Caught on the Wrong Side of the Paradox

How Atheism Helped my Prayer Life 

Monday, November 16, 2015 1:20:00 PM

 

 

Growing up in a Christian household I was taught essentially to believe in God from an early age.  So, belief in transcendence was comfortable to me.  As a child, I was encouraged to see God's hand in everything from daily provision to direction in life.

Growing up in that environment, though, I found it can be difficult to fully appreciate Christianity and having a relationship with Christ.

Scripture always said things like 'the Kingdom of God is like a treasure that someone finds in a field and is so happy that they sell everything they have to buy the property and go dig it up again'.  For me, I kind of felt like my parents came into my bedroom one day and set this treasure chest down on the end of my bed and said "Here you go!"  

I also grew up in a Christian household that had relatively few dysfunctions (every family has some) which I attributed directly to my parents faith.  

Needless to say, I have always had a certain jealousy of those believers who have lived lives that have been battered around by the sin in their families and their own lives and when they find the freedom that comes in repentance and belief in Christ they have a profound understanding of what the treasure that is the Kingdom of God truly is.

But, how can you find something that essentially you have never lost?

Well, life has a way of throwing you a curve ball and s series of events in my life left me in a state that really made me question my faith.  I was in pain and it was hard for me to rationalize that a good God could allow this to happen to 'ME'  maybe others but not 'ME'.  Plus, my troubles had enough of my own sin in them to make it difficult to even approach God.  My thinking went something like this...

"God allows Christians all over the world to go through pain.  He doesn't rescue the Christian being raped by ISIS or the Christian being persecuted for their faith and ostracized by their culture.  Throughout scripture, all the people closest to Him died horrible deaths that I don't think I could die.  Why would God rescue me from my life's troubles and allow me to continue my perfect, little, relatively trouble free existence?  Why wouldn't he just let me fall and lose everything including my sanity in some kind of test"

I know this thinking sounds sick and many will say that is not how a loving God works bu it was something that I asked myself and the logic of it was inescapable (at least for me).  Now, after a time, I have actually come to think that God allowed it.  If you are suffering from depression and anxiety caused from some event in your life it may very well be God trying to 'knock the walls about in your living house'

It may make no sense and it probably will most definitely not be fair.

Would He do that?  Rather, would He allow that?

I tell you what it did do.  It motivated me for the first time in my life to really look at the options there were without God and if I really, really believe all this Bible stuff.  I am skeptical by nature and work in an engineering field so I tack more to the side of rational understanding of faith rather than emotional spiritual experience.

I happened across this gem by WLC.  How could it be that these rather simple yet powerful concepts have eluded me my whole life?  Why was it not told to me in the thousands of hours I spent at church services and Christian School?

I also came across the new atheists (Dawkins, Hutchins and Krauss) which seemed allot like the old atheists (Russell, Hume, Nietzsche) only angrier.  

I read some of the existentialists and realized the only one I liked was Dostoevsky.

I tried to look at it from a completely logical point of view and not be biased by my upbringing but I could not escape the fact that the universe began to exist and will have an end.  I logically could not get away how useless all this striving, toil and pain is if eventually it all is destroyed.    

In allot of the comment sections you always hear the argument 'But you can't prove god exists. I could believe in god if you prove that he or she exists'.  

I say, prove that your existence matters if eventually everything gets destroyed. Prove what existed the moment before the big bang. 

Or, prove what love exists scientifically. Give me an experiment that can prove that one person actually, really loves another person.  How would you even define the parameters of the experiment? 

You see journalists, who are probably political science majors, write opinion pieces about how religion is an affront to real science and that if you believe in God you are essentially stupid while science itself is built on the backs of Christians like Newton, Pascal, Euler and Leibniz just to name a few.

Take all the theists that provided a piece of the cognitive path that led to our current knowledge base and see if we as a race would be anywhere even close to where we are.  It tell you this, Newton alone did way more for science than Dawkins, Krauss, Hawkins, Nye, and Degrassi put together ever did.

We exist in a context that is incredibly orderly and allows us to predict things a priori.  In engineering, we know that this pipe can only take this much pressure based on this or that calculation or this cable can handle this much electrical current in a fault situation based on this or that factor.  We use the abstract language of math to predict the future outcome of causal events.  But still, there are so many parameters that we do not fully know or that are too complicated for us to control. 

