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#21793 - 05/25/07 06:52 AM Semantics, Etymology, Syntactics, Etc.
samwik Offline
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LANGUAGE:

What does it mean?
How is it used?
Where did a word come from?

How is language used to conflate unrelated issues?
How does language become "...a distortion of facts and riddled with 'half truths'." -RicS
How is language used "manipulatively, or... [as] a very handy hook to divert the debate...?" -Ellis

A gaggle of geese; a clutch of eggs; a lock of hair; a retort of reports; a pod of peas; a month of Sundays....

There's a book, An Exhaltation of Larks, that even goes into the history of this curious behaviour of language (or its speakers).


What are your insights?
Add comments, or develop into new Topics/threads.

~ smile
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Pyrolysis creates reduced carbon! ...Time for the next step in our evolutionary symbiosis with fire.

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#21796 - 05/25/07 10:31 PM Re: Semantics, Etymology, Syntactics, Etc. [Re: samwik]
terrytnewzealand Offline
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And how and when did language develop? Did all human languages develop from a single original one? Or don't we want to go there on this thread?

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#21798 - 05/26/07 12:08 AM Re: Semantics, Etymology, Syntactics, Etc. [Re: terrytnewzealand]
redewenur Offline
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Excellent topic. Let's get the ball rolling.

Some initial thoughts (subject to change without prior notice grin )

"How is language used to conflate unrelated issues?"

The answer to this is, of course, in the preceding thought processes. It has to begin with a process of logic, concrete thinking and abstract conceptualisation.

For example, when we read this:

"People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones",

what meaning do we see in it?

Applying logic, and thinking in concrete terms, we can deduce that if one's house is made of glass, one shouldn't throw stones because some irate target might destroy it by doing likewise. Then, by a process of abstraction, we can expand that understanding into a general concept, i.e., if one has a vulnerability, one should avoid taking antagonistic action that exposes it to similar, retaliatory, action.

When the thought processing is complete, the appropriate language may be constructed by which to (attempt to) communicate the conclusions. Language is nothing more than the result of an attempt to encode thoughts and feelings into communicable terms.
_________________________
"Time is what prevents everything from happening at once" - John Wheeler

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#21805 - 05/26/07 04:00 AM Re: Semantics, Etymology, Syntactics, Etc. [Re: redewenur]
Ellis Offline
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Rede wrote
Language is nothing more than the result of an attempt to encode thoughts and feelings into communicable terms.

Language is so much more than that. It is possible to communicate without language-- but it is in the aquisition of words, (spoken, signed or written) that our human-ness is defined.

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#21806 - 05/26/07 04:37 AM Re: Semantics, Etymology, Syntactics, Etc. [Re: Ellis]
redewenur Offline
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Originally Posted By: Ellis
Rede wrote
Language is nothing more than the result of an attempt to encode thoughts and feelings into communicable terms.

Language is so much more than that. It is possible to communicate without language - but it is in the aquisition of words, (spoken, signed or written) that our human-ness is defined.

- Yes, perhaps we do communicate without language, but language, specifically, is the topic, is it not?

- True, the degree of language capability of humans is unique on this planet, but how is that relevant to its function?

- In what way is language "so much more than that"?

If, in fact, we are to discuss language beyond the written and spoken forms, as in 'body-language', then I could clarify my sentence by restating it:-

'All written, verbal and non-verbal forms of language are the result of conscious and subconscious attempts to encode thoughts and feelings into communicable terms.'

There's nothing in that sentence that wasn't covered in the earlier version, but any rational modification would be welcome.
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"Time is what prevents everything from happening at once" - John Wheeler

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#21811 - 05/26/07 09:51 AM Re: Semantics, Etymology, Syntactics, Etc. [Re: redewenur]
samwik Offline
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Originally Posted By: redewenur...from Is Science the answer?
...causes indignation among a populace that's very comfortable with those illusions "thanks, anyway, Professor Chomsky".

The point is, people are happy with their illusions/delusions - whether they be political or religious. It's unscientific, it's short-sighted - at it's worst it's genocidal - but it's understandable.

Excellent summation, once again redewenur.

Speaking of Norm Chomsky,
the original syntactician....

Your summation reminds me of an interview with Susan Moeller.
Compassion Fatigue: How the Media Sell Disease, Famine, War and Death by Susan D. Moeller
She talks about how the media is concerned with retaining the audience (americanize the news, among other things) and media is afraid its audience will suffer from Compassion Fatigue (audience will turn the page/channel).
....ultimately leading to "compassion avoidance."
Also, she mentions conflation of chemical & biological weapons with nuclear weapons (i.r.t. lead in to Iraq war), like Norm and Al.

