A true Father

It is impossible to believe God to be omnipotent, omniscient and all-loving and yet to have created nothing more than pets, forever unable to understand him let alone to become like him. We can, and must know him (John 17:3), become like him (Matt 5:48), and share everything he has (Rom 8:17) . Anyone who denies that we are literally his children abases Him by denying to Him at least one of those three characteristics of godhood – omnipotence, omniscience, and an all-loving nature. To think that there are some who think we diminish God by suggesting that we can become like him when the opposite is true. A god who would choose to create pets rather than children does not deserve the appellation “Father”.

Some thoughts on Yoga

Interesting what you can end up learning by allowing yourself to get distracted by something . . . interesting. I was researching the papacy, which led me to the Council of Nicea and then Arianism, then to Aryanism where I cam across the fact that Himmler had sought relief from the guilt he felt from implementing the Holocaust by carrying (and presumably reading) a copy of the Bhagavad Gita. This book, a sacred Hindu text, contains the following instruction attributed to the divine Krishna:

“To action alone hast thou a right and never at all to its fruits; let not the fruits of action be thy motive; neither let there be in thee any attachment to inaction.”

The Wikipedia article summarizes this accurately as the idealization of selfless action.
So there we have a real life example of what the practice of selflessness leads to – mass murder, genocide, the Holocaust.

Contrary to the many misguided Christians who believe Christ taught selflessness, he did not. “Love thy neighbour as thyself” and “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” are not exhortations to disregard both self and others but to value others as well as self. The direction to love your neighbour is premised on first loving yourself.

What Christ taught was that by expanding our ability to love to include not just ourselves but others allows us to experience the happiness of others as our own happiness. Love is the emotion we feel when we are aware of the identity between the interests of others and our own interests. The extent of the awareness and/or the degree of identity determines the strength of the emotion. “I love my wife” means that I am aware that if she experiences something good, it is as if I too experienced it.

We choose our values (although the choice can be correct or incorrect as determined by reference to our common standard of value – but that is another topic). The point here is that we choose our values. The choice to identify my interests with those of my wife is mine to make. The experience of sharing in her happiness when she experiences something good results from my choice – my choice to love her. If I expand the number of people I love, I expand my capacity for joy as I am able to experience the joy of those I love as my own. The more Christlike I become, the greater is my capacity to experience joy.

In what sense then, is this selfless? None – how can maximizing one”s joy be considered selfless?

I acknowledge that the efficacy of this strategy is premised upon the world having a net greater capacity for joyful experiences than painful ones. I also think that the truth of this premise is so obvious that questioning it is a better subject for psychiatry than philosophy.

Freedom to do what?

The short and simple answer given to kids who inquire as to why our military is fighting overseas, has always been that they are fighting to preserve our freedom. At least that’s what I recall being told by teachers when I was young and parents when I was younger still. Perhaps now the common answer is to keep us safe from terrorists, and perhaps it is more believable as well when one considers just how free we actually are.

I’d like to hear the reaction of an Afghan vet, or better still, a WW2 vet, who believed he was fighting freedom”s battles, and then came home and built a tree house for his kids in his own backyard, when he ends up being prosecuted for doing so.

Story

Significance

Luddites and liberals look up at the night sky and say, “I am but an insignificant speck in the midst of an enormous, indifferent universe.” I look up and say, “Wow, all this is for me?”

Faith and Reason

There are many dichotomies people seem to accept as givens without actually considering whether they are legitimate. One of these is faith and reason. It is commonly held, or at least unquestionably assumed, at least in some circles, that these are two distinct and dissimilar methods for discovering truth. I disagree.The only means for discovering truth with which we humans have been endowed is reason. Our senses deliver raw data to our brain which processes this data until our conscious mind can identify and categorize what we sense and then proceed to form opinions and to make and carry out plans based on those opinions.