In contemplating that there was no God and that everything is just the machine of the universe it gave me a sense of what inviting God into my life through prayer really means.
It means that the universe will go on ticking like a clock that was built and started but that God wants us to invite Him into the randomness and ultimately into the eternal parts of that machine.
That faith really is believing that He exists and that He wants to be a part of our lives and not push Him away like Cain did who only wanted to live in the machine as a machine without God.


He wanted to be separate, to live in the dark.


God’s plan ultimately will be completed before our universe ends but our existence on earth can include Him in it or not.  Like Cain we can decide to be separate and to not want God involved in the mechanism of our existence. Cain was a deist.  He believed (knew) God existed but he wanted God to just watch ‘from a distance’; to not be involved. 


Every time you pray you are affirming that you want God to be a part of the photons, protons, electrons, quarks and all of the interactions everything you are has with everything else.  You want Him to come in and be a part of the interactions; for it all to not just be some meaningless quantum calculation.


God made the universe and then He allowed it to run a certain way according to certain rules.  Prayer is asking God to come in and provide order to randomness, patterns from chaos, light from darkness.  

Christian Founding Fathers Didn't Want a Theocracy 

Christ is the King that you can choose.
Tuesday, September 15, 2015 12:30:00 PM


Christianity, by its nature, exists on a choice of belief.  

"Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved" seems to indicate that you are also free to not believe.

That is where the Christian idea of freedom comes from.  Even the staunchest Christian Founding Fathers recognized this principle and wanted a system that allowed them to worship and raise their families how they believed they should irrespective of the religion (or non-religion) of the monarch in power.  

I believe that is what the Christian and the Deist Founding Fathers had in common, an understanding that - Forced beliefs are not beliefs at all.

They believed that Liberty starts firstly in the mind and then goes out from there.   We are allowed, no matter how irrational or crazy, to think how we want. (who can stop us?)

The Apostle Paul said it starts in the heart first and goes out from there.

So when people say this is a 'Christian' nation founded on 'Christian' principles they are indirectly right.  There were more than enough Christian Founding Fathers to metaphorically shoot down any Constitution that they would have seen as a threat to their beliefs but their beliefs are also what allowed and one might say shaped those rights and freedoms. Like a mold at the same time allows and disallows the substance it is shaping to make something indirectly.

All other rights and freedoms must be derived from this or else it does not work.  

In Christianity, we are all equal because we are all sinners and require something (or someone) to save us.  It doesn't matter if you are a king or a peasant, free or slave, male or female.  That revolutionary concept is where true equality came from - a root of humility.  

Otherwise, equality turns quickly into egalitarianism and although it sounds good and looks good it ends up in a type of hell like Khmer Rouge.

 

Dostoevsky explaining Jesus 

Posted by Nate Friday, September 11, 2015 7:56:00 AM

"'without God and immortal life? All things are permitted then, they can do what they like". - Fyodor Dostoevsky 
Or, as Jesus put it...
"What does it profit man if he gains the whole world and lose his soul"


The 3rd paradox 'We did not choose to exist but we can choose to not exist' 

Thursday, August 27, 2015 11:53:00 AM

Was there a choice involved in you being born?  I know that when my wife and I wanted to have kids we 'chose' to try and have them which basically meant that we removed any kind of birth control and tried to increase the chance of getting pregnant.  Still it took awhile and there were a few tense months when we asked the question 'Can we have kids'.  Thank God, we have three healthy children now, but it is not that easy for many people.  In fact, it is down right hard.  Infertility affects allot of people. Some say 1 in 8 (12.5%) others say up to 20%. Now by all accounts that is a huge number. Especially, if you consider that there are two people who make up a couple.  That means that at least a quarter of people in the USA deal with infertility on some level. 

Now these are people who do not have a choice.  I have seen this first hand with my sister and brother in law who had a hard time getting pregnant.  In fact, it took a couple of years.  Every month that they didn't have a baby was like a jack hammer that drove them down deeper and deeper. It was heart wrenching to watch.  You wouldn't want to talk about someone who got pregnant around her and especially if someone got pregnant that wasn't trying.  Then, just to make life especially cruel they got pregnant! Yes, only to lose the baby.  Now for people who 'choose' to have kids this is what it can be like.   Your choice is superseded by some other 'choice' be it natural or supernatural.  You are at its mercy.

I only tell these stories to illustrate that the word 'choice' is not conclusive. Whether someone chooses to bring a human into the world or not does not necessarily mean they will.  

