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The Folly of Scientism (I)
The New Atlantis ^ | Fall 2012 | Austin L Hughes

Posted on 02/09/2019 8:31:40 AM PST by aspasia

There are at least three areas of inquiry traditionally in the purview of philosophy that now are often claimed to be best — or only — studied scientifically: metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. Let us discuss each in turn.

Physicists Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow open their 2010 book The Grand Design by asking:

What is the nature of reality? Where did all this come from? Did the universe need a creator? ... Traditionally these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.
Though physicists might once have been dismissive of metaphysics as mere speculation, they would also have characterized such questions as inherently speculative and so beyond their own realm of expertise. The claims of Hawking and Mlodinow, and many other writers, thus represent a striking departure from the traditional view.

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TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: philosophy; reason; science; scientism; truth
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In contrast to these authors’ claims of philosophical obsolescence, there has arisen a curious consilience between the findings of modern cosmology and some traditional understandings of the creation of the universe. For example, theists have noted that the model known as the Big Bang has a certain consistency with the Judeo-Christian notion of creation ex nihilo, a consistency not seen in other cosmologies that postulated an eternally existent universe. (In fact, when the astronomer-priest Georges Lemaître first postulated the theory, he was met with such skepticism by proponents of an eternal universe that the name “Big Bang” was coined by his opponents — as a term of ridicule.) Likewise, many cosmologists have articulated various forms of what is known as the “anthropic principle” — that is, the observation that the basic laws of the universe seem to be “fine-tuned” in such a way as to be favorable to life, including human life.

It is perhaps in part as a response to this apparent consilience that we owe the rise of a large professional and popular literature in recent decades dedicated to theories about multiverses, “many worlds,” and “landscapes” of reality that would seem to restore the lack of any special favoring of humanity. Hawking and Mlodinow, for example, state that the fine-tunings in the laws of nature can be explained by the existence of multiple universes. Many people through the ages have attributed to God the beauty and complexity of nature that in their time seemed to have no scientific explanation. But just as Darwin and Wallace explained how the apparently miraculous design of living forms could appear without intervention by a supreme being, the multiverse concept can explain the fine-tuning of physical law without the need for a benevolent creator who made the universe for our benefit.

The multiverse theory holds that there are many different universes, of which ours is just one, and that each has its own system of physical laws. The argument Hawking and Mlodinow offer is essentially one from the laws of probability: If there are enough universes, one or more whose laws are suitable for the evolution of intelligent life is more or less bound to occur.

Physicist Lee Smolin, in his 1997 book The Life of the Cosmos, goes one step further by applying the principles of natural selection to a multiverse model. Smolin postulates that black holes give rise to new universes, and that the physical laws of a universe determine its propensity to give rise to black holes. A universe’s set of physical laws thus serves as its “genome,” and these “genomes” differ with respect to their propensity to allow a universe to “reproduce” by creating new universes. For example, it happens that a universe with a lot of carbon is very good at making black holes — and a universe with a lot of carbon is also one favorable to the evolution of life. In order for his evolutionary process to work, Smolin also assumes a kind of mutational mechanism whereby the physical laws of a universe may be slightly modified in progeny universes. For Smolin, then, not only is our universe bound to occur because there have been many rolls of the dice, but the dice are loaded in favor of a universe like ours because it happens to be a particularly “fit” universe.

Though these arguments may do some work in evading the conclusion that our universe is fine-tuned with us in mind, they cannot sidestep, or even address, the fundamental metaphysical questions raised by the fact that something — whether one or many universes — exists rather than nothing. The main fault of these arguments lies in their failure to distinguish between necessary and contingent being. A contingent being is one that might or might not exist, and thus might or might not have certain properties. In the context of modern quantum physics, or population genetics, one might even assign probability values to the existence or non-existence of some contingent being. But a necessary being is one that must exist, and whose properties could not be other than they are.

