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22 March 2013


Ben Emery

ID has just as much validity as Abrahamic religions creation stories, just not as a science.

I think you might this interesting

The Power Of Myth

Paul Emery

Religion is all based on spiritual inspiration which I believe is one of the unique capabilities of human beings. I have never had one of those moments so I subscribe to the view of the songwriter Iris Dement who writes:

Everybody's wonderin' what and where they all came from.
Everybody's worryin' 'bout where they're gonna go when the whole thing's done.
But no one knows for certain and so it's all the same to me.
I think I'll just let the mystery be.


Ben got it right this time; well, even a broken analog clock is correct twice a day.

Private to Paul, it seemed as though your wait was rewarded....

Michael Anderson

George, great stuff. These kinds of posts are mostly the reason why I keep coming back to read your blog.

I'm not familiar with Schmidhuber's work, so I'll view the video and do some other poking around, and then comment again.

Thanks much.

Michael A.

Bill Tozer

Dr. Rebane nails it again with the statement "So the secular humanists’ answer is to simply lump ID as another sneaky way to impose fundamentalist creationism on society, and then dismiss the whole thing out of hand." Watch out everybody, ID is just a guise for them Bible Thumpers to sneak their agenda into our schools and public squares. Its a slippery slope I tell ya, a slippery slope!! Damn them gawd awful evangelicals and Southern inbreeds.

Einstein is hailed as a genius, or at least a man with a great mind. Yet it was he who expounded on the laws of thermodymanics that everything goes from a highly organized state to disorder. From energy to less energy. Microbiology proves that a DNA molecule cannot be formed in a closed system such as Darwin believed it could, not to mention the second strand that it needs to bond with. Mathematicians give the chance of order coming out of total randomness at the lowest percentage they can, 1 to the 26th, or in other words, never can happen. Not even with super computers. Infinite number of zeros.

Perhaps you can name a species that has evolved to an entirely different species, save for a plum mixed with a peach. Still a fruit.

Must be 20 years now since the Harvard Dean of Mathematics said something like "All mathematical discoveries point to ID, but to teach so would be unpalatable."

Wayne Hullett

I'll see your Stephen Meyer's "Signature in the Cell" and raise you Stuart Kauffman's "At Home in the Universe". Who ya gonna believe: The Discovery Institute or The Santa Fe Institute?

Are we straying from the flock?

Wayne Hullett

Oops. I think my 0311 would be more properly posted as a comment to http://rebaneruminations.typepad.com/rebanes_ruminations/2010/10/whos-afraid-of-id.html

Bill Tozer

My ooopps. Meant to say the probabilities given are 1/100th to the 26th power. That is all they have room for. Super computers can add more zeros.

George Rebane

WayneH 311am - Am a fan of the Santa Fe Institute, ans wasn't aware that the Discovery Institute was promoting the 'great cosmic computer' version of ID. Would you view a code based cosmos more favorably if/when we could create a 'universe' with sentient and sapient critters inhabiting it?

As mentioned in my previous posts on ID, I just have a hard time accepting the indeterminate and ever more complex version that requires turtles all the way down. My simple mind seeks simpler explanations.

(BTW, what in hell are you doing up at 0311?)


"[D]enying ID - as a distinct third alternative to explain what is - the forum of reasonable debate co-locates the secularists with primitives who also deny science in its core principles – Occam and falsifiability".

What a bizzare assertion, especially since Occam favors the lack of an invisible man in the sky to make it all work. George, this new version of ID remains as unfalsifiable as the old version of ID, but I await your experimental designs to test this new theory.

There is no limit to the number of plausible explanations to the great question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, but it's likely that only one of them is true. The creation of a plausible myth is easy, figuring out what is true is difficult and may be beyond our ability to dream.

George, having an Invisible Programmer in the sky isn't a simpler explanation; it just hides the additional complexity in a cloak of magic.

Ben Emery

Those who believe in a "God", I am one of them, all are correct in there creation myths. Those metaphorical parables of the old and new testaments along with Qur'an are all ways to sooth the individuals curiosity of the big picture and the sense of belonging. The same is true for all creation stories and the stories of social mores of the day to live by. The idea one belongs to something bigger than themselves is huge defense mechanism of feeling like a single grain of sand on the biggest beach in the universe. Or In other words giving meaning to life instead of not having any real purpose or meaning to our existence.

ID is unprovable and slaps the basic tenet of science in the face because ID is based in absolutism. My opinion is based on the explanations I have heard by its advocates in interviews and columns.


"Or In other words giving meaning to life instead of not having any real purpose or meaning to our existence."

What you are describing is an imagined meaning, not a real one. A belief system.

It doesn't take a belief in God to believe one belongs to something bigger than oneself... just look at the Unitarians.

Paul Emery

I believe it is human nature to surround ourselves with convenient mythologies that give meaning to our history and future after death.

Joseph Campbell is much more eloquent about this

"In the long view of the history of mankind, four essential functions of mythology can be discerned. The first and most distinctive - vitalizing all - is that of eliciting and supporting a sense of awe before the mystery of being." "The second function of mythology is to render a cosmology, an image of the universe that will support and be supported by this sense of awe before the mystery of the presence and the presence of a mystery." "A third function of mythology is to support the current social order, to integrate the individual organically with his group;" "The fourth function of mythology is to initiate the individual into the order of realities of his own psyche, guiding him toward his own spiritual enrichment and realization."

Paul Emery


Can it not be argued that "guy in the sky" Christianity is a mythological adaptation of ID , certainly matching Joseph Campbell's four functions of mythology?

Ben Emery


"What you are describing is an imagined meaning, not a real one. A belief system."

