Other Ways of Knowing

Humans know about what surrounds them by virtue of their sensory perception. It is impossible otherwise to know about the world outside our head. It is necessary but is it sufficient? No. To develop our full intellect we need to develop our cognitive skills and, crucially, learn a language. Luckily, humans are a social species and language together with the physical adaptations necessary to speak, hear and understand develops in childhood seemingly without much effort, just by being immersed in the family group.

Humans, if we start with early modern humans, have been around for approximately 300,000 years but humans only begin to distinguish themselves when social living in extended family groups develops into behavioural modernity This is perhaps still somewhat controversial but, beginning around 50,000 years ago, the archaeological evidence seems to show a spread of development of skills in hunting and fishing tools but also the beginning of art, body decoration, burial of the dead.

The dawn of civilization begins with the development of agriculture. Given a fertile valley, suitable crops, a bit of foresight and investment in storage and defence, humans were able to settle into larger and larger communities. But larger groups need to agree, organise, resolve disputes, have common goals. Dispute settling and record keeping become necessary and writing is a useful tool to supplement memory. Cultural evolution in the last 10,000 years has left biological evolution in the dust.

Today, our collective memory, the stored information that individual humans have discovered, invented, developed, is now recorded and digital form and readily accessible to others. The internet is a vicarious way of knowing that would seem limitless.

But I’m talking of physical development, physical discoveries, physical inventions. Humans don’t just experience and share their knowledge of reality. Humans have imagination. Human civilizations seem to need non-physical explanations, a religious raison d’être. Ara Norenzayan’s book Big Gods proposes an explanation for why a religious organisation, a priesthood, is a given for a civilization to thrive.

So what is the value of religious knowledge? I ask as a deaf man unable to hear the beauty of the music. Are there other ways of knowing, other than experimenting, learning, being told, imitating.

Can internal reflection, meditation, revelation provide us with other or additional information and broaden our knowledge?

106 thoughts on “Other Ways of Knowing

  1. phoodoo:

    If biologists can’t tell what the mechanisms are for knowledge to be passed down from generation to generation, then there is no reason to believe random mutations and natural selection are any more true than acquired traits passed down are true.

    And while we’re at it, if physicists can’t tell us the exact mechanism for gravity, the claim that things fall up is just as valid as the claims that things fall down!

    But wait! We KNOW some knowledge is passed down from generation to generation, and we can (and do) breed for it. Which works. Conversely, there have been extensive longitudinal tests to see if acquired traits can be passed down. And after a great many generations, no, they aren’t.

    So actual experimental observation rules out inheritance of acquired traits. Selection for desired traits is effective – people have been doing this for thousands of years.

    So both the “reason to believe” in mutation and selection is based on real-world experience and testing, and the reason to reject inheritance of acquired traits is based on real-world experience and testing. Why doesn’t this count?

  2. Flint: But wait! We KNOW some knowledge is passed down from generation to generation,

    I don’t understand why you want to insult Alan like this, but nonetheless indeed knowledge is passed on, and indeed we don’t have ANY idea how, despite some here claiming we are close to knowing, and just wait any day now, the research is going to yield results very soon, and hold your faith, it must be darwinian, has to be darwinian because it’s all an atheist has really.

    So knowing it is passed on, and knowing we have no idea how, why should anyone other than a begging atheist believe it must be Darwinian? I understand why you all believe that, because your worldview is precarious and can’t withstand it not being, but none of you have made the case why anyone else should believe this.

    I fully understand why you don’t want to teach that it’s unknown in schools, and why you want to censor such discussion whenever you can, and make propaganda about how it has to be Darwinian, but..there are some real skeptics in this world.

    Just not many here. Darwinism was a ridiculous proposal even when the only so-called evidence you had was that some bacteria mutate. It’s even more absurd when you have zero evidence for it.

  3. Flint: But wait! We KNOW some knowledge is passed down from generation to generation,

    I don’t understand why you want to insult Alan like this, but nonetheless indeed knowledge is passed on, and indeed we don’t have ANY idea how, despite some here claiming we are close to knowing, and just wait any day now, the research is going to yield results very soon, and hold your faith, it must be darwinian, has to be darwinian because it’s all an atheist has really.

    So knowing it is passed on, and knowing we have no idea how, why should anyone other than a begging atheist believe it must be Darwinian? I understand why you all believe that, because your worldview is precarious and can’t withstand it not being, but none of you have made the case why anyone else should believe this.

    I fully understand why you don’t want to teach that it’s unknown in schools, and why you want to censor such discussion whenever you can, and make propaganda about how it has to be Darwinian, but..there are some real skeptics in this world.

    Just not many here. Darwinism was a ridiculous proposal even when you the only so-called evidence was that some bacteria mutate. It’s even more absurd when you have zero evidence for it.

  4. phoodoo: I understand why you all believe that,because your worldview is precarious and can’t withstand it not being,but none of you have made the case why anyone else should believe this.

    I cited observation, experience, evidence, testing, etc. I notice you carefully ignored that, and pretended you never saw it. And NOW you say nobody made a case. Maybe it’s like advertising – you have to say it three times before it’s effective? Evolutionary theory is widely regarded as the best-supported, most solidly attested theory in science. But if you WILL not see, there’s nothing more that can be said.

  5. Flint: I cited observation, experience, evidence, testing, etc

    You cited them? I claim therefore I am?
    <blockquote cite="comment-289656"

    Not a single one of these things have shown that knowledge is passed down darwininanly. Not one.

    In fact, other than bacteria mutating, the same can be same for other aspects of evolution.

    Flint: Evolutionary theory is widely regarded as the best-supported, most solidly attested theory in science

    That is exactly like advertising. Lie enough times and some will believe i. All of evolutionary science is in fact like one big advertising campaign.

    “99 out of 100 dentists recommend…”
    “We love it!”
    No we don’t
    “We love it!…”

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