Posts Tagged ‘ space ’

The Meaning Of Life

Oh, I know… 42

https://i2.wp.com/w0.dk/~chlor/pc/hhg2tg2.jpg

Okay, maybe not. I think that to answer the question  “what is the meaning of life?” we should start with “what is life?” I’m going show you something. Something they don’t want you to see. I don’t know the future but I know what’s happening now. I know where we’re going.

I know you’re out there. I can feel you now. I know that you’re afraid. You’re afraid of us. You’re afraid of change. I don’t know the future. I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it’s going to begin. I’m going to hang up this phone and then I’m going to show these people what you don’t want them to see. I’m going to show them a world without you, a world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries, a world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you. — Neo

From the perspective of the universe (should it be conscious) this is your life and what it means:

Watch it closely. What do you see? Give up? No idea? Remember that video as you listen to Sean Carroll explain it.

What is the meaning of life? To dissipate energy. To push the universe closer to heat death. Nothing more, nothing less. A quick ride on a burning match and snuffed out. That’s life. Enjoy it, the ride, for all you can.

What Did You Just Ask?

What Did You Just Say?

To Celebrate My 500th Post

Well, it’s here. Some time back (see link above), I said that I’d like to celebrate 500 posts with an Ask Me Anything (AMA) of sorts. I Think that I’ll not put any limits on what kind of questions, but I will say that I might not choose to answer in a way that you like … don’t be sad, sometimes that happens.

You can see the topics I post on for inspiration or just pull a question out of your hat.

You can ask here in the comments or at the email address: myatheistlife at G mail dot com

Please, if asking in the comments, start a new paragraph with QUESTION: at the beginning of the line.

QUESTION: Please ask your questions like this.

Heads Up

There are  a couple of topics which the men in black will not allow me to talk about:

  • Faster than light travel
  • Cold fusion
  • Tasteful mother’s day gift giving
  • Why your sports team sucks
  • How I know that you need to do laundry

Other than that, ask away.

MAL

Anarchy: Is It A Force For Good In The World?

I suppose that this post won’t quite live up to that title, but that is what came to mind as these thoughts were coursing through the spectacular prefrontal cortex that I possess. A possession that we hairless apes seem to use as little as possible some times. I often think while driving to work that many of us keep them safely locked up in the basements of our homes to prevent theft.

What’s the point already!

Anarchy doesn’t have to mean complete breakdown of society and in this case I don’t mean it that way. The lack of centralized organization and rather much any organization at all for the growing number of people that self identify as atheists is a kind of anarchy.

The question is whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. Maybe it doesn’t really matter much at all. There are several national organizations for non-believers and these are the folk that the MSM generally consults on questions of non-belief although some have started to consult with youtube atheists (TheAmazingAtheist vs. William Lane Craig).

Side Note: I do not understand how they intended to get anything out of WLC. It generally takes him 5 minutes to introduce himself and what he wants to talk about.

I don’t think this will be the last time that a youtube atheist is consulted by the MSM. As time moves on I expect to see more of this. I have been clear on this blog that I do not represent other atheists and they don’t represent me. The only thing that can be said to be in common between myself and other atheists is that we do not believe in gods. Outside that point we can be completely incompatible personalities.

This is part of that anarchy. The theistic world wants to lump us all together but that is much like herding cats:

 

or something like this:

Atheism is a world view like this is interior decorating

 

The kind of anarchy that this represents is to my mind a good force in the world. I say this for more than one reason.

If and when the majority of the world population are non-believers, non-belief would be a really bad method of organizing people. It would be akin to saying you belong the elite group of people who wear clothes.

For many of the same reasons that one world government is not a good idea right now, organizing a group of people and trying to put ALL people in it is not a good idea. We hairless apes are not one-size-fits-all thinkers. We need our freedom to be ourselves.

Yeah? And so?

