Sunday, November 27, 2016

Affirmation

For some, an affirmation is a statement which one makes to oneself, often on a daily or other regular basis, or in advance of entering into each of the regular challenges life imposes. These may be self-boosting reminders of one's own abilities or determinedness to meet specific goals. Mine is directed more towards the Universe:


Why this? I maintain that all the gods of all the faiths have done nothing of unequivocal concreteness by which to earn the respect (much less worship) of humankind. Certainly not slavish, servile, sheepdom.

Have you ever seen an episode of a police procedural wherein some innocent person seeks for some reason to take credit for the crime committed by the guilty one? Perhaps they wish to protect the guilty one; perhaps they simply seek some snippet of notoriety, or feel some sort or responsibility for the wrong having happened. But however it happens, the detectives question the falsely claiming innocent one, having the advantage of knowledge of the forensic evidence, and so are able to trip the false claimant up on the details: "Why did you shoot him in the leg?" "Um, because he tried to run." "Actually, he wasn't shot in the leg at all." Such is reasonably seeable as the case with any false god claiming authorship of our Universe, but offering any account in contradiction with the vast forensic evidence of scientific discovery. To no such being, will I bow.

And if there is indeed a Creator at the fount of our Universe, then it is none of the claimants, and so not one which has made itself known at all, much less sought the bowing and scraping needed to feed lesser egos. And, in not so many words, this I affirm with my every day of simply living on.


Wednesday, November 09, 2016

On comprehending the infinite

The Ontological argument hinges on humans first being able to conceive the infinite.... to which I reply....

If you believe The human mind Can comprehend the infinite, Sit a bit And watch this GIF Until you've reached the end of it.


Saturday, November 05, 2016

The problem of the least deserving person in Hell and the least deserving person in Heaven

Theists have a wide array of topics on which to disagree. Which god to worship, how to worship it, or -- even within a specific sect of a specific religion -- which acts are "sin" and what steps need to be taken to avoid a bad afterlife outcome. Ah, but that is one broadly shared idea -- that there is indeed such a thing as a "bad afterlife" outcome and a "good afterlife" outcome, a strict dichotomy with a dividing line (somewhere) between those who arrive here and those who arrive there.

The bad afterlife.

As with all other things, the details of this are murky and disputed. Some believe that there is an eternal Heaven or other such situation to which the good folks go, and an eternal Hell or other punishing thing for the rest. Some believe that those who go to Heaven will be literally given better versions of their physical bodies from life on Earth, and will live in a physical Earth-like city with houses and roads (paved in the proverbial gold), and perhaps some other kinds of buildings and amenities, holy tennis courts and sacred golf courses. And it will be an existence of eternal contentment, with no experience of fear or adversity or challenge of any kind (so in those eternal tennis matches, every player wins the match).

And some believe that Hell is equally a place where souls are given physical bodies, only these are for the purpose of receiving endless physical pain inflicted on them, burning fire constantly scorching skin and melting flesh, sharp rocks leaving no spot to lay one's body down, barbed whips wielded by rapacious demonic beings, and other torments imagined by figures ranging from Dante Alighieri to heavy metal music videographers. This condemnation to torture is depicted as endless in time, with punishment continuing long after any wrongdoing on Earth has been equaled.

Others cast Hell as a bodiless place, more a state of being, really, of eternal separation from the god of their religion; and still others contend that there's a Heaven but not actually a Hell, but that bad souls are simply obliterated for all time (immediately, or after some period of punishment), all the information in them lost forever. A few theologies dare to imagine a Purgatory, an in-between place where some souls suffer while awaiting admission to that eternal Heaven, or perhaps while awaiting a determination of where they'll forever go.

The inevitable cutting-off point.

