Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Is optimism the rebel meme?

Is lazy science fiction part of the problem? I’ve long asserted that the wave after wave of gloomy-chiding SF – apocalypses and grumpy lectures – has been undermining our confidence as a problem-solving people. 

There’s a place for dire warnings! The highest of all SF works have been “self-preventing prophecies” (SPP) like 1984, Brave New World, Soylent Green and other chilling tales that girded millions to prevent themselves from coming true! I've written some moderately well-known warning tales of my own.

But for every dire tale that rises to SPP status, there are a hundred apocalyptic or finger-waging tales that portray exaggeratedly simplistic villainy as no more than a plot crutch to keep their protagonists in pulse-pounding jeopardy. Or else to eviscerate some chosen set of perceived real-world badguys. 

Oh, I agree with much of the finger-pointing... e.g. at trog-patriarchal theocrats in The Handmaid's Tale, or at monopolist-corporate behemoths in every cyberpunk story. It's the lazy-plotting habits I object to... exaggeration and the "idiot plot" assumption that all neighbors, citizens and institutions will be utterly useless, leaving only a few uber-protagonists to save the day. 

This is not how to fill neighbors, citizens and faithful civil servants with confidence that they can matter. A confidence that has been the central target of putinist-murdochian propaganda campaigns aimed at undermining the enlightenment. We do not need to help them.

Especially because, in fact, it is only confident citizens who can save the day.

== Glimmers of hope ==

 There have been efforts to counter-attack, such as the Hieroglyph Project spearheaded by Neal Stephenson. (I participate.) And my own anthology collection (co-edited by Stephen Potts) Chasing Shadows.

Now here are two more sallies forth for optimism.  First, have a look at Better Worlds: “10 original fiction stories, five animated adaptations, and five audio adaptations by a diverse roster of science fiction authors who take a more optimistic view of what lies ahead in ways both large and small, fantastical and everyday.”

Another calls itself “Solar-Punk” – a world-building exercise that struggles against the current, cynical Status Quo by trying to imagine a holistic, desirable, hopeful way of life. It’s also a community (largely UK-centered). Tune in to this podcast, especially about 15 minutes in.

== Asked about “survivalism” ==
Each of us has "horizons" where we imagine what's barely possible. Horizons of opportunity, or danger, or acceptance --  which others we accept as members of the tribe. These horizons can expand or contract. When fear is rampant, I'll fret about the next meal, my next opportunity to score... and the folks I'll accept are "people like me." As fear declines, some people (not all) stretch their horizons outward in time and space. We expand the definition of "tribesman," bringing more kinds of folks by the firelight. When I was a kid, with McCarthyism and nuclear attach drills, there was a lot of fear -- yet Americans also retained that expansive spirit, a spirit you see in the literature that's all about horizons. Science Fiction.
Yes, The Postman is a post-apocalyptic tale. And yet, it's also an answer to all those "mad-max" fantasies that a lone hero will be the answer, kicking-ass and smashing the mohawk-wearing hordes of a leering super-villain. Solitary heroes aren't what got us here, though they can help, a bit. In my novel -- and the Costner film -- the Postman's top quality is as a liar/storyteller! He tells a whopper and is astonished when people embrace it so passionately! They believe they were once mighty beings called "citizens" in a civilization that bestrode planets. One that gave children warmth and schooling in winter and lawn sprinklers and ice cream in summer. They recall all that and decide they want it back. And that makes them capable of defeating the feudal lords and villains of a new dark age.

Citizens are the mightiest beings this planet ever knew. They overcame monstrous ideologues and racial purity empires and created a civilization of tolerance and negotiation and fair competition and respect... and you will want all of that back, if we ever lose it. 

And hence, the survivalist-solipsist mania is revealed. An artifact of deep, psychological fear that makes some poor saps cling to very close-in horizons, clutching fantasies that -- if they squirrel away enough canned goods and ammo -- they might be top dogs in a fallen world to come. Some zany billionaires hurt us all by tearing away vast wealth to craft fortress hideaways in Patagonia. And then they all act -- politically or worse -- in ways that help to make their darkest fear-dreams unfold.

