June 27, 2010

God II

If you say atheism is faith, what's your definition of science? Is the force of gravity a concept of faith or science? I suppose you hold that atheism is based on the absence of proof, as opposed the observation of proof. I somewhat buy that, but I think the practical difference is not that much. If I've understood your post correctly, then it seems you'd be fine with "intelligent design" taught inside a science class--but maybe I'm misunderstanding.

June 25, 2010 1:15 PM

This was Clark's response to my last post "God". I responded that he "took the bait" because these are subjects I rant about constantly, sometimes to the chagrin of my family and friends.

Easy question first: I do not think that intelligent design should be taught in science class because, as I understand it (and I could be wrong about this), intelligent design takes God as a given and moves from there. Until there is a proof for the existence of God that is internally consistent with the parameters of science, then discussions of God belong in religion class, not science class. Although, are the discussions of the existence of God really all that different from discussions of the existence of dark matter?

As a quick aside, I never understood why religious types were always so eager to attack science. Quite a few scientists are religious . . . I used to have an Irish priest as a professor who said "I absolutely believe in evolution: I believe the world evolves according to God's plan". The two are not mutually exclusive, they are just different ways of seeing.

The concept of gravity is a concept of science, which requires a commitment of faith, as does any thought system. It is not a question of "faith" or "science", as if science is fact and faith is fiction. Science, like any other way of seeing the world, is a system of metaphor. What makes science special is that it is limited to the quantitative, or that which can be measured. This limiting of science makes it a very utilitarian metaphor system and, as such, a very useful system in a concrete way. This does not, however, make science more "true" than any other system of thought: think about the ocean, example. I would argue that Moby Dick tells you as much about the ocean as the description H2O along with a list of its other constituent minerals and all the organisms that inhabit it. On the other hand, if you want to make a diving apparatus or a deep water drilling platform, you are much better off consulting depth charts, geological surveys, etc. . . . you are much better off using science to design your tools.*

Even conceding this understanding of science v. other metaphor systems, we still tend to think of science as objective fact, which is where Clark's citation of gravity comes in to play. If science dealt exclusively in objective fact, then a fact, once discovered, would be forever immutable. We know that is not the case. Science continually perfects its metaphor, as any good thought system would: for example, it has not been that long ago, relatively speaking, that a geocentric universe was scientific fact. Sure, we have an understanding of gravity that is clear to anyone with even a minimal understanding of science, but do we feel the earth spinning? No, we need to have a certain level of faith to commit to science as a system of metaphor. Someday, the theory of gravity may seem as quaint as "humors" in the blood. Even now, with concepts such as chaos theory, fractals, and the uncertainty principle, the complex metaphorical nature of science is becoming more apparent.

* * * * *

Yes indeed, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. And yes, the difference is not much above the trivial when it comes to atheism.

It is conceivable to me (though perhaps not likely . . . but that is another discussion that I wouldn't even want to get into) that science may someday discover a creator. But even if science does discover a creator, God is outside of its realm. There are things that science is not designed to do, and crowning a God is one. In this sense, atheism cannot be based on science since it has nothing to do with science, since science neither proves nor disproves God.

I think it is perfectly logical to say "I see no evidence of a God, and therefore I believe there is no God." I think it is also perfectly logical to say "I see evidence of God in everything around me, and therefore I believe God exists." Like I said, neither statement is particularly interesting to me in and of itself. What is interesting is what actions are enacted on behalf of those beliefs. Given the huge destructive power that religion has demonstrated on the world stage, I tend to be sympathetic to atheism, even if I am not an atheist.

And yet, we have to be aware that atheism has its pitfalls as well: it is not accidental that all this Randian Objectivist bullshit has atheism at its core. And as much as the atheist would like to use science to escape the mythology of theism, the objective fallacy that underlies scientific positivism has a Western monotheistic model at its core - "one truth, one law, one word, one God".

All of which comes down to my fundamental problem with atheism: atheism, being solely defined by religious principles (even if in the negative), is just another religion. And not a very interesting one at that.


* Though perhaps an understanding of Moby Dick (specifically, its fundamental hubris motif) would have been useful to BP and the other operators of the Horizon platform.

June 23, 2010


Anyone even remotely versed in current theories of knowledge is aware of the difficulty of knowing anything, objectively speaking. For this reason, I become impatient with the "scientific" arguments against the existence of God: it is nothing but arrogance to declaim that "God does not exist" and expect that to be understood in any definitively factual way. For that reason, atheism is as much a leap of faith as theism, and should be understood and treated as such.

Again, via Nietzsche, the important questions: what is the root force of this faith? What are the implications of these beliefs?

Of course, it should be assumed that whenever someone says "There is no God" that he is actually saying "I believe there is no God". Positivism is its own destruction.

All that said, I've got no problems with atheism . . . as long as it understands itself as faith.


