MachineMachine /stream - tagged with belief en-us LifePress <![CDATA[Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds | The New Yorker]]>

In 1975, researchers at Stanford invited a group of undergraduates to take part in a study about suicide. They were presented with pairs of suicide notes. In each pair, one note had been composed by a random individual, the other by a person who had subsequently taken his own life.

Fri, 27 Oct 2017 16:50:31 -0700
<![CDATA[Why artificial intelligence is the future of religion -]]>

There are places you never expect to be in life.

Mon, 15 Sep 2014 15:04:19 -0700
<![CDATA[Humanism: not an ‘impossible dream’]]>

Andrew Brown, at The Guardian‘s ‘Comment is Free’ (CIF) wrote an article a couple of weeks ago now rubbishing humanism and the British Humanist Association. I’ve responded today on the Huffington Post. Why has it taken so long? Well, I originally asked CIF if I could do a response. I was told yes but when I sent it to them they changed their mind and said it was too positive about humanism. I went back to them and said that this wasn’t quite fair and so they said okay, I could do a piece but it would have to be more general and not a response as such. So, I worked on another version, but then was told that it didn’t make sense. (You can judge that for yourself – I’ve pasted it below the Huffington Post one below).

The Huffington Post one:

Andrew Brown, in his blog last week, criticised the British Humanist Association (BHA) for promoting humanism as an essentially negative approach to life defined by what it isn’t and for being on an incoherent and self-defeating mission to eliminate

Mon, 31 Dec 2012 06:57:00 -0800
<![CDATA[An extended breakdown of the Christian symbolism in Prometheus]]>

Prometheus contains such a huge amount of mythic resonance that it effectively obscures a more conventional plot. I'd like to draw your attention to the use of motifs and callbacks in the film that not only enrich it, but offer possible hints as to what was going on in otherwise confusing scenes.

Let's begin with the eponymous titan himself, Prometheus. He was a wise and benevolent entity who created mankind in the first place, forming the first humans from clay. The Gods were more or less okay with that, until Prometheus gave them fire. This was a big no-no, as fire was supposed to be the exclusive property of the Gods. As punishment, Prometheus was chained to a rock and condemned to have his liver ripped out and eaten every day by an eagle. (His liver magically grew back, in case you were wondering.)

Fix that image in your mind, please: the giver of life, with his abdomen torn open. We'll be co

Wed, 27 Jun 2012 15:31:00 -0700
<![CDATA[Philip K. Dick, Sci-Fi Philosopher, (Part 3) : Adventures in the Dream Factory]]>

Philip K. Dick’s admittedly peculiar but passionately held worldview and the gnosticism it embodies does more than explain what some call the dystopian turn in science fiction from the 1960s onward, it also gives us what has arguably become the dominant mode of understanding of fiction in our time, whether literary, artistic or cinematic. This is the idea that reality is a pernicious illusion, a repressive and authoritarian matrix generated in a dream factory we need to tear down in order to see things aright and have access to the truth. And let’s be honest: it is simply immensely pleasurable to give oneself over to the idea that one has torn aside the veil of illusion and seen the truth — “I am one of the elect, one of the few in the know, in the gnosis.”

Wed, 23 May 2012 10:00:42 -0700
<![CDATA[Philip K. Dick, Sci-Fi Philosopher (Part 2) : Future Gnostic]]>

In the very first lines of “Exegesis” Dick writes, “We see the Logos addressing the many living entities.” Logos is an important concept that litters the pages of “Exegesis.” It is a word with a wide variety of meaning in ancient Greek, one of which is indeed “word.” It can also mean speech, reason (in Latin, ratio) or giving an account of something. For Heraclitus, to whom Dick frequently refers, logos is the universal law that governs the cosmos of which most human beings are somnolently ignorant. Dick certainly has this latter meaning in mind, but — most important — logos refers to the opening of John’s Gospel, “In the beginning was the word” (logos), where the word becomes flesh in the person of Christ.

Tue, 22 May 2012 03:14:27 -0700
<![CDATA[Buying the Body of Christ]]>

“We’re proud to put our name on what will become the body of Jesus.”

The wafers I bought were manufactured by the Cavanagh Company of Greenville, Rhode Island, which now makes 80 percent of the “altar breads” consumed in the US. The automation in Cavanagh’s facility is on par with that of Pepperidge Farm or Frito-Lay: they use custom-converted versions of the wafer ovens that turn out cream-filled vanilla wafers, and bake according to a patent-protected process that gives their wafers a sealed edge—to avoid crumbs. Cavanagh’s engraving plates stamp crosses and Christian lambs in their dough, while other companies use the same equipment to emboss their wheaten products with trademarks and brand-unique tessellations. Their batter is tested with an electronic viscometer. Their flour blend is a trade secret.

