Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Echoes of Provine
In roughly abbreviated form, these are:
1. Without God there is no good and evil; there are only subjective opinions that we then label "good" and "evil."
2. Without God, there is no objective meaning to life. We are all merely random creations of natural selection whose existence has no more intrinsic purpose or meaning than that of a pebble equally randomly produced.
3. Life is ultimately a tragic fare if there is no God. We live, we suffer, we die -- some horrifically, many prematurely -- and there is only oblivion afterward.
4. Human beings need instruction manuals. This is as true for acting morally and wisely as it is for properly flying an airplane.
5. If there is no God, the kindest and most innocent victims of torture and murder have no better a fate after death than do the most cruel torturers and mass murderers.
6. With the death of Judeo-Christian values in the West, many Westerners [are] unable to confront evil, whether it was Communism during the Cold War or Islamic totalitarians in its midst today.
7. Without God, people in the West often become less, not more, rational. Religious people in Judeo-Christian countries largely confine their irrational beliefs to religious beliefs (theology), while the secular, without religion to enable the non-rational to express itself, end up applying their irrational beliefs to society, where such irrationalities do immense harm.
8. If there is no God, the human being has no free will. He is a robot, whose every action is dictated by genes and environment.
9. If there is no God, humans and "other" animals are of equal value.
10. Without God, there is little to inspire people to create inspiring art. That is why contemporary art galleries and museums are filled with "art" that celebrates the scatological, the ugly and the shocking. Compare this art to Michelangelo's art in the Sistine chapel.
11. Without God nothing is holy. This is definitional. Holiness emanates from a belief in the holy.
12. Without God, humanist hubris is almost inevitable. If there is nothing higher than man, no Supreme Being, man becomes the supreme being.
13. Without God, there are no inalienable human rights. Rights depend upon a moral source, a rights giver.
14. "Without God," Dostoevsky famously wrote, "all is permitted." There has been plenty of evil committed by believers in God, but the widespread cruelties and the sheer number of innocents murdered by secular regimes -- specifically Nazi, Fascist and Communist regimes -- dwarfs the evil done in the name of religion.
What I find striking is the similarity between Prager’s comments and Provine’s five inescapable conclusions if Darwinism is true. Morality becomes a mass delusion. There is no purpose in living, no life beyond death, and no free will.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Beldar, Phone for You!
Further, these microbes may even be headed our way, blown towards Earth by the solar winds. Because of Venus’s close proximity to Earth, we may finally have evidence of extraterrestrial life, when the two planets align in 2012.
Such an event would be, at long last, the great put-up-or-shut-up moment for those who assume the validity of abiogenesis. Life can just pop up, all on its own, without any prodding from You-Know-Who. All you need are the basic raw materials of living matter, plus the purely naturalistic machinery to assemble those raw materials into a suitable vehicle (aka “critter”), plus maybe a flash of lightning or some sort of furnace like a thermal vent to get it going on its own. Why, say Wickramasinghe & Wickramasinghe, the cloudy layers of the Venusian atmosphere are possibly a-chock full of that very sort of thing!
In which case, all we need to do is Johnny-up a means of collecting any single one of the microbes which may be sailing our way in 2012, and we’ll finally have our proof that Mr. You-Know-Who is not at all necessary for explaining the origin of life. If it can take place on Venus, where rivers of sulfuric acid flow free, then by crackey it can take place anywhere.
Uh-huh. And, as the adage goes, if “Ifs” and “Buts” were candy and nuts, we’d have Christmas every day. Mighty big word, that “If.”
And never mind that Venus and Earth were also closely aligned in 2004, and no one spotted any extraterrestrial microbes then. We weren’t LOOKING for any Venusian microbes in 2004. Who’s to say none were ever blown Earth-wards, in 2004, or sometime earlier? Heck, maybe it’s already happened. Maybe that’s where venereal disease comes from, since “venereal” is the REAL adjective form of Venus rather than the silly and nonsensical “Venusian.”
Science journalists just LOVE reporting stories like these. I’ve lost count of all the stories beginning with “A new study suggests extraterrestrial life may be found on…” blah blah blah, or making some breathless assertion that science “may have at long last found the holy grail of modern biology” or some such. All sorts of speculation abound in the name of proving that YKN is unnecessary. We’ve looked for life on the moon; sent dozens of probes to Venus, Mars, and elsewhere; speculated incessantly how life may be found floating on some comet or asteroid; taken countless photos of all the planets of our solar system, and their moons as well; made infrared and thermal and what-have-you scans in practically every direction; and donned our headphones, listening anxiously to the heavens for some brief burst of radio emission which might at long last provide a definitive answer to the question: “Are we alone in the universe?”
NB: That always cracks me up. “We.” “Alone.” Hah!
Not that I’m saying we shouldn’t look. Of course we should. Go right ahead. Look to your heart’s content.
And now for the buzzkill: You’re not gonna find anything!
According to our best scientific guesswork: the universe got its start some fifteen billion years ago with the Big Bang; our planet was formed some six or seven billion years ago and was completely inhospitable for life; but once the planet cooled sufficiently, once it was no longer bombarded from all directions by comets, meteors, asteroids and other cosmic effluence, life got started on this planet, some three to four billion years ago.
While our planet was inhospitable, there was no life. But once it became hospitable, life got started in relatively short order—that is, sooner, rather than later. There’s even the possibility that life got its start and was later extinguished, only to start up all over again, maybe even three or four times.
This fact might support the hypothesis that life can arise abiogenically, but for one other rather annoying fact: we have absolutely zero evidence of it happening anywhere else, in our solar system, in our galaxy, or in the universe. So if life happened all on its own here (and possibly more than once), why hasn’t it happened all on its own anywhere else? The universe is rife with the same sorts of raw materials found here. And there must be countless planets out there not too awfully different from ours. So why isn’t the universe teeming with life?
All this, then, lends credence to a competing hypothesis: that maybe it isn’t quite so easy for life to pop up on its own. Maybe, just maybe, it needs a push. And maybe SOMEONE has to do the pushing.
Monday, August 04, 2008
Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled, For Life is Meaningless
The service has all the trappings of a real funeral—a group of appropriately-dressed mourners, many in black, standing around a freshly-dug grave. The casket, adorned with flowers, stands ready to be lowered into the ground, as a frocked cleric addresses the crowd, offering a few words of praise for the dearly departed as he comforts the bereaved. Everyone looks sad, especially Dr. Crusher, who, we surmise, loved her grandmother very much.
The one difference, of course, because this is TNG, is that the cleric is an alien, and so instead of offering the usual do-not-mourn-for-lo-you-shall-see-Granny-again-some-sweet-day-in-Heaven line, or ending the eulogy with the traditional reminder about the return of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our alien cleric offers these words of comfort: Granny isn’t really dead, because she lives on in our memories.
I have said that Darwinism is a religion, and a dreary one at that. The episode of TNG serves to reiterate the point. William Provine asserted that when we die, we die, and even went so far as to call this assertion an “inescapable” conclusion of Darwinism. The extraterrestrial cleric, echoing Provine, does not and cannot believe in an afterlife; he cannot appeal to any notion as decidedly Christian as the Resurrection; he is certain that Granny is dead, and that no one is ever going to see her again. So, he offers what comfort his world view will allow. Mind you, this is simply the best he can do.
And no better. Granny is dead, but not ENTIRELY dead, because some part of her lives on in us, so long as we continue to remember her.
This is a COMFORT? Prithee, HOW?
Suppose, for instance, that because of a transporter malfunction during her return to the Enterprise, Dr. Crusher has her memory erased. Then, while examining her personal files in hopes of finding who she is, she learns that she had a grandmother whom she loved very much, and that this grandmother is now dead. Pastor ET’s words of comfort would mean nothing to her, since they are contingent upon Dr. Crusher’s ability to remember someone she has now forgotten. I see no means of finding comfort in such a situation.
For that matter, even if the transporter malfunction never takes place, even if Dr. Crusher remembers her grandmother fondly for the rest of her life—it would only be for the rest of her life, however long that may be. Even if she lives another hundred years, it would mean the memory of her grandmother would only live on for another hundred years—and then die when Dr. Crusher dies. And all those others standing around the casket, listening to Pastor ET, will die as well, and with them their memories of Granny.
So, what then? Does young Wesley take up the charge of keeping his great-grandmother alive by remembering her? How? He doesn’t have the same memories as his mother, presuming he has any at all. Worse yet, one day young Wesley will become Old Wesley, and he’ll die, too, and with him the memories of his great-grandmother (whatever those may be) and those of his mother.
There is simply no scenario escaping the inevitability of Granny being dead, buried, and ultimately forgotten. Not if when we die, we die, and that’s it.
Worse yet, consider this point: the memory of someone you love is only a memory; it is NOT the person you love. Memories are faulty, inexact. Sometimes, memories are outright false. To draw from another popular TV series, as Hawkeye Pierce once noted of Frank Burns, “No, I’m sure he remembers it that way. More’s the pity.” And true or false, a memory is all in your head. No part of it is physically real.
So, to sum up: never mind if Granny is dead and you’ll never see her again; you can delude yourself that it isn’t really so, even if it really is, just long enough until you die, at which point it won’t matter that you were deluding yourself, as if it ever mattered. This is all okay, because even though the universe is an accident, which means that life is an accident, and that Granny and all those who come before and after her, yourself included, are an accident, too, go ahead and tell yourself that Granny mattered, because… uh… the delusion will facilitate your survival. Yeah, that’s it. Your survival matters. Somehow. Even though nothing matters. Even though you and everyone you know and everyone who will ever be are all going to die, because even survival is at best temporal; when we die, we die, and that’s it. Not that you or anyone ever mattered in the first place.
This is simply what passes for “comfort” in a Darwinistic framework.As I’ve said in another post, if there’s anything inaccurate in describing such an outlook as “bleak,” it is only in that the description represents a rank understatement.