Exactly. I am not saying it takes a belief in "God" but rather used it as an example. Many of us who believe in "God" do so because it helps us cope with the big picture. I personally came to except the term "God" after many hours of conversations with people who would consider themselves extremely religious, such as my Christian minister brother in law. I do not accept others symbol of "God" as my own but can accept their symbol and what I consider the higher energy or power. We are speaking about the same source. I believe that "God" has no shape or form but rather just is. It can also be said that God is the shape and form of everything. It resides within us and in everything. When we truly need to seek assistance of the higher power we actually go inward not outward because that is where "God" or whatever we call it is found. Once we truly understand this concept we then realize that we are all one.

The idea that morality is tied to religion is ludicrous and especially to a specific religion.

Mtakuye Oyasin

George Rebane

Gregory 1049am - I think you have Occam turned 180 around. Occam was a Franciscan monk who believed in an 'asei God' (q.v. or search RR for more), and posited the simplest necessary and sufficient explanation for the universe as God alone, upon whom EVERYTHING else was contingent.

It is demonstrably true that no man can think all possible thoughts. Therefore 'truth', however it is pursued or communicated, is necessarily circumscribed at any point in our evolution. All we can ever do is cobble together the best explanation within this circumscribed capability. Science does it well by applying Occam's Razor and falsifiability.

With regard to simplicity, nothing approaches Occam's positing of a necessary and sufficient God. Is the existence of God falsifiable? Probably not; no one has been able to do it yet. And science cannot do it because it is expanding knowledge with a methodology and in a direction (i.e. 'turtles all the way down') that doesn't even begin to address the falsifiability of God. So yes, today belief in the existence of God or an Intelligent Designer still comes under faith and not science.

But in recent time philosophers of science and scientists have made the astounding admission that science cannot cover the entire waterfront of truth - i.e. that there are other (non-scientific) ways of knowing what is. Be that as it may, what Schmidhuber and other scientists have been saying about the stratum of man's perception of existence is that it appears to be most simply explained as running code. The implications of a Coder then follow quite naturally, and would appear to corroborate Occam's proposition from the 14th century. But such a terminus - in the sense of encountering our circumscribed ability to think - is not acceptable to all secular humanists, and many/most of the commenters here.

Let me end by rephrasing my 639am question to WayneH - 'Would you view a code based cosmos more favorably if/when we could create such a 'universe' with sentient and sapient critters inhabiting it?'

George Rebane

PaulE 137pm - It appears that Christianity doesn't support the third 'essential function'. It started out by overturning the social order of Rome, and today it is judged by the powers that be as not supporting the social order of many countries around the world, including that of the United States where it is more strongly proscribed with every passing year.

Ben Emery

I think here is another Great Divide moment.

This is where I oppose the Christian church and especially the proselytization of the man made religion onto other cultures who have their own faith and myths. This is also why I oppose and am extremely offended by your "raghead" and war with Islamists remarks.

And this is where your mistaken on what I think you mean with the broad statement of secular humanists. Most people don't know enough about what they believe to accept labels such as secular humanist. Much like you calling me a Marxist, I know to much about Marxism to let that comment just pass. Just because I agree with Rand Paul on the use of drone attacks within the US doesn't mean I am a supporter of Rand Paul. For some who don't pay attention other than what is spoon fed by the corporate media they might believe they are now supports Rand P. but don't realize he is against the civil rights act, SS, Medicare, ect...

Here is the Great Divide. I will paraphrase the threads go to spiritual guru, Joseph Campbell.

Those who believe they know the answers don't know anything. Those who know they don't know the answers know everything.

To philosophize about creation is a good exercise but to kill, injure both physically and spiritually, and to try and convert others from their beliefs to our own is one the biggest violations of natural law/ right. It once again shows a authoritarian/ superiority complex. The mystery will never be answered except from within or spiritually because on the physical level the beginning cannot be proven since none of us who are here now were there then, physically.

Steve Frisch

Only in America and in Consrvatarian fantasyland could not having a state sponsored or supported religion or preferring one religion over another or none be characterized as "being more strongly proscribed with every passing year." The rise of any other religious belief or the growing number of people who identify with no specific religious belief is not an example of being 'proscribed"; it is proof that our our Constitutional right to freedom of religion and the Establishment Clause is being respected.

George Rebane

BenE 808am - I wasn't aware that this was a discussion of the ills of Christianity, but any talk of some transcendent notion between the polar ideologies very quickly reverts to a few more swipes at Christianity. Christians have given up their 'Accept Christ or die' ways. The proselytizing today is of a more gentler kind. However, this is not the way of Islam or certain collectivist religions that still haunt people today. There murder is still part and parcel of the faiths.

And as usual SteveF's understanding of my 'proscribed' statement is way off the mark, but does underline my point.

Do either of you have any cogent views on the topic of this post?

(BTW, 'raghead' is the best pejorative I could come up with to describe those Muslims who wantonly murder us and their own in order to satisfy the dictates of their religion. Are there any other terms I could use that would offend you even more? Suggestions please.)

Ben Emery

The Christian proselytizing isn't accompanied by the sword any longer but just as damaging. I oppose those who force Islam onto people as well or LDS, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, or any other organized religion. It isn't about a specific religion but the forcing of a specific faith onto those who do not seek it.

Stealing a persons spirituality is one of the most violent acts a person can experience.

This is the great divide- You believe your faith and myths are superior. Where as I am saying your faith is correct for yourself just as my faith is for me. Neither is superior and has the moral authority to force it onto others.

As for the raghead remarks. Do you think using terms like raghead are going to increase a chance of peace or exacerbate hatred? You are behaving the exact same way as the extremists on the other side. Dehumanizing and creating a difference when we should be finding the commonalities to bring about tolerance. But that is the problem those who talk of hatred and fear stir the emotions and some how rise to the top of power to perpetuate violence instead of decreasing it. Some because they truly believe and others for other reasons of power and wealth.

Steve Frisch

Hey George, this was not a discussion of Christianity until you injected it into the conversation. You are the one who used the word 'proscribed' to describe your chosen faith. Proscribed means: "to condemn or forbid as harmful or unlawful".

No one is 'proscribing' your religion, even if one believes God is the great coder in the sky. What you object to is that some Americans are Islamic or that more people are rejecting the Christian religion outright. That is not supporting the Constitution; it is directly opposing the rights guaranteed in the first amendment.