So … I don’t relish the thought that we might go from monotheistic world problems to monolithic government world problems. We don’t need to replace religion’s grip on world governments with anti-theist grip on world governments. Philosophy, when it is used to guide governments, should be a shared philosophy accessible to all people. We might call it truth. Critical thinking is the way to get there. We need to teach people to think critically and be skeptical.

The path to the future for those in the rumored atheist community is not organization, but education. We need to teach others how to break out of their bronze age thinking. The world will be better for it when we don’t divide ourselves along theological lines. We need to reach for the stars, not the holy texts. Lets organize around education and equality rather than philosophy.

Yes <face palm> I know you can call that a philosophy. Okay! Let’s organize around the philosophy of education and equality and work together. Earth 2.0 is not that far away. We can get there. We can become more than we are now.

Okay, now does anyone have any good ideas on how to educate those that don’t seem to want to learn?

What Will The World Look Like With More Atheists?

It’s kind of funny. Pew is reporting the ‘nones’ is the fastest growing religious group, more atheists are taking to blogging, atheism it seems is regularly in the news. People are talking about it so this indicates that the number of atheists must be growing. It’s hard to get good statistics when a lot of people are not willing to come ‘out of the religion closet’ so to speak.

I’m not a sociologist so you probably shouldn’t take this post as ‘etched in stone’ or something like that. We can look at the recent past and see how other social changes, big and small, have arrived and the shape that acceptance of these changes took. A gentle change was women in the work place. More or less, up till WWII there were not that many women in the work place compared to today in the USA. The war effort required more workers than were available so they started working and doing jobs that were traditionally only for men.

rosie_the_riveter1

This change half way reversed itself after the war, but the idea of women doing what were men’s jobs became real and slowly the changes began happening. Women’s rights and equal pay for equal work have done a lot. This change is not yet complete, so we know that some change can take a very long time.

Another small change that took awhile is that crazy rock-n-roll music. It burst into the public  conscience and paved the way for other genres of music. It never became ubiquitous. That is to say that while we see it everywhere, it did not replace anything. It merely fought for and won a place at the table. By having a place at the table we no longer have to pretend that those ‘hippies’ are bad or that rock-n-roll is from the devil. A really big Thank You to Frank Zappa for that. There were others of course, but go watch some video clips of him going to congress.  Now, there are death metal bands in places where it can get you killed. I’ve posted about this before. From this we can see that some change will not cause replacement but simply add new dimensions to society at large.

http://www.metalinjection.net/geodissonance/janaza-redefines-blasphemous-black-metal

And those new dimensions will lead to sparks of change elsewhere, sometimes all over the world.

We can examine the causes of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and the winding path of civil rights in the USA to see where that has gone. It is a change that is also not complete. Sometimes, it seems that you get 80% of the work done quickly but the other 20% seems to take forever to complete. That is just me trying to wedge the 80/20 rule into this and is not reflective of the actual values one might assign for these things.

So what will this look like for atheism and religion? I can only guess. It’s that time of year when people like predict events for the coming year.  To that end I think that:

  • The nones and religion will continue to be in the news.
  • It will continue to be easier to talk about not believing
  • Religious folk will continue to make religion look bigoted and hateful
  • Religious folk will continue to demonstrate that being religious does not make you a good person
  • A handful of non-believers will find clever ways to make religion look as stupid as it really is
  • William Lane Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument will be refuted in a bright public light (Piers Morgan perhaps)
  • Those folk who were counting on the end of the world this year will invent some new disaster to bring the end times
  • The SCOTUS will finally begin moving to rule on the issue of ‘teaching the controversy’ in science class
  • As the wars wind down in the middle east, there will be Muslim groups that try their hand at shooting 15 year old girls in the head or something similar to it.
  • The Dali Llama will embarrass himeself – again
  • The Pope will issue more apologies for the church being wrong over the years
  • (I hope) The RCC will recant on their stance against birth control, specifically condoms and other means of protection during sexual intercourse
  • The people of Ireland will find a voice for atheism
  • It’s hard to say how many more priests and pastors will be highlighted for sex crimes
  • (I hope) The IRS will move to remove tax exempt status from churches which flagrantly violate the law
  • Mainline evangelical apologists and pastors will begin to be seen as the other side of the coin that is the WBC

Those are not really predictions as much as they are what I think will happen as the volume of ‘nones’ grows and they begin finding their voice in the public square.  I could be totally wrong but I think this change will be one of those slow 80/20 things and we’ll have to witness it in slow motion. I think that the Internet will continue to be the crucible for these changes.