But it won't go the way that they imagine. First, we know where all the hideouts are. Second, either we well slump back into the ancient human pattern of feudal lords -- in which case your current billions or bunkers won't make any difference... or else citizens will rise, as in The Postman. They will rebuild, and they'll remember who was unhelpful or harmful, during the crisis.  Either way, prepper-dreamers, your odds of being a Top Dog are pretty darn slim. Kibble, more likely.

== A golden Age for Chinese SF? ==

The Wandering Earth is based on a story by Liu Cixin, the author best known for The Three-Body Problem, released in February in some North American theaters. It's China’s first big-budget science fiction film. The trailer shows humanity fleeing Earth’s surface as temperatures plunge. The article notes that within China, “there is a growing acceptance of science fiction,” and that as the economy has grown, people are “getting busier, wealthier and more stressed,” which creates a perfect environment for new escapist genre film and television

Here’s a picture of Da Liu at our home the day before his appearance before a packed hall at UCSD's Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination.

== Problem-solving SF ==

Amazon Original Stories, an Amazon Publishing imprint, this week launched a sci-fi series about" possible tomorrows" in a United States ravaged by climate change.  The series, called "Warmer," includes seven books that explore fictional stories about characters fighting to survive despite rising temperatures, floods, ice storms and rising sea levels.  

The long awaited first hour of Marc Zicree's vivid Space Command is available for you to view on YouTube.  And sure, there are tradeoffs. But it starts with a refreshing premise… Not a post-apocalypse! Still, there are some boners, like a comet “tethered to the North Pole?”  Criminy. A science advisor might help. Still, what fun!

In another good old fashioned homage – this time a post-apocalyptic graphic novel: High Level by Rob Sheridan. 


Speaking of which, has anyone out there been following the “Star Trek Shorts”?  I’d be interested in your opinions, down under comments.

== Bold SF'nal ideas ==

Ryan North’s new book “How to Invent Everything: A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveler” - presents a step-by-step survival guide for the stranded time traveler to invent everything. Fun interview. I’m looking forward to it.

I’ve enjoyed a strange, yet innovative anthology of more than twenty brief commix-vignettes called “FTL Y’all: Tales from the Age of the $200 Warp Drive,” in which a whole buncha young artist-writers (or teams) offer short tales, each no more than ten pages, based on a strange premise… that suddenly, everyone gets access to really cheap FTL drives. Like maybe $200 tops. And there’s a massive human diaspora. The tales are not-connected and generally contradictory and that’s fine. Alas, only a few tried to get truly sf’nal with the concept, exploring the larger implications (I could imagine at least a dozen.) A majority have silly or unimpressive plot “twists” or concentrate on this or that small, personal tale (like rescuing your dog, kidnapped by an FTL-fleeing evil step-dad.) On the other hand, it’s actually pretty fun! And it’s great to see so many women artists and writers shouldering their way into this bold-with-potential sub-genre of SF.

Here’s a science fiction webcomic you might enjoyMare Internum: set underground on Mars. Kind of reminiscent of the Benford short story.

The Arthur C. Clarke Center has announced their next project -- a contest to come up with original or plausible or actionable scenarios for the next 25 years.

132 comments:

Alfred Differ said...

I don’t know if this qualifies as ‘lazy plotting habits’, but there is a ‘thing’ that has always bugged me about some movies and books that are labelled as science fiction. I get that authors are allowed to break a couple of rules. FTL is allowed and doesn’t have to be explained. Aliens are allowed and don’t have to be justified. Many other tweaks on our reality are permitted, but an author who uses too many of them in the same story isn’t really writing in the genre. That’s what I was taught anyway.

