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Posts Tagged ‘god’

God and Moral Relativism

August 16, 2013 Leave a comment

On Political Prospect (formerly Real Reagan Conservative).

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The Height of “Democrisy”

September 6, 2012 Leave a comment

I’m the first person to admit that there are some serious shortcomings with the Republican Party but  when things like this happen, it leaves me absolutely flabbergasted that anyone continues to support the Democratic Party.

This is the party named for democracy.  By the way, here is the definition of democracy.

de·moc·ra·cy /dɪˈmɒkrəsi/ [dih-mok-ruh-see] noun, plural de·moc·ra·cies.

1. government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.
Now, with this definition in mind, let’s look at what the Democrats did here.  The leaders of the party decided they needed to change the platform to get themselves out of a developing political jam.  So they take it to the people and put it up for a vote.  But the people don’t vote for what they want.  Taken aback by this, they try to subtly indicate to the people which thing they are supposed to vote for and try the vote again.  When the people still don’t choose the right thing, they seek advice on the process looking for a way to get them to choose the right thing.  When no way can be found, they try the vote again and when the people, once again, choose the wrong thing, they simply declare that they had actually chosen the right thing and proclaim the matter closed.
Even in their own party the notion of democracy is nothing but a convenient cover for a group of elites to impose their will on the masses.  And the astonishing thing is that when it fails in this capacity, they don’t give up imposing that one little piece of their will on the masses.  Instead, they completely drop the disguise and just hope nobody will notice.  If they act like this when amending their own party platform, imagine how they will handle the important stuff like healthcare reform……. Wait, didn’t we already do healthcare reform? How did that go again, I can’t remember?
This party is now based on two types of people.  People of no particular principles, who are dependent on them for some particular government giveaway and people who are not paying any attention whatsoever.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of both.  So in an attempt to wake some of them up I am creating a new term.  Feel free to spread it around.
de·moc·ri·sy [dih-mok-rih-see] noun, plural de·moc·ri·sies.
1.   A governing body made up of people who claim to represent the will of the people while instead using the people as a pretense for pursuing their own personal political designs.
Feel free to spread it around.

Why the Left Hates Religion

February 14, 2012 4 comments

Many libertarian types, especially the college crowd, are somewhat hostile to religion.  This is unfortunate because it plays into the hands of the progressives who know they must destroy civil religion to accomplish their goals.  Because of this libertarians find themselves in danger of coming down on the wrong side in matters regarding church and state.  My goal here is to convince the atheist libertarian that they should (usually) come down on the side of the church.

I will start by defining religion.  As I explained in this post there are boundaries to what reason and observation of the physical world can tell us.  There are two types of information which lay beyond these boundaries.  The type explained in the above post is positive information regarding the laws of nature.  Some of this information is knowable but we don’t know it yet and some of it is theoretically unknowable like what forces created the universe and created the laws of nature.  The second type of information is normative.  All normative questions are inherently unanswerable by reason and observation alone.  Reason can tell you how to build a gun but it can’t tell you who you ought to use it against.  It can tell you how to make a car safer but it can’t tell you how you should value the risk to your life or the lives of others or the costs of being safer.

A religion is a system of beliefs that offers answers to these questions which reason cannot answer.  These questions include mainly: where did we come from? Where are we going? What should we do in between?  Now the important thing to notice is that everyone, at some point, has to answer something to these questions.  Even an agnostic, must consciously answer “I don’t know” to the first two questions.  A nihilist must answer “there is no answer” to the third.  Nonetheless, these are belief systems which are carefully constructed to arrive at these conclusions, and therefore they are religions by my definition.  (Note: obviously, you can define it in a different way which separates them but this is the definition that is germane to the point I am trying to make so just go with it and see if you really don’t agree with the point when I’m done.)

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Models

August 4, 2011 8 comments

This post is about the boring kind of model.  For the good kind click here.  Most of the groundwork has already been laid in recent posts so I will cut to the chase.  The conception of god laid out on this blog is a way of organizing knowledge of reality.  The important essence of this approach is to organize reality into levels and to appreciate the different boundaries to knowledge at each level.  The physical world is one level.  God (I will stop adding “as defined” or anything like that from now on) is on a higher level.  From that level our reality looks different than from ours.  Furthermore this means that there is a wall past which we cannot see because of our limited perspective.  This wall is dynamic, it moves as we learn more, but it cannot be eliminated.  We can understand how gravity works but we can’t understand why gravity works.  We can understand that we like cheetos but we can’t understand why.

