Charles Clanton Rogers

Reflections based on poetry, music, visual art, book reviews, history of science, first-person history, philosophical essays and International Blogging

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Six blind men were asked to determine what an elephant looked like by feeling different parts of the elephant’s body. The blind man who feels a leg says the elephant is like a pillar; the one who feels the tail says the elephant is like a rope; the one who feels the trunk says the elephant is like a tree branch; the one who feels the ear says the elephant is like a hand fan; the one who feels the belly says the elephant is like a wall; and the one who feels the tusk says the elephant is like a solid pipe. At the risk of offending someone, I suggest That Moses, Jesus, and other iconic giants describe a part of the elephant.[1]  What did the Atheist say after his examination? “There is no elephant”?

I wrote, “The Individual, the Family, the Tribe.”(2)

http://therogerspost.com/2015/10/03/individual-tribe/

My friend and sparring partner, bbnewsab,  said that my assessment was incomplete, writing:

“Unfortunately I miss at least ONE important aspect of the human evolutionary history in this blog post. I want more facts and opinions of the evolution of religion, man’s perpetual companion.
But maybe Mr. Rogers will discuss that matter in another blog post later on? Let’s hope that will be the case.”

This post is an attempt to complete my assignment. I want to emphasize that bbnewsab  has reviewed and written extensively on this subject. I don’t believe I can add to his fund of knowledge.  [3]

I am just going to try to describe “the elephant” as this one observer has witnessed it.  I would also, as a scientist, acknowledge the subjective nature of my observations but remind you: “Not everything that can be counted counts. Not everything that counts can be counted.” [4]

In my view, the subject of religion must, immediately, be divided into at least two parts; and further into sub-parts.

(1) The individual  human’s search for meaning  and fear

(1a) The individual- objective ; chemistry, physics, biology

(1b) The individual – subjective:

(1b1) Subjective: reward of service and giving

(1b2) Subjective: art, music, literature

(2) The Clergy/ ChurchI think that history shows that often, that the individual and the clergy do not share a common purpose. Often the spiritual yearnings of the individual are exploited by the church. I will confine my discussion to subjective evidence to (1) subjective of the individual.

It is my firm conviction in “the Priesthood of the believer” and that there should be nothing between the seeker and any HCA (Hidden Causal Agent).[5]

Subjective  examination of the individual’s search for a supra-human power:: Earlier, I wrote:  ” You can only see the human mind and The Meaning of Life in its shadow. The metaphor of seeing the “HCA” Omnipotence, only by looking at its shadow is essential to understand this essay.

The only “evidence” I offer in this essay is the subjective shadow of an HCA. It is Einstein’s “the things that count [and]  can’t be counted”!  If you are expecting to find something you can take to the bank or court, put your iPhone away and sit back; this is subtle, mind ‘s eye territory.

 You will say that what I’m serving up is just humans operating at the high-end of  skills honed by million of years of evolution. I say that the performance of humans at their high-end is the shadow of my HCA (Omnipotence).  I believe that this shadow was recognized by the Spiritual Giants: Moses, Jesus, Gautama Buddha, Confucius, Zoroaster, Krishna,  and Mohammed.  I doubt that any of these men intended to create a governance organization. 

My evidence is numerous ,subjective pieces of evidence “It is impossible to understand, properly, an entity consisting of infinite properties without the method of modal description consisting of all viewpoints.” [1] My view points include rewards of  service and giving, images of art, music, literature,

Rewards of service: “Verily I say unto you, In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these….              ” Matthew 25        “It is more blessed to give than receive” Acts 20        Millions of secular workers will testify to the salubrious value of caring for others.

Art: I believe the following pieces of art are the shadow: Chartres Cathedral, France,Giotto, frescoes, Duccio di Buoninsegna, Maestà, Leonardo da Vinci, ‘Lady with an Ermine.’, Zen garden, Ryan-ji Temple, Michelangelo Buonarroti, ‘David.’, Vermeer, ‘View of Delft’ (1660-61), Rembrandt van Rijn, ‘The Jewish Bride: Isaac and Rebecca andHenri Matisse, ‘La Danse (II)’

Music: Handel’s Messiah, Bach toccata & Fugue, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony

Literature; Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, Macbeth, Julius Ceasar, Melville Moby Dick, Victor Hugo Les Miserables