What bugs me is when an author includes humans in their story, but writes them in a way that strikes me as implausible. Humans can behave in many ways, express themselves in a variety of cultures, and so on. However, there are a few things we generally don’t do en masse. When authors treat humanity implausibly, they aren’t really writing about humans and they expect me to pretend they are? My mind hiccups at this point, suspension of dis-belief ends, and the incantation comes to a crashing conclusion. Ugh. I thought I was reading science fiction. I’m actually reading fantasy. Maybe I’ll go on, but it might take a while before I’m into it.

For example, the Mad Max movies. Um… No. The idiots killing themselves in crash scenes aren’t written as human, but I’m expected to believe they are? No. They aren’t even plausibly insane. At best, they are plot devices pretending to be human. Maybe some Vinge'an Transcendent could program us to behave like that. Maybe a statistical fluke could produce the occasional maniac like that. Whole bunches of them? Implausible. Radiation damage? Civilization collapse madness? Nah. Might as well argue they were bitten by a rabid radioactive spider and never go any further with details. Implausible humans make those fantasy movies as far as I’m concerned. As fantasy, though, I’m no longer certain about whether they can qualify as idiot plots.

The backstory to the Ring trilogy has implausible humans too, but at least the author doesn’t pretend otherwise. Most stories involving chivalry and noble princes? Implausible, but we knew that going in. They are written as virtue stories describing the ideals to which one should aspire. Regular humans in Marvel’s mutant titles all responding like genocidal nuts to mutant children? Implausible. Especially implausible when parents react to their own children that way. Okay, though. It’s a comic book, right? We weren’t expecting more. As for humans in the Star Wars movies and book? Ugh.

I have to conclude that we write and consume a whole lot of fantasy and very little science fiction. I also have to wonder if I’m using the idiot plot definition to draw the boundary between the two.

Tony Fisk said...

The world of Alita certainly has elements of the lazy YA dystopia, and a lot of the characters (ie the cyborg "hunter killers") fit Alfred's bill of implausible humanity. This was certainly true of the source material. Interestingly, though, Cameron and Landau's interpretation is a bit milder. Their's is not a world of 99% psychopaths. The common citizens of the downtrodden "Iron City" seem to have a fairly laid-back comfortable existence, even if it's a bit grungy. The laziness, here, is in not trying to explain how a decent standard of living is maintained while policing is performed by meched-up nutters like Zapan (Guy with the sword. Zapan is actually one character who makes it out of flatland: the actor has fun chewing the scenery, and the interactions between him and Alita are rather good). On the "lone heroine vs the rest" meme, there's one scene to counter that which I'm pretty sure wasn't in the original. Trying to avoid spoilers, but it concerns what happens to a dog.

Frederick Ellrod said...

Very intriguing sources -- and the linked 2013 essay is excellent.

I wonder whether one can reach toward the notion of a wide range of helpful citizens -- the New Yorkers in the Spider-Man movies -- by starting with the traditional band of heroes and expanding them outward. If enough additional people and groups are brought into the effort, little by little, we might get something like a functioning civilization working together. Remember the scene in Poul Anderson's Tau Zero where it turns out that the initially unlikable main character, who's fighting to hold together the crew under immense strain, is recruiting everyone aboard secretly into being one of his 'special assistants'?

David Brin said...

Seldom discussed is the (terrible) reason why the Church covered up so many perverted priests and even re-assigned them, multiple times. A desperate shortage of priests. Because a calling that seemed attractive in the past to poor families with hungry sons to spare (it was even worse for unwanted girls) is no longer drawing anywhere near enough stable and worthy candidates who can control themselves. The Episcopalian solution... allowing married priests... would help a lot, but enrage the Mel Gibson wing of Old Believers.

There is another option. Leave celibate priests in charge of just the centralmost sacraments - e,g, communion - while doling others that entail lots of time (and contact with young parishioners) to deacons or an order of married brothers. Weddings, funerals, confession could be assigned to experts including (yes) nuns. A cadre of super reliable priests might then oversee, spread thinly over a dozen parishes.

