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Improbability

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Improbability last won the day on August 15 2019

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About Improbability

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    Closeted apostate. Finally taking change seriously. Still not sure what I want the second half of my life to look like.

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  • Still have any Gods? If so, who or what?
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  1. NZ atheists are too hardcore for Americans to compete with.
  2. This launched today and runs through 11/22. It aims to produce insights about secular Americans that could be used to improve advocacy. https://www.secularsurvey.org/
  3. Stolen from my local humanist group's newsletter: "Turning vegan would be a big missed steak." Some of the principles are compelling though difficult to independently assess. Actually making principled choices is hard when it affects something that's so ingrained into lifestyle and day-to-day experience. I've had that experience (years back for weight loss), but there was a gun to my head in terms of health. It's easy to look around at all the other ambiguities and ills in our supply chains and lose a sense of urgency about it. We have to compartmentalize to live. This is an area where we really need leadership from our agencies to do the hard work about the science and sustainability and put forth suggestions that are realistic on a societal scale. And sadly, corporate interests along with a fingers-in-ears mentality from the populous all but guarantees that won't happen.
  4. As a great theologian from the 23rd century put it, "what does god need with a starship"?
  5. They're all tragic. Even success stories have to look back on years of wasted potential and private mental struggle and suffering.
  6. I think that gets you in trouble with Zeno's Paradox if you try to use it as a physical explanation. An event horizon may be an apt metaphor for this conceptual barrier that we can't imagine the other side of, and in my own mind I don't have a better image for it, but it can't be a physical thing without breaking our intuition of time; not that such an intuition does us much good on a cosmic scale. I just want to be able to lounge in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe and ogle the annihilation of the cosmos while sipping something fruity. That elevation to godlike status goes far beyond whatever piddly self awareness we got from the Tree of Life, and if there's an appeal to the theistic view of the world, it's that there's a chance to know what to our limited, ephemeral minds is always going to be hopelessly out of reach. There's a trippy little game called Everything that takes on the preposterous challenge of representing the entire scale of the universe from subatomic to intergalactic, and the clever bit is that the inconceivably big loops around to the inconceivably small through a weird, incomprehensible bridging phase where the scale stops mattering and you realize that the existential mechanics you've been learning all along mean the same thing no matter what modality you're currently inhabiting.
  7. You might be on to something. It's probably important to distinguish between contextual nothing and absolute nothing. Contextual nothing is defined relative to the lack of something. It requires an observer to make that distinction which implies a context where there is not nothing. Absolute nothing on the other hand is total nihility. This is less useful for finding a basis for understanding because it precludes us or anything resembling us; even a single atom is not absolute nothing. Contextual nothing is the only nothing we have a hope of bending our minds to really understand, but it doesn't answer the question of where the context came from which loops back around to the beginning and makes me wonder if there's any potential for the question itself to have meaning.
  8. It's just the classic head scratcher of how you could ever get to "now" if time recedes infinitely back into the past. From our time-bound perspective, there has to be some kind of "beginning", but even if such a transcendental event occurred, it's still not something we're really equipped to understand.
  9. This is the fundamental question of the human condition. There isn’t a perfect answer. In religion, there are doors to open, but they don’t lead anywhere. Outside of it, there’s only the sky above your head, but you’re free to find your own purpose. Time helps. Relationships help, but it can be hard to find the same sense of community outside of faith which is more self-organizing. What satisfies you is going to be individual. It may be an intellectual pursuit or just a set of comforts and distractions. It’s okay, because it’s yours, and that growing, unapologetic identity will become one of your biggest anchors. Looking back, you’ll realize ways that your old worldview was small, and there’s just no going to it even if the new perspective is more challenging. If you’re still working free of the wreckage of your old life, definitely give it time. Work on living for this life instead of in spite of it.
  10. Perhaps for some definitions of time and nothing. The interior of a black hole is effectively lost to our frame of reference, its contents trending asymptotically towards nothingness, but that’s a different kind of nothing than nothing at all. Verses like Rev. 10:6 are evocative (though it requires some cherry picking from the surrounding lunacy). If time can end by divine fiat just like it supposedly began, then so called eternal life is nothing like our mortal conception. But there’s no evidence that the universe works that way.
  11. That was tongue in cheek, but it’s true that we can’t even conclude that there was a prior state, let alone what it might have looked like, or whether it’s even something that could be considered past tense according to our mortally bound conception of time. But we can’t extrapolate what we know about where we are without paradox either, so I don’t know what to suggest other than some kind of exotic state change or that there’s something fundamental that we still don’t understand about the nature of space and time. I’m a lot happier with the theories of modern physics than the millennia old musings of early thinkers who didn’t have the evidence we now do.
  12. So convenient! In the analogy I stubbed out earlier (was traveling), the fallen tree is the something we can perceive. The forest is nothing, or more specifically what is outside our possible frame of reference. We can’t rationalize the achievement of existence in our own terms; it’s an unreachable temporal paradox, but we can put in a placeholder for that thing we can’t express and treat it abstractly. The question is not whether the falling tree made a sound (could be observed without an observer); it’s how it came into that state to begin with. If there is a god, then it is an observer or perhaps an agent of that change, but they’re more part of the forest than the tree. We weren’t there, and all we know is that there is something, a fallen tree, probably. Our mind dismisses the tree/sound question format as pointless. Maybe something weird happened, but it probably didn’t, and I think the same goes for god. The notion of contextual layers we can’t access also reminds me of monads in Category Theory. They’re like a semantic container that doesn’t expose the concept directly, but can process it indirectly. I don’t think there’s an algebraic solution for “god”, but maybe mathematical abstraction can be a logical tool sometimes. ...huh, guess the math follows from the philosophy in this case.
  13. This reminds me of the “if a tree falls in the forest” question, though I’m not sure offhand if there’s a useful way to phrase it in those terms.
  14. I don’t think this is a question we as a species have the capacity to answer. We are temporal beings, but time is about frame of reference, and that implies the contrasted something. If there’s nothing, then there’s no time, and there’s no us. Just being there to observe it violates the definition. We can imagine a higher dimension than our own, but we can’t access or even perceive it. So we can fantasize about outside mechanisms and causality, but it’s unlikely to ever be a matter of provable science. I can’t say what we can’t know, and wouldn’t discourage the pursuit; but it’s not something I lose much sleep over. I don’t think the human unknowability is a satisfying argument for a creator. Such a creature might be outside of our frame of reference, but if so, then who is god’s god? Or, more directly, why wouldn’t they have a context of their own? It’s lazy to use the argument to go out a level, but then deny that there could be further ones. And any such mechanical concept of god argues against the personal relationship that Christianity preaches. Such a being is beyond our comprehension and rational concern. (And if god had a god, what would it mean for us if he rejected that being’s version of redemption?)
  15. It's a memed clip from a 2004 debate. Hovind gish gallops through some pseudoscientific gibberish where the central point is that god is bigger than the perceivable universe...because he says so. Q.E.D.
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