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July 29, 2010


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Parrot Head !

Hello Churchless, just dropped by to see what you are up to - I'm pleased to see that your colorful plumage pleases you.

As usual, your post strikes me as confusing and paradoxical. To paraphrase, "believe what you will, believe as you please, believe absolutely anything at all... but don't believe in absolutes!"

But what the heck, paradox is fascinating.

Brian from Colorado, I don't see the paradox you're referring to. Absolutely, people are free to believe in absolutes. Do I say they couldn't, or shouldn't? As Flanagan said, there's a difference between "asserting" and "saying." Asserting an absolute is different from saying an absolute, as a mere belief rather than objective fact.

My main point in this post is that we can't expect other people to believe in our beliefs, whether they be casual loosey-goosey beliefs or serious fundamentalist beliefs. I also can't expect other people to like the same clothes I do, or the same music, or the same anything.

To me, it's like saying "You're free to go wherever you want." That could include staying absolutely still. Likewise, saying "You're free to believe whatever you want" would include accepting someone else's absolutist beliefs if someone wanted to do that.

Here's another good Oregon example of relaxed, hang loose "spirituality" -- the Faerieworlds celebration in Eugene that's happening this upcoming weekend.

I just a newspaper article about the event. Apparently thousands of people from all around the country come, dressed up in creative idiosyncratic fashion as their favorite fairies. No stock Star Wars characters or such; the vibe is to fashion your own unique costume.

Friday is good fairy day; Saturday is bad fairy day. Don't need to change your costume. You just act differently.

This is an example of a lifestyle that people enjoy and get into, but don't take all that seriously. Meaning, I doubt that many participants really believe that fairies exist as objective fact, but they enjoy playing at being fairies.

That's the way religiosity can be taken also. Someone can play at believing in God, while knowing that almost certainly God doesn't exist.

Thanks for the clarification. But if I have this right (likely not!), you believe in a realm of "objective facts" that hold primacy and exist independently of your conscious being. I'd argue that establishing the verity of such a claim is no more feasible than establishing the truth of the Jehovah Witness bible, Book of Mormon, etc. Despite your "believe whatever" creed, your commitment to an objective scientific worldview seems pretty absolute to me, although you've got no problem selling it to others. One might call it the rock upon which your churchless church is grounded, I suppose. How that's not just one more instance of "mere belief" eludes me, I must admit.

If you're ever curious about exploring the curious notion of "objectivity," a little more deeply, I'd recommend "Quantum Enigma" by Rosenblum and Kuttner - two renegade physicist in the Church of Scientism, fer sure.

But I gotta run. Lacking your undoubtedly vast fiscal resources (and very fine regalia), I depart to address certain employment-related issues. Take care!

ps. I've read Flanagan as well. He strikes me as a sincere fellow, but one who's doomed to chase ever-receding shadows that he'll never quite catch in his materialist web.

Brian from Colorado, thanks for the Quantum Enigma book tip. You've just added to Amazon's profit margin. The book sounds interesting, though reader reviews imply that I'll need all of my brain cells for the last 50 pages.

You're right: I am attached to the idea of objective reality, as, seemingly, are most scientists. The notion that we create the world through our observations of it seems unduly anthropomorphic to me. I also wonder how it is that the universe managed to do its thing for the 14 billion or so years before conscious human observers came on the scene.

Following the principle of simple explanations are best, it just seems more likely that the universe exists whether or not we humans do, but that we're only able to observe what we're capable of observing (bats and snakes "see" the world differently than we do, for example).

"That is, do not assert that "Allah created the universe" is true."


Aren't the physicalists doing the same thing by asserting the primacy of matter?

Granted, they don't phrase their position quite the same, but it's their position nonetheless when followed to its logical conclusion:

If matter is the cause of everything that exists, then it follows that matter is self-caused.

There's zero proof or evidence that matter is self-caused or that matter exists as a thing-in-itself without a cause. Yet either or both propositions are asserted as true, by consequent, in the primacy of matter doctrine.

John, here's the difference between religious creation stories and scientific theories.

We are living in this universe. We are part of it. We can observe it via our natural senses and sense-aiding devices like telescopes.

Physical matter/energy as we know it clearly exists. So it isn't a wild stretch to say that it has always existed. After all, it exists!

By contrast God, or some other supernatural reality, isn't apparent. Not being apparent, we can't say that a non-physical realm exists, much less that it has existed forever and/or is the cause of the physical universe.

So it isn't fair to equate religious and scientific views of the cosmos. Seemingly something always has existed, or how could our universe have come to exist?

The simplest explanation, which generally is favored by science, is that material matter/energy always has existed. Now, the ultimate nature of this matter/energy may be so refined as to barely be worthy of the name "material" (if this turns out to be strings, for example, infinitesimal bits of vibrating something-or-other).

You seem to want some proof that matter exists without a cause. Yet what proof do you have that God or some supernatural force exists at all, much less without a cause? If you desire something that exists without a cause, why not assume this is matter/energy, rather than something which doesn't appear to even exist?

Hi again Blogger B.