Considering literature. Consider that fictional novels contain valid observation about man and his struggle with life. Is the bible true? yes in the same manner. A text doesn’t have to be “scientifically” factual to convey truth.  Much pointless agony has resulted from trying to judge alllegory by present day critea for factual news.  It wasn’t written as factual accounts but to convey the essence of a message.not unlike the wisdom of determined effort in Aesop’s Fable,”The Tortoise and the Hare,

“Every young soul hears this call by day and by night and shudders with excitement at the premonition of that degree of happiness which eternities have prepared for those who will give thought to their true liberation. There is no way to help any soul attain this happiness, however, so long as it remains shackled with the chains of opinion and fear.  And how hopeless and meaningless life can become without such a liberation! There is no drearier, sorrier creature in nature than the man who has evaded his own genius and who squints now towards the right, now towards the left, now backwards, now in any direction whatever.” [6]

Echoing Picasso’s proclamation that “to know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing,” [and “The Priesthood of The Believer] Nietzsche  considers the only true antidote to this existential dreariness: No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life, There may be countless trails and bridges and demigods who would gladly carry you across; but only at the price of pawning and forgoing yourself. There is one path in the world that none can walk but you. Where does it lead? Don’t ask, walk! [6]

I believe we, in our own way,we should  examine the elephant unfettered by opinion and fear, and accept a description that fits with our experiences- Judaism, Christianity, etc., or perhaps,  agnosticism or atheism. Any of these may represent the stage for your play: “Your Life’s Search for Meaning”.   I propose that each of us examine the elephant and then march to the beat of Thoreau’s “Distant Drummer”[9]

Scientist like Hoffman have invested enormous amounts of energy and time to prove there is no God – what force drives them? What is Pross’ irrepressible force that has demanded reproduction for 6 billion years in spite meteors, volcanoes, and earthquakes? Is this not the force which drives Dawkins to complete and take pride in his publications?

 

Charles Clanton Rogers, AB, MD, FACR, Emeritus Professor, GWU

References:

[1] Two of the many references to this parable are found in Tattvarthaslokavatika of Vidyanandi (9th century) and Syādvādamanjariof Ācārya Mallisena (13th century). Mallisena uses the parable to argue that immature people deny various aspects of truth; deluded by the aspects they do understand, they deny the aspects they don’t understand. “Due to extreme delusion produced on account of a partial viewpoint, the immature deny one aspect and try to establish another. This is the maxim of the blind (men) and the elephant.” Mallisena also cites the parable when noting the importance of considering all viewpoints in obtaining a full picture of reality. “It is impossible to properly understand an entity consisting of infinite properties without the method of modal description consisting of all viewpoints, since it will otherwise lead to a situation of seizing mere sprouts

[2]  http://therogerspost.com/2015/10/03/individual-tribe/ ‎

[3] bbnewsab:   https://bbnewsblog.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/the-two-information-processing-systems-ipss-in-your-brain-one-is-woo-ish-the-other-is-rational/ .

[3] bbnewsab: Science Objective Evidence [“A short summary: IPS #1 is a “default” emotional, intuitive illogical and Just-believing-is-enough (or: Why-bother-about-knowing?) way of thinking.

Its goal is to quickly find patterns and then attribute them to Hidden Causal Agents (HCAs) like invisible predators, gods, ghosts, demons, guardian angels and so forth.

In short, that’s the way infants and children tend to think and reason.

Later on, when the children begin to master a language and start expressing themselves in words instead of emotions, most humans – but unfortunately and regrettably not woos! – add another IPS (= IPS #2) to process sensory information in order to find patterns and explanations. Their ability of understanding the meaning of words and language makes it possible for them to begin reasoning in a logical, analytical, rational, nonemotional way AND to understand what causality means.

In some adult people this process is disturbed. The “upgrading” or, maybe rather, amplification of the brain’s capacity to process incoming sensory information is more or less disabled, due to both genetic and environmental circumstances.

Cf. the strong correlation that has been found between woos and dyslexia (= a general term meaning a disorder or dysfunction that involves difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, see letters and other symbols; all of this usually without general intelligence being conspicuously affected; but their capacity for acquiring knowledge and understand logical reasonings is usually impaired, a fact that increases their disposition towards associative and illogical magical & religious bullshit thinking).”]

[4] Most often attributed to Albert Einstein

[5]  (priesthood of believers)Although many religions use priests, most Protestant faiths reject the idea of a priesthood as a group that is spiritually distinct from lay people. They typically employ professional clergy who perform many of the same functions as priests such as clarifying doctrine, administering communion, performing baptisms, marriages, etc. In many instances, Protestants see professional clergy as servants acting on behalf of the local believers. This is in contrast to the priest, whom some Protestants see as having a distinct authority and spiritual role different from that of ordinary believers.

