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January 21, 2013

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There is no doubt, as you say, that science provides a better description of reality than religion does. Whether or not this better description results in "progress" however I believe is open to question. You write, "Individuals and species which can accurately sense the situation they're in do better than those which can't. Hoping that a saber-toothed tiger isn't lurking in the bushes, when one actually is, can lead to one less overly optimistic early human."

When I look at the world we are living in, the elephant in the room is population. When I was born less than 50 years ago (not much less), the global population was estimated at about 3.3 billion. Now at 7 billion. Certainly science and technology have contributed to this growth. But this trajectory is plainly not sustainable. The methods of the "Green Revolution" in agriculture, once so promising, are now contributing to the death of arable soil on a global scale. It seems clear to me that whatever the true carrying capacity of the world is for human life, we will use technology to take us to that edge, and over it. Progress toward a brick wall, as fast as we can fuck.

What religion might have to offer, if not greater technological understanding, is at least some wisdom in how that understanding may best be applied. Rather than spending all of the proceeds of the energy and industrial revolutions on ourselves, it would have been wiser to ask a few questions about the future first. But that is not the forte of people, scientific-minded or not.

I predict that our greater understanding of weapons, the functions of the brain, and our helplessness to feed everyone that we can save from illness, will result in a dark future for most people. A scientific fascism on a scale never dreamed by the past centuries many dictators.

When the Iron Curtain fell, people celebrated the victory of Capitalism over Communism. I felt then, and still feel today, that the jury is still out on what we call Capitalism. In the same way, you may crow now over the progressiveness of science and its supposed superiority to religion; I say the jury is still out on where this "progress" is actually taking us. We will have a lot more data to analyze soon enough.

Progressively more verifiable information about reality can't help but bring about a more humane and environmentally sound society if we're learning about ourselves as well as everything else, and religion is not conducive to self-knowledge.

Science may progress, but what is it progressing toward? Now that there is strong evidence from the Large Hadron Collider and corroborating data from CERN indicating the discovery of the Higgs Boson, humanity has reached near-certainty with respect to how matter is constructed and acquires it's mass and momentum.
However, we are no closer to figuring out WHY matter exists than we were when the first humans became conscious. This is a fact that science will never be able to come to terms with.

Life has no meaning whatsoever, and that realization is, for me, simultaneously unsatisfactory and totally liberating.

Willie R, nicely said. "Simultaneously unsatisfactory and totally liberating." Very much how I feel also.

Today I listened to a podcast interview of Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist who has written several book about modern physics.

I heard him explain that the Higgs particle really is a field. In fact, everything is a field, or combination of fields. The cosmos is more continuous, deep down, than separate particle-like.

Don't know how this changes my life. But the notion is cool. Reality is weirder than we ever will know. Not that I know this for sure.

Holy cow...this is the second time in the several years that I have been reading your blogs that you, Blogger Brian, have actually mentioned little ol' me in a comment. I sort of consider myself your resident "misanthrope", inasmuch as I am often wont to counter your more upbeat postings with a dose of pessimism. The fact that you allow it without calling me out on the carpet attests to your balanced approach to our (humanity's) existential situation.
I guess we are all entitled to our "say" in your world as long as it is not clearly irrational.

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