But whatever the design imagined for the afterlife, there is one necessary constant in dichotomous (or even trichotomous) scenarios. Of the billions of people who have lived and died in all of existence, there must be one pair who represent the cutting-off point. There is one person who "gets in" to Heaven despite being the least deserving person of all who do so -- that is, despite being the least deserving person relative to all other people who get into Heaven. And likewise, there must be one person who is condemned to Hell -- whether this means eternal torment, separateness, obliteration, or something yet unimagined -- who is, of all the people slated for that fate the least deserving of it. The person whom, if just one single additional person of all the billions who've ever lived were to be admitted to Heaven, why, he would be the one.

And, given the continuum of behaviours and lives and lifestyles across the estimated 101 billion humans to have been born at some point in recorded history, the last person to "get in" to the good afterlife will be barely, perhaps imperceptibly distinguishable in the balance of good and bad deeds (or thoughts) from the last person locked out of it. Imagining a slightly more (or less) merciful god doesn't do away with this problem. If the next one or ten or thousand people are allowed in, that simply shifts the point of dichotomy down to a different pair of virtually indistinguishable people.

Where this cutting-off point lies is another a mystery. The faithful certainly can't agree on it. Some will assert that all who believe (and only those who believe) in the right faith, and perhaps even in the right sect within the faith, get the good ending -- and that even those who were simply unknowing as to this faith because they were too young or too remote ever to have learned of it, are deprived of the positive afterlife. For these believers, the destiny of the unevangelized, and the incompetently evangelized looms large, because those people are doomed no matter what they did in life. Other believers will insist that faith alone will not suffice, but that even the most faithful must carry out good deeds and avoid bad behavior to qualify. Contrapositively to the first proposition, some even believe that only those who are good people will receive the reward, even if they are of the "wrong" faith. Some sects, like the Jehovah's Witnesses, believe in an absolute numerical cutoff, with only 144,000 getting into Heaven (interestingly, a number representing only a fraction of the number of members of that group now living, meaning even the vast majority of believers will get edged out based on population limits.

Alternatives -- absolute outcomes or infinite options....

There are a few ideas which avoid the jarring absolute of a cutoff point. There are, for example, absolute ideas. Some believe that the good afterlife is a reward which literally nobody merits, making it plausible that literally everybody gets whatever the bad afterlife is. Conversely, some claim that their god's limitless mercy assures that "Hell is empty," and so literally everybody gets the good outcome. Some theologians have even concluded that the only people who actually exist are those who get the good outcome, and all the rest are simply illusions of people.

A number of theological models posit reincarnation, which would allow individuals to simply live life over and over again, until they merit the good afterlife (which is itself an escape from the cycle of reincarnation). At least one commentator has theorized that there is only one soul being reincarnated and we are all incarnations of it, so that we will each of us experience every life which has ever been lived until we ultimately lead the last life leading into the eternal reward. And, naturally, there are other propositions presented in Pantheism and Pandeism, wherein everything was part of our Creator all along anyway, and simply goes back to it (possibly to experience the consequences of their own Earthly actions through the memories of those who experienced those consequences).

And, naturally, whether one sees the dichotomous nature of typical afterlife beliefs as problematic may itself be a matter of perspective. There is a certain amount of black-and-white thinking which permits for a stark split, with trust that the god in question knows just where to make the cutoff, and all above are in fact worthy of eternal Heaven (even if some are just barely worthy) while all below are deserving of whatever Hell befalls them. But, though most every religious person believes that both they and those they care for will end up all together in an eternal Heaven, there must be some doleful tossing and turning in the dark of the night over where, exactly, the cutoff lies, and whether it is imaginable that they'll fall below it -- since perhaps even less than firmly belonging in Hell, nobody wants to be amongst those very last people who failed to make the cut.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Pandeism: An Anthology, around the world!!



Pandeism: An Anthology shipping destinations.
Map of Pandeism: An Anthology shipping destinations.

To this date, copies of Pandeism: An Anthology have now shipped to, and been received by, dozens of our contributors and supporters around the world -- to more than forty cities, in eight countries, on three continents!! We have heard confirmation from recipients in widespread and diverse places, and so we expect that every contributor slated to receive one, and who provided their information, has by now received their designated book(s), inscribed with a message from editor Knujon Mapson.

