Wednesday, December 26, 2007

How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Intelligent Design

Intelligent design is a theory that has been argued back and forth for years. In response to the theory of evolution, fundamentalist Christians (who in my opinion are really materialists in denial) and some scientists who pretend not to be motivated by religious considerations have asserted that certain features of animals (eyes for example) are too complex to have evolved through random mutation combined with natural selection. Some of these same people argue on a larger scale that the fundamental constants of physics, had they been different, would not have allowed for a universe capable of supporting life. Since the chance of these constants all holding the values they do is infinitesimal, they must have been determined by a supreme being. This is called the strong anthropic principle if I remember correctly. My position is that neither of these arguments are worth fighting over because, even if valid, they do not prove exactly what the people who use them want to prove.

Let's talk about intelligent design first. Does this argument prove the existence of God? If valid, it would prove the existence of a being much more powerful than us. Is that the same thing as God? To ask the question is to answer it. (Hint: Maybe.)

Now let's talk about the anthropic principle. It seems to me that the argument assumes that the fundamental constants of physics could have been different. But let's assume the argument is valid. It would prove the following:

  1. There is an entity somewhere that is vastly more powerful than we can even imagine.

  2. We shouldn't be calling the universe the universe, because there's obviously something outside of it manipulating constants.

  3. The common anthropomorphic concept of God obviously doesn't apply to such a being.

Now those of you who are recovering materialists can forget everything I just said, because it doesn't make any difference to us. Only the common anthropomorphic concept of God requires proof. That's not our idea of God, because it is intrinsically dualist (and therefore materialist in denial) at best. Our concept of God, to the extent that a concept can even be made out of it, is something that is above, beyond and includes the physical universe as we know it. So we don't need to worry our little heads about these "scientific" theories.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Go See a Kid's Movie for Christmas

I went to see Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium last month. As you may expect, my wife and I were the only people there who didn't bring any children. This is unfortunate because, despite being themed as the standard kid's movie with a bunch of magical stuff that never happens in real life, the movie is really about self-transformation, something all of us need. In the course of the movie, all four of the major characters undergo a major transformation or personality change. Also, the title character is probably an alchemist, although alchemy isn't mentioned directly.

Anyway, go see the movie. Magic isn't just for kids.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Dante: An Alternative Interpretation

Many of you have read Dante's Inferno in school, and probably remember it as a ghastly description of ironic punishments for various sins. Of course, there are two other sections of the Divine Comedy describing purgatory and heaven, but people don't seem to talk about those as much for some reason. But what if this great work was not intended to be taken literally?

My interpretation is that hell, heaven and purgatory as described in the Divine Comedy actually refer to states of mind as opposed to physical locations. Of course, I have no way of knowing if this is what Dante really meant. I am quite sure, however, that if it was what he meant, he couldn't say so openly, at least not if he didn't want to experience a fiery death at the hands of the inquisition.

Let's start with the inferno. In my view, the inferno is life experienced by materialists and dualists, people who either believe that the material world is all that exists, or believe that the spiritual world is separate from the material world. Some of these people suffer through life as a result of their sins and desires; others live a basically good life as a result of their virtue, but their world view functions as a strict limit on their experience.

For those who believe that there is something more than atoms and energy, but that the something more is not separate from our existence, there is still the matter of getting rid of the baggage I mentioned in earlier posts. Hence, purgatory has the function of "burning" away the beliefs and concepts that prevent us from realizing the unity underlying all things.

That leaves heaven, where the unity is experienced directly in varying degrees. I have read that there have been and even now still are people who have had this experience. Our ultimate goal as recovering materialists is to experience this world for ourselves.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Book Review: American Gods

I just finished reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Reading this book reminds me of doing the Walk-a-thon when I was thirteen. I walked twenty miles around downtown Detroit to raise money for something or other. It was a lot of fun, and I feel like I'm a better person for having done it, but I have no intention of doing it again anytime soon. It's not that the book was boring or unpleasant; it's just that almost 600 pages of both the best and the worst qualities of humanity makes for a rather intense experience.

I won't say much about the book because I don't want to spoil it for any of you. The main character's name is Shadow; if you think the name has some kind of Jungian significance, I will totally agree with you. If you read the book, and I hope you will, please remember the word "transformation."

Saturday, December 1, 2007

About Channeling

I've read a few channeled books. My first impression is that they remind me of Sturgeon's Second Law: "90 percent of everything is crap." But there are some worthwhile channeled books. A Course in Miracles and the Conversations with God series are two of my favorites.

Now, are these books really dictated by advanced beings, or are the human authors just making them up? There's a relevant scene from Monty Python's the Meaning of Life where a British Army officer has had his leg bitten off by a tiger during a war in South Africa. The search party runs into two men in a tiger suit. After a bit of interrogation by the officers, the officer whose leg was lost says: "It doesn't matter why they're dressed as a tiger. Have they got my leg?" In the case of channeling, it doesn't matter who is really speaking; have they got anything useful to say? From that perspective, it doesn't really matter if Ramtha actually was a 20,000 year old warrior prince from Atlantis, or the creation of a middle-aged woman. The important thing is, does he/she have anything useful to say? I suggest reading any channeled books from that viewpoint and not paying any attention to the author's personal history.