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Archive for July, 2010

07.27.2010 – I’m not afraid of dying

As someone who often ponders the wonders and mysteries of our universe, it’s should not be surprising that at times those thoughts move to the concept of death. I’ve thought (as I’m sure most of us have) deeply and intently about this inevitability from time to time.

I used to have a definite fear of death. The concept of being dead was terrifying to me. I think that had a lot to do with the religious implications that I had in my head as a believer. Obviously, there is a wide spectrum of possible destinations were religious concepts to be true. So, for me at that time, the fear was making a mistake before dying that would land me in a place that I certainly didn’t want to end up.

In my current belief system, being dead is dead, and as Mark Twain said:

 “I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

So, for me now, it’s not so much a FEAR of death (albeit, there is still a fear of a painful death, but that’s the fear of the actual pain, not the dying part) but a feeling of loss. A feeling of sadness for not being able to experience this life anymore or to be with the people who matter the most to me. I think that’s the hardest thing of all to accept. Sometimes I have to stop myself from imagining that awful day because the emotional impact becomes so tangible. It’s a reality, though. As much a part of life as birth is. Albeit, I would have to say it’s the worst part. There’s comfort to be had in this worldview, and I will probably get into that in a follow-up post. But for now, I’ll just say that it’s yet another reason to live every single day like it’s the last one you’ll have, because you never know…it might just be.

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07.14.2010 – A Fine-Tuned Universe?

I find myself intrigued by the various arguments for and against God. Lately, I’ve been considering the Fine-Tuning argument (a subset of the Teleological Argument). In a nut-shell, it goes like this:

The Fine-Tuning argument is a modern variant on the overall Teleological argument and is based on the anthropic principle. The anthropic principle deals with the seemingly delicate balance of conditions that are necessary in order to support human life. It finds its evidence mostly in the vast improbabilities that the universe would find the conditions that it has in order to produce human life. And because these improbabilities are so vast, that leads to the assumption that a designer needed to be present.

I’m not going to get into the specific numbers of this argument (they are, after-all incomprehensibly large), because the refutations to those are out there to be had (basically, life DID occur in this universe, so the probability is technically negligible and there’s nothing that we know of to measure it against. ie…a universe that did NOT produce life). What I DO want to discuss, though, is MY take on it. It may not be scholarly, or based on any kind of scientific data or research, but I believe it to be based on some common sense. And, as always, I’m open to other people’s takes on the topic.

What we see in the observable universe are mind-bending amounts of empty, black space. Vast areas of absolutely nothing in the Cosmos. And in all that space and time, to the best of our limited knowledge, WE are the only life that has developed in this universe (though, I fully expect in the coming years, decades, and centuries that may change, but for the time-being I must rely on reality, and reality is, we are all we know of). My trouble with the fine-tuning argument is this: If the universe is fine-tuned for human life, why are we the ONLY human life in an unbelievably enormous universe? Doesn’t it seem like an awfully huge waste of energy and matter in the universe to have only us here, on this tiny ‘Pale Blue Dot’ in the arm of an otherwise ordinary spiral galaxy? If the universe was fine-tuned for human life, shouldn’t it be absolutely bursting at the seams with human beings? It seems that if it WAS designed, it wasn’t done so very efficiently and that doesn’t seem like the modus operandi of an all-powerful, eternal engineer.

Now, I’m obviously not a scientist. I’m not even all that smart of a guy. I get that the constants in the universe, and the coincidences in the numbers are impressive. I also understand that even the slightest changes in those numbers could have resulted in a lifeless universe. However, reality is what it is. The universe has produced intelligent life. But how many other universes are out there that are completely void of life? We will probably never know.

I’m just starting my deep investigation of these claims, so I expect that I will post more on the topic as I learn and dig into the various explanations. And a lot of times I feel like I don’t have a clue what some of these arguments are talking about. But I’m making progress, and while sometimes they give me pause, ultimately, I’m secure in my belief set.

07.11.2010 – My Thoughts on Predestination

Predestination is a concept that I’ve thought about many times throughout my life. It’s probably one of the main ideas that have given me pause over the years, particularly my years as a believer.

Webster’s dictionary defines predestination as follows:

Main Entry: pre·des·ti·na·tion
Pronunciation: \(ˌ)prē-ˌdes-tə-ˈnā-shən, ˌprē-des-\
Function: noun
Date: 14th century

1 : the act of predestinating : the state of being predestinated
2 : the doctrine that God in consequence of his foreknowledge of all events infallibly guides those who are destined for salvation

And therein lies my trouble. How can an all-knowing God NOT have predestined human beings for salvation or damnation ahead of time? I realize that Calvinists firmly believe in this concept and that God has pre-chosen an ‘elect’ set of people whom will be saved. I have no trouble with their beliefs on the subject. If you are to accept the idea of an all-knowing God, I don’t see how you can reject the concept of predestination. So, therefore I don’t find what they believe to be hypocritical in any way (at least on this topic).

Many of the people who I’ve talked to over the years like to say that God has given us free will. We are free to choose or reject him. But those same folks also claim that God is all-knowing. I really don’t see how you can have it both ways. If God is all-knowing, then he knows (and has known throughout all of time) who among us is to be saved and who among us will be damned to hell. I don’t see how it’s any more complicated than that. If God is NOT all-knowing, then there’s a limit to his power. And if there’s a limit to his power in THIS subject, how are we to know that there are not other limitations?

The concept of an all-knowing God is one that has always caused me difficulty. For as long as I can remember there have been times when I’ve tossed this around in my head. When I was a believer, I would just blow it off after a while and say to myself “All will be revealed when we meet God”, but there was always a nagging feeling that something was wrong with this concept. Now as a non-believer, it makes a LOT more sense to me. There is no trouble with an all-knowing God concept when you realize that there is no God to believe in in the first place!