Archive for the ‘ Science ’ Category

At Least They’re Fucking Thinking

There is much yet to be said for the sound of religion dying.  I doubt that anyone expected it to die with a whimper but what exactly is the sound of religious belief in its death throes?

It might actually sound like this summary I found:

What I mean by all the that is this: the intuition I’ve had for a long time, and grows stronger with every atheist I listen to, is that atheists have different goals than everybody else. One might be tempted to say that they seek truth, while believers seek comfort. I suggest this is false. What atheists seek is technical utility: they want information that allows us to predict the movement of stars, build a better mousetrap, solve equations. Their science helps them achieve this. But the actual truth of things may go well beyond this, and may even, at points, contradict this. And it may be that there are more important things than curing polio or building a rocket to Mars, such as morality, purpose, and the sense of the transcendent.

Redefine everything so that your magic belief seems okay. Define atheists as no better than yourself – atheism is a religion. Here we see a claim that wanting to know the truth is simply a utilitarian thing, not important for real questions. Then there is the thought put forward that maybe there is more to life than this, maybe there is stuff that contradicts utilitarian science and because the atheist doesn’t embrace the possibility they are lost or worse, wilfully stupid.

Well, for the theists who think this way there is some bad news. There is also a possibility that they worship the satan they fear so much. A possibility that we live in a simulation, a possibility that the god they choose is the wrong one… there are many possibilities and without evidence (pesky science) there is no way to know if any of them are true. They assume they know which one is true but HOW do they know? Damn, there is that science thing again, but they don’t like science. They would much rather play roulette with their guesses than to know the truth.

 

The good news is that at least more of them are starting to think about the problems that their religious belief poses. It’s a good sign.

 

 

Let’s Do This

CARM has questions

It looks like research and that leads to education, so I’m in… I don’t have any thought provoking introduction. Education is always the answer, well, it is if the question is not ‘does that saber tooth tiger’s tonsils look inflamed to you?’

ED: It turns out that the questions were not as interesting as I had first thought them to be. Several seemed rather silly.

 

  1. How would you define atheism?
    The lack of belief in gods or the supernatural
  2. Do you act according to what you believe (there is no God) in or what you don’t believe in (lack belief in God)?
    There is no god to believe in so there is no reason to act with reference to that, god’s don’t enter into how I live just like the easter bunny and tooth fairy.
  3. Do you think it is inconsistent for someone who “lacks belief” in God to work against God’s existence by attempting to show that God doesn’t exist
    No, acting against harmful and dangerous ideas is not inconsistent with lack of belief in gods.
  4. How sure are you that your atheism properly represents reality?
    As sure as the evidence will allow me to be. As sure as the lack of a god’s presence warrants. Where I am infinitely more certain that there are no gods than I am certain it’s possible for a god to exist.
  5. How sure are you that your atheism is correct?
    As certain as the facts will allow one to be. There has never been credible evidence for the existence of a god. Atheism is the right position in light of that lack of evidence.
  6. How would you define what truth is?
    That which is not shown to be false and which has high probability of being true. That said, true has several meanings. People want to give the value ‘truth’ metaphysical meaning but there is no such thing. Newtonian physics was truth until it wasn’t. It still is truth but not for all situations.
  7. Why do you believe your atheism is a justifiable position to hold?
    Because there has never been credible evidence for the existence of any god.
  8. Are you a materialist or a physicalist or what?
    materialism
    As a theory, materialism is a form of physicalism and belongs to the class of monist ontology. As such, it is different from ontological theories based on dualism or pluralism. For singular explanations of the phenomenal reality, materialism would be in contrast to idealism, neutral monism and spiritualism.