Sun, 08 Apr 2012 01:06:18 -0700
<![CDATA[Does It Matter Whether God Exists?]]>

Discussions of religion are typically about God. Atheists reject religion because they don’t believe in God; Jews, Christians and Muslims take belief in God as fundamental to their religious commitment. The philosopher John Gray, however, has recently been arguing that belief in God should have little or nothing to do with religion. He points out that in many cases — for instance, “polytheism, Hinduism and Buddhism, Daoism and Shinto, many strands of Judaism and some Christian and Muslim traditions” — belief is of little or no importance. Rather, “practice — ritual, meditation, a way of life — is what counts.” He goes on to say that “it’s only religious fundamentalists and ignorant rationalists who think the myths we live by are literal truths” and that “what we believe doesn’t in the end matter very much. What matters is how we live.”

Fri, 23 Mar 2012 01:51:43 -0700
<![CDATA[The God wars]]>

Atheism is just one-third of this exotic ideological cocktail. Secularism, the political wing of the movement, is another third. Neo-atheists often assume that the two are the same thing; in fact, atheism is a metaphysical position and secularism is a view of how society should be organised. So a Christian can easily be a secularist - indeed, even Christ was being one when he said, "Render unto Caesar" - and an atheist can be anti-secularist if he happens to believe that religious views should be taken into account. But, in some muddled way, the two ideas have been combined by the cultists.

Wed, 07 Mar 2012 14:42:54 -0800
<![CDATA[The Exegete]]>

When Philip K. Dick died in 1982 of a series of strokes brought on by years of overwork and amphetamine abuse, he was seen within the science fiction genre as a cult author of idiosyncratic works treating themes of synthetic selfhood and near-future dystopia, an intriguing if essentially second-rank talent. At the time, he was more popular in France and Japan, which have always had a taste for America’s pop culture detritus, than he was in his native country. Thirty years later, Dick — known to his most avid fans simply by his initials “PKD” — has developed a reputation as, among other things: a baleful chronicler of Bay Area working-class angst, thanks to a series of previously unpublished realist works written during the 1950s and early 1960s, such as Humpty Dumpty in Oakland; a postmodernist avant la lettre, due to his delirious explorations of deliquescent mindscapes in novels like Eye in the Sky and Martian Time-Slip, which Vintage began reprinting in imposing trade paperback editions in 1991; a godfather of cyberpunk via Ridley Scott’s film Blade Runner, adapted from Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?; and a kind of Gnostic magus gifted with quasi-divine revelations that came to inform his final novels, beginning with VALIS in 1981. During the last decade of his life, Dick produced an 8,000-page opus of theological speculation known simply as the Exegesis, which struggled to come to grips with what seemed to be mystical experiences, and which editors Pamela Jackson and Jonathan Lethem have now culled into Houghton Mifflin’s massive doorstop of a book.

Sun, 04 Mar 2012 05:22:56 -0800
<![CDATA[Life after Papyrus: The Swerve]]>

Books. They have an almost alarming corporeality. Stephen Greenblatt, esteemed Harvard professor and founder of New Historicism, tells us that between the eras of papyrus and paper, books were often made of the pumice-smoothed skins of sheep, goats, deer, or, most luxuriously, of an aborted calf. The act of writing required rulers, awls, fine pens, and weights to keep the surfaces flat. Ink was a mix of soot, water, and tree gum; it was revised with knives, razors, brushes, rags, and page-restoring mixtures of milk, cheese, and lime. Squirming black creatures called bookworms liked to eat these pages, along with wool blankets and cream cheese. In the silence of monastery libraries, even the books’ contents were indicated by bodily gestures. Monks copying pagan books requested them by scratching their ears like dogs with fleas, or, if the book were particularly offensive, shoving two fingers in their mouths, as if gagging. In Greenblatt’s The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, these objects, offensive or sacred, are the primary players.

