Sunday, October 26, 2014

Unknowable



One of the things that makes magical thinking, such as any religion,work is that the realm itself from which the magic comes is unreachable. It is by its very nature ‘supernatural’. The faithful walk a fine line here. The magical world is real for them and yet we cannot fully fathom it. On the other hand the magical world does intercede on occasion and we can request that the magical world enter our world to help us or give us comfort which as we all know may or may not actually work. This is all very convenient. When something good happens FOR YOU you might happily ascribe that goodness to a higher being who cares for you even though it might also be explained as what happened in the natural course of events. And, when something bad happens you get to say that exactly how the magical world works is unknown and unknowable so it only seems really bad without seeing or being able to see the entire picture or that you are being punished by a harsh (yet all loving) being. I guess similar to the really big picture into which the holocaust fits in nicely. This is all very similar to the gods who lived on Mount Olympus who only occasionally decided to interact with mortals for good or evil or the occasional impregnation of a virgin.

Surprisingly there is a seemingly similar motif in physics.

As we venture downward to the microscopic to the atomic level and beyond we reach a state where the actual ‘view’ is by its nature unattainable. It’s not that our machines are not clever enough it is that seeing itself does not work with the ultra small. The simplistic version is that to see something you have to bounce light (photons) off of it but that very process disturbs or ruins that which you were attempting to see. That’s the uncertainty principle (I think). In even simpler terms think about trying to detect something with waves. Water waves come to mind. At a beach you could detect the changes in depth using the behavior of the water waves. You could detect the location of boats and wharfs by the reflection of water waves. Maybe even a swimmer. But could you detect the existence of a 1” diameter pole (like the ones that hold up Martin houses) sticking out of the water by the behavior of the waves? Probably not. The pole is too small compared to the size of the waves (wavelength). With smaller waves you might though and so it is with light and seeing. The smaller the thing you’re trying to see the shorter wavelength light you need to see it. But, darn it, when I try to use smaller and smaller wavelength light I am automatically using photons of higher energy which disturb the object I’m trying to see even more.

So, by its very nature, the sub-atomic world is un-seeable. You might be tempted to think this is just like a magical world then where there is a built in stop-gap to prevent you from knowing all.

But no. The difference is between un-seeable and un-knowable. I venture to say that at this time we know just about everything there is to know about the atom and the nucleus and we’re never going to ‘see’ it. Knowing means to be able to predict the behavior of a system given initial conditions. We have no holes in our knowledge about the atom and nucleus at this time. We have models of behavior and at times it helps to actually draw those models such as the classic atom with a nucleus and electrons orbiting. We’ve never actually seen that and we’re not going to! But the atom behaves like that and when I use that image (mathematically) to make predictions I get verifiable results that agree with my model.

And so it goes adding bells and whistles to the model as more and more hypotheses and experiments come in and our KNOWLEDGE of this un-seeable world increases.

There is nothing you can do to increase your knowledge of a magical world by its very nature - a nature that has been made up in the minds of humans. It must be unfathomable or it wouldn’t be magical.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Does God Exist?

It doesn’t really matter. For one thing, you can never prove the existence of a magical entity nor can you disprove the existence. (You can’t disprove the non-existence either!) What’s more important than questions of existence or non-existence is the fact that God does exist in the minds of about 98% of the world’s population in one of her many manifestations. To argue the case is pointless. The believers will never be convinced that their god does not really exist nor can the believers ever supply the needed evidence that the few rational people among us require to accept a rather provocative world view.

What is needed, I think, is just an acceptance. I don’t care that someone chooses to believe in magical people. I’m surprised that they make up a giant majority but such are the times in which I live. They in turn shouldn’t care that I don’t share their belief. Certainly their world view does not hinge on little old me. Or, at least it shouldn’t or how strong is that belief?

In America we have freedom of religion. We really do! You can damn well worship just about any way you want and I’m with that. The much bigger question then to the faithful is, why isn’t that enough? Why?

Why must you push for religion in school?
Why must you push for the 10 commandments to be posted on the court house?
Why must you jam a ‘creation museum’ down our throats?
Why must you invade peoples bedrooms because due to some vague references in a 5000 year old document?
Why must you single out YOUR magical belief as the ONLY proper magical belief.
Why must you equate belief in magic with high moral standing?

Why isn’t what you already have enough?

When an Atheist says, I’m not comfortable with your bringing religion into the (courthouse, classroom, board room. . .) they are not attacking your faith. Frankly they don’t care about your faith at all. They’re just asking you to keep things in there proper place. No one is asking you to NOT believe and I’m FOR that!

As an Atheist I do fear for the lose of reason that the over doing of religion represents. The only thing that stands between us and chaos is reason. Prayer and faith may give an individual solace in hard times but it’s no way to run a country. You can’t pray new roads. You can’t pray your way to the moon or Mars. You can’t learn chemistry or physics by hoping for it. You can’t pray the climate change away. It takes measured reason and real discourse to solve real problems.

So keep your faith (baby). Pray away because you have the freedom to do so. But please don’t take that extra step in thinking that your way is the high way and reason be damned.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Being Insulted

A group of Sufi Muslims took to Chicago’s streets Sunday to say an emblem used by Italian perfume-maker Roberto Cavalli smacks of insensitivity and is an affront to their faith.

