A nonbeliever's SECOND reading of the Bible

A nonbeliever's SECOND reading of the Bible
Hunc tu caveto.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

There's a reason there are mirrors high up in the corners of markets, and it's not necessarily what you think it is. They are there because they prevent crime.

No, it's not that they provide an angle that allows the store clerk to see a crime take place, and its not that they are one-way mirrors. When a potential thief sees himself in the mirror, he is more likely not to steal. He sees himself from a third person perspective, and the person he is seeing is the bad guy.

In one social psychology experiment, an experimenter put 150 candies on a table with a sign that said "Take one candy."

After an allotted period of time, and recording how many kids approached the candy bowl while hiding inside the house, the experimenter took the candy bowl and counted how many were taken. He then refilled the bowl with 150 candies but this time he put a mirror behind the bowl. After the allotted amount of time, he took the bowl and counted the candies again.

This experiment has been done repeatedly by psychology students all over the world, and every time the result is roughly the same. With the mirror there, children will usually take only one candy, and without the mirror, they will take more.

To answer the question, "What is God?" I'm going to say it is something of an internal mirror. Freud called it the Superego, Plato called it a Form, Christians call it YHWH, Muslims call it Allah. It is the ideal self, that perfect man or woman we would like to be, and sometimes we even actively strive to be like it.

While we were growing up, we pick up on various social norms like 'stealing is bad' and internalize it into our proper behavior. The social pressure that stems from this becomes our foundation for morality.

There is another force at work here that determines our behavior. Freud called it the Id, Plato might have called it 'natural urges', Christians call it the Devil, Muslims call it Shai'tan. I'll call it the Animal self. Having evolved from animals, we have much of the same basic urges that they do. We have the need for air, food, water, space, and sex. And if we don't get the right amount of these things, we suffer.

And so it is, that we are in a constant tug-of-war between these two things; our higher Ideal Self which proscribes what morality is, and the Animal Self which dictates our physical needs and desires.

Unfortunately, in the material realm, the realm of practicality, it is nearly impossible to be like the Ideal Self, and it is socially reprehensible to be like the Animal Self. Both are essential to our being, and so we find some kind of balance between the two extremes. The balance of the two, the actuality of what we are, has been called many things. But I will call it the Actual Self.

I would like to reiterate that there is nothing new that I'm proposing here. This has been noted many times throughout history and by people of conflicting beliefs. What might be different to you is applying these things to the question of what God is. There is a kind of universal experience that we all share just by virtue of living, thinking, remembering, and interpreting. Collectively, this amounts to a certain expectation that is put on the individual, and this expectation is reinforced through parenting, by the school system, by our religions, philosophies, culture, and history.

God is the mirror that reflects the sum of all these mental constructions back at the self. God doesn't exist outside of our minds, He exists as a result of them. God is the mental reflection of all the things we think are Good; and His antithesis, call it the Devil, call it the Id, or call it the Animal Self, is the thing we don't want to accept as a part of our selves. And so we demonize it. We don't want to see it in ourselves.

My suggestion is that we don't have to embrace the Animal Self, nor should we reject it. Rather, we should just understand the Animal Self and accept it. It is an inalienable part of who we are.

* Just so you know, I am influenced by philosophers like Sam Harris, Simon Blackburn, Plato, and as far as historical materialism goes (but not communism) ... Karl Marx.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I've been having an ongoing discussion with someone about creationism. He thinks it is a valid scientific theory that can replace evolution. After a while, I realized that he doesn't know what evolution is. Here is the tail end of that conversation. Tell me what you think.

Creationist writes:
I have no problem with adaptation, THIS NOT PROOF OF EVOLUTION. This old trick is called equivication, and the writing of dawkins is full of it. (i mean that on more than one level too) He shows some examples of adaption, then goes on to qualify it with evolution. This IS NOT science, its clever guerilla ontonlogy.

The kind of adaptaion that he assumes can occur, where lizards grow feathers and wings, is evolution, the praying mantis species that can develop wings (it being a part of its natrural design, like adaption) and then lose them again through subsequent generations, is adaption, the kind of thinking needed to proove, monkeys to man is unprovven EVOLUTION THEORY.

I am surprised you haven't noted the difference, and therefore have realised that perhaps we better qualify semantics before every discussion, i thought we had (or are you just applying the same strategys as these authors you seem to admire??) been through this in the past.


Well, I think I see the problem here ... or at least one of them. It is the word "theory". If a scientist acquires a large body of data, and if this data coheres with a working theory ... than the theory is a working and highly probable theory.

If I drop a penny a million times, and it actually drops to the ground. I can conclude that there is some sort of force that pulls things toward the Earth. I can then go about measuring different ways in which that force pulls different weighted objects, etc.

I can put all that data, including the simple dropping a coin a thousand times, into a working theory of gravity. It might change, mind you. Maybe some other, more sophisticated scientist, will discover that all matter can bend space around it and this curvature is what causes things to fall toward it.

Likewise, a naturalist notices that humans can create new species via domestification. If you look at a banana, for example, you'd find it indistinguishable from a wild banana ... which is full of seeds, hard to eat, etc. It took maybe hundreds of years to cultivate a banana so that it can reliably produce the type that we are familiar with today. The guy's arm hair in the above picture is also quite fitting for the explanation I am going to make.

If humans can cause this radical change in animals and plants to make them useful for humans ... than ... in a natural way, animals and plants unknowingly change over time to adapt to different climates and environments. I think you can agree with me that nature is much more grander than man is.

And though the workings of nature in general are not at all similar to the purposes of a single species like man ... it does follow that nature could still bring about these changes, and we can see its effects through natural section. Natural selection is generally agreed upon by all people, even by creationists, who like to call it microevolution.

If we are to accept geology, chemistry, astronomy, and physics ... and we should, we should at least come to the conclusion that the universe is, if I remember correctly, something like 18 billion years old, and that the Earth has been around for at least a couple billion years. Please note that these facts are agreed upon by all sciences. Fossils of creatures show up fairly recently at a few hundreds of million years and these are fairly simple single-celled organisms.

But as we look at more recent times in the geologic column the animals generally get more complex because of environmental changes, etc.

Everyone accepts the idea of natural selection, because it has been noted and recorded within the past few hundred years. Almost everyone, but most importantly scientists, also accept that life started a few hundred million years ago because of a uniform location in the geologic column.

It is only plausible to connect the two and say that natural selection also occurred hundreds of millions of years ago. During that HUGE span of time, natural selection has naturally created the animals that we are familiar with today.

We need only look at the fossils we've been able to collect, those few creatures that died in conditions that preserved their remains over the years, and we can see their relation to creatures that exist today.