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I just reread this whole page and it doesn't do much for me now. It's
way too patchy. (I.e. I made an edit here and an edit there over a
couple of months and it really shows..) Take this all with a grain of
Philosophy and Religion
Well, the enlightenment brought good and evil into the world. In my
opinion, mostly good I suppose, with 'truth' and 'goodness' being on the
same side of the fence. (Jury still out on that one, though.)
But really, in this day and age you have to accept science as the new
religion. This has broad moral implications we'll be confronted with
some great problems in the times ahead.
Or maybe I should make that "legal implications" now that the concept of
morality seems to be all but dead.
The gap between science and religion is widening and religion will lose
make no mistake about that leaving a 'moral void' of sorts.
Science will continue enticing us with clean water, food, comfortable
shelter, sights and sounds, medical technology, a 90-year life
expectancy, microwave ovens, microwave burgers, microwave coffee,
microwaveable instant water ("just add water"), computer games, and the
stuff of the next millennium which I can't even begin to imagine. "Hey,
where do I sign!"
Well, consider me signed up. As for myself, usually, I am an atheist on
odd days and an agnostic on even days. This would mean that today I am
because today's date is the
(well, in New York it is, anyway!)
Especially growing up in the latter part of this century, when there has
been a bit of time to reflect and analyze the most modern atrocities
(and even analyses of the analyses in the "postmodern spirit"), I think
I'm justified in being a bit of a nihilist.. how can you do anything but
laugh tiredly at the concerted effort of a bunch of sentient cell
clumps* to eradicate a bunch of other sentient cell
clumps? And it keeps happening...
But I don't detest people that are religious, not anymore at least. When
I was young I was a rabid atheist, never hesitating to throw
myself headlong into an argument or trying to "prove" that there's no
support for religious beliefs in all of reality. Nowadays I'm older,
more experienced and wiser. (Read: more tired and less apt to waste time
on complete idiots that I by now know never change their mind anyway).
Anyway, my absolute grand prize for cheesiest religion, all categories,
all time periods, goes to Scientology. Right up there together with
hallucinogenic drugs. My favorite religion would probably be Buddhism. I
loved the concept of a 'secular humanist church' that Zappa talked
about in his autobiography.
The problem to me with most religions: The questions they ask (if any)
are frequently the wrong ones. And the answers are wrong. They ask
questions that can be easily answered by "bullshitting": refering to
dogma, a book, a few hours (or years) of idle speculation. ("How did the
Universe cause to be? Santa Claus created it out of a ball of dung.")
They sometimes ask questions that are not fundamental enough or
irrelevant questions that center around some minor point in a
previously established belief system ("how many angels on the head of a
Here are some questions that I'd like to see adressed, for you to scoff at
(again, I have a Judeo-Christian bias here, I hope I'm not offending any
other religions by not including them):
- Why are we and the universe here? (IMO not an answerable question,
and if you spend too much time concentrating on this question you will
lose valuable time just enjoing life. To be sucked in, chewed up and
spit out of a religious belief system, you should not have a merciless
hunger for the truth; rather, a merciless hunger for an answer. Two
quite different things!! That's my 5 cents anyway.)
- Is there a purpose or reason for Human consciousness?
- Will there be Neanderthals in heaven? Dogs? Amoebas? Why isn't it a
sin to kill animals? Where is the absolute borderline between
"slaughter" and "murder"? 98% identical DNA? 99%? (99.9999999999999999%
identical to my DNA? Then I could kill you all! But
then nobody would visit my web pages.) A mongoloid has less genetic
material in common with a "normal" human than a chimp. So why can't I
just chop the head off any mongoloid I see? If I killed a Neanderthal,
would it be murder?
- If God is good and omnipotent, why did he create evil? (The answer
is clear: this "God" is a complete idiot and should not be wasted time
- If I made an exact copy of myself, would I experience consciousness
in both places? If the copy was exact, which one would be the "real" me?
