Absolute Faith

Discussion in 'Belief and Spirituality' started by Ahanu, Sep 2, 2016.

  1. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    In another thread called The Crucifixion, Devils' Advocate said:

    ". . . it just seems like hubris to believe what one accepts on faith is absolutely true. No doubts about it. It absolutely positively MUST be."​

    In response I wrote:

    "Let's illustrate what I think is an example of what you've said here (but let me know if I haven't captured your point). The Quakers believed that slavery was wrong. But most of their contemporaries accepted slavery. Abolitionist arguments couldn't convince their opponents slavery was wrong, so they couldn't prove it. Is it a sign of the Quaker's hubris to continue having absolute faith that slavery is wrong?"​

    Then DA replied with the following words:

    I will reply here in a new thread. DA said the pro-slavery side knew the truth but "couldn't be bothered with the truth".

    Take Francis Scott Key, the creator of America's national anthem, as an example of our typical anti-abolitionist. He regularly publicized his racist views, believing Africans were "a distinct and inferior race of people, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community" (Wilson, "Where's the Debate on Francis Scott Key's Slave-Holding Legacy?"). Deep down in Key's heart he did not believe "slavery" was untrue: no, he really did believe he was superior, and, as a result, no doubt thought slavery was well-established on truth. Elite white men in the past didn't hesitate in believing there was a racial hierarchy. They merely differed in their reasons people of color were inferior: Benjamin Franklin had cultural reasons, whereas Thomas Jefferson had biological and mental reasons. Both were united in their belief that whites were standing at the top of the pinnacle. Are you sure they knew the truth but "couldn't be bothered with the truth?" Seems to me they thought they knew the truth. Period.

    Next, DA said: "Point is as a species we are very good at altering truth to fit our needs. Our faith is often at the whim of our needs as well. And all of this discission thus far is within the human realm." This is the crux of the matter. We've been discussing the human realm? And here I thought we were discussing the supernatural realm: we're talking about what we "ought" to do in nature (for you believe humans ought not have slavery), and no exhaustive description of the universe can render what we ought to do by observing what "is". The discussion thus far is within the supernatural realm. Our supernatural convictions tell us slavery isn't true. Here I'll close this part with David Bentley Hart:


    Works Cited

    Hart, David Bentley. The Experience of God. Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.

    Wilson, Christopher. "Where's the Debate on Francis Scott Key's Slave-Holding Legacy?" Smithsonian. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smith...holding-legacy-180959550/#tfPVvjOHyVo79cYZ.99
     
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  2. Devils' Advocate

    Devils' Advocate Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the post. I will agree with you that the white man of the 18th & 19th centuries (at the very least) considered themselves to be the apex of creation. This was convenient not only for their domination over other races but over the natural world as well. Which is awfully convenient is it not? So which came first. The domination of the world first with the resulting superior attitude of the white man? Or is it that the white man's attitude of their superior place in the world that made the domination justifiable and necessary.

    And are we discussing from the reference of a mortal realm or a supernatural realm. I'm not sure which one, though I 'think' you are saying it is the supernatural realm from which we get our absolute truths. Yes? Which implies that there are no absolute truths to be had in the mortal realm. No?
     
  3. Devils' Advocate

    Devils' Advocate Well-Known Member

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    Looks like this topic has been played out, Ahanu. Shame that.
     
  4. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    Does it matter which came first? Does an answer tell us pro-slavery supporters were aware slavery was wrong? As far as I can tell it doesn't tell me whether or not they were aware slavery was wrong. Can you see your back without a mirror? I can't see mine without one. Likewise, some sins aren't recognized without a mirror. Even when abolitionists held up a mirror for them, they didn't see anything wrong, and they pointed out what they perceived to be the misconceptions of the mirror holder. This is evident in their biblical debates over slavery that stretched for hours day after day. Again, are you sure they were aware slavery was wrong?

    Let's be more specific: Do we get our ethical truths from the supernatural realm? Yes.


    Dostoyevsky points out the problem with atheism when Ivan Karamzov says, "If God does not exist, everything is permitted." The mortal realm is constantly changing, so how can we know anything?