[6] Frederick Nietzsche,

[7]  Michael Shermer,    The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies—How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths

[8] Sam Harris: When reading Harris’ books, one finds that his eclectic web of interests become intertwined, if not tangled, and the lines that separate them become blurred. His last book, Waking Up, is on its face a book about spirituality, but it is also an argument about the role religion plays in hijacking the deepest human experiences in support of specific religions, which he views as a misunderstanding of what the experiences actually mean. It moves from this to what then seems like a self-help book, a guide to secular meditation and how it can be done without assuming anything supernatural. Then it moves, without missing a beat, to a neuroscientific explanation of this spiritual experience. From there, it dabbles in a bit of autobiography, and then seems to cycle through all of these again. Pity the librarian who is forced to categorize Harris’ work by genre – I myself would be at a loss. [*]Nick Simmons , Huffington Post 2015/10/06

[9]     Henry David Thoreau      If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.

(10) Addy Pross. What is Life, How chemistry becomes biology.
Oxford University Press,(2012)

(11) Hoffmann, Peter M.. Life’s Ratchet: How Molecular Machines

 

9 thoughts on “What Did The Atheist Say To The Elephant?

  1. bbnewsab says:

    Beautiful post, KK! Thoroughly and carefully elaborated.

    Without the slightest hesitation I’ll give you a Like or Thumb up for this scholarly essay you have now published.

    In the introduction you wonder what an atheist would say after he had examined your elephant. You suggest that maybe the atheist would say: “There is no elephant.”

    No, I don’t think so. If I were the atheist, I would instead say the following (fasten your safety belt because it will be a very long, and partly bumpy, ride):

    Now I enter the podium to give my “TED Talk”:

    Listen. folks! No one knows enough to prove – in an objective way – what this object (called, by some, an elephant) is we have in front of us.

    Yet your claims of what some of you have found and concluded, by examination of the object, are of the absolute kind. You show no relativism at all in your theory buildings. That I would call a preposterous and presumptuous take on this special matter.

    If your hypothesis (your theory building) can be shown to be wrong in some detail (or some details), then your hypothesis can’t be totally correct. And then it’s no longer an absolute hypothesis; It has become a relativistic one.

    That is, for sure, not good for the credibility of a hypothesis claiming to represent the absolute TRUTH.

    Therefore, if I can show you, maybe even convince you, by demonstrating in a theoretical way that some details your hypotheses rely on can’t be correct, then that in turn must mean – and the conclusion be – that I have invalidated your hypotheses and that you are obliged to elaborate more in order to face the challenges they don’t meet at the moment.

    Wait, don’t leave me now. I’ve got more to tell you. Please, be seated again, don’t leave.

    Let’s look at your hypotheses from yet another angle. If you agree that you are all damn sure just your interpretation of the object is the only correct one, then you also insist that only you are the one who has got the absolute TRUTH about this object we all have examined here today.

    So, what does that implicate? If more than one of you insist just they have found the absolute TRUTH, of course all of you (claiming that you’ve found the absolute truth) can’t be right. N’est-ce pas (Isn’t it)?

    Now I want to paraphraze Christopher Hitchens. He used to say this: Let’s suppose there are 3,000 religions in the world. If 2,999 of them are deemed false by you, would it not then be more honest if you admitted that this indicates that also the 3,000th religious faith probably is a false one?

    Or why should just your religious faith be the one winning the top lottery prize?

    Some of you (who claim you’ve found the absolute TRUTH) MUST, are bound to, be wrong, Only one can, by definition, win the top lottery prize. Either you win it – or you don’t. Tertium non datur (meaning there is no middle alternative in which more than one can win. But at the same time it’s possible that no one wins the top lottery prize because it’s possible the winning ticket remains in the tombola).

    The conclusion must therefore be like this: Two existing religious claims of having found the absolute TRUTH can’t both be correct at the same time, i.e. either the claim X is right and claim Y is wrong – or claim X is wrong and claim Y is right. And, as said in the paragraph above, of course nothing prohibits that both claim X and claim Y are wrong at the same time.

    Oh, I see that some of you seem to be ready to leave the room now. Please, don’t! Instead continue listening, folks, because I’ve got some more interesting things to say.

    Have you heard of something called science – and scientific research?

    Good!

    Then you should know that science is not about claiming to have found any absolute TRUTH. All real science is relativistic. It conveys no absolute TRUTHS. That’s how science works.

