My posts generally revolve around my own arguments that I’ve developed for spiritually without belief in a spiritual realm; I’ve done little justice to the fact that this conversation is happening throughout many non-believing communities.
A nice example is this piece by Jennifer Kalmanson of the American Humanist Association on Congregational Humanism.
In my last post I discussed Edelman’s somewhat opaque theory of ‘second nature’, put forward in the book of the same title. This is a way of separating the generalities of human mental life that can be studied by science and the subjective experiences themselves, our internal intuitions, the flashes of artistic inspiration or the intentions of others we gossip and fret about. As these are the type of individual, passing instances that sciences cannot comment on, and researchers have no desire to, it is a way of emphasising those qualities (or qualia) of being human, those that feel dualistic, that avoids the complaints of scientism and reductionism without divorcing them from materialism. This aims to shed some light on the experience and provide us with a compromise between satisfying that nature of ours without denying the evidence that the mind is what the brain does, rather than arising from some non-material element. I also wondered whether it is in this personal, subjective history that science has some limits when exploring some aspects of human life. Continue reading
Reductionism and scientism are phrases thrown around, mostly by people with beliefs that conflict with science, those who’ve been taken in by pseudoscience or who have vested interest against some paradigm in science (such as the anti-vaccine crowd, the climate change denier lobby, certified MBTI® administrators or alternative medicine dispensers). In order to make their arguments unassailable they often use these terms loosely and obtusely; they avoid defining exactly what they are saying.
However, as I will discuss below I suspect by and large they are made by fear and misunderstanding, rather than due to ulterior motives. Furthermore, could some of the criticisms bundled up in these umbrella terms have some merit when used as warnings to avoid potential pitfalls when doing science, or discussing philosophy of science? Here I try to delineate what people mean when they make accusations of scientism and reductionism and I can then discuss to whether my philosophy of spiritual materialism falls afoul of them.
Both are used, then, in a variety of ways, but I think it is possible to cut through the
rhetoric to get at what fears cause people to brandish them so readily. Continue reading
It’s probably a lofty goal.
The always wonderful Jesus & Mo points out two of my tenets far better than I can, 1) that believers have faith because they’ve had emotions, and not the other way round, 2) atheists are accused of not being capable of these emotions.
Several people have questioned me on using the word ‘spiritual’. They remark it is nonsensical or confusing, that even if they understand my use of it in the term Spiritual Materialism, that it will cause confusion for others and I’m doing myself a disservice. This is something I worry about, that passers by on my blog will see ‘Spiritual’ and neglect ‘Materialism’, thinking it is yet another site promoting groundless woo or pseudoscientific babble. Also, it risks falling into the ‘spiritual but not religious’ category, which seems to be disliked by both the religious and non-believers, used mostly as an accusation or accompanied with a roll of the eyes.
I use the word ‘spiritual’ for two main reasons. Continue reading
I’ve recently discovered Dan Fincke’s Camels with Hammers blog, which is very much on the same page as me. Here’s a lovely exchange about how atheists can be religious without compromising their materialism and how different people react to this. As a response to a personal plea it covers things from a more personal angle than I often do, and even the things I do discuss are put in better words than I can manage.
– The Spiritual Materialist