    Since God is the source of ethical truth, then ultimately it comes from the supernatural realm. Ethical truth can be revealed through nature or special individuals because the material realm, which is obviously God's creation, reflects his values. The mortal realm then isn't totally divorced from the spiritual (or supernatural); the spiritual realm is present within the material realm. How to illustrate this? In this view nature has a teleological function, urging us towards the transcendent. Reducing the transcendent realm to the material realm leads us to understand love as lust, for example. Without the transcendent we're nothing but animals. I suppose a moral compass is an appropriate metaphor. The moral compass (the religions of the world that exist in the "mortal realm") allows us to check where we are in relation to ethical truth (true North), the good we're drawn towards. A pure materialism lacks a true North and a sense of direction, leading us into relativism, skepticism, or nihilism. Here's a fact: humans eat, and eating is good. Humans also eat too much, and this is not a moral good. Here we see some facts and values. Values, such as "overeating isn't a moral good" or "slavery isn't a moral good," only make sense in a religious context . . . at least that's how I currently feel about the matter.
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2016
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  5. Devils' Advocate

    Devils' Advocate Well-Known Member

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    Been meaning to get back to this for a while now Ahanu.

    Errr. No. We can, of course get ethical truths from the supernatural, though I see no reason why we have to.

    My belief is that this sells humanity short. Atheists, I propose, proves the fallacy of this argument. If no belief in God means everything is permitted, how come all the atheists of the world are not raging homicidal maniacs. In reality atheists as a group are just as moral as any other comparable group of the religious. How can that be if they can only get their moral grounding from a deity? If they are not finding morality from the supernatural, how are they finding it on their own?

    The answer I would suggest is that there is a social foundation for morality to be found in the mortal realm that is just as efficient. Renowned physicist Lawrence Krausse (and reviled atheist) has made many arguments for morality being a mortal function. I tried for a while to find an appropriate link to post but am not finding one easily. Will look further when I have some more time.


    I find this statement ironic, as animals are far more moral than any human civilization in the history of mankind. The irony? That not having a moral compass of their own means there is no moral compass to break. The result is not savagery, it is balanced neutrality based on what is best for the species. Humans could learn a lot from the behavior of animals.
     
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  6. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    Hey DA,

    Thanks for your reply. I will take some time to think about your post, and then give you a reply.

    :cool:
     
  7. Namaste Jesus

    Namaste Jesus Praise the Lord and Enjoy the Chai

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    I agree with your first statement DA. Just because someone is atheist doesn't necessarily mean they lack moral fiber. As for moral grounding coming from a deity only vs atheist finding it on their own. Speaking strictly as a believer, I'd say God's influence is there whether or not you believe and that a certain sense of right and wrong is endowed by the creator and with us from the beginning. Our ideas of morality are shaped by the world around us as we grow, but we are never without that influence. Some will heed that influence though they may not be consciously aware of it. Others will not. That goes for believers and non-believers alike. We all fall victim to the ways of the world at times.
    I could not agree more here.
     
  8. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    I think atheists can be just as moral as any believer. Sometimes more moral. Do you know an atheist that has lived outside of a religious society, however? I don't. Many atheists live in the shadow of Christian morality. Growing up they internalize religious morality since their society is saturated in a religious atmosphere. Even after declaring they don't believe, they still carry around religious morality in one way or another.


    The mortal realm alone is insufficient. Paul Kurtz, reportedly called the "father of secular humanism", recognized the problem: "The central issue about moral and ethical principles concerns their ontological foundation. If they are neither derived from God nor anchored in some transcendent ground, are they ephemeral?"


    Examples?
     
  9. Devils' Advocate

    Devils' Advocate Well-Known Member

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    Starting from the last first. The examples are endless. As 'animals' is a very vague term, I will focus on mammals. Those animals that are most like humans (as opposed to reptiles, birds, insects, etc.). From here on out when I use the word 'animal' read as 'mammal'. Man is, of course, a mammal. But a singular type of mammal that transcends all other species, indeed all other life on the planet. Or so we anoint ourselves, which I have always found to be extraordinary convenient for us!

    Well what is the evidence that our understanding of morality transcends the lack of a moral compass in all other mammals. I find the differences startling.

    Animals do not make war. Either on other species, or on each other within a species. Animals do not decimate their habitat. They kill as much as is needed for survival of the group and no more. Animals have no emotions like hate, prejudice, resentment, revenge. They do not hold grudges.

    And they do know love, kindness, charity. They take care of their own, even the old and infirm. They understand loss and are capable of sadness. They settle their intra species conflicts with compassion. Even mating, the strongest force, they settle with a fight for dominance that almost never ends with a death. The fight continues until the combatants recognize the dominant. The loser is allowed to survive, and is free to remain with the group with no stigma attached. Neither is there resentment on the part of the loser. They make their play and if they lose, they take their place in the hierarchy without shame.

