12
Jul

Peterson and de Sousa debate Living Without the Sacred?



we often hear debates about whether we should take ancient texts as seriously as modern opinions and it's customary to deride atheists for saying things like well after all the authors of the Bible they what do they know they live 2,000 years ago or more and they didn't know all the things that we knew that we now know now I think that there is something naive about that view and something perhaps even arrogant about the idea that we now know better than everybody at anybody else that lived a long time ago but there is in fact a very interesting sense in which there is some truth to this idea that ancient texts are not going to bring us the kind of wisdom we need in the modern world and the reason for that is to put it very bluntly and briefly that we actually have two brains or as psychologists sometimes call them two relatively independent and yet connected and sometimes conflicting systems of mental processing the more ancient system of mental processing has had literally millions and perhaps a billion years to develop and it's amazingly good at detecting how other people feel at detecting what we should do in emergency situations and in all kinds of ways it's incredibly efficient the modern system which we've had for only a few tens of thousands of years is the system that is based on XP licit language-based reasoning and it's clumsy and it's slow and it's inefficient but it's the only kind of system of thought that will get you to the moon that will get you to Mars that will get your aeroplanes to fly and essentially I think the debate about the sacred is in a way a debate about whether we should continue to introduce in modern life those intuitions that we have from the first brain or whether we should actually give them up one of the things we get from this first brain is what somebody has called a hyperactive agency detection device which means that primitive people I know not supposed to say that specially a noisy primitive people nevertheless it is a primitive way of thinking it is a child like way of thinking tend to see in everything that happens in nature the intention of some agent now the fact about that is that there is no agent in nature and science has progressed simply by completely giving up on the idea that lightning and thunder and tsunamis and earthquakes are caused by some intentional being and that in effect is why we need to give up the sacred what is the sacred it's the idea that some beliefs or some values are absolute and what does that lead to well it leads to things like who many deciding that you have to kill the author of a novel that he hasn't even read because it offends the sacred it has to do with the Supreme Court of Canada deciding that sue Rodriguez could not be allowed to kill herself when she wanted to and when her life was thought by her no longer to be worth living although of course she's perfectly free to do so when she has no reason to why because they declared the right of a human being to have a dignified death is outweighed by the sacredness of human life now what's wrong with that is that when you consider some value to be absolute then you cannot afford to be tolerant of any other value because if you were you just be compromising with evil therefore the idea of the sacred is inimical to tolerance secondly if you believe that values are absolute then you're going to pretend that there is no decision to be taken but there are decisions to be taken about the value of human life for example if you really believed that a human life was absolutely valuable then you'd have to not only prevent anybody from owning a gun you'd have to prevent anyone from owning a car you could save 40,000 lives in the USA alone and proportionately many in Canada by banning cars and about as many by banning guns why don't we well because we don't really believe that human life is sacred as a matter of fact we don't really believe any of the stories that religious people believe we pretend to believe them because it gives us an excuse not to think seriously about what we really should value and to what extent we should value things and what we need to sacrifice for what so now I want to say that you can of course keep all the best things about these ancient ways of thinking you can keep the value of certain states which are brought about by the contemplation of poetry and stories that's called art that's illusion and the beauty of illusion what you don't need is the delusion of religion that to say what you don't need is actual belief so I want to conclude there is room for all kinds of things in human minds diversity mystical states yes we should seek mystical states communion yes we should seek community and communion all of that but there is no room for the sacred thank you the human mind is something that's shaped by the forces of biological evolution well let's take that seriously for a moment you're either a blank slate rationalist let's say on which anything can be written whatsoever or you actually have an intrinsic human nature now you can't have it both ways and what this means to me is that the dialogue between evolutionary biologists and people who theorized about religious beliefs has barely even begun and the reason it hasn't yet begun is because the evolutionary biologists and the rationalist don't know a damn thing about religion and their way around that is to make the most pathetic straw man possible out of the complex structure of ancient beliefs attribute them to someone who has the mental capacity of a thirteen-year-old and then proceed to use their high IQ to crush their opponents well that's just not going to work because the systems of thought that are derided by evolutionary biologists or osseous are complex beyond belief and they haven't spent the time unpacking them now we'll leave that aside for a moment and I'm going to go after a more central element of dr. de Souza's argument he said there's no such thing as the sacred ok so let me give you one thing that convinced me that there was something that was sacred I started doing this studying that I've been doing because I was trying to solve the problem of what happened during the Nazi era and in the Holocaust and what what really got me was one story and I read a story about Nazi prison guard maschwitz who had the Jewish prisoners who are in three quarters dead and pretty much headed for death anyways to carry wet socks of salt from one side of the compound to another and then back again 100-pound wet sacks of salt so you see that was something that was of absolutely no worth to anyone right and that was the demonstration that was being made by the guard you could put someone in a god-awful situation and do whatever you want to make it worse and I thought now good I found my absolute I found my thing that's sacred that's wrong wrong period and that was what the Nuremberg judgement said – that that was wrong there's some forms of behavior that cross culturally above rationality because you don't want to debate about the viciousness of Auschwitz some things are wrong absolutely wrong and that gives you a soul and ground to stand