Multiverse theorists are simply saying that our universe and its laws have merely contingent being, and that other universes are conceivable and so also may exist, albeit contingently. The idea of the contingent nature of our universe may cut against the grain of modern materialism, and so seem novel to many physicists and philosophers, but it is not in fact new. Thomas Aquinas, for example, began the third of his famous five proofs of the existence of God (a being “necessary in itself”) with the observation of contingent being (“we find among things certain ones that might or might not be”). Whether or not one is convinced by Aquinas, it should be clear that the “discovery” that our universe is a contingent event among other contingent events is perfectly consistent with his argument.

Writers like Hawking, Mlodinow, and Smolin, however, use the contingent nature of our universe and its laws to argue for a very different conclusion from that of Aquinas — namely, that some contingent universe (whether or not it turned out to be our own) must have come into being, without the existence of any necessary being. Here again probability is essential to the argument: While any universe with a particular set of laws may be very improbable, with enough universes out there it becomes highly probable. This is the same principle behind the fact that, when I toss a coin, even though there is some probability that I will get heads and some probability that I will get tails, it is certain that I will get heads or tails. Similarly, modern theorists imply, the multiverse has necessary being even though any given universe does not.

The problem with this argument is that certainty in the sense of probability is not the same thing as necessary being: If I toss a coin, it is certain that I will get heads or tails, but that outcome depends on my tossing the coin, which I may not necessarily do. Likewise, any particular universe may follow from the existence of a multiverse, but the existence of the multiverse remains to be explained. In particular, the universe-generating process assumed by some multiverse theories is itself contingent because it depends on the action of laws assumed by the theory. The latter might be called meta-laws, since they form the basis for the origin of the individual universes, each with its own individual set of laws. So what determines the meta-laws? Either we must introduce meta-meta-laws, and so on in infinite regression, or we must hold that the meta-laws themselves are necessary — and so we have in effect just changed our understanding of what the fundamental universe is to one that contains many universes. In that case, we are still left without ultimate explanations as to why that universe exists or has the characteristics it does.

When it comes to such metaphysical questions, science and scientific speculation may offer much in fleshing out details, but they have so far failed to offer any explanations that are fundamentally novel to philosophy — much less have they supplanted it entirely.

1 posted on 02/09/2019 8:31:40 AM PST by aspasia
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To: aspasia

Science cannot replace philosophy because the scientific method is limited to what can be studied and repeated consistently in the laboratory. Those who try to make it universal are misusing it.

2 posted on 02/09/2019 8:34:36 AM PST by Telepathic Intruder
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To: aspasia

With regard to the multiple universe theory - one physicist whose name I cannot recall said something like “That is not a very efficient use of universes.”

There’s still a lot to learn. We have not yet quantized gravity so as to fit with quantum descriptions of the other three forces. We have no idea what “dark matter” is. And all quantum descriptions for “dark energy” produce numbers which are literally billions of times greater than the one we think we are measuring.

Methinks the ‘theory of everything” is still a bit far off.

Perhaps so far off that we’ll never get there.

3 posted on 02/09/2019 8:50:11 AM PST by Da Coyote
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To: Telepathic Intruder
I just finished reading two articles that complained about the politicization of science. Basically, a politicization of science is any view that is critiques the data (truth) of science. Here, for example, is such a view from Forbes magazine:

the idea that one can dispute a scientific conclusion because there are dissenting opinions out there is the most dangerous one to science in society. Science doesn't get politicized to manufacture consent or to obtain continued funding; the scientific process itself safeguards against that. When science gets politicized, it isn't about tipping the scales on a particular issue for those manufacturing doubt; it's about what comes next.

It's about selling "alternative" cures and supplements, with casting doubts on vaccines and modern medicine as the ruse.

It's about shaming and blaming the victims of a deadly disease to create a society with a specific morality, rather than treating patients afflicted with AIDS.

It's about promoting alternative medicines, health foods, bottled water and a few religious and political perspectives, rather than the public good of better dental health.

It's about deregulating corporate and industry emissions and removing environmental protections, rather than acting to keep the climate stable.

