Sometimes we become so used to the way things work that we don’t even realize when there are options. Yet simple thought experiments can reveal possibilities that we would never see if we just rearrange normal daily experiences. In this essay, we’ll consider such a thought experiment to see what we can learn about relationships and the way all living beings interact, and consider what it might look like to turn a fundamental aspect of life upside down. Continue reading
I recently took a virtual reality picture of a local bookstore (click on the picture to see it). It was for a worldwide virtual reality photo project with the theme “concrete”. I used the picture of the bookstore to highlight the concrete nature of physical books against the ephemeral nature of ebooks. This comparison also made me think of the concrete nature of the material world relative to the spiritual, so that this picture makes a good illustration. Continue reading
In the continuing comparison of natural and supernatural views of reality, we’ve considered some fairly philosophical perspectives. However, for these things to be real, we would expect clear manifestations, some evidence in the natural world. It may or may not be strictly testable, but there should be some ramification. In this essay, we’ll consider an example of what we might expect, drawn from a movie.
The movie of interest, I Am Legend, is not a Christian movie. In fact, it is a secular mass market zombie movie made by mainstream Hollywood. Surprisingly, however, they use several Christian themes as plot elements and we can draw on those to illustrate the point a hand. (Warning: This post contains SPOILERS.). Continue reading
For the past few years, I’ve been pondering religion “versus” science issues and have worked out an initial attempt of what seems reasonable to me. This post summarizes the ideas as a starting point for more detailed exploration, both with study and discussion with others. The basic idea is that it is a finely balanced choice, more finely balanced than most like to admit. The goal here is to be able to articulate why to make a particular choice, rather than just say “It’s how i was raised”, or “I like this”, or “I don’t like that”, etc. It’s an attempt at a rational perspective. Continue reading
Throughout human history, mankind has looked to the supernatural to explain things that seemed mysterious. There was a lot of motivation for this, because much of the unknown seemed dangerous — maybe invoking the supernatural could bring benefit in the natural realm. However, as knowledge of the natural world became more and more complete and successful, there seemed less and less need for the supernatural. For many, it became interesting, but not important.
Yet needs and fears didn’t really go away, they changed. We no longer fear the dark, but fear uselessness and hopelessness. We no longer struggle to find food, but still struggle with the need for love and relationship. We seek to understand the unknown instead of fearing it, but also seek a basis for right and wrong. And so religion has persisted, itself evolving from mere dogma to something more transcendent, still claiming to shine a light on these persistent aspects of being human.
So now we are faced with a question: Has science provided enough of a solution, or is faith still the answer for such fundamental needs? Continue reading
A friend recently wrote an essay discussing faith. In it, he gave one of the standard definitions of faith as “A belief that is not based on proof.” The common understanding is that religious beliefs are examples of this, especially since religions tend to use the same word in related (although not identical) fashions. I think this is a good working definition for discussing matters of science and faith, but want to explore how it may miss some subtleties in how we really approach beliefs. Continue reading
Science has made such progress in the last few centuries that it seems little true mystery remains. In fact, it seems probable that most of the fundamental principles have been worked out. It may be that we are approaching the point of merely refining details of the few clouds remaining in our otherwise clear understanding of the universe. Application of science has changed the world in dramatic ways, illustrating a deep mastery of knowledge.
This success seems to preclude the ancient perspectives of religion and spirituality. Things the ancients wondered about, that they couldn’t understand and so attributed to gods, are now the stuff of high school science lessons. There seems no need for God in a world increasingly ruled by use of this knowledge.
But it’s easy to overstate this. Our ability to manipulate the world is not the same thing as understanding it at its most fundamental level. Just because we have good carpentry tools, doesn’t mean we understand the essence of life and the biology of trees. Just because we can make fine pens and software for writing doesn’t mean we understand the deepest heart and mind behind poetry. Continue reading
Scenes like this evoke sense of calm and serenity. I find it easy to linger in such spots, just enjoying the environment and the lack of craziness. The only motion is a continuous stream of falling water, an unending supply of refreshment and peace. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have this peace in the rest of our lives?
This is the view from Erratic Rock State Natural Site near McMinnville, Oregon. The large rock in the foreground originated in the northern Rocky Mountains, nowhere near this spot. It is the only rock of its type outside Canada, and was transported here during a massive Ice Age flood around 15 thousand years ago. Titanic floods washed down eastern Washington, scoured their way through the gorge, then filled the valley with water. The water was filled with debris including icebergs from the flood’s origin, some of which carried boulders. As the ice melted and the waters receded, this boulder remained, a silent testimony to the power and extent of the flood. The view from this point helps us appreciate the scale of the flood. Continue reading
One of the interesting accounts in Daniel Kahneman’s book “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, is a combination of two things: First, a description of the reasons why certain types of planning don’t work because of limitations in the human mind, and how to work around that. Second, the account of a bunch smart folks working together on a project, and making those very mistakes. I think this raises a very interesting, and possibly fundamental, question about reality. Continue reading