Are we the first enlightened generation?

  1. Regardless of our particular views on science, religion, philosophy, every one of us (I include myself) seems to be convinced of a belief which, I'm afraid, lacks any substantial support. That would be the belief that we are the first generation of humans who are not deluded about the simplest things.

    We look back at the past and find all sorts of absurd beliefs, often mistaken by knowledge, that people held for a long time until they realized it was sheer nonsense. Off the top of my mind I can think of exorcism, alchemy, astrology, to name just a few. What is striking about people's attitudes toward those things in the past was their naivete, their inability to realize the complete lack of substance to those things. Sure, in our day we have all sorts of ridiculous beliefs, such as New Age, UFOs, ESP, and so on, but these are not the ones I'm talking about, for we know them for what they really are, and we ignore or dismiss people who try to assert their validity.

    Yet there was a time when kings and statesmen based their decisions on the advice of astrologers, when priests were seriously thought of as capable of curing schizophrenia, when scientists believed there was an easy way to turn everything into gold. The evidence from the past clearly shows that reason is not enough to prevent someone from believing in false ideas. So do you believe there are false ideas in our day which are taken seriously by most rational people? If you do, which ideas do you happen to think are false? If you don't, what reason do we have to believe we are less naive than our ancestors?

    Another way to put it, do you think 2,000 years from now people will laugh about things we take seriously, just as we laugh about stuff people took seriously 2,000 years ago? And what would those things be, if any?
  2. jcsd
  3. We have a fundamentalist Christian $elected president in American, and you would call this an enlightened generation?
  4. Maybe we are in terms of nature and the "natural world," but if you take a look around there's not much of it left!

    I think if we were truly enlightened we would do our utmost to try and preserve such things.
  5. OK. What if someone comes up and says our scientific view of the universe is deluded, that the fact that science works is no basis whatsoever to accept science as true. Is that too far out?
  6. hypnagogue

    hypnagogue 2,195
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    Looks like you have specific idea in mind and are waiting for the right moment to spring it-- how about now? What's your idea?
  7. I agree...cut to the chase already, none of us appreciate being jerked around.
  8. No, that would be proof that we are not the most enlightened generation.

    Making such a general statement implies you know the entirity of knowledge already, which is absurd.

    The idea that we will one day laugh at beliefs of today is, BTW, at the core of science. He would be deluded to say that science is true or false, because science is a method and way of thinking, not a theory itself - it simply shows he has no idea what science is in the first place. (Analogy: I yell out at you: "Going to work is not true!") But all scientists accept that our current view cannot be correct. Rather, as we see more the world, we adapt our view to it.
  9. The idea is simple: it's very hard to argue that some ideas are false if they make perfect sense. But making sense has nothing to do with truth, as some of the most laughable notions entertained by old civilizations made perfect sense to them. And yet, no one except the ignorant amongst us is willing to admit that some of our ideas which make perfect sense might turn out to be false.

    Clearly the issue is, how do we make sense of ideas, and how is it possible for false ideas to make perfect sense?
  10. Uh... what does making sense have to do with science, or even if you want the results of science at this time?

    Would you say QM made good, intuiative sense?
  11. People still have all kinds of crazy ideas--many people believe in the horoscopes they see in the paper (often even while being christians!). People believe in all sorts of deities and magic.

    But, as a whole, it seems that we have been progressing in how enlightened we are for several centuries. But where can you draw a line in saying that this or that is the first enlightened generation? "Enlightened" is a word that doesn't have a numerical value in its definition. And, really, the period of the 16th and 17th centuries known as the enlightenment would be as good as any to say that the first "enlightened" one.

    I have no doubt that society, in general, will laugh at what people do and believe today, just as I already do.

    The litmus test for accepting something is not or generally accepted it is, nor whether in "makes sense" as in being intuitive, but whether it makes sense as in following the rules of logic.
  12. drag

    drag 1,341
    Science Advisor

    Hey ! The American way will always be right !
    Do not believe anything or even consider the
    subject of beliefs and once some extreme a****le does
    believe in an extreme way - show him he's a moron
    or just shoot the bastard if he tries to act on it !
    I hate all these stupid ideologies ! Go USA ! Large
    bank accounts and maximum socially possible personal
    freedom rule !
  13. False beliefs aren't really false, they work in certain ways and don't work in certain ways. Mostly people are going to believe in what is thought to be good for them and reject the bad, this is probably the primary basis and trap of what appears to makes good sense, that is, how does it benefit me to believe in it? Horoscopes do work in that they give guidance to one's daily direction in a positive way to seize opportunities or avoid dangers and this is a rewarding practice, beyond that I see no cosmic significance.
  14. selfAdjoint

    selfAdjoint 7,521
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    Suppose the editors took the daily forecasts for the various sun signs and scrambled them, so that Virgo's forecast appeared under Leo, say, and so on.

    Then I think the resulting horoscope would have all the virtues you ascribe to the standard one. All good advice, and a spur to action for the lazy mided. No?
  15. Integral

    Integral 7,288
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    It has probably been 10 generations since these believes were taken seriously. How can you claim to be the "first" generation not to believe them? The way you make it sound I (being a generation ahead of you) am still living in the Middle ages.

    Perhaps the trouble is that you did not define what you mean by "generation".
  16. I am not "claiming" anything, I just asked a question.
    I don't know which way I made it sound, but to the best of my knowledge we might still be in the Middle Ages without realizing it.
  17. selfAdjoint

    selfAdjoint 7,521
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    Judging from posts like Drag's, you first have to show that you _are_ an enlightened generation. Does everybody in the generation have to be enlightened? If not I propose my own generation, the Silent Generation, as being the first enlightened. as far as I can see, everything has gone backwards since :)
  18. drag

    drag 1,341
    Science Advisor

    Older people...:wink:
  19. I agree...cut to the chase already, none of us appreciate being jerked around. -Zero

    Lol, it makes me laugh everytime I read it.
    My opinion is that this is one of the most deluded generations of all time, imprisioned by mass media manipulation. All I know is that I hate commercials, and now that I avoid them at all costs I have a little more money and time. I mean 1 bottle of soda a day isn't much at all unless you look at it on a lifetime scale.
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