This is the ultimate irony of your overall positions, which Ben identifies as "authoritarianism". You state that you are a Constitutionalist, and join groups that wave that banner, yet you oppose the basic protections and philosophies underlaying the Constitution.

I am merely compelled to call bullish*# when I see it!

Ben Emery

"Do either of you have any cogent views on the topic of this post?"

"ID has just as much validity as Abrahamic religions creation stories, just not as a science." 22 March 2013 at 09:19 AM

"ID is unprovable and slaps the basic tenet of science in the face because ID is based in absolutism. My opinion is based on the explanations I have heard by its advocates in interviews and columns." 23 March 2013 at 11:08 AM

Account Deleted

George - I'm surprised that Ben and Steve haven't reported you to the Civil Rights arm of the Justice Dept. The idea of it - trying to "impose" your views on the struggling free thinkers out there. Don't you know that they have "the answer"?
They even were so kind as to quote that BS artist J Campbell. He has the "the answer". And it is:
"Those who believe they know the answers don't know anything. Those who know they don't know the answers know everything."
Yes indeed, that is the answer!
Anyway, thanks for the post. Jürgen Schmidhuber is one interesting fellow. The idea of everything just existing as a kind of 'computer' code is not new to me, but he certainly has some good thought on the matter. I think the fault line here is the idea that it's all just happenstance vs some kind of overarching reason to it all.
The irony is that one side is frightened that the other side is actually true and the other side is frightened of what the believers of the other side will do under the influence of that belief. The irony is that it is true for both sides of the divide!
Watch out for those JWs - they might 'impose' their beliefs on you!

Steve Frisch

Scott, not sure what blog you are reading but I did not quote Joseph Campbell, never used the word "impose" and never implied that George should not be able to say whatever he damn well pleases. Also never claimed to have the answer for anyone. Never commented negatively in any way about Jürgen Schmidhuber, as a follower of AI, I find his work interesting.

Merely pointed out that there is no 'proscribe[ing]" going on against Christianity. It should get the same treatment that Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster does.

Ben Emery

I think George puts out posts so people comment on them and even better yet, disagree. Joseph Campbell as BS, he spent 60 years of his life studying religion and cultures. A person doesn't have to agree with him but to claim he is spreading bs is laughable.

Joseph Campbell


“The idea that morality is tied to religion is ludicrous and especially to a specific religion.”
- Mtakuye Oyasin

Ben: You're in a gang neighborhood, late at night, in a dark dead-end alley. Suddenly, you look up and see six big guys heading straight for you from the other end. They don't appear to be smiling and there's no way of escape. You're starting to shiver with fear and brace yourself against the wall.

Question: would it make any difference to you if you found out they had just come from a Bible study?

Ben Emery

What does that have to do with anything? We are talking spirituality and the beginning of time. If they came from bible study maybe they are carrying pamphlets.

Generally in gang neighborhoods unless I am flashing other signs or totally disrespecting the area nobody will have a problem with me. I grew up hanging out in gang neighborhoods and know how they operate for the most part. Your hypothetical oozes of somebody who doesn't know what they are talking about.

But I will play your game. Lets say the beat the crap out of me and take my $20 and wallet. Since they committed a crime I would report it to the government also known as the police. What is your point? That religion doesn't really matter? I agree but religion helps billions of people cope with the big questions and that is a good thing. Religion also is the biggest tool for war and that is a bad thing. The yin and the yang create a balance I guess. I would love to see it become a bit unbalanced towards the peaceful side in a way it has over the last two centuries.

George Rebane

Maybe I'm missing it, but I haven't heard much about the notion that the cosmos is a running program. It's implication for ID is a secondary consideration or a corollary. ID did not motivate the apology for a code based universe.

Considering the centrality of Christianity in American history, and its current treatment by government, the media, and today's liberal intellectuals has given rise to the proposition that Christianity is being proscribed today in our land. I agree with that proposition and continue to be very critical of the Christian response.

Ben Emery

The cosmos is a running program except for one creature or maybe that is part of the program. Is there a higher power moving pieces around in the program or actually comprehended it before hand, I doubt it.

George Rebane

BenE 928pm - Again I ask, how would your answer be impacted if/when we can create computed universes?


Ben, I was curious why you had included that quote in one of your previous responses and was responding to it. I think Oyasin's quote is “ludicrous”. You certainly don't need to believe in God to live a “moral” life, but in a naturalistic/materialistic world, an “amoral” world, there is no rational argument as to why I “ought” to live a “moral” life. If it's all time plus matter plus chance then I'm just “dancing to my DNA” as Dawkins might put it. If I found out those boys had just come from a Bible study, it would provide some relief to me because I have some experience there and would expect it to reflect in their behavior. My sense of morality, imperfect as it is, is informed by my belief in God.

I didn't mean to get you off track from the original subject.

Account Deleted

Ben - A BS artist can say and think a lot of true things, but overall I think he's made the worst mistake of all BS artists: Don't BS yourself. Since when does 60 years of doing anything automatically make you worthy of being listened to? I didn't say he was a con artist, just a very good BSer. I have listened to him on Charlie Rose and watched the shows on PBS. He makes a lot of very bland and obvious statements of fact that most people know anyway. He does it all in a very round about way that is supposed to make you think he is a very deep thinker. I'm sure he is quite serious about what he says, but he's broken the first rule. He strikes me as the kind of person who has 'studied' love for 60 years and never fallen in love himself. The statement attributed to him actually condemns him.
Loved Steve's fabrication: "...yet you oppose the basic protections and philosophies underlaying the Constitution."
Care to actually attempt any backup to that ridiculous statement?
And yes, Steve - Christianity is under attack in this country and elsewhere in the world.

Bill Tozer

The statement "There are no absolutes" is an absolute statement.