Look, I dunno. It's an area where I cannot claim a shred of expertise or credibility, just an eye for the logic of a situation. And logic would seem to demand change and a way out.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/gay-priests-are-in-the-crosshairs-as-vatican-summit-on-abuse-begins-debate-over-homosexuality-is-divisive-undercurrent/2019/02/20/70635f76-3469-11e9-8375-e3dcf6b68558_story.html

yana said...


David Brin thought:

"They recall all that and decide they want it back."

Christmas Day in the year 800, just what you say reached a crescendo. Sure, Charlemagne was a good strategist and shrewd politician, but once he got the ball rolling it was almost too easy to build an empire across a land strewn with physical evidence of former glory. With each duchy or petit kingdom absorbed, the next became easier. "Hey have you heard about that guy Charles of the Franks? He's getting the Band back together!"

Of course his other rolling balls whelped out dozens of pawns to seal political alliances, but he found great advantage simply in the wistful memory of lost greatness. There was a hunger for the auld stability, rosier in hindsight to be sure, and off to the East of Europe the greener-grass memories were not about what they'd lost, but what they had missed out on, the first time.

To me, the best part about Foundation is later on, what the memory of Trantor makes people do.

locumranch said...


Self-awareness flickers into being as our host acknowledges & accepts what many of us have always known:

https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/457545.pdf?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

That Optimism, aka 'hopefulness and confidence about the future', is Romanticism's defining characteristic rather than its antithesis, insomuch as our host indulges in the very Imperial, Confederate & Antiscience Romanticism that he so condemns.

Ever an optimist, he is drawn to science fiction as I & others are drawn to the high-flight poetry of John Magee, desiring only to slip "the surly bonds of earth", to dance "the skies on laughter-silvered wings", to trod "the high untrespassed sanctity of space", and to touch "the face of God".

In his heart of hearts, our host knows that he is a hopeless romantic, a true confederate & our secret brother dedicated to the 'Lost Cause' of Human Conquest & Expansionism, as sure as the Postman's top quality is as a liar/storyteller (who) tells a whopper and is astonished when people embrace it so passionately.

This is my quest, to follow that star, no matter how hopeless, no matter how far, to fight for the right, without question or pause, to be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause.


Best

Robert said...

While most of the episodes are behind a subscription paywall, the characters and motivations in gen:LOCK are actually rather interesting and increasingly-three-dimensional as well. For instance, Dr. Weller has a choice in trying to convince the initial pilots in remaining in the program after they witness a rather horrific event - warning them that without the gen:LOCK program, the Polity will likely lose the war in North America... or appeal to their basic humanity by letting them witness a bunch of refugees being brought in, just by letting them do their initial trial run next to where the medivac craft are going to be landing.

Weller even goes on to give a little speech (quite relevant given what Trump is up to) about how constant exposure to what is going on just acclimates people to the violence so they stop caring, but that even if you just do a little bit, do what you can do, it will help.

(Also, he reprograms the AI to sing Gilbert and Sullivan when it intrudes on his lab without permission.)

Heck, they even had a gender-fluid character and managed to suggest in 50 years gender transitions would be something that can be done without too much difficulty, but even reversed (as the genderfluid character talked about transitioning between male and female several times).

As with the best science fiction, the technology doesn't drive the story. It enhances the story. You see things like robotic kitchen devices, holographic projections, virtual reality, and they're just there. Even the mind-transfer technology (which is at the core of gen:LOCK) takes second fiddle to the characters themselves.

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

I have a suspicion that "droit de monseigneur" has been endemic in the catholic church for a lo-ong time. It came to the surface globally at about the same time due to better communications.

Speaking of which, our own high Sith Lord Cardinal George Pell was found guilty of sex offences last year, but a gag order was issued to the local press (that worked well, as you can see.)

Anonymous said...

I have a suspicion that "droit de monseigneur" has been endemic in the catholic church for a lo-ong time.


Google St Peter Damien and his condemnations of the treatment of seminarians in his time.