Oh really. So you have some sort of higher ground because of your 'faith'. Your belief in magical people the the power of prayer gives you a right to be affronted.

How about this. . .

I'm affronted by your dragging 5000 year old behaviors and thinking into the 21st century. I'm saddened by the constant grumbling of one religion or another thinking that people using science and reason are attacking their magical position. Look, if your world view can be shattered by logic, observation, and reason maybe don't be so insulted...just drop the religion! It's taking us nowhere. 

Look, whether or not the perfume maker uses some symbol or not, your day to day life does. not. change. If you believe in magical people or not . . . nothing in our reality actually changes.

Could we please just enjoy freedom of religion and work on some real problems - together?

Saturday, May 17, 2014

LIfe is Cheaper Than Ever in the Sudan

The Sudanese 'government' has sentenced a 8 month pregnant woman to death for being a christian but really being a muslim. Or maybe it's the other way around. In any case, what she did is against Sharia  "law"  (Hey, I got a sister named Sharia) and she must be put to death. (The actual crime is called apostasy)

NOTHING but religion can get people to be this crazy to think that this is somehow 'right'. NOTHING. I have a good friend who is a multiple black belt and he'll tell you that he'd much rather be attacked by a murderer, drug dealer, assassin then a religious zealot. There is no good way to protect yourself from c r a z y.

But this story has an even more depressing twist. Here's a quote from the woman's husband:

"I'm so frustrated. I don't know what to do," said her husband, Daniel Wani. "I'm just praying."

Praying? Praying? YOU DUMB FUCK THAT'S THE REASON YOU'RE IN THIS SHIT!   Praying for help is like being in hock up to you eryeballs with a loan shark and asking to borrow another hundred bucks! Although, in his defense they'd probably be in way MORE trouble if they happened to be atheists*. Maybe praying is a good way to keep his own ass out of the fire. Just be sure to pray to the right pretend/dead person.

We're doomed.

*Actually, in fact, we're all atheists and when we die we don't get to know that.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

The End of People

I don’t think we’re going to make it. Of course that only means that we’ll join the ranks of the other extinct creatures which make up about 99.9% of all the creatures that ever existed.

And good riddance.

We won’t make it for the same reason that our brethren didn’t make it. Creatures go extinct because they cannot adapt to changes and out they go. Now you’d think with our extremely large craniums we’d be able to see change coming and get a leg (or flipper) up on adaptation. Like, OH . . . , noticing climate change.

But no . .

No, we have to listen to people who deny global warming, deny evolution, deny that science actually works. Deny the idea that wiping out other species (whales, Bambi) might come back to bite us in our collective asses. Deny, deny, deny. We’re doomed by our own stubbornness to stick to our guns and especially those who actually own those sticky guns. We’re doomed by our continued marching to tunes that were written 5000 years ago. Doomed by a cave-man-like belief in magic and miracles.

We have every capacity and enough cleverness to go on and on as a species but we ain’t going to make it. That will be sad but ….

No one will be around to actually be sad*.

The planet will recover from our brief invasion and be much happier down the road.

*How weird would it be to be the last human and KNOW it?!

Friday, April 04, 2014

Today’s Three Questions for Theists - April 4, 2014

Well, I see that Easter is rapidly approaching (the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox). Easter is really THE important date in Christianity. It is the resurrection and the promise of a little taste of that for us that is the cornerstone of the whole  deal.

For example:
Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:54...text me!)

Ok then.

Now being a piece of scripture it has to be ‘interpreted’. (mysterious ways and all that you know).

Well, we can’t really eat Jesus’ flesh...he’s either a pretend person or long dead. But, wait, actually we CAN because the priest has the magical powers to turn something actually worse than my mom’s home made bread into the flesh of a dead jew from 2014+ years ago. Same with the blood. Priest turns some Thunderbird* into blood which can only be an improvement. So I go to communion and eat the flesh of the savior and drink his blood (this would make an awesome movie!) and NOW I too will be raised up . . .oh wait a minute…’on the last day’.

Hmmmm...MY last day? That would be awesome. Like getting the short TSA line at the airport. OR, does it mean the last day of all days? Will I know I’m waiting because that’s going to be awhile. OR is the ‘last day’ the day of the promised second coming? Well, in any case being raised up is better than being let down I always say (unless you’re calling a guy with a pair of bullets in the hole).

Now then, what of the converse?  If I do not eat of thy flesh nor drink thy blood what then? (Cheeze, now you got ME talking that way!) Banished to the neither world for eternity? I just can’t see a creator of the entire freaking universe really caring what I have for brunch on a Sunday.

Are there three questions in there? You decide. I’ll sit back and wait to not be answered.

* Old Thunderbird wine ad:

What’s the word?
Thunderbird
What’s the price?
30 twice
What’s the action?
Satisfaction!
Thunderbird!

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Today’s Three Questions for Theists

1. Is God made of atoms?

2. If God is not made of atoms of what is he made?

3. If you think that there is some other layer of reality where there are real things (spirits, dead people, saints, angels, etc) that are not made of atoms what examples or evidence can you give?