My response to the Peterson/Harris event

by Andrea Elizabeth

I just finished the last of the discussion between Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson referenced in my last post. Peterson’s problem with Harris’ revulsion to religion is that he does not have any framework to base his sense of morality other than intuition. Harris’ criticism of religion mainly stems from using unverifiable revelation, such as fear of hell, to motivate people to do good. He said, ‘what’s wrong with respecting Jesus as a man and learning from him without an appeal to an afterlife?’ The moderator, Bret Weinstein, whom I’ve heard from before in a discussion with JP, and who did an excellent job keeping it smart, asked, ‘don’t you think people can be motivated by the supernatural?’ He also said Harris tended to focus on the negative aspects of religion and dismissed the positive. But to the question, Harris said that religion should not be necessary to motivate people to “be excellent to each other” as Bill and Ted would say.

So I think Harris is right that we do have a moral compass in our intuition that can be de-legitimized by power-hungry religious people. Peterson is right that we can’t trust our feelings either, or we’d just give cocaine to everyone to give them a sense of well being, and so we need a structure beyond ourselves. But Harris also gets points for motivating people towards altruism and not just individualism. If Peterson had been allowed to get into the weeds, I know that he points to familial reconciliations that he’s facilitated as altruistic. I think he is more focused on people becoming healthy starting with themselves, then expanding out. And I think he and Pageau are doing a necessary work in encouraging individual health. Leftist universalism is too overwhelming, and probably not accomplishable by unhealthy people. But sometimes we protect ourselves too much. Still, that should be voluntary and not state mandated, which I think Peterson would also say.

Harris also, in addition to coming scarily close to computer implants to take over irrational thinking, said that perhaps someday science will be able to pinpoint exactly what is wrong with the brains of “evil” people, and thus our responses to them could be emotionally de-escalated.

The problem to me is that in eschewing the supernatural and the afterlife, a human becomes the chief arbitrator of right and wrong and consequences. This reminds me of the interview I watched between Imagine Dragon’s Dan Reynolds and Ellen Degeneres (that I wrote about here) where Dan Reynolds seemed to think it obvious that he and his mother are reconciled because he totally believes that if she had to choose to save his life or Jesus’, she’d pick his. It’s so “obvious” to these people that they are as important or more important as/than God. Now I do think that some Christian sects, like Calvinism, devalue people too much, but there’s a way to value human life in a proper Christian context, which I think most Christians intuitively do. This is why there are acts of kindness as well as preaching. This is also why Christ healed bodies as well as forgave sins, thus saving their souls.

Next I’ll listen to Pageau’s response

and Bret Weinstein’s reponse

then there’s this follow up


by Andrea Elizabeth

Three out of four hours into Jordan Peterson’s and Sam Harris’ discussion in Vancouver (part 1, part 2), I want to think about Peterson’s explanation of the evolution of sacrifice. Harris, in criticizing religion, said religion lead to child sacrifice. Peterson tried to show that there is an understandable truth to sacrificing the present for a better future. Harris said you shouldn’t have to take the best out of something abhorrent. Peterson said it was God who stopped Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, and from there sacrifice became largely more psychological and less literal as in instituting circumcision, and then other self-depriving sacrifices people make for other people.

I think Harris could have said it was bad for God to ask Abraham to sacrifice Isaac in the first place. My current understanding is that the Father was showing Abraham the price He was willing to pay. Then Harris could ask why God would require even his own son’s death. Then the Orthodox could say we agree that Satisfaction Theory is not the right way to look at Christ’s sacrifice. We don’t think God’s wrath and hatred needed to be assuaged, which is also the principle behind Harris’ criticism of the punishment of hell. I’ll just quickly say that Christ exchanged his death for life, the debt was to death, not God, and the sparing of Isaac is a forshadowing of that.

But what I wanted to add was that the “evolution” of sacrifice also went from literal physical death, though some people still literally die for other people, to offering and consuming bread and wine, the unbloody sacrifice.