What was before time? What was before the black hole? What was before matter? Did matter originate out of emptiness and become? What was before space and energy? Did our highly complex and very very harmonious universe arise out of nothingness and emptiness? Did nothingness form into matter or did matter replicate itself from non matter? These are the questions that our finite minds grapple when looking at the infinite.

All we can do is observe the software but no one can find the mainframe. The Stephen Hawkins dilemma if you will.

Oh, there are theories about the universes expanding at increasing velocity and time slowing down which creates more questions than answers. Still, where is the code?

Reason alone points to possibility of a beginning and a Beginner before time and space.

There are 2 things I believe, nay, 3 things:
1) there is a God, a Divine Power, and Intelligent Designer.
2) that intelligent designer ain't me
3) Man wants to create God into his own image


"I think you have Occam turned 180 around. Occam was a Franciscan monk who believed in an 'asei God' (q.v. or search RR for more), and posited the simplest necessary and sufficient explanation for the universe as God alone, upon whom EVERYTHING else was contingent." -George

Of course I knew of Occam's religion and intent, however, he made the same error you do, not counting the hidden complexity in the explanation he found to be the simplest. Occam's Razor, as a philosophic tool, states (by one account) "that among competing hypotheses, the one that makes the fewest assumptions should be selected". Assuming a whole 'nother universe of unknowables designing this universe is not the simplest solution.

"Maybe I'm missing it, but I haven't heard much about the notion that the cosmos is a running program."

I've heard worse. If it helps you sleep better at night and fits your preconceptions, enjoy the concept.

Ben Emery

You are amazing. Joseph and Jean Erdman Campbell were married in 1938 until he died in 1987. You obviously know nothing about him or his work by the comments you're making. What he came to realize or conclude from his studies long ago was to follow your bliss, what you love and gives you joy. He did that his entire life and spoke of it often.

I will paraphrase Campbell once again. This time directly aimed at you Scott.

Those who believe they know the answers don't know anything. Those who know they don't know the answers know everything.

Ben Emery

By computed universes what are you talking about? Actual physical universes? Here is the problem with that, those universes were created within the existing universe we know occupy. So the bigger question becomes, how big is Cosmos? Is our universe alone or are we just one in a series of universes? The answer will always be, we don't know. To seek the ultimate answer is a fruitless venture but just as it is with everything in life the journey is the answer and the end goal was just something that got us to take the journey to begin with.

Account Deleted

Joseph and Jean Erdman Campbell were married in 1938 until he died in 1987
Ben - what has that got to do with anything? I know a lot about him.
Start with this: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/j/joseph_campbell.html
"follow your bliss.." Great stuff for non-thinkers. What if my bliss is blowing folks apart with a 12 gauge? Read his quotes. Some are just rip offs from other religions, some are just false. Some are so stupid and vile, I can't believe anyone would pay him a dime for speaking. Most are just teenager air-head non-thinking BS. Just keep paraphrasing him, Ben. Maybe one day you'll examine that statement. He's saying that he knows the answer and the answer is that if you know the answer, you don't know anything. It's the kind of statement I would expect from someone who has spent a life of self indulgent navel gazing with little else of substance to show for it. He was free to express himself and you are free to think he is wonderful.
As for me, I'll read up on folks like Jürgen Schmidhuber to see what they are up to. I may not agree with everything he says automatically, but he brings up great ideas to chew on and compare with known reality.
Best quote from J Campbell - "Find a place inside where there's joy, and the joy will burn out the pain."
Wow - great advice! How many millions of drug addicts are going with that one?
Sorry - if there is 'pain', there is a problem and a person with that pain needs to meet the problem head on and solve it or deal with it. That, of course, would mean finding a knowable answer and we know what the good J Campbell thinks about that!

Account Deleted

Oh - I missed Ben at 9:36 "The answer will always be, we don't know." Are you sure of that, Ben? Is that science or is that your religious belief?

Paul Emery


Joseph Campbell wrote

"A third function of mythology is to support the current social order, to integrate the individual organically with his group;"

You responded:

"It appears that Christianity doesn't support the third 'essential function'. It started out by overturning the social order of Rome, and today it is judged by the powers that be as not supporting the social order of many countries around the world, including that of the United States where it is more strongly proscribed with every passing year."

Who are the "powers that be" that you refer to? 80% of Americans describe themselves as Christians so doesn't that qualify it as the dominant mythology? I'm fascinated by your observation on this and need a little more to fill in the dots.


"Here is the problem with that, those universes were created within the existing universe we know occupy."

No Ben, each additional universe just has to be built at 90 degrees to Reality. Quite easily done, assuming you don't need to see it.

Ben Emery

The essence of Campbell's message is we all have the answer and our own path to it. That is what he calls, bliss. Follow your bliss and the answers will be known. We continually look outside for answers when the answer comes from within.

Bliss- Your sacred space where you can find yourself again and again

Joe Koyote

A computer is programmed to enact specific routines to accomplish a task. Would it not be true then, if the universe were a computer, then there is no free will and our lives are just the predetermined result of a proscribed routine? I think a better way to look at it is that our universe and all that is in it is just a part of a larger body or being, like cells are to living things. Selfish human behavior could be considered a cancer seeking to consume the body for the sake of the cell. Greed is a cancer, seeking to destroy the fabric of the planet for the gratification of the self.

George Rebane

PaulE 1213pm - Please don't confuse the 80% checking the 'Christian box' with Christians. And most certainly don't confuse that cohort with the powers that be. For identifying the latter, I'd refer you to the extensive dissertations from BenE and JoeK on the subject that populate these comment streams.

Paul Emery

That was not much help George. I'm interested in your view about what the "powers that be" are. You are the one who used that term in response to my query and saying to refer to Ben and Joe's view makes no sense. This is a fascinating topic and deserves more thought. If Christianity isn't the prevailing spiritual mythology in this country than what is?


My capsule of Campbell's work didn't include the topic of bliss. I tried to limit it to the question as to whether religions are necessary mythologies to serve what seem to be essential human needs.