on right because as soon as you know that one thing is absolutely wrong you've got your absolute and then you can start thinking about what might be absolutely right and even if you don't know what it is here's a proposition what it is it's the exact opposite pattern of behavior that led to the Holocaust in Auschwitz and if we're going to take what happened in the 20th century seriously then we better start thinking about morality seriously and that debate has not started yet but the problem is that the Hitler's of this world the comedies of this world the Inquisition of the Catholic Church in this world all of these are equally certain of the rightness of their absolutes and while I totally agree that in any given conversation we have to have some things that we can all the interlocutors in the conversation agree on some things that were not going to question for today what is characteristic of the sacred as opposed to the person who says these values really matter to me is that if you say these value really mattered to me you're sometimes ready to die for them but it's only when you think they're sacred that you're ready to kill for them I think it's an interesting linguistic fact that the word act of faith that phrase translates into Portuguese as out of the thing you may recognize that phrase out of da Fey is the word that designates the ceremony of burning heretics at the stake in order to do them good in order to save them that is what is called an act of faith now faith you see is often praised by people of faith people are admired for their faith and what does that mean at Madh for their faith it actually means no more and no less that they are admired for being willing to continue to hold certain things to be true which all the evidence and reason is against that's what faith is Mark Twain defined it rather succinctly as believing what you know ain't true and that is exactly what faith is and that is why it is different from science which however arrogant you may think that some scientists are is surely no less arrogant than thinking that you have a direct line to that creator of the universe and that the creator of the universe is specifically intended interested in whether you're now praying taking its name in vain or maybe illegitimately fornicating right the point is that there is true arrogance it's not arrogance to say this is the best that I can do so far and I'm open to refutation I open to correction I'm open to evidence now in the in the piece that Jordan published this morning he said something rather interesting about Nietzsche's death of God passage that very famous passage in monisha said we've killed God he says Nietzsche was highly aware of the fact that pretenders will contend for the abandoned throne of God well yes but who was there in the first place the real God there were all pretenders and there were all pretenders who precisely use the the tendency that people have to believe such things and to hope that superstitions will save them all of that is used by people who get the power to tell you that God wants you to do this or God wants you to do that that's why we need to get rid not just of God of course we need to get rid of get rid of God because the whole idea of God is really if you think about it just silly but we need to get rid of the sacred that is to say we need to get rid of the idea that some things are forever beyond argument beyond criticism and beyond question well the first thing I would say is that dr. D'Souza actually didn't address my point because what I was trying to point out was that I could find one thing that to me seemed to be absolutely true and it's a vicious thing because you can decide on one side or the other you could either decide that what the Nazis did was culturally sanctioned and therefore it was okay or you can decide that it was wrong in a constituted a crime against humanity which means that it violated a kind of universal moral ethic okay but we'll leave that aside for now dr. D'Souza also brought up the specter of religious totalitarianism right well that's fine and fair enough totalitarianism is a danger I would say it's actually a danger of a certain kind of temperament because we now know enough about human biology and temperament to understand that people who are prone to totalitarian viewpoints have a particular kind of biological predisposition they're very conscientious they're very orderly there's other things that to go along with that that are deeper in some sense than their particular kind of belief and so totalitarians can emerge within any ordered structure of belief I'd also like to point out that he didn't really talk much about nihilism and the danger of any kind of moral relativism is a descent into nihilism and so I would say human beings always have to negotiate between the Scylla and Charybdis of nihilism on the one hand which occurs when your beliefs dissolve and totalitarianism on another on the other which occurs when your beliefs become too rigid and so the and then I would say that the equation of religious belief or admiration for the sacred with a tendency to be violent is I'm sorry we're just not going to have that argument anymore and I'll tell you why because in the 1970s Jane Goodall discovered something and she discovered something that see suppressed for quite a long time because it was so damn shocking and at this point it was just after the 60s and everybody was you know pretty much convinced that human beings were basically good and that we were basically something like a blank slate and that if we were nasty and corrupt it was because of our beliefs or maybe because our culture corrupted us and then Goodall discovered that lo and behold chimpanzees did territorial raiding and killed their enemies now unless you're willing to believe that chimpanzees are doing that for religious purposes you're pretty much stuck with having to deal with something that could be arguably more fundamental than motivation for killing the evil other than anything religious and this is a real tough point right lots of things died with good old discovery and one of the things that died was the idea that the reason that people were warlike was because of what they believed right it's deeper than that if you take a rat out of his dominance hierarchy and you wash him so he no longer smells like a rat and you put him back in to the rat hierarchy that's composed of his loving family the other rats will immediately tear him to pieces the probability they're doing that because he's now a heretic all right is pretty much zero now this is what I mean about evolutionary biologists wanting to have it both ways you know the more we discover the roots of our own being the farther back that we can trace it the more we find out that human beings actually have a nature let me give you a recent example there's a woman named Lynn Isbell who's been studying the development of vision in Southern California among primates and here's something real cool she discovered that human beings have the vision that they have which is unbelievably good by the way for a mammal or a primate it's second only to say bird of prey his Bell discovered