Science will not put up with living in a post-truth era; science is true whether you accept it or not. What we need to be vigilant about -- now more than ever -- is making sure that even as we disagree about policy, that the science isn't influenced by such pressures.

That science is a place that's welcoming and open to everyone who's capable and qualified, that the science that's done is open and scrutable, and that we remain vigilant against normalizing blatant falsehoods.

I guess bad priests don't tell their secrets.
4 posted on 02/09/2019 8:51:37 AM PST by aspasia
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To: Telepathic Intruder

Why Pantheism Stifles Science (and Christianity Does Not)
Stacy Trasancos
Central to the claim that science was born of Christianity is the flip side of the coin that modern science did not emerge in any other culture. Why? The short answer is that all the other cultures were influenced by pantheism. The explanation takes more ink though.

Definition first. The word “pantheism” is borrowed from Latin. “Pan” refers to the whole universe and mankind. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “pantheism” is a belief that God is immanent in (existing within) or identical with the universe. It is the doctrine that God is everything and everything is God. Pantheism is essentially nature worship.

5 posted on 02/09/2019 8:51:44 AM PST by CharlesOConnell (CharlesOConnell)
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To: aspasia


In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. (Gen 1:1-2)

2.1.1 How the Universe Started

If you speak English, you have heard the first two sentences in the Book of Genesis. You may or may not have wondered what they really mean, but you probably never thought that they were mathematical statements. There has been much commentary on exactly what “the earth was without form, and void” means, but it is our contention that, in and around 1968, George Spenser-Brown (GSB) when he wrote, “Call the space cloven by any distinction, together with the entire contents of the space, the form of the distinction.” So a space without a distinction is formless and void.

In Proverbs 8:22, Wisdom describes how the CotU did this, “When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth.” In this context, a compass is an instrument for drawing a circle. Some translations render this as “when he drew a circle on the deep.” The simplest distinction that can be drawn, in a two dimensional space, is a circle on a plane. In three dimensional space the simplest distinction is a sphere. From this first distinction, Forms leads directly to three kinds of numbers: Real Integers, Imaginary Integers, and Complementary Integers. This leads inexorably to all of mathematics, number theory, and computer science. It, however requires something on which to write or mark. Is there a theory that starts the same way a Forms, but results in the physical universe?

Burkhard Heim arrived at a description of “the beginning” from the currently observed universe using logic and mathematics. Heim defined the fundamental quantum of area which he called a “metron”. While he presented this quantization of area as a postulate, we now know, from Forms, that it is a consequence of the creation of the first distinction.

Heim derived an equation for the relationship of the size of the universe and the size of the metron over time. As time passed, the metron got smaller and the universe got bigger. It is important to note that this turned out to be an equation of the seventh degree. It had seven (7) roots at time zero, i.e., in the beginning. Three of these roots are positive, three are negative and one is complex. The three positive roots specify the creation event as producing three concentric spheres with diameters of 0.90992 m, 1.06426 m, 3.70121 m. that separate “the creation” from the nothingness.

The two dimensional cross section of a sphere is a circle. Since a compass draws a circle by fixing the center and drawing the radius, we can say that the CotU adjusted the size of His compass to half the diameter of each sphere, i.e. to 72.874 inches, 20.945 inches, and 19.646 inches. These surely are the “heavens and the earth” spoken of in Genesis 1:1. As we will see, Forms requires the creation of the first distinction, and then everything else is done within that form. So the CotU created the “highest” heaven, then drew the “lower” heaven, and finally drew the earth. These were all done at the same “time” since until they were finished being drawn, time had no meaning.

These measurements would also appear to be the first natural measurements of length the “cubit”. There are two kinds of cubits, a shorter secular cubit and a longer sacred cubit. Scholars give a range of values for the length of the cubits, but the remains of buildings in Babylonia and Assyria indicate a sacred cubit of about 20.6 inches. The historical record for the secular cubit put it between 16 and 18 inches. ( However, given the number of times in the Bible that the CotU complains about people using corrupted measurements, this is probably to be expected, while they would be more reluctant to adulterate the sacred measurement.

