The Problem With Belief

Watching a discussion between Dawkins and Krauss (please watch the video on my Fun Media page) and in the Q and A section they talked about how to ‘spread the message’ so to speak (message of science and rationality as opposed to irrationality). However, there is a problem. A true believer cannot be convinced that their belief is wrong OR that science is right. They talked about a lack of scientific knowledge in schools across America, which is a great tragedy. The United States has the most citizens that DENY Evolution and Natural Selection in favor of Religion and put that in science class! If anyone else is as shocked and appalled about this as me you’ll understand my feeling on the topic.
Let me be clear about one thing, personal belief is not my issue. In the US it is a constitutional right to believe in whatever you want. I would not try to take away someone’s personal beliefs BUT when that belief is asserted as true instead of scientific evidence and that is taught to children we as a society are less better off. What do we do about this?

String Theory

I have been thinking about something called String Theory. In my opinion it is a very loose theory that will need a lot of work (it should be noted I am NOT a physicist, so please if there are physicists reading this comment and tell me why I am wrong and why this theory should work). I was listening to Michio Kaku (you can find his video in my Fun Media page) about the theory of everything, which he said encompasses what String Theory is trying to explain. If String Theory is to be proven, it will be the most remarkable discovery in the history of the human race. My problem comes in at the theory of a Multiverse. It says that there could be more than one universe and we are in one that makes up a Multiverse. We have observed galaxies (much like ours) that have collided with one another and formed a larger galaxy. Why is this important to the Multiverse theory? Well the physicists who are working on this say that one universe can collide with another one. However, this collision would cause a Big Bang. This shook up everything that I have been taught about the Big Bang because Stephen Hawking said that there can be nothing before the Big Bang. So where did this other universe come from? It is possible that my knowledge of the Big Bang is outdated and I need to do more reading and research. If I find that to be the case this post will either be updated, or I will write another post. Back to the theory of the Multiverse. So where are these Universes coming from? If the Multiverse is correct how can we know which is the original Universe? Where did the original Universe come from? If the Big Bang was a result of two universes colliding, what spawned the first Universe? I understand modern science cannot answer some of these questions yet (or my hypothesis that I need to do more research is correct) but are working on it. String Theory has not yet been proven so I am eagerly waiting to figure out the results (hopefully in my life time). Another theory I heard is the theory of wormholes. The idea of a wormhole makes a lot of sense. Take two dots on opposite ends of a sheet of paper. If someone challenged you to put a pin through both holes, what would you do? The answer would be to fold the paper so one dot is on top on the other.

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Theoretically this would be a way to travel in between Universes (given the Multiverse is correct). Michio Kaku gives us an equation to explain String Theory. This equation also questions the possibility of surviving a trip through a wormhole. We cannot yet experiment with wormholes so we really have no idea if wormholes are possible, or if we can travel through them. It is a very interesting thing to think about. It is also exciting to think about.

I do have one worry about this. The Universe we live in now is heading toward a freeze out. That’s right, eventually the Universe will expand (as Hubble discovered the Big Bang is still happening and the universe is expanding) so much that it will freeze everything. Stars will be blown out and all life will die. Assuming that we escape the fate of Earth (that is being swallowed by the sun once hydrogen fusion ceases in the core, the core will collapse, and the sun will begin to fuse hydrogen outside of the core, then the sun will expand into a red giant that will basically swallow the earth) and find another planet to live on until this freeze out. Let us assume this is true, our only escape from inevitable death will be to travel through a wormhole into a younger Universe and to start over (assuming we can find a suitable planet). My worry here is that, in the interest of self-preservation, people will have a need to prove this. They will have a need to prove String Theory so much that they might fabricate details. It is a terrifying thing to think about. Everything in the Universe will die. We cannot escape it if we stay in this Universe. I can’t even pretend to know everything about String Theory because I only know a little (a very small amount about this theory).

I really want someone who knows more to comment on this and help me understand something that I may be missing above. Please let me know!

The Universe

The next time you find yourself outside on a warm summer’s night, look up at the sky. If you are lucky you will be able to see it lit up with tiny dots called stars. Realize that these stars are probably million of light years away, and the light you are seeing is quite ancient. Some of the stars that you are seeing may be dead by now. Allow me to explain: we can see stars that are million of light years away, but we are seeing light that the star emitted the same amount of time ago as the distance from us. For example: if we are seeing light from a star 100,000,000 light years away, the light we are seeing is 100,000,000 light years old. This may be a difficult concept to grasp, but it is beautiful and amazing that the human mind can grasp such ideas. I find this to be far more beautiful than anything religion has given us (one man’s opinion). However, lets look at history. The old teachings of the Church, in relation to the universe, said that we were living in a geocentric (Earth is the center of the universe) universe, the earth was “created” in 6 days, and all objects in the heavens (universe that we could see from looking to the sky) were perfect objects (for example they said that the moon and the sun and all the stars are perfect spheres. So lets break these down one at a time:

1. The geocentric view of the universe.
Aristarchus of Samos – 310 BCE – 230 BCE. This man figured out what causes lunar eclipses. He reasoned that the shadow of the earth caused the lunar eclipse. Why is this important? Because of his model of how it was actually the earth that moves around the sun, not the other way around. However, his works were ignored and never really came to light. However, as you cans see in the Stephen Hawking video, the inquisitive nature of human being prevailed when Galileo discovered that Venus had gibbous phases. He took from Aristarchus’ works and realized that if Venus traveled around the earth then it would not have phases. This is a very simplistic explanation, for a better one read this. Galileo, made another surprising discovery. He discovered that Jupiter has 4 moons that orbit it (for more information watch the Stephen Hawking video on my Fun Media page. This was such a revolutionary discovery that the Church ordered him to denounce his findings and they put him under house arrest. I am often quite skeptical when Church officials say that science and religion are compatible.

