Category: Religion

Over the course of the past year, I’ve silently admired the emergence of a community of blogs influenced by the writings of Mencius Moldbug who call themselves neoreactionaries.  It’s generally been one of the more creative parts of the dissident Right blogosphere, using many of the concepts pioneered by Moldbug and using them in new ways to look at today’s society.  However, one of the pitfalls of creativity is that it generates bad ideas just as adeptly as it generates good ones.

One of the ideas that has emerged is a cladistic look at ideologies, with a focus on American progressivism in particular, as exemplified in this post by Nick Land and this more recent one from Foseti in which progressivism is treated as a highly modified branch of English Puritanism.  In biology, cladisitics is an approach to categorization of organisms based upon the time since the most recent common ancestor.  I like this approach since the categories it generates reflect the actual relatedness of their constituent species.  For instance, take this example of primate classification from Wikipedia:

CladogramAs can be seen, the old categorical divisions within the order of primates did not reflect the actual relatedness of its species, as tarsiers, classified as prosimians are more closely related to all simian species than they are to the lemurs and lorises that complete the category of prosimians, making “prosimians” paraphyletic.  Another example of paraphyly can be seen further up the tree, as there are two branches labeled as “monkeys”, but old world monkeys are actually more closely related to humans and apes than they are to new world monkeys.  Similarly, this approach shows that grouping together tarsiers and lorises, two big-eyed nocturnal primates, results in pulling two groups from different branches in a single category, not unlike grouping sharks and whales together despite their very different ancestries.

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In recent weeks, a YouTube poster with the user name HeyRuka has been held up among a few bloggers in the race realist blogosphere.  As someone with a pseudonymous blog, it is heartening to see a young woman who is willing to argue against the conventional wisdom on racial matters and on video, no less.  However, as Unamused points out in a recent post, her main focus as a video blogger is on atheism.  For example, here she is riffing on antitheism:

While as per my initial post, I consider myself to be an agnostic atheist, I can’t say that I endorse many of her statements.  I personally find the religious thinking to be overly superstitious and I don’t partake in religion myself, but I cannot deny that religious people tend to be more charitable than the nonreligious or that religion provides an important social bond for societies around the world, a fact reflected in its etymology:

From religiōn-, the stem of the Latin religiō (“scrupulousness”, “pious misgivings”, “superstition”, “conscientiousness”, “sanctity”, “an object of veneration”, “cult-observance”, “reverence”), from religō (“I bind back or behind”), from re + ligō (“I tie, bind, or bandage”).

Nonetheless, I consider myself to be an agnostic atheist and I put emphasis on the atheism.  When I brought that up months ago in a  comment on hbd chick’s blog, she gave the following reply:

i’m an agnostic atheist, too, more-or-less. my gut tells me there is no god, but my head tells me that we can’t be sure. but, if i were interviewed for the gss i would definitely respond #2 [NO WAY TO FIND OUT, the GSS option for agnostics].

I respect that viewpoint, but I’d like to use the rest of this post to discuss why given the choice of identifying as an agnostic or an atheist I choose atheist.  As Unamused aptly pointed out, a discussion of atheism cannot be productive unless the ground rules are set.  I also liked Unamused’s definitions of theism and atheism, so I’ll quote them here:

Theism means belief in the existence of gods, so I define atheism, sensibly enough, as lack of belief in the existence of gods.

I would further add, in the same vein, a definition of agnosticism as lack of a knowledge claim concerning the existence of gods.

The reason that I primarily identify as an atheist rather than an agnostic is that identification as an atheist says something about one’s view of reality while agnosticism says something about one’s view of the state of one’s knowledge.  While I do think that acknowledgment of the limitations of one’s knowledge is important and that an atheist who is certain that no being that would qualify as a deity exists is foolish, I think that it is more important to emphasize one’s view of reality over one’s view of knowledge if a choice must be made.

To be clear, I have a basic view of reality that does not include any deities.  I acknowledge that I do not know that I am correct my exclusion of deities and I further believe that, barring the emergence of extraordinary evidence provided in favor of a deity’s existence, it would be impossible for me to determine whether or not deities exist to an extent that would satisfactorily qualify as knowledge.  Nonetheless, it seems to me that quirks of the human mind are a more plausible explanation of the widespread existence of mystical beliefs than the actual existence of God or lesser deities and that given the knowledge presented by modern physics and biology, no deity is necessary to explain the current state of the Universe.

Superstitious Competition

Ron Guhname recently posted an excerpt from What Americans Really Believe by Rodney Stark as a counterpoint to the notion that belief runs along a continuum from religion to skepticism.  It showed that a higher proportion of those who don’t attend church regularly buy into superstitions like Bigfoot, UFOs, and Astrology.

This point reminded me of the results of the 2005 Eurobarometer poll on the topic of Europeans’ beliefs regarding the existence of the divine.  Here’s a map of Europe where the brighter the country, the higher the rate of belief in God (a country where 100% professed belief in God would be white, whereas a country where 0% did would be black).  Translucent areas weren’t included in the poll:

Clearly there’s a wide range of opinions on the topic of God’s existence throughout Europe.  Interestingly enough, most of the countries that have the low rates of belief are in Western Europe rather than in the former Communist states of Eastern Europe.

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While the attempt to trivialize human differences by using cosmic comparisons is largely non sequitur, an attempt to distract from matters close at hand with others far more distant, that does not mean that the motivation for doing so is not a noble one.  Returning to Jill Tarter’s quote, there is a clear double entendre in the bolded section:

As Carl Sagan said, we are all made out of stardust. You are actually made out of the remnants of that star that blew up billions of years ago, and the connectedness of life to the Cosmos and the idea of thinking about, maybe, life somewhere else, I think has the opportunity to trivialize the differences among humans on this planet that we find so troublesome.

Taken literally, it seems that she is arguing to trivialize the differing characteristics of humans.  Certainly this interpretation makes a good deal of sense, particularly since she emphasizes the fact that “we are all made of stardust”, thus highlighting a shared characteristic.  However, at the same time, “differences” can also refer to conflict, and interpretation suggested by the descriptor “that we find so troublesome”.  The second interpretation also jibes with the passage of The Pale Blue Dot that I referenced in my last post.


Here is a sample of the collection of facial averages generated by Dragon Horse.  The ones below are from left to right: West African, English, and Taiwanese.

The contrasts are stark, not just between different geographic locales but also between the sexes.  It is true that all of the individuals whose pictures went into creating these averages consist of roughly the same balance of elements, which were in turn formed in the same collection of stars and supernovae, but it is clear that they are different.  Even when the features of any one individual is lost in an average of co-ethnic peers, strong differences remain.

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Last week, the NPR program All Things Considered ran a segment on sounds derived from the electromagnetic radiation of sources in outer space.  During the segment, they interviewed Jill Tarter, one of the co-founders of the SETI Institute.  The segment ended with the follow quote from her:

As Carl Sagan said, we are all made out of stardust.  You are actually made out of the remnants of that star that blew up billions of years ago, and the connectedness of life to the Cosmos and the idea of thinking about, maybe, life somewhere else, I think has the opportunity to trivialize the differences among humans on this planet that we find so troublesome.

The bolded portion struck me as a rather strange aspiration, but not one that is altogether uncommon.  Indeed, in the quote, she references the late Carl Sagan, who often expressed similar sentiments.

Sagan’s Vision

One of Carl Sagan’s most famous pieces was his meditation on the meaning of a photograph taken of the Earth by the Voyager 1 spacecraft as part of a solar system mosaic it took a few months after passing beyond the orbit of the gas giant Neptune:

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