I still read the Bible occasionally . . . though, after 12 years in Catholic schools, I usually feel there are a lot of other things to catch up on. I don't object to the idea of God, it is just my current belief that the question of his existence is uninteresting and irrelevant. I did not leave the Catholic Church because of some crisis of faith (that came before I actually left), I left it because I object to its political structure.*

I do believe that the Christian God we see often in the Bible (the "jealous God") is worthy of our rebellion. It occurs to me that the behavior described therein would not be tolerated from a human being.**

I've been thinking about Buddhism lately.

* Incidentally, I believe the answer to the Church's current problems with pedophilia is not to allow priests to get married, theoretically allowing them some sort of sexual release (since when is marriage, or any kind of sexual relations between adults, a solution for pedophilia?). The best answer would be to ordain women and let them get into the power structure: if women had been in the power structure when the problems started to surface, there is good reason to believe that the cover-ups would have been nipped in the bud.

** I want to write on this more, but not before I revisit C. G. Jung's Answer to Job.

June 20, 2010

Best Sports Press Conference Ever

People who know me how much I love Ron Artest. I'm genuinely happy that he has a ring. This video is the best sports press conference I have ever seen.

Do yourself a favor and watch the whole thing. Not only is it vastly entertaining, it is genuinely touching at points. Among other things, it's really interesting how his years with the Pacers are always close to the front of his mind.

As one of the comments to the video said, how can you not love this guy?

June 19, 2010

June 16, 2010

Oh, Sick City . . .

Ok, I'm biased because I've been working with these people for going on 25 years now, but you seriously have to hear this shit: Dan has finally busted out some of the Sick City 4 he has been sitting on for god knows how long. You really owe it to yourself to to check this out.

Chopin Hour and Recordings all are first rate, and the recordings are excellent. Dead Oil Covered Dolphin is essentially Sick City 4 with me sitting in for Chris & some slight instrumentation tweaks. It is not as good a recording, but still decent.

I love the way these people play, and everybody is really good on this: but I gotta say, Chris really takes his guitar to another level here. He was always high on my list, but now he's very close to the top.

I've been listening to this stuff almost exclusively since Dan put it up. You should give it a try too.

June 13, 2010

Inequity and Injustice

I hadn't thought about how often we confuse these terms until I had a discussion about it today. Inequity is not the same as injustice.

In many ways, I am not equal to Bill Gates . . . certainly in terms of income or financial worth, and not in terms of speech either, since the Supreme Court has equated money and speech. But is my inequality with Gates an injustice? Of course not.*

We decide a base level of what is just and unjust. That base level could be equality . . . could be, but shouldn't be.

I wouldn't mind a little more money, but I certainly don't need as much cash as Bill Gates. I'm not sure I would even want that much money. Similarly, there are people who don't need or want as much as even my own modest financial worth.

Confusing inequity with injustice complicates any discussion of working toward justice in our culture - is absolute equality what we really want? Is it really even possible? We need to parse out our standards for justice with clear heads.

Or, to again paraphrase George Orwell, bad language leads to bad thought.
* Well, that money = speech thing is bullshit, but that's another discussion.

How a person gets achieves his financial worth is also a different discussion, and that could swing back to a just/unjust discussion. I use the example of Bill Gates advisedly here: I don't think that his methods of accumulating wealth are particularly unjust, though many feel his manipulation of markets is unfair, which again is not a direct parallel to unjust.

You can anticipate that this is a precursor to a discussion of capitalism and justice. I don't have any plans to post that discussion soon: it's a question that I have been and will be considering for a long time.

June 6, 2010

The "Damn, It's Hot" Edition of In Rotation

The Maxx's air conditioner is on the fritz, so the only way to chill out on the 90 degree runs back home from Etown is to run up 65 at 72-75 with the windows & sunroof open. Needless to say, all subtlety is lost in the rushing wind noise.

On a related note, I can't wait for Dan to get me that Brainbombs stuff.

In Rotation
Debussy: La mer (etc.)
This Heat: Out of Cold Storage
The Fall: Your Future, Our Clutter
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Your Funeral, My Trial
Blind Willie McTell: "Broke Down Engine"
Tom Verlaine: Warm and Cool
Sun City Girls: Tibetan Jazz 666
The Black Keys: Brothers
AMM: Nameless Uncarved Block
The Rolling Stones: playlist
The Yardbirds: playlist
The Minutemen: playlist
Black Flag: playlist
LCD Soundsystem: This is Happening
Shabazz Palaces: Of Light; Shabazz Palaces
Reflection Eternal: Revolutions Per Minute
Norman Minogue: Experimental Recordings (2009); The Secrets of Life and Death; Hawking and Mooging (all unreleased)

From the bookshelf
Shakespeare: Richard III; Troilus and Cressida; The Tempest
Stieg Larsson: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest; The Girl Who Played With Fire
Soren Kierkegaard: The Sickness Unto Death
R. D. Laing: The Divided Self