Unintelligent Design

I’ve been reading a lot, lately, about Evolution and it appears he’s pretty stupid. Well, maybe non-thinking would be a fairer assessment.

Although he’s very good at upgrading life forms to better suit their various environments and predicaments, it takes him an awfully long time to do it. Some philosophers suggest he doesn’t even know what he’s doing, he’s absolutely ignorant, and his competence is without comprehension.

I guess, for Evolution, it’s just a matter of trying out possibilities until one stands out and considering there is an enormous number of possibilities and he isn’t thinking about discriminating the process is bound to proceed at a snail’s pace.

I’ve been thinking about what sort of changes Evolution might have in store for humankind in the future. I’m thinking hair is pretty superfluous (a lot of people seem to be realizing this and removing it themselves) and eventually Evolution will probably send it the way of the tail. The appendix should probably go as well. On the positive side, anticipating survival, some sort of built-in air filtering apparatus to aid breath-ability might be in order. And maybe a move toward the bovine stomach to increase potential edibles in a foresee-ably depleted eco-system.

I’m sure Evolution’s working on these things but given his mindless process I don’t expect much anytime soon.

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Seeking God-Greek Philosophers

In the interests of my ongoing pursuit I’ve been considering some of the Greek philosophers who appear to have made some in-roads into the nature of God, or, god-likeness anyway.

Diogenes the Cynic maintained virtue as the true path to happiness. Living in poverty, reviling social constructs and the accumulation of wealth he assumed dog-likeness, living in the present without anxiety, a simple life of virtue depending on the kindness of others for his survival. The purity of his motives seem pretty god-like to me. Can dog-likeness be akin to God-likeness?

Chrysippus was a stoic philosopher who believed that, while one’s fate was pretty much set in stone if one controlled his soul crushing passions and adjusted his will to intersect with what was going to happen anyway, peace and tranquility were a real possibility. He also believed in the equality of all men (but, unfortunately, I’m not sure he meant women to be included in that generality). Still, he was certainly an honorable and virtuous man who deserves inclusion in any consideration of god-likeness.

Epicurus, founder of the Epicureans, expounded this very reasonable way of life based on moderation of desires and the seeking of a state of static pleasures which amounted to minimizing pain, anxiety and suffering. Among other things he believed the gods held little sway regarding the goings-on in the world and that the only true knowledge one could acquire came through the senses.

One of Epicurus’ chief disciples, Lucretius wrote a poem in which he goes to considerable lengths describing how the world formed within the infinite universe which had to do with the movements of tiny particles from which all things, wind, water, fire , earth and all that inhabit the world are composed. All things including the gods and men’s souls, Epicurus put forth, must expect a terminal existence, have a limited shelf-life, is subject to mortal demise over time.  Well, this did not sit well with the temple-goers. Despite the fact Epicurus was clearly an honorable person; celibate and a vegetarian to boot and clearly not a hedonist, his name became synonymous with heretic; he was persona non grata amongst the believers. He may not be God but if he was around today I’d definitely invite him to the ashram.

All three of these men point the way toward god-like qualities but omniscience is probably not among their attributes. I guess I can rule out omnipotency and omnipresence as well. Maybe perfection is an unreasonable assumption.

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Worldview

I got asked the other day what my worldview was. I was unable to come up with much of an answer. When I thought about the physical universe I couldn’t get past the dilemma modern science seems to be having regarding quantum theories that posit the idea of sub-atomic particles that are nearly unknowable. I mean, really, if the invisible, unknowable is what the universe consists of then what am I to make of reality at all?

It seemed to me the whole idea of a worldview presupposes some sort of underlying order driving the cogs of the universal machine. Like for the religious faithful, who, I think, can come up with a pretty thorough answer fairly quickly.

So, then I got to thinking about the nature of humankind-whether or not there may be some sort of ordered structure controlling the sentient.

I recently saw this movie, Hannah Arendt that dramatizes the philosopher’s acceptance of an offer by The New Yorker magazine, back in the 1960’s, to travel to Jerusalem to view and write about the trial of the notorious Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann. As she views the testimony she becomes increasingly convinced that the man was nothing-simply a cog in the totalitarian machine that was Nazi Germany; amoral, lacking in person hood, simply doing what he was ordered to do.

Although an extreme case it seems to me it’s something we all wrestle with. Lacking a mechanism that balances the good of the group, the political, social or religious motives of the institution with the moral and ethical responsibility of the individual, the nature of humankind is as chaotic as the quantum universe.

