Fukushima

I read this story today, about efforts to bring residents back to, and rebuild the town of Namie, near the site of the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant. Although I can understand the mayor’s fervent wish and motivation to bring people back to his town, what I don’t understand is why this is still being considered when radiation levels in some areas are still generating ‘hot spots,’ and dismantling of the Fukushima plant is still not far along (estimates, according to this article, are that it will take another 40 years). Continue reading

AI

Artificial Intelligence  – this article from Reuters, describing Elon Musk’s claim that we will soon have to implant technology into our brains just to keep up with the output of AI-enhanced computers of the near future, opens a philosophical side to the topic by asking whether or not augmenting our brains with computers will have an impact on our sense of humanity. I think this is a good question to ask, and I think it’s a discussion that needs to happen at all levels.

First, although I grew up with plenty of science-fiction, I’d like to clarify that I have very little fear of robot monsters prowling through time and space, subjugating life on our planet. I fear the human monsters of politics, economics and outright madness. Who commands the most money and influence will obviously command access to the better technologies; and will thus command a massive advantage over those who do not. Looking at the world today, I see a tendency to do this already, I worry over the potential to enhance it with the kind of AI Musk imagines for us. Flaws in any system, intentional or not, are to be expected – I’m wary of implanting something in my brain that might pick up a virus from an unfriendly group, government, corporation, or even a simple madman with time on his hands and a point to prove.

I think the Reuters article asks a valid question. My answer is that I do not believe AI itself will affect our sense of humanity. I believe instead that it will simply amplify our ability to act upon whatever sense of humanity we already possess. Looking at the world today, I can see where this could be both blessing and curse. Let us hope that our common senses of humanity and good-naturedness somehow evolve faster than AI technologies.

Relative Being, expanding

Some readers will already be familiar with my work concerning the meta-religion, On Relative Being, as I’ve mentioned it and linked to it a few times in this blog before. I have decided to expand this work by giving Relative Being its own series of pages in this blog, where I will further explore topics that I have previously only scratched the surface of. This will be a process – I’m not introducing this as a book, where all the chapters are already written – it is rather something I intend to add to as time progresses. I welcome input from readers when it comes to this meta-religion I’m in the process of creating; and as I have tried to build Relative Being to be a perspective all could share and take part in, I think it only makes sense when mine is not the only perspective represented during the process of its creation and refinement.

For anyone interested, I have created a link at the top of this blog (next to my About, Copyright and Paganism pages) that leads to a preface, a table of contents showing what will eventually be covered, and the individual explorations, themselves. All pages, with the possible exception of the table of contents, will be open to comment and discussion.

* Upon further reflection, I decided that a different name might be more appropriate and descriptive for this work, that being AEON (Animated Echoes of Nature). I have changed the name in the pages referred to in this post to reflect this, and edited this post on 13. May 2016 to clarify this change.

Between science and religion

I just finished reading an article, published on the Huffington Post US Edition, discussing a recent scientific study that suggests our faith and our reason are located in different portions of our brains. The article suggests that this study supports the idea that in order to experience either faith or reason, we must first suspend the other. I’m excited by this article for a few reasons, first and foremost among them being that I am generally pleased when modern science treats faith as something other than an unfortunate mental condition!

Another reason why this excites me is because it (the supposed ‘conflict’ between science and religion / spirituality) is a topic that I went to great lengths to discuss in my essay, On Relative Being. This essay introduces a meta-religion of my own creation that, among other things, bridges the gap between science and religion. Relative Being incorporates both belief and reason as a part of the same experience, while providing a history on where this supposed schism came from. It is on this ground that I disagree with the point raised by the Huffington Post article, that the different perceptions of experience being housed in different parts of the brain in some way lend validity to the separation of these two ways of perceiving the Universe: different regions of one brain are still parts of the same brain. We can experience belief and reason simultaneously.

On faith

I would like to preface this post by stating that it is not my intention to quarrel or debate with atheists – not here, and nowhere else. I’m not out to change the perspectives held by atheists; and I feel no need to have anyone come along and try to change my perspectives when it comes to the topic of belief. I am writing this, instead, as a reaction to what I have noticed is an increased volume of anti-religious rhetoric found on the Internet and in other places this time of year; and as a statement of my own views in the hopes that anyone who might feel shamed for actually believing in a god, or the gods, might have something to read and take heart from. I have actually, through the course of my time in this world, gotten to know and respect a number of confirmed atheists – by and large people who are content to see the Universe as they see it, and not inclined to try to disprove anyone else’s beliefs. Continue reading

Immortal justice

I overheard a conversation a few weeks ago, between a few people who were discussing the news of the world in general. What caught my attention was someone remarking that it seemed the Universe had no sense of justice. I thought the observation / position would make for an interesting exercise in thought and belief; and so I have been contemplating this since. In the end, I agree and I disagree. If we regard the Universe / Nature as being something ultimately subject to our will and our various notions of justice; then it is right to say that Nature has no real sense of justice. Male grizzly bears, for example, are known to attack females with cubs, with the goal of killing the cubs. They do this because, as soon as a mother grizzly loses her cubs, she finds herself in estrus – biologically ready to mate – and males understand that killing cubs is a means by which they might pass along their own genetics. There is no human sense of justice here. It is also possible in some cases that a ‘victorious’ male inadvertently kills his own offspring. This is a feature of life and existence in the world of grizzly bears, and it has nothing to do with our sense of morality or fairness. It’s doubtful that fairness enters into the situation from the bears’ perspectives, either: either a male loses his chance to reproduce, or a female loses her cubs in an act that most humans would consider akin to rape, and then there is the point of view of the cubs to consider. As grizzly bears do exhibit their own sense of intelligent and socialized behavior, this example also strikes down the notion that the concept of justice is something peculiar to intelligent, social animals.

On the other hand, if we understand Nature as a being on its own terms, perhaps aware of our various agendas (along with those of every other being in existence) but either unable or unwilling to constrain itself by those agendas, then we are presented with the possibility that Nature does have the capacity for justice … but if so, then by its own notions of the concept, rather than ours. As an adherent of the religious perspective of Relative Being, I’m inclined to perceive Nature not only as a being, but as a supreme being, as Being, itself. With that in mind, I also believe that Nature is capable of its own sense of justice. But what might that be?

An understanding of what is meant by ‘justice’ is a good place to start answering this question. We humans have been discussing the concept of justice for a long time; but even among our species, the concept seems to be a little different from culture to culture, from one time period to the next. Scarce wonder, then, that Nature would not see fit to constrain itself to our notion of justice, when we can’t even fully agree among ourselves what justice really is! In most cases, though, it would seem as though justice is understood to be an action that is intended to maintain a sense of fairness and / or equilibrium. What is ‘fair’ or ‘unfair’ tends to be a very relative sort of notion. As it might pertain to Nature, fairness and equilibrium might be best seen as is, and is not. From my understanding, Nature exists for the sake of existing. The counterbalance of existence is non-existence.

So, if balance and fairness are at the heart of justice, and we assume this applies to Nature (which is a bit of a leap – we are, after all, only the parts contemplating the whole when it comes to existence); then it would seem that the undoing is the balance of all that is done. One could also say that death is Nature’s justice, as it is something that must happen to all that live … it is the one thing that happens to us all. This may seem at first to be more grim than it is intended: I do not consider justice to necessarily mean punishment; and there are numerous examples in which death is a merciful end to an unjust suffering. Also, while some might take this as an advocation of sorts for capital punishment, I can assure readers that this is most certainly not the case: I do not think governments should get mixed up with religions, or vice versa. When discussing Nature’s notion of justice, our agendas have very little place in the conversation; and I believe judgment as to when a person dies should be left to Nature, rather than taken up by us.

If Natural justice is an eventual end to all things, and Nature is the supreme being, we would expect that Nature must itself sometime end, or become the supreme hypocrite. Indeed, it would seem most of our scientists today agree upon the notion that sometime, somehow, our Universe will cease to exist. How this might happen is a matter of scientific opinion and debate; but I think most scientists are fairly sure that it will happen at some point. Again referring to the perspective of Relative Being, Nature came from nothing … there is a symbiosis between being and not being, and one requires the other. When our Universe finally ends, it would stand to reason from this perspective that it will renew itself and begin again. The counterbalance to not being is being.

What all of this eventually led me to, and where I am still trying to reconcile my thoughts with my beliefs, is when it comes to the matter of the gods. If the supreme being, our Universe, is not immortal, how could gods be? If Natural justice is death; then how could an immortal deity be a just one? What is fair in Nature, what is just, should apply to all equally – why or how would a god be above this? One possibility is to suppose that the gods somehow exist outside of Nature in some sort of immortal bubble or kingdom that knows no concept for time. The problem I see with this way of thinking is that Nature is Being, and anything that is, must be a part of Being … it is difficult to argue a position in which a deity (or anything else) exists outside of existence, arguing for the existence of freezing flames would be an easier task. More likely, is that what we consider to exist outside of existence is something exists beyond our notion or understanding of existence, but not outside of existence, itself.

Does Nature have a sense of justice? It would seem so, in the fact that all that is, must eventually cease to be. If Nature were to be a judge in its own court of justice, it would seem Time would serve as its prosecution, against which all defenses are eventually dismantled. Are the gods subject to this justice? Again, it would seem they must be … if existence is not eternal, then how can anything that exists be eternal? If this is the case, why do we so often claim or believe otherwise? Returning this writing to the conversation that first inspired this train of thought, there are a lot of people fighting and dying in our world right now who are doing so out of a perceived notion of immortality. Justice exists in our Universe, and it will eventually come to all of these people – as it will come to us all – but it may not come in the form they envision, it is actually highly unlikely that it will do so. It may also not come in the form we would prefer to see. This is because, in the end, Nature’s justice is not subject to our wishes. What I would tell the woman I heard say that there is no justice in the Universe, were I to see her again, is that just because it does not exist in a way we readily perceive does not mean it does not exist.

Science and religion

I have written before, chiefly in my article, On Relative Being, that I have little difficulty seeing science as a religion. I do not think a religion has to focus on a deity – my personal definition emphasizes an attempt to answer the fundamental questions of our existence as a prerequisite for a religion, and gods simply do not have to be the conclusion that is arrived at. Science seeks to answer these questions, along with the how-can-it of things we see all around us. That suffices for me, to consider science a religious expression. Historically, the majority of religions saw things similarly – Islam, for example, considering science as a description of some of the tools their deity uses to make things function the way they do. Monuments around the world also stand as testament to the importance of science in religious expression: the pyramids and Stonehenge are just a few examples that come to mind. That Christianity broke away from this traditional point of view by considering science to be a rival does not, in my opinion, affect what science does or is – and even the Vatican, for all its former (and current) opposition to science, benefited from science then, as it does now. Continue reading