How can life have meaning in a mechanical universe?

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Magical Realist, Mar 2, 2013.

  1. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

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    No.

    People who self-diagnose themselves with some mental illness (and then try to live accordingly) may be engaging in a kind of elaborate psychological defense mechanism of rationalization/intellectualization.


    The notion of hierarchy as such is problematic for someone who is confused or ignorant about values, who is not sure about what is right and what is wrong. The lack of moral compass and direction in life is what they try to cover up with relativism or chaotism.
     
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  3. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

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    I don't think it's just rhetoric. Rather, it's acknowleding how complex the situation is, and that it would be inadequate to simply take sides with one of the now existing mainstream options (such as scientism or Christianity). Because none of the now existing mainstream options adequately addresses one's (here: MR's) needs, interests and concerns.


    I often find myself in the same space inbetween now existing mainstream options, seeing the good points and bad points in each of them, and not siding with any of them.
     
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  5. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

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    Yes.


    No.


    The one that you already do, I suppose.
     
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  7. Jan Ardena OM!!! Valued Senior Member

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    wynn,

    I think maybe you prefer that position.
    Good = good, and bad = bad regardless of the side.

    jan.
     
  8. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

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    You seem to be assuming that the now existing mainstream options are all there is, the only legitimate options that could ever exist. And that one must side with one of them, or be judged severely as a fence-sitter.

    You're not allowing for the possibility that people like myself might actually be in the process of looking for or creating a new option.


    Good and bad are qualities that are meaningful to ascribe only in relation to a particular purpose.
    Something that is good for one purpose may be bad for another purpose.
     
  9. Grumpy Curmudgeon of Lucidity Valued Senior Member

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    There is a qualitative difference between beliefs and knowledge. Beliefs are supported by nothing, knowledge is supported by evidence. Thus there can be no scientism, as beliefs are not valid evidence in science, but beliefs is all religion has. This whole "Scientism" meme is created out of whole cloth by theists with a inferiority complex, prompted by the qualitative differences between the two world views. (IE the false taunt of "I know I am, but so are you"). Scientism only exists in the fevered minds of insecure theists(or those so affected by theistic thought). You will never succeed at tearing down science to bring it down to the level of inaccuracy and idiocy that religion resides in, and no tortured logic will justify the attempt.

    Grumpy

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  10. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

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    I disagree, even as someone who respects the scientific process immensely. Scientism is the view that science is the only method for finding things out, and I don't think that's true. It's the only way to find things out with relative certainty, supported by evidence and without personal bias, but many many things were discovered without it, like folk wisdom. We can intuit the nature of personal interactions and the subjective workings of the brain, just to name a few examples.
     
  11. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    So what are you saying: your moral "knowledge" and values were solely derived from the scientific method? That's ridicuous. All our moral assumptions are based on values we inherited from our culture and judgements we make based on our own experience. In fact wisdom itself constitutes a kind of knowing that doesn't in any sense rely on what is demonstrable in a lab. It is a kind of deep understanding and insight that comes from intuition and the experiences one has gone thru. I would forgo all the knowledge that science has to present for the wisdom of how to live my life. And while empiricle proof definitely works, it isn't the whole picture. Without logic and reason we'd have no ability to make sense of the empirically evident. You underestimate your reliance on pure logic as a means of deciding what is fact and what is fiction. And even you must have relied on the gift of intuition at some point in life. Here's what Einstein said about it: “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” ― Albert Einstein

    As far as scientism being made up by theists, no it is not. It's another name for "positivism" and has a real history dating back as a philosophical movement of the late 1800's. It is the elevation of science as the sole epistemic access to what is real and unreal. It bears a striking resemblance to revelatory theism in that is takes it's knowledge of reality as some sort of infallible worldview free of subjective interpretations. It is the use of science as a sort of dogmatic belief system that is emotionally bolstering to those who hold it. That's why typically whereever you find theistic apologists online you'll find scientistic apologists right beside them, exchanging their equal but inverted pov's with all the vigor and rigor of diehard fanatics. I think I'll be posting some info on scientism in some future posts. People need to distinguish REAL science, as a methodology for constructing working models of natural phenomena, from scientism, as an almost fundamentalist and overliteralized use of these models as justifications for materialism and physicalist reductionism.
     
  12. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    I don't think that we should conclude that belief and knowledge are disjoint sets. Rather, knowledge (at least knowledge of a propositional sort, as compared to knowing how to ride a bike) would generally seem to be a subset of belief.

    Belief can perhaps be defined as a representational mental state, with something propositional as its content, whose truth the believer upholds and affirms.

    Knowledge can perhaps be defined as justified, true belief.