that the more predatory snakes that were around as a primate evolved the sharper the primate vision and so his Bell wrote a very interesting book and she's very good scientist by the way called the fruit the tree in the serpent and what she claimed was that snakes in the garden gave us vision just out of curiosity have you ever heard that before right here's another thing you know why you have color vision because your ancestors were fruit eaters and so it says in Genesis that what gave human beings vision was the snake in the fruit well guess what that happens to be the case and then with regards to the pseudo scientific stance let's say of religious belief let's look at the Taoist symbol for reality named black Paisley white Paisley the black Paisley has a white dot in it and the white Paisley has a black dot in it what does that stand for stands for chaos and order and the reason it stands for chaos and orders because that's actually what being is made out of now you might think that the world is made out of the objects that you see in front of you but I can tell you one thing the colors you see aren't part of the world your perceptions which are evolved in some sense blind you to realities that transcend your perception well now are a good example what's most stable across the millennia some things stay the same some things change and being is made out of chaos and order just as the Daoists thought a very common idea across religious system so for example in Genesis you see that God whatever God happens to be uses words consciousness intelligence to extract habitable order out of chaos that's a very common religious idea and then you see something that's in it's even more interesting in that story you see that the Creator who does this also makes men and women in his image and what does that mean men and women interestingly enough which is not necessarily something you'd expect for an archaic patriarchal viewpoint what it means is that human beings use their consciousness to continually create order out of chaos or to reduce order that's become pathological back to its chaos and recast it and what that means is that our consciousness or consciousness itself participates in a radical way in bringing being to light now you may know that there's an interpretation in quantum physics for example called the Copenhagen interpretation not everybody agrees with it but according to the Copenhagen interpretation no event is an actualized event until it's perceived and the person who formulated that hypothesis John Wheeler is one of the most renowned physicists of the 20th century and he believed before he died quite firmly that whatever consciousness is played an integral role in being now it seems to me after studying this for a very long period of time that the entirety of Western civilization is predicated on the idea that there's something divine about individual consciousness and after studying that for such a lengthy period of time and trying to figure out what it meant I think I found out what it meant I think it found out that the reason that our archaic stories say that human beings men and women are made in the image of God is because consciousness plays a central role in being itself modern people think the world is somehow simply made out of objects and then they look at the world and then they think about the world and then they evaluate it and then they act and let me tell you as a neuroscientists neuroscientist that is wrong it's there's no debate about it it's just wrong the first thing that you apprehend when you look at the world and this is far before you make any conscious decision is undifferentiated meaning it takes you half a second of neural processing between before you transform the chaos that's attracted your intention attention into the actual objects of the world and you do that all the time you look around and so the so the facts of the matter seem to be something more like this the world is actually made out of potential and that potential is actualized by consciousness and we already all know this so for example your mother probably said to you at one point we should really live up to your potential and you didn't say to her mom the world's made out of objects what what sort of potential are you exactly talking about you know perfectly well what she meant potential is unrealized reality and consciousness realizes it and that's part of the reason it's divine I would like to make a full really quick points the first point is that all of that is lovely but I don't see what it's got to do with our topic the second the second is that I am absolutely not committed and nor is any relativist committed to nihilism nihilism is the view that there are no values relativism is the view that values depend on that very human nature that Jordan is so keen to stress the Third Point is a factual point about which I'm sure he knows more than I do but I have actually read that some of the violence that Jane Goodall uncovered may well have been due in part to the fact that she hadn't noticed that she had created a situation of scarcity among the primates she was studying so that there was a big store of bananas from which the chimps came and got bananas and in effect that created a completely new situation so that an alternative the standard interpretation of the fact that people hadn't noticed the violence before is that they hadn't looked long enough and people say well Jane Goodall came and she was so patient she watched long enough and after indeed you have to watch for thousands of hours before you were you find a murder even among humans and so if you watch long enough you try murders among chimps or gorillas however that is factually questionable but I don't think it's important falsely all of these bad things that we discover and all of these interesting things that we discover that we can hook up to ancient myths I simply want to say that their best investigated by science and that once we investigate them by science which is exactly your job it's what you do you're extremely good at it and you could not have uncovered the multifarious meanings of those stories by simply saying well I believe these stories the whole point is that what you've done is to compare is to think about how they relate to other things and it is in effect to bring what I've called the second brain to bear on the first brain and of course none of this absolutely none of it gives you the slightest reason for supporting the idea that we need the sacred I never claimed that dr. de Souza's committed to nihilism what I claimed was that nihilism and totalitarianism constitute two poles that human societies can disintegrate into depending on whether or not they hold their beliefs too likely or whether they hold them to rid now the danger of constant and unquestioning questioning is that nihilism looms just as Nietzsche said and Nietzsche predicted very precisely I might add that because of the emergent nihilism that the death of God would produce that some tens of millions of Europeans were likely to die in the 20th century to sort out what might constitute acceptable post-christian values well you know he