Zombies, Postmodernism and Art

by Andrea Elizabeth

I finally listened to this famous talk by Jonathan Pageau. It’s well worth the time. I especially liked the St. Christopher story at the end.

Drink black coffee and play an instrument

by Andrea Elizabeth

are the other two ways to prevent dementia. My son remembered. I hope singing a foreign language and drinking coffee with almond milk count.

In case the last “Bless the Lord Oh My Soul” was too fast

by Andrea Elizabeth

Here’s an easier one to follow

And in case you want to learn the lyrics to the “Hymn to Red October” by Basil Polidouris…

3 ways to prevent dementia

by Andrea Elizabeth

Well I can’t remember the other two ways that were recounted a month ago by my daughter in law’s former roommate, but one of them was learning a foreign language. I hope phonetically learning, in the possibly never attaining sense, to sing a foreign language written with different letters counts.

I was going to post the one I’m working on, but it wont let me so I’ll give the title:

Благослови, душе моя, Господа (Bless the Lord, Oh My Soul)

Старинный напев Исполняет Владимирский хор

(Stariny Napyev Espolnyayet Vladimirski Kor (Choir))

The other two ways are here.



by Andrea Elizabeth

I’m a bit out of sorts as our car was rear-ended on the way to Church today. My daughter, who is a couple of weeks away from getting her license, did well to avoid hitting the car in front of us as we were almost pushed into it. The impact was enough to make our headrests eject themselves forward out of their casings in order to prevent whiplash, I suppose. My daughter seems fine. My neck feels a little weird, and my nerves feel exhausted. Like I should just go to bed and relax.


It’s currently Iceland.

by Andrea Elizabeth

John McPhee just said in Basin and Range that the early British proponents of continental drift believed England was fixed and the other continents moved away from it. But actually everything is moving away from the mid Atlantic Rift at present. This brought my mind to Iceland, which is formed on a particularly volcanic area on the Rift. Then I thought about earthquakes that occur on the opposite side of the globe from other earthquakes. Then I thought, what if Hawai’i is on the other side of Iceland and their eruptions are related. Look


This is not to say I don’t like trees

by Andrea Elizabeth

This morning I was looking up statistics on my A Mon Seul Desir cross stitch and learned that one of the trees is an oak tree. I then enjoyed figuring out which one it was. And I wasn’t looking up content statistics when I found it. (Not that I never think of tree families, I guess I didn’t think they were real types. Well, the orange tree is obvious.) I was looking up stitch, color and thread counts. But I am happy to learn that and feel enriched by the deeper understanding.

I’m reading Basin and Range by John McPhee on Audible, and he talks about how hard it is to wrap your mind around deep time. We get the sequence of the different epochs better than what a million years means. We think of relative age like the “young” 80-55 million year old Rocky Mountains compared to the “older”, Pangea-formed Appalachians of 300 million years. Btw, I just learned a way to think about 30 million years of mountain building. Rivers that cut through mountain ranges, like the Brazos through the Palo Pinto Mountains, preexisted the mountains and kept up with their growth by erosion. That is a Very. Slow. process.

If we have limited data space I’d rather dedicate mine to pre Cambrian, Cambrian, Pangea formation, and dissolution and the development of current continents, broad rock (types like granite, sandstone, limestone) and their locations related to ocean rifting and subduction. If you only focus on modern, local botany, for instance, you may not be able to fit it all in, but you’d still gain an understanding, because it’s all connected

Dense pictures

by Andrea Elizabeth

Since I like forests more than trees, I would like to see a bell graph of Orthodox doctrines. Things that all Orthodox believe, like the Trinity and Virgin Birth would go in the middle tall part, and things that less people believe, within acceptable limits, like toll houses, existential hell, and Mary’s perpetual virginity would go down from there. Actually instead of statistics, no, along with statistics in a separate graph, a chart of the acceptability of believing each doctrine. And another one all beliefs held by communing Orthodox, like gay marriage and evolution.

On the acceptability graph, you’d need an overlay of important Church father’s and famous Saints and Bishops.