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Davidson Loehr

I want to revisit my original post, where I said that what Duane was doing was “sheer mysticism.” By “mysticism,” I mean emotional needs or certainties are driving the discussion, not intellectual data. Mystics — in religion, science, or anywhere else — start with their conclusion, then can see only the cherry-picked data that support it. This is tied to why I say mysticism is a need or a wish that drives the discussions. It’s also why I think biological and psychological data will show the reasons for someone’s mysticism better than perhaps anything else. I used the case of a very close friend of mine, who had an unusual ability to be very candid about what he was doing and why he was doing it — because it let him surround himself with a world — or “world” — quotes he would have agreed with — in which he felt valued and loved, rather than judged.  I say this for several reasons, but one is simply that just looking at solid data can never lead anyone to that mystical certainty that “the world is as I think it is for I think it is that way.” For me, that’s the tip-off that the argument is being need-driven or wish-driven. My frustration with vague language comes both from my frustration with most religious arguments, but perhaps moreso from my belief that the Wittgensteinian style of “language philosophy” is the most significant philosophical advance since Kant — I think Wittgenstein was one of the four best philosophers of Western history (Plato, Aristotle, Kant), and a corrective we sorely need in our most befuddled arguments and ideologies. That doesn’t make it picayune and insensitive, just concerned enough with clear and honest communication that it will try to unmask other kinds. His saying “Certainty is only an attitude” is as pure an expression of the scientific attitude as I’ve read. But he was equally vigorous to attack assaults on someone’s belief just because they weren’t rational or scientific. Unlike science, religion doesn’t need to be factual to be effective (though it does if it is to help us integrate major parts of the world around us).


Well, a story here. Trying (always unsuccessfully) to drum some nuance into one of his adoring students (and, I suspect, sexual partners) over this topic, W. told a story I’ll paraphrase: “Imagine this. A man lived … sometime, and he believed everything he was taught by his church, never questioning a bit of it. Grounded in these beliefs, he lived a happy, blessed life, was a devoted husband and father and a beloved friend. When he died, hundreds of people turned out to express their appreciation for the ways in which this man had touched their lives. Now imagine that two weeks later, it was suddenly — somehow — revealed that everything this man believed had been false. Very well, you can say his beliefs were false. But can you say his life was false?” — And if not, I’d add, then just what role does truth necessarily play in helping us toward a good life?  Toward good science, yes. Toward a beloved and loving life? Not necessarily at all. 



I was happy to back out of most of the discussion and watch those of you with a lot more personal investment, education and experience in the sciences define and defend your turf.