Awesome Quote

October 27, 2010 at 11:11 pm (By Amba)

The epigraph on m’bro’s intermittent blog, True Ancestor, this could be the last word in some of the perennial debates here.  Really, what more is there to say??

~ Abraham Joshua Heschel

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41 Comments

  1. pathmv said,

    I love it!

  2. amba12 said,

    Me too!

  3. Peter Hoh said,

    I would get out my chisel and hammer and start working if I had a big piece of granite handy.

  4. amba12 said,

    More femininely, perhaps a cross-stitch sampler . . .

  5. reader_iam said,

    Really, what more is there to say??
    Well, nothing. That’s why I almost never comment anywhere anymore. I just started to comment here again, but now that I’ve been reminded so directly of that wisdom, I’ll

  6. realpc920 said,

    Oh no oh no oh no. I am NOT taking the side of faith, against reason! Alternative science is NOT less rational than mainstream science! I believe certain alternative science ideas because they seem MUCH MORE rational to me. Materialism does NOT seem at all rational.

    My own personal faith is unrelated to my scientific beliefs and not relevant. The old faith vs. reason idea prevents people from actually looking at the scientific evidence and logic, because they think it’s all a matter of faith. It is not.

  7. amba12 said,

    real, you’re awfully quick to assume you know what Heschel means. He’s a greater thinker than most on both sides of the debate today. Maybe read his words a few more times and think about what they might have meant before the words “reason” and “faith” both got shrunk down to hard little constipated pellets of slogans.

  8. amba12 said,

    Also, exactly how is that quote taking the side of faith against reason? You have a knee-jerk reaction to just seeing those words. You’re on Panda’s Thumb or Pharyngula all the time now even when you’re not.

  9. realpc said,

    No no no no no. The people here who think UFO encounters are ridiculous and impossible think they are on the side of reason. They think I am on the side of faith. No — I have no faith that UFO encounters can be real! I am just going by reason and evidence. It seems very possible to me that some of the encounter stories are real.

    I understand the quote. I do not think it applies to materialism. The implication is that materialism is on the side of science and reason, but maybe goes too far and worships reason. NO, that is not what happens! Materialism is more related to faith than to reason! Just the opposite of what is commonly thought.

    I know I am not a great thinker, but I am not a lunatic or someone has knee-jerk reactions instead of careful thoughts. I am a VERY VERY careful and analytical thinker.

    But don’t take my word for it. Of course you won’t.

  10. realpc said,

    The debate here about UFOs, or about the paranormal in general, is not about faith vs. reason. Heschel is saying we should not worship reason and we should not reject reason. I have no disagreement with that. But how does it apply to the UFO question? The only connection I can see is that you think the UFO skeptics are worshiping reason, while I am rejecting reason.

    So if I interpreted it wrong, please tell me exactly how. I think that I am 100% on the side of reason. I am not in any way advocating a combination of faith and reason, or saying people should be skeptical of reason.

    I have nothing against faith, but it has no place in a scientific or philosophical debate.

  11. pathmv said,

    Real, all Heschel is saying is that BOTH reason and faith have their limitations, and that neither is inconsistent with each other.

    The types who believe that logic and reason can be used to “prove” that there is no God, for example, lack the intelligence to understand the limits of reason. Conversely, those whose faith insists that the Earth MUST have been created in 6 literal days (despite all geologic and astronomical evidence to the contrary) have a weak faith, for they cannot conceive of a God who acts slowly and indirectly; their faith is not in God but in the humans who first wrote about Him thousands of years ago.

    Reason, or logic, is not capable of giving us ultimate answers. Every logical syllogism depends ultimately on some first principles which must be taken on faith. Moreover, the world is an exceedingly complex system. To believe that we can reason the correct answers in every instance without error is exceedingly arrogant and foolish; but there are those who think that just because nobody had an immediate comeback to their line of argument, that proves they are right. Of course, it only proves that they have not yet been proven wrong, not that they never will be.

    To apply this to the UFO example, my reason tells me that it is, indeed, possible that aliens have visited our planet and visited with some of my fellow humans. However, my faith (and not necessarily religious faith) tells me that the odds of this are so low that it’s not worth my time worrying about. That faith is informed by a bunch of factors, including what we currently understand of physics, the implausibility of all those aliens visiting but never visiting anyone with a working camera capable of taking clear, indisputable photographs or videos, the implausibility of the government being able to keep real secrets like that for any length of time, and similar factors.