Another way to think about it is that we have a choice because someone else had a choice.  Our choice is contingent on the fact that someone else chose to have us.  If they would have chosen to not have us then logically we would not be able to choose to have someone else. So, the fact that we can choose is not because of a choice of ours.  Your choice belongs to a long chain of causation of many, many choices either virtuous or nefarious.  Whether you would like to admit it or not you very well might be the product of a rape 20 generations back.  Either way if that did not happen you would not be who you are (this of course does not make it right but that is another discussion). 

Looking at it this way can also be very sobering because logically the children you don't have also means the end of that chain of causation.  Your 'choice' is not just ending the chain for your children to be but also their children to be and their children to be.  You essentially have eradicated a whole bunch of future people.  Now this argument can also go to people who decide to not have more children.  I myself am haunted by the fact that I was a fourth child and what if my parents had decided at three children (like me and my wife) that they had enough? Well, thank God they 'chose' different (I assume they chose).

The only religion that I can tell that indicates that a human can decide to be born is Judaism.  
Unless I am wrong every other religion seems to indicate that you are born into a body due to some Karma calculation or that you begin to exist somewhere around conception.  Atheism believes that you are product of chance so no decision there, you are a lucky accident.  Really, from the naturalistic viewpoint, not only are you lucky, you are also a winner because your genetics have beat out other competing chains of causation (That rape 20 generations ago was a good thing for your evolution)

It is as if the world's family tree was started by one domino (a couple) falling and that one domino knocks down a number of other dominoes with each one of then knocking down a bunch more.  Hence, the tree metaphor.  All human existence could be recursively iterated through like the directory system on your computer (if we had all of the data).

Essentially, all of that data does exist in our DNA in a form since it is passed on from generation to generation always changing yet staying the same (we are all humans)

You can think about it even more granular than that though using the domino illustration further. Any individual human life can be thought of a time dependent series like dominoes lined up , one for each minute of existence, ready to be knocked down and all that is needed is a push to the very first domino to cause the sequence to start.  Now, the only rule is that two series must converge to start another series.  

There is no limit on the amount of times two series can converge (and they don't have to be the same series logically)

Now, unless you believe in Judaism you don't have a part to play in what starts your series. Every minute goes by and another domino falls, crashing into the next minute to start it falling. Now, none of us know exactly how many dominoes are in our series but we are all time dependent which means that you cannot take any one domino away from the series without stopping it (some would say killing it).  In other words, every domino in the series is as necessary to the series as any other.  You could not remove a minute from your life when you were, for example, two and continue being a human (a second, a millisecond, a microsecond, a nanosecond etc.. for that matter).

All of us, every living thing, in fact lives in this exact way.  The act of living means that you are existing in the present (your domino's are still falling).  

From a logical point of view then, an event that stops the sequence anywhere along the sequence would be considered something that stops that life, that kills that life.  You can't have the second minute without the first, the hundredth minute with out the ninety-ninth minute...

Every minute, second, millisecond, microsecond, nanosecond... is as necessary as any other and cannot be considered any less necessary than any other, logically.

I am not talking about when a so called soul is attached to its body here.  I am strictly talking logically about the sequence that we call life.  If life is valuable at all, it is valuable continuously and consistently.  At different stages of development in any kind of life it may require different resources to facilitate its continued synchronization with the present.  But, by its nature, to be alive and to continue being what it is (human, dog, fish, plant) its point in development in the now is as necessary as its point of development in any point in the past (or the future).  Although its usefulness and functionality (value) might change with its development, since its usefulness and functionality are dependent on the antecedents of prior less useful and functional development times those prior times have absolutely the same value as the subsequent times should there be any value at all.  

Which then of course leads to the real issue - Do any of us or does anything really have any value at all?    Now talking about value is hard because it is one of those words that can mean different things.  For example, value can strictly mean what amount of money someone will pay for something.  It also can mean how much money a person might have; like "His personal fortune is valued at" or "My Net Worth is".  Or, someone's value might be by what they can give to a society; their productivity and utility.  Or, we can have value to each other, like how I value my family or I am valued by my parents.  But apart from individual value based on quantitative and qualitative properties we may have do we have value by simply being human?

And, if we have value, do we all have the same value?  Because value is not necessarily a constant, it can change (as mentioned above).  You may be the love of someone's life only to become their enemy.  Your parents may not have shown you love and affection as evidence that they valued you

In America, a society that is the first of its kind in history, our founding fathers tried a radical approach to this human value question.  It essentially is the idea that every citizen has equal value and because they have equal value they intrinsically have equal rights.  (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness)  

So, no matter what value your parents, your friends or even you have of yourself, your country gives you value for just being human which is pretty cool (Yeah America!).  Just because you began to exist in America means that as long as you are human (that is the only stipulation) you have value and consequently civil rights.