George Rebane

PaulE 333pm - your calling Christianity the "prevailing spiritual mythology" denigrates this conversation and highlights the disrespect that Christianity engenders today. A 'mythology' is a narrative known/held to be untrue by those who use the label. Such conversations don't go far with those for whom Christianity represents a core belief.

Apparently Campbell does not understand that no mythology serves an essential human need to the subject who does not view the narrative as mythology - perhaps you don't either.

Re 'powers that be' - I have already made myself clear on the topic through my posts on Brian Kaplan's 'Myth of the Rational Voter'. Our electorate is now beyond the boundaries of dumbth and/or dismissive interest in the affairs of our republic. Until new evidence comes in, the powers that be are those who can bamboozle the electorate to remain as compliant supporters of their ideology. To date that appears hands down to be the money (and their chorus) behind promoting our collectivist (ergo autocratic) future. I am a member of the chorus promoting liberty, small government, and open markets.

I don't know who the Left's monied interests are beyond the usual Soros, Buffett, union bosses, et al. Neither do I know the Right's monied interests beyond the Koch brothers et al. But I do know that large corporations (too big to fail) are not my ideological fellow travelers. But all this is a side thread to the topic of my post.

Bill Tozer

The Code: I suppose you have to have faith to believe in The Code. Its unseen, just as Christianity and the other major religions believe in an Unseen God. There are many scientific discoveries and theories that folks strongly believe as fact, yet many are unseen. Faith and reason are not mutually exclusive.

Some theologians and "men of the cloth" labor under the gross misconception that if they could prove the existence of God, then the hordes will flock to the pews. Nothing could be further from the truth. A gross misunderstanding of human nature.

If belief in God or a Higher Power or the Creator Beyond Time and Space was based solely on one's intellect, then those with diminished capacity could never believe or "come to the Life". If it was left up to finite minds ability to comprehend and apprehend the Infinite, then only the ones with highly advanced intelligence among us would be "enlightened".

Thus belief in ID does require faith, just as I believe day will follow night or those that believe the Code will be uncovered through scientific discovery and pure knowledge and observation of the unseen. We all take the leap of faith in various ways to explain things we currently don't have the answer for. One might call it their belief system.

Some have faith that someday the "missing link" will be found. Some have their faith in ID reinforced by observing the complexities and very very orderly and harmonious properties of the tiniest objects to the vast expansive well past our minute solar system. Reason comes into play. Like the old saying "God gave us brains to use".

Paul Emery


One of the accepted definitions (Webster) of mythology is

"The myths dealing with the gods, demigods, and legendary heroes of a particular people"

I would use the descriptive "spiritual mythology" equally for any religion. If you read carefully I said "prevailing spiritual mythology" I could then say something like "minority (in this country) spiritual mythology's such as Native American, Buddist, Moslem...only comprise in their totality of 20% at the most of the population."

It's quite consistent that a "core belief" may be viewed by others as embracing mythology. The Old Testament for example is a remarkable collection of stories that totally qualify as mythology I'm sure even by you. Did Noah actually pack up family units of all living creatures in his boat and wait out the big storm for example. It may a historical allegory and in that it has value but it's packaged as a myth as is Samson, Adam and Eve etc. Was the world created in seven days? Some Christians (lots of them) really believe that literally. The St James New Testament is a politically correct collection of stories years after of the life of Christ that went through a huge vetting process with the "powers that be" before it was published and declared to be sacred and the word of God.

The event of Christ is historically massive. I recommend "The Passion of the Western Mind" by Richard Tarnus for an overview of the rise of Christianity as a philosophy not as a religion.

Tarnas outlines the intellectual-cultural development of the modern world view from its origins in Greek and Judaeo-Christian mythologies.


Most disturbing to me, however, is your questioning the legitimacy of many of those who "checked the box" declaring themselves Christians in the estimation that 80% of Americans describe themselves as Christian. In Gods name what gives you the ability to make judgement that questions their choice. Can you give a little insight into your process of judgement to make the determination of who is a Christian and who is not?
25 March 2013 at 03:06 PM
"- Please don't confuse the 80% checking the 'Christian box' with Christian"

Ben Emery

Lets let Campbell explain what he means by "Myth"

Paul Emery

That's powerful stuff Ben. Very influential in it's day. I may be freely borrowing from my recollections of those interviews. Discussing the mythology of Christianity or any other religion should not be regarded as derogatory. But then there's Salman Rushdie who will never be able to get out of his foxhole.

George Rebane

PaulE 712pm - You misunderstand me. I take no exception to your description of 'spiritual myths' as they are held by non-believers. But once you are a believer in a certain narrative of Man's origins and transcendence, then conversation about your beliefs is not possible with someone who at the outset labels you as a primitive with a dysfunctional belief system. The approach has to be different, perhaps one of questioning the basis of the other's faith. (I have already published many posts on the basis for my faith.)

And your being astounded - and in God's name no less - at my "ability" to pass judgments is more than a bit silly. I have the ability to make judgments about anything I care to do so - that, after all, is what RR is about. You may not agree with my judgments and take them to task, but that in no way diminishes my ability and propensity to render such judgments, no matter what proportion of people are involved on one or another side of an issue (e.g. I constantly remind RR readers that most voters are devoid of the information required to cast a reasonable vote. Moreover, I also judge that most voters could not process the required information if it were spelled out for them.)

So yes, I believe that a good fraction, perhaps even half, of the nation's declared Christians hold to that label out of family tradition, and not because they accept (or even know) the specific tenets of any Christian denomination. I believe that the same holds for Jews, Muslims (God willing), Hindus, ....

Paul Emery


We are actually closer than usual on this but we'll have to take it up tomorrow. However passing judgements on another spiritual values is stinky business unless you're St Peter at the Golden Gate directing traffic up or down. But I'm venturing into mythology so that's it for me tonight.

You missed the irony of "in Gods name". If Christianity is the final way I hope God grades on the curve. I might have a chance.