  12. pathmv said,

    Frankly, I think Heschel is mostly cribbing from Socrates. The only real wisdom consists of knowing that you know nothing.

  13. wj said,

    Nicely put, Pat. (Saved me a world of typing.)

  14. realpc said,

    “To apply this to the UFO example, my reason tells me that it is, indeed, possible that aliens have visited our planet and visited with some of my fellow humans. However, my faith (and not necessarily religious faith) tells me that the odds of this are so low that it’s not worth my time worrying about. That faith is informed by a bunch of factors, including what we currently understand of physics,”

    Ok, that has been my point all along. The materialists are WRONG in thinking aliens can’t get here according to the understanding of physics. Completely wrong. The aliens are considered to be coming from higher level dimensions. This is NOT in conflict with current physics. In fact, current physics says there probably ARE higher level dimensions.

    UFO encounters are similar to paranormal experiences in general.

    I DO UNDERSTAND the limits of reason. But the DO NOT apply to this debate. This debate depends only on reason and evidence. No, I don’t mean to say it is proven or can be proven. But to deny and ridicule the possibility just shows an ignorance of the reality.

    I am much more oriented towards reason than faith. I objected to the quote, and I am already very familiar with that sort of thinking, because it does not apply in this case.

  15. realpc said,

    “The only real wisdom consists of knowing that you know nothing.”

    We do know something. We just don’t have ultimate answers and never will. It is the materialists who claim to have ultimate answers. I am always arguing against that claim. My point is never that we can know the ultimate answers. My point is always that tribal allegiance gets in the way of clear thinking and open-mindedness.

    If you are open-minded, you will think about higher level dimensions and how the idea can be applied to UFO encounters and paranormal experiences in general. You will think about the FACT that higher level dimensions DO NOT conflict with current physics. Just the opposite,

    And that is why I keep mentioning the book Flatland. But no one listens.

  16. pathmv said,

    The limits of reason apply to ALL debates, real. Your use of the all-caps FACT suggests you don’t really understand that. In some mathematical models, our current understanding of the laws of physics do allow for the existence of other dimensions. This does not make the existence of higher dimensions an indisputable FACT. We don’t know that our current understanding of physics is correct, much less that the particular branches of thought which allow for higher dimensions are correct. You may have a faith in the existence of higher dimensions; they’ve never been directly observed or measured, they’ve only been possibly modeled by mathematical calculations which are truly understood by maybe 50 people in the entire world.

  17. wj said,

    real, I think that a lot of the people here that you label “materialists” would readily concede that everything you argue for, from UFOs to guided evolution, is possible. Certainly that they are not impossible.

    Which is not to say that we believe them to be true, just that we are quite aware that they have not been shown to be false to fact. Our reasons may vary, but mostly I think they come down to these two:
    First, no convincing (at least to us) evidence in favor. Plus, in some cases, some (admittedly limited) evidence to the contrary.
    Second, alternate explanations can equally well explain the facts that we do see, without adding the complexity of the alternatives. Which doesn’t mean that the simpler explanation is true, of course. Merely that, as a philosophical matter, we prefer not to go with a more complex explanation when a simpler one will do — at least until the simple explanation will no longer do.

    Certainly there are some people who would dogmatically take the extreme position against. But, as with many arguments, there is a range of views between one extreme position and its opposite extreme. [Note: not saying that you or anyone else here is necessarily taking either extreme on any particular issue.] And someone may argue against an idea without necessarily believing the most extreme possible position against it.

  18. amba12 said,

    Well, actually I agree that materialism is a faith, and that at least some UFO encounters are something real, not imaginary.

    I just don’t think Heschel was embroiled in that hardened argument and I think it’s anachronistic to read his words through that lens.

  19. realpc said,

    “In some mathematical models, our current understanding of the laws of physics do allow for the existence of other dimensions. This does not make the existence of higher dimensions an indisputable FACT. ”

    No — I said it’s a FACT the the idea of higher level dimensions DOES NOT conflict with current physics!! I didn’t say the idea is a fact.

  20. amba12 said,

    I think Heschel was probably addressing religious fundamentalists who insisted the world was created 5,000 years ago.

  21. realpc said,

    “I just don’t think Heschel was embroiled in that hardened argument and I think it’s anachronistic to read his words through that lens.”

    Ok, I thought you posted the quote in response to what I said about UFOs. But maybe it was not connected.

  22. realpc said,

    “I think Heschel was probably addressing religious fundamentalists who insisted the world was created 5,000 years ago.”