What are those intrinsic rights?  Well, life for one.  You exist and since you exist you have the right to continue existing.  No one can take your life from you and not face severe punishment (lose all of their rights).

The right of liberty, which basically means that you are free to do what you want to.  If you want to move across the country you can.  If you want to color your hair purple you can.  Essentially, inside of the laws of not hurting others and decency you can do and believe pretty much what you want. You can pursue 'happiness' whatever that means for you.

Now, it was not always that way.  In fact, you had no value unless you were related to the royal family in some way or were useful to them.  In the 13th century one document called the Magna Carta  started to change all of that. The one thing the Magna Carta did was limit the value of the nobility and at the same time give value to normal people.  It, in effect, provided a solution to the paradox of humanity where there are people that seem to be worth more and rise to the top along with their family while all of the people underneath them are worth less and oppressed.  This has happened since monarchy was invented, which goes way, way back in human history.  Every truly free democratic country mimics the principles of the Magna Carta in some way with America being the first country to fully embrace civil liberty. Hence, the Statue of Liberty.

So, you have value and rights bestowed on you if you are American (or Canadian, or Australian etc..) Now, where does this wonderful concept of the basic concept of our intrinsic value and consequent rights come from?  You see one of the issues with people (call it a law) is that they start to act a certain way when they are in a position where their value is perceived to be greater than the value of others.  Throughout history this human law has been in effect.  It is the law of pride.  Whatever gives you an advantage over another person (strength, intelligence, beauty, wealth, religious piousness, family born into, what country one is from) can make you perceive (and believe) that you are more valuable when juxtaposed with others.  In fact, we all have an internal rating system that continually compares ourselves with other people on the properties that we comprehend are the most valuable to us  -  "I am more wealthy than him"  or "he is wealthy, but he cheats on his wife" or "I am hotter than most people I know".  We size people up when we meet them to see if they are worthy of our time and friendship or if they are a threat (nothing worse than genius who doesn't have to work to be smart).  Are they friend material or a project?  Are they intelligent or a dumbass?  Do they know how to have fun?  

That what gives us value can bring us together but can also isolate us.  A pretty girl might have lots of friends and companions because she is pretty until some accident takes her looks away and then those same people who valued her for her beauty find it hard to be seen in public with her.  

My point is that human value to other humans is a setpoint on a sliding scale based on an aggregate of what is valuable to them (at that time in their life).  Ones own value is a recursive feedback loop to that same setpoint.  The writers of the Declaration of Independence came in and said "No, everyone has a base level of value" to put a low limit on everyone's sliding scale but also "Everyone, has an upper limit to their value (and consequent power) as well".  It is like it is a mathematical constant similar to PI or the speed of light in a vacuum or like how everyone gets the same amount of money in the beginning of monopoly.  Why? because human societies successful functionality is a phenomenon like any other scientific phenomenon.  Why do light photons travel the way they do?  Why does electricity behave according to certain rules?  They are phenomenon that can be hard to understand from a common sense point of view but that is the way they work.  When human society is run giving the lowest members the same value and freedoms as its highest members an odd thing happens - it works allot better.  Call it forced humility or maybe forced pride depending on how you look at it.  Now, to be clear, this is not the same as communism that applies this principle to economics.  

Chesterton speaks of this paradox of the "moral dilemma of balancing pride with humility" and our Constitution and Declaration attempt to balance that paradox with equality and civil rights.  They can only limit it though so that the system will not spiral out of control (and end up at something like Fascism).  It is each individual's job to enforce that balance in their own life. 

It is important to note that pride generally is not a choice where humility is.  All humans are born with a default sense of pride.  Pride, by its nature, is irrational.  I see this with my son who says 'I am a really good at ' - FILL IN THE BLANK.  He is at the age where in his mind he thinks that he is good at everything even though he is not.  It is not that he won't be but his pride is irrational. He thinks himself the best at something he really knows nothing about. 

Now, I didn't teach him this it is just how he is.  Kid's (humans) are braggers by nature they have to learn (generally through losing) that they need to practice and work hard to get good and then as they continue to grow up, depending on their exposure, they learn that there are even more people out there that are better than them which continually provides humility.  Ignoring humilities lessons leads to irrational pride.  Irrational pride is dangerous because once reality sets in and one truly realizes that their value is based on a prideful mirage your value setpoint can drop quickly causing you to lose control.  