    (These are my paraphrases of definitions that are traditional in philosophy.)

    In other words, belief suggests that somebody thinks that A is true. Knowledge goes beyond that to require both that A really be true, and that the believer have good reasons for believing that it is. (Obviously many philosophical questions have arisen about this stuff, you can probably think of some yourself.) My point is that belief doesn't stop being belief, just because it's true and justifiable.

    What about the belief that science is capable of providing human beings with everything that people need for understanding the world? (Never mind living happy, satisfied lives.) What about the belief that only scientific methodology is intellectually acceptable? What about the belief that all philosophical and religious problems are either scientific problems or else they are meaningless?

    Those kind of scientistic ideas look like beliefs to me. It's certainly possible to question whether any of them are really true and to inquire into what could possibly justify them.

    I'm not a theist. Nevertheless, I think that the questions that I just asked are valid questions. I'm not sure how anyone can answer them without stating their own beliefs.
     
  13. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    Positivism, AKA "scientism":

    "Positivism is a philosophy of science based on the view that information derived from sensory experience, logical and mathematical treatments is the exclusive source of all authoritative knowledge,[1] that there is valid knowledge (truth) only in scientific knowledge.[2] Verified data received from the senses is known as empirical evidence.[1] This view, when applied to the social as to the natural sciences, holds that society operates according to general laws like the physical world. Introspective and intuitive knowledge is rejected.

    Though the positivist approach has been a recurrent theme in the history of Western thought,[3] modern sense of the approach was developed by the philosopher and founding sociologist Auguste Comte in the early 19th century.[4] Comte argued that, much as the physical world operates according to gravity and other absolute laws, so also does society.[5]




    [edit] Etymology

    The English noun positivism was re-imported in the 19th century from the French word positivisme, derived from positif in its philosophical sense of 'imposed on the mind by experience'. The corresponding adjective (lat. positīvus 'arbitrarily imposed', from pono 'put in place') has been used in similar sense to discuss law (positive law compared to natural law) since the time of Chaucer.[6]

    [edit] Overview

    [edit] Antecedents

    Positivism is part of a more general ancient quarrel between philosophy and poetry, notably laid out by Plato and later reformulated as a quarrel between the humanities and the sciences,[7] Plato elaborates a critique of poetry from the point of view of philosophy in his dialogues Phaedrus 245a, Symposium 209a, Republic 398a, Laws 817 b-d and Ion.[8] the distinction, popularized by Wilhelm Dilthey, between Geisteswissenschaft (humanities) and Naturwissenschaften (natural science),[9]

    The consideration that laws in physics may not be absolute but relative or probabilistic instead and, if so, this might be more true social sciences[10] was stated, in different terms, by G. B. Vico in 1725.[11] Vico, in contrast to the positivist movement, asserted the superiority of the science of the human mind on the grounds that natural sciences tell us nothing about the inward aspects of things.[12]

    [edit] Auguste Comte

    Positivism states that the only authentic knowledge is that which allows positive verification and assumes that there is valid knowledge only in scientific knowledge.[2] Enlightenment thinkers such as Henri de Saint-Simon, Pierre-Simon Laplace and Auguste Comte believed the scientific method, the circular dependence of theory and observation, must replace metaphysics in the history of thought. Sociological positivism was reformulated by Émile Durkheim as a foundation to social research.[13]

    Wilhelm Dilthey, in contrast, fought strenuously against the assumption that only explanations derived from science are valid,[9] Dilthey was in part influenced by the historicism of Leopold von Ranke.[9] restating the argument, already found in Vico, that scientific explanations do not reach the inner nature of phenomena[9] and it is humanistic knowledge that gives us insight into thoughts, feelings and desires.[9]

    [edit] Antipositivism

    At the turn of the 20th century the first wave of German sociologists, including Max Weber and Georg Simmel, rejected the doctrine, thus founding the antipositivist tradition in sociology. Later antipositivists and critical theorists have associated positivism with "scientism"; science as ideology.[14] Later in his career (1969),[15] German theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg, Nobel laureate for the creation of quantum mechanics, distanced himself from positivism by saying:


    "The positivists have a simple solution: the world must be divided into that which we can say clearly and the rest, which we had better pass over in silence. But can any one conceive of a more pointless philosophy, seeing that what we can say clearly amounts to next to nothing? If we omitted all that is unclear we would probably be left with completely uninteresting and trivial tautologies."
    ---http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positivism
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2013
  14. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

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    Rationalization for what? My social ineptitude and panic attacks in social situations? My stereotypical and repetitive patterns of behavior? My obsessive interests? My sensory issues?




