Posts in Philosophy
Truth, one of mankind’s guiding lights for centuries, died in a vicious mob attack instigated by Comfort, Apathy, Dogma, Self-Interest, and Entertainment. She was a pillar of the community, with a glorious history of influence throughout most of our cultural development. She enjoyed nature, science, and spending time with anyone who sought her out. Her tireless efforts to help mankind become better resulted in many of our greatest achievements: the scientific method, logic, mathematics, and physics just for starters. Her guidance led to many great social and political moments: the first person on the moon; equal rights initiatives for women, racial and religious minorities, and the LGBTQUIA community; the Hubble telescope and how it expanded our view of the universe; medical advances too numerous to mention; the discovery of gravitational waves; and many, many more. It is hard to imagine what our world would look like had we lived without her influence. She was loved by many. Eventually, she will be missed by all.
She was preceded in death by her seven children: Justice, Equality, Love, Empathy, Compassion, Honesty, and Integrity. Many of her grandchildren passed on before her as well, including Fairness, Civility, Curiosity, Humility, Beauty, Freedom, and Selflessness. It is unknown if she has any family that have survived.
Services will be held at a location to be determined. Thus far, no religious or political institution has been found that can stand her presence, even in death. Check back to this page for updates.
Ah, Truth. I knew her well.
Well, as well as anyone could know her, I suppose. From my earliest memories, I can see her there in the background – smiling, laughing as I played my childhood games, gently guiding as I gazed in wonder at the world around me and tried to take it all in. She was always there, I suppose, even when I could not see her. She had this way of following me around, not in a threatening way, but usually supportive and encouraging. She was the big sister I never had. I clung to her in my darkest hours, crying at whatever hurt I had endured or atrocity I had witnessed. But she did not baby me – oh no sir! When I was out of line, I could not escape her penetrating gaze, and she would nag me and nag me until I finally admitted I was wrong and made the necessary changes in my life and behavior. (Even as I stand here, reading this prepared eulogy, it’s as though I can still hear her penetrating voice. Oh how I miss her!) She could be blunt and harsh at times, but I knew I could trust her stings – you know, the wounds of a friend and all that jazz. And trust her I did – more than life itself.
At one point, if you can believe it, she was one of the most well-respected matrons in our community! It may be hard for some of you here today to remember, but (more…)
If it is unthinkable to you that your current worldview might be wrong, then you are not a lover of Truth. What you love is Dogma masquerading as Truth. Truth seeks out its own errors and rejoices when inaccuracies are discovered. It does not try to hide, obfuscate, or twist facts to make them fit the current belief system, but rather remains flexible, able to take in new information and adjust to meet the implications. Truth does not require blind obedience to any source of authority, nor does it pay homage to celebrity or tradition. Truth always begins with “Based on the best available information” and ends with “but I am probably wrong on some level.”
It has been said that of Faith, Hope, and Love, the greatest of these is Love. I can accept that claim. However, much greater than all of these combined is Truth. Truth has the power to obliterate Faith and control Hope. Without it, Love is nothing but a mirage. And this is why so many fear it and work so hard to fight it. If Truth can be defeated, or if efforts to discover Truth can be redirected towards Dogma, then we can remain blind. In this way, the power of Truth over Faith, Hope, and Love can be nullified.
If we prefer Faith over Truth, we can remain certain in our correctness. If we prefer Hope over Truth, we never have to face harsh realities. If Love of anything or anyone wins out over Truth, then we can continue to believe in our own false fairy tale. Dogma is comfortable. Dogma is known. Dogma lets us believe as we want with an illusion of zero consequences.
Dogma is the comforting voice of the pet owner as the animal is put to sleep. Dogma is the promise of a meal to a hungry rodent in the form of bait on a mouse trap. Dogma is the sweet, tangy, and refreshing taste of Kool-Aid infused with cyanide on a hot summer day. Dogma is the loving embrace of a husband as he comforts his spouse and apologizes for the drunken beating the night before. And someday, Dogma will kill us all if it can, if we let it. It will slip the blade between our ribs and watch us bleed. It will initiate a nuclear war as the only viable option. It will starve innocent children and allow them to suffer unimaginable torture. It will do all of these things, all the while comforting and holding us and telling us everything is going to be OK and the worst will never happen, apologizing when it does, and promising once again that this will be the last time. And at some point, that statement will be true because our culture will die and neither Dogma nor Truth, nor Faith, Hope, or Love will have a place in our world. Dogma, indeed, conquers all if we let it.