How could the copy prove to me that it was conscious, before I chopped
its head off?? How could I prove it to the clone, before it chopped off
mine? (I know, I know, exact copy, down to the quantum level including
the relative position and momentum of every particle present day
physics says is not possible. Screw present day physics!)
- What about if there in the future was some way to reproduce the
state of an entire human mind inside a machine? (This is not at all that
far fetched. Give it a couple of hundred years..) Would the machine have
a soul? Is it possible for a machine to be conscious? Would it have a
soul even if the design was not based on human modes of consciousness?
Would aliens have souls? Is the Turing test a valid test for consciousness?
- What about a genetic clone of me, would it have a soul? Would it be
identical to my soul? If it would be my soul, I have an instant
recipe for going to heaven: clone yourself, and kill the copy before it
has any opportunity to sin. What about twins? they're genetic copies of
each other. Do they share a soul? (Obviously not!) But how could there
be such a thing as one twin going to heaven and one to hell? Anything,
on any level, that happens to each twin after the moment of conception
could be classified as "external factors" be it quantum fluctuations,
positions on the placenta in the womb, birth order of the twins,
childhood traumas, upbringing. So any difference in behavior (aka "free
choice") is due to these "external factors" (note that I'm including
"chance", or quantum fluctuations in these). What does that mean for the
concept of free choice?
Where have all the aliens gone?
That is: if there is extraterrestrial intelligent life forms, why don't
we ever see any visitors? (And when I say "we ever see" I mean, in the
manner that "we see" kangaroos, Unicorns or Eskimoes everybody agrees
that they exist, you see pictures of them in dictionaries, etc you
just KNOW kangaroos exist even if you never saw one with your own eyes.
I hope you follow my drift here.. just trying to exclude the
observations of the lunatic UFO fringe as data points... but I
Well, I have three particularly hilarious theories:
Now, there's presently no way to prove any of these theories.
That's right, sort of like that old bullshit about Jesus walking on the
water and rising from the dead.
You just have to accept them on faith! Pick the one you like worst!
I especially like the first two! Brilliant excuse to have a beer and
tell everyone how much you love them. Number three is just too gloomy,
even for me! But some of modern physics seems to perhaps point in that
direction, if you're crazy enough to believe some of the loopier
Remember, there are no guarantees, just because the Universe has been
here for 18 billion years, there's nothing to guarantee that this
ludicrous state of affairs will go on. It could be gone any second,
without any warning! Life Is Short, which is another way of writing The
End Is Near. And The End doesn't have to be anything as exciting as the
above scenarios (one could easily imagine a giant black hole approaching
our solar system). Or you could be hit by a bus. From a person's point
of view, whether this is different from "the Universe ceases to exist"
is up to the philosophers to argue about..
- The universe evolves up to the point where a sufficiently
sophisticated civilisation (somewhere) performs an experiment powerful
enough to annihilate it. Then you have a new 'big bang' and the process
can start anew. (Or maybe not, maybe the Universe is a one-shot deal.)
Thus, it's improbable for any civilisation to evolve to the point where
it makes contact with any other one. (Some demented alien in a lab coat
300 trillion galaxies to the west of you might this very moment be
flicking the switch. Have a drink before it's too late! )
- The Universe is just "someone else's experiment", a "simulation run
on some unimaginably large piece of hardware," to coach it in computer
terms. "They" could pull the plug at any moment, like 10 minutes from
now. Another powerful argument to go have a beer, this very instant.
(At least it will be painless, because you won't even know it happens!
You'd go from existence to non-existence in zero time, together with the
rest of the Universe and any beer it contains. Not in one nanosecond.
Not in one trillionth of a nanosecond. Instantaneously, because
time itself would of course cease to exist.)