    Do you really think that people who lack a sense of morality care about the meaning of their life in relation to the universe? All I'm saying is that many of our so-called needs stem from fairly basic mammal psychology.
     
  15. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    It's a complicated position to be stuck in--between these two mainstream povs-primarily because it isa work in progress. Both sides claim to have the answers, the theist and the positivist. My position has hardly any answers. Which is why ittakes the form more of a critical skepticism--skepticism in regard to the answers that are so often just unthinkingly trotted out without much reflection on what they entail. IMO the true spirit of philosophy has alway been about the posing of key questions in order to arrive at a sense of what's true. Sort of in line with the Socratic method or even with Zen. Of late I have felt myself swinging away from science because of the suspicion, supported by responses in this thread, that science really DOES result in a nihilist pov on life. I'm adverse to that. I think the journey towards truth IS our meaning in the cosmos and that it is deeply entangled with this phenomenon we call mind or consciousness.


    NO! I'm tired of the oneupmanship and competition to look smarter. I'm still learning see, and even though I was sort of tongue-in-cheek suggesting my divine mission, it's really about getting a discourse going and gaining insights into the truth. One of my greatest pleasures here is when you and CC respond to my wacky threads.I learn so much from just YOUR posts alonethat it makes it totally worth it even after all the troll attacks.

    I'm not going to attack religion so much anymore. I WILL attack the homophobia and hatred that tends to come out of it. But at this point its just hypocritical for me to disparage others for seeking answers to the meaning of the universe when I'm doing the exact same thing.

    Ok..And Amen to that map/territory distinction. Being what I've concluded to be your basic dualist--what I might call a dialectical dualist--I jump back and forth from idealistic arguments to materialist arguments and that may be confusing for you. But I really do feel the schism between mind and matter has yet to be resolved. Both are fundamental irreducibles to me and I find that in fact that I can't live my life in other way but by assuming they are. Is this an appeal to common sense dualism? Perhaps. There IS afterall some wisdom in the pov that has evolved as the most practical one used by the majority of people.




    I can't see how science CAN'T but find itself wholly mistaken or inadequate as time goes by. Think of science 500 years from now, after we have computers that can solve problems we have yet to even dream of. I see that as an almost guarantee that whatever way we are modeling reality now on is bound to be full of flaws. Every scientific truth is relative to the historical era is emerges from. It is always going to express the cultural and philosophical values of the time it exists in.
    We need to remember this--the map is not only NOT the territory, but it a map that quickly becomes outdated as the very territory we are traveling in becomes larger and more complicated.


    I've been examining Taoism lately. It appears to offer some wisdom that I can apply to my life. Chiefly, this idea of "letting go." Of not HAVING to know everything. So many forms of human meaning rely on the idea of goals andambitions for something tangible and real. But it is the very teaching of Buddhism that this struggle is the CAUSE of suffering, not its resolution. In Taoism I'm seeing this same sense of resignation to whatever happens. Opening oneself to the flow of the Universe. Receiving like an empty vessel, and then letting go.
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2013
  16. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    A physicist's experience of cosmic meaning:

    "Five years ago, I had a beautiful experience which set me on a road that has led to the writing of this book. I was sitting by the ocean one late summer afternoon, watching the waves rolling in and feeling the rhythm of my breathing, when I suddenly became aware of my whole environment as being engaged in a gigantic cosmic dance. Being a physicist, I knew that the sand, rocks, water, and air around me were made of vibrating molecules and atoms, and that these consisted of particles which interacted with one another by creating and destroying other particles. I knew also that the earth's atmosphere was continually bombarded by showers of "cosmic rays," particles of high energy undergoing multiple collisions as they penetrated the air. All this was familiar to me from my research in high-energy physics, but until that moment I had only experienced it through graphs, diagrams, and mathematical theories. As I sat on that beach my former experiences came to life; I "saw" cascades of energy coming down from outer space, in which particles were created and destroyed in rhythmic pulses; I "saw" the atoms of the elements and those of my body participating in this cosmic dance of energy; I felt its rhythm and I "heard" its sound, and at that moment I knew that this was the Dance of Shiva, the Lord of Dancers worshiped by the Hindus."--Fritzjof Capra, Preface to "The Tao of Physics"..http://www.shotokai.com/ingles/filosofia/introtao.html
     
  17. Balerion Banned Banned

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    What is this supposed to prove?
     
  18. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    That science isn't incompatible with the idea of comic meaning..duh..
     
  19. Balerion Banned Banned

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    There was nothing scientific about what he said. He used scientific terms, but that's about it.
     