The easiest way to understand this concept of god is to understand the concept of a model.  This is because models represent the level below our own.  I make models for a (meager) living.  When one does this in economics the process is more or less the following:

1. Speak some actor or actors into “existence.”

2. Define some parameters describing the situation with which they are faced.

3. Define some rules prescribing how they will act.

4. Figure out what happens.

The whole point of doing this is that once you complete the first 3 steps the 4th step is determinate.  This allows us to say what happens with certainty.  There is no deficiency in our knowledge because we had to specify everything when constructing the model.  All the laws governing the model must be constructed out of nothing.  Of course when making an economic model much of this has already been done and can be taken for granted–for instance mathematics.  Mathematics is just a large and complex model.

If in other sciences we should arrive at certainty without doubt and truth without error, it behooves us to place the foundations of knowledge in mathematics. – Roger Bacon.

The important thing to understand about mathematics and other models in economics and physics and any other discipline is that they have no physical existence.  That is to say they don’t exist on our level.  They are a level below because they were created by mankind our of nothing.  Because of this we have complete knowledge of them.

To understand the different dimensions I have mentioned previously, notice that when we create a model we can put in things such as probabilistic outcomes.  But when we do this we know what all the possible outcomes are and what the probabilities are.  It is not that one of them actually “happens.”  This notion of “happening” only exists if you are trapped within the model and only experience one dimension.  The modeller sees all dimensions simultaneously.  The same phenomenon is true of concepts like time.  When making an economic or physics model it is often helpful to include a variable for time.  But as the modeller you do not experience time linearly, you see all time at once as any other variable.  You can change an initial condition and see what happens at every time.  The model is like a snapshot.  This doesn’t mean time doesn’t exist it just means that it looks different to the modeller than to the modeled.

I could go on about this but I think I will just leave it at that for now and see if I get any comments and deal with them if/when they come up, except to say, for my objectivist friends, that when organizing things this way many other characteristics commonly attributed to god (or God) kind of make sense.  For instance:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him…

 

P.S. If objectivists relaxed their initial disgust for religion, they might find much of the meaning in the early part of Genesis very agreeable.  Maybe I’ll write a post about that…

Categories: Philosophy Tags: ,

God

July 29, 2011 10 comments

Before I begin, let me say what this is not.  Also, let me say up front that this is primarily directed toward objectivists who tend to deny the existence of god.  It is not a defense  (or a criticism for that matter) of anyone else’s definition of god or any dogma surrounding such a belief.  It is an attempt to start from scratch and define god in a way that is indisputable by definition.  Once this is accomplished we can argue about the nature of god all we want instead of arguing about whether or not god exists.  This approach treats god as a concept not a physical thing (of course it’s theoretically possible that god could still be a physical thing.  That is a question about the nature of god but this definition as a concept would still apply even if god is a human shaped being with a long white beard who sits in the clouds throwing lightning bolts and could potentially be hit by a 747 one day.)  If “god” is understood as a concept, then saying god doesn’t exist is the same as saying love doesn’t exist or 2 doesn’t exist.  When someone describes a feeling that they have as love it is not a serious intellectual argument to insist that they are mistaken because love doesn’t exist.  The feeling they are describing exists.   Whatever the feeling is, chances are they are conveying some useful information about it by labeling it as love.  If you don’t know what love means you can ask questions about the nature of the feeling and the meaning of the word.  But demanding to see “proof” that love exists is completely nonsensical.  The same is true of the number 2.  Numbers are a concept people came up with because they are useful for thinking and talking about things.  You can’t touch 2 it’s not a physical thing, it’s a concept.

The word love was invented to describe something.  People didn’t create a word that is completely useless to describe a feeling that doesn’t exist.  Certainly, different people may mean different things when they use the word, and some meanings may be more useful than others but these are questions about the nature of love.  Similarly, the word god (or what have you) was created to describe an idea that exists.  What I want to do here is to establish a baseline definition of this word that is inclusive of most (monotheistic) conceptions of god without adding any more meaning than necessary for this purpose.  This establishes a boundary between god and science which is necessary for the peaceful coexistence of the two.

As a starting point, take as axiomatic that the universe exists.  It is impossible for science to explain where it came from.  All of science is an attempt at creating a model of the universe.  The universe is therefore the boundary of that model (this is essentially the definition of “universe”).  To put this a different way: whatever information we discover and incorporate into our scientific understanding is part of the universe.  But it is impossible for this model to address the question “where did the universe come from?”  To see the impossibility of this, notice that the laws of physics (at least as we understand them) do not allow for the universe coming from anywhere.  Matter cannot be created or destroyed.  Energy cannot be created or destroyed (these are sort of archaic statements of these laws but the recognized exceptions don’t contradict what I am saying here to the best of my knowledge).  Therefore, if you want to talk about the origin of the universe, you must be able to conceive of a force lying outside the laws of nature which govern the universe.  So basically, whatever this force may be, call it god.