Another interesting part of the “cubit” story is that the name in English is pronounced exactly the same as the recently added word: “qubit” which labels the unit of quantum information. As we will see, Forms is a “quantum theory” in every sense of the words. The first distinction can be thought of as the first qubit. Having the English name for the first measurement and the English name for the qubit being pronounced the same is our first indication that the CotU loves puns and other word play.

How is this possible for these two “random” events to be related, you ask? Because: “ISA46:09 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, ISA46:10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:” is a scientific statement. The “random events” of translating אמה into “cubit” and calling a quantum bit a “qubit” were determined from the beginning and formed some of the “boundary conditions” for the “evolution” of the universe.

Before going on it is important to note that while Forms is a mathematical system and described in abstract symbols, it is always accompanied by words, phrases and sentences that describe the meaning of the symbols. One could put it as John did at the beginning of his Gospel: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

Putting it all together, we could say, as it does in the Sefer Yetzirah (ספר יצירה), “And He created His universe with three books (Sepharim ספרדים), with text (Sepher ספר) with number (Sephar ספר) and with communication (Sippur סיפור).

We now know four (4 ד) important numbers: one (1 א), two (2 ב), three (3 כ), and seven (7 ז): One CotU and complex solution to the creation equation; two dimensions of the simplest dividable finite space; three kinds of numbers, three dimensions for free motion, three spheres, three circles, three books; and seven as the order of the equation of the universe which led to the three spheres.

2.1.2 When the Universe Started

The calculations in Heim EQFT that produced the size of the initial universe also tell us how long ago this happened: 5.45 x 10107 years ago. During all but the past 15-40 x 109 years the metronic lattice did not contain light or matter. As the Torah says: “darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” This means that for about 1098 years the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters, i.e. all of creation, up until the point some 15-40 billion years ago when God said “let there be light.” What was the Spirit of God up to during all this time? He was setting things up or, if you will, writing the Book.

ISA46:09 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, ISA46:10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:

We are going to see that the universe is like a humongous computer operated using object-oriented programming (OOP). In OOP, there is a declaration phase of development where the characteristics and properties of types (or classes) of “objects” are defined. As we will see, the Bible calls these “kinds” as in “after its kind”.

After the declaration phase of OOP, comes the execution phase in which the object classes are instantiated into executing units within the program of the computer. This two phase process of creation process avoids the “which came first? The chicken or the egg?” problem inherent in the Theory of (accidental) Evolution.

This also explains why there are two creation stories in Genesis. The first describes the creation of the universe out of nothing from the beginning and the declaration of the objects. This is indicated by these verses between the two stories:

GEN2:04 These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, GEN2:05 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.

Now that we have discovered OOP, we know about the two phases of creation: declaration and execution, we can understand this passage as the demarcation between the two. It also states explicitly that the was all done in a single “day”, which gives us a big clue that “day” is not tied to the movements of the Earth around the Sun, but it is a cycle of time marked out as “an evening” and “a morning”.

The concept nested cycles of various lengths of days is supported by the writings of the Hebrew sages:

“According to the master Kabbalists, Rabbi Isaac of Acco, when counting the years of these [7000 year] cycles, one must not use an ordinary physical year, but rather, a divine year. The Midrash says that each divine day is a thousand years, basing this on the verse, “A thousand years in Your sight are as but yesterday” (Psalms 90: 4). Since each year contains 365 1/4 days, a divine year would be 365,250 years long. According to this, each cycle of seven thousand divine years would consist of 2,556,750,000 earthly years. This figure of two-and-a-half billion years is very close to the scientific estimate as to the length of time that life has existed on earth. If we assume that the seventh cycle began with the Biblical account of creation, then this would have occurred when the universe was 15,340,500,000 years old. This is very close to the scientific estimate that the expansion of the universe began some fifteen billion years ago.”

Kaplan, Aryeh (2004-03-15). Sefer Yetzirah: The Book of Creation in Theory and Practice (Kindle Locations 3552-3559). Red Wheel Weiser. Kindle Edition.

