Wednesday, January 25, 2006


An apology in advance: My informal writing isn't very clear and my points sort of wander around in the shadows sometimes, so if you read this and are disappointed by the disorganization, I'm sincerely sorry.

So Boyer. That article seemed to make a lot of people mad (haha see "Why Boyer is Full of Shit", Tommy's objections are pretty similar to my own.). While I didn't react to it as strongly as a few others seemed to, I had my own reservations with how Boyer made his points. Basically, I felt like he used a lot of words, but didn't back up what he said very well. When I was reading his piece, I felt like I was reading a scientific paper with all of the scientific evidence missing. It seems that he is making a philosophical argument about the cognitive roots of religious belief, which presumably has scientific basis. It drove me up the wall reading his article and seldom seeing any sort of fact to back up some of the claims that he makes. It's not like he's making minor claims either. He's attributing the urge to believe in religion to natural selection and saying that it's a byproduct of day to day mental activity, which some people might find a little suspect and maybe want some supporting evidence. Maybe it wasn't addressed because this article was only a small part of the book that he wrote. Hopefully it addresses these issues a little bit further and with a little more research thrown in for those of us who get hung up on that sort of thing. I would have been much more satisfied with an article that says, "When Test Subject A prays, this part of his brain lights up on this little screen here, the same part that lights up when he reads books and stands on his head."
Ok I think I sorta made my point. So Zac, what did you like about Boyer? I'm glad you asked.
I think that Boyer's claim that a person does not believe what he or she believes that he or she believes has some validity to it. Three believes and two instances of gender inclusive use of pronouns in that last sentence, I'm on a very confusing roll. I think that it will be tempting for the people that we interview when we visit the different places of worship, to fall back on the doctrines of whatever religion we happen to be studying. I can see how it could happen. An interesting example that just crossed my mind is my aunt. If you were to sit down with her and talk to her about her religion, she would tell you all about her beliefs in Zen Buddhism, and how it gives her peace, etc. My aunt gives her cats Christmas presents, compulsively cleans, rearranges the furniture in her house once every two weeks, and last Thanksgiving made a spreadsheet of the cooking times for the various foods so they would all come out at the same time. Color coded. Needless to say, she's wound a little tight, which would seem to contradict her assertion that she is at peace at all times. When we talk to the different people as the course progresses, we may find that it's not enough to listen to what people say about what they believe, but how it actually plays out in the day to day. I think that's why repeated visits to the same place are important, so that we can get a clear idea what people really seem like, rather than what they say they are. If that's not what Boyer intended when he wrote about believing what they believe they believe or whatever it is, I don't care, I'm too sick of him to continue.
Time to talk some Proudfoot. I liked him a lot, his distinctions between reductionism in description and explanation will be a really good tool when we (presumably) closely analyze the people in these different religions. He'll prove to be useful. I'm still having a hard time figuring out what "explanation" of a religious experience consists of (as some of you might have picked up on with my deer in the headlights look when Professor Rein asked me what I thought). I feel like his (Professor Rein's) example of the relief of Luther's constipation being the reason for his divine inspiration didn't really paint the whole picture for me, so I'll have to think about this some more.
Last paragraph, I swear. I've also been thinking a lot about the spiritual regret thing that Yearly talks about. I've been really trying to solidify my own beliefs on life as of late, both religious and otherwise (not fix in stone, just figure some stuff out). I know it sounds somewhat shallow, the idea of shopping around for a philosophy for living, especially when I tie up religion in it but I'm just trying not to float around as an agnostic my whole life and become someone that Nietzsche's ghost would bicycle kick through a wall. The thing is, it's hard to believe in one thing with the awareness that there are so many different ideas of good and bad around. There are also so many different aspects of the different religions that appeal to me, so I'm basically the classic example of someone ailing from spiritual regret all the time. Enough of this intensely personal stuff. Those are my thoughts, I'm better at this "reflecting on course material" thing than I thought. If you thought this was a waste of time, sorry. Here's a picture for your trouble.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Ok, time to think of stuff to write

Some of us just don't keep serious online journals and up until now, I had proudly counted myself amongst them. I do have a xanga that I occasionally write in for my own amusement but I never post anything particularly serious or relevant to my life, so actually sitting down and writing (and being graded on, oh God oh God) about my impressions/feelings/experiences etc. should be interesting to say the least. My discomfort aside, I do think that the whole online aspect to this class will be a good way to share the experiences of others, debate and discuss, and generally become closer as a group. It'll be interesting to see how this shapes up and how I'll do in relation to everyone else. I fully expect my journal to be a mixture of serious reflection and unapologetic weirdness, so you probably should as well. I'm done now. Have a picture of a sparkly unicorn.