John Fremont

Anonymous said...

>> Mike Will said...
\\Certainly not to discuss politics. I have blood pressure issues. No insult intended, I'm just a very private person.

I discussed politics... jus because it is main theme here. Not my decision.
With you I'd like to discuss AI things... if possible.


>> Alfred Differ said...
\\Are you trying to say there are more important things than science? I already get that. Most of what makes life interesting has little to do with science.

It just how little people do understand science... ;)


>> David Brin said...
\\But the real difference is this: I retain curiosity.

Lie. :) What last sci news you have read? And made some re-eveluation of your world view and/or predictions?

Here one. "Ancient continental crust could emerge because of early meteorite bombing." Isn't it cuious?

\\ I am far, far better at exploring such corners than our poor kibble ever will be.

Self-delusion. :) "Streets of Londone will be flooded in manure". :)

\\A confidence that has been the central target of putinist-murdochian propaganda campaigns aimed at undermining the enlightenment. We do not need to help them.

But you are helping. With spreading bullshit memes like "commies", "mafia", "WS parasites", "czars CheKa", etc...

You can think of yourself as of mighty warrior who are fighting bullshit with bullshit. But it's the same delusion as of TB about being "aristocrat". You just a pawn of "dark lord Putin", because "spreading bullshit" it's his main (non)strategy. :))) Or... just a host of "Chaos", which makes you spred it eagerly. :P

\\Especially because, in fact, it is only confident citizens who can save the day.

"Confident citizens" could not save a shit... if there'd not be some leader with ideas.
And your ideology of "merits" undermine such persons... while TBs bugaboo "aristocrats" helps.
It's nothing about smarts and rightniousness... it's just Evolution itself.
Struggle among different phenotipical traits into the same specie.


>> Treebeard said...
\\...and I'm with the 1% feudal elite all the way.

You are peasant. Who have not a tiniest idea what feudal elite is all about. You are the same product of mass production.

Well. Aristocracy based on "scientifical" ideas of "hi breed". It developed in cultures which adopted some domestic pets. And percieving how better could be done ziz persherons or hounds...
that idea quickly found path through certain humans minds.
And so we have... european aristocraty.

Other country have it a little different. More closer to main stream. Based on the merit of "serving the king/serving the country".
And our host not right when he tries to dismiss that effort, as they basically the same as in his beloved "enlightenment".
Or even greater.
As it is a really great leap was needed to come from poverty into curent time "abundance".

And what he doing is just shitting on ansestry. That idea that all that 6000/8000 years our predecessors was just dumb stupid, just like apes to us, and only we "enlightened" become smarty cromagnions. Also not all, but only some with "merit" at their disposal. :)


>> locumranch said...
\\In his heart of hearts, our host knows that he is a hopeless romantic, a true confederate & our secret brother dedicated to the 'Lost Cause' of Human Conquest & Expansionism

Yep, Locum. You are the same kin with him.
That's why he like (to fight) you the most. It's common thing among similarities.
Intra-spicie concurention always bigger then of inter-specie.

porohobot said...

>> Alfred Differ said...
\\I don’t know if this qualifies as ‘lazy plotting habits’, but there is a ‘thing’ that has always bugged me about some movies and books that are labelled as science fiction.

Alfred. It's inherental contradiction.
Scifi need to be about humans, our current, well-known to us, ourselves if possible.
But... it cannot be "the same humans as us" in future.
Just because -- you are not the same as you 10 years junier.
Even not the same as you yesterday.

Scifi just came to such a barrier... where no people of future could be depicted as us now.

And we don't know how to embrace this idea. So we trying to over-paint it with something more usual, more known to us.

David Brin said...