Many people have to readjust their personal value setpoint when they start college and find out that even though they may have been the most popular, the best looking and best at sports in high school in reality they may be just average or a bit above average.  This can suddenly make you question your value.  A readjustment of what makes up your value setpoint is needed.

Which leads me to the choice to not exist. I think that generally most people commit suicide because they believe that their life is not worth living - that they have no intrinsic value.  Something has happened that causes them to spiral out of control and their personal value setpoint has gone below the low low limit where even the very value of their life is in question.  This can be caused by a number of things but usually it comes from the personal value property that is the 'value we have to others' or even worse 'the value we perceive we have to others'.  The opinions (their value properties in relation to us) of other people (especially people that contribute lots to our aggregated value setpoint) can have a devastating effect on our own value.  That is why caring too much what people think can be very very dangerous.  Maybe you find yourself in severe debt or you made some really foolish decisions and now you are in a hole and are trapped because you don't want people to know and be devalued in their eyes.  Or, you are depressed and don't know why. Maybe it started from anxiety when someone of value to you died and you were faced with your own mortality.  Maybe one of your parents never demonstrated that they valued you and you can't understand how they could do that.  Maybe you are stuck in a nihilistic loop. Maybe you have just been diagnosed with a disease 

Listen, if your country says your life has value then maybe you should too.  The Low Limit on your value needs to be in place that no matter what you have done or what anyone else has done to you or thinks about you or what is going on in your life - YOU HAVE INTRINSIC VALUE!

I honestly think this HI-LO Value Limiting idea came from Christian scripture. (Hint: the word 'Creator' in the DOI)

I have struggled with the concept that we are all valuable to God or God loves everyone.  It seemed like one of those things you always hear but that doesn't really make any sense.  That was because I thought that if we all have the same value to God then really no one is valuable since value to me is a setpoint on that sliding scale biased by my own version of what is valuable.  This is irrational, though, and can only be possible because of you guessed it - my pride.

In reality, we all have a base level of intrinsic value to God that is the same Lo Limiter on your value but like the value and rights your country gives you - you can choose to believe in it or not (they are yours whether you believe or not).    It works in society and it works in the life of a single person as well.  Believe and focus on the fact that there is nothing that you can do that will bring you below that threshold of love and value God has for you and it will be a philosophical and emotional anchor that a weary, seemingless valueless mind may need.

Oh yeah, about my brother and sister in-law.  They ended up adopting a pair of beautiful twins (one boy, one girl) and just before the adoption was final they became pregnant and now have 3 beautiful children all within one year.

2nd Paradox 'We should not be here but we are' 

dubito ergo sum (“I doubt, therefore I am”) - Augustine
Wednesday, August 5, 2015 3:50:00 PM

We exist, at least we believe that we exist.  I am going on the assumption that if you are reading this (or listening to someone reading this) that you are a sentient conscious being that has a rational understanding of what existence is.  In other words, I am sure that there is no dog reading this or dolphin or whatever else that we could think of other than a human.  As much as we would like to think there are aliens or other beings that could communicate like us, as far as we know, we are alone in our cognition.

So, if you are reading this you exist.  You are here - Congratulations!  Pinch yourself or give yourself a big hug, something to let you know that you know who you are.

For something (anything really) to come about there must be a certain number of sequential events that are time dependent.  The best illustration is your family tree.  If you are like me you might find it hard to trace back anywhere before your great grandparents.  We know that we are here though and that we came from somewhere.  Most of us are lucky to know our parents and even though we were there at our birth we don't remember the event (hopefully).  Anyway, we can deduce that our parents came from their parents who came from their parents who came...

So, just from that, logically you can see the twisted path that got to you.

Most educated people in college level mathematics have studied statistics and know its ability to predict that an event could or could not occur IN THE FUTURE.  If something has already occurred well then we are 100% sure that it did occur.  Like you are 100% sure that you exist.   The probability comes into play for people who have not been born yet.  So when someone says what is the probability that I was born what they really mean is what was the probability that I was going to be born before I was actually born.  This clarification helps allot because that seems to be the main argument against this approach to finding value in a person mathematically.

Anyway, taking the mathematical approach you can see that the fact that YOU exist seems to be mathematically improbable (very very unlikely).