    Monism is the philosophical view that a variety of existing things can be explained in terms of a single reality or substance
    I am a monist, atheist, anti-theist, existential nihilist, mechanical atheist and so on

  9. Do you affirm or deny that atheism is a worldview?  Why or why not?
    Atheism is not a world view. It is a single point view – relating only to the existence of gods and the supernatural
  10. Not all atheists are antagonistic to Christianity but for those of you who are, why the antagonism?
    Christianity and Abrahamic monotheism is caustic to society, it is dangerous and deluded. It seeks to harm those that will not submit and assimilate.
  11. If you were at one time a believer in the Christian God, what caused you to deny his existence?
    The utter lack of evidence, starting with the way that believers act, then onto the ridiculousness of the bible and doctrine, then to how it is claimed that god intercedes – strictly through nature. Starting in Genesis we have a string of stories that are without evidence and completely unbelievable on the face of them.
  12. Do you believe the world would be better off without religion?
    Yes, see number 10
  13. Do you believe the world would be better off without Christianity?
    Yes, see numbers 10 and 12
  14. Do you believe that faith in a God or gods is a mental disorder?
    I may not be qualified to diagnose a mental disorder, but if mental disorders are the temporary or permanent incapacity to think critically and interact in nominal ways with society without causing harm, then yes, it is a mental disorder.
  15. Must God be known through the scientific method?
    If a thing cannot be known via the scientific method, it cannot be known. Otherwise Christians would have to admit that Vishnu is real, the FSM exists, and so on. Christians would not accept on faith alone the existence of other non corporal beings.
  16. If you answered yes to the previous question, then how do you avoid a category mistake by requiring material evidence for an immaterial God?
    If the god can interact and intercede in the physical world it can be physically verified. This is not a category mistake. If a god cannot interact with the physical world why pray to it?
  17. Do we have any purpose as human beings?
    Yes: eat, breathe, drink, procreate, sleep, repeat … any order you prefer
  18. If we do have purpose, can you as an atheist please explain how that purpose is determined?
    This purpose is found in all living things. It is minimal for survival of a species.
  19. Where does morality come from?
    Morality is always subjective, it comes from our own intuition and experience.
  20. Are there moral absolutes?
    Absolutely not.
  21. If there are moral absolutes, could you list a few of them?
    See number 20.
  22. Do you believe there is such a thing as evil?  If so, what is it?
    A really good plot point. The ‘evil’ would be an absolute… evil does not exist.
  23. If you believe that the God of the Old Testament is morally bad, by what standard do you judge that he is bad?
    The same standard by which I judge everything: my own internal ethics… just as you and all believers do.
  24. What would it take for you to believe in God?
    I have a couple of posts on that. Consider what it would take for you to believe that Zeus and Thor are real? That might work for me in the case of your god.
  25. What would constitute sufficient evidence for God’s existence?
    If the evidence were to convert all non-believers and all other religion believers unequivocally — that should do it.
  26. Must this evidence be rationally based, archaeological, testable in a lab, etc., or what?
    No, YHWH can come on down to the mall on Friday night and start his campaign there. If it’s not enough to convert Muslims on the spot I’m probably not going to buy it.
  27. Do you think that a society that is run by Christians or atheists would be safer?  Why?
    Safer for who? The answer is that theists by definition will curtail the liberties of others. It is not the safer options.
  28. Do you believe in free will?  (free will being the ability to make choices without coersion).
    Yes. I’ve written quite a bit about it
  29. If you believe in free will, do you see any problem with defending the idea that the physical brain, which is limited and subject to the neuro-chemical laws of the brain, can still produce free will choices?
    I have no problem defending the brain being the source of mind and free will.
  30. If you affirm evolution and that the universe will continue to expand forever, then do you think it is probable that given enough time, brains would evolve to the point of exceeding mere physical limitations and become free of the physical and temporal and thereby become “deity” and not be restricted by space and time?  If not, why not?
    No, see number 29. Universe expansion does not mean brains will expand. There are limits to how much brain matter the body can support. There is no dieties… brains are not going to become deities.
  31. If you answered the previous question in the affirmative, then aren’t you saying that it is probable that some sort of God exists?
    I did not, and no it is not probable that some sort of god exists.

