Sunday, June 28, 2009

God Or No God?

It is often said, “without God, there would be nothing.” Ehhh.....really? How would anybody know this to be true? Also, what is nothing? Possibly, thinking about the emptiness of space, one might be tempted to claim that empty space is nothing. However, empty space is not empty (for there is an almost endless supply of particles constantly coming in and out of existence in the vacuum of space) and space itself is not nothing. So it seems to come up short as to what might constitute nothingness. Furthermore, it seems any attempt to define what nothing might be becomes something in itself. Translation: the Universe is something in every conceivable way!

As such, how could anybody know what nothing is? So the argument can no longer be, “without God, there would be nothing.” It is now, “without God, there would be something else.” But once again, how would anybody know this? Could it be that nothingness is intrinsically impossible? Maybe if there ever was nothing, it decayed into something because nothingness is inherently unstable and unsustainable. Do I believe this? Not really, I’m simply posing it as an idea of what could be.

I don’t think one particular explanation of reality is any more likely than the next. If I had to guess, I would say nobody has the answer. It was attributed to J.B.S. Haldane as having said, “I have no doubt that in reality the future will be vastly more surprising than anything I can imagine. Now my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.”

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

To Be Or To Believe?

Why does one need to believe anything? Why can't he just be? The “real” person seems ultimately to be what he or she does, not what he or she believes. So might it be irrelevant to get encumbered in beliefs?

I would much rather somebody forgive me than tell me he believes in forgiveness! It might be pointed out that one needs to believe something. But so much of the time we fail to act according to our beliefs anyway. Furthermore, I don't think failure to act in accordance with a belief necessarily means it is not believed. This is why belief is ultimately futile.

The essence of one's being, who he really is, is the true test of what he “believes”. In this sense, there is no need for him to believe anything. It is just to be. And this being will manifest itself as doing which is ultimately the only useful purpose of any coax us into doing it.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

How To Become A Better Person

A simple but profoundly wise message read on a bumper sticker: Be the person your dog thinks you are!

On The Origin Of Bad Traffic

I live in Atlanta, GA. The typical topic of conversation here is the “dire” traffic situation. But I must say having come from Chicago, what in holy hell is the big deal with traffic here? Having visited L.A. and New York, my response to complaints of Atlanta's traffic is HUH? Does it take more time to get places during peak periods? Certainly. Name any other city of considerable size where this is not the case?

Face it! In today's world, or perhaps any other, if one chooses to settle down in a city of significant size, traffic will be an issue. When large numbers of people live in a relatively confined geographical area, it will take time to get places, especially during peak periods.

As such, please stop this nonsense about Atlanta having terrible traffic congestion because it does not have adequate public transportation! Not to say this is false but only to say that Atlanta's dearth of transit options has little to do with its traffic congestion. Large numbers of people trying to get to the same few places at once is the real culprit behind traffic congestion. Choosing to live in a big city because of its amenities must be weighed against other issues like traffic congestion. Everything is a trade-off!

Where Do Words Come From?

One of my clients asked me whether “bacheloring” is a word, for whatever reason. I thought to myself, “why does it matter whether it is a word?” I told her to make it a word!

Who, can we reasonably ask, is the Authority on introducing new words? God? Some super smart person? Presumably new words must come into existence here and there, otherwise how would we have any?

Were all existing words meant to be as if some cosmic force necessitated them to be so? Decidedly not! Words do not seem to be like, say, gravity. For no matter whether we want gravity to be this way or that, it is only exactly the way it is. The same can not be said of words. They are merely arbitrary conventions.

But once again, who is entitled to make the determination as to what can or will be a word? Does it require an advanced degree in astrophysics? Computer science? Perhaps in English or Mandarin? How about requiring only somebody confident and assertive enough to make a word a word? Anybody can do this! There are few things more arbitrary than words. Except maybe opinions.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Matter Of Perspective

I have a passion for putting things in perspective. Take an orange, say about 4 inches in diameter. Pretend it is our sun with a diameter of 1 million miles (864,000 is more exact but will be avoided for simplicity's sake). Earth would be a small pellet (just shy of 1 millimeter in diameter) approximately 35 feet from our orange. Pluto, arguably the most remote planet, would be a tiny speck (barely one-tenth of a millimeter across) about a quarter mile or 1,389 feet away from our orange. The closest star to our orange is, brace yourself, another orange over 1,700 miles away! It is the Alpha Centauri star system, in reality about 4 light-years distant (186,000 miles per second for 4 years) or slightly more than 23 trillion miles, similar in magnitude to our country's debt!