A long time ago, the world was big and society was small. There were small tribes and lots of land. Religion got a foothold back then. It made sense and seemed to have explanatory power. Then societies/tribe grew and the world shrank. We could bomb our neighbors and fight to take their resources and religion kept hold, trying to control the world as though it was big with small societies still. Now the world is small and societies are big. The Internet is slowly changing all cultures into one big melting pot. As America was 200 years ago, the Internet is today. Instead of moving to a land with the society you want to live in, the Internet brings that society to your living room where ever you live. Social change is happening on a global scale now, no longer constrained to the geography of newspaper circulations or political boundaries. This will color and shape the changes being brought by the ‘nones’ as we move through 2013.

We have seen the past few years called ‘The Information Age’ but it is only just now truly beginning. The ‘cloud’ that has been touted for the last few years is now becoming reality. Sharing information and meta-information about information is just getting started. Many of the fears that previous generations had about science and technology will come to fruition and wash over society in ways that were not envisioned. Sure, some will not be good ways, but most will be. The bad stuff is already happening – using technology for war and oppression is the first wave of implementation and always has been. The telescope was not offered up by Galileo as a tool for searching the heavens but as a tool for finding enemy soldiers. Looking at the heavens would have got him killed. Society continues to misuse tools as they are invented and will continue to do so. The US TSA has millions of dollars worth of scanners which are sitting idle while they could be used for new medical scanning techniques. I sincerely hope that in the coming year more of us come to our senses and demand that all this hardware and technology be used for good, and be removed from service as tools of conspiracy, spying, and oppression.

We are so close to having medical tricorders that it makes me giddy some days. I want to see medical equipment cheap and cheerful so that we can avoid medical catastrophes in the third world and reduce costs for medical treatment everywhere.

To achieve any of that we need to get rid of religion’s grip on governments and the public square. I hope that in 2013 we loosen that grip or remove it altogether.

Happy New Year

Are You Ready For This?

Are you ready for this? When life is discovered on another planet in this or any solar system will it change your life? What mental contortions will you have to go through to justify your beliefs? What back peddling will you have to do? Does your position on life and it’s possible meaning allow for life on other planets?

Well, you need to be ready to answer those questions soon.

Over at Discovery News is a story about how the Mars Rover has found evidence of flowing water on Mars.

The proof comes from analysis of pictures of a jagged slab of rock taken with a telephoto camera on the rover’s mast.

The rock, which resembles a jackhammered chunk of broken sidewalk, is flecked with rounded pieces of gravel — too big to have been carried by Martian winds.

Instead, Curiosity scientists are quite sure the gravel was deposited by a vigorously flowing stream, one that was between ankle- and knee-deep and likely flowed for thousands or even millions of years.

“We have now discovered evidence for water,” said lead scientist John Grotzinger. “This makes a great starting point for us to do more sophisticated studies.”

What happens when Earth is not the special single seat of life in the universe anymore? Can the universe still have been created for mankind? If life is found on Mars the idea of panspermia might become more important – there goes the creation stories.

Will other life forms have their own Jesus story or did Jesus visit them and die on the cross there too?

Will they laugh at us for being primitive?

Already we have evidence of what was not thought probable before. The likelihood that there was life on Mars in the past is now much higher as well as the probability that there is other life forms in the universe. If life is not unique, what happens to philosophy? Does yours allow for we apes to not be alone in the universe?

What do you think?