Articles in Summer 1999 issue of Journal of Political and Military Sociology (another cool link!)

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3719/is_199907/ai_n8841489

"Compassion Fatigue, Moeller asserts, "is not an unavoidable consequence of covering the news. It is, however, an unavoidable consequence of the way news is covered" (p. 2). This pattern of coverage involves prioritizing stories where American political, cultural or commercial connections are involved, and failing to cover fully (or to cover at all) events where American interests are not evident; offering simplistic, formulaic presentations; employing sensationalized language and imagery; relying on Americanized metaphors and references to tell the story; and radically reducing or terminating coverage of an event the moment something new occurs that seems more likely to attract audience (consumer) attention.

....After a few weeks of horrifying, didactic images appear to overload viewers' senses, the media are on to the next crisis. But whatever that next crisis is, media coverage will have trained its public to want even more sensationalized details; it must appear more threatening and more aberrant.

The lesson to be learned, the media reported, was the lesson of Vietnam: the United States should not get involved in faraway crises when its own security is not in danger. Largely pre-empted by the Somalia coverage, famine in Sudan, Africa's largest nation, never produced significant media interest. Sudan remained "just another one of those stories about starving black people."
...

Originally Posted By: ...from a RELATED LINK
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1568/is_2_31/ai_54772894
Carter, a white South African, spent only a couple of days in Sudan. According to Susan D. Moeller, who tells Carter's story in Compassion Fatigue: How the Media Sell Disease, Famine, War and Death, he had gone into the bush seeking relief from the terrible starvation and suffering he was documenting, when he encountered the emaciated girl. When he saw the vulture land, Carter waited quietly, hoping the bird would spread its wings and give him an even more dramatic image. It didn't, and he eventually chased the bird away. The girl gathered her strength and resumed her journey toward a feeding center. Afterward, writes Moeller, Carter "sat by a tree, talked to God, cried, and thought about his own daughter, Megan."


....
For the American media, the most important deaths (assassinations) are those of leaders of countries where the U.S. has substantial commercial, political or cultural interests and people who have high personal status in this country. Such fallen leaders are characterized as martyrs, peacemakers and great historic figures. Such language was used in coverage of the assassinations of Israel's Yitzhak Rabin (1995) and Egypt's Anwar Sadat (1981), but not in media accounts of the murders of India's Indira Gandhi (1984) or Pakistan's Zia UI-Haig (1988). Reports of the killing of "important" leaders employ extensive reference to the mythic Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations. The media also use partisan and emotional language to tell their assassination stories in order to forestall anticipated compassion fatigue. The stories are framed as compelling dramas of family and nation, hero and villain, grief and misery, and the reassertion of established political and social order."

~samwik


Edited by samwik (05/26/07 10:09 AM)
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#21849 - 05/30/07 05:17 AM Re: Semantics, Etymology, Syntactics, Etc. [Re: samwik]
terrytnewzealand Offline
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I wonder how many US citizens still believe their administration took them into Iraq to introduce "peace and democracy". The second of these words is probably the word most frequently "used to conflate unrelated issues" for "...a distortion of facts and riddled with 'half truths'" used "manipulatively, or... [as] a very handy hook to divert the debate...?". It has a certain ring to it though, don't you think?

We should have known. The first word of the pair is the second most frequently used for the above purposes.


Edited by terrytnewzealand (05/30/07 05:19 AM)

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#21862 - 05/31/07 12:14 AM Re: Semantics, Etymology, Syntactics, Etc. [Re: terrytnewzealand]
terrytnewzealand Offline
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Silly me. He said "Freedom and Democracy". But freedom is an even more loaded term than peace.

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#21865 - 05/31/07 08:11 AM Re: Semantics, Etymology, Syntactics, Etc. [Re: terrytnewzealand]
samwik Offline
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Registered: 10/10/06
Posts: 1164
Loc: Colorado
Word Play o' the Day:
Ethics Reform: Is this something Congress is supposed to do; or are we just supposed to "re-think" our ideas about what ethics should be applied to Congress? smile [thanks Colbert Report].

Hiya Terry,
Ahh, yes! Freedom does evoke a larger response.

As I recall, the phrase used to be "Freedom and Justice" (maybe it was liberty and justice), but when did "Democracy" get substituted in there?

...and what happened to Justice? My wife blames Reagan for deregulating the Media (making News a profit oriented [ratings dependent] part of Media).

Most people in the world are Free (or at least real cheap) to be poor, exploited or blown up. For them, Justice is a much more important factor.