3. Ah yes, the age old story in Genesis, that God created the earth in six days and God rested on the seventh. This has been disproved time and time again. So in order that the bible doesn’t contradict itself the Vatican put a whole lot of spin on it. They said that the Genesis account of creation has to be interpreted allegorically. In other words, instead of saying that the story is wrong (which it is) they decided to put a whole lot of spin on the story, showing they are too proud to admit fault or that they were just plain wrong. Why are they wrong? Let’s take a look at it scientifically. We now know that the Universe was started with what we call the Big Bang. As it turn out the entire universe started out in a single point, smaller than an atom. It was made of pure energy that expanded into the universe (for a more in depth explanation click the “big bang” link for Stephen Hawking’s explanation). What evidence do we have of the Big Bang? As I said before, the Big Bang started as pure energy, that is reflected in the temperature of the universe. It is called the Black Body Radiation and it proves two things: 1.) the universe was once smaller and hotter, and 2.) the universe is around 14 (13.7) billion years old. What evidence corroborates this? In the 1920s and 30s a man named Edwin Hubble discovered that the Universe is still expanding. This is shown through Hubble’s Law. Hubble’s Law says that (1) all objects observed in deep space (intergalactic space) are found to have a Doppler shift observable relative velocity to Earth, and to each other; and (2) that this Doppler­shift­measured velocity, of various galaxies receding from the Earth, is proportional to their distance from the Earth and all other interstellar bodies. To better understand this think of a cup filled with water that has been turned upside down on a table (so as the contents doesn’t leave the cup). Now imagine that cup tipping over and the water spilling out on the table and the water spill becomes much more wide spread than it was in the cup. I would suggest reading on Hubble’s theory of expansion. Stephen Hawking says that before the Big Bang time did not exist, nothing existed, therefore there was no room for a creator to exist. This certainly gave me something to think about.

4. The objects of the heavens (stars and planets) are perfect spheres.
– Galileo also made quite an exciting discovery (which probably contributed to him
becoming blind). The sun actually has sunspots. This proved that the sun was NOT a perfect object AND actually rotates once every 27 (to 31 days depending on where you are on the earth). We have discovered craters on the moon from millions of years of meteor impacts. All of this thoroughly debunks the claim that the early church made that all heavenly bodies are perfect spheres.

This post is actually in response to something that a teacher of mine said. He told the that Richard Dawkins said that he has faith in science that it will answer all of our questions about the natural world. My teacher said that this was the same as having faith in religion, but I disagreed without really having an answer as to why I disagree. I specialize in studying history (although much of the information above is from an astronomy class that I took, I highly recommend taking one yourself if you have the opportunity) so I looked through history. As you can see science has proved again and again that the biblical accounts and religious views of the universe are wrong, so the conclusion that the facts point to is that Dawkins is being rational by saying that he has faith that science will eventually explain the natural world. Although, if I could talk to Dawkins I would suggest that he say that he is not faithful (because faith is believing in something without evidence) because he has historic and scientific evidence that science will explain the many quirks of the natural world. Faith really has nothing to do with it.

The other purpose of this post is to restore wonder to the Universe. The Universe is a curious place filled with mysteries that human beings have only scratched the surface of. When I contemplate the many wonders of the natural world I am filled with awe and inspiration. It is truly a wonderful feeling that I wish I could share with everyone. I think that science discovering these many intricate laws and workings of the Universe further adds to the grandeur that is life. I will leave you with this quote

“It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependant on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us.” ~ Charles Darwin

Is One Crazier Than The Other?

I have been thinking about the intellectual, philosophical, and plain bickering going on between Atheists and Theists. Atheists call Theists defending their beliefs insane and Theists call Atheists insane for not realizing the “truth” of God. My personal opinion is that believing in a supernatural being that created the world in 6 days, who led 600,000 people out of Egypt, who always watches over us, and not a shred of physical proof is a bit irrational to say the least. But, that is my opinion. Anyway I came up with a parallel that I think will intrigue you.
Take for example a group, many of you are aware of, the Scientologists . Here is what they believe:
Scientologists ACTUALLY believe the evil alien ruler Xenu killed a lot of aliens (Thetans) from around the universe by bringing them to earth & blowing them up inside volcanoes. They believe the souls of these aliens (these souls are “Body Thetans”) have attached themselves to us & cause many of our mental & physical ills. Members who know about Xenu will attempt to deny it or pretend like it doesn’t matter. They are required to sign a contract binding them to silence on the matter. Lower level members don’t know about Xenu & accordingly deny everything because they honestly don’t know.