    I would never try to debate with those people. Well I did once, big mistake, they’re even worse than fundamentalist materialists. Even though I agree with Christian fundamentalists on several things. But as usual, I can’t join any of the major tribes.

  23. realpc said,

    “First, no convincing (at least to us) evidence in favor. Plus, in some cases, some (admittedly limited) evidence to the contrary.”

    No one mentioned evidence one way or the other. They just said the whole idea is ridiculous. They laughed at the idea of a UFO commission without thinking twice. When I said maybe some extraterrestrial encounters are real, and that many people have claimed to experience them, the response was more ridicule and anger.

    There was no intelligent scientific debate on the subject. None. Even Amba thought the idea was ridiculous. Theo reminded her that she has expressed open-mindedness about UFO experiences. But she had a tribal moment. Well we all do.

  24. amba12 said,

    OH! — real, no, I posted the quote just because I went over to my brother’s blog for the first time in a while and was reminded how much I liked the quote! I had in fact missed your comment about UFOs and wasn’t aware of it.

    The main way in which the quote reminded me of this debate was the statement that to worship reason is arrogant and unintelligent, while to dismiss reason shows a lack of faith. The materialists certainly worship what they call reason, which is a narrow definition of it and wrongly identifies process with a particular premature conclusion — calling for the reminder “Science is a method, not a position.” In the second half of the quote I think he is talking about religious fundamentalists who don’t want to allow any investigation of the world using reason because ANY departure from the ONE TRUE account of things in their holy book could destroy their faith. Which would make it pretty shallow faith, or attached at the wrong level. You could also interpret the second half of the quote as implying that God, or however you conceive of the the intelligence in all things, also created the power of reason. Our brains have their tendency to blindly accept and cling (whether to traditional religion or to materialism), but they also have curiosity and the ability to investigate and discover.

  25. pathmv said,

    Real, considering an idea ridiculous and not worth taking time debating is not the same as saying that it is not actually possible. I do think it’s ridiculous to waste time debating a UFO commission by the city of Denver, Colorado, even while I acknowledge that it is possible that some UFO encounters are with actual aliens from outer space or higher dimensions.

    It is also possible that the sun will go supernova tomorrow, but if Denver contemplates spending funding to plan for that, I will ridicule that idea, too.

    As for the FACT that higher dimensions don’t conflict with (some) current theories of physics, so what? That leads us to conclude absolutely nothing about the actual existence of higher dimensions. Nor would the FACT that higher dimensions were incompatible with theories of physics 100 years ago have proved that higher dimensions do not exist. It’s a FACT with no significance whatsoever to the debate.

  26. amba12 said,

    I don’t think the idea of UFOs is ridiculous. I think the idea of a commission to welcome them is ridiculous because premature. Whatever those beings are, they have shown no inclination to reveal themselves openly, for whatever reason — they think we’re not ready, we’ll panic, or they have an agenda that requires secrecy. A little commission in one city in the US isn’t going to do squat about that. It’s a waste of time and money.

  27. realpc said,

    There is more to say. But no one here can hear what I’m saying without either getting angry or telling me they knew it all along (without actually understanding). But what I’m saying is too unthinkable. Could it be true that the intelligent educated tribe is not as superior as we assume it is? That maybe we can’t trust it? Could it be possible that the very smartest people who ever lived are just human beings like us, and are as likely to be wrong as we are? Is it possible that the ignorant superstitious masses of humanity knew or know things the smart educated elite deny and ignore?

    There are people who can accept parts of it — maybe God is real, maybe some parapsychology results are real. But they are a small minority of the educated elite. And maybe you reluctantly accept some of these things, as long as they seem pleasant and harmless. But you will cling violently to your faith in modern science when confronted with ideas that scare you, or undermine your world view, or threaten your sense of superiority.

  28. Theo Boehm said,

    Well, actually I was reminding everybody that amba had taken the UFO debate seriously. As I’ve said, I’m not one to dismiss it out of hand. Whatever the ontological status of aliens, I consider them to be a fascinating subject, and not at all a waste of time. But, of course, your mileage may vary, as with any topic.

    It’s easy to poke fun and ridicule the subject. I did a bit with my “cigar volante” story. But, as with any speculation, I think it’s a good idea to kick around all aspects of the subject, from flying cigars over Burgundy to questions of the relationship of consciousness to the apparent material world and the nature of higher dimensions, and whether we all might not benefit from a little trip through the Total Perspective Vortex.