predicted that about 40 years before it started to happen and that's pretty remarkable and so we live after the deaths of hundreds of millions of people in the 20th century fought for various reasons but I'm not accusing dr. D'Souza of being a nihilist I'm just pointing out that there's two forms of danger with regards to belief now I also think that human beings have evolved as a matter of fact to deal with those two dangers I think that when your nervous system for example detects that something is meaningful and moves you towards that place what it's doing is attracting you to the midpoint between order and chaos and that's the place where you're properly secure because enough of what you know is stable but properly curious so you're maximizing information flow into your system so that you can remain adapted I would also claim very directly and I think there's neurological and psychoanalytic evidence to suggest this that you experience that particular locale as a state that's associated with optimized being and I would also claim that religious systems that stress the divinity of the individual not only describe how cosmically important in a sense consciousness is but also that you're if you follow what you meet what is manifests itself to you as meaning that you will occupy exactly the right point between totalitarian totality and nihilistic chaos and I would also say that you all know that already because if you watch your life day after day and the manner in which you're being unfolds you'll find that frequently you occupy a state that you would like to continue to occupy and I would say that state itself is not a rational construction that state is something that your embodied being reveals to you and that if you want to stay in a place like that which is really quite a good idea that you have to watch to see how it is that you do that and try to repeat it now you know Ronnie objected that my comments have nothing to do with the topic and you know I might suggest that he actually didn't understand them because they were dead-on relevant to the topic I'm pointing out that you're you're the body that you inhabit has evolved over such a long period of time that the reality that's adapted to is precisely the interplay between order and chaos and when you balance those properly life reveals an intrinsic meaning to you that's so powerful that it can act as a counter position to all the tragedy this care also characteristic of life we're actually adapted to those two realities and that's why the descriptions of those realities are held as sacred across so many cultures so you know when you can try it and see how it works I mean it's an empirical process in a sense watch what you're doing when your life is worthwhile and maybe even more importantly watch what you're doing when your life isn't worthwhile and when you're becoming bitter and cruel and maybe even murderous and you will find out pretty quickly that there's a real difference between those two states and that difference is so profound that it's not merely rational now I would also like to talk about Goodall because Ronnie's actually absolutely wrong about that the reason that good all brought took her findings and held them for a number of years was because she was precisely convinced that perhaps there was exactly the problem that Ronnie laid out she thought that the chimps might have been corrupted you know in a sense by human contact but more importantly that their environment had been disrupted because of the human intrusion but so Goodall suppressed the results or maybe she was very cautious about them that's fine but it didn't take very long until primatologists across Africa reporting exactly the same thing even among chimpanzee troops that had never been studied by humans and so we know pretty well and you can read the primatology yourself we know pretty well that chimps do rating and that there's actually no limit what so ever on the force that they're willing to use on an outsider now you know it's convenient for rationalists especially of the evolutionary type to use religion as the whipping boy for all the ills of the world but if you took your damn evolutionary biology serious and you read enough of it you'd stop doing that because it just doesn't hold water the sorts of things that you accuse the religious of doing are so fundamental that they precede religion and we are the facts are already in guys there's no more debate about this we've known it since the early 70s so if you want to take the problem seriously you know you got to start addressing the root causes and quit playing this juvenile game I take the point about nihilism and and certainly I didn't mean to say that I was being accused of being an eyelift I was just pointing out that there is no need to take totalitarianism and nihilism as a kind of choice that we have to make regardless of what our attitude is to the sacred that we can try and work our way through to a reasonable accommodation whatever our beliefs about the sacred now and I also take your point about Jane Goodall it's just it's just I think it's actually not a point that needs to divide us because I completely agree that these impulses are embedded in our nature but you see that exactly makes my point about what I call the first system of thought because we get murderous aggression perfectly understandably from our evolutionary history it's a perfect like rape people are often shocked when somebody says well maybe rape is just a successful evolutionary strategy and that's why men are actually tempted to rape now the point is that's only shocking if you assume that that's thing lovely about nature but nature is a horrible horrible thing indeed that's why people invented religion to try and placate those horrible horrible gods that were doing all these awful things to us you try to pretend to think they're nice that is my very very very very amateurish explanation for monotheism and the idea that God is good god is obviously bad if God exists right so so you know when you have a really nasty boss you kind of suck up that seems to me to be all sort of the longer the short of this complicated story okay sorry could all right look this is how you say one more thing about rationality right because it seems to me that seems to be seen I of course I'm all for integrating and understanding the role that our nature plays in our behavior including our bad behavior but I think that that can best be done by giving up on the idea that values are to be held sacred as opposed to being really important and being open to discussion between those who hold these values and those who hold these other values so these are this is partly a descent into rhetorical trickery right because and I mean that formally because Ronnie's making a straw man again and that's not reasonable now here here also I'll tell you why so first of all God is good well I don't know if you've read the Old Testament but the people who wrote that didn't really have a primitive view of whatever transcendent reality was they knew that if you stepped out of line at the wrong time it would crush you like a bug there's no attempt to paint over that you