In other words, you won't have time to pack. It might happen! Especially
if "they" find out there are some "growths" in the simulation that might
try to "hack it" by messing with space-time fundamentals, or somehow
access the variables that underly quantum mechanics. (What? You didn't
think I believed in the Copenhagen interpretation, did you? Naah. Too
If you had an aquarium, and some of the pond scum was trying to make a
hammer to break the glass from the inside, what would you do? I rest my
- Any race of sentient beings in the Universe evolves up until the
point where its science is sophisticated enough to deduce that the
Universe itself is completely deterministic.
Imagine there is no free will everything that will happen in what we
call "the future" is already determined. What you think of as "now" is
in no way unique. All the decisions you ever made, and will make, are
Also imagine there is incontroverible proof, such as the ability to to
see into the past and into the future. To see what an inexorable fate
has in store for you personally and for Humankind.
How would you feel about going to work next Monday? Like a bug trapped
in amber? Needless to say, at that point in its development, the race of
sentient beings declines and disappears in a puff of nihilism, never to
be heard from again by any other race. If you think of the decline of
religion (the Enlightenment, belief in objective Scientific method, the
death of the anthrocentric Universe, and the subsequent rise of
secularism) as a disaster of popular life philosophy, this would be a
catastrophy many, many orders of magnitudes worse for the self-image of
So, please, go ahead.. have a brew and a few laughs!
I fear that the concept of indepentently verifiable observations
is woefully underrated these days.
"Reality" is but a soup of haphazard quantum events, poorly interpreted
by a mishmash of misfiring synapses. And as if that wasn't bad enough,
there's five billion versions of "reality" and speculation is rampant.
Soberly evaluating someone else's observations can save the day.
a: "what if you're all just my hallucinations?"
b: "come on."
a: "no really. maybe I'm just imagining you?"
b: "well, or what if I'M just imagining YOU? In either
case, you could safely loan me $100."
a: "never mind."
Symbolic communication between members of the species is
the thin line that separates us from the monkeys.
I say let's make good use of it.
Belief in science and religious or occult beliefs need not be mutually
exclusive, by the way. That's just my interpretation. But whenever you
hear a belief system used in a "description of truth or reality", such
as astrology, quantum electrodynamics, Catholicism, Buddhism, or
Scientology, be sure to ask:
1a) WHO's telling you, (or who's the original source of the information)
1b) Now who the heck IS this actually?
1c) Can you see any ulterior motives for trying to win you over to this point of view?
2a) HOW could you verify if it's true?
2b) if you're too lazy for this, WHO ELSE has bothered to verify it?
2c) Who the heck is THAT?
Repeat 2b and 2c for fun.
In a way I choose not to choose, in this case as well.* Some people
call this cowardice. But exactly why do I have to confess colors and
declare myself as belonging to a particular team? Ideas like this smack
of preprogrammed primate group behavior. And we all know how much "fun"
that has gotten us into in the past.
Some days I feel like a fascist, some days like a communist. (Some days
you're the pigeon, some days you're the statue...)
Politics is in my opinion not even a real "science" anyway. Which leads
Laughing at alchemists
People (a term I use loosely, usually including myself in the set)
have this innate propensity to make fun of other people because
they held on to beliefs that we now know were "wrong". Some
examples are: Once they thought the Earth was flat. Idiots!
Once they thought snot was produced by the brain. Idiots! Once
they thought that you could transform earth into gold using
14th century technology. Idiots! Once they thought thunder was
created by some guy riding the skies and banging it with
a hammer. Idiots! Herewith a list of ..
Current "science" most likely to be ridiculed in the future.
Most importantly in this day and age, there's no shame in having
flexible and vaguely formulated political beliefs. (The "Johansson
version of the Epimenides paradox": Anyone who generalizes
wildly is bound to be wrong a lot.)
