Saturday, May 4, 2013

Gods and Goddesses Galore!

This enormous list of gods and goddesses from endless numbers of societies, neatly alphabetized, reveals the enormous creativity of the human imagination:

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Is God the Cosmic Hacker?

What if my idea that God is the Cosmic Hacker is true?  What if He is sitting around on some threadbare couch eating fast food ambrosia bars and sipping on supersized nectar while coding our universe?  And who is going to pick up all those crumpled wrappings?  Read this article and find out:

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What Does BEAST Stand For? (As in the number of the beast)

A Facebook friend asked what BEAST stands for, as in the number of the beast of Bible fame.  Here is what I came up with.  I can't imagine any better answer:

Believe Every Asinine Silly Thing.

What's your answer?

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Fundamental Theological Contradiction

Invitations to pray for the people of Boston are kindly meant, of course, but ultimately futile.  Why?  Because there is a fundamental contradiction between assertions about God and assertions about human freedom.

This contradiction is weird, isn't it?  IF you are a believer, and believe in the Judeo-Christian God, you believe in a being that is all-powerful and all-knowing, which means by definition, that particular God PLANNED everything that ever had happened or will happen.  A god that powerful and that knowledgeable must overwhelm his creation with his power and knowledge.

Therefore, EVERYTHING has been scripted.  Including the Boston bombings.  Which means even your belief and your decision to pray on a given occasion is PRE-PLANNED!!!!

Exactly what is prayer supposed to accomplish?  Ratify existence?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Is John Polkinghorne a Possibilian?

Here's an article that insists that the physicist/priest/writer is indeed uncertain on everything, including his religious beliefs.

I've enjoyed his work ever since I saw him at the Gustavus Adolphus College Nobel Conference in 1990.  He, along with Ilya Prigogine and Benoit Mandelbrot, gave talks to a crowd of science students, teachers, and ordinary folks like me interested in science.  His talk was on the relationship between science and religion.  That year's topic was chaos theory and fractals.  A fascinating weekend for me in St. Peter, Minnesota.

Here's a sample from the article:

But even people who don't normally think about these things have a hard time pinning down what they know for sure. Scratch just a little below the surface of most of us, and you'll find very few things on the list of what we really know. What do any of us know for certain? Not much.
Polkinghorne's level of comfort with uncertainty has its roots in reading the Hungarian chemist and philosopher Michael Polanyi, who used the term "motivated belief," and who called into question the idea that scientists deal in objective facts.
"Complete objectivity as usually attributed to the exact sciences is a delusion and is in fact a false ideal," Polanyi wrote in the 1950s. In other words, we're all coming from some kind of vantage point — always. Facts always come with interpretation. People of science are motivated to believe certain things as they proceed with their experiments, and people of faith are motivated to believe certain things as they proceed with their beliefs. Living with doubt leaves one open to additional discovery, both in science and faith.
Polkinghorne points to the example of what scientists once knew about light. For years, scientists proved that light was a series of particles. Later, scientists proved that it was waves. Then scientists proved that light acted like waves some of the time and particles some of the time. "If there is motivating evidence, you have to change your view of rationality," Polkinghorne said.


David Eagleman invented the word Possibilianism in response to the certainties he had problems with in religious belief and atheism.

I take it he's very close to my take on agnosticism:  the philosophical agnostic has studied much in the way of science, religion and human limits, and has realized as a result that we humans will never be absolutely certain about anything.  We can be reasonably certain about a number of our beliefs, but never absolutely certain.
Eagleman was brought up as a secular Jew and became an atheist in his teens. Lately, though, he’d taken to calling himself a Possibilian—a denomination of his own invention. Science had taught him to be skeptical of cosmic certainties, he told me. From the unfathomed complexity of brain tissue—“essentially an alien computational material”—to the mystery of dark matter, we know too little about our own minds and the universe around us to insist on strict atheism, he said. “And we know far too much to commit to a particular religious story.” Why not revel in the alternatives? Why not imagine ourselves, as he did in “Sum,” as bits of networked hardware in a cosmic program, or as particles of some celestial organism, or any of a thousand other possibilities, and then test those ideas against the available evidence? “Part of the scientific temperament is this tolerance for holding multiple hypotheses in mind at the same time,” he said. “As Voltaire said, uncertainty is an uncomfortable position. But certainty is an absurd one.”
A garden-variety agnostic might have left it at that. But Eagleman, as usual, took things a step further. Two years ago, in an interview on a radio show, he declared himself the founder of a new movement. Possibilianism had a membership of one, he said, but he hoped to attract more. “I’m not saying here is the answer,” he told me. “I’m just celebrating the vastness of our ignorance.” The announcement was only half serious, so Eagleman was shocked to find, when he came home from his lab later that night, that his e-mail in-box was filled, once again, with messages from listeners. “You know what?” most of them said. “I’m a Possibilian, too!” The movement has since drawn press from as far away as India and Uganda. At last count, close to a thousand Facebook members had switched their religious affiliation to Possibilianism.

Read more

We Created the Gods

I think this is true.  But it didn't happen deliberately...a bunch of atheists sitting around a campfire, making up a god.  I think it happened gradually, in an evolutionary manner, over the centuries and millennia.  Very much as described in the essay.  What do you think?

Scientists have so far identified about 20 hard-wired, evolved "adaptations" as the building blocks of religion. Like attachment, they are mechanisms that underlie human interactions: Brain-imaging studies at the National Institutes of Health showed that when test subjects were read statements about religion and asked to agree or disagree, the same brain networks that process human social behavior — our ability to negotiate relationships with others — were engaged.
Among the psychological adaptations related to religion are our need for reciprocity, our tendency to attribute unknown events to human agency, our capacity for romantic love, our fierce "out-group" hatreds and just as fierce loyalties to the in groups of kin and allies. Religion hijacks these traits. The rivalry between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, for example, or the doctrinal battles between Protestant and Catholic reflect our "groupish" tendencies.
In addition to these adaptations, humans have developed the remarkable ability to think about what goes on in other people's minds and create and rehearse complex interactions with an unseen other. In our minds we can de-couple cognition from time, place and circumstance. We consider what someone else might do in our place; we project future scenarios; we replay past events. It's an easy jump to say, conversing with the dead or to conjuring gods and praying to them.
Morality, which some see as imposed by gods or religion on savage humans, science sees as yet another adaptive strategy handed down to us by natural selection.