It gets worse than that though. Remember how you came to be is a result of a series of events, mentioned above and illustrated by your family tree, well, the conventional theory is that humans evolved from many many sequential events by chance from some single celled organism over millions of years.  Really, the probability this happened cannot be truly calculated
But, it did happen though. Humans did come about somehow (that is 100% certain) and unless the rules of mathematics have changed over time we can only use the tools we have been given and our intuition that this event is at the very very least super extraordinary according to our limited scientific observation (we have only really been scientifically observing ourselves adequately in the last what - 200 years? maybe.)

But, it gets worse than that.  The fact that the earth exists in a state that is even life permitting is incredibly improbable.

Now I know that there are many people arguing each way and really there is no way to conclusively prove either side.  At the very least, I think one should take a humble position on it.  Anyone that claims they can fully understand the math and can fully rationalize all of the factors can't.  It is a paradox - a mystery.  Does that mean we stop trying to find the answers mathematically or scientifically - NO. My point is that these situations exist and they force us to choose a side.  They force us to take a side in the paradox.  Whatever side you are on has a rational that supports why you are on the side you are on.  It is ludicrous to say though that you are on a side because you have proven it.  Some have been taught from childhood to be on a certain side and they have been told that you are crazy to be on the other side.  The other side has done the same.  Now some stay on a side because of faulty reasoning and that can be pointed out by the other side but many times that does not cause someone to switch sides.   Switching sides can only be done by looking into it yourself and weighing the evidence and what your own intuition tells you.  Now I am not even arguing for God's existence here.  I am only arguing for the two sides of the paradox that 'we should not exist but do'.  Some may say that the paradox is an illusion and made up and that really 'we should exist and do' but to me that implies that something is in charge of the 'should'. At best, it just seems to boil down to 'we do exist and aren't we lucky'. So, we take sides on the 'should' and the 'should not' but the 'are' we are in agreement on.


All we know is that we are here and that we are complex, very, very, very complex.
 

When I was around 9 I remember I had a radio alarm clock with the numbers that flipped
I remember that it stopped working for some reason so I thought I would take it apart and see what was inside.  I was curious.  I remember the blue of the capacitors on the circuit board and all of the parts and pieces that made no sense to me.  I remember that all I was left with were a bunch of pieces that ended up in the garbage.  My dad was a house builder so didn't know anything about electronics and had no interest in them.  So, I tried to understand it from books but could never grasp exactly what was going on.  Concepts like radio waves that are modulated sound waves traveling through space and inducing electric currents in my little radio transforming them back to sound went right over my head. Even back then, though, I was fascinated by the engineering that allowed this thing to do something that seemed almost magical. There was something inside of me that appreciated the beauty of the science involved. I think many people feel that same feeling and it is a great motivator.  Whether it is trying to get code to execute the way you want it to or to get an old engine to run that hasn't in awhile, there is a rush to it.

Now, focus that on our body and especially our brain like many people have throughout history.  Think about the feedback systems.  The efficiency to take in vast amounts of types of food and adjust to multiple environments.  As a machine our bodies are an engineering marvel. I think of the part in Terminator 2 where the chip left over from the incomplete destruction of T1 becomes the basis of the research done at Cyberdyne   (very paradoxical).  The point is that some technology beyond our comprehension has been dropped in our lives (we live in it) and we are only beginning to really understand how it works.  It is more complicated then anything man has created or probably ever will create.  It is the zenith that we try to reach.  We try to make mechanical, chemical, communication and computer intelligence systems all function together in ways that the multiple systems inside our bodies function, but all of these man made systems are rudimentary compared with even the more simplistic of earth's creatures let alone man.  We are like a 9 year old boy opening up a radio or Myles Dyson trying to figure out the technology of T1.

Or, look at nature from the engineering point of view and how ecosystems come together and symbiotic relationships and self regulating systems function. Out here in the Northwest US you can go to Mount Saint Helens.  It is humbling to stand on Windy Ridge and try and comprehend the enormity of what went on there.  The forces involved are massive and the destruction sobering. It gives you a tiny bit of perspective on the forces and the physics that are affecting our planet.  From the human scale these forces of weather, evaporation/precipitation, tides, natural disaster are massive and hard to comprehend.  Even though things go a little crazy sometimes  it is amazing it all works as well as it does.

