How America Lost Its Mind
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11-08-2017, 11:51 AM
How America Lost Its Mind
This interesting and worth-reading thought piece puts the origins of our alarmingly casual relationship with actual reality, not on the church, but on the youth revolutions of the 1960s and particularly the Esalen Institute. That is a think tank in Big Sur that was the late 1960s ground zero of the counterculture. Thinkers behind the movement openly stated that what they were after was nothing less than the deconstruction of the "state religion of science".

The Esalen Institute is the origin of much of what we now recognize as New Age thought, so it still comes back to religious faith but not in a particular theological dogma so much as in the belief that vaguely defined counterculture principles of love, freedom and openness to alternative realities and perceptions (with the aid of drugs if necessary) will usher in some (also vaguely defined) nirvana in human society and relationships.

TL;DR key quote:
Quote:The American experiment has metastasized out of control. Being American now means we can believe anything we want.

An influential book cited (the title tells it all) is Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge.

We Atheists (understandably) tend to pin all this on religion, particularly our religion of origin, which is often fundamentalist Christianity, and which provides us our most entertaining foils. But is the real problem in the present day, that New Age woo and Fundamentalist / Inerrantist / Literalist religion are now mutually reinforcing without really realizing it?

I do think we need to expand our problem definition beyond the "usual suspects" and that it is broader than the dominant religion.

Thoughts?
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11-08-2017, 12:18 PM
RE: How America Lost Its Mind
It's everybody. People flock together. We all live in our own bubbles. The bubbles are filled with people/things we can relate to, understand and don't find threatening.

When lots of people find that their bubbles overlap, they can create a "movement". Then you have group think, and you lost reality.

Whether you do it in church, at a rock concert, at a sports event or at a trump rally, it's all the same.

[Image: dobie.png]Science is the process we've designed to be responsible for generating our best guess as to what the fuck is going on. Girly Man
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11-08-2017, 12:26 PM
RE: How America Lost Its Mind
(11-08-2017 12:18 PM)Dom Wrote:  It's everybody. People flock together. We all live in our own bubbles. The bubbles are filled with people/things we can relate to, understand and don't find threatening.

When lots of people find that their bubbles overlap, they can create a "movement". Then you have group think, and you lost reality.

Whether you do it in church, at a rock concert, at a sports event or at a trump rally, it's all the same.
Or on the Internet. It used to require a lot of time and cooperation and labor to get fallacies out there. Now everyone is able to put their version of reality "out there". Or as Trump put it when asked whether he regretted spreading a particular falsehood, "What do I know about it? All I know is what I read on the Internet".
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11-08-2017, 12:40 PM (This post was last modified: 11-08-2017 12:46 PM by Thoreauvian.)
RE: How America Lost Its Mind
(11-08-2017 11:51 AM)mordant Wrote:  Thoughts?

I personally think that the unusual recent history of our culture made too many people believe that reality is infinitely malleable, so they just choose the reality they want to believe in and try to make it happen. That way, people never have to compromise with anyone or anything, and they can create their own personal mythologies to boot.

New Age thinking was just a symptom of this basic ontological misconceptualization. We've got to get rid of the idea of infinite progress.
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11-08-2017, 01:33 PM
RE: How America Lost Its Mind
(11-08-2017 12:40 PM)Thoreauvian Wrote:  
(11-08-2017 11:51 AM)mordant Wrote:  Thoughts?

I personally think that the unusual recent history of our culture made too many people believe that reality is infinitely malleable, so they just choose the reality they want to believe in and try to make it happen. That way, people never have to compromise with anyone or anything, and they can create their own personal mythologies to boot.

New Age thinking was just a symptom of this basic ontological misconceptualization. We've got to get rid of the idea of infinite progress.
Good point. This manifests in many ways, this sense of entitlement to have it our way. It may simply be an unavoidable side effect of prosperity. More money than sense, as they say.

I've seen parents tell their kids that the sky's the limit, dream big. I understand the impetus not to limit our kids, to encourage them to stretch themselves. But it backfires sometimes.

As for infinite progress ... it probably seems infinite from the perspective of history and in many ways progress has accelerated more and more of late. It's just that people keep ignoring the Law of Unintended Consequences and make the mistake of extrapolating from a small data set into the distant future. Rather like the abandon with which we used resources without properly managing them when the frontiers seemed so vast.
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11-08-2017, 02:01 PM
RE: How America Lost Its Mind
[Image: 2wq52lj.jpg]

See here they are the bruises some were self-inflicted and some showed up along the way. - JF

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11-08-2017, 02:45 PM
How America Lost Its Mind
Interesting article. The thing that bothers me the most is the disturbing rise of anti intellectualism. It’s troubling when educated people are distrusted and every utterance from mouth breathing knuckleheads are automatically accepted. This is a reason why America is failing at education and has fallen behind all other western societies except Turkey (!) in the teaching of evolution.

