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How to Trivialize the Cosmos
Posted: 21 March 2007 08:00 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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"Every one of the world's 'great' religions utterly trivializes the immensity and beauty of the cosmos." - Sam Harris in a recent Los Angeles Times article.  (see Mr. Mody's post in Further Reading category)

In your view, how does religion trivialize the cosmos?

For example, if a person dies, and then gets up and walks away, is that wonderful and beautiful, or is it an idea for Zombie Comics?

If a virgin girl gives birth to a baby, is that wonderful and beautiful?  Or, does that simply mean that Jesus was not like us, and there's no way we can emmulate him?  (Q:  "Why do you worship me and not do what I say?"  A:  "You're not human.")

On the other hand, if Jesus was a normal human, born of man and woman, dead and gone like a normal person, more reasonable people might be interested in his insights, his philosphy, or his enlightenment experience.

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“The simple fables of the religious of the world have come to seem like tales told to children.”  - Nobel Prize recipient - Francis Crick

“It is time we recognized the boundless narcissism and self-deceit of the saved.” - Sam Harris

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Posted: 21 March 2007 08:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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[quote author=“Jefe”]“In your view, how does religion trivialize the cosmos? “

De-Emphasizes the need or value of questioning our surroundings and continuing to learn more about the how, what, where and why of the universe.

The Silence of the Moderates

There’s the ‘book’ of the Grand Canyon, for example, with the stories told on the ‘pages’ of rock, the strata.  Yet tens of millions scorn this book, and turn to fables in a little black man-made paper book, written before we had any understanding of geology, biology and all the other sciences.

Why don’t the ‘moderate’ preachers, who know better, speak out with strong voices against this trivializing of creation?  When parents brainwash their children with nonsense, (the glories of being a suicide bomber, or, “you will go to hell if you believe in evolution”) - why don’t the so-called ‘Social Services’ speak up about child abuse?

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“The simple fables of the religious of the world have come to seem like tales told to children.”  - Nobel Prize recipient - Francis Crick

“It is time we recognized the boundless narcissism and self-deceit of the saved.” - Sam Harris

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Posted: 22 March 2007 02:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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I know young-earth creationism trivializes the cosmos. We know that the visible universe is al LEAST 8 billion years old, may be as much as 14 to 20 billion years old, maybe even much older. It is that many billions of lightyears across, immense compared to this little planet, which creationists pretty much say is all there is, for only about 6 thousand years. Maybe they do admit the existence of those billions of galaxies millions and billions of lightyears away, but then they have to explain how light from them got here in less than 6 thousand years.

Science has a lot to say about how it all got here, a vast natural history spanning those billions of years, full of wonders that we are just coming to understand. Creationism throws all that out the window and says that some supernatural being just brought it all into existence by telling it to exist. Pretty trivial compared to the real story.

All the creation myths of the great religions does the same thing. They put Earth at the center of a relatively miniscule universe, and set its beginning just a short time ago. Many of them also expect an end to the world in our lifetimes.

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“Capitalism without failure is like religion without sin. It doesn’t work.”—Alan Metzer

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Posted: 22 March 2007 06:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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Any religion that promises an afterlife (and that promises that if you change your behavior is such and such ways or believe this or that, you’ll receive ever-lasting life in the here-after) trivializes this life; the only life we can be certain of and therefore, the only life that matters.

Every life is of utmost value.  But Christianity, by promising a life after this one, a life to be achieved through dedication to dogmatic belief and ritual (beliefs, it so happens, that can be accepted only be abandoning rationality), utterly trivializes the life of every person on the planet.

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What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.
-Ivan Karamazov

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Posted: 24 March 2007 01:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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Sam’s talk about the immensity and beauty of the Cosmos is just a psychological observation.

Given his assertions that we are here for a short time and then pass away it is meaningless.

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Posted: 24 March 2007 02:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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I know not if this earth on which I stand is the core of the
universe or if it is but a speck of dust lost in eternity. I know
not and I care not. For I know what happiness is possible to me
on earth. And my happiness needs no higher aim to vindicate it.
My happiness is not the means to any end. It is the end. It is
its own goal. It is its own purpose.

