An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
If you want an excellent 11 minute synopsis which hits all the big points, this gentleman does a great job (and he admits he used to believe that metabolism is simply math - who of us were not taught that?)
I think Dr. Lustig is right, however he drives me nuts with his government regulatory solutions. It is absurd and his own lecture demonstrates why this is so. He well notes that over the last few decades without ANY significant government regulation, Americans have by and large reduced our fat intake as we were told to do. In other words, education was enough to do the job and as people sought out low fat foods, the industry responded. Sadly, our listening to the government led to increased heart disease, increased high blood pressure, increased rates of diabetes, and of course increased rates of obesity. But by golly we certainly didn't need government to regulate us into the ailments...we simply do what they tell us.
The other issue that bothered me is how he somewhat glosses over the issue of government's role in his "fructose perfect storm." There is only ONE reason why HFCS is cheaper than sugar and that's because of government regulation. If I may quote from "Wikinvest": "The primary driver of sugar prices is government regulation. Many governments heavily subsidize their sugar manufacturers, to "dump" cheaply-priced sugar in the market, while the United States government has tried to elevate prices within its borders by imposing import restrictions." And voila, HFCS is cheap in comparison.
Now, Dr. Lustig doesn't seem to think there is anything particularly MORE wrong with HFCS than sugar and I'm in no position to argue with him - though others likely are so.
I am NOT a philosopher and I realize this can lead to pretty heady stuff. But as someone whose atheism was shattered by his inability to reconcile his inexplicable moral values with his secular worldview, I think I might have a little something to offer this conversation.
While I appreciate his effort to suggest that there ARE absolute moral values (albeit often flexible)...I don't think he makes the case here. His vision of a scientific morality is based on "facts about the well being of conscious creatures" and he suggests that there is "no notion, no version of human morality and human values that I have ever come across that is not at some point reducible to a concern about conscious experience and its possible changes." He claims this is also true of religious foundations in which we concern ourselves with conscious experience in an "after-life." Is this true? I rather think not. Of course, I cannot speak for all people or belief systems, but I do think the Orthodox perspective of morality is NOT simply about escaping suffering in hell. On the contrary, morality is founded on our perception of personhood and the notion of humanity being created in the image of a perfect and loving God. We look to morality not as a legal issue, as much as a relationship issue.
Harris seems to suggest that "THE" moral absolute is founded upon our ideas of human suffering and that this is something with which we almost always agree. Well, not so fast, we Christians often DO see some value in suffering. Increasing levels of comfort is not a sign of ascending moral behavior, not by a long shot. Nor is descending levels of discomfort necessarily signs of something immoral. This is of course largely true because our perceptions of what is good or bad are likely skewed. Harris seems to believe that "normal" can only be defined by what most people apparently believe or behave at a given point and time.
By the way, the absurd exaggeration about Spanking and the derogatory remark about the south and Midwest? It betrays much and I am unimpressed.
Now, the video title suggests that science can answer moral questions, and yet, honestly I do not see much appeal to science and the scientific method in this lecture. It seems more often than not he is appealing to our shared values. But he offers no evidence from science, no data, to suggest our shared values are true. Of course, I do not believe that that could possibly be accomplished. It seems to me that moral values cannot be, in any way, shape, or form tested in the context of the scientific method. How does one determine the value of life...what hypothesis could you test that would suggest certain moral obligations? He suggests "conscious experience or changes to it" as the ground for moral values, but on what basis does he come to that conclusion except by means of a majority opinion? And speaking of which, I am a little apprehensive of the term "conscious"...how are defining that? And once defined can we therefore abuse unconscious people or experiment upon people whose consciousness is deemed "gone."
Mr. Harris' example of the Dalai Lama and Ted Bundy sealed the deal for me. He claims that Bundy's moral opinions need to be excluded as surely as his own opinions on Physics would need to be excluded in the face of people who actually KNOW something about physics. But what he fails to note is that his erroneous opinions on physics are not erroneous because they are in the extreme minority, but rather they are erroneous because we can DEMONSTRATE via the scientific method that they are erroneous. With that in mind, WHAT experiment can we run, what data can we display to prove that the Dalai Lama is right about morality and Ted Bundy is wrong. Plus...oddly enough...the Dalai Lama is a demagogue just like the other religious leaders he clearly does not like, and the Dalai Lama's morality comes from the teachings of the Buddha...not science.
In the end, he says that we have to admit that moral questions have answers, but he offers NO means by which we can find them...least of all via the scientific method.