An Evening With Mr. Krauss

Dr. Lawrence M. Krauss is known to many but some people will tell you that he is not known by enough people. You probably know some of the quotable things that he’s said. Yet I’m willing to bet that you haven’t spent much time listening to him. He is an entertaining speaker, in the sense that he’s above average. He is a very likable speaker but I don’t think he’s going to get his own HBO series. What can most definitely be said of him is that he is a talented human being, as demonstrated in the first video.

 

 

I invite you to spend an evening listening to Mr Krauss. What he has to say is important, not least because he makes great sense of what most of us have trouble recognizing as a topic for conversation.

Robert Heinlein once wrote:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. p.248

I believe that Mr Krauss has made an attempt to make good on that.

Here then, we slide off to an evening of Mr Krauss … doing his thing. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is no better way to hear it explained than by someone that understands it like Mr Krauss.

 

 

I really liked this talk.

 

What Do You Take In Your I.V.?

Well, no, of course I don’t mean that literally. I’d suggest that when it comes to the literal thing that you accept the advice of your doctor or at least that of a really good friend LOL.

What I mean in the title is this, I generally get a daily feed of news and stories from a select source of RSS feeds. Tonight I’d like to announce a prolific feed that has really juicy bits of information about science and religion and many things in between. If you have ever wondered what I stick in my news I.V. it is machineslikeus.com. From Space-X to RNA news, they’ve got a constant fire hose full of great reading.

Go get you some. I’ve already linked to it on the ‘When Religion Dies’ page.

The Softer Side Of Mechanical Atheism

I didn’t quite get this one posted when I wanted, but these two videos popped into my world at the same moment almost. Everybody should know I’m a supporter of the work Neil deGrasse Tyson is doing and that I enjoy the way that he does it. Everyone from 5 years old to 95 years old can understand and learn from NdGT. More on that after the videos.

Naming Rights

This video is not for the mechanical atheist. Well, maybe it is. This is the feel good, nicely colored, aesthetic version of how I consider my world view. This is the emotional atheist side of my world view or at least some of it. Some of the important parts of it. The question of meaning, purpose, and peanut butter cannot be easily handled with mechanical explanations. They more often require the emotional explanation. This is a good one as far as that goes. Enjoy…

The Center Of All Things – not

No, NASA has not done anything special with peanut butter nor do I think it essential for humanity’s future. Don’t get me wrong, we shouldn’t stop eating peanut butter, not by a long shot. I just think that there are things which cannot effectively be explained with the mechanics to every audience. Those were just three of them.

I’m not sure that the mechanical atheist point of view is all that palatable for many. Well, this is the emotional atheist side of the same coin. In case anyone was wondering, I like this side too.

Oh, okay… here’s the peanut butter reference

Damn those tricky theist scientists.

On naming things.  I kind of thought I had invented a term “mechanical atheism” and atheist etc. A Google search turns up an article about men long dead who appear to have used the term also. Well, na na na, I’m still going to use it as I have defined it here on this blog. It’s a short article, read it.

I don’t think that I’ve ruined the term at all though. Hmmm

Mechanism, in the sense of mechanistic philosophy as it is currently conceived, shares with its ancient roots the sense of power and ability. For according to this philosophy, the organization of the universe, including living things, is entirely explicable by the “mechanical” laws of physics and chemistry. As William Provine puts it,

the world is organized in accordance with mechanistic principles. There are no purposive principles whatever in nature. There are no gods and no designing forces that are rationally detectable. (25)

My World View – Fine Tuning Of The Universe

Some theists will argue that the universe is created by their god and that science tells us that if some of the constants of the universe were changed as little as 2% then the universe could not have formed as it has and that life as we know it would not be possible. This they refer to as fine tuning. Also called the anthropic principle

Then, there are those who do not believe the universe is fine tuned, but that life began and has adapted itself to the universe over time … so successfully that it now appears that the universe was fine tuned for life. I do not think you will find any rational thinker that thinks the universe is the perfect place for life. Most of it is so harsh and uncaring that life as we know it cannot exist there. In fact, much like Adams’ thinking puddle, we find ourselves in a small bubble which is barely stable enough for life to arise and evolve to the point that we might contemplate the beginning of the universe and of life itself.