    The most important part of all of this is that it is not hardwired into their brain as would be the case with reptiles, for example. No. They teach their young that this is the behavior that they will live by. The young learn and accept and grow to be a supportive member of the group.

    None of this is dictated by some divine being. Animals are not made in the image of a god. They are what they are because they have learned this is the best way to extend the survival of the species. No morals required.

    Now less some think that I have this fantasy world concept of the animal kingdom, that is not the case. Mammals live by strict rules based on hierarchy. Hierarchy sometimes results in what we might perceive as cruelty. For example, though it is very rare, a fight for dominance can lead to death. Where one purposefully kills another. Mostly involved with mating hierarchy. What is interesting though, is that once the new dominant wins, the rest of the group accepts this without question or further conflict.

    Here is an excellent article which relates in differing ways much of what I have written here. My only disagreement is that, once again, humans are attempting to see human morals in animals by way of analysis. Because, they say, if animals behave in moral ways, there MUST be some equivalent moral foundation such as is found in humans. This I completely reject. Animals may do many moralistic seeming acts, but they do so from an entirely different set of behavioral foundations. Animals do not have morals. Humans have morals. Animals have an entirely different set of social rules, completely alien to human moral standards.

    http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/041612.html
     
  10. Aussie Thoughts

    Aussie Thoughts Just my 2 cents

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    Having grown up on a farm and interacted with many different types of animals, I gotta completely disagree with this one mate. Dingo packs for instance, regularly attack other species and even other packs of dingos down here. If left unchecked, they'll destroy everything in their wake, even their own resources. We have several feral cats on the property that leave hundreds of mice carcases lying about every night. These cats have plenty to eat. They kill the mice simply because they enjoy it. Mice themselves often eat their young.

    As any cat owner can tell you. Cats get mad. They get sad. They hold grudges and most definitely seek revenge. Sometimes for the most unlikely reasons. Yet, they're one of the most compassionate creatures on the planet. Dogs and cats are natural enemies. Not that they compete over resources or anything. They just don't like each other. Yet, I've seen cats care for dingo pups and adult dingos care for kittens.

    Animals have a better handle on things then we do for sure. At the same time, they're not all that different. Just like us, depends on the emotional state of the individual animal.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2016
  11. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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  12. Devils' Advocate

    Devils' Advocate Well-Known Member

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    Looking forward to it!
     
  13. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    What would it mean to be human and not see ourselves as beings that transcend the animal kingdom? We wouldn't carry any responsibility for our brutal acts. For an animal brutal acts aren't good or bad, because the cause of their actions are outside themselves. We can't say the animal could have made another choice. Humans have free will. In the realm of atheism my feeling of free choice is a delusion. Much of society already views us as beings lacking free will. Experts (sociologists, psychologists, and so on) that subscribe to determinism remove any responsibility from the individual's free choice since they can say all our actions are caused by external factors. It wasn't Johnny's fault he stole candy from the convenience store: Johnny's environment made him do it. To see ourselves as beings that don't transcend the animal kingdom is convenient for us, no? No responsibility. Any kind of morality that praises reflection or contemplation over sensibility or instincts already anoints ourselves and draws distinctions between animals and humans. In what way are we distinct? Answers may vary. One proof, according to the Baha'i Faith, is free will.

    As an atheist I would be more worried about why conscious beings with any moral capacities exist in a purely material world at all. Whether or not they are human or nonhuman isn't important. John Locke summarized it well: "it is as impossible to conceive that ever pure incogitative Matter should produce a thinking intelligent Being, as that nothing should of itself produce Matter".

    When you say "other mammals" here, we are really talking about a very, very small group of mammals, I think. Click here for a list I found online. Self-recognition or the mirror test eliminates most animals from having any remote semblance to a moral compass, because they can't recognize themselves in mirrors, nor do they possess the potential to do so--which I think is one of the first steps to possessing some form of morality. See the video of the dogs below (if you've never seen them unable to recognize themselves or want a good laugh). I find this interesting and feel it's related to morality in some way. One of my first search results yielded the following information about a possible connection:

    ". . . there seems to be a clear correlation between the emergence of MSR and empathic behaviour. Magpies, for example, have been subject to extensive research precisely because their ecological conditions have driven the evolution of social intelligence (Prior et al, 2008). They steal and store food, but they also form stable partnerships based to some extent on trust, which requires discrimination between other individuals and judgments about their intentions".