  20. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    June 1, 2011

    Can Atheists be Spiritual? Scientists Say ‘Yes’
    By Heather Wax — Special Contributor




    "Today in London, Cambridge University astrophysicist Martin J. Rees was awarded the 2011 Templeton Prize at a private Buckingham Palace ceremony. To some, Rees, who is Britain’s Astronomer Royal, remains a surprising choice for a prize that rewards positive contributions to spiritual progress. Not only is Lord Rees a scientist (like the three successive Templeton Prize winners before him), but he is also an atheist.

    While Rees says he has no religious beliefs, the John Templeton Foundation feels the “big questions” raised by his work on the emergence of the cosmos, the size of physical reality, and the idea of the multiverse are, according to a statement released by the Foundation, “reshaping the philosophical and theological considerations that strike at the core of life.” Yet many can’t help wondering: Can you be an atheist and still affirm life’s spiritual dimension?

    According to research by Rice University sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund, the answer is yes.

    A few years ago, under the Templeton-funded “Religion Among Academic Scientists” study, Ecklund began investigating how natural and social scientists at America’s top research universities think about spirituality. She surveyed nearly 1,700 of them, and interviewed 275 in depth. She published her initial findings in a 2010 book: Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think, which documented a surprising openness to religious faith and experience among an intellectual class wrongly thought to be implacably and uniformly hostile to religion.

    Now Ecklund returns with more analysis from her study—and this time, she finds that a significant number of scientists who don’t believe in God at all nevertheless affirm a personal spiritual sense. According to a new paper co-authored with fellow sociologist Elizabeth Long and published in the journal Sociology of Religion, of the 60 percent of scientists who describe themselves as either atheist or agnostic, a startling 22 percent of the atheist scientists say they have a spirituality. What’s more, these atheist scientists see their spirituality as more congruent with science than with religion.



    “Many of these scientists who are atheists are not hostile to big questions of the meaning of life,” says Ecklund. “I thought there would be scientists who were religious. I thought there would be probably a lot fewer scientists who were religious than people in the general public who are religious. None of those findings were surprising. But this spiritual atheist finding has really been surprising to me personally. And that’s a nice thing about research: It can kind of dispel some of our stereotypes.”

    But, as Ecklund makes clear in her full-length interview with Big Questions Online, the spirituality of atheist scientists differs in kind from the sort held by the general public, which tends to see spirituality “as being synonymous with a belief in God.” Rather than describing their spirituality using traditional religious terms, atheist scientists, she says, “would talk about how they found awe and beauty in nature, they found awe in the birth of their children, they found awe in the very work that they do as scientists,” with no reference to the supernatural. Their interpretation of spirituality, she explains, is that “there is potentially something outside of science, that there’s something out there that’s larger than themselves that has a hold on them. Now, that may be God and they just don’t realize it—that’s not really mine to judge as a researcher. But they don’t see it as God.”

    In their view, they have alternate sources of finding meaning, away from theism, but it is spiritual meaning nonetheless.

    As Ecklund further explains in her paper, “scientists who see spirituality as important often view spirituality as, at its core, about ‘meaning-making without faith,’ which nicely conforms to their perspective on science.” They frame both science and spirituality as an individual pursuit of truth, she says, and this congruency is highly important to them.



    “They didn’t want to be doing something that was inconsistent with their identity as a scientist,” Ecklund says. “So they didn’t want to be a scientist in one part of their life and then have this other kind of loosey-goosey spirituality over in this other side of their life.”

    The great lesson from her research, she says, is that spiritual atheist scientists see themselves as different not only from spiritual nonscientists, but also from atheist scientists who are not spiritual.

    “I thought there was kind of one way of being an atheist—you just don’t believe in God and that’s the end of the story—whereas I would have told you as a researcher in religion that there are lots of ways of being religious, that it can mean many different things,” says Ecklund. “Well, I’m finding that there are many different ways of being an atheist, too."
    ---http://www.templeton.org/templeton_report/20110601/index.html
     
  21. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    “Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light‐years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual. So are our emotions in the presence of great art or music or literature, or acts of exemplary selfless courage such as those of Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.”

    ― Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark





    "It's quite literally true that we are star dust, in the highest exalted way one can use that phrase. ...I bask in the majesty of the cosmos. I use words, compose sentences that sound like the sentences I hear out of people that had revelation of Jesus, who go on their pilgrimages to Mecca."--Neil Degrasse Tyson, Beyond Belief: Science, Reason, Religion and Survival.
    Salk Institute for Biological Studies, November 7, 2006


    "Not only are we in the universe, the universe is in us. I don't know of any deeper spiritual feeling than what that brings upon me."--Neil Degrasse Tyson, Beyond Belief: Science, Reason, Religion and Survival.
    Salk Institute for Biological Studies, November 7, 2006


    "So what is true for life itself is no less true for the universe: knowing where you came from is no less important than knowing where you are going."--NDT,


    “Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe -- a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble."---Albert Einstein


    “[T]here is a universal flux that cannot be defined explicitly but which can be known only implicitly, as indicated by the explicitly definable forms and shapes, some stable and some unstable, that can be abstracted from the universal flux. In this flow, mind and matter are not separate substances. Rather, they are different aspects of our whole and unbroken movement.”
    ― David Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order

    "If physics leads us today to a world view which is essentially mystical, it returns, in a way, to its beginning, 2,500 years ago. ... This time, however, it is not only based on intuition, but also on experiments of great precision and sophistication, and on a rigorous and consistent mathematical formalism."— Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics (1975), 19.

    "The primary challenge of this cosmological transformation of consciousness is the awareness that each being in the universe is an origin of the universe. "The center of the cosmos" refers to that place where the great birth of the universe happened at the beginning of time, but it also refers to the upwelling of the universe as river, as star, as raven, as you, the universe surging into existence anew. The consciousness that learns it is at the origin point of the universe is itself an origin of the universe. The awareness that bubbles up each moment that we identify as ourselves is rooted in the originating activity of the universe. We are all of us arising together at the center of the cosmos."--Brian Swimme, The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos (1996)
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2013
  22. Balerion Banned Banned

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    You're just spamming now.

    Enjoy your lifeless thread, spam-bot.
     
  23. Grumpy Curmudgeon of Lucidity Valued Senior Member

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    Magical Realist

    There once was a chemist named Moe
    Who we speak of, as if of lore
    because what he thought was H two O
    Turned out to be H two S O four

    Like that?

    The idea of cosmic meaning is certainly not supported by science, nor by anything else. It's metaphysical wishful thinking. Personal meaning exists, but the Universe didn't give you that, you did. And other than life's purpose to reproduce, no universal purpose is seen in this Universe.

    Rather, I would say that society's rules(morals, cultural traits and habits)were developed by crude scientific methodology. Much of the struggle of civilization has been between competing philosophies of the right way to live together, each a test of moral worldviews. So, yes, the morals and culture I grew up in was developed by the scientific method, in a rough, slipshod way with lots of death and destruction, just like Mother Nature has done for billions of years. Social evolution, if you will.

    If wisdom is not fact based, it isn't wisdom. One becomes wise by being able to separate what is true from what is believed to be true, often.

    You can't have one without the other, unless you seek the wisdom to perpetuate lies and ignorance.

    Empirical "proof"? No such thing exists. And Logic IS a science, especially pure logic, just like math is. It is a tool science uses in every facet of the scientific method. But, like math, it is a tool that can also be used to lead you astray. Logic applied to evidence is the definition of science, you know. And even logic won't save woo based on false premises. Reason is not something you can buy, it isn't something that exists in a vacuum, you can make reasonable arguments about pure dreck and one man's reason is another man's idiocy. Reason cuts both ways, it is what supports that reasoning that determines it's value(IE reason based on solid evidence(all of it)leads to accurate conclusions. Reason based on belief, opinion, myths, prejudice...not so much.

    Einstein was not a religious person, at best you could call him an agnostic. He thought the Universe was as close to a god as we will ever get. But he grew up in a Jewish faith and used those metaphors. By intuition you are really speaking of the ability of your mind to make good snap decisions, see patterns easily and to solve puzzles. Evolution gave us that. The rational mind is us taking those gifts of Nature and adding observation, precision, self-checking and logic to the evidence we see. Einstein used both very well, having great insight and understanding(intuition)and being able to show those insights to be true with rigorous mathematics and physics. His work has lasted over 100 years with not one falsification of any of the core precepts(the only one he got wrong was the Cosmological Constant which became useless/superfluous after it was found that the Universe was expanding).

    Then you and others should have called me a Positivist. That description fits. But you went straight to nihilism, a philosophy I do not hold(I prefer Humanism). The only AUTHORITATIVE knowledge man has is obtained by the scientific method. All other "knowledge" has shaky foundations, at best. We may not know everything, but we shouldn't just make stuff up just because that's what our ignorant(of science) forefather's did. EVERY religion was made up by a man or men, often based on religions that came before(which were themselves fiction), sometimes with elements of real events or men who actually existed, passed down around the campfire in a colossal game of Telephone for thousands of years until someone invented writing, when they congealed like Jello, changing little since then. Very shaky foundations, indeed.

    Grumpy

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