Or, look at the cosmos and how our earth is positioned in just the right place in our galaxy to make the conditions on our earth ideally suited for life and especially human life. (Space is dangerous)

My point is that if you are a scientist or engineer and someone came to you with a device and said  'We don't know where this came from (maybe it is alien technology) but we know that it does this and this and this. We don't know how but it does it. Can you help us figure it out?' Would we conclude that this thing came about by random events over a long period of time?  I don't think so.  Our intuition says 'no' this device was put together using some sort of intelligence that is beyond ours at this time.  Why is this different for electromechanical systems than it is for biochemical systems?  Cells transfer and hold massive amounts of data using molecules way more efficiently than we do using electrical signals.  DNA is essentially a program that tells a cell how to reproduce itself in kind based off of a greater context of the organism as a whole.  I think of it as like creating an object from a class in programming but on an incredibly complex distributed scale with lots of Polymorphism.

Like Myles Dyson we too look into the machine of our universe, or nature, or ourselves for clues on how to advance.  The technology has always been there as long as we have, hidden, waiting for us to find it.  The Universe has not become any more or less complex as time has passed.  It is like a giant puzzle that keeps giving and giving.  I think the idea is so that we are completely overwhelmed by science, by beauty, by scale and in that state of wonder we are humble and thankful.

1st Paradox 'We Are Born to Die' 

'We Are Born to Die' - Shakespeare
Thursday, July 16, 2015 12:01:00 PM

In reading Mr. Chesterton I am starting to realize that one of the main things that has been missing from my world-view (or existence-view) is paradox.  Maybe not missing but rather not ranking as an important place in my thinking as it should be.  If Chesterton is the 'Prince of Paradox' then Christ must be the King.  There is something within us that dislikes and likes a paradox at the same time which of course is in itself a paradox (Hence, the success of Terminator)  Like 'nature abhors a vacuum' but we have vacuums all over the place and they are very handy, so I think paradox, once embraced, can be the only thing that gives relief to paradox itself. 

Here is a list of what I see as some base paradox's that exist in human reality that I think everyone has to come to grips with.  Many times you see children struggling with these paradox's as they become self aware.  At the very least we should be able to all agree that these paradox's exist if we exist.

There are many, many others but I think that many are recursive echoes of these main paradox's


The first paradox  'We are born to die'
The second paradox 'We should not be here but we are'
The third paradox 'We did not choose to exist but we can choose to not exist'
The fourth paradox 'The universe began and will have an end'
The fifth paradox 'We who are finite can comprehend infinity'
The sixth paradox 'Good vs. Evil'

All of the world's religions try to alleviate these paradox's with doctrine or dogma and turn them into orthodox.  Although many branches of belief systems have arisen I can't think of any that actually add much to the ones below and really the Abrahamic monotheistic and Dharmic based religions capture the majority of the world's religious population.  The non religious also must try in some way to make sense of this as well.

This blog deals with the first paradox and I would say the most fundamental one.  This is the paradox that when grasped by a 3 or 4 year old brings with it some of the first human emotions of fear.  Usually, it is framed in the realization that their parents could die and not that they can die but either way it is the realization that we as humans do not exist forever.

I think that the views of birth and the views of death are important to add to this analysis because they highlight what really are the bookends of this fundamental human paradox.  Also, whether people have souls and what exactly a soul is enters into the discussion.

The responses to the first paradox as I understand them. (in alphabetical order)

The Agnostic Answer

This is hard for agnostics to answer. Generally, they believe the same as the atheist but pressed with death and non-existence leads some Agnostics to lean more to a metaphysical position, though, probably not choosing any one belief system but having a more pluralistic view, that there possibly is something after our physical death but we don't know exactly what it is and there are many ways to get to heaven, Nirvana or God and everyone has their own path.  This may be similar to Hindu and Buddhist beliefs regarding all religions.  I would say that most agnostics are existentialists in the sense that they want to enjoy this existence and live life focused on the cares of this existence and if in life they have to deal with death they will tentatively try and make sense out of it but generally they don't think about it much nor want to.  Being born is a lucky coincidence and even more lucky if born into wealth and a loving environment.  

http://www.livescience.com/20994-death-religion-coping.html
http://www.agnosticmom.com/2006/06/16/how-do-you-talk-to-your-kids-about-death/