The cure for such thinking? Education. Broad science education that will allow people to know that the universe is not fine tuned, but we who are fine tuned by evolution for this universe. We are not special, just human apes on a pale blue dot in a cold harsh vast expanse that we call the universe… or one of them.

There is no reason to think that the universe is fine tuned, never mind by a god that created it. There is every reason to think that we evolved to be compatible with this universe by virtue of evolving to be compatible with the conditions of the Earth. For the Abrahamic monotheists out there, the notion that this is fine tuned universe to hold this planet… what was the garden of Eden? Surely not a place on the Earth, because that would mean an omnipotent and omniscient god created a paradisical garden for his new little friends and placed it inside a bubble that will only last 10 billion years tops, and will probably be unable to support life for far less than that. Was he planning to move the garden to some other bubble when time ran out on Earth? Maybe he was just going to thoughtlessly let it be destroyed? Oh wait, you think he will return and take people to heaven. When was that supposed to happen again? hmmmm Time’s up on that relocation plan, and we have about 5 billion years to think of a plan B – better start supporting the space programs so we can learn out to adapt to live in some other part of this universe that is not tuned well enough that we can just go live on any planet.

Just try scaring a 3rd grader with the threat of Gamma Ray Bursts from space that would microwave all life on this planet to a crisp if one hit us and you will have some idea of what real terror is. For me hell has no fury like a death ray from a black hole that cooks everything it touches randomly spinning about in space while the Earth dances around like one of those ducks at a shooting gallery at the fair.  Why would a creator god make one of those, never mind millions of them. As a third grader I once tried to contemplate the math regarding the probability that we might get fried by death rays from space. My 8 year old self let it go for a time when the math became far more complex than I had thought…. which lead to other discoveries, but that will be other post.

Darkantics has a take on this that is breathtakingly thought provoking.

 

Douglas Adams was a staunch atheist, who famously

imagined a sentient puddle who wakes up one morning and thinks, “This is an interesting world I find myself in—an interesting hole I find myself in—fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!”

From Wikipedia:

Victor Stenger argues that

… The fine-tuning argument and other recent intelligent design arguments are modern versions of God-of-the-gaps reasoning, where a God is deemed necessary whenever science has not fully explained some phenomenon”.

The argument from imperfection suggests that if the Universe were designed to be fine-tuned for life, it should be the best one possible and that evidence suggests that it is not. In fact, most of the Universe is highly hostile to life.

Additionally, Stenger argues:

We have no reason to believe that our kind of carbon-based life is all that is possible. Furthermore, modern cosmology indicates that multiple universes may exist with different constants and laws of physics. So, it is not surprising that we live in the one suited for us. The Universe is not fine-tuned to life; life is fine-tuned to the Universe.

 

So, do you think that the universe was fine tuned for human life? Let us know in the comments.

Belief Does Not Matter

This post of thoughts comes to you via several hours working on my lawn. With my morning coffee I read a post by One World. Many Gods. In the post the author talks about the sheer inspiration at the immensity of the universe and the dumbfounding insignificance of humanity in that largest expanse of harsh uncaring existence.

To quote the post:

Every time I read this it sends chills down my spine.  I think very few people realize the significance of this fact and I don’t think I could put it in better words then Carl Sagan.  So I ask that you read this several times and let the gravity of   his words sink in.

From the video:

We succeeded in taking that picture [from deep space], and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.

The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It’s been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

I have had a few things to say about Neil deGrasse Tyson in the past week so it is at this moment that I can think of no better time than to try to highlight what it is that he does so very well. Where Mr Sagan has stopped, Mr Tyson continues the journey as if he is simply the next stage in the rocket that is space exploration. If there are humans that can inspire us as much as the shear immensity of the universe, I think Sagan and Tyson are those kind of humans.

He worries. I worry with him. Vote wisely people. Our future depends on it.

 

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