The concept of separating declaration and instantiation is supported by the writings of the Hebrew sages, without invoking OOP:

‘During the six days of creation described in the first chapter, G-d did not actually create the world, but rather, created the ingredients which would allow the world to develop. It thus refers to the creation of all matter, along with space and time. It was during these six days that G-d brought the universe into being from absolute nothingness. After these six days of creation, G-d allowed the universe to develop by itself, renewing His creation each seven thousand divine years or 2.5 billion earthly years. All the laws of nature and the properties of matter had been fixed for all time, as it is written, “He has established them forever; He has made a decree which shall not be transgressed” (Psalms 148: 6). It is similarly written, “Whatever G-d decrees shall be forever; nothing shall be added to it, and nothing shall be taken away” (Ecclesiastes 3: 14). ‘

Kaplan, Aryeh (2004-03-15). Sefer Yetzirah: The Book of Creation in Theory and Practice (Kindle Locations 3564-3572). Red Wheel Weiser. Kindle Edition.

6 posted on 02/09/2019 8:53:26 AM PST by SubMareener (Save us from Quarterly Freepathons! Become a MONTHLY DONOR)
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To: CharlesOConnell

Philosopher Gabriel Marcel addressed the limits of our knowledge. Mystery is problems whose data encroached upon themselves. Scientism could only be valid if reality came into existence when we know it. That’s what God alone does, create reality from nothing by thinking it. “Reality, what a concept.”

7 posted on 02/09/2019 8:56:49 AM PST by CharlesOConnell (CharlesOConnell)
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To: Da Coyote
I try to use extra caution whenever the word "universal" is used (e.g., universal health care, universalisability, universes, everything, all, etc.).

The most dangerous game is when such big ideas are used to limit the freedom of everyday people. A separation of science and state is as beneficial as a separation of church and state.

8 posted on 02/09/2019 8:59:18 AM PST by aspasia
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To: aspasia

I believe philosophy is dead, too. It’s a gaggle of culturally incestuous ruminators repicking over bones long stripped of mystery. It’s a useless rehashing that leads to nothing new.

9 posted on 02/09/2019 9:14:56 AM PST by sparklite2 (Don't mind me. I'm just a contrarian.)
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To: aspasia

Scientism refers to attempts to apply the scientific method to all categories of life, thereby overstepping science’s natural limits. Secular humanists and marxists are guilty of the error of scientism when they proclaim that their utopian economic and social programs and ethical codes are based on science.

10 posted on 02/09/2019 9:19:46 AM PST by mjp ((pro-{God, reality, reason, egoism, individualism, natural rights, limited government, capitalism}))
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To: CharlesOConnell

“Pantheism is essentially nature worship.”

As a Pantheist I disagree with this perception. This is what the hippy liberals who hijacked the term think it means and it is wrong. There is much more to it that goes well beyond just limiting it to nature. On the quantum level it is an awareness and enlightenment that is a combination of the whole including mind, body, and spirit. Everything is one, and everything affects everything else. And on the sub-atomic quantum particle level we now know this to be true.

The first religion of animism where everything is alive and has a spirit is reality on the quantum level. They knew this even though they didn’t understand it, the “great spirit” the “ether” per say. Everything even inanimate is actually alive on the sub-atomic level. The energy is alive and in everything throughout the cosmos and universe, or maybe even universes.

This same concept is directly tied to Christianity through Gnosticism.

11 posted on 02/09/2019 9:21:14 AM PST by Openurmind
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To: sparklite2
Hello, sparklite2. It may seem a bit off topic, but there is a similar problem with Maslow’s theory. It dictates which needs are the real needs. Other needs we have are “not what it's about.” It universalizes by making the circle smaller. It's also interesting that even though Maslow tried adding to his hierarchy transcendent values or something like that, this never gets taught in the textbooks. All we get is that same old triangle. BTW, why is it a triangle?
12 posted on 02/09/2019 9:22:24 AM PST by aspasia
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To: Telepathic Intruder
Telepathic Intruder: "Science cannot replace philosophy because the scientific method is limited to what can be studied and repeated consistently in the laboratory.
Those who try to make it universal are misusing it."