- Political science and theories
- Psychiatrics and psychology
- Religion (but we've been thru that one already)
Ask yourself: Am I a fucking politician? No. Should I venture to
theorize about, and adapt a rigid opinion on, complex systems of large
masses of completely unpredictable thinking (well, mostly thinking)
mammals? No. What's the point. The science simply isn't there yet. It's
analogous to a stone age person theorizing about chemistry. He may get
some things right, but mostly by accident. I envision current political/
economical theories being on the "me make fire, turn wood into coal"
level. "Me lower taxes, turn interest rates into pumpkin."
The less flimsy parts of Politics blend into National Economics, which
itself is not a hard science pretty flimsy stuff, all of this. Like
the joke goes:
An economist is back in his old college town many years after
graduation and decides to drop in on one of his old professors. He
happens to see a copy of an exam sitting on the desk, so he picks
it up to look at it. Upon deciding that it looks familiar, he comments
to the professor that it is the same exam that he had taken 10 years
ago. The professor assures him that this is correct, but adds that
this time the answers are different.
I suppose the answer to most really deep and difficult
political/economical questions can be reduced into "there's just too
many people". We definitely need some more planets to fuck up!
I do have some views, but not really the time to expound quite yet! But
in brief: I suppose you first have to make a distinction between the US
system of justice, and that of other countries. In the US there's:
Of course a lot of these concepts have co-evolved with all-American
stuff like "druglords", "carjackings", "drivebyes", and people
going "postal". (And of course, nowadays, kids going *"Elemental".*)
Regarding the death penalty, my personal opinion is that I think it's
barbaric, and in particaular it doesn't befit a great Western nation
like the US. (If the death penalty is so good, why don't they
televise the executions?) The death penalty befits countries such as
China, Iran, Iraq, and Libya. All I have time to say right now is that
my views probably tie in to my Judeo-Christian-Scandinavian upbringing.
I see this development of Law from barbarism to civilisation:
- Black Rage Syndrome
- White Jury Syndrome
- The Death Penalty
- Elected Prosecutors
Of course criminal justice is a very difficult problem, and if I had all
the answers I would share. But state-sanctioned homicide is as obscene
as any other homicide. I just know that frying or gassing some
particular cell clumps isn't going to be particularly helpful. And with
a justice system comprised of other (fallible) cell clumps, chances are
that the wrong cell clumps are being put out of commission, sometimes.
And that sucks... and besides, I heard life prison sentences are cheaper
for society due to all the appeals in death penalty cases (although this
may be an urban legend, I don't know).
- The Old Testament: an eye for an eye. Smite the Infidel. Actually,
let's chop their families to bits as well just to make sure.
- The Vikings: if you as much as touch my shield, I'll hack your head
off with a battle axe.
- The Middle Ages: If you don't pay your church tax I'm afraid we'll
have to break you on the wheel.
- Present-day Scandinavia: That's nice, but we now know even brutal
murderers can be rehabilitated after three years in a relatively
comfortable jail cell.
Have some views on them as well. I will summarize them here.
I love drugs! Drugs are good. Think of antibiotics and how many lives
have been spared! You could argue that air is like a drug you get
hooked on the active ingredient, Oxygen, from birth. Or water.
Oh, you mean illegal drugs? Well, the distinction is a bit
artificial... why couldn't all chemical compounds just be legal? Why
couldn't each individual decide what to do with his/her own body?
Usually some determination is made (by Society) that a particular
chemical has no medical value and that letting people use it freely
would create "problems".
The cynic in me wants to think that Society doesn't like losing tax
revenue.. but the non-cynic in me thinks of family and friends of drug
addicts... and crack babies, and drug-related accidents..
let's face it, most people don't always know what's best for
them, even if you and I do!
Anyway, I've tried some (not nearly all, I'm afraid), but I have to say
that the only ones I've found that are worth the hassle are alcohol, and
caffeine. And the superior delivery systems for these wonderful
chemicals are beer, and coffee. And they're not even illegal.. oh dear,
I must be getting old.
Page updated Oct 23, 1999 at 15:56 • Email: email@example.com
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