A gathering for supporters and authors is tentatively planned for early December (probably the 9th/10th) in Los Angeles, California. Our literary agent will be traveling there in that period, and so will organize the event. Details about this and other such things will come -- and who knows, you may even choose to plan your own such event!!

Blessings!!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Dr. Robert G. Brown's view of the rest of "Pandeism: An Anthology"

[Of all the contributing authors whom I have communicated with over the course of this project, Dr. Robert G. Brown, Professor of Physics at Duke University, has always engaged me most thoroughly; I recently wrote to ask his opinion of the book, which has seen an author's edition circulated to the contributing authors in advance of publication. This was his response:]

I spent the last couple of hours reading the many entries.  I find that I disagree with nearly all of the arguments (of course, being an empiricist:-) but nevertheless found them reasonably entertaining.  I very much liked your "nested God" observation, which dovetails perfectly into my own argument and example with a bitstring -- even if a being exists that IS somehow sentient and omniscient of its Self and all of the visible Cosmos, it cannot ever be certain that it is not embedded in a still larger dimensionality, any more than six bits of a bit string can "know" the true value of an 8 bit string it is embedded in.
Similar recursive arguments have been made before (Turtles all the way down, or IIRC in Godel, Escher and Bach by Hofstadter) but these arguments do fail to take into account that in order for a hypothetical deity at some intermediate level to >>think<<, they require two things: time to think IN (and an entire dynamical system capable of change, as thought is a dynamic process) and entropy.  The latter >>requires<< that they be embedded in a larger, and unknown, dimensionality.

But this breaks the recursion.  In order for meaningful sentience to exist, the sentient being requires a source of entropy.  This is a provable statement in switch-based computation (including neural models):

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landauer%27s_principle

To put it another way, "thinking" produces entropy at a very fundamental level, the level of the dynamical change within the switching systems themselves, and this entropy is irreducible relative to the thoughts encoded on the switching units.  In the case of our own sentience the entropy source/sink is obvious -- the unknown or imperfectly known state of everything that is NOT us.  There is no reason to think that a hypothetical God would be able to think, in meta-time, without a similar entropy source, which provides the "directed randomness" we associate with "free will" -- thinking thoughts that are not obviously Searlian Chinese Room entities produced by a lookup table.  But this means that true extensive omniscience and sentience are mutually exclusive -- an omniscient structure has zero entropy and hence cannot "think" in any useful sense of the term.

Hence if a very "large", "powerful" (in deliberate quotes), Cosmos-scaled being DOES exist AND can think, it cannot be omniscient because thinking is a process of ongoing discovery of previously unknown thoughts.  We are knowING right now, we are not knowING all times.  A being for whom "now" exists cannot be omni-whatever and hence cannot be God.  For example, suppose that we are actually not observing a real Universe at all with our senses, but rather we are playing in a very, very fine-grained virtual reality simulation being generated by a Game Computer that is, in turn, programmed or operated by an Artist that is crafting every scene.  That Artist (or the Game Computer) are not God, any more than the programmers of World of Warcraft are God(s).  They exist, think, design, plan, in an entropy-filled world one level up.  If you want to imagine a Game Computer one level up that DIDN'T require engineering or a programmer but that is providing my experience of reality as a simulation, well, that really takes something unlikely (the existence of an apparent Universe in which I have objective existence) and makes it EVEN LESS likely -- there is a Universe in which a Game Computer has objective existence that is creating the ILLUSION of a Universe in which I have objective existence.  And a programmer/designer of that computer less likely still.  And a Universe -- that isn't a simulation itself in which that programmer/designer can have thoughts in a nested set of simulations, each less likely than the one one before.