know and if religious people for example are so concerned about transforming cruel reality into something that's you know primitively benevolent you got to ask yourself why in the world medieval people were torturing themselves with the idea of Hell because there's nothing that's really comforting about that so you're not going to get away with a simple Freudian you know religion equals a primitive way of reducing the death wish because it just doesn't hold up now with regards to another thing he said he C talked about black hating God okay so one of the things that you see across human cultures is human culture is almost universally you sacrifice and that can be really bloody and also the Aztecs for example sacrificed some twenty five thousand people a year to their God you know and we're I'm not really in favor of that that's not precisely my point but but I'll tell you I'll tell you something because I've studied sacrifice for a long time Arthur Kessler for example a journalist in the 60s wrote a book called the ghost in the machine and he claimed that the widespread practice of human sacrifice which is really cross culture was indication that you know something really seriously serious had gone wrong in our evolutionary history and that we were basically insane you know that self-consciousness drove us as a species insane and you know that's a pretty harsh claim but if you're thinking about 25,000 hearts ripped out by the Aztecs every year you know and all the other crazy things that people do you know you might lend it some credence but here look look at it this way human beings can change the future consciously and that's pretty weird you know we don't exactly know how we do that you look at the future and there's some possibility here and there's some possibility there and you want to go there and you don't want to go there so I ask my students all the time what did your parents sacrifice so that you could go to university while they put up their hands and they say well you know they saved and they scrimped and they moved from China and you know they had to start here as in and they sacrificed all that so that well so that what so that reality would shine its benevolent face on their offspring and so you can make fun of the idea of sacrifice all you want but you all understand it now you're a little more abstract than your ancestors were you know and they had to act this out in a dramatic way because they didn't have the same kind of psychologically sophisticated conceptual understanding that's standard now but I'll tell you the fact that you can think psychologically about sacrifice is a consequence of the of eons of work done by your progenitors in the attempt to solve an unbelievably difficult problem and although they might have made some mistakes along the way and you know let's let's not assume you know let's assume that we're doing precisely the same thing they certainly got us to where we are now and you tell me whether or not you believe that if you sacrifice the right things in the present that God the transcendent reality is more likely to shine his face on you in the future well whether you say you believe it or not I don't care because what I think what constitutes what you believe is not what you say but how you act and the probability that you all act that out in some form or another is 100 percent you are as you said psychologically sophisticated what that means is that we now understand these things in the light of rational science that isn't I that doesn't mean that we need to as well be and observe a participant observer in all the rubbish that is done in the name of the sacred you can understand this without believing anybody and frankly you don't believe any of it right you don't believe you you believe the psychological statements that you've made but you don't actually literally believe any of the things that people say about God about the effectiveness of sacrifice when it's not in those nice everyday instances that you've given in other words you don't really believe in God or the gods or any supernatural entities as far as I can tell and therefore I think there's something a little I don't know patronizing about your saying that you know people need this because otherwise their lives will be chaotic well look lots of people do this commuting between the chaos and the order by being or can artists or by consuming art and I repeat the difference between art and religion is that art is illusion and religion is delusion and that I think is really all I need to say well the first date no I won't say that it's not that easy to draw a line between delusion and illusion by the way you know so I mean they're not naturally bounded categories and the idea that there's a categorical difference say between art religion is far from obvious I mean here's here's how I look at it you know you have your rational domain and in that rational domain are the things that you understand well enough to talk about and also the things that you understand well enough so that when you act them out it works but that's a pretty limited domain and the only reason that you can inhabit it at all generally is because the world is set up the cultural world is set up to make things pretty easy for you you know insofar as things can be easy for people surrounding that domain of what you know it's a different kind of domain and that's the domain that's halfway between what you know and what you don't know and in that domain there are dreams for example that guide you we know for example that what dreams do is help you move information that you don't understand into systems you do understand without traumatizing you in that domain or religious ceremonies and drama and literature and art and all these things that are quasi rational in a sense but that constitute the sort of amoeba like pseudo pods that we extend out from what we're comfortable with into the domain that we know nothing about everything that we know went through this sort of process as emerges out of the unknown through the dream into the light of rationality and for Ronnie to say that there's a clear division between what constitutes illusion and what constitutes delusion is the sort of thing you'd expect to hear from someone who hasn't actually dealt with people who either have luge ins or delusions right and I see people all the time in my clinical practice who are suffering in all sorts of different ways and I know for a fact that many of those people suffer for reasons that are best construed in religious terms they have crises of meaning in their own households religious wars are going on between what constitutes the appropriate set of ultimate values and you can't remove problems like this by reducing them to what would you say a polite rational debate about the relative value of one idea against another what is rationality rationality is not just using using logic to derive your conclusions from set premises this rationality is not just refusing to acknowledge the importance of emotions rationality hell I wrote a book called the rationality of emotions right rationality is the rest rationality is just finding the means to whatever