    In this article they believe complex social interactions and the ability to self-recognize are critical features in the evolution of morality. I am open to the possibility that elephants, dolphins, magpies, and some apes may have some form of morality. However, I see no reason why that should compel me to believe the animal kingdom encompasses human beings entirely. One reason for this is humanity's ability to discover. This is another proof in addition to free will to show humans aren't just animals. Bees, for example, are better than humans at engineering hives and storing honey, but give them eons and they will continue doing the same thing. Humans seek to transcend themselves, to go beyond what is. Note in Baha'i thought that "human reality" can be reflected in beings on other planets even if they look different. Whether or not self-recognizing species would do the same thing after eons have passed is interesting to contemplate.

    Self-recognition videos



    Only the chimpanzees in the video below seem to have a clue? Here's a funny video of a variety of animals looking at mirrors:



    According to National Geographic, "dolphins, elephants, magpies, and some great apes know they're looking at themselves in the mirror". In my opinion the videos of dolphins and elephants in front of mirrors are the most interesting:





    Although animals lack the formalities of war and don't make allies, they do conduct destructive raids. See National Geographic here. The greater one's potential creative powers, the greater one's potential destructive powers. I'm thinking Emily Dickinson here. "It was the best and worst of times". Seems to me a universal law.

    I'm not too sure animals don't seek revenge. NGM relates "most elephants have an excellent long-term memory and have been known to hurl stones at a keeper months after he fed the elephant foul-tasting medicine." Looks like revenge to me. No telling what dolphins are capable of! Just ask Douglas Adams. "Curiously enough, the dolphins had long known of the impending destruction of the planet Earth and had made many attempts to alert mankind of the danger; but most of their communications were misinterpreted as amusing attempts to punch footballs or whistle for tidbits, so they eventually gave up and left the Earth by their own means shortly before the Vogons arrived". :eek:

    Aussie Thoughts discussed the mice carcasses littered everywhere around his property at night. According to him, the cats slaughtered some for food and some for entertainment. Thomas Huxley called the animal world a "gladiator show". Describes the carnage well, but it isn't all carnage. As your article points out, red in tooth and claw may be but a small aspect. Abdu'l-Baha, looking at the animal world, turns "survival of the fittest" on its head and sees "cooperation for survival" in some species. He relates the story of walking next to a stream one day. He notices a group of wingless grasshoppers looking to get across the stream. Some build a bridge; others cross over the bridge. After some of the grasshoppers make it across the stream, the stream consumes the bridge of grasshoppers. He concludes: "Reflect how this incident illustrates co-operation for survival, not struggle for survival".

    So why do we need religion as a source of morality since we observe cooperation and some form of morality in the animal kingdom? First, humans have two natures. Nader Saiedi illustrates this well in the beginning of his talk: In the ancient world the Sphinx symbolizes the two natures of human beings. It is half animal (the body) and half human (the face). We seek to liberate ourselves from nature's grasp. Second, seeing humans as nothing but an animal is destructive. Patriarchy dehumanizes us. We're nothing but the body. Racism dehumanizes us. We're nothing but the body. Sexism dehumanizes us. We're nothing but the body. Many destructive forces in the world today view us as nothing but the body. We're not viewed as spiritual beings. The face is the emergence of spirituality, of the human being. Baha'u'llah teaches a human being is one that serves the interests of the entire human race. Abdu'l-Baha says, "In the estimation of God, distinctions of race, divisions of borders, favoring one people over another, and all individual limitations are unworthy and rejected. All the prophets of God were sent down and all the sacred books were revealed for the purpose of assisting man to achieve this heavenly grace and this divine virtue. All the divine teachings can be summarized as this: that these thoughts singling out advantages to one group may be banished from our midst, that human character may be improved, that equality and fellowship may be established amongst all mankind, until every individual is ready to sacrifice himself for the sake of his fellowman. This is the divine foundation. This is the law come down from heaven. Such a firm foundation cannot be impregnated into human consciousness save by one universal and all-pervasive power . . . "
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2016
  14. Namaste Jesus

    Namaste Jesus Praise the Lord and Enjoy the Chai

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    I'm sure the researchers know their stuff, but I don't think anything in this world is cut and dry. Having had many different types of pets over the years and having observed their behavior around mirrors, I would question whether the animals didn't recognize themselves or were merely reacting to a new experience. Monkey shining as it were, (pun intended). I've seen human babies exhibit similar behavior upon seeing their own reflection. Surprise, fear, anger, then glee when they realize it's themselves. Many of the pets I've had, mostly cats, would play games with their reflection. Sneaking up on it and such. It wasn't that they didn't know it was them. They were just playing. Another use to watch the mirror for my reflection than jump out at me. Not at my reflection, but me. So obviously he knew the difference.
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2016
  15. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    It has been argued that since dogs primarily use smell the mirror test fails. They can detect their own smell, showing they know when a thing is "mine", but this doesn't indicate they have a sense of "I-ness".
     