With this definition in hand we can derive some properties of god.  First of all, if the universe is a chain reaction governed by immutable natural laws, then everything that has ever happened or will ever happen was determined by those laws and the initial conditions of the system (as I have said previously, you may prefer to think of reality as consisting of many dimensions of which we only observe one, but this is just a more complicated way of thinking about the same concept).  To put it another way, the position and motion of every particle at the moment of the big bang led to me sitting here right now writing this article.  If a particle had been somewhere else at that moment, something different would have happened.  So if everything that happens is a result of the laws of nature and the universe’s initial conditions, then whatever unobservable force determined those laws and initial conditions caused everything that will ever happen to happen.  Or in other words, by definition, god is omnipotent.

Notice that this is exactly the opposite of what I consider the straw-man notion of omnipotence commonly considered by atheists.  That notion is that omnipotence means that at any moment god may arbitrarily choose to do things that violate the laws of nature.  This is not a refutable implication.  To see what I mean imagine something impossible and then imagine that happening.  If you were a scientist, what would you do?  You have two options: you could refuse to believe it, in which case you would be a terrible scientist, or you could change the laws of science to account for it.  Naturally, science must generally do the latter.  Considering this fact, it shouldn’t be surprising that everything (for the most part) we have observed (or at least confirmed) fits our current laws of science.  God cannot do things that contradict the laws of nature (note that these are not necessarily the same as the laws of science).  If he (she/it/whatever you prefer) could, then the law in question wouldn’t be such a law.  So this position would be identical to believing that there are no laws of nature.  This is certainly not my position, nor do I think it is widespread among the god community.  Once you notice this, it is obvious why people on the science side who suffer from this misconception of omnipotence find the concept so repulsive.  The purpose of science is to discover the laws of nature.  obviously, people engaged in this pursuit will not get along with those who seem to deny the existence thereof.  But once god has been defined as the source of the laws of nature, the two concepts are perfectly compatible.  In fact it is the very existence of laws of nature which makes god, as defined above, omnipotent.

Second, if one had knowledge of all the laws of nature and the initial conditions of the system, then one would know everything that would ever happen.  Of course, you may not wish to attribute conciousness to god as defined above, but the reality is that since god is a force existing outside our physical universe, this consciousness is impossible to refute or deny.  So what is important for our purposes is: can we imagine the existence of such a perspective?  The answer is yes, and from that perspective one would be omniscient.  In order to have complete knowledge of reality (possibly in multiple dimensions), all you need to know are the positions and vectors of all the particles at the moment of creation.  Notice here that we may consider the big bang as time t=0 but if we discovered tomorrow that we could explain what happened at some time leading up to that then that would become t=0 in our model.

Naturally we cannot achieve this level of knowledge but it is important to recognize the concept of this perspective.  This is what I meant in the earlier post about determinism vs. free will being a matter of perspective.  People who take the determinist side are imagining god’s perspective, people taking the free will side are imagining the human perspective.  Neither one is wrong (though for most applications the human perspective is more relevant).  Furthermore, this perspective is precisely what scientists are aspiring to, so why some of them feel the need to deny the very existence of the concept is puzzling to me.

When defined this way, god establishes the boundary of science.  But it is important for both sides to realize that this boundary is constantly moving.  It is not stupid to recognize that there are things you don’t know.   Any person, at any time, has some knowledge and understanding of the workings and origins of reality and this understanding is always incomplete.   If someone says god causes the tides, this is not wrong.  It may leave you desiring more information and you may discover the concept of gravity and realize that the Moon causes the tides but you are left with the question of where the Moon came from.  You may then discover that the Moon broke off from the Earth billions of years ago after a collision with a giant asteroid.  But you still don’t know where the Earth or the asteroid came from.  This process continues but every time you figure out something you are just moving the boundary.  When you get all the way back to the big bang you are still left with the question “where the heck did that come from?” And let’s not forget about where gravity came from.

A person may explain to their children that they came from their parents and their parents came from their grandparents and their grandparents came from their great-grandparents and their great-grandparents came from god.  This is not incorrect, it gives all the information they know and then identifies that any cause more primary than great-grandparents falls into a category defined in the manner above.  If later the children find out about great-great-grandparents, this doesn’t refute the notion of god.  Indeed there is no amount of information you could collect about the universe which would do this, it just moves the boundary between what we know and what we don’t.  But certainly this boundary is worth recognizing if your intention is to expand it.

Our understanding of the laws of nature leaves plenty to argue about.  So please, let us concentrate our energies on those things rather than “does god exist?”  Once you get over this hurdle, I actually think a lot of the attributes commonly attributed to god make a lot of sense.  But if you just say there’s no such thing as god you can’t even consider these questions.

 

Categories: Philosophy Tags: