Friday, March 07, 2014

It's All Good Fun Until Someone's Existence Gets Poked Out

Alternate title: Atheists Running With Scissors.

I was fortunate enough to have pleasant conversations today with a pair of atheists on Twitter. One of them, @Keira_Hudson, provided me with a couple of lovely insights into the whole thing and for that I am deeply grateful. Here's the trio of exchanges.

Earlier, she had posted this one:

Atheism is weakest where it thinks itself strong. It's all Logic! and Science! while bashing the ignorant, superstitious peasants, but it can't bear to use the logic and science too far. That would be icky. Or, rather, "inky" as in the inky blackness of the abyss. Keira turned me on to what looks to be an utterly ghastly piece of Sam Harris cynicism -

wherein old Sammy tells the semi-educated rubes who pay his speaking fees and shell out good money to buy his trash that Science! says they don't have free will, but somehow, it all works out for the best in the end because Morals! This review sums it up pretty well.
At about 10 minutes after noon yesterday, an ineluctable series of causal events that no doubt began before the dawn of humanity compelled me to sit for an hour in a Barnes and Noble reading this predetermined collection of words from someone whose parents had been programmed to name him Sam Harris. I regret that this is the way I ended up spending an hour, though of course it's useless to regret what one could not help but do, and, moreover, the "I" that I imagine I am is just along for the ride anyway.
So in the end, Sam Harris makes money telling you that you were going to buy his book anyway, but that you shouldn't be afraid of the meaninglessness of your existence because Easter Bunny.

The second atheist, the kindly and well-meaning @mickskeptic, taught me that atheism is just a subset of Catholicism. That is, all I needed to do was to turn off my faith in God and, voila!, I could employ all of the arguments available to Mickey. The difference is that for me, it's like wearing virtual reality goggles that make it look like I'm on the ledge of a 37th floor window, looking down on a busy street. For Mickey, he really is looking down on that street. I can pretend to take that leap - the final step of logic which reveals that nothing has any meaning at all - and when I hit the bottom, I bounce back and run upstairs to try it again. For Mickey, the results are less sanguine.

Like I said, atheism is weakest where it thinks itself strong. Atheists know, to varying degrees, that the last step is out there, but they all think they can postpone or avoid the conclusion by coming up with logic pretzels more convoluted than the worst of the medieval monks debating angels and heads of pins.

What I've learned from Twitter: Lousy atheists go immediately to sex insults. Mediocre atheists, which is to say almost all of them, still believe in free will, apparently because no one has ever challenged them on it. Good atheists don't believe in free will, but cling to some belief in their own existence. Top notch atheists, none of whom I've met, probably listen to Gorgoroth all day and don't waste their time emitting vibrations at other bags of molecules.

Atoms can be forced to do fun things because they obey rules all the time!
You're nothing but atoms, right?


B-Daddy said...

I love the Fresnel diffraction patterns around the atoms in the video, way cool.

To your discussion of uncertainty, Heisenberg says that uncertainty is woven into the fabric of the universe. There are two alternative ways that I am aware of to deal with this uncertainty. To take Schrödinger's cat, the classic interpretation is to say that the cat is neither alive nor dead until we open the box to find out. An alternative view is that the cat is either definitely alive or dead, that there are in fact two universes, one in which the cat lived and one in which the cat died, and by opening the box we find out which one we are living in.

The second interpretation bears on free will because it opens the possibility that we are choosing the path through a multiverse through which we are traveling. The multiverse being the vast, but finite number of energy states in which the mass of our universe can exist. Our choices are not limitless, but constrained by the previous state of the universe and requiring that the next state be a step increase in the entropy of the universe.

I will admit that this model neither advocates for nor against the existence of God. However, it suggests a Creator to build a rule scheme where there is no "magic" through free will can alter reality without constraint, while still allowing the existence of choice, i.e. free will for sentient beings.

Anonymous said...

I'm having an gong crisis of faith, but the only unshakable thing for me is that God does exist. (The crisis is more about the nature of the soul. I am starting to believe when we die, that's it. I'd rather believe in immortality of the soul.)

K T Cat said...

B-Daddy, relying on uncertainty at the subatomic level to produce consciousness and free will makes you an animist. Subatomic particles are in everything - rocks, trees, badgers, clumps of dirt and the lint between Al Gore's toes.

K T Cat said...

Anon, I'm sorry about the crisis of faith. I've had a few of those, too. It helps to talk to others who believe, read and carry out Christian acts. The latter may reveal things you never expected. It certainly has with me. The entire Catican Compound staff will offer up prayers for you in a difficult time.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very y much and I do appreciate it.

I do still believe in God, and have more faith than some others. And while I am afraid death brings the end and there is nothing more, the rest is silence, I have hope in each new day bringing some thing with it until that point.

It is the people with no faith and no hope who are in need of prayer.

K T Cat said...

Anon, if death brings the end, then take solace in the fact that you'll never again have to watch your favorite sports team blow what should have been an insurmountable lead.