IMO it makes little sense to postulate even the first level of this recursion from the mere fact of our own sentient existences in what appears to be an objectively real Universe that is NOT a simulation presented to our senses by a still-more-complex computer.  So I do have a lot of difficulty with the assertion that a Creator god existed and "became" the Universe -- when did this happen (in some sort of time, because "becoming" is a dynamical process occurring in time)?  Where did it happen (in some sort of space with information structure capable of supporting thoughts and decision making and planning and all that)?

But now you have space, time, stuff capable of representing a dynamically changing state, and you are stuck explaining what Created >>that<<.  If the answer is "nothing", then space, time, and stuff -- all that we observe our own Cosmos to be -- doesn't logically require a creator.  If the answer is something, you shunt your problems up a notch AND introduce your meta-God where you have to (using your own argument) ascribe ever more complex properties to the one-notch up deity and explain why it created a Universe in which pseudodeities created one-notch down sub-Universes all the while thinking that THEY were the highest-level God -- or not.

A lot simpler to just assert that the Universe is what it is, no God (logically) necessary, no empirical evidence for a God, no DIFFERENCE in how things are if an unnecessary and unobservable God is lurking somewhere, so why bother with religion/God (pandeist or not) at all?


[At this juncture, I sent in response, the following:]

In short answer to your objection to the necessity of it, I would respond that Pandeism is more of an if/then proposition.... if ours is indeed an intelligently created Universe -- which surely can be assigned at least a nonzero probability -- then Pandeism offers the best explanation as to why it would exist.

[Dr. Brown replied:]


And there we definitely agree.  But it is very difficult to imagine what would constitute "evidence" for an intelligently created Universe, and according to the way I define Universe, it would be literally logically impossible because I cut off the nonsense involving recursive chains of pre-Universes that aren't really Universes but are only (at most) space-time continua IN a larger Universe by defining the word Universe to (correctly) refer to the whole thing, NOT just the apparent Cosmos (spacetime) we find ourselves in.

If one does that, one has no possibility of referring intelligence and design back to a higher order, and one has no possibility of "creation" as there is nowhere to be and notime to do preceding Universe.  That means that fundamentally, the Universe itself is NOT the result of intelligent design, and if our Cosmos is, it could only be because intelligence arose in the greater Universe without any intelligent design.

Now you are up against Mr. Ockham.  Why multiply (invisible) causes?  No argument you can make for intelligent design of the Cosmos will not equally well apply (at an even lower probability) to a super-Universe containing the Cosmos and supposed intelligent designer(s).  The Anthropic Principle presents us with a fait accompli either way, but believing in an intelligent designer of Cosmi that spontaneously arose in a superset Universe we have absolutely no evidence for leaves one with an enormous engineering problem (how exactly do you design and build a Cosmos?) PLUS the problem of figuring out why the designer -- faced with the same anthropic principle for its own intelligence in whatever Cosmos it is standing in in order to do be doing the job of designing and building -- is to be considered a "deity".

To me this is EXACTLY what you argued AGAINST in your article in the anthology -- trying to determine what color suspenders the hypothetical Creator wore when Creating our space-time using meta-physics in a meta-cosmos that supported the spontaneous evolution of its meta-intelligence WITHOUT INTELLIGENT DESIGN OR TUNING OF ITS COSMOLOGICAL CONSTANTS.  Why bother with all of that?  It is so very, very unlikely (given the evidence of our senses and a bit of reason). Not impossible, no, but however unlikely you think spontaneous evolution of intelligence, well-supported by empirical evidence galore, is in THIS Cosmos, it is that unlikely squared -- literally -- to have taken place one level up.

There is plenty of time to "waste" belief in the invisible when it becomes visible.  In the meantime, it just distracts us from building an ethical world with the entire responsibility for doing so resting on OUR shoulders, because there is no evidence whatsoever that we're going to get help from a deity, whether or not one "exists" or is a "creator" or just another really powerful transdimensional space alien with a hobby.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Pandeism: An Anthology -- publication date set, cover produced

Pandeism: An Anthology will publish on January 27, 2017!!

And here is the cover:



Notably, this book will provide the most extensive examination of both Pandeism and Panendeism published to date!!