This article told about a similar time when an "American populist" threw giant rallies - under superficial patriotism - actually boosted the interests of foreign fascist plotters and divisive hate. "When Nazis Took Manhattan: In 1939, an event at Madison Square Garden was billed as a "Pro-America Rally". It was, in fact, a rally in support of Hitler and fascism." It tells of one brave fellow who infiltrated the rally in New York... as my father did when they threw a similar bund-fest in Chicago. And yes, the parallels with today are creepy.

https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2019/02/20/695941323/when-nazis-took-manhattan

Anonymous said...

https://victorygirlsblog.com/socialists-are-nothing-more-than-parasites/

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Because a calling that seemed attractive in the past to poor families with hungry sons to spare (it was even worse for unwanted girls) is no longer drawing anywhere near enough stable and worthy candidates who can control themselves. The Episcopalian solution... allowing married priests... would help a lot, but enrage the Mel Gibson wing of Old Believers.


This is going to sound snarky, but I mean it seriously. Allowing priests to have one-night stands would go a long way. Even allowing them to masturbate would be of some help.

When, by design, you cut someone off from every release of sexual tension with no hope of relief, eventually it will manifest in some perverse manner. Often, I suspect that as soon as the perpetrator has relieved himself, he regrets what he has done, and maybe even curses his own weakness. Allow some sort of release valve that doesn't involve damage to other individuals and you would eliminate much of the problem.

tim H. said...

RE: "victory girls blog. doesn't it seem just a bit incongruent to use FDR era photos to attack socialism? And not even 100 proof, Soviet variety, but the watered down version that FDR figured would be just enough to keep carpenters from building tumbrels. A little hint of where our President's mind was in 1944:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czvHtOh_Xew
Socialism is very much a part of what the nation is, one hears little objection to it when it favors great wealth, why for instance do immense corporate entities back out of projects when taxpayer largesse is not forthcoming? If it made economic sense, they'd build anyway.

Larry Hart said...

Do we need a total and complete shutdown of white men from entering the country until we figure out what's going on?

https://news.yahoo.com/coast-guard-lieutenant-accused-murder-plot-scale-rarely-seen-country-223900168.html?.tsrc=daily_mail&uh_test=1_02


A Coast Guard lieutenant arrested earlier this week on drug and gun charges was planning to commit domestic terrorism, according to a court filing from the U.S. District Court in Maryland.

In a motion filed Tuesday, U.S. attorneys said Christopher Hasson, a lieutenant in the U.S. Coast Guard who has served at the service’s headquarters in Washington since 2016, had a hit list of targets, a cache of guns and a series of communications with white supremacists. The first sentence in the motion imploring the court to detain Hasson pending trial: “The defendant intends to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country.”

...

Hasson’s alleged online searches for pro-Russian, neo-fascist and neo-Nazi literature, along with draft emails recovered from his email offer insight into what prosecutors describe as extremist views.

“I am dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on the earth,” Hasson allegedly wrote in a draft email to “acquaintances” last June; in the email, he appears to outline a stream of possible ways — ranging from biological attacks to bombing/sniper campaign” — to violently fight back against “Liberalist/Globalist ideology is destroying traditional peoples esp white.”

...

Darrell E said...

Alfred,

I agree completely with you regarding unrealistic human behavior in stories, but I don't think it is limited to science fiction. It's endemic in popular literature and movies. So often it ruins the story for me, or at least down-grades it. A funny as shit example of this is that commercial in which some people are trying to hide from a Texas Chainsaw Massacre type character and they decide to hide behind a wall with about a dozen chainsaws hanging on it. The bad guy is nonplussed by how stupid they are.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

...and the "idiot plot" assumption that all neighbors, citizens and institutions will be utterly useless, leaving only a few uber-protagonists to save the day.


I'd expand the scope of "idiot plot" beyond that specific characterization to what Alfred spoke of earlier--when human beings don't act like human beings for whatever reason. In comics, that's sometimes referred to as "writing to the bit"--when characters do what they plot requires instead of what they would actually do in the situation.

A.F. Rey said...

I also have had stories ruined by unrealistic behavior.

In the last season of The Last Ship, the BGOTS* executed a group of peasants. He had them line up, and then his lieutenant stood in front of each one and shot them at close range. And all those stupid peasants just stood there quietly and waited to be shot!

