Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Scientific Explaination For It Is Sick As a Friggin' Dog

Posted by olvlzl.
It's going to be light posting today. The long, complicated, controversial post I was plannin will have to wait. Bet you can't wait, can you.

Until then, Listening to Deepak Chopra on the radio flogging his most recent book in which he discusses the implications he sees in quantum physics for survival after death, I was reminded to ask.

Those of us who do not have enough math and physics to understand quantum physics, how do we know what to think about such assertions? They could be brilliant insights or they could be synthetic flannel. Unless we take the sensible route of agnosticism, how can we have an informed opinion on the matter? I mean, Chopra really gets up a lot of our noses, and it isn't just the pop Vedanta stuff, it's the whole promotional package. But what are we supposed to make of these quantum assertions short of going back to master the science and math necessary?

Here is the outline of a piece I began on a similar topic a couple of months back and never finished.

This I Bel.... But why in the world would you care about that?

Posted by olvlzl.
The revival of This I Believe on NPR has been mostly pretty tame, the tinkly piano with NPR’s typical, annoying, repetitive intro music followed by a series of mildly platitudinous statements of belief by a variety of people, all withing the acceptable and inoffensive norm. A few have been mildly challenging, though I’d be hard put to say which ones from memory. I do remember that Penn Jillette’s was about the least obnoxious thing he’s done in years, even that self-promoted iconoclast got into the tepid spirit of the thing. About the most interesting thing about it is that they call the person running it a “curator”. Curator? Isn’t that someone who collects objects and puts them on display where they get dusted on schedule but aren’t used for anything?
You would think someone among those ponderous people at NPR wouldn’t have realized this begs the question, isn’t there already too much of that in our media?

I believe that what people believe is not important to other people. To start with beliefs that can be stated are open to any level of self deception and conscious dishonesty. They are open to any levels of what a quainter age called the Super Ego* clouding reality with guilt and the desire to fulfill societal or family expectations. In my culture, that of liberal New England, getting too far into someone’s beliefs is a violation of privacy. Talking too much about it makes us feel uneasy. It also can arouse suspicions that the person who starts going on about it in public is up to something dishonest.

The Dharmapada, the most famous of the Buddhist catechisms, begins with the statement that our minds are comprised of and controlled by our thoughts, they are mastered by our thoughts. That is so important that it is stated twice in the first two paired verses. Those continue by stating that if we act or speak from either an evil or a good thought that pain or repose would follow as a result. Jesus was saying something similar when he said that by the fruit of peoples’ actions you would know them. The beliefs as stated might be spot on or they might be inaccurate, the actions and their results are there for objective analysis.

For a religious believer to hold that beliefs aren’t particularly important throws some people. While it flummoxes “professors of religion” it really gets some atheists. The believers, those who profess belief in Jesus at any rate, can’t well argue with his statement that actions are better signs of belief than words**. Atheists, I guess, are just assuming that you care what they don’t believe as their reflex response to the many religious busy bodies who go around checking to see that everyone is on program.

It's better to try to look at what happens, what people do and what the results of that action are. If they cause pain to people or animals or the environment then I know that the person who did it is either ignorant of the results of their action or they are evil. If someone consciously does good then that is a pretty good indication that they’re a good person. If people do good out of habit, then that’s good too.

Who really knows what they believe? If they just tried harder to not be jerks the world would be immeasurably improved.

* The Freudian trinity is a good example of faith in things unseen in the officially scientific atheist.

* St. Francis famously said that it was necessary to constantly preach the Gospel and that words should even be resorted to if necessary. This is excellent advice for the religious. The least the rest of us can do is to look at what they do and ignore what they say.