Category: Pageau, Peterson and Co.

Is it or isn’t it?

by Andrea Elizabeth

The video in my previous post is Donald Hoffman’s somewhat struggled-for explanation of What Reality Is, or more descriptively, isn’t; as he was really having to pull the interviewer kicking and screaming along.

His premise is that we see icons of reality, and not reality itself. This is evidenced by the different ways other species “see” things with additional or lesser frequencies than humans. It is also based on the idea that our way of seeing reality evolved in a survival of the fittest way to be the best way so far. I find evolution models so impoverished. I understand what he is saying in that the information retrieved from radio telescopes, for example, have to be interpreted into a visual language to “show” us heavenly bodies. Even sound recordings have to be interpreted for us. But if you believe we are made in God’s image, that our coming on to the scene was the reason for the universe, and that God chose to become man, not animal, then you can see that human perception is the best way to see the universe. To be Godlike is to see objects as we see them rather than through sonar reflections like bats. I believe there are deeper ways to understand the nature of things, but these enhance what infants perceive, not replace them. Well, maybe infants have it better than us in some ways, like Matthew 18:3 says. I’m not like the interviewer who can’t get passed that there are other ways to see or experience things, I just don’t feel as disconnected from the way I see things. I do interface with nature differently now that I’m aware of the processes that built mountains, for example. I see them as wounded shallow sea beds, but they are still pretty and moving, though not in the exact same aesthetic-only way that an abracadabra young earth person thinks. Great things are gotten through much work, patience and pain rather than instant gratification, and so seeing the price paid adds another layer to the experience. But mountains can still be measured from sea level and their rocks can be differentiated like all humans, and animals to some extent can do. And though gravity affects climbers differently based on their size and fitness, going up is still harder than going down for any climber, be they animal, vegetable, or mineral. But apparently the sun is a stronger force for plant branches than gravity, but not for their seeds.

I believe if one were in theosis one would see the uncreated light emitting from objects, but they would not cease to be what they are, and I believe what we know them to be. (this could use a lot of nuance that I’ll not go into now) Except for the evolutionist. He sees things as spontaneously random and luckily strong enough to persist. He may admire the energy it took for it to get this far, but it is a fluke, not an intended ingredient. The creationist sees everything as fearfully and wonderfully made as God’s best way to express Himself and to be most thoroughly understood by humans in the fullness of time.

I am learning, however, that our interactions are more complicated and less obvious than it may seem. There is a lot of memory and spacial intelligence involved with placement rather than just eye/hand coordination. And our brains are very selective in what they deem worthy of our attention. We have a lot of subconscious, inherited prioritization. Prioritization is what I’d rather talk about. How much is in our control and can be taught? Like organization over spontaneity and such. People talk about the trained eye. We’re watching the series, “Psych” right now, where Shawn’s ex-police father trained him to observe his surroundings more than most people do. I’ve been meaning to recommend this witty, quirky show – it’s probably PG-13, which I’d actually change to 17 if it were up to me.

New guy

by Andrea Elizabeth

In the above video on Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson, Jonathan Pageau mentions in passing how interesting cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman is. I’ll start with this one.

(Link fixed)

Wisdom and science

by Andrea Elizabeth

In this lecture Professor John Vervaeke weaves together Cognitive Science, wisdom and a little Buddhism.

I think it’s hard to quantify wisdom. Seems reactions can be quantified, which is where some can get the idea of rigidly categorizing sexual orientation, for example. He talks about stepping back and transcending initial reactions, so that seems to be more akin to art and religion. Science deals with nerve impulses and emotional responses. There are interesting statistics however that give us an idea how common accepted wisdom and self control are, such as people’s success in losing weight and quitting smoking.

But when you’re talking about getting in touch with the universe, you’re having to insert a lot of spirituality and philosophy in there. Jordan Peterson categorizes his lectures as studies in success, while identifying as a statistical psychologist and thus he’s free to throw in literature, art, and philosophy.

Vervaeke links cognitive science with AI, so replicating wise choices I guess makes it more of a science. You don’t want dysfunctional robots, so we do not want to make them free. That means we can’t love them, but they are required love us, or else we’d have to pay them.

Pageau and Vervaeke

by Andrea Elizabeth

John Vervaeke is a professor of Cognitive Science at the University of Toronto, Jordan Peterson’s old school. This is a stimulating discussion about the nature of thought, wisdom, and interacting with the world. I wonder what either one of them think of Bulgakov’s Sophia.

Best quote in the comments: “Why do people in church seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? … Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us to where we can never return.” —Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters (New York: Harper & Row, 1982), pp. 40-41.”

I want to look her up now.

The only critique I have is that though Pageau seemed to be interested in absorbing Vervaeke’s take on things, he didn’t seem to believe Orthodoxy didn’t already have all it needs. My position is controversial. I applaud him for talking to all these other people, but does he want anything more than to establish agreement and sell how we already have it? Take Tai Chi or yoga, for example. I don’t wish to learn from any mysticism on the belief-side of the practice, and some people think you get contaminated by these beliefs if you practice them, but I do think the body needs to move in prescribed ways besides prostrations and crossing ourselves. I think there are ways to harmonize ourselves more positively, in addition to penitentively, with the created energies of the universe. The Orthodox precedent for something like this is that some clergy will recommend some people go elsewhere for psychological counselling. This shows that we can learn from those outside Orthodoxy and implement some of their things. I have respect for people who practice Buddhist discipline that may put some of our individual attentiveness practices to shame. And I have heard Sam Harris, who practices some Buddhism, and Mr. Vervaeke on these videos take a decidedly disciplined turn in the conversations to humility and gratefulness. In other words, I think God will reveal himself to those who seek, and if we don’t want to be schooled by others, we should seek harder. I also think he gave culturally cultivated wisdom to others in a “rocks cry out” way ,and since one small group can’t contain it all. It may also be the case that some people can’t handle the more direct interface with God that the Orthodox have. This could be behind the differentiated specializations we have in art and science. If they had been lost in theosis, maybe some things wouldn’t have been studied and expressed. I don’t know, but the things non Orthodox people contribute could also be God’s plan B for expressing himself. Not that the Orthodox can’t learn and bring things into better focus.

Future listening:

addendum – there may be some things worth gleaning in eastern mystic writings as well. C.S. Lewis invoking the Tao, for instance.

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.