Jesus said that "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." But I cannot see any way (from a purely scientific point of view) in which one life given for another, makes any logical sense at all. Unless you begin valuing lives based on arbitrary calculations. I would argue that the ONLY personal morality one can truly gleam from science is often found touted by evolutionary biologists, wherein "survival of the fittest" rules the day. No, not anarchy, because often times cooperation and giving can be mutually beneficial. I call it intelligent hedonism. Evolutionary Biologists love to offer complex explanations as to how "love" and our sense of "beauty" might have evolved, but I don't sense much beauty or love in them, not at least as I understand the terms.
"The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it."
I don't know that I understand it either, but I'm sure trying. I use the scientific method everyday, but not in trying to seek the Light...nor in how I love (or fail to love) my family and friends.
Science has limits...and I do worry as it seems more and more people fail to discern this fact. I ardently disagree with Harris: Science has a great deal to say about what is, but precious little to say about what OUGHT to be. And in my mind he gave me no scientific reasoning to believe otherwise.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:46 PM [+] +++
Monday, May 03, 2010
Cutting Back and Turning Off
I realize I'm probably the only person in the world to have this issue, but I have to admit that I have self-control problems. Pretty much in every area of my life and I count it a pretty fair indicator of my spiritual progress. In some areas the issue may be trivial, but in others this is not the case at all.
Money is one of the more important areas. I have a tendency to spend money without thinking...often on frivolous and unnecessary things - it leads to my inability to stick to a budget. It's not like I run out and buy big screen TV's, but it's numerous little and daily things that pile up over time. What should have been $25 spent at the grocery store ends up being $75...this is quite a common occurrence for me.
I should add that we are also staring down the barrel of a VERY serious budget shortfall come July when the UW forcefully withholds 7.5% of my income to put into a retirement account. Great for me if I ever make it to retirement age - my guess is that will be about 115 at the rate things are going - but NOT so great for us now...downright BAD actually! Retirement is important, but so is eating right now.)
Another area is regarding my time spent online. Susan and I have both come to the conclusion that something needed to be done about the time we were both wasting. We have a million things that need to be done around the farm and far too often we find ourselves wasting tons of time on Facebook or whatever. And so we began to consider what we ought to do about what we both perceived to be a problem.
As a partial solution to both of the aforementioned "issues" (wasting time online and the coming budget shortfall) we decided to turn off our internet at home. This now leaves us without any TV or Internet (except for our phone plan which allows us to clumsily check our emails, but its so burdensome we know we won't spend too much time with it.) Who knows, after July we may have to dump the phones too!
And so we spent this last weekend without Internet. We survived. And I think we got a lot done...on Saturday I hauled in 2 yards of Emu poo (when you don't get enough from chickens, go with bigger birds), made a massive foraging run to Silverdale, while Susan got busy in the garden getting the poo unloaded and things planted. That afternoon I cooked dinner, then we went to Vespers and afterwards while I was brewing my beer I also got my Church school lesson done (this normally takes a LONG time because I get so distracted by...well...by Facebook). Sunday afternoon I fixed the lawnmower, cleaned up the brewery, grilled up a real nice dinner and Susan continued her work in the garden. Then we made our own homemade laundry detergent - Susan really did that, I just offered encouragement. Hopefully it works well...it is certainly a money saver. In all honesty, I hardly missed the internet.
In our lives, time is the only commodity of which we really have plenty. And we know that there is MUCH we can do to not only live more simply, but to provide for ourselves - thus helping us to save money. And the wonderful thing about this is that I FEEL better after having such a productive weekend. Far better than when I waste my time in leisure. Yeah, my body might hurt, but it's a good hurt.
As you can clearly see I am still maintaining the blog and I will still be on Facebook, I just won't be there as often. (Actually blogging may increase since that can easily be done during my commute and then just posting quickly at work). Now, I know, how these sorts of things can come across: as a blanket condemnation of Facebook or the Internet or whatever and it will make those who are actually able to discipline themselves think we may be judging their online activities. That is certainly NOT the case.
Cutting back and turning off is our decision because for US (and I mean us alone) it had become a problem - an impediment to our plans and goals and needs. Like alcohol, for many people the Internet and Facebook is NO problem at all, but for us...well we simply don't trust our ability to discipline ourselves. That's OUR issue. Wish we didn't have it...but there it is for all the world to see...well 50 or so of you anyway.
I am hoping that a request to my higher-ups for a salary increase will help to buffer the coming fiscal storm in July. But being an employee of the state makes such requests a bureaucratic nightmare. If only I could be like the state itself, which when it has a budget shortfall they just do away with laws standing in their way and vote themselves a raise (more taxes). We shall see what happens.
I have more thoughts on this matter and how it all connects with something I've been reading about the disconnect between the mind and the heart (heart being defined NOT as the seat of emotions.) This, I think, is the core problem with self-control. But I'm FAR more a patient rather than a doctor.