Ben Emery

Paul and George,
I think we are talking right past each other on this one. Campbell isn't saying Christianity is wrong. What he is explaining is how and why we need myths to help us through life. We believe in our faith as being the real or true one, when in fact they all are. I don't know of him saying this but my guess he did or he would have agreed. Only forcing our belief systems onto those who do not seek it is wrong. We all have our personal relationship with what ever we want to call it and to some people that relationship is solely based in this life on earth. They are correct in believing so. This is where religion turns into a negative and why I do not subscribe to any formal organized religion. I was raised Catholic more than anything else but never was forced into believing it was the only way, which has turned out to be the best spiritual gift my parents ever gave me. My wife is very Christian and we chose to raise our kids with Christianity as an option and introduced them to the church but didn't force them into attending. We attend periodically and on major holidays. I prefer the local Quaker or Unitarian services. What we did do in abundance is show them the teachings of Christ through our actions along with the moral actions of all compassionate caring people who walked or are walking this earth.

Paul Emery


I think what he says is that we are inspired by myths and it's human nature to let that happen. What bothers me is when myths are franchised and organized as religions (which have nothing to do with spiritual inspiration or religion as a personal experience and discovery)

A great example are the statues of Greece where the myths of the gods were carved into huge statues and incorporated into architecture to remind people that the Gods were watching. Also look at the Catholic Churches with their cathedrals with stained glass and echos from the pulpit that made their preachers sound and look like gods to their unsuspecting prey. The native peoples of South America were overwhelmed for example and thought God was in the room when indeed it was nothing but a big techno show of the day. So they peed their pants and became Catholics abandoning their own mythologies that were centuries old.

George himself noted the rock shows of modern Mega Mall Churches and how they are overwhelming the more subtle "chapel in the valley" churches that served the cultures of the day.

Michael Anderson

"To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. To a man with a computer, everything looks like a computation. To a man with a baseball glove, everything looks like paradise."

Unattributed, UNKNOWN

George Rebane

Gentlemen - I do believe the confusion here between myth and religion is that to the faithful his religion represents reality. That same faithful person can also celebrate the myths of his culture, and understand that they are indeed myths. And all the while another onlooker will categorize both the religion and the myth of the believer as myths, and consequently assign the believer to the class of the deluded.

I am here using religion to describe that part of a person's belief in reality that is not subject to falsification - i.e. it may satisfy Occam, but the faithful will state something like, 'There's nothing you can say that will make me change my mind about Christ's incarnation.'

In my own case, I am a Bayesian with a non-monotonic belief system or credo. Therefore all of my beliefs are falsifiable (in the sense that there may yet be arguments that will make me change my mind), and as simple as I can (subjectively) make them. More on that later.

Ben Emery

I don't think there is confusion but rather talking past each other. The myths are the rituals and metaphors put forward by a specific religion. I know that could be offensive to those true believers out there but that is what the concept Campbell is putting forward. Through the myths, metaphors, and rituals is how a specific religion/ belief system gets us to believe. They aren't wrong but they belong to their group or sect. What I find interesting is the lack of ability for true believers to be OK with this concept. It shows how powerful myth can be and why billions of people over time have been murdered in the name of a specific sect.

Bill Tozer

I have spent years bashing organized religion vs spirituality. "Vain traditions" as Paul wrote. The letter kills, but the Spirit gives Life as Jesus said. But I have come to believe that one can find his spiritual way even in the most organized formatted service that is deader than a door nail. Seek and you will find. My bashing days are over. To each his own.

If you want to find a myth, try believing Homer wrote the Iliad. First copy appeared a few hundred years after his death. Second copy was found about a thousand years later. 2nd "original" copy is different from the first. So, prove to me Homer even wrote the darn thing, yet we all accept the "fact" that he did. Heck, is Homer himself just another myth? Hope you see my point.

For centuries there was no shred of proof that King David even existed. No old piece of pottery bearing his name...no nothing...until less that a couple of decades ago some diggers found an Assyrian plaque thing that talked about their great victory over David. Tell me, did David even exist or was that all just a myth or a "Zionist Conspiracy". The story of the boy David slaying the giant Goliath remains one of my favorites.

You can't prove to me the sun will rise tomorrow. "Tomorrow never comes" as the saying goes. We deal with faith, reason and probabilities in almost every aspect in our lives. In fact the Book of Proverbs literally means the Book of Probabilities, but I digress once again.

I have zero problem believing in ID, once I remove any contempt to the idea. Can't argue with a mind closed shut like a steel trap, nor learn anything. Sure, some have a big problem with a living personal God in 2013. Most feel more comfortable with a God that started the whole ball of wax and then went on to other things after setting the Code in place. Just keep the big guy upstairs far, far, faraway. Whatever.

"There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which can not fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-that principle is contempt prior to investigation."

George Rebane

BenE 841am - You may be right, we are doing the best we can, but still talking past each other. You are citing Campbell as the source of ground truth in your world. No religion I know of states to the faithful that its core beliefs/truths are delivered via a myth - metaphors yes, rituals yes, but myths, emphatically NO. You will continue to be 'interested' because true believers will not accept that a myth was used to 'get them to believe'.

Today it would be more callous and extremely disrespectful to Muslim terrorists blowing themselves up to tell them that they are sacrificing their lives on the basis of a myth. Moreover, it would fundamentally misunderstand their worldview and the structure of their cosmos.

Joe Koyote

How can any religious belief system be valid if it is exclusionary? By this I mean that some religions are exclusive, ie. if you don't believe in this particular religion you are wrong and doomed to hell or some other similar fate. In other words if my parents taught me in the Islamic faith, a Christian or a Buddist would be considered an infidel just as a Jehovah's Witness might consider a Methodist an infidel. I have seen signs on the side of the road stating that if you go to church on any day but Sunday, you are doing the devil's work.