~SA

_________________________
Pyrolysis creates reduced carbon! ...Time for the next step in our evolutionary symbiosis with fire.

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#21867 - 05/31/07 11:27 AM Re: Semantics, Etymology, Syntactics, Etc. [Re: samwik]
redewenur Offline
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Registered: 02/14/07
Posts: 1840
Yes, 'justice' is a good word. It belongs with 'equality'.
_________________________
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#21870 - 06/01/07 12:36 AM Re: Semantics, Etymology, Syntactics, Etc. [Re: redewenur]
samwik Offline
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Registered: 10/10/06
Posts: 1164
Loc: Colorado
Originally Posted By: redewenur
Yes, 'justice' is a good word. It belongs with 'equality'.

I don't worry so much about equality (diversity, random variation, etc.), but I think too much inequality is unjust.

Excessive opulence at the cost of sustainability elsewhere is unjust.

~SA

p.s. ...and not very smart in the long run; profitable, but....
_________________________
Pyrolysis creates reduced carbon! ...Time for the next step in our evolutionary symbiosis with fire.

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#21871 - 06/01/07 03:46 AM Re: Semantics, Etymology, Syntactics, Etc. [Re: samwik]
redewenur Offline
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Posts: 1840
samwik: "I don't worry so much about equality (diversity, random variation, etc.), but I think too much inequality is unjust."

Ah! Very interesting. This is a suitable subject for citing subjective semantics, samwik - excuse the alliteration! grin

The question is often raised, "If we're all different, how can we be equal?"

With reference to justice, the particular 'equality' I have in mind is social equality, as in 'civil rights', 'equal rights' and 'justice for all'. There's certainly a vast social diversity, hence the tendency to the notorious discriminatory trends that gave rise to those phrases. In a literal sense, "different" means "unequal" and by that definition we are all unequal; but in the humanistic sense, "equality" is an ethical concept meaning "of equal intrinsic worth", as opposed to the utilitarian concept "of equal usefulness".
______

To avoid (semantic) confusion about my meaning: -

Utilitarian:

1. believing value lies in usefulness: relating to, characteristic of, or advocating the doctrine that value is measured in terms of usefulness
2. practical: designed primarily for practical use rather than beauty

My meaning is "1". ("2" applies to aesthetics, and is irrelevant to the issue.)

Likewise, the meaning of utilitarianism as applied to the above: -

Utilitarianism:

1. ethical doctrine of greatest good: the ethical doctrine that the greatest happiness of the greatest number should be the criterion of the virtue of action
2. doctrine based on value of usefulness: the doctrine that the value of an action or an object lies in usefulness
3. utilitarian quality: the quality of being designed primarily for practical use rather than beauty

My meaning is "2", not "1", but substitute "individual" for "object" ("3" applies to aesthetics, and is irrelevant to the issue.)

Definitions are from Microsoft® Encarta® 2006. © 1993-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
______

If there is to be true justice - and, indeed, if the human race is to have a long term future - it's not enough that "all people are equal in the eyes of God". The future lies in the realization of the phrase "all people are 'of equal intrinsic worth' in the eyes of society" - in which 'all people' means (focusing once more on semantics) ALL people, EVERYWHERE.
______________________

It might be interesting to examine the nature of human diversity.

What are the major sets and subsets of diversity (a) on a global scale (b) between cultures (c) within cultures?
Does each of these have ethical and/or utilitarian value?
...etc.

Perhaps there might be interest in pursuing those questions in another thread?
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"Time is what prevents everything from happening at once" - John Wheeler

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#21882 - 06/01/07 10:00 PM Re: Semantics, Etymology, Syntactics, Etc. [Re: redewenur]
terrytnewzealand Offline
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A Peter Tosh song from way back. Maybe you know it:

"Everyone is crying out for peace yes
None is crying out for justice
(2x)

(CHORUS)
"I don't want no peace
I need equal rights and justice (3x)
Got to get it
Equal rights and justice"

Complete lyrics at:

http://www.lyricstime.com/peter-tosh-equal-rights-lyrics.html

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#21883 - 06/02/07 03:21 AM Re: Semantics, Etymology, Syntactics, Etc. [Re: terrytnewzealand]
redewenur Offline
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Posts: 1840
Thanks for the link, Terry. Time to expose my ignorance, yet again. I'd never heard of Peter Tosh. His lyrics are perfect.
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#21887 - 06/03/07 12:31 AM Re: Semantics, Etymology, Syntactics, Etc. [Re: redewenur]
samwik Offline
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Registered: 10/10/06
Posts: 1164
Loc: Colorado
All agree, it'd be awful and atrocious to avoid an awsome alliteration, as arrived above.
Thanks rede-

...more later on justice... and....

