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Make it stop! 21 May 2009

Posted by splait in Uncategorized.

Here’s one to make your head explode.

Last post, I talked about science and religion. That will probably be a recurring theme here, so I might as well start recurring right now.

Another pet theory of mine, never to be proven by me, takes aim at the people who firmly believe that the universe is only about 6,000 years old, even with strong proof available that it is around 14 billion years old.

Going back to the supposition that there exists (or existed) some supreme being that created everything, couldn’t she/he/it have created everything we know about .00001 ms (milliseconds) ago, with all of our memories intact? With all of the “proof” that the universe is 14 billion years old already in place? All of our history created with no blip in how we view everything.

Why not? And if not, how can you prove it either way?

And why does it matter? Does it really make any difference?

However and whenever we got here, I get my fun out of seeing the discoveries that scientists can make about the glory of the universe and all the neat stuff they imagine about without much proof.

(Have we explored the depths of pi enough? Maybe Sagan was right and there are messages in the fabric of our universe there for us to find and understand. Read the book, don’t just see the movie. I refer, of course, to Contact. What a great and curious mind that man had!)

The search for knowledge, as far as I’m concerned, is Humanity’s purpose. We are close to creating major replacement parts for the human body, understanding how some of our most vile diseases work (and, thereby being able to create ways to combat them effectively), and maybe even slamming protons together to see how the universe was created!

We can look back to a time close to our universe’s beginning and see how everything (EVERYTHING!) evolved by using the Hubble telescope (in space, for Crickey’s sake!) to look out into time. (Thank you, STS-125 crew, for the great job!)

Maybe it’s all just a figment of my imagination. Everything. Even you! Do YOU really exist, or have I created you in my mind in order to not go stir crazy?

Does it really matter?



1. splait - 22 May 2009

This came from helioprogenus:

I agree with you on a certain level, but I don’t think that all human beings should be in complete agreement and cerebral harmony with each other. There are certain viewpoints that we can both agree are toxic. I think it’s safe to say that organized religion is detrimental towards rational thought and scientific growth. They are influential mind viruses that hijack our irrational tendencies and feed off of a need for authority, security, and tradition. In addition, they perpetuate through ignorance and our naive tendencies.

Having understood that, I believe the difference between organized religion, and some light supernatural belief is of magnitudes. I acknowledge that spirituality can mean something other than a supernatural belief. It can mean a feeling of attachment to the universe. Perhaps upon listening to Bach, or seeing a sunrise, or even feeling a cool summer breeze on your body, even an abject atheist can have something akin to a “spritual” experience.

It must be understood that we can have topics and issues that divide us. As long as our platform is based at least on some rational thought, there’s nothing wrong in disagreeing. I believe that science and religion are irreconcilable. They attempt to address the universe from two completely different platforms. Once is faith based, the other, evidence based. With that in mind, I also find that science and spirituality are equally irreconcilable. Since the difference between religion and spirituality is magnitudes, it ultimately comes down to having only one proven way to correctly investigate the universe, and spiritual faith plays no role in seeking the truth. One can dance around the word faith, and say, “but what about the faith in your own convictions that evidence is the only way to investigate the universe?” Placing one’s convictions on rational, empirical, and evidence-based modes of analysis is far from untethered faith.

You also mention purpose, as though it’s a possible given aspect of our existence. Purpose can be what you make of the lucky happenstance of your improbably existence. Considering all the likely ways an individual human can not have existed in the random, apathetic, and chaotic universe of ours, the fact that each one of us is a sentient creature, capable of reasoning and higher awareness (excluding the religious fanatics i guess) and exists with tools that can probe the universe around us is amazing and fascinating in itself. Why introduce an artificial need for fulfillment when we can achieve the same without needing a predetermined purpose. We must also realize that although causality is an established element in our lives, it need not be an aspect of whatever existed before the Big Bang. Therefore, there’s no need to interject some deity, or supreme spirit, or even some unexplicable supernatural force. I can understand why people have an inherent need, whether it’s personal reasoning, or a byproduct of our evolutionary development, but recognizing that does not bring me closer to agreement.