Ayn Rand’s Anthem

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“Capitalism without failure is like religion without sin. It doesn’t work.”—Alan Metzer

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Posted: 24 March 2007 01:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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[quote author=“Jim Christensen”]Sam’s talk about the immensity and beauty of the Cosmos is just a psychological observation.

Given his assertions that we are here for a short time and then pass away it is meaningless.

Why is that?  Whether or not I am here tommorrow, the fact that I feel awe at the cosmos right now is an irrefutable fact of reality.  Why do I need to look to the future to gain meaning?

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Posted: 24 March 2007 02:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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[quote author=“Jim Christensen”]Sam’s talk about the immensity and beauty of the Cosmos is just a psychological observation.

Given his assertions that we are here for a short time and then pass away it is meaningless.

Are you inferring its meaninglessness or are you granting its meaninglessness. I think you are granting it, but if you are inferring it, then you should have some examples to help others infer as such. Right now, I only see it as some people view the world as meaningful with a God, and others view the world without a God but not as meaningful. Someone on this forum just said this yesterday, I think it was GatorGirl. She said just because atheists don’t find as much meaning in life as religious people do with their God-given meaning, the atheist creates meaning for his or her self and doesn’t rely on what atheist feels are fairy tales intended to make us content with our situation. We’re not. We have needs that are not being met by the Universe and we intend to correct that. This gives us meaning and hope that we can live in a state of biological happiness. This is, at the very least, what I believe.

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Posted: 25 March 2007 09:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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[quote author=“SaulOhio”]

I know not if this earth on which I stand is the core of the
universe or if it is but a speck of dust lost in eternity. I know
not and I care not. For I know what happiness is possible to me
on earth. And my happiness needs no higher aim to vindicate it.
My happiness is not the means to any end. It is the end. It is
its own goal. It is its own purpose.

Ayn Rand’s Anthem

Zen master Joshu Sasaki, speaking to a crowded hall of puzzled University of Washington students replied to a questioner, “What is Zen?  Zen is to laugh!”  Everyone stared at him.  Wondering if his English was at fault, Joshu emitted a deep belly laugh to demonstrate.  This caused an erruption of spantaneous, infectious laughter.  It can be said, even from a sober, scientific observation, that clouds of atoms sometimes burst into spontaneous laughter.  Sometimes the cosmos laughs.  Like Ayn Rand, the universe is, at times, jolly.

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“The simple fables of the religious of the world have come to seem like tales told to children.”  - Nobel Prize recipient - Francis Crick

“It is time we recognized the boundless narcissism and self-deceit of the saved.” - Sam Harris

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Posted: 25 March 2007 11:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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[quote author=“Jim Christensen”]Sam’s talk about the immensity and beauty of the Cosmos is just a psychological observation.

Given his assertions that we are here for a short time and then pass away it is meaningless.

Jim, I have a psychological observation for you. See what you think.

If a person somehow gets it into his head that he will live forever and has been shown written guarantees of such as a fact of God and nature, a simple life of 70 years (90+, if he takes care of himself) will seem inadequate. Just the thought of living for only one human lifespan will seem terribly unfair and depressing.

I hope you’ll stay with this conversation, Jim. Your English usage is impeccable so far (if a bit spare with commas), and many of us here are big fans of that. What do you think of my observation?