Brace yourself again. This “density” of oranges spaced almost 2,000 miles apart is actually quite high for the universe as a whole. Most of intergalactic space is far more desolate.

The next thing I'm going to tell you is probably far more incredible than either of the aforementioned tidbits but is hard to grasp in any meaningful way, as if anything associated with interstellar space is. Assuming the Milky Way's 100,000 light-year diameter to contain about 100 billion stars (though today's estimates are generally much higher, on the order of perhaps 1 trillion stars), if one were to imagine clumping them together such that their ends were touching each other, every last one of them would fit in our solar system!

Of course this could never happen because all the stars would collapse into one super-ginormous black hole if they came into such close proximity! But aside from this annoying detail, if it is assumed the Milky Way's 100 billion stars are on average about 1 million miles in diameter (slightly more than the sun) and our solar system is a sphere with a 3.6 billion mile radius (this being Pluto's average orbital radius), they would in fact fit with much room to spare.

The volume of space in our solar system alone is so utterly breathtaking it could cause cardiac arrest on the impressionable. With a radius of 3.6 billion miles, there are an incredible 195 octillion cubic miles of space in our miniscule little solar system! The supposed 100 billion stars (stacked end to end like cubes in the shape of a sphere) take up a mere 100 octillion cubic miles, about half the solar system's volume!

We can also measure the volume of all the combined stars as if their contents were dumped like liquid into the sphere that is our solar system. In this way, there would be far more room left over than stacking all the stars like boxes(remember, when you stack balls, there is much room “waisted” between the balls). The necessary volume for this configuration of stars would only be about 52 octillion cubic miles, or about a quarter of the volume of our solar system.

What the hell is an octillion anyway? It's a thousand trillion trillion! Or a billion billion billion! Or how about a thousand million million million MILLION? Pluto's orbit maxes out somewhere around 3.6 billion miles from the sun but there have been other observed objects farther out still considered part of our solar system. This additional space could potentially allow for the purported 1 trillion stars in our galaxy if the radius of our solar system was bumped up to slightly more than 6 billion miles yielding approximately 1 nonillion or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 cubic miles of real estate!

I know you think this must be wrong as I myself did when I initially pondered this idea. But suffice it to say, I have done the calculations and surprisingly it actually is the case!

On The Meaning Of Things

If you believe something like forgiveness is meaningful, why? Because God says it is or because it is meaningful in itself?

If forgiveness is meaningful in itself, a reflection of mine confounds the question of meaning for both the theist and atheist alike. For the theist, do you believe something like forgiveness is only meaningful if God exists and declares it so? In other words, if you abandon belief in God, would you continue to exercise forgiveness assuming, of course, you did before? If not, you are implying, however unconsciously, that forgiveness has no value apart from God (and of course His endorsement of it) meaning it is not meaningful in itself. This disturbs me greatly.

On the other hand, an atheist that believes forgiveness is meaningful in itself must address the question of how something like forgiveness can be intrinsically such? If the universe and life evolved, how could something like forgiveness be intrinsic to reality and hence have meaning in itself? This bewilders me.

I suggest an alternative to these 2 views. It seems the only way to be certain one can experience intrinsic meaning in things like forgiveness is to neither believe nor disbelieve in God. HUH? What does this mean? I have no earthly idea! Perhaps it just means to be unsure? Maybe God does not want us to know? I can think of at least one very pleasant corollary to this: not knowing should compel us to be humble and understanding of others we do not see eye to eye with.

Might not knowing simply advocate agnosticism? Whatever the case, bear with me. By being unsure, one is forgiving not because he believes God would want him to be, rather he is forgiving because he perceives it as meaningful in itself. Or perhaps it is simply in his nature to be forgiving? Could his nature originate with God? Perhaps. But then why is it everybody does not have this “Godly” nature? Does God overlook these “others”? If so, how would this reflect on Him?

In any case, by being unsure, one is forgiving not because he is acquiescing to God's “demands” but rather he sees meaning in forgiveness itself and/or is just naturally so. But he cannot rule out the possibility that God exists because if he does, how would intrinsic meaning in forgiveness (among many other things) exist without God or some such eternal force having attributed meaning to these things apart from all else? Keep in mind this admission that God might exist does not suggest anything beyond this. In other words, it does not attempt to define in any specific way Who or What God might be if He actually exists. Therefore, this type of view acknowledges the possibility that God exists but remains very skeptical and open-minded.

On the other hand, could forgiveness simply be a respected adaptation of human beings for the purpose of cooperating and harmonizing more effectively with our fellow brethren? In this case, it would not seem to have meaning in itself. It would simply be arbitrary to how we evolved and adapted as a means to optimize social interaction.