your goals are that are most likely to succeed and if your goals have to do with say achieving certain actions then rationality has to do with choosing the best means if your goal is to achieve a certain mental state then the rationality is going to be to try and move in the direction of presenting to yourself the world in such a way that those states will result and none of this none of this requires me to deny any of the psychological facts that you've stressed any of the biological facts that you've stressed and it they only they only leave and I think they do leave entirely open the question of what will actually know they closed the question in my favor do you need anything to be sacred and the answer is you don't people have to maintain order so there's sort of a sacredness of order and they have to adapt to chaos and change and so there's sort of a sacredness of chaos and then more fundamentally there's something that's more active that constitutes the path of weaving your way properly through both of those and that's a sacredness of transformation and so you know when people generally talk about religion especially evolutionary biologists you know they concentrate more on the totalitarian end of the distribution but you know there's no reason that that necessarily has to be the case because you know I mentioned the the archetype say the archetype of the dying and resurrecting Savior it's like that's not an archetype of stability it's an archetype of transformation and so you know that's a major religious system it's embodied in Christianity it's an older idea than that and it's clearly a gesture in the direction of radical change so we have to balance keeping things stable and we have to let things change and we have to figure out how to do that it's not easy I would say the sense of meaning that evolution for all intents and purposes has blessed you with is precisely the pre rational mechanism that allows you to do that kind of maneuvering so and I would say that attending to that is actually a sacred duty how about that and I think you guys know that you like to do meaningful things are not meaningful things right do you believe in meaning well yes or no are there things you do that are meaningful and are there things that are not so here's a little experiment for the next year just try to do things that are meaningful and see what happens and then you can think a little bit more about whether ancient religious systems have anything to say about what constitutes the essential values in life it's hard you know people they deny their responsibility they don't do that they take the easy way out and the consequence of taking the easy way out is that things are a hell of a lot worse than they could be and you know it's everybody's fault if they're not doing what they know they should be doing and everyone knows that and that's a sacred truth so deny it if you want but you know bloody well it's accurate I know it too but it's not a sacred truth it's either Universal or it's not and if it's Universal then it's as close to say it's close enough to sacred for me you know I don't I don't really care I don't really care if the rocks agree or the trees agree but as long as all the people agree that'll do the trick I'm really sorry I didn't hear the question ken did you hear the question can you help me the the questioner asked basically if by losing conception of the sacred herb right transposing it into secular terms we lose the sense that there's something valuable beyond us and that's problem that's liable to do deprive us of the kind of necessary hope right the answer is no look look I'll try to give you maybe a more serious answer I'm totally sick now I draw now sorry you you can no no so far a longer and spoil it now sorry this is a totally serious answer okay and the and it is applied by everything that I said about art and science and I think that if you look at you could for example you can look at a recent work by a man called Coughlin who has written a book called really claiming or rehabilitating the sacred by which he means and he and I have had a conversation about whether he should use that word but his point is that the contemplation of the mysteries that are revealed and explored by science is something that can definitely give you any estates that are just as wonderful and transcendent and and important as anything you can get from religion because despite all the wonderful things that Jordan finds in religion when he interprets these things the fact is the store is a pretty basic the stories are pretty boring and the story of the cosmos the story of the Big Bang the story of evolution the greatest show on earth Dawkins I think quite rightly hood now those are really exciting stories and so far from thinking that eliminating the sacred is going to cut off our sense of there being something greater and more wonderful it's exactly the opposite that's why I want to eliminate the sacred so again I say no so in one of my classes I show my students Pinocchio you know the Disney movie and the story opens up with a puppet right the puppet is marionette is something that's having its strings pulled by forces it doesn't understand and the maker of that puppet that's Geppetto you know so you can think about him as a stand-in for God the Father if you'd like because he creates this thing that's not quite formed and because Geppetto was a good father he wishes on a star that his son could become real now every good father wishes that by the way and Geppetto says like every father does is that's pretty bloody unlikely the probability that you're going to stay a puppet with things manipulating you behind the scenes is really high but because Geppetto is a good guy he wishes that and then nature and culture conspire together to make it happen right now one of the morals of that little story and there are many is that in order to have the best possible thing happen that you have to lift your eyes above the local and look into the transcendent now in that story that takes the form of the star something distant and maybe even something awe-inspiring is as Ronnie pointed out but the point of the point of the film and everyone understands this when they watch it whether they notice they understand it or not is that for the best of all possible things to happen and in this case it's that a true individual is born it's necessary to start by establishing a relationship with something that's transcendent now all of you have watched Pinocchio right and you fell right into it but I bet you you didn't understand it and it doesn't matter because it affected you at a level that's so and deep that it captured your attention and you watched it even though just for the sake of argument you might note that it involves a puppet rescuing his father from a whale now you can understand that now that's kind of strange don't you think because it's as irrational as can possibly be and my point is fundamentally that the reason you can understand things like that is because you have a religious sub structure whether you know it or not and so you might as well know it because if you knew it things would work better