There is a huge difference between religion and spirituality. The former is about crowd control and the latter is about levels of awareness. Crowd control comes from the outside. It is, in a sense, forced on people through culture in order to make them more pliable by those ubiquitous powers that be. The Inquisition serves as an extreme example of power and ignorance used to create subservient populations who did and believed as the clergy said or face the consequences. Present day fundamentalist religions still function in much the same way. Awareness comes from individual introspection and cannot be handed out like a crust of bread. Another person cannot make you aware of the universe, you have to do that yourself. Religion is a belief, awareness is knowledge.

Ben Emery

No George I am using Campbell as a reference or a source because it is easy to look him up and follow what he is talking about. My belief system isn't based on Campbell's ideas but do follow in many areas. My belief system comes from those indigenous cultures that didn't practice imperialism. Cultures that figured out how to live a sustainable life while living in prosperity. I lean more towards Lakota or Hopi but it could literally be dozens of different indigenous cultures around the world and their belief systems, which were based on myths.

"No religion I know of states to the faithful that its core beliefs/truths are delivered via a myth - metaphors yes, rituals yes, but myths, emphatically NO."

Despite your emphatically "NO" it doesn't change that it is a "Yes". Just because a person doesn't want to believe they will die someday doesn't mean it isn't going to happen.

As for the Muslims that is what is so tragic of their deeds. Killing innocent people before they are killed by others with the same kind of dedication to their religion or myths. Much like Oliver Cromwell with his murderous slaughter of the Irish.


"My belief system comes from those indigenous cultures that didn't practice imperialism...... I lean more towards Lakota..."


Joe Koyote

"My belief system comes from those indigenous cultures that didn't practice imperialism...... I lean more towards Lakota..."


Why is that funny?

Ben Emery

I have come to know those who obtain true faith have no qualms with those who question it. They are secure in their beliefs and their is no need to try and defend it. No matter what pressure from the outside is it doesn't shake their beliefs. I have family members that are like this and like to think I share this quality to be able to connect our two faiths as in being one in the same when we are talking the big picture. In Campbell's terms, they don't get stuck on the metaphor. I forget who said it but "a faith that can't withstand questions isn't that strong of a faith."

George Rebane

Small indigenous cultures could not practice imperialism for fear of being wiped out. Their cultural traits included a philosophy of patience and tolerance. I haven't found any large indigenous cultures that did not practice imperialism. Their cultures also taught their primacy among the peoples of the earth. Now if we could only agree on what an indigenous culture is.

Ben Emery

The type of imperialism (transcontinental) I am talking about didn't exist in North American indigenous cultures due to what you mentioned, the lack of size of the bands or groups. Whole nations could have large numbers but most were broken into subgroups that didn't grow larger than a couple hundred people. Were there fights over food and water sources, of course but not genocidal warfare. That was brought by Europeans.

Indigenous Definition plus more

George Rebane

BenE 430pm - Interesting definition. One by which I am an indigenous person as are the Russians, the Swedes, the Norwegians, the Finns, the Germans, the French, the Danes,... .

And is there any evidence that American Indians did not engage in genocidal warfare. The Incas and Aztecs most certainly wiped out many neighboring bands as they grew their lands and power. What makes us think that over the centuries smaller bands in what is now the US did not do the same.


Genocide? Ask a Hopi about the Navajo. L

Ben Emery

If you want to continue this conversation into indigenous North American culture I will but if we do we must start with the basics. First the differences between nomadic hunter/ gatherer vs agriculture. The different sizes and philosophies between these two makes a big difference in how they interacted or avoided each other.

As for the definition there are a number of place we can get one from and I don't think anyone of them will every completely cover or make all people happy. Here is another one.

"Indigenous communities, peoples and nations are those which, having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories, consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing on those territories, or parts of them. They form at present non-dominant sectors of society and are determined to preserve, develop and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories, and their ethnic identity, as the basis of their continued existence as peoples, in accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions and legal system."

George Rebane

BenE 256pm - Got it. I was wondering when the 'victim' dimension was going to be brought into the definition. I know the direction that this conversation will now take with the definitions you have established, and don't wish to go around that barn again.

But let me leave you a bit enraged in the process. I don't believe that any 'indigenous people' have any extraordinary right to their geography or sovereignty. If a mightier society of humans can take it from them or include them in their already established empire, then so be it. In the end, humanity as a species benefits from such survival of the most evolved in their technology, arts and letters, science, etc. The situation is different when a less developed or peer society becomes rapacious and attacks a neighbor (Germany and the USSR attacking Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, ... in 1939). I hope you understand the principle I am endorsing here.

As further examples, the American Indians deserved to lose their lands and sovereignty to the colonizing Europeans. In the same light, the Finno-Ugric tribes (Ests/Estonians and Finns) deserved to lose their lands and sovereignty in the 13th century to the German Knights Templar that led to their colonization by the more developed countries of Europe. And so it has gone since ages immemorial.

Ben Emery

Not enraged and you didn't disappoint me with your position. I have grown accustom to your authoritarian anti-freedom positions. The Northern American Natives or indigenous peoples were the freest cultures on the planet and you support the subjugation and theft of their ability to pursue their natural rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness along with access to property. The more I read Rebane Ruminations the more I see projection in your opinions.

You know where the founders got the hope that a free self determined style government could exist? The indigenous Native American cultures that preceded the oppressive criminal colonists by thousands of years. Before that it was all theory and philosophy of the enlightenment and some crazy progressive greeks who tried direct democracy for a nation. My guess that took some time to allow everyone to speak.

Benjamin Franklin in 1751

"It would be a very strange thing if Six Nations of ignorant savages should be capable of forming a scheme for such a union, and be able to execute it in such a manner, as that it has subsisted for ages, and appear indissoluble; and yet that a like union should be impracticable for ten or a dozen English colonies, to whom it is more necessary and must be more advantageous, and whom cannot be supposed to want an equal understanding of their interests."