Just want to say that there's a panel discussion including Stephen Colbert and others, notably Christopher Hitchens, tonight on BookTV (CSPAN2).

I can't imagine a more promising scenario, and I've SEEN stuff that's better than I can imagine, involving these folks individually, so I'm hopeful (Pythonesque comes to mind)!

Later,
~Samwik
_________________________
Pyrolysis creates reduced carbon! ...Time for the next step in our evolutionary symbiosis with fire.

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#21889 - 06/03/07 08:09 AM Re: Semantics, Etymology, Syntactics, Etc. [Re: samwik]
terrytnewzealand Offline
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Posts: 1031
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Redewenur wrote:

"I'd never heard of Peter Tosh."

Not surprised. I'm a guitar teacher and play in a band so I get to hear of most guitarists. Tosh was a Jamaican Reggae performer. Great voice. Along with Bunny Livingstone he was one of the original Wailers as in Bob Marley and the Wailers. Real name McIntosh. Like most musicians he recorded some less than brilliant material but try to hear his version of "Johny B. Goode", (the Chuck Berry song). Great. And "Mamma Africa".

Nice biography at:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Tosh

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#21895 - 06/04/07 01:03 AM Re: Semantics, Etymology, Syntactics, Etc. [Re: terrytnewzealand]
samwik Offline
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I knew that name was familiar, but I was picturing a pop idol. Thanks for reminding me about that Reggae I used to enjoy so much. Now I remember; who could forget Get Up, Stand Up.

Speaking of Get Up, Stand Up:
*_*

Disbelief in Evolution:

Do you believe all plants and animals have evolved from other species or not?

Have =49% ; Not Sure =6% ; Have Not = 45%

...from a...
Harris Poll; June 2005; N=1000 Adults

(Video of a poster in an HHMI lecture.)

See, I just think that's a poorly worded question.
Who commissioned this poll?
Who wrote the question?
Did they have to use the word "believe," after also using the word "disbelief" which really has a religious connotation.
*_*

Anyway, I'm copying the above from the Noah's Ark post.

Today I was watching (partially) a CSPAN filming of a focus group/poll process. This guy sat around asking questions of a (I'm sure) randomly selected group. It was a political thing and involved both national issues and candidates.

It was Peter Hart of Hart Research Associates. He had sitting around the table a:
child care center director
dental hygienist
car salesman
homemaker
security analyst
loan officer
insurance broker
legal assistant
systems analyst
minister
college senior
retired biologist

Only the retired biologist had any comprehension of what is going on in the world, it seemed to me. Based on his answers, I thought he had an understanding of how problems are related and solutions can't be simple.
Everyone else sounded like a Jay-walker. Their answers showed that they were aware of the headlines, if lucky; and just reflected the generalized platitudes that are distilled out of the media fluff/angst mills as time evaporates.

Is it because he's retired and has the time to figure stuff out, or is it because he's a biologist and is trained to figure out messy organic situations? Are both free time and education necessary?

~samwik
_________________________
Pyrolysis creates reduced carbon! ...Time for the next step in our evolutionary symbiosis with fire.

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#21898 - 06/04/07 03:56 AM Re: Semantics, Etymology, Syntactics, Etc. [Re: samwik]
redewenur Offline
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samwik: "or is it because he's a biologist and is trained to figure out messy organic situations?"

That's a good way to put it, and I think it's probably right.

I guess biology encourages an understanding the of interconnectedness of systems and their components, and just how extraordinarily complex a single living unit is, let alone the whole living planet. It's probably a concept that can provide insght into social systems.

From a review of the book, "Signs of Life: How Complexity Pervades Biology" by Ricard V. Sole, Brian C. Goodwin and Ricard Solé:

"Deep down, we all know that living things are profoundly weird. Chaos theory and the life sciences are a natural combination."

From the book:

"The idea that a random event can change history has been a great source of inspiration for both scientists and writers alike. We live in a universe with strong laws and much contingency."
_________________________
"Time is what prevents everything from happening at once" - John Wheeler

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#21971 - 06/08/07 09:36 AM Re: Semantics, Etymology, Syntactics, Etc. [Re: samwik]
samwik Offline
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Originally Posted By: samwik
and....

Just want to say that there's a panel discussion including Stephen Colbert and others, notably Christopher Hitchens, tonight on BookTV (CSPAN2).