But only if we let it. The true power of Dogma lies in our choice to prefer it over Truth. May we choose wisely.
When I presented my talk at Seekerfest STL 2015, I got a lot of pushback for phrasing one of my last points as “Start from the standpoint that you are probably wrong.” One of those individuals was none other than Matt Dillahunty, who after my talk came up to me and said something along the lines of, “You should change that line to ‘possibly wrong’ instead of probably. If you think you are probably wrong, you should just go ahead and change your position.”
Being who I am, and who Matt is, I took this advice to heart and pondered it from just about every angle I could think of. And, going where even atheist angels fear to tread, I think Matt is dead wrong on this one, as were the other folks for whom this phrasing was uncomfortable. In this post, I’m going to explain why a starting point of “I am possibly wrong” is not nearly good enough if one wants to rid themselves of delusional thinking from both a semantic/pedantic standpoint, as well as a practical/strategic standpoint. And then the Internet is free to step in and give me the whupping I most assuredly deserve, if I’m wrong. ;)
In my last post I discussed how delusional beliefs form and why they’re so easy to fall into. It turns out that the belief that we are immune to delusional thinking is a critical component for delusional beliefs to form in the first place. Our beliefs, rather than being a spectrum that ranges from opinion to conviction based on evidence, are built on an entwined mixture of opinions, evidence-based beliefs, and delusions, all of which are interlocking and naturally resistant to new data and evidence.
The following content was recently presented at Seekerfest STL in St. Charles, MO.
I have a confession to make: I want to believe in the EmDrive. The claim is that we have built an engine that can provide forward thrust without the need to expel a propellant. If it works, it would enable us to travel through space on inter-generational trips without the need to bring along heavy fuel, and makes the Star Trek nerd in me giddy with excitement to think about. Also, if it works, it appears to violate the law of conservation of momentum, in a similar way that virtual particles appear to violate the law of conservation of energy.
It sounds like crazy talk, and it probably is. But I can’t help but want to believe it’s true. And that, my friends, is how delusions get their start. (more…)
For some time now, we have been trying to determine whether or not God exists. In our most recent discussions, we have focused on the problem of unnecessary suffering and whether or not it can coexist with an omnipotent and omnibenevolent god. In order to do so, we have assumed the Christian premise: that God created this world. We have been working to show that there are implications of this assumption that make it untenable for us. So far, the argument could be summarized in this syllogism: (more…)
Over the past several posts, we’ve been making an argument for why suffering proves that God did not create this world. One crucial premise of the argument is that God should prevent suffering that does not serve a higher purpose. Some readers have questioned the veracity of that statement, so we will look at why it is that we can justifiably hold that position.
The premise is essentially based off the fact that we define God as both omnipotent and omnibenevolent–he can do anything, and he only wants to do good things. By definition, unnecessary suffering is suffering that is not needed in order to achieve some higher good. It serves no benevolent purpose. Thus, unnecessary suffering is “bad” in that it is not good. It would be preferable if that suffering did not occur.
So it should be obvious to us that an omnibenevolent being cannot cause unnecessary suffering to others, because to do so would be to do a bad action. But I believe that the qualm arises in God’s case when we attempt to extrapolate from that fact the position that such a being cannot allow others to cause unnecessary suffering. In other words, the issue is not whether God can inflict the suffering himself, but if he can stand by while others inflict it upon someone. Do we believe that a being can be considered all-good if they allow others to suffer unnecessarily? (more…)
In our last discussion, we came to the conclusion that, if this world is the Best Possible World, then there will be no unnecessary suffering within it. This is because suffering is negative outside of any context, and if it is also unnecessary, then its removal from a world would constitute an improvement. And since the Best Possible World cannot be improved, we know that there can be no unnecessary suffering.
It should be obvious to anyone that there is suffering in this world. Instances range from the trivial–such as a bee sting–to the grave–such as Hurricane Katrina. Suffering can be caused by humans, and it can be caused by other species. It can even be caused by inorganic forces, such as tornadoes. Suffering can be inflicted upon humans and animals alike. It is perhaps the single most unifying phenomenon in the world: every single one of us suffers at some point. We cannot contest the fact that there is suffering in this world. We can only ask whether or not that suffering is necessary to some greater good or higher purpose. (more…)
There was a lot of confusion and many questions following the release of “God Created the Best Possible World,” so I am going to dedicate this post to clearing up as much of that as I can.
Hashing Out the Argument
I did not have a request for this made known to me, but on the chance that it helps people understand the entire argument better, I have written out a complete, syllogistic form of my argument that God must have created the best possible world: (more…)