The Atheist Answer

We are a product of chance and are only made up of the matter that our bodies are comprised of. Our birth is a lucky accident that is the product of billions of accidents to get us to the point that we are at.  Once we die there is nothing of us that is left but the energy which made us up that has been transferred into another form due to the 1st Law of Thermodynamics and the memories of other living humans or data records (written, photographs, video etc..) as proof that we existed.  Our DNA may go on to exist in a similar form in our children.  There is no scientific evidence for a soul, that who you are remains, or that there is life after death so it cannot exist.  There is nothing more special about one human compared to the next except if they seem more evolved, have higher intelligence and possibly live up to the 'ubermensch' ideal to push our species further down the evolutionary path.

http://atheistfoundation.org.au/article/atheists-perspective-death/
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ali-a-rizvi/atheists-death_b_4134439.html


The Buddhist Answer

Every birth is a reincarnation of a spirit or soul from one of the 6 realms which are; heaven, human beings, Asura, hungry ghost, animal and hell.  A spirit is reborn into one of these realms based off of the amount of accumulated karma which depends on following Dharma.  Every death is a transferring of the spirit to another body in one of the 6 realms.  An eternal amount of souls have existed for an eternal past and will exist for an eternal future. A soul is not who you are (your ego, personailty etc.).  All of that is just an allusion. 
'Birth is the arising of the psycho-physical phenomena. Death is merely the temporary end of a temporary phenomenon'

http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma5/viewdeath.html
http://www.budsas.org/ebud/whatbudbeliev/297.htm
http://www.buddhanet.net/nutshell09.htm

The Christian Answer

Every child that is born is unique and exists as an individual.  They are created in a moment by God in His image which means that they are rational and personal.  Humans have a soul or some call it a spirit.  Either way, it is their essence, their personality, who they are.  Humans have a beginning when their soul is attached to their physical body at conception.  Once the body dies, the soul leaves the body and becomes disembodied.  Humans were never created to die but because man disobeyed God's command sin entered the world which led to physical and spiritual death which is separation from God, known as the Fall.  The soul is eternal, removing separation from God for all of eternity can only be achieved by believing that Christ, who is God's eternally begotten son, came to earth and died to redeem man and that he might have everlasting life with God.  What family one is born into, what race or what sex makes no difference to the doctrine of Christianity.  All humans are born equal.  

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/defenders-2-podcast/transcript/s10-02

John 3:16

 

Judaism's Answer

Every child that is born is unique and exists as an individual.  They are created by God in His image which means that they are intelligent and have moral potential.  Humans have a soul or some call it a spirit.  Either way, it is their essence, their personality, who they are.  There is a finite number of souls that existed since the beginning of creation and each soul is predestined to be put into a particular body.  Souls can choose to be born into a body or not.  Human life has a beginning when their soul is attached to their physical body at birth (When the baby takes its first breath technically).  Once the body dies, the soul leaves the body but it is uncertain what happens to it.  

http://www.reclaimingjudaism.org/teachings/when-does-life-begin-jewish-view   
http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/425923/jewish/Did-You-Ask-to-Be-Born.htm
https://www.facebook.com/notes/stand-for-israel/what-does-judaism-say-about-the-worth-of-every-person/424961619817
http://www.reformjudaism.org/btzelem-elohim-gods-image
http://judaism.about.com/od/judaismbasics/a/whatdojewsbelieve.htm
http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/what-happens-after-death-in-judaism.html

Jeremiah 1:5 - Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, [and] I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

Job 10:12
 


The Hindu Answer

Similar to Buddhism in that every birth is a reincarnation of a spirit or soul from a previous life.  The body or being a spirit is reborn into is based off of the amount of accumulated karma which depends on following Dharma.  Every death is a transferring of the spirit to another body until you achieve oneness with God or a supreme being.  A soul is who you are (your ego, personality etc.).  When you die your soul is transferred to another being in one of 14 dimensions based off the amount of karma you accumulated in your life.

http://freethoughtnation.com/the-cycle-of-birth-death-and-rebirth-hindu-standpoint/

 

Thoughts...

I have been present at both, a birth of a child (3 of them) and death (my grandparents).   The thing that always stood out to me, especially for my first born girl, was that they were who they were from the beginning.  I don't know how else to explain this but I guess if you think about yourself it is the same. Although we may have different upbringings and hereditary leanings you are distinctly you.  You may act like others or want to be like others (or even actually be them) but you are who you are.  It really is hard to explain unless you are there when a baby is born.

The other extreme is seeing someone you know and love who has died.  You can't explain it but you know they are gone.  Physically, all of the matter that made them up is there but they are not there.

These are just thoughts from personal experience about the subject but also part of the reason why I believe after death we remain.

 

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