 

Hell Is Real…

It’s called Alzheimer’s Disease.

Recently I found a blogger that thinks the mind creates the brain. That person is an idiot. Watching a vivid character and mind waste to nothing is the most disheartening thing I can possibly think of. I can’t imagine the hell of not being able to remember 5 minutes ago. My mother is becoming like many animals… living only in this moment but able to remember her college GPA to three decimal places. She can’t remember what she ate last night but she can remember long term stuff like the back of her hand. It’s a torture that I can see taking its toll on her and soon on the family. If prayer would work I would pray for her. It gives me physical pain to see that beautiful woman and mind reduced to such confusion and pain. Hell is real. It is the loss of your mind.

When she faces her god, she won’t remember if she has sinned and can’t repent of them if she did. If this is a god’s perfect plan I want to beat that god to death with a hammer. This was his plan? Torture her here and then condemn her after? I really want some believer to explain their god to me now. I want to know why their god wants me to feel such pain. I want to know why their god wants to torture my mother and my family. I want an explanation or for religion to shut the fuck up. Religion has no explanation and this just happens. It is part of life and if fucking sucks. I cry for the woman who does not know what my tears are for. Tell me you religious believers, what are my tears for? What is my family’s suffering for? What part of god’s perfect plan does this support? I’m listening…

Illusions? Who Are You?

We are not enslaved to the illusions of our memories nor trapped within them.

It is only marginally correct to say that we are afraid to reach outside of them.

 

If the truth is to be told, we are frightened of living without them.

 

Not because change is stressful, but because without them we do not know truly who we are.

 

If there is but one thing more frightful to humans than living without their illusions

 

 

it is to find out who they really are.

 

Who are  you?

 

What are  you afraid of?

Near Death Yet? Have An Experience? Want To Share?

Near death experiences give people some odd bits of experience and science has yet to pin it down as to what is going on. That part is no surprise. In the track of my mechanical atheism and decidedly dedicated desire to divine the direct dope on near death dreams I decided to devote this ditty to declaring delineated decisions derived from my dunce cap stand.

Duh!

Near Death Experiences or NDE have increased since we became more successful at resuscitating people. How Stuff Works  has a piece on NDE and there are lots of posts on the internets to help you get confused over what is going on with these things. I will approach this from the atheist and anti-theist, monist, materialist, nihilist point of view. Oh, I know, nothing special but I’ve got to give the old college try.

Yes, there are those that think it is a religious experience and I’ll tell you that this idea invalidates their religious experiences as something other than natural phenomena.

Your body is a machine. Sure, it’s organic, but it is a system of interrelated systems working together to support the brain that is you.

I urge you to read “My Stroke Of Insight” by Jill Bolte Taylor. She describes what happened when she had a major brain haemorrhage that shut down half of her brain. No, it’s not an NDE though it could have been. She is a neuroscientist and took some good notes on what was happening to her. There is a TED talk to make it a short trip.

She talks about how parts of her brain shut down and what experiences she had from that.

In an NDE the body begins to shut down. Lack of oxygen being circulated means that malfunction begins. It will begin in the extremities first. Your body will strive to keep your brain functional for as long as possible. Your brain has the capacity to function for a certain amount of time before shutting down. While those last moments tick along your brain will lose contact with sensory inputs, and various parts of your brain. This will create an unreal world where nothing ‘feels’ right, and things seem to be odd. In this state your brain will continue to process data as fast as it can with whatever sensory data it can find.

You will lose sense of time, sense of position, and sense of synchronized data. That is to say that the sensory data from one source will not match up to other sensory data. It will be out of synch and give us a distorted picture of the world that we believe we are seeing.

As your brain starts shutting down, memories will be what is available for the simulation in your head. Vision will go and only memories will provide visual data. Everyone familiar with ‘stream of consciousness’ thinking will know that given a chance, most people will scream through random thoughts at any given point of the day. We mostly suppress them to ensure that thoughts synchronize to external sensory data.