I can make no more sense of a concept of worldview now than when I was first asked the question.

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The Great Revivals

Brother Abraham, the Semitic cleric and Biblical scholar, was telling me the other day about the great Revival Movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He said the movements began as a reaction to the scientistic attitudes brought about by Enlightenment thinking which the faithful found to be atheistic and involved a return to the fundamental beliefs of Christian doctrine and an irrefutable belief in the inerrancy of the Bible.

The revival meetings, Abraham told me, were heavy on emotional content with lots of singing and praising and pretty light on intellectual substance which, I guess, was a real crowd pleaser because the revival meetings became quite popular with a lot of people finding God and looking forward to the next event.

The good brother said that these fundamentalist Christians were for the most part dispensational premillennialists, which means, among other things, that God will make good on his promise to establish Jewish dominion over the world, which, Abraham said, will certainly be good for him and that he’s looking forward to it.

As I think about what these meetings might have been like, I think I could have enjoyed the energy and reverie, the coming together of like-minded people in a celebratory gathering. As long as no one asked me whose fault it was that apple got picked.

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Something or Nothing

I find myself spending a lot of time lately in the black void of the covered toy chest and despite the faint Sounds of Music coming from somewhere in the playroom the situation has got me thinking about the notion of complete nothingness.

People have thought, for a long time, about why there is something rather than nothing. Some have found the question a small problem easily answered by an existent creator God, rationalizing that the order in nature demands a creative intelligence. But, these folks are hard pressed to explain who created the creator.

Over the centuries this intellectual conundrum found temporary ontological solution in the notion of a Self-created Infinitely Perfect Being whose perfection demands existence. But, this, of course, begs the question of how something can come from nothing; an idea that can be thought about in mathematical abstractions but is a lot harder to figure in terms of matter and substance.

In the context of time the eternal is pretty impossible to think through and unless we are willing to abandon the search for a reasonable answer in favor of blind faith the dilemma will probably always remain an enigma………….unless we entertain the solipsistic notion that there is indeed nothing; no material reality at all; only consciousness, which seems initially to work pretty well until I encounter another consciousness. From there it’s only a short mental hop to the collective unconscious and the archetypes that make up our illusory universe.
So, here I lie, in total blackness, contemplating a question I can probably never know the answer to, not knowing whether there is something rather than nothing and unable to get that annoying tune out of my head………………which brings us back to Do, a deer,……………….. or maybe I’m just not an asset to the Abby.

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God-likeness

I was thinking back to my school days recently.  Doll school was really a lot less about acquiring information than it was about seeking truth and the nature of doll existence.  We spent a lot of time contemplating the big questions, you know, like, does the universe have a purpose, What can we know for sure, Why is there something instead of nothing, does evolution explain human nature, does the free market erode moral character?

One day we got to talking about Plato’s belief that universal, Ideal forms underlay all our observable phenomena; that the things we see around us as well as we, ourselves, are imperfect representations of these transcendent perfect Ideals.  So that, the apple there on the table is a manifestation of the Ideas of redness, roundness, hardness and if we were to bite into it sweetness or tartness-it is an imperfect representation of the Idea of Appleness.

Our professor, Leonard D., then got us thinking about what universal ideals were existent in each of us; imperfect as we know we are, he asked, what are some of the ideal forms each of us exhibit?

My immediate thoughts were to my physical appearance which I am fully aware are far from ideal, at least in terms of Beauty although that does seem to be a bit relative to the times.  But certainly there is more to me than that.  There’s my personality and intellect: I think I’m reasonably intelligent, pretty compassionate, somewhat humble and unassuming and mostly friendly.  And then there’s my sense of responsibility and social participation: I pretty well keep things clean and orderly and I usually do my best to be a functional member of our doll community.

So, when I tried to envision Ideal universal DeiDei-ness, I supposed she might be more beautiful, smarter, more caring, friendlier and altogether more god-like, which got me wondering what it meant to think of myself in terms of god.  Should I be humbled by the realization of my obvious inadequacies or do I think of my relative god-likeness as an ego boost?

Well, that was all quite some time ago but I still think about the dilemma occasionally and how my behavior might reflect one position or the other.  I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion there are places and times for both behaviors.

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Migrating South

Granny Applehead has been talking about joining the migration of the elderly to the warmer climes of the south.  She says that, as one’s metabolism slows down with age warmth is a primary need for any sort of comfort to exist.  She yearns for the nice dry walks and roadways and the easy availability of golf carts allowing a mobility that the ice, cold and snow prohibit.