Fri, 17 Feb 2012 05:05:50 -0800
<![CDATA[No secularism please, we're British]]>

This is what always happens with religion: it is meant to make people behave better, but when they get too serious about it, it ends up making them behave much, much worse. Britain is in the thick of an acrimonious, debate about secularism and religion. Religious belief and church attendance have been shrinking for decades, yet religion continues to play an important part in our national life. Prayers before council meetings may have been banned last week by a judge, and an increasing number of our city churches are put to sound secular use as indoor ski slopes or apartments. But there are still bishops in the House of Lords, prayers are said at the Cenotaph, and the communal celebrations of Christmas and Easter have yet to become completely taboo.

Wed, 15 Feb 2012 03:20:20 -0800
<![CDATA[A Conversation with film-maker Adam Curtis]]>

Since the early 1990s Adam Curtis has made a number of serial documentaries and films for the BBC using a playful mix of journalistic reportage and a wide range of avant-garde filmmaking techniques. The films are linked through their interest in using and reassembling the fragments of the past—recorded on film and video―to try and make sense of the chaotic events of the present. I first met Adam Curtis at the Manchester International Festival thanks to Alex Poots, and while Curtis himself is not an artist, many artists over the last decade have become increasingly interested in how his films break down the divide between art and modern political reportage, opening up a dialogue between the two.

Sun, 12 Feb 2012 04:36:52 -0800
<![CDATA[Man as Machine]]>

A peculiar experiment inspired by the Enlightenment sheds light on the age-old question of what makes us human.

Thu, 09 Feb 2012 10:34:36 -0800
<![CDATA[The God gap]]>

Religion may have lost much of its power to explain our modern world but we still crave its emotional satisfactions

Sat, 28 Jan 2012 10:35:55 -0800
<![CDATA[It's time for science to move on from materialism]]>

Today we live in the 21st century, and it seems that we are still stuck with this narrow and rigid view of the things. As Rupert Sheldrake puts it in his new book, published this week, The Science Delusion: "The belief system that governs conventional scientific thinking is an act of faith, grounded in a 19th-century ideology."

That's provocative rhetoric. Science an act of faith? Science a belief system? But then how else to explain the grip of the mechanistic, physicalist, purposeless cosmology? As Heisenberg explained, physicists among themselves have long stopped thinking of atoms as things. They exist as potentialities or possibilities, not objects or facts. And yet, materialism persists.

Sat, 28 Jan 2012 10:35:54 -0800
<![CDATA[Nature, nurture and liberal values]]>

Biology determines our behaviour more than it suits many to acknowledge. But people—and politics and morality—cannot be described just by neural impulses

Wed, 25 Jan 2012 10:35:21 -0800
<![CDATA[Freud: The last great Enlightenment thinker]]>

Freud’s ideas are today not simply rejected as false. They are repudiated as being dangerous or immoral; the “gloomy mythology” of warring instincts is condemned as a kind of slander on the species, the fundamental nobility of which it is sacrilege to deny. To be sure, righteous indignation has informed the response to Freud’s thought from the beginning. But its new strength helps explain one of the more remarkable features of intellectual life at the start of the 21st century, a time that in its own eyes is more enlightened than any other: the intense unpopularity of Freud, the last great Enlightenment thinker.

Sun, 22 Jan 2012 11:07:00 -0800
<![CDATA[Kopimism: the world's newest religion explained]]>

Isak Gerson is spiritual leader of the world's newest religion, Kopimism, devoted to file-sharing. On 5 January the Church of Kopimism was formally recognised as a religion by the Swedish government.

Tell me about this new file-sharing religion, Kopimism. We were founded about 15 months ago and we believe that information is holy and that the act of copying is holy.

Why make a religion out of file-sharing? Why not just be an ordinary club without defining yourselves as being a religious community? Because we see ourselves as a religious group, a church seems like a good way of organising ourselves.

Sun, 15 Jan 2012 13:32:57 -0800
<![CDATA[The Mystery of the Five Wounds]]>

Why, though, to begin with, did stigmata materialize in 13th-century Italy? Part of the answer seems to lie in the theological trends of the time. The Catholic Church of St. Francis’s day had begun to place much greater stress on the humanity of Christ, and would soon introduce a new feast day, Corpus Christi, into the calendar to encourage contemplation of his physical sufferings. Religious painters responded by depicting the crucifixion explicitly for the first time, portraying a Jesus who was plainly in agony from wounds that dripped blood. Indeed, the contemporary obsession with the marks of crucifixion may best be demonstrated by an incident that occurred in Oxford, England, two years before St. Francis’s vision: a young man was brought before the Archbishop of Canterbury and charged with the heresy of declaring he was the son of God. In court it was discovered that his body bore the five wounds

Mon, 21 Nov 2011 12:07:55 -0800