    Rather, it accumulates empirical evidence for or against various hypotheses. By doing this, science can show – even demonstrate – that some phenomena must be incompatible with the laws of physics (at least in the way we currently understand them).

    And believe me, we understand those physical laws better and better.

    This also shows the great advantage of science: It accumulates empirical evidence for or against various hypotheses.

    So, If I can show you that religious (faith) ideas are incompatible with the laws of physics as we currently understand them today, by having accumulated empirical evidence for them during hundreds of years, then the probability is very high that they actually are correct, since they are supported by all this evidence.

    Please notice I’m now talking of probabilities, not absoluteness. That’s how science works.

    In fact we all rely on and have trust in probabilities.

    For example. let’s say I invite you to play the lethal game of Russian roulette (just as an example, don’t try this at home) and offer you two different revolvers, one with one of its six chambers loaded with a round and the other six-shooter loaded with five rounds. Then I’m pretty sure you’ll choose to use the revolver with only one round in its six chambers. N’est-ce pas?

    So probability is something we all have to deal with in our daily lives. And we rely on what probability tells us.

    As a matter of fact, because scientific data are based on not only observations but also on experimental data, we should be allowed to regard science to be more reliable than religious faith, since such faith is based solely on subjective emotions and feelings, and we know today that emotion-based knowledge is very unreliable (just as memories and testimonies are).

    In short, there is a constantly increasing amount of evidence supporting the view that those people who believe in gods (i.e. have a religious faith) probably have fallen prey to unreliable inner experiences/feelings, false memories, unreliable testimonies from others, different kinds of biases (like confirmation bias, wishful thinking and so on).

    So religious faith and science are like two boxers in the boxing ring. In one corner you find a boxer who trusts the laws of physics (finding them very reliable because they have been tested so many times by so many different scientists and by such an enormous number of rigorous and high-precision experiments that they leave no room for religious beings driven by as yet undiscovered kinds of energy).

    In in another corner of the boxing ring you find the religiously true believer, who says, “I trust my gut feelings and they tell me to believe there is a divine entity governing and/or guiding our lives.

    Their boxing gloves contains arguments. These arguments are used to knock out the opponent.

    The scientific boxer is supported by a coach who tells him: IF there still are undetected forms of energy “out there”, that must mean those new kinds of energy have to interact with the already known energy forms. But this – as you have seen – does not happen. Take the GPS as an example. Thanks to the GPS we can find out pretty exactly where we happen to be on the surface of Earth. If there were still undetected energy forms, they should interact with the GPS. But we can’t find any traces of such interactions.

    And the coach continues: Spoon-bending is another good example. Spoons are made of atoms (exactly as all other objects are). Today’s physicists know exactly how much energy is available in a spoon. They also know the masses of the atoms (forming a spoon). They also know the kinetic energy of thermal motions within the metal the spoon is made of.

    In short, and taken together, we can say without hesitating the least, that any new particles, or hidden energies, that might exist within a spoon would have been detected long ago in experiments made by physicists all over the world. BUT THAT IS NOT THE CASE.

    The scientific boxer becomes dull of confidence that he’s going to win the boxing match.

    The coach of the religiously true believer tells his client. Just believe in God. And if you also pray to God between the rounds, you can’t lose. God never desert His believers. And if He does, and you lose the boxing fight, then there is a meaning behind that godly decision, maybe to make you a humbler man or something like that.

    Now I reach the end of my lecture.

    Therefore I decide turn to KK, the medicine man of this RWT community/group, directly.

    Dear, KK, My answer to your question how an atheist would describe the elephant-like object can be summarized in the follopwing way:

    I believe the four well-known natural physical laws are correct. They have been validated in millions of experiments over the years.

    These four natural physical laws leave no room for beliefs in divine entities.

    So either the physical laws are correct (using that adjective in the scientific way). and the belief that we are surrounded or at least influenced by divine entities is wrong.

    Or else all the accumulated knowledge that physics has gained and validated so far (during many centuries) must be thrown in the dust-bin and be considered more or less worthless.

    It this were the case, then today’s physicists would advise us not to rely on the GPS. And the physicists should admit that, of course, spoons can be bended spontaneously, by themselves, and that, also of course, a broken window can be whole again (by reversing the time arrow) etc.

    I myself find it much easier to believe in Santa Claus than to believe that all accumulated and validated data in the field of physics should be thrown in the dust-bin.

