Category Archives: Philosophy
What a great, great article. It’s a wonderful account of what one person gained by shedding religion. I saw so much of my own experiences and thoughts in this article that I thought I’d share it. She is slightly kinder than I am about the evolution of religion, and harsher on her take of what Dawkins and Harris are saying about religion, but I think that is the only part of the article that even remotely parts ways with my own thought.
Also, poke around the site Ordinary Philosophy for a bit. What a wonderful site it is! Here’s what it’s all about:
Why Ordinary Philosophy?
‘Ordinary’ in ‘Ordinary Philosophy’ means: philosophy is not, as it’s often conceived, strictly an arcane subject, pursued only behind the walls of academia and by Phd’s.It’s about seeking answers to the ‘big questions’ we ask ourselves all the time, which is where the ‘Philosophy’ comes in: ‘What is a meaningful life, and how can I make mine so?’ ‘What’s the right thing to do?’ ‘What’s the truth of the matter, what does truth mean anyway, and how do I know when I know it?’ ‘What do I have the right to do, and what does it mean to have rights?’ ‘How did reality come to be as it is?’, and so on.In other words, philosophy is an ordinary activity: it’s something we do all the time. It’s done by ordinary people, meaning it’s done by people of all education levels, backgrounds, and professions. It’s applicable to ordinary life, meaning it’s about solving problems that every person encounters in the quest to pursue a good, happy, and meaningful one.
Amy Cools has been wondering about how the universe works, and asking questions about it, since she used to pester her dad with relentless ‘why’s, who’s, and how’s?’ as a little girl. An avid reader and introvert, Amy nevertheless loves to engage with people and share her enthusiasm for inquiry and exploration into the ‘big questions’ as well as matters of day-to-day life and personal experience. Amy holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy, with an emphasis on Applied Ethics and Law, from Sacramento State University, California. She’s an avid hiker and quilter, loves traveling, mystery stories, and music, and thinks coffee, ale, chocolate, cheese, and a British breakfast are among the most delightful things the world has to offer.
At its best, this is what I strive for on my blog, but it appears that Amy Cools has already done it, and done it better!
My wonderful, loving, (atheist) wife today:
1) submitted an application for a rescue dog (on top of the 4 she has given a loving home to in the recent past)
2) paid money to the animal shelter so some more of the animals’ expenses could be waived to facilitate them going to a new home. This was done anonymously (except I suppose I’m blowing that now).
3) turned in a woman’s wallet with a lot of cash, credit cards and personal belongings, (yes, everything is still in there) that she found in the parking lot.
4) objected to me telling you all about all this because she’s gracious and humble.
Just another typical day in the life of a disgusting amoral atheist.
Now enjoy your two minutes of hate. It’s actually over 8 minutes but Christians need more time for hate than they did in Orwell’s dystopia.
I would feel bad leaving you with that nonsense, so here is some reason to cleanse your palate.
As poor as I am at math, I certainly hope the answer to the question of “Is math real?” is an emphatic “no”.
This, my first in what will certainly be many attempts to make a fool of myself on weighty philosophical topics, I want to discuss the nature of mathematics and its relation to the “real” world. I want to preface this post by saying I’m not apologizing for this Promethian action: a layman with an average education discussing a subject that belongs only to the Olympians of Academia.
I do not, however, take up themes like this lightly, and hopefully I do so with a humility that would invite those with more profound understanding of these subjects to condescend and engage in the discussion. It is my naive dream that such subjects might eventually become commonplace themes of discussion, open to the laity that might be interested in such subject matter. If I’m really pushing the reality of this dream, I hope that those of us with interest in these topics may even be able to eventually contribute to the conversation. These posts are not intended to be exhaustively researched nor particularly conclusive, just open-ended thoughts of discussion that might invite a conversation over a beer perhaps.
The question at hand for today: Does math constitute an underlying “true fundamental reality”? Is math simply a very useful tool for us to construct a logical, descriptive representation of “reality”? At the risk of setting up a false dichotomy, these are essentially the two questions I will explore, and I answer the former question in the negative and the latter question in the affirmative. Also, for the sake of simplicity and brevity, please forgive the somewhat whiggish and linear historical approach to math and science.
Let’s look at four major revolutions in science and mathematics, which are all related, but I believe support the idea that we change mathematical concepts to fit our description of reality rather than vice versa: Euclid’s geometric world, Newton’s (Kepler’s) calculus world, Einstein’s relative world, and the spooky mathematics of quantum theory.
Take the essentially two-dimensional, plane-driven reality of the ancient greeks and Euclid; the math behind these Greek systems wasn’t simply an abstraction to them, or mathematical tool, it was math revealing ultimate reality. So much so that mathematicians such as Pythagoras developed mythical math cults that truly believed they had tapped into the secrets of the universe and numbers were the underlying reality “behind” this world. They thought this world was the abstraction of the math and not vice versa. Plato certainly believed this to more than a large degree and goes into detail in his origins stories in Timaeus about his math/atomic structure of the world.