To rid ourselves of “Body Thetans” & also “engrams” (past negative experiences stored in our unconscious mind) so that we can become “clear”, we have to go through “auditing” with a member of the “church” who uses an “e-meter” to measure our “reactive mind”…… & we have to pay lots & lots of money for “auditing” (purchased in 12.5-hour blocks, costing anywhere from $750 for introductory sessions to between $8,000 & $9,000 for advanced sessions) & to take courses on Scientology to advance to higher “levels” in the “church”. The “church” has also taken a very hostile stance towards psychiatry & psychiatric drugs irrespective of the fact that some people require medication to remain adequately functional in everyday life. They deny the reality of chemical imbalance & profound mental disturbance & accordingly do NOTHING to effectively stabilize the dangerously unstable. The “church” has been known to withhold prescription pharmaceuticals from member (with deadly results).

Perhaps you’ll enjoy this video.

This sounds insane right, wrong! A Catholic, a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, or a Buddhist would point to this and say that anyone who honestly believes in this is a complete nut. All these religions have their equal amount of lethal dogmas. However, to someone who doesn’t believe in any of it, it all sounds equally insane.
Just thought I would give you something to think about. Although, I am quite curious as to why one religion is more insane than another one.

“Supernatural” is a Bad Excuse for Having no Evidence

Certainly found this to be thought provoking. Excellent ideas!

Allallt in discussion

I don’t understand the distinction between the natural and the supernatural: if a God does exist in some plane beyond us, surely God considers Itself to be natural; if science were to discover a reliable way to get information from the minds of people that have passed to the other side (i.e. died) the concept of a ghost would quickly be considered a natural concept. So, “supernatural” does not describe an event, it is an excuse. “Supernatural” is the buzz word for when you want to protect an idea from scrutiny, investigation and exploration.

Take a religious claim, like the idea that Jesus rose from the dead. In an earlier post I argued that history can only tell us what most likely happened, and it cannot tell us with high levels of confidence what did happen. The historical method, at best, can give a list of options in descending order of…

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God’s Will and Human Freedom

I am sure that most of you, weather you be Atheists of Theists have heard a whole lot about God’s Will. This is thrown out like verbal diarrhea every time that someone dies or a natural disaster occurs. I have often questioned why people are so quick to say that a kid that gets caught in the crossfire of a gang shooting received a “gift” and that it was God’s Will that she get shot and killed in a park. How is that a gift? What proof is there that she is in a better place? Who are you to make such claims? It may sound nice and comforting at the time, but it is not all that it is cracked up to be. As the title of this post implies, I am going to be talking about God’s will and our own freedom. Does God’s Will take away our freedom?
To start let us look at the Frankfurt Cases. This is a thought experiment that involves two cases that are identical, except for one part.

Case 1
There are two men: Smith and Jones. Smith is pointing a gun at Jones and is deciding whether or not to shoot him. There is also an evil demon that COULD control the outcome. In this case Jones decides not to shoot Jones, however the evil demon forces Smith to pull the trigger and kill Jones.

Case 2
There are two men: Smith and Jones. Smith is pointing a gun at Jones and is deciding whether or not to shoot him. There is also an evil demon that COULD control the outcome. In this case Smith decides to shoot Jones with his own free will, and the evil demon does nothing.

Take a good look at these cases. What do you notice? First off, they are identical except for one part, which is where the evil demon comes in. The other thing is that the outcome was the same, but the method of getting to that outcome was different. If it was Smith’s choice to shoot Jones or if the evil demon commanded him to, the result was the exact same. So, my question is, if “God’s Will be done” then the end result will always be the same. So are we really free to make our own decision? If we are, what is the point of making them if it is just going to achieve God’s Will in the end?

Another thing that I question is how a person would know what God’s Will is. I really don’t have a concrete answer for how one would definitively know what God’s Will is, but I can speculate as to why it would be appealing to chalk up the bad things in life it “it was God’s Will”.
The same sort of thing happens (in someone’s mind) when there is a conspiracy about something like 9/11. Sometimes when something horrible happens it scares people, which is normal. However, being humans it is in our nature to want an explanation of why something happened. In the case of conspiracy theories Jodi Dean says,

People hate thinking about, in the flash on an eye terrorist bombers can crash a plane into the World Trade Center. They would rather see that there was always a system some overriding explanation that can let us make sense of the world. (12:13 – 13:00)

I think that the same thing happens in the minds of Theists when a natural disaster, like Hurricane Katrina, occurs. It is much more comforting to think that there is a plan in place. People don’t like to think that bad things can just happen, they would rather be optimistic about some plan that would take them to a better place (heaven supposedly, but I’ll save that for another post). Michael Martin said it best in his book Atheism: A Philosophical Justification

If pessimism is justified by the evidence, then we must be pessimistic. If we are optimistic when pessimism is justified, we are irrational.

If you are a Theist or an Atheist, please leave your comments and opinions, I would love to know more about the topic from all perspectives. Bear in mind, however, I will research what you say if I think that you haven’t done your research.