  29. realpc said,

    ” I think the idea of a commission to welcome them is ridiculous because premature. ”

    Oh, I didn’t notice it was to welcome them! That would be ridiculous, since they could very well be trying to kill us.

  30. realpc said,

    “I think it’s a good idea to kick around all aspects of the subject, from flying cigars over Burgundy to questions of the relationship of consciousness to the apparent material world and the nature of higher dimensions, and whether we all might not benefit from a little trip through the Total Perspective Vortex.”

    Yeah.

  31. amba12 said,

    Is it possible that the ignorant superstitious masses of humanity knew or know things the smart educated elite deny and ignore?

    Yes, sure. Some of what they knew was wisdom, and some of it was crap. Like now.

    Science frankly hasn’t got a clue how to help an emotionally troubled young relative of mine (I went through something kind of similar in my 20s). But that doesn’t mean I wish she was being treated with red-hot irons.

  32. Theo Boehm said,

    I also happen to think that our modern reductionist, materialist science, and the technology it entails, will be the end or the near-end of us in perhaps a few hundred years. Plunging birthrates, aging populations in the developed world and soon everywhere else, disease science ultimately can’t manage, a looming digitized dark age in which much previous knowledge including large chunks of technology will be lost, a seriously messed-up planet—all the result of modern science, technology and the consciousness it has fostered.

    But these are very unpleasant, gloomy thoughts. It’s true, I much prefer pleasant and harmless ones. So, I suggest we should see if the aliens won’t give us a lift this evening to join Trillian at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. The food’s so-so, but the entertainment is top notch. And Trillian’s still pretty hot, even after all those billions of years.

  33. pathmv said,

    Real, I think you sometimes mistake disagreement with particular aspects of your own beliefs with disagreement with your overall philosophy. I’m no fan of materialism, and I think there are many things that the “elites” think are true but very well aren’t, and I’m a firm believer that the masses very often do know a few things that the highly educated don’t. So it seems to me I can easily agree with your general point that “Could it be true that the intelligent educated tribe is not as superior as we assume it is? That maybe we can’t trust it?”

    My considering UFOs a fairly ridiculous topic doesn’t change that.

    I am suddenly hungry for the Dish of the Day, however….

  34. Theo Boehm said,

    Speaking of cigars volantes, I’ve been thinking of how the French would remake the classic 1950’s Hollywood Technicolor version of “The War of the Worlds.”

    In a key scene, an officer stumbles into headquarters, his face smudged and his uniform torn. In the background, military men are gesturing, pointing to maps, frantically talking on telephones. The officer goes up to the commander, who’s just been conferring with scientists and other high military officials. He offers a smart, French-style salute, and says, “Good news, mon général! The aliens are occupying only vineyards of inferior quality!”

  35. realpc said,

    “Science frankly hasn’t got a clue how to help an emotionally troubled young relative of mine (I went through something kind of similar in my 20s). But that doesn’t mean I wish she was being treated with red-hot irons.”

    (Sorry for using caps, need to emphasize somehow and it’s a quick and easy way). If I say they might have known things we don’t, I am NOT saying everything they know is right and everything we know is wrong. I AM saying that whether THEY believed something or WE believe something is NOT relevant!! I am saying LOOK at the ideas, not just the source!

  36. realpc said,

    Share and Enjoy.

  37. amba12 said,

    Look at the ideas, not just the source!

    Good idea.

  38. amba12 said,

    Was there meant to be a link in your last comment, real?

  39. realpc920 said,

    “Was there meant to be a link in your last comment, real?”

    No, I was just trying to make a science fiction joke.

  40. realpc920 said,

    “My considering UFOs a fairly ridiculous topic doesn’t change that.”

    But you could at least consider WHY you think it’s ridiculous. Is it because you have looked at the stories of encounters and abductions and found them to be ridiculous? Or is it just because you have been TOLD by some respected authority figures that it’s ridiculous?

    We naturally believe authorities, especially when we have no other source of information on a subject. If all you ever heard about UFOs is that only nuts believe the stories, then you would just go along with that and not think about it.

    And this is what happens with all paranormal phenomena.

  41. realpc920 said,

    “The materialists certainly worship what they call reason, which is a narrow definition of it”

    That is where I disagree. There is nothing reasonable about materialism. I don’t think materialists worship reason, I think they merely want to be free of ancient and primitive “superstitions.” They want to feel modern and “enlightened” and sane. To set themselves apart from all the forces of darkness and fear and ignorance.

    It is a dark and scary world and everyone finds their own way of running away from that fact.

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