But a deeper understanding of reality was needed when Newton was prompted to invent his calculus to account more for moving objects, adding an element of time and space as necessary to be more accurate and mathematically descriptive of Newton’s reality. I think by the time of Newton and certainly later by the time of Einstein, it clearly can be shown that Euclidean geometry really doesn’t have the kind of basis in reality the Greeks understood. Once time and space (and certainly time as a 4th dimension and the curvature of space) are added as variables, Euclidean geometry becomes a neat little exercise in logic and perhaps carpentry, but is no longer useful in any descriptive sense of our reality. It certainly seems goes by the wayside as any underlying universal truth revelation.
Once again, when general and special relativity is stumbled upon by Einstein, the calculus of Newton, still works in a Newtonian sense, and in a Newtonian descriptive analysis of the world, but a deeper, more thorough mathematical representation of time and space is necessary in the math of relativity. So goes it for subatomic particles in quantum mechanics, and I predict a new sort of math will be invented to solve the next level of micro and macro investigations in the future. Do we yet know the mathematics behind dark matter and dark energy? Some may claim so, but it seems to me it is just as likely that these are placeholder ideas that are awaiting a new view of the universe and therefore a new mathematical paradigm to be descriptive of our new universal realities.
I think these examples show that we use math as a descriptive tool in each instance, rather than a revealing of an underlying mathematical truth in which the universe is constructed. Other than the examples used, I also believe this is the case because of the nature of numbers. I think that infinity exists in just the space between 0 and 1, or just in the space between 0.0 and 0.1 ad infinitum (if such a concept has any real meaning). This leads me to believe that math is infinitely malleable to use as a tool for any descriptive abstraction of our past, present, and future representation of reality.
So, I do not believe that numbers “exist” in any Platonic sense, or that we are revealing deep universal secrets through math. I come down on the side that math, like science, is a very powerful tool that is unbounded and therefore can be used for any description of our understanding of reality – even when our reality changes.
I think I found something that both an atheist and a fundamentalist Christian can agree on (not that I was looking). That is: wishy-washy, a la carte, hippie-dippie, half-assed Christians throwing around Jesus all the time but not really practically following the tenets of Christianity… well, they’re just annoying. Give me a gool ol’ fashioned Bible literalist any day of the week. At least they’ve usually read the Bible and know what that abomination says. I believe that if the a la carte Christians were actually forced to live by what the Bible says, then we’d very instantly have a whole lot less people calling themselves Christians running around. I say as atheists, we quit playing the “moving target game” that is Christianity. They have plenty to duke it out amongst themselves what they actually believe. None of them can make sense of the Bible and they all believe different things about it. They don’t need us telling them it’s wrong (although that can be fun), let them fight it out and sort it out among themselves. Atheists should start using a divide and conquer method.
So since this blog is somewhat of a popular culture blog, I’m going to call out some popular believers to take a stand for Christianity or not. I suppose they need to dump or get off the proverbial Christian pot. So here goes, since I’m sure the following people read my blog, I’m going to ask for clarification about their beliefs:
Katy Perry: She kissed a girl… and she liked it! But she has a very unfortunate Jesus tattoo on her left wrist. So Katy Perry, which is it? Are you down with Leviticus and think same-sex folk are an abomination to be killed, because Jesus was (you know the whole jot or tittle thing). Katy Perry: shit or get off the Christian pot.
Bill O’Reilly: Has demoted Jesus to simply a philosopher instead of, you know…. God! I’m guessing there are a lot of Christians out there that would take umbrage with that. Like this one here. Pretty sure Aristotle never turned water into wine and I’m almost positive I’ve never heard anywhere that David Hume walked on water. So, Bill O’Reilly, which is it? Did Jesus come to wipe away the sins of mankind, or is he simply another guy sharing some opinions? Bill O’Reilly: shit or get off the Christian pot.
Ke$ha: She’s got “Jesus on her necklace” and she wears cross earrings. Hey! Don’t wear the blingy Christian icons if you are not going to walk the path of righteousness!!! Sayeth the lord. Ke$ha: shit or get off the Christian pot.
Not since Madonna has an artist used such religious symbolism in their music and performance. Lady Gaga seems to pretty much come out against organized religion, but where does she stand against non-organized religion? Is she a believer in belief? Lady Gaga: shit or get off the Christian pot.
I’ve often thought that there isn’t any criticism of Christianity that comes from atheists that doesn’t also come from within the belief itself. I think it has more teeth coming from believers and I think we should separate the wheat from the chaff so to speak. I don’t care to argue with Christians, they don’t even cross the threshold of reasonable discourse for me (although it can be fun sometimes I suppose). I would rather turn Christians on themselves. They have a lot to sort out before any kind of meaningful dialogue can be had with me or other atheists.
I try not to hate many things, but I hate suppression of speech. Aside from the very rare necessary exception in the interest of personal safety, it is a human right I believe to be as close to absolute as it gets.
Here is a wonderful quote from John Stuart Mill as cited by Ibn Warraq in his introduction to the book, Why I Am Not a Muslim.
But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion; still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth; if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error…. We can never be sure that the opinion that we are endeavouring to stifle is a false opinoin; and if we were, stifling would be an evil still.
– John Stuart Mill