George Rebane

BenE 620pm - American Indians, as did most primitive tribes (and more complex political structures), formed the least free social orders known to man. Customs, taboos, and traditions snuffed out every vestige of freedom. The punishments for deviant behavior were draconian. Creativity seeped into tradition-bound behaviors at a snail's pace. Today, only Leftwing revisionists are busy rewriting what actually transpired over the centuries.

And you confuse Franklin's assessment of Indian tribes coming together in a political union with supposed individual freedoms which were enjoyed by none in those Six Nations. As even recent history has shown, just because sovereign totalitarian nations form a pact does not provide evidence of their citizens enjoying any additional benefits from the existence of that pact.

All that you have contributed here is a further delineation of the different worlds we see and live in.


I don't believe that any 'indigenous people' have any extraordinary right to their geography or sovereignty. If a mightier society of humans can take it from them or include them in their already established empire, then so be it. In the end, humanity as a species benefits from such survival of the most evolved in their technology, arts and letters, science, etc. The situation is different when a less developed or peer society becomes rapacious and attacks a neighbor (Germany and the USSR attacking Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, ... in 1939). I hope you understand the principle I am endorsing here.

George, you may not have enraged Ben but you succeeded with me. Are you saying that if Germany and the USSR had been, say, 50% mightier than their neighbors, thus not peer but superior, then their occupation of those neighboring countries would have been justified?? “..can take it from them”, in the first instance, and “attacks a neighbor” in the second, are both functionally the same, unless the weaker nation/group in the first instance just passively gives up. As to whether the society in the first instance is “most evolved” is a matter of interpretation. The British Colonial Empire grew fat through subjugation and exploitation but they're now a shadow of their former selves. They may have brought industrialization to India, but is a nation that conducted the Amritsar massacre really “evolved”? The US signed dozens of treaties with native Americans and then proceeded to break them all. How does the principle of “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness”, which the US assigns to itself, not apply to it's relations with the greater world? If I love my own liberty, how can I justify denying yours? Please elaborate on your position.

Ben Emery

George no longer enrages me but what he does do is show that his ideology shapes his doctrine of a top down society, culture, and government. Hopefully those who once followed his flowery talk now see he isn't the person they thought.

My opinion of George in the realm of politics and government does not mean I think he is a bad person. My guess like most people he is a decent man who loves his family and friends. I bet that 99% of all of the people slaughtered around the globe at the hands of superior military power were decent people as well but George believes they got what they prepared for.

George Rebane

Fuzz? I don't know with whom I am talking. But I think you're going for a gotcha instead of trying to understand what I said.

Perhaps what might contribute to understanding is the realization that nation-states do not now and never have followed the mores and other formalisms of behavior to which we hold individuals. This should be clear from what our own government does daily in lying to us through its very formidable teeth.

Kingdoms/empires then and nation-states now have only 'interests' which they pursue. And sometimes achieving these interests actually benefit their populations. But if anyone should understand the difference between individual behavior and national behavior, it should be the collectivists for whom the end has always justified the means.

Recall that rights can only be granted by governments that have the power and will to enforce the ability of such rights to be exercised. Unenforced 'rights' are topics of fiction and wish lists awaiting their champion.


George, the Bill of Rights contained not rights granted by the government of the USA to its citizens, but rather restraints upon the government of the USA put in place by the people. A big difference.

George Rebane

Gregory 549pm - Am not sure of what such claim I made about the Bill of Rights. Hint?

Nevertheless, since you brought it up, in its restraints the BoR does delineate a number of rights the people have that shall not be infringed by their government. Such rights are introduced in the BoR and mentioned nowhere else in the Constitution. Perhaps that was reason enough to select that name for the first ten amendments.

Russ Steele

Slime Computation
"The great appeal of non-traditional computing is that I can connect the un-connectable and link the un-linkable," said Andy Adamatzky, director of the Unconventional Computing Center at the University of the West of England. He's made computers from electrified liquid crystals, chemical goo and colliding particles, but is best known for his work with Physarum, the lowly slime mold.

Amoeba-like creatures that live in decaying logs and leaves, slime molds are, at different points in their lives, single-celled organisms or part of slug-like protoplasmic blobs made from the fusion of millions of individual cells. The latter form is assumed when slime molds search for food. In the process they perform surprisingly complicated feats of navigation and geometric problem-solving.

Slime molds are especially adept at finding solutions to tricky network problems, such as finding efficient designs for Spain's motorways and the Tokyo rail system. Adamatzky and colleagues plan to take this one step further: Their Physarum chip will be "a distributed biomorphic computing device built and operated by slime mold," they wrote in the project description.

"A living network of protoplasmic tubes acts as an active non-linear transducer of information, while templates of tubes coated with conductor act as fast information channels," describe the researchers. "Combined with conventional electronic components in a hybrid chip, Physarum networks will radically improve the performance of digital and analog circuits."

If slime mold can do it why not the whole universe?


Russ 7:46
Indeed, and once you can fabricate a belief from the behavior of slime mold to the fabric of the universe, there's no limit to the number of possible realities you can theorize.

Unfortunately, that doesn't get you closer to figuring out which of the infinite possibilities is true, and this new possibility is merely one more possible rationalization for what you want to believe. Have at it.

George 6:19
"Recall that rights can only be granted by governments that have the power and will to enforce the ability of such rights to be exercised. "
Again, rights aren't granted by the US Constitution. The Amendments of the Constitution are where rights are carved out by expressly limiting the government. They were granted not by the government, but by the people.

No, the body of the constitution has no "rights" mentioned. The original body was where powers were expressly granted to the new central government. The first amendments were express limits to those powers, past the first 10 were often new powers granted.

I think the fact that the Interstate Commerce Clause exists is proof time travel will never exist; if it did, someone in the future would have traveled back to the 18th century and given the ICC authors an offer they couldn't refuse. I heard a former Dem government insider make a clear claim a couple days ago that all guns could be regulated at will by the Congress because of the ICC... in short, if you have a Colt made in the east 70 years ago and transported to California then and bought by your dad then, it is involved in interstate commerce and is fair game.

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