As you can see, we can have civil disagreements, even to the point of irreconcilable differences, whilst also attempting to empathize with counter-opinions. This lively debate can be had on many topics, including gun control, abortion, socialism, increased market regulation in a laissez faire economy, etc. I would argue that disagreement makes life more interesting. We can’t reconcile everything together. Yet, we can discard idiotic arguments that do not contribute much to the topic. If you disagree with abortion because it says so in your holy book, then there is no grounds for rational debate. Yet, if you do the same from the perspective of ethics, that might be for interesting dialogue.

splait - 22 May 2009

Great response!

It seems trite, after what you said, to say, “I agree”, so I will be more specific.

FIrstly, I don’t see where I said anything like, “We should all agree”. And I didn’t mean to imply it. I would LOVE to be in a world where we could have intelligent discourse without inducing anger in others just because we are on different sides of the discussion. I honestly don’t think it is possible, at least at this time in our evolution, for that to happen. We are (the vast majority of humans) too wrapped up in being “right” about everything. (As an experiment, I intentionally allowed myself to react to statements you made in your reply that I thought might rebuke my stand on whatever you were addressing. It’s incredible how quickly anger comes up if I let it!)

Secondly, I disagree with your discussion on faith, at least as you wrote it. I believe most scientists have some form of faith while doing what they do. That faith may change as evidence dictates.

I guess it depends on your definition of the term “irreconcilable” and whether or not a single human can live with both faith and proof. I certainly live with both, so I may be proof that your argument is false.

When a scientist goes after a theory, attempting to prove it true or false, I think there must be grains of faith involved in trying to prove that theory. I also think that faith changes quickly when evidence proves the theory incorrect (and that may be a partial definition of what a scientist is). Since we are all human, and since humans have flaws. I believe it is rare to find the scientist who can attempt to prove something s/he has no faith about.

It’s easy to say, “I can’t tell you whether my theory is true or false yet. I don’t have proof either way.” However, there is usually a “want” involved (i.e., “I want the answer to be {whatever}.”)

Thirdly, I don’t agree that science and religion are irreconcilable. I think they can coexist, based on what I said in this post. Simply by believing that, “{insert name of deity} set up the universe this way, with rules and tricks currently beyond my comprehension, and I wish to uncover those rules”, I have created that harmony.

Fourthly, spirituality is all about peace of mind. At least, the way I have defined it here. How is that necessarily irreconcilable with science? Someone who is chasing truth for the sake of truth can still have moments of spirituality, and those moments can be critical in finding the truth.

Having said all that, “organized religion”, in my mind is where the irreconcilable differences occur. At least the parts of organized religion where fundamentalists live. They tend to ignore truth and spout hatred and ignorance.

Anti-vaxers are a perfect example. While there is evidence that vaccinations might cause autism, there is proof that they do not, at least not by themselves. And the odds are heavily stacked in favor of having the vaccinations vs. not having them.

Nextly (I’ve forgotten which number I am on), when I speak of purpose, I am speaking from my own point of view. It’s hard for me to reconcile believing there is not necessarily a supreme being and still believe in purpose. Simply put, how can there be purpose without design? This is a conflict for me, but not to the point where I cannot function. I want there to be purpose because I find it hard to believe that this is all an accident. And yet, that may be the case. You and I will not know in our lifetimes. We just believe one way or the other. Even if something resembling a deity came to us, I would have a hard time believing in it being all powerful. Instead, I would consider that being’s science to be beyond my ability to understand at this time. And I would want to learn all about that science.

As for your being an atheist, don’t you just have faith there is no supreme being? After all, you have no proof of your claim that there is no such thing.

I don’t expect us all to reconcile our beliefs with one another. I think that is impossible. But “intelligent discourse”? That I think is the only way our species will survive. It scares the hell out of me that fundamentalists in different countries around the world have or will have atomic weapons. Since it is impossible to have intelligent discourse with them, the rest of us just have to live on pins and needles, hoping no one ever punches the button.

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