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Posted: 25 March 2007 12:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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Perspective always helps.  When one considers how tiny our planet is, that we orbit a very unimpressive star, one can begin to appreciate just how vacuous the argument that there is a creator of the universe, who made us in his own image.  Human beings are remarkably insignificant in the scheme of things.  For 1st century man to hold the view that he was important is somewhat understandable I suppose.  For 21st century humans to hold the same view is incredibly egocentric and just plain inexcusable.     

http://www.samtsai.com/pix/yadayada/p318a.jpg

http://www.samtsai.com/pix/yadayada/p318b.jpg

http://www.samtsai.com/pix/yadayada/p318c.jpg

http://www.samtsai.com/pix/yadayada/p318d.jpg

http://www.samtsai.com/pix/yadayada/p318e.jpg

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Posted: 25 March 2007 01:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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[quote author=“FaixaPreta”]Perspective always helps.  When one considers how tiny our planet is, that we orbit a very unimpressive star, one can begin to appreciate just how vacuous the argument that there is a creator of the universe, who made us in his own image.  Human beings are remarkably insignificant in the scheme of things.  For 1st century man to hold the view that he was important is somewhat understandable I suppose.  For 21st century humans to hold the same view is incredibly egocentric and just plain inexcusable.

Nice pictures.  The question of importance, however, is relative.  A friend of mine was successfully operated on for cancer, but discovered that he would be hospital bound and on a drug regiem for the rest of his life.  He arranged to spend Easter at home with his family, had a great meal, a cigar with some fine congac and then returned to the hospital.  He refused to take his medications after than, and when a nurse said” “You’ve got to take these, it’s important!” he replied, “Important to who?”  and died a few days later.  In the physical world, we may be less than a mote of dust floating in the sunlight, but perhaps that doesn’t provide the best perspective for evaluation of our importance—we are also the outcome of billions of years of cosmic evolution.

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Posted: 25 March 2007 01:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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[quote author=“burt”]we may be less than a mote of dust floating in the sunlight, but perhaps that doesn’t provide the best perspective for evaluation of our importance

I don’t understand why it’s so important for you to believe that humans have the lead roll on the cosmic stage.  To me, that’s the ultimate Napoleonic complex.

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Posted: 25 March 2007 02:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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is there any way to make that solar/planet model to scale from Pluto to Antares? Like, if Pluto was the size of a speck of dust, would it be possible to make a model of Antares to scale with pluto? Like, Antares wouldn’t have to be the size of Earth…would it? Or the Sun? Or bigger?!

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Posted: 25 March 2007 03:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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Pluto no.  But try this.  This visual film illustrates two stars that are even bigger than mighty Antares:

http://www.samtsai.com/p468/#more-468

Here’s the math:

W Cephei; VV Cephei: 3,676,200,000 km (ie, 288194 x Earth)
My Cephei: 3,481,250,000 kim
Antares: 1,108,430,000 km
Beteigeuze: 905,125,000 km
Rigel: 86,335,000 km
Arcturus: 4,177,500 km
Pollux: 6,962,500 km
Sirius: 2,506,500 km
Sun: 1,392,500 km
Jupiter: 142,984 km
Saturn: 108,728 km
Neptune: 49,532 km
Earth: 12,756 km
Venus: 12,104 km
Mars: 6,794 km
Mercury: 4880 km

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Posted: 25 March 2007 05:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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Oh my God, that’s disgusting.

Are we sure we are measuring them right? Are we sure the Universe’s gravity isn’t dilated in certain areas, causing us to believe that objects in the mirror are closer than they appear or something?


I can’t imagine a black hole…I can’t imagine the amount of mass there is capable enough of producing nuclear reaction that can counteract the force of gravity. I also can’t imagine how some other kind of nuclear reaction wouldn’t occur. It wouldn’t even be nuclear from the force of gravity; it would be quantum or quarkish—subnuclear.

OK, there has to be a certain amount of force that causes particles to break down into smaller components. We’ve done this in our particle accelerators. Because we’re dealing with single atoms in a particle accelerator, the acceleration must equal near-light speeds in order to shatter a neutron. Therefore, is it not also true that if one increased the mass of an object to a great enough measure, the force from gravity would eventually exert enough for to create a sub-nuclear reaction, essentially requiring a new definition for such a massive object? MY Cephie and W Cephie would seem to be likely candidates. Is such a reaction possible with large enough masses, and are these large enough masses? Is my query flawed? Does the low mass/high velocity collision translate into a high mass/low velocity ratio when splitting particles (or atoms)?

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