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31 Comments

  • Mike Pflager says:

    De Sousa sounds eerily like Mostapha Mond lol

  • baby onion says:

    Jordan's way of thinking is the way people will think in a few decades. It's not that atheism is wrong, it's just obsolete.

  • Andy H says:

    Silly… Peterson refuses to answer if he believes in a supernatural being's existence or not.
    He may argue that religion is useful, or so useful that it is necessary. It does not make god to exist.

  • Making Love with the ONE you love is sacred, (I'm not talking about sex and self gain…sex today is a meaningless sport).
    How about the gift of life? Morality, Humanity, Natural Law or Free Will? I guess if the powers that be, keep dragging us down their down-spiraling path to Sh$tsVille, a "Do as thy Wilt" mentality and Chaos…we're screwed, didn't help Sodom and Gomorah!

  • Jonathan * says:

    There is something ingenuine about De Sousa.

  • Silly man, I don’t carry a gun because I don’t value life, I carry a gun because the other guy might not value life!

    Nietzsche, when asked if He had a faith in God simply said “I know”. If you don’t know you just don’t know. So damn simple!

    I'm open, keep waiting for that point de Sousa says he's going to make?

    34 min in and sure enough, an atheist Canadian audience. Shouldn't have taken me 34 min to discover this?

  • umperthay says:

    Id you pay really close attention, Ronald de Sousa either back peddles & restates things (to keep from looking like a shallow minded asshole), or subtly contradicts himself. 🙂

  • The thing is that Peterson is always "kind of right…" just as he says of Marx, that what Marx said was "kind of true…"

    I guess as long as all books are prone to interpretation this will be an issue…. and the only addition to this is that Peterson is a smart guy, so either he missed the intended meaning or he is intentionally misreading it (even without ill intent) to fit his narrative. 

    Actually the Pareto Distribution is about benefits and production, but what he refers to in is Price's Law of CREATIVITY, which, YES, it is about distribution of CREATIVITY and not distribution of GOODS or wealth. the distribution or TENDENCY about benefits or goods or money, which tends to come from 20% of the things or people involved in any endeavour, is the Pareto Distribution PRINCIPLE.  

    —- and "Principle" and "Law" are not the same thing… 

    This is what makes me question Peterson's INTENTIONS because he obviously has the intellect to understand this difference.

    Price's Law is a sub-area within the Pareto Principle of, generally, 80-20; except that Prices Law is EXPONENTIAL in its expression, which says that 10% of the PEOPLE in any endeavour do 90% of the CREATIVE work and tend to take on that responsibility for the rest, since they are the ones with the know how and ideas for solving issues or outright problems. As you can see, as the company grows the uncreative people grow to unmanageable numbers… a company with 20 employees with 2 of them doing most of this work is not the same as a company with 1000 employees with 900 not contributing almost anything. Thus the creative and most productive employees leave as the burden becomes unmanageable, specially if their efforts and work ethic is NOT recognised by management, which is normally the case.

  • This Peterson guy is really really stupid in that he is a true hones BULLSHITTER…. and he seems to believe his own bullshit. Conor vision from snakes and fruit?? because the bible can be INTERPRETED that way??

    The only thing I sort of agree with Peterson is when he DESCRIBES hierarchies, but his use of them into larger arguments really sucks. When he wants to not be challenged he says, 
    "the science of this is clear, there's no debate about that anymore…"

    He is a sneaky SOB when he uses what he knows is EVERYONE'S insecurities against them, to show he is right, but that doesn't show he is right; he makes you feel insecure by pointing it out and then makes you agree with him in that moment, "you know damn well she's right"
    "when your mom tell you you're not all you could be…" hell, no one is, even christ himself didn't live up to his "potential" that is a dirty trick he uses many times along his world wide bullshitting tours. Take the most accomplished person you know, and tell him that and he knows he is not lived up to her "potential" —-what sort of bullshit is that!!

  • Z0nkop says:

    Peterson was dead on that day. He took it really serious and had his points in order.

  • Falling asleep listening to de Sousa, woke up when Peterson started to speak. Psycho-somatic reaction.

  • Im at 4:50 and already I call BS. Somethings "should" and somethings "must" be treated and/or understood as sacred. Like water for example…. we can not live without water so it is inherently sacred. This all should not be as confusing as it has become … lets make common sence sacred. 🙂

  • There is both a good side and bad side in every human being. Peterson encourages the good side.

  • Paul Hindes says:

    Jordan Peterson is the man.

  • Mary De Voe says:

    The sovereign personhood of the sovereign person is sacred.

