Wednesday, May 02, 2012


Indicators of God II

Is Donnie "sucking up"? Wolves have bigger brains, but dogs have better ones.
Hell, Neanderthals had bigger brains than Cro-Magnons. It's the links that matter.

. I suppose I have to thank Brizoni, because I was planning a more leisurely discussion on this topic. I deliberately didn't use the word "proof" because there can be none. I wasn't planning a veiled offensive promoting Christian gospel, although I'm well aware that any approach to this subject is immediately attacked as if that were always the only point of mentioning God. I wasn't even building an argument. I was suggesting that there are perspectives from which, in the absence of go-for-the-throat legal logic, anyone at all might agree that there's something to ponder about the concept of divinity. For example, I purposely left out the strongest actual argument for God, that the most systematically atheist governments in history, all products of the twentieth century, have murdered more people than all other civilizations over 5,000 years combined. In his attempt to trash my oblique inferences, Brizoni inadvertently declared the precise reason why such governments felt entitled to slaughter so many human beings in the service of their rational ideologies. And by the way, the boldface is his:

Not sure how much more simply I can put this. If man's rights (and meaning and justification) come from God, man might not have rights, because God might not exist. How do you propose to make God work under these conditions? Convince everyone to just pretend that there's no reasonable, credible doubt that God exists? You gonna put that genie, of all genies, back in the bottle?

This is my pup, I matter above all others in my pack, and therefore I will do anything to ensure his survival.

Basic social contract stuff. Now that God's out of the picture, it's simply time to re-up. We need to have an explicit cultural dialog that says, to paraphrase you-know-who, I won't sacrifice you to my ends if you won't sacrifice me to yours. No God required. Just an agreement among those who wish to live and live well. I'm dismissing this with a wave of my hand because that's all it takes.

Why should anyone want to live? Well, if life isn't an obviously preferrable alternative to oblivion, I can't help you. Not even God could.

...there are (way) fewer than a million wolves alive in the world today and more than 100 million dogs, the supposed offshoot more notable for altruism, loyalty, and, well, love than any other species.

Sucking up, to be flip, is how dogs thrive as a species. That's the adaptation that works for them. True enough. But do you want to live on the same terms a dog lives? Or do you think human beings are entitled to something more dignified? Tell me how belief in a God who created us as abject sinners is going to help with that. I can't wait.

With a single "wave of my hand," he dismisses thousands of years of moral questing by brilliant men. And in service to his polemic, he also sees fit to demean the intricately interesting history of dogs: "Sucking up, to be flip, is how dogs thrive as a species."

He is uniformly reductionist, dismissive, and to use his own characterization, "flip." Atheism is the integral of philosophy, collapsing complexity to putative postulates, which are by definition themselves unprovable assumptions. His tone of denunciation is worthy of the Inquisition, but the Inquisition only managed to kill a couple thousand people, whereas atheism has killed more than a hundred million in living memory. How is that "something more dignified"?

But I repeat: I am not mounting a legal argument. I am saying that the universe we live in is more interesting than an integral. It's worth looking at and thinking about. I wouldn't even venture into such waters if I weren't allowing the possibility that there is no God worthy of the name. Contrary to another of Brizoni's prosecutorial charges, I'm not motivated by fear of a godless universe. I'm motivated by curiosity and wonder. And a recognition that the grand sum of things is way bigger than I am, meaning that the appropriate routes of exploration involve expansionist thinking more than brute reductionism.

Our technological development as a species is not as much about empires as about the creation of ever more useful metaphors by which we can learn more about ourselves and our universe. Chaos Theory, for example, was the antonym of the integral. Too much simplifying ruled out the incredibly fascinating stuff that happens in equations that don't work out even (uh, 98 percent of them). Think about pi. The very definition of a universal infinity of application descending into an infinity of finer and finer distinctions.

Which -- and this is where I insist that I am making no argument as such -- I am minded of music. Pi's nonrepeating decimals are analogous to the apparently, if not provably, infinite creative opportunities of a truly unique phenomenon. How can music do what it so obviously does? I won't write an essay about it, because there's only one point that matters. Music and human response to it is not a rational but an irrational effect. Mathematicians have labored to define Bach and Mozart in their own terms, but they wind up explaining nothing. Because they're nowhere near explaining the ear that hears and projects the creations no one ever heard before. In the bad old days, the philosophers wrote seriously about the "Music of the Spheres," believing that God and music and the universe were closely related. They were dead wrong about that, of course, as I'm sure Brizoni will make clear in his next Light Brigade charge.

Except that 20th century science did provide us with a possibly instructive metaphor. The hologram. A three-dimensional image that somehow contains the whole in every single part, no matter how small. Any music belongs to all music, and perhaps it also contains the entire universe. Just as the shapes of leaves are endlessly repeated in the Mandelbrot set. Or, to put it another way, pi.

I'm not done yet. I know Brizoni will grab Glamdring or Excalibur and come headhunting again before I post the next post on this subject. But in the interim, I'll ask you all to take a look at this video and tell me that the whole story of the universe and life on earth is really reducible to entropy, a constant falling apart into more and more magnificently artistic demonstrations of order:

How did crazy Van Gogh see this unless the whole is always embedded somehow?

I knew you could do it. My faith in human folly is yet another infinity.

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