admit that I'm no longer 100% sure my cosmology is correct. It seems a bit arrogant of me to be so disdainful of people for embracing a fictitious cosmology when my own may be fictitious also.
A lot of hypotheses in quantum physics are certainly weird and challenging, but remember two things; 1) they are simply hypotheses and 2) quantum rules do not scale up to the macro world. If some fundamental change to cosmology comes along, it will be accepted as the evidence requires. But, a few interesting hypotheses are not enough to throw away the current model of cosmology that has been well established and very practical.
I'd caution anyone from drawing such world altering conclusions based on quantum physics, let alone untested quantum physics. It would be premature to do so.
I think I see what you are saying. You are either arguing for solipsism or you are merely exploring what it would take, personally, to change your accepted views to something dramatically different than what you previously held. Probably the latter, yes?
For me, I try to avoid "believing in" things. I believe things, but not "in them". On issues of philosophy and science, I have committed to care deeply for one thing and one thing only; truth. So, it would not be too difficult for me to accept a major change in my worldview, provided that the evidence is sufficient to warrant it. For some, like religious folk, their whole lives hinge on believing in something and it is very difficult to not feed your own self delusion to support it. I have done this same thing in other ways. I once let fear and love allow me to be delusional about the nature of a relationship and I resisted/subconsciously ignored blatant evidence to the true nature of it. So, I can certainly see how something like that could be very difficult for some people.
I think, ultimately, we must always be willing to challenge our most trusted notions no matter how endeared we are to them. As long as they continue to stand, we can be reasonably sure we have the truth. And if they don't, then we must investigate.
I think you are getting at what I see as the actual point of solipsism. The point of solipsism isn't that we can never know anything; the point is that there is no clearly defined measure of absolute reality--we have to do the best we can on our own.
Mike, I do apologize for not reading your entire reply here but I've heard this this angle before and I get a sense of where you are going with it. People used to go on and on about Einstein's relativity and the theoretical component of time changing the nature of reality and whatnot but the fact remains that for our daily experiences Newton doesn't break down.
The nature of quantum mechanics is super cool and very mysterious to me, just like the cosmos was to Bronze Age minds. There are wonderful things to speculate about but it all reduces to naval gazing unless you sit down, study the observations and start doing the math. The math is far beyond my skill set, but that doesn't validate projecting some sort of consciousness to it all - unless you are interested in writing science fiction. I don't mean that in a derogatory way, for good science fiction is cutting edge philosophy in that it jumps ahead of the technology to explore the social/world view issues that might potentially arise. Great science fiction will actually capture the imaginations of the scientists capable of doing the math - even if all they have to offer is criticism.
Exploring the ideas is wonderful and thought provoking, but there are just no grounds for debate unless you have a solid foundation in the fundamentals of the field itself.
You're absolutely right. I wouldn't begin to debate the validity of quantum physics. I simply don't understand it at anything but a very superficial level. And perhaps I'm not really being very clear about the focus of my discussion here. I'm just thinking out loud.
But what I'm writing about is not which cosmology is correct, but the acceptance that mine may not be correct and what the implications of that are. I see it as having distinct parallels with what someone who fully embraces a religious cosmology would have to go through to significantly change it. Is my disdain for the people who embrace religious cosmology justified when my cosmology may be a fiction also?