Besides, she says, a retirement community offers the benefits of social interaction with others of one’s own age and, often, sensibility.  Structured days playing mahjong, drinking tea and attending concerts and lectures are pleasant distractions from our ever present aches and pains.  Everything about it points toward enjoying quality time in our autumnal years and prepare us for the day when the warmth of the cremation furnace will return us, dust to dust, to our mother earth from whence we came.

She jokes with her friends that she might instead opt for Plastination so that her children will be able to enjoy her personage gathering dust in the corner of the living room (boy, does that sound familiar).  It seems kind of morbid to me but I guess it’s just her way of making lite of the impending reality; the unknowns of death everyone must face.

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Beyond Space and Time

 

 

Free-thinking Frank was telling me the other day about this group-a movement really-of skeptics dedicated to the task of debunking all things paranormal like ESP, UFO sightings, conversing with the deceased, telekinesis, and anything else they see as magical thinking.  They’re a conscientious bunch, Frank says, avoiding generalization and attending to the particular, which means they pretty much take all claims seriously.

Employing the scientific method these skeptics seek out verifiable data and eye-witnesses with consistent, non-contradictory accounts but for the most part are seeking normal and natural explanations for the anomalous phenomena thought of as paranormal.  Frank said these skeptics find religious claims dubious as well but aren’t inclined to consider them for analysis since they rely so heavily on non-falsifiable premises.

All in all, Frank said he thought the skeptics are on the right track attempting as they are to clear the air of the fog of magical thinking, you know, putting people on the path of verifiable truth.

As I thought about it, I wasn’t so sure; I found myself skeptical of the skeptics.  It seems to me science has relinquished its claim to the ground of truth these days.  The space-time continuum among other things has really messed with our intuitive sense of the cosmos.  Do our processes of thought even correspond to the structure of nature?

So, for me, it’s time to re-examine the paranormal.  The first thing I’m going to do is dig out my birth chart and see what the stars have in store for me.


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Thoughts on an After-Life

I’ve been reading lately about the various ways different cultures and people think about after-life. Many of the various after-life conceptions identify an inner spirit or soul within each individual that is in some way immortal and will live on in a place determined by their conduct in the life they’ve just left. Some contend the deceased will be reborn taking a living form, animal or human, consistent with their previous moral, ethical existence.

Some researchers have hypothesized what the after-life might be like. One suggests that after death the soul floats into the atmosphere where it lives off of the ultra-violet rays from the sun. Another believes after death the self will find itself in a dream word of memories and mental images. Still another thinks the mind will merge into a collective consciousness the downside being it will relinquish its personality.

But, the idea about what the after-life will be like that I like best is that each person will experience a world of her own, unique to herself and consistent with her earthly existence. If my next world follows my nature then it will be filled with wonder and uncertainty and I will continue to question, to look for the ever elusive answer and to revel in the ever-present Mystery. What could be better than that?

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Truth and Power

Brother Abraham, the biblical scholar (who happens to look quite a bit like St. Jerome), was telling me the other day about the beginnings of the early church.

He said that early on there were all sorts of different beliefs about God; some thought of him as creator-in-chief, others saw him as an ever-present spirit permeating all of nature; even God’s gender was questioned by some.

People, Abraham told me, looked for different ways to get in touch with God.  Some thought the church with it’s doctrines and rituals was the way to go but others thought they could meet God themselves if they tried really hard so they sought revelation through fasting and other kinds of bodily denials.  Others believed secret knowledge was hidden in the words of the Bible, there to be deciphered by the truly committed.

Then, while the Christians were busy seeking an audience with God the Romans were feeding them to the lions or killing them in other really nasty ways because they felt the Christians were disrespecting the true gods which of course were the Roman ones.

But, around the year 300 or so the Emperor Constantine had a revelation of his own and declared Christianity not only lawful but THE religion of the whole Roman Empire.  Then he provided lots of money to build churches which made the early church fathers very happy.

These early bishops soon took a dim view of people seeking God on their own.  They encouraged them, in not always pleasant ways, to come into the fold and renounce their heretical ways since they (the bishops that is) felt that they clearly didn’t need the competition.  And, besides, they (the bishops again) had Truth on their side.

Well, I went home and thought about this story for a while.  I had to wonder if conflicts such as these are really about truth.  It seems to me the desire to be in charge has something to do with it.

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