Faith comes in one of two flavours. Some invoke it to bestow some divine legitimacy on what is nothing more than their closed-minded refusal to abandon bias in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. This “blind” faith is no path to truth but a means of obfuscation.The other flavour is simply a word meaning that a judgment has been made on the basis of incomplete evidence, partly in the hope that the object of one”s faith is true. But where does this original judgment originate if not from the mind”s rational process.

The evidence, though incomplete, as in not overwhelmingly conclusive, must originate come from the senses. It may seem like a stray thought and may even be difficult or impossible to trace back to distinct sensory input. But it must have originated there or one is forced to believe in senses beyond the only ones of which we have any reliable evidence.

The Brightest of Stars

Often you hear it said that to stand in awe of nature is to realize the comparative insignificance of man. There are many references to this in popular culture. I have always held the opposite view, the one implied by Einstein when he quipped: “The most incomprehensible thing about our universe is that it can be comprehended.” Here’s an even better quote by English mathematician and philosopher Frank Ramsey:

“Where I seem to differ from some of my friends is in attaching little importance to physical size. I don”t feel the least humble before the vastness of the heavens. The stars may be large, but they cannot think or love; and these are qualities which impress me far more than size does. I take no credit for weighing nearly seventeen stone. My picture of the world is drawn in perspective, and not like a model drawn to scale. The foreground is occupied by human beings, and the stars are all as small as threepenny bits.”

Another quote which I like for its accurate portrayal of our relationship and significance to nature is this one (I can’t track down the authorship): “We are the universe”s way of comprehending itself.”

Pretty significant if you ask me.

God and evolution

I like this article and the blog generally. I don”t agree with it all but it is interesting.

Sentient World: a simulation of civilization

We are on the verge of being able to simulate every person, thing and activity on the planet, play it, replay it, run it at ultra high speed so that years speed by in seconds, and intervene, God-like, to see how the simulation is effected. A small step from that will be to endow these simulated beings, individually with sentience. We will then run hundreds, no, millions of these simulations for every imaginable reason from war games to marketing research to sheer entertainment.

One might wonder how we could think of running experiments or games with beings, albeit virtual beings, who were experiencing their reality just as we experience ours. As interesting as that question is there”s another, even more interesting one. How do we know we ourselves are not sentient virtual beings in someone else”s simulation?

If considered with dispassionate objectivity I believe the answer to that question is that we almost certainly ARE living in a a virtual simulation. Here”s the argument: if we can do it (almost) then surely other civilizations elsewhere/elsewhen in the multiverse have/had/will have the same ability, probably countless gazillions of them each running gazillions of simulations. That makes it extremely more likely that we are in a simulation than not. Especially when you factor in that simulated beings ought to be able to run their own simulations.

So, we are either all alone in the multiverse (come on, get over yourself) or we are the most technologically advanced (sure we are) or nobody ever runs these simulations (we are about to, why wouldn”t others?). Or, we are overwhelmingly probably a simulation ourselves. Neat.

This argument originates with Nick Bostrum.

“I am” or “I will be”

I just read the preface and introduction of The Physics of Immortality, by Frank Tipler. This is going to be an interesting book. He points out that where the Bible quotes God as referring to himself as “I am that I am” it is really a mistranslation of the Hebrew which actually uses the future tense and should be “I will be that I will be”. Interesting in light of LDS doctrine that eternal life = eternal progression. Even God is in the process of becoming.

Interesting to compare this with a literal and absolute characterization of God as “unchanging” and all that implies for his ability to experience, perceive and feel. It requires that every instance ascribing emotion to God be taken figuratively or that any temporal context be disposed of. The latter is not hard to accept. But God told Moses that it his work and his glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. Does his glory not then increase as he accomplishes his work? Maybe he doesn’t change but his power increases.

That’s an interesting thought. Being omnipotent he can do as he will. But he chooses to restrict his power to allow us our freedom. We thus become a means by which his will/work is accomplished. As our efficacy increases so does his – albeit only due to this self-imposed limitation. So again, he remains unchanged though important characteristics/attributes such as his glory/power do change.