I can't imagine a more promising scenario, and I've SEEN stuff that's better than I can imagine, involving these folks individually, so I'm hopeful (Pythonesque comes to mind)!

Later,
~Samwik

I don't know who picked Stephen Colbert to be the host of the author's panel on BOOKTV last Sunday, but they should either be fired or given a big bonus. I'm leaning toward the bonus side; but wow, it was difficult to transition from the heart-wrenching stories told through tear-strained voices over to the usual Colbert wit.

I did enjoy:

"...mindless, in the present, consumerism that keeps us from understanding the ways in which we have so much in common, and the ways in which this mindless consumer society divides us apart...." -K. Burns

...and a reference to Arthur Schlesinger's "Too much pluribus, and not enough unum."
...also....
"Stitched together by words...and their dangerous progeny, ideas." -Ken Burns (Sunday 6/3/07)
talking about why Americans "agree to cohere." It sounded as if he was quoting (maybe his book) the "dangerous progeny" part also, but I enjoyed the image.

Eric Sevareid was also referenced:
"War happens inside a man; and that is why, in a certain sense, you and your son's (from that war), will be forever strangers. If...."
-wow....
-transcribed quotes so, may not be totally accurate....

...other than that....

Don't know if you caught the recent (6/5, 6/6) Colbert Report's comments on the Hansen controversy. It's probably available on youtube. "It ain't the Heat; it's the Hubris."

Terry, I thought of you when he said that the climate is evolving (w/ "ice caps recessive").

Hansen's boss talked about the arrogance of people who decide what the "best" climate should be. Some comment was made about how we shouldn't be deciding if islanders want to live above sea level. I hope you get to see this, Wolfman. You might also enjoy his concept of "meteorological colonialism."

I especially enjoyed the comments about Eskimos not needing so many words for snow anymore...
...but "beach" would translate as "hot snow."

Busy week,
Later,
~SA
_________________________
Pyrolysis creates reduced carbon! ...Time for the next step in our evolutionary symbiosis with fire.

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#22846 - 07/22/07 09:28 AM Re: Semantics, Etymology, Syntactics, Etc. [Re: redewenur]
samwik Offline
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Happy Sunday Morning!

This is inspired by way of the "Philosophy of Religion...." thread {I'm meaning to get back on that}. I've been asking around on 'myspace' about "spirit," and got this back in a response.

Without relating this to the other topic (yet), I wonder if others are as impressed as I am by this. So...

Just for Sunday Morning Musings:

[...in response to a point about the illusion of love, "j" wrote....]

"That's exactly it, samsara. The illusion of Maya... In some views of Hinduism, anyways. I was actually studying this just a few days ago, and then a friend pointed out to me a more important point about it that I'd been seeing clues about for months, but never completely pieced together. Fred's point was good, but just because the physical world we observe is an illusion, that does not mean that it is all false. Underneath the illusion is the cause of the illusion, what truly "is", and what we observe tends to reflect the essence of it. Regardless of the physical illusion, spiritual/emotional love still occurs, and I think that's what Fred's point was. But in regards to everything else? I think the point is simply to realize that what we observe is not what "is"... And once we realize what "is", we'll be able to know how to really observe what "is". I'm only just recently getting back to my spiritual path, but my opinion is that it's information, and information, by definition, yields information. The realization that we cannot observe what truly exists with eyes that do not truly exist.

Could I get your take on the two sides: Physically tangible, derived from G0d (religious); or an illusion or artifact of evolved mental consciousness development (secular)? -[my original question on myspace]

I think it's a mixture of both. An illusion that was evolved through consciousness, yes, but derived from God in that the spirit of true reality, is God. I don't think anything that composes us, or rather our ideas about it gained from stimuli, is tangible. I think it's solely an illusion based on the stimuli that it sends out. But something exists, something only observable by something that also truly exists, and I think our consciousness can allow us to do just that. Because our consciousness is kind of like flipping the reflection back over. It's an illusion created by an illusion from reality, going back to spiritual composition as opposed to physical composition. That's my take on it anyways... I believe that the essence of God is contained in this information, what truly exists... The information is what allows all phenomena to be possible... It's what sets down the rules for interaction based on its structure, and if the purpose of information, as observed, is for change, motion, and existence, then it must be God, by the loosest definitions. Not the anthropomorphic God, mind you, just a will... The will to do, to be, to exist. I'm not doing a good job of explaining this...." -j, with permission

...as I say, just for Sunday Morning Musings....

~SA
_________________________
Pyrolysis creates reduced carbon! ...Time for the next step in our evolutionary symbiosis with fire.

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