Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Universe from Nothing, By Lawrence Krauss

"Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could."
-- The Sound of Music.

     I hate The Sound of Music.  It's the most smarmy, sappy, namby-pambly P.O.S. ever.  Thus, when I heard that Prof. Krauss had overthrown this thesis from the musical, I was elated.  I immediately ordered his book from Amazon.  I've always been confusesd about this issue.  If we think of space and time with nothing in it as nothing, then we have a problem, because I have to imagine galaxies popping into exisence as something coming from nothing.  If I think of the existence of space and time itself as part of the 'something' that is in the universe, then I get confused about what I'm thinking about.  I should be not thinking about anything.  I'm not sure I know how to think about 'nothing' per say.  Nor do I know what it means to say that  something 'comes' from nothing since 'comes' here seems to imply time itself.  If time is part what is 'coming' about, I get confused.

     I also don't know what 'potential' means without time of some kind.  When I think of something as potential, I think of something that could happen in the future.  But what does 'potential time' mean if there is no time?  My imagination can't go there.  So, I look forward to Krauss's examination of this issue. 

While we can trace back time to the beginning of the universe,  I don't know nor can I imagine where we go from there.  What is a 'potential' law if there is no time?  What is 'potential' space?  Krauss raises a good point when he asks what philosophers mean by nothing.  I mean, absolutely NOTHING! Nothing at all.  Can anything be meant by this kind of philosophical nothing?  Is it outside of language?  I sometimes think that the 'null solution' is the most elegant and thus the most likely, but how do I assign probabilities or think of things as a 'solution' if there is nothing. Evidently there is something, so could there ever have been 'nothing' in this sense?  Well, I guess at the outset I'm giving Krauss his point that 'nothing' or 'nonbeing' in this sense is kind of incoherent.  So how can it be a problem we have to solve?  In fact, my feeling for the problem is beginning to dissipate.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, and my experience with a Christian Group

I was for several years a member of an anabaptist church.  They were among the most gentle, peaceful people I have ever known.   They were pacifists,opposed violence and abuse in all of its forms.  They attempted to live by a supremely compassionate interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount.  I found the close cooperation and support among the members a model, in some respects, of community. 

However, as I came to understand the way they taught and educated their children, many of them home schooled, some of them sent their children to specifically Christian schools, I became alarmed by patterns I saw emerging.  The children were often taught by adults who were not educated themselves, they taught them falsehoods about evolution, history, and virtually nothing about science.  Some of the children, mostly the girls, went to college, but avoided confronting the obvious falsehoods they were taught.  They boys mostly did not go to college, but instead went into jobs that do not require formal education.  Some of them were the typical, "all I want to do is get my truck".

The reason I mention all of this is the section of Dawkins' The God Delusion that calls religious upbringing a form of child abuse.  It was a painful experience for me to see what happened to many of the children raised in the church and I have ended up agreeing with Dawkins here.  The children's futures are being determined by the teaching of the church and their parents to perpetuate ignorance of the natural world.  It furthermore limits the life choices these children can make later.

I was also concerned when I observed, after the merger of two churches, that the congregation was becoming more political, anti-homosexual,  and right-wing(to the point of hysteria).  I am disturbed to think that the adults are passing this on to their children. 

Now that I am a nonbeliever(again) I see this subculture as doing a lot of damage to children.  While I still approve of their commitment to pacifism, I cannot on the whole see the group as a force for good.  I feel I am more compatible with pacifist minded secular humanists than I am with them.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The God Delusion, Entry 2

I've read about 200 pages of The God Delusion.  It is well-written and easy to follow.  The only real bump in the road is his admission that physics is in need of a little work to provide a more convincing argument against design than is provided by Natural Selection.  In the end I think Dawkins is successful in his overall argument.  There is simply no good response to the response that God would require more of an explanation than the universe itself.

One thing I took away from the book is his reaction to the 'problem of evil'.  He seems unconcerned about it logically, since it can be solved by postulating enemy gods or seeing evil as the result of human free-will.  The point of the argument for most monotheists is that God is supposed to be all-powerful and all-good.  The problem of evil certainly deals a blow to such a God.  Most religious people I know end up uncomfortable with the problem of evil.  It convinces many people that there is no God at all since for them they either want to worship this all-powerful, all-good, God or no God at all. The problem with the free-will argument is that you have to explain the evils that have nothing to do with people, like natural disasters.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

RIchard Dawkins, The God Delusion, entry 1

Here's the opening sentence of The God Delusion, Chapter 2:
"The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving, control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sado-masochistic, capriciously malevolent bully." (pg.51)
I hate to say it to my believing friends, but I've read the Old Testament, done some studying of it, and this isn't far off...