William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

What Causes Democracies To Incline Towards Pantheism

Panthe

Wrapping up class. I’ll be on the Bill Meyer Show today at 11:10 AM ET. He’s a Medford, man. Medford, Oregon. (Let he who readeth understand.)

This will keep up busy until I’m free again. Martin Gregory reminds us of these words by Alexis de Tocqueville from Alexis de Tocqueville Democracy in America Vol II.

I SHALL show hereafter how the preponderant taste of a democratic people for very general ideas manifests itself in politics, but I wish to point out at present its principal effect on philosophy.

It cannot be denied that pantheism has made great progress in our age. The writings of a part of Europe bear visible marks of it: the Germans introduce it into philosophy, and the French into literature. Most of the works of imagination published in France contain some opinions or some tinge caught from pantheistic doctrines or they disclose some tendency to such doctrines in their authors. This appears to me not to proceed only from an accidental, but from a permanent cause.

When the conditions of society are becoming more equal and each individual man becomes more like all the rest, more weak and insignificant, a habit grows up of ceasing to notice the citizens and considering only the people, of overlooking individuals to think only of their kind. At such times the human mind seeks to embrace a multitude of different objects at once, and it constantly strives to connect a variety of consequences with a single cause. The idea of unity so possesses man and is sought by him so generally that if he thinks he has found it, he readily yields himself to repose in that belief. Not content with the discovery that there is nothing in the world but a creation and a Creator, he is still embarrassed by this primary division of things and seeks to expand and simplify his conception by including God and the universe in one great whole.

If there is a philosophical system which teaches that all things material and immaterial, visible and invisible, which the world contains are to be considered only as the several parts of an immense Being, who alone remains eternal amidst the continual change and ceaseless transformation of all that constitutes him, we may readily infer that such a system, although it destroy the individuality of man, or rather because it destroys that individuality, will have secret charms for men living in democracies. All their habits of thought prepare them to conceive it and predispose them to adopt it. It naturally attracts and fixes their imagination; it fosters the pride while it soothes the indolence of their minds.

Among the different systems by whose aid philosophy endeavors to explain the universe I believe pantheism to be one of those most fitted to seduce the human mind in democratic times. Against it all who abide in their attachment to the true greatness of man should combine and struggle.

The mistake you might make while pondering this is to suppose that the pantheism must be of the old-fashioned gods and goddesses sort, with unicorns, dragons, and magic. There is another sort, which I wrote about here: The Scientific Pantheist Who Advises Pope Francis: The scientist who influenced Laudato Si, and who serves at the Vatican’s science office, seems to believe in Gaia, but not in God.

The essence of Scientism is Pantheism, a statement which I shall prove (if it’s not otherwise obvious) in time.

For now, back to class!

20 Comments

  1. Hmmm … Today you have class but tomorrow you will have no class? One can only speculate how that will affect tomorrow’s post.

    Bill Meyer has a passing resemblance to Drew Carey.

  2. A cynic might conclude there would be no post tomorrow after a celebration of class ending, but we’re not cynics here, are we? 😉

    Pantheism has one really handy characteristic over religions where there is a creator or God—humans get to write the entire religion on their own. They don’t have an annoying list of rules from a diety, nature is always there and always silent unless someone interprets dying trees as the diety speaking. In religions with creators, there are rules written down and one is expected to follow them. Religions with creators are easy to attack—happens all the time. However, who could say nature was evil? Pantheism is safe from attack, allows people to write their own religion and to demand whatever behaviours and laws they want to defend that religion. No one can avoid becoming part of the group because we all live on the planet. Not believing is no excuse for whatever behaviour is being opposed. It’s quite perfect for controlling people and advancing dictatorial political agendas.

  3. Sheri:

    …nature is always there and always silent unless someone interprets dying trees as the diety [sic] speaking

    (Did I find this here or somewhere else – were you referring to this?)

    Warning – have barf bag(s) handy
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElJFYwRtrH4

  4. The Joshtoon over at WUWT does a nice job of summing this up.

  5. It’s not clear if the sobbing in the video was coming from the tree painting or some person weeping over the atrocious waste of paint. I suppose that thing in the bottom center is its head.

  6. The supreme irony (not to be confused with a supreme being) is that a majority of wood pellets for the DRAX (Renewable/CO2 Neutral) Power Station in the UK comes from NC

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2581887/The-bonfire-insanity-Woodland-shipped-3-800-miles-burned-Drax-power-station-It-belches-CO2-coal-huge-cost-YOU-pay-cleaner-greener-Britain.html

  7. Dav beat me with a link to WUWT, but the best bit is not the cartoon from Josh, but the superb re-working of the Lord’s prayer by Dominic Lawson, originally in the Daily Mail (although I can’t find a link to that).

    My favourite lines come at the end:

    “For thine is the moral high ground
    The onshore wind farms and the subsidies
    For as long as the taxes can be raised.

    Amen.”

    My wife fell off her chair laughing!

  8. GREAT post. Excellent diagnosis… sez I, because I share it.

  9. My “Friends” on FaceBook tell me the SCOTUS has approved Unicorns and Rainbows

  10. John B (): Yes they have and don’t you be saying anything bad about them. They are the SUPREME court, you know. 😉

  11. Is the Medford man looking for a good Osteopath?

  12. Briggs

    June 26, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    mysterian,

    Osteopath, huh. Just don’t put her on the expense account.

  13. Pantheism, boo!
    Panentheism, yay!

    Proof by enthusiasm 🙂

    I agree that pantheism is a motivated by scientism. I think pantheism is on the rise because of the strange, upside-down belief that consciousness is an emergent property of the objective properties we observe. That’s magical thinking, for sure.

  14. Briggs, “The essence of Scientism is Pantheism, a statement which I shall prove (if it’s not otherwise obvious) in time.”

    This sounds like one of those logical paradoxes. If it is not obvious you can prove it but if it is obvious it cannot be proved. 😉 What if it is obvious to some of us but not others? Can it be proved then?

    Since I am not clear what either Scientism and Pantheism mean beyond what one might find in a dictionary, I look forward to your proof, but only if it is not obvious. Does it have something to do with the Pantheon?

  15. Thanks John B() for the video, I had a good chuckle!

  16. Sherif,

    You saw that I Was spot on about the decision 6-3 of scotus on Obamacare.

  17. I also predicted it on gay marriage. Only Scalia, Alito and Thomas are true activist.

  18. Sander van der Wal

    June 27, 2015 at 6:44 am

    People want to feel awed , and to belong somewhere, and whatnot. Religion, i.e. some form of theism, provided those feelings. Hence you get sciense video’s on youtube telling you you are made of stardust. They always forget to mention that that stardust was dinosaur poo too. If the dust is very metallic (has lots of protons and neutrons), it would have been dinosaur poo for much longer than it was inside a star.

    Regarding the emergentism of Mind, most people are still stupid most of the time.

  19. Sander, I’ll echo your last comment with respect to most comments on posts.

  20. Syl: Only an idiot celebrates the lawlessness of their leaders. I’m sure the North Koreans were happy at first, too, before all the lights went out and their leaders started feeding their enemies to dogs. But feel free to be happy about this.

    Sander: Good comment.

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