Stanley-Fishing for Evolution of Faith Specimens

13 07 2007

-“Big Love” comment promoted as post, mostly to make it searchable-


Law professor and NYT blogger Stanley Fish wasn’t just writing about Clarence Thomas and BongHits4Jesus at school this summer. He also posted about religion versus science as articulated by atheist critics such as Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens, in “Is Religion Man-made?”

His argument didn’t do much for me, but there were hundreds of rather intelligent and provocative comments, among which was:

The society of man is an imperfect, ongoing scientific experiment. Man has “evolved’ systems of religions since the onset of civilization, ‘progressing’ from worshp of animals and the various naturally occurring entities, i.e. the sun, the moon and the stars, through polytheism to monotheism.

Monotheism, in the current stage of evolution (that word again) brings us today a single god in many different forms and versions, i.e. Islam, Christian, Jewish, etc. In the truest sense of the word, religion has evolved as has physical man.

Both are still in an imperfect state; the physical man and the spiritual man. The danger of modern religion is that, through ignorance or dogma, it presupposes tht man at the present is in its final form, i.e. an act of perfection by an allmighty god.

That evil (the claim of perfection) is central to the various religions, each one of which lays claim to be the chosen few, and, as such, is the evolutionary equivalent of a lethal gene. I rest my case on the countless number of bodies that religion in its myriad forms have strewn about the world, past and present.
— Posted by Tom Bleakley

Maybe polygamy is one decadent human imperfection and Catholicism is another? Maybe theism itself will evolve as it has in older cultures than ours (Buddhism, say) toward a more spiritual (as in not physical or literal) collective wisdom.
[note – here I use “decadent” as cultural historian Jacques Barzun does, to mean fully played out, game about to be over.]

“The peoples of the West offered the world a set of ideas and
institutions not found earlier or elsewhere. . . it has been a unity combined
with enormous diversity. Borrowing widely from other lands, thriving on dissent and originality, the West has been the mongrel civilization par excellence. But . . .now these purposes, carried out to their utmost possibility, are bringing about its demise.

This ending is shown by the deadlocks of out times: for and against nationalism, for and against individualism, for and against the high
arts, for and against strict morals and religious beliefs.

The now-full-blown individual wields a panoply of rights, including
the right to do ‘his own thing’ without hindrance from authority. . . and of course it requires more and more limitations in order to prevent my right from infringing yours.”

Maybe human spirituality is evolving [for the next cultural era] as we discover and accept truths not through patriarchal personification and studying “authoritative” writings spelled out for our dutiful performance on demand, but through an “unschooled” direct personal connection to each other, and to the universe as a system? Maybe that’s what the Don Beck-Ken Wilber cultural “meme” dynamics mean to express?

Not trying to sound all lofty and New Agey, but personally I’d rather interpret power of story with blue versus green memes, than try to make sense of religious wars by poring over holy prophecy as written by men to be beaten into women and children.

So applying this to Big Love, there’s no use seeing it as conflict between polygamous Mormomism (“living the principle”) and Catholic school-taught transubstantiation — they are both firmly in the “blue” mystic or pre-rational meme, essentially the same rather than opposed. Their doctrinal differences don’t matter to their common cultural position (or their spiritual evolution?) and in that sense, neither can be right or wrong; they are simply and similarly mystic and best understood as such, by those who have transcended this meme and hope to nudge progress and evolution along, for all of mankind.

For most of humanity’s history, the Left- and Right-Hand quadrants developed lockstep with each other. In the Lower Left, the evolution from archaic (beige) to magic (purple) to mythic (red/blue) to rational (orange) was accompanied, in the Lower Right, by technological development that moved, respectively, from foraging to horticultural to agrarian to industrial. Magical worldviews went with a foraging base, mythic worldviews went with an agrarian base, rational worldviews went with an industrial base, and so on.

But with the rise of modernity (rational-industrial), the increasing globalization of economic exchange made a very intense type of cross-level phenomenon possible: for example, tribal cultures could gain access to rational-industrial technology, often with horrifying results.

Moreover, the same sort of cross-level access could occur within a given culture: Auschwitz was the product of rational-technological capacity (orange) pressed into the hands of intensely pre-rational (red/blue) ethnocentric aggression.

Today, almost any ethnic tribe or feudal order can gain access to nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons that historically they would never have been able to produce themselves, and the results are literally explosive.

Precisely because the Right-Hand quadrants are all material, these material artifacts (modes of technology to nuclear weapons) can be obtained by individuals at almost any level of interior, Left-Hand development, even if they themselves could never produce them. These types of phenomena make cross-level analysis of quadrants, levels, and lines absolutely mandatory in today’s world politics, and it dooms analyses that do less than that.

P.S. from JJ – and back to Harry Potter now, it makes perfect sense that those who take it most seriously and feel it threatens their children and world view, are “blue meme mystical-religious pre-rationals” — if they literally believe in that kind of thing, Christians or otherwise, then Harry’s world must be quite terrifying.



2 responses

28 12 2008
“Wonderful Tradition of Philosophy and Science” « Cocking A Snook!

[…] than oppressive, open to questions and new discovery and change. That was the thought when I wrote this: Maybe human spirituality is evolving [for the next cultural era] as we discover and accept truths […]

20 08 2010
We Need to Sing Our Epics or Lose Them « Cocking A Snook!

[…] movies from Milk and Mindwalk to Hairspray and Madagascar, not to mention Harry Potter and Stanley Fish, plus the leading science lights of edge dot […]

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