    Concerning your elephant metaphor, KK, i tell you this: I didn’t get the opportunity to examine the whole elephant-liek object, neither did the other examinators get that opportunity. So I avoid expressing my thoughts of what constitutes the elephant-like object. And I find it impossible to make a complete and all-encompassing statement about your elephant-like object. No absolute TRUTHS can be said of that object.

    Therefore I choose to criticize all the other examinators for trying to launch absolute explanations of what the object really is. By doing that, they are not honest people. Cf. the saying “Lying for Jesus”, Even the church fathers had a long tradition of lying for Jesus. See for example: https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index;_ylt=A7x9UnwBIBVWwgIAURU_Ogx.;_ylu=X3oDMTByaGwzcXNvBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDOARjb2xvA2lyMgR2dGlkAw–?qid=20090125072821AA3Fv7m

    I hope you are satisfied with my answer, KK.

    BTW, I recommend you to read this article: http://www.livescience.com/52364-origins-supernatural-relgious-beliefs.html. It’s about the plausible origins of supernatural/magical and religious beliefs. A very interesting article, also summarizing today’s knowledge of the matter.

    Please, tell me your thoughts of what can be read in that article.

    Like

    1. clanton1934 says:

      Agree with you and the author of the following quote:
      “Humans may have developed religion as a way to promote cooperation in social groups, Dunbar said. He noted that primates tended to live in groups because doing so benefit them in certain ways. For instance, hunting in groups is more effective than hunting alone. But living in groups also has drawbacks. Namely, some individuals take advantage of the system. Dunbar calls these people “free riders.”

      “Freeriding is disruptive because it loads the costs of the social contract onto some individuals, while others get away with paying significantly less,” Dunbar wrote in a New Scientist article, “The Origin of Religion as a Small-Scale Phenomenon.” As a result, those who have been exploited become less willing to support the social contract. In the absence of sufficient benefit to outweigh these costs, individuals will leave to be in smaller groups that incur fewer costs.”
      We bridge builders have a far more receptive audience in science than those who try to defend their unique “knowledge of the-only-truth” group. Thier “unique-knowledge” is borne out of emotion only based FEAR. Having found a “fortress of security”, a very elaborate jail-break plan and execution! I know one such person very well who, admits to the validity of scientific proofs but also admits an emotional need for a life committed to his “Faith” and Church. He willingly lives with this ironic dichotomy, having compartmentalizing incomparable views. We talk, but he is unmovable, such is his “needs”. KK

      Liked by 1 person

      1. bbnewsab says:

        Yes, FEAR is the name of the game.

        But I also think that externalized locus of control matters.

        Especially in Islam the locus of control is externalized. For example, parents decide whom their children can marry. Marriage is seen as a way of building bridges between families in the same clan.

        Cousin marriages are encouraged, which leads to inbreeding.

        Once again, the religion – as usual – is the culprit.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. bbnewsab says:

    Reblogged this on Mass Delusions a.k.a. Magical & Religious Woo-Bullshit Thinking and commented:
    This blog post is entitled “What Did The Atheist Say To The Elephant?”

    Nevertheless this scholarly essay-like post should be tagged as belonging to the religion vs. science debate.

    So the elephant (or elephant metaphor) isn’t the important thing here. Instead, it’s much more about evidence and how to interpret evidence of divine beings a.k.a. gods or Hidden Causal Agents (HCAs).

    I’ve written a long comment to Charles Rogers’ blog post. And that comment I’m going to insert as an introduction and complement on my own blog.

    Like

    1. clanton1934 says:

      “Free-loaders” identification needs elaboration. The religeous-Righ-wing in the USA yells constantly about free riders. Thet are identifying people outdid of their faith receiving Federal Govt. benefits like food stamps and “free” medical care (especially reproductive services). My view of the free-riders, non-productive is the clergy,i,e. free room & board & health care for life by cotributing only praying and preaching while insisting on ten per cent of the income of the workers. This is most burdensome when the believer feels he has to pay the clergy as the required attourney/ judge standing between the faithful and the HCA! KK

      Liked by 1 person

  3. bbnewsab says:

    Is it true that acronym GOP stands for God’s Own Party?

    If so, then it becomes much easier to understand why the Republicans act like they do.

    Maybe Kim Davis will become the next President of the USA? With the help of God Almighty and God’s Own Party.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. clanton1934 says:

      The Republican Party is divided: 1. “Institutional” Rs & 2. Religious Rs. The RR push “Kim Davis-type” people who’s primary loyalty is to Evangelical Christianity regardless of consequences. Previous was Michele Bachman.

      Like

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