  16. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    I posted a thread related to this in the Baha'i forums.
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2016
  17. Devils' Advocate

    Devils' Advocate Well-Known Member

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    So, so much to cover; thought I would start with something I believe is fairly simple. This self recognition test fails on every level, and also shows the human bias that created the test itself. For humans, sight is our strongest sense. Therefor, if other animals can display an ability to test successfully as a human they may have a recognition of self.

    The fallacies in this supposed test are a mile long. Most other mammals do not use sight as their primary sense. As you said yourself, dogs' primary sense is smell. That they can distinguish their own smell from any other dog, much less any other creature. And they can smell what is 'theirs'. Why isn't this an equally valid form of self recognition test as the sight test is for humans? Who is to say that it doesn't indicate a sense of self. Human centric thinking and little more, seems to me.

    For dolphins and killer whales their most powerful sense is hearing. Yes dolphins may be able to identify themselves by sight but I'll bet you dollars to donuts they self identify 1000% more by sound than they do by sight.

    The bottom line of this particular post is that I believe a fair form of test for other mammals would prove self recognition. BUT this does not in any way lead to a moral compass. The two are not linked.
     
  18. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    I think science is advancing in leaps and bounds on these questions.

    We have a gorilla in a country park here in the UK. His mate died. His keeper said something along the lines of, "anyone who thinks an animal doesn't love or grieve the loss of someone close, just look at this guy." The gorilla actually weeps, and shows signs of depression. His keeper just sits with him. What else can you do?

    We had a meerkat documentary which showed a colony going through a Jacobean-scale epic of inter-familial slaughter. A queen ruled the community. She had three sisters. The three sisters ganged up and ousted the queen, then one sister successively ousted both her sisters. She then started killing the female kittens of other families ... all this, of course, driven by pragmatism to ensure the best choice of breeding partners for her own young.

    I heard foxes and cats kill indiscriminately because they are poor hunters. You know that thing where the lion drinks at the waterhole with the deer, because he's not hungry? They don't hunt until they get peckish. If foxes and cats waited, they're so poor at it they'd not survive, so the species has evolved with the hunt switch permanently on.

    You know that 'fact' about the lioness does the hunting and the males just sit around? Only on the Serengeti. They've bothered to watch lions in other habits and, would you believe it, the males hunt!

    We watched a herd of elephants at close quarters. We all saw an aunty discreetly kick her nephew into a ditch when no-one was watching.

    A pack of wild dogs is moving across the plain in the hot season, towards a distant waterhole. So is a cheetah. So the order of march is a ring of the strong dogs, around a close pack of older males, bitches and pups. Where's the cheetah. Inside the ring, between the dogs and the bitches. The logic as the watchers decided is that with the cheetah in the ring, the dogs know where s/he is, which is safer than not knowing, they also know they can bring the cheetah down, but will lose dogs so doing. The cheetah knows it can snatch a pup, but the dogs will bring her/him down in the end.

    Crows have learned to pull up the big plastic bags inside waste bins at a motorway services to get to the food, which they took down to other crows who organise the find, then all the crows fly the food back to the roost.

    This last one signifies an awareness of time, of thinking ahead, of co-operative activity ... animals naturally work the odds ... gorillas do grieve ... if a baboon is killed by a predator, the rest will hunt it and kill it. revenge? Or maybe pragmatism, because predators tend to return to where they find food in abundance. But then monks will set an ambush, and then the rest of the troop will sweep round and drive the prey into the 'net' ...

    Remember that gorilla they taught sign language? The handlers did something that annoyed her, and she signs 'you smell bad shit'.

    It's all amazing, and inspiring, and we're not half so clever as we like to think we are.
     
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  19. Namaste Jesus

    Namaste Jesus Praise the Lord and Enjoy the Chai

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    One thing for sure though. Animals don't struggle to analyze human behavior as we do them. They just work with what is.
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2016
  20. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    Gordon Gallup, who first developed MSR as a method of measurement for self-awareness, defends it. Click here for an overview of the pros and cons to both sides. Also, there are "intermediate proposals" between both ends of the pole. You're right: there are some serious critiques of Gallup's method.
     
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