A truly important subject about which there was no confusion until recent times.
Our Founding Fathers understood the term "natural philosophy" or "natural science" to be just what the words implied: the study of nature, it's processes & mechanics.
There was nothing metaphysical, philosophical or theological about it, except in the sense that some scientists (i.e., Einstein) saw themselves as studying the "mind of God" in nature.

For centuries scientists understood science did not deny God's existence, it only drew a sharp line between the natural & supernatural realms and left the study of God to philosophy, theology or metaphysics, etc.
The technical term for classical science is "methodological naturalism".

By contrast, today's scientists, many if not most, claim there is, in fact, no supernatural realm, no metaphysics or theological reality worth studying.
Therefore they attempt to concoct fanciful explanations for creation and life which supposedly replace the need for a God of nature.

Technical terms for this include, "philosophical naturalism", "metaphysical naturalism" and "ontological naturalism".
All are simply fancy ways of saying "Atheism".
But the key point to grasp is that none of that, not single word of it, is actual natural science.
It's just philosophical atheistic speculations by scientists -- in other words, their opinions.

Finally, the clear distinction between natural science and not-science is not whether you can study it in the lab.
Consider: you'll never get a star into anybody's laboratory, but we can still study it scientifically.
Rather, the distinction comes from natural explanations for natural processes versus something different.

It also should matter whether we have any data to support the alleged theory, and in the cases of, for examples, "multi-verse" and "string theory" so far as I know, we don't.

13 posted on 02/09/2019 9:27:10 AM PST by BroJoeK ((a little historical perspective...))
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To: aspasia

Separation of business and state wold also be beneficial.

14 posted on 02/09/2019 9:30:49 AM PST by killermosquito (Buffalo, Detroit (and eventually France) is what you get when liberalism runs its course.)
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To: aspasia

Separation of business and state would also be beneficial.

15 posted on 02/09/2019 9:33:24 AM PST by killermosquito (Buffalo, Detroit (and eventually France) is what you get when liberalism runs its course.)
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To: killermosquito
So hard to do. The temptation is too great.

Take for example, universities that have access to funds for research, patent their results, and then actually conduct commercial business in their labs.

16 posted on 02/09/2019 9:39:15 AM PST by aspasia
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To: BroJoeK

The difference is between the physical and the spiritual. Can one truly affect the other? Absolutely.

17 posted on 02/09/2019 9:39:46 AM PST by Openurmind
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To: aspasia

The chief problem with Maslow’s theory is the assumption that it applies to all humans. Islam teaches that the freedom to ‘actualize’ ourselves removes the guard rails on the narrow, twisting road to heaven. The more freedom you have, the more likely you are to yield to temptation.

Thinking we can export democracy and our culture at the point of a gun was shown to be folly in the Middle East, and led to the downfall of neoconservatism.

It was also found that once a particular level of needs was attained, it ceased to be a motivator, so the structure is a little creaky.

Look at the chain of command in the military or the chain of authority in a business. It always starts out with mass at the bottom and terminates with the singular top posting. How else but a triangle would you picture it?

18 posted on 02/09/2019 9:40:20 AM PST by sparklite2 (Don't mind me. I'm just a contrarian.)
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To: BroJoeK

Science is in fact a very misused tool today. Galileo, the inventor of the scientific method, would be ashamed. He was a Christian along with most of the early founders of modern science. Including, yes, Charles Darwin. It doesn’t matter at all, however, if you believe in God or not. Science is a separate subject, never intended to prove or disprove HIS existence. It is a study of his creation only. Can you understand Picasso by studying his paintings? Very often the artist himself is very different than what his creations portray.

19 posted on 02/09/2019 9:41:24 AM PST by Telepathic Intruder
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To: Telepathic Intruder


20 posted on 02/09/2019 9:45:43 AM PST by Openurmind
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