As John Allen Paulos notes in his excellent book “Irreligion,”

"The results of a recent international study in the journal "Science" by Professor Jon Miller of Michigan State University and his associates document the prevalence of beliefs of the above sort about the origins of life. Their study finds not only that a growing number of Americans do not believe in the theory of evolution but that of thirty-two European nations and Japan, only Turkey has a higher percentage of its citizen rejecting Darwin. The authors attribute the results in the United States to religious fundamentalism, inadequate science education, and partisan political maneuvering. With regard to the latter Miller notes, 'There is no major political party in Europe and Japan that uses opposition to evolution as a part of its political platform.'"


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12-08-2017, 02:04 PM (This post was last modified: 12-08-2017 02:11 PM by M. Linoge.)
RE: How America Lost Its Mind
(11-08-2017 11:51 AM)mordant Wrote:  This interesting and worth-reading thought piece puts the origins of our alarmingly casual relationship with actual reality, not on the church, but on the youth revolutions of the 1960s and particularly the Esalen Institute. That is a think tank in Big Sur that was the late 1960s ground zero of the counterculture. Thinkers behind the movement openly stated that what they were after was nothing less than the deconstruction of the "state religion of science".

The Esalen Institute is the origin of much of what we now recognize as New Age thought, so it still comes back to religious faith but not in a particular theological dogma so much as in the belief that vaguely defined counterculture principles of love, freedom and openness to alternative realities and perceptions (with the aid of drugs if necessary) will usher in some (also vaguely defined) nirvana in human society and relationships.

TL;DR key quote:
Quote:The American experiment has metastasized out of control. Being American now means we can believe anything we want.

An influential book cited (the title tells it all) is Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge.

We Atheists (understandably) tend to pin all this on religion, particularly our religion of origin, which is often fundamentalist Christianity, and which provides us our most entertaining foils. But is the real problem in the present day, that New Age woo and Fundamentalist / Inerrantist / Literalist religion are now mutually reinforcing without really realizing it?

I do think we need to expand our problem definition beyond the "usual suspects" and that it is broader than the dominant religion.

Thoughts?

My thought is that it's a symptom of a larger problem.

Based on the timing it grew worse I’d take a guess at atom-bombs as an influence of events.
I imagine it’s easier for people like me who grew up after WWII. We never experienced the shift from relative safety to none whatsoever.
Before nukes the worst that could happened was invasion and dictatorship, which never lasts forever. Wouldn’t be the first time Americans threw off oppression.
In the arms-race decades following Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that changed. Suddenly one (non-specific) radical group, or the evil communists, could trigger a chainreaction leaving the entire planet incinerated.
As if we were never here.
People were robbed of their delusion of control. The new reality was a place where the possibility of death was ever-present and unpreventable.
So people did what they always do when they’re helpless; Reject the power of the things that frightens them. Physical reality and death.

And who was responsible for this terror? Who created this waking nightmare John and Jane average had no hope of defending themselves against, forcing people to turn against reality itself as a threat?
Science.
Intelligent people using the scientific method had done to this world what Satan and Eve did to the garden.

The focus on ideas like peace, spiritual “transcendence”, drug-fueled escapism and practically pagan mysticism trumping hard facts in the following decades could be a coincidence. Or a subconscious reaction.
What do you think?
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12-08-2017, 04:27 PM
RE: How America Lost Its Mind
(12-08-2017 02:04 PM)M. Linoge Wrote:  Who created this waking nightmare John and Jane average had no hope of defending themselves against, forcing people to turn against reality itself as a threat?
Science.
Intelligent people using the scientific method had done to this world what Satan and Eve did to the garden.

The focus on ideas like peace, spiritual “transcendence”, drug-fueled escapism and practically pagan mysticism trumping hard facts in the following decades could be a coincidence. Or a subconscious reaction.
What do you think?
I think the main flaw in that theory is that every age has had its own terrors, and not all were technological. The recent ones do tend to be, the atom bomb, nanotech, AI, etc. But before that there was the Japanese attacking the homeland, Nazi spies, Indian "savages", or simply starvation and disease. So I tend to think it coincidental, but it's not outside the realm of possibility that it was a factor.

I think the 1960s specifically were an abreaction to the emptiness and alienation of the corporate world of the 1950s, which in turn were an expression of the notion of the 1940s and forward, of building an efficient, convenient life through capitalism and conformity. It was repugnant to the young people, and they misidentified the scientific method and empiricism with the lack of balance in society of the day between creativity and convention. Unfortunately it created its own equally onerous problem: the discrediting of the empiricism and replacing it with the various forms of consciousness "enhancement" and manipulation. Rather than working to understand and control existence, there was the notion that wishing simply makes things so.

I always have thought that going even further back we had the likes of Norman Vincent Peale and Ernest Nightingale to thanks for this, for their overdetermined notions about positive thinking.
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12-08-2017, 11:10 PM
RE: How America Lost Its Mind
Interesting discussion.

Like this quote: "And if the ’60s amounted to a national nervous breakdown, we are probably mistaken to consider ourselves over it."

Indeed, I think we will be paying for this period for a long time to come. They from that "revolution" are the ones in power these past few years and years to come.

The phenomenon of Identity Politics has helped to create groups of citizens that seem to have lost their minds to the collective. The collective is a difficult creature to alter and I don't think they will be phasing out any time soon.

"The Ox is slow, but the Earth is patient."
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