Saturday, October 30, 2010

Appendix B: The Four Horsemen and the Hunger

Appendix B: The Four Horsemen and the Hunger

The self-titled Four Horsemen are atheists Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens. They have some relevant things to say on ‘the hunger’ (57).

Sam Harris, “The End of Faith” (2004)—

“…there is little doubt that a certain range of human experience can be appropriately described as ‘spiritual’ or ‘mystical’—experiences of meaningfulness, selflessness, and heightened emotion that
 surpass our narrow identities as ‘selves’ and escape our current understanding of the mind and brain,” (p. 40). “…there is an intimate connection between spirituality, ethics, and positive emotions,” (p. 42). “To say that something is ‘natural,’ or that it has conferred an adaptive advantage upon our species, is not to say that it is ‘good’ in the required sense of contributing to human happiness in the present. Admittedly, the problem of adjudicating what counts as happiness, and which forms of happiness should supersede others, is difficult,” (p. 185). “…we each want to be happy; the social feeling of love is one of our greatest sources of happiness; and love entails that we be concerned for the happiness of others. We discover that we can be selfish together. … The fact that we want the people we love to be happy, and are made happy by love in turn, is an empirical observation,” (p. 187).

Daniel Dennett, “Breaking the Spell” (2006)—

“In any case, if the need, or at least the taste, for this still-unidentified treasure has become a genetically transmitted part of human nature, we tamper with it at our peril,” (p. 83). “…genetic evolution doesn’t foster happiness or well-being directly; it cares only about the number of our offspring that survive to make grand-offspring and so on,” (p. 157). “Might there be either ‘spiritual-experience intolerance’ or ‘spiritual-experience distaste’? There might be. There might be psychological features with genetic bases that are made manifest in different reactions by people to religious stimuli (however we find it useful to classify these). … A ‘spiritual sense’ (whatever that is) might prove to be a genetic adaptation in the simplest sense, but more specific hypotheses about patterns in human tendencies to respond to religion are apt to be more plausible, more readily tested, and more likely to prove useful in disentangling some of the vexing policy questions that we have to face. For instance, it would be particularly useful to know more about how secular beliefs differ from religious beliefs,” (p. 318).

Richard Dawkins, “The God Delusion” (2006)—

“If neuroscientists find a ‘god centre’ in the brain, Darwinian scientists like me will still want to understand the natural selection pressure that favoured it. … why people are vulnerable to the charms of religion and therefore open to exploitation by priests, politicians and kings,” (197). “Moral principles that are based only upon religion (as opposed to, say, the ‘golden rule’, which is often associated with religions but can be derived from elsewhere) may be called absolutist,” (p. 265). “Absolutists believe there are absolutes of right and wrong, … Not all absolutism is derived from religion. Nevertheless, it is pretty hard to defend absolutist morals on grounds other than religious ones,” (p. 266).

Christopher Hitchens, “god is not Great” (2007)—

“So why should I…believe that the firmament is in some mysterious way ordered for my benefit? Or, coming down by a few orders of magnitude, that fluctuations in my personal fortunes are of absorbing interest to a supreme being? One of the many faults in my design is my propensity to believe or to wish this, and though like many people I have enough education to see through the fallacy, I have to admit that it is innate,” (p. 75.) “The study of literature and poetry, both for its own sake and for the eternal ethical questions with which it deals…” (p. 283).

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