  • Majority of those who call themselves scientists have been giving us lies in the last few decades probably more than all of clerics of all of the religions given us in all of human history.
    Scientists talk about unknowns all the time as absolute , are these parts of entertainment s of financial gains or simply making names for themselves.

  • people still use the mid-atlantic accent?

  • Practical example: Is locking up the children of persons seeking asylum, (at the US border,) into giant concentration camps, where these children will likely sleep on cement floors, any more moral, than the concentration camps used by Germany before and during WWII? I would say no! Absolutely NOT! And yet we have dozens of right wing, ultra conservative evangelicals who are self proclaimed moral standards of conduct, saying that this insanity is perfectly OK with them! I think that my moral standards are then substantially higher than these supposed christians… and i am an atheist!

  • I skipped through and only listened to Jordan Peterson because I like listening to someone who actually has intelligence, unlike like the arrogance of Ronald de Sousa.
    Jordan Peterson is highly intelligence, and also has humility and actually listens to others. He's not a know-it-all. Ronald de Sousa speaks down to others and is much to arrogant for his own good. He's full of himself, which turns most people off.

  • I am a life long Atheist, and I see Nothing Wrong with the teachings of Jesus, and if we all lived the Golden Rule it would be Heaven on Earth. If you have a Highly Defined Sense of Right and Wrong, you are a Rare Human, and most others need a clue.

  • Robbie Jack says:

    Peterson said practically nothing. He blathers on about bullshit that is irrelevant so that he and his fanboys can feel all enlightened and esoteric, it’s become old and tired to me. I was initially very impressed with him.

  • Moia Beemer says:

    Peterson, always moving the goalposts and redefining, assuming slyly as if no one notices, misquote and attribute belief where no belief was stated. And straight to NAZI'S and Stalin. Yawn.

  • John Cassles says:

    The fact that we can understand and use the word "sacred' would imply that language in its honesty attempts to describe 'specifically'a universally perceived and accepted concept. We must then at least take seriously the possibility that that concept along with all other transcendent concepts (ex. love, eternity, etc.) are describing a real truth or value. I will make a bold truth claim that when it comes to universal or ubiquitous concepts, there is naturally a certain truth to back it up. A perfect example of this is Love vs affection. These values may seem the same on the surface but are not in reality. Love is deeper and more enduring whereas affection is more conditional. How do humans know that. well from experience. Though more ambiguous, is Sacred vs Sublime. Also very similar, but sacred has the unique quality of being more necessary or absolute in its value.

  • D P Hardy says:

    Sousa is full of it. What he teaches is poison.

  • ali says:

    Hey, that belt saves our faith that you don’t loose your pants and exposes the little guy in the shadows of a greater man?,

  • Stan Leery says:

    Yes, people are willing to kill in the name of the sacred. Stalinist Russia showed that people are EAGER to kill when NOTHING is sacred. How else do explain the millions of unmarked graves littering the landscape of the USSR in the name of nothing more than a resentment of the haves by the have nots?

  • 99guspuppet says:

    sousa reminds me of edward everette horton

  • rick Fischer says:

    De Sousa begs the question in his opening remarks. What he ignores is that "primitive" people's wisdom involved more than simple magic in nature, but more importantly understood the nature of humans and their flaws and how the impact of those flaws can be mitigated. De Sousa's viewpoint throws that out with the dishwater.

  • LaLa Land says:

    Intentionally directed by a higher being or not revolves around belief instead of knowledge.  What is known instead of believed, however, is that provable, natural, universal laws are immutably in place that absolutely govern the consequences of almost all individual and aggregate human behavior.  Most people are unaware of the two sacred principles of Natural Law which are the sacred right to self defense and the sacred moral obligation to not cause harm to other sentient beings, and that lack of knowledge or deliberate ignorance (especially the lack of obedience to the latter sacred principle) is one of the biggest reasons we will most certainly continue pointing nuclear weapons at each other until there is at least one intentional or accidental nuclear detonation of worldwide consequence.  Perhaps putting it into a sobering, one sentence 'look in the mirror' or 'in your face' perspective, "We all need to realize that until we accept as sacred the governance of our own individual human behaviors, we are in an endless cycle of electing corruptible others to govern us that will always FAIL and NEVER solve war, crime, poverty, disease, hunger, true caring for the elderly and disabled, and the like."  Our future is doomed because we individually refuse to accept as sacred that learning, teaching, and obeying Natural Law which immutably rules the consequences of our human behavior is actually possible and is the ONLY solution to saving mankind and what's left of our fragile planet.  Call it Universal Law, God's Law, Universal Morality, or Cause and Effect, but history proves it is absolute and sacred (not to be violated) as evidenced by the corruption, division, selfishness, and violence observed today.  It does not care if you label yourself atheist, agnostic, or one of the literally thousands of different religiously denominated belief systems.  Simply stated, it is just the way things truly are regarding human behavior and its consequences.  Best wishes and please care enough to seriously evaluate Natural Law and teach it to others if you agree it can save our world.  You can research its merits at whatonearthishappening dotcom.

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