Jill Bolte Taylor describes what happens when we lose these brain synchronizations.

In cardiac arrest, we go straight to this shutting down state. It is our experiences and memories and simulator rules that define what our brain will be doing to try to make sense of what is happening. Because of this, there is no way to predict what your NDE might be like. What is known is that these general conditions and symptoms express themselves as dream like experiences in the memory of those who experience an NDE.

There is no magic, no spirits, nothing special… it’s what happens when you unplug your brain. Awesome and frightening in one step. It is what you will experience after that last breath.

Are you looking forward to it?

Science, Because It Works…

You can talk about prayer all you want but the world has never seen this in a church and never will. This won’t happen with prayer and never has. When it does happen it happens not with a book and a choir but with lab coats and a medical chart. If you haven’t seen this yet, set back, grab a tissue…

 

 

Someone please tell me again how prayer works and how this woman never managed to pray the right way or to the right god in all her life. Then explain how loving your god is… and don’t forget to explain why it is that your god would give doctors such skills but make this woman wait a lifetime to hear her own voice.

 

It’s a tear jerker alright and damnit, at least she can hear her sobs.

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

The never ending discussion on the compatibility between science and religion asks if they can get along and coexist. The argument, no matter how it is stated, comes down to this: Science has facts, religion has faith. As long as religion has faith it will remain incompatible with both science and reality. Believers might argue that their faith is compatible with science yet they will not allow for someone else’s faith being compatible with their own. When believers can’t even get their ‘faith’ coherent but decide to disagree with the best method we have of knowing the world around us then it is completely incompatible with science.

A religion that is not incompatible with science would be one that requires no faith. Would that be a religion?

Can’t we all just get along?

NO, we can’t as long as you are unwilling to be a full participant in reality.

Before anyone thinks I’m calling all believers stupid, just stop. This is a reaction to the discussion of compatibility and not simply your particular point of view. That said, if you want to feel offended, that is your prerogative, just don’t expect an apology.

 

 

On The Meaning Of Life

There is much to be said and much that has been said about the meaning of life. When you peel back all the layers you are left with the primordial combination of eat, drink, reproduce, breath, sleep, and repeat… not necessarily in that order. I think that you’ll find this is the basic life plan for all forms of life on this planet if you allow for some loose definitions of each directive.

The really good question to ask next is what happens when we are trying to accomplish these seemingly simple tasks?

Again, I feel that the rules are fairly simple or can be stated so:

  1. Acquire a foe
  2. Study the foe and find a weakness
  3. Use that weakness to destroy the foe

This is true where foe is one of:

  • something or someone that has what you need or want
  • something or someone that wants or needs what you have
  • something or someone that would prevent you from acquiring the thing(s) that you want or need

Clearly step 1 is easy to do as it can be done without any effort on your part at all. Step 2 is a bit trickier but evolution made cats fast so they could exploit a weakness in gazelles etc. Some species will evolve to exploit a weakness, though this is not a directed action. All predators find and exploit weakness in their prey. Now when it comes to step 3 things get a bit different. If we define ‘destroy’ as genocide it’s not really workable but if we define it as destroy until the foe is not capable of being a foe it becomes more realistic. When our need stops the foe is no longer a foe and so it goes.

There is  nothing unique to any given species in this… it’s a basic plan.

Greed is not part of the basic plan and this is seemingly unique to the hairless ape species called homo sapiens. A misnomer if ever there was one.

Homo sapiens (Latin: “wise man“) is the scientific name for the human species. Homo is the human genus, which also includes Neanderthals and many other extinct species of hominid; H. sapiens is the only surviving species of the genus Homo. Modern humans are the subspecies Homo sapiens sapiens, which differentiates them from what has been argued to be their direct ancestor, Homo sapiens idaltu.