I prefer to fancy that we co-create reality (whether deliberately or inadvertantly) through the auspices of our underlying connection to all other things (seen and unseen). I also suspect that the standard convention of physics whereby our participation in reality is based on simple "observation" is probably an artifact of the reductive nature of the experiments.

You make a good point about the missing observer issue, which is something I've often pondered. With that in mind, I'm tempted to suggest Patrick Harpur's "Daimonic Reality," except I worry about the potential for you to fling it across the room in disgust at some point and thus inadvertently damage the fine wood paneling in your well-appointed study... : )

"If you desire something that exists without a cause, why not assume this is matter/energy, rather than something which doesn't appear to even exist?"


It's not that I desire something that exists without a cause. I just can't get my head around the idea of an infinite regress, so by default I assume that something (X) exists without a cause. As far as assuming matter rather than what I'll call spirit, in my mind it's a false dichotomy. Citing an earlier quote from Teilhard as an example:

"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience."

I'd define my experience of existence as: I am a human being having a spiritual experience AND I am a spiritual being having a human experience. Rather than choosing one over the other, that most accurately describes reality as I experience it.

I know I have arm and legs, eyes and ears, but I don't experience myself as being those attributes; they're more like possessions of mine (the I) than the essence of my being. On the other hand, I don't experience "the I" apart from my physical body, so whatever "the I" is, it's somehow affiliated with physical reality, yet it doesn't appear connected to any particular, isolated part of my body.

So to describe my own experience of reality, it's more of subjective idealism AND objective materialism depending on if we're looking at ourselves or from our self (the I perspective). Then, from my own experience of reality, I just extend that view outward and upward into the cosmos. Granted, I'm not compelled to assert some sort of spirit, Cosmic I, God or whatnot, but based on the evidence of my first-hand experience of existence, it is a valid inference just the same.

John, I like your "both/and" rather (either/or) approach to reality. How you described it in your comment seems to be pretty close to how I see things also.

I have no idea what "spirit" might be, or if it is. But we do know that at the farther reaches of materiality. the matter/energy we know now melds into something so refined and, well, immaterial, that it could arguably be called "spirit."

Like you implied, in the end our words and concepts don't come to much, since reality has got to transcend or surpass our ideas about it. Nonetheless, we Homo sapiens are thinking creatures, so the most inclusive and wide-ranging thoughts about the cosmos seemingly would be closer to the truth than narrow, dogmatic ones.

Read with my new iPad that I love as much as the iPhone :)
I do agree that we can not say one storie is more true than another but somer stories have been critizised through the centuries is à scientific fascion. I do thinking these stories more important to believen in than the random stories that do also rise on the internet about strange believe systems and questionable paranoia. Not on this bLog though!

"I have no idea what "spirit" might be, or if it is. But we do know that at the farther reaches of materiality. the matter/energy we know now melds into something so refined and, well, immaterial, that it could arguably be called "spirit."


I'm comfortable stating, "I am and it is," but I really have no idea what I am or what it is. Quantum Theory seems to provide the most accurate model of reality, but at the end of the day, it is a mathematical model and hence what actually constitutes reality is up for debate or interpretation. It's kind of like gravity; we have the mathematical formulas to perfectly describe the phenomena of one body attracting another, but we don't know what constitutes the underlying reality that makes the math work.

Maybe the reductive nature of observation, that Brian from Colorado alluded to, is the paradigm that needs to be accommodated. I often wonder if there's a parallel between what we experience as the mind/body problem and the wave/particle duality in physics. Similar to a wave's continuity as it moves through space, consciousness seems to possess continuity as it moves through time. Further, the actual wave function is not of a material nature, though it manifests or is observed only through matter; that's somewhat similar to consciousness.

So whether we're talking about the process of observing and the thing observed (out there) with physics or the process of experiencing and the thing experienced (in the mind), it seems to me that ultimate reality lies at the convergence of an immaterial wave-function and a material particle. However, being part of that ultimate reality ourselves, we may never be able to gain the perspective to see ultimate reality for what it is and only know it through its effects.

John, nicely said. I agree with what you said at the end of your comment -- that we may never be able to know what ultimate reality is all about, as it is. In fact, it seems almost certain to me that we won't. Why would human consciousness be suited to understand the essence of the cosmos?

I like your mention of "ultimate reality lies at the convergence of an immaterial wave-function and a material particle." A lot to ponder there. But wouldn't ultimate reality be more than the convergence? Like, the entire system of how seemingly immaterial and seemingly material relate? (This might be what you are suggesting; I just wasn't sure.)


I haven't really fleshed it all out, but as a vague analogy: the ultimate reality of a circle is where the inside and outside of the circle converge. Then, like the inside and outside are predicated on the ultimate reality of the circle, the wave-like and particle-like facets are predicated on ultimate reality. It's like we're outside the circle looking in and the next instant we're on the inside looking out with no real explanation of what or how it happened.

As to how the two aspects/facets relate, I really don't know what to call it other than a relation. But yes I imagine the relation in itself, is just as much a part of reality as that which is related.

Boy, you're an ugly guy!

Peter, I can't argue with you on that point. But you should see how beautiful my dog thinks I am when I open the "treat drawer" and start to get a chew stick or biscuit for her.

You and Lady Gaga - spiritual twins.

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