Most of our philosophies do not advise material wealth as the meaning of life. This basic nature plan does not advise it. Greed is a disease or something like that. A defect of the human brain.

A Response: A Shattered Psyche

Your psyche is you, perhaps the only thing you truly own forever.

We spend a lot of time worrying about it and whether it is correct or complete or perhaps what is wrong with it, both our own and others’.

I am of the mind that every psyche, if spoken of as a thing, should be described like this vase. In that manner I have recently responded to a thought of shattered psyche with this:

Strength is not found in never having let anything out, but in choosing what to put back and keep in. It is the patches on the cracks and what they hold behind them that strength comes from. No tears are needed, but they will happen. Those patches on the cracks are not repairs, that’s the sinews of strength showing through.

Wear the cracks without shame. An unbroken vessel has not had to weather the troubles of life and living. It remains new and untested. The unbroken vessel does not know how much is too much nor what truly lies within. The psyche that believes itself to be perfect is one that has never seen a mirror. The psyche that believes it should be perfect has never truly seen the weathered and cracked vessels of those they most admire.

If perfection is our only goal, failure will be our only accomplishment.

It is far better to be useful than to be perfect.

Where a perfect vessel is needed, they throw out the vessels with any imperfections, no care for the beauty of the mosaic of the cracks that give it strength.

UPDATE

I really enjoyed this post – particularly the last line about those who throw out imperfect vessels in the (futile, misguided) search for a perfect one. [That's how it resonated with me, anyway.] I like the idea of the cracks in the mosaic giving it strength.

I did not intentionally try to say it, but a comment (see below, thank you DysthymiaBree) highlights a different perspective: When we seek perfection in others, we throw away what is more useful, more solid, more meaningful. We throw out what we need.

 

YoYo Ma-ma’s So Phat…

I just couldn’t resist that. This is the only post I’ve made in direct note of the wonderful and inspiring musician Yo Yo Ma. So it is that I’ll start with his conclusion or at least that written in this HuffPo piece.

WE ARE MORE THAN WE CAN MEASURE

We live in such a measuring society, people tend to put a person in a box they can put on their mental shelf. People think of me as a cellist because they can see my performances and take my measure as a musician. I think of my life as a musician as only the tip of an iceberg. That is only the audible part of my existence. Underneath the water is the life I’m leading, the thoughts I’m thinking and the emotions that well up in me.

We all get into trouble if we think the universe only exists of the matter that we can see and measure, and not the anti-matter that is the counterpart that holds it all together.

Michelangelo famously said, “I liberate the statue from the marble.” Similarly, my music emerges from the life all around me and the world we all share together. One is the condition of the other.

I’m not getting all pedantic on Yoyo, but I believe that the quote he wanted from Michelangelo was:

“In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.”

This version is much more revealing in that it explains that he looks at the marble chunk and sees inside of it’s confines an object that others do not. This is quite different than simply saying an object is trapped inside it as the latter implies that if only we chip away at the edges any of us would see the object inside.

Michelangelo’s Tomb

For Michelangelo to see the apparition in the stone he had to have modelled it in his mind… so that only his eyes could see the apparition till he set it free. This is what Yoyo is talking about. His imagination comes from the world around us as that is the extent of experience, he simply sees it through the filter of his own simulator/mind. Both he and Michelangelo were simply “releasing the beast within” by showing the rest of us what they see in their simulator. This act of sharing what only we can create in our simulators is to change the world around us, at least for those who witness the ‘beast’ we share.

The mechanics of how our brain simulator sees what it does is not the point here, but that our imagination comes from the rules and execution of the rules within our simulation of the world. Until we “release the beast” within the simulation in our brains it is not part of shared experience… it is not alive. When we share it, we give it life and in doing so it may gain practical immortality… after all, it’s really hard to kill a good idea. I say ‘beast’ because what lay trapped in the minds of some is exactly that – a beast. Many of us have very tame beasts, but this is not universally so.

What beast lies within the confines of your mind?

 

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