My wife really likes that series, so kicked me out of the living room when I started groaning and rolling my eyes. Such is the price of defending narrative integrity... :)

*Bad Guy Of The Season

David Brin said...

Extra History is one of the best things on YouTube. Quick, animated summaries of past eras that shaped our age. A 6-parter filled in my gaps about Sun Yat-sen and the Chinese Revolution. Another swept me across the end of the samurai era. This one about the Gracchi brothers shows how oligarchy undermined the Roman Republic, which was then torn up by radical populism. It all makes clear how fevered and harsh was "history" and why our present oligarch plots against the new, modern, grownup ways of doing things.

The animations are way fun! But the narration is so good I get everything while turning my back to cook or do busywork at the computer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODI1VOOoey0

Larry Hart said...

In a similar, though slightly more humorous vein, you might enjoy these history videos that my daughter put me on to.

The History of Japan and the History of the Entire World, respectively:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mh5LY4Mz15o

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xuCn8ux2gbs

Anonymous said...

@David Brin

There is another option. Leave celibate priests in charge of just the centralmost sacraments - e,g, communion - while doling others that entail lots of time (and contact with young parishioners) to deacons or an order of married brothers. Weddings, funerals, confession could be assigned to experts including (yes) nuns. A cadre of super reliable priests might then oversee, spread thinly over a dozen parishes.

This is pretty close to the clerical order of the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches. Married and single men are ordained as priests but only the celibate single men are anointed to the office of bishop aka heiromonk. The bishops are to live the life of a monk as a model to all of the flock, clergy and lay persons. While these churches have had their share of scandals the cover ups were not as extensive as with the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

John Fremont

Alfred Differ said...

Darrell E,

Some of it I expect. Fantasy stories aren't expected to have realistic humans unless the author implies they should be. Mystery stories are similar if they follow the formula that makes them more of a puzzle to be solved instead of a drama to be experienced.

I react to science fiction stories doing it badly because of the rule I was taught about authors not tweaking too many things in support of their fiction. Of course, stories don't have to have any humans at all, but that just begs us to interpret the aliens using our own emotional frameworks.

Larry,

Writing to the bit? Okay. That's a useful phrase I'll have to add to my usage. Sometimes I wonder if an author actually knows how humans would respond to situation X, but they may have a reason to do what they do. The think I like about The Postman is it faces this issue. In a post-apocalyptic world, would we really go Mad Max nuts? Nah. Would we do a number of smaller bad behaviors? Sure. (Don't steal my toothbrush.) The humans are human and now I can't help but notice in other stories when they aren't.

Alfred Differ said...

A.F. Rey,

I'm fairly sure one CAN get people to accept being shot one at a time, but one had to grind them down first. Hope must be destroyed for the peasants to go meekly. I'd bet they didn't spend enough time in the episode establishing the sense of despair, though, right?

Think about concentration camps. It IS possible to grind people down enough that they accept death when it arrives. [Not sure I would want to watch a show that established this level of despair. Schindler's List was hard enough to take.]

Duncan Cairncross said...

A F Rey

I remember a story about an incident in the mongol empire
A single mongol soldier lined up a number of guards and started cutting off their heads

In that story after about three were killed the guards "woke up" and killed the mongol - but three had to be killed and these were "guards" not peasants

A lot of people DO just "give in"

A.F. Rey said...

Hmm. Maybe. I still would be surprised that anyone who was about to be shot by someone a couple of feet in front of them wouldn't cringe, cry, shout, stick-out their tongue, try to grab the gun, etc., etc., etc. Cower or defy. Not just stand like a dummy and watch it happen.

Perhaps if they did look completely beaten down as you suggest, Alfred, then maybe I could buy it. But they didn't. And even then, I would expect that some would still at least give them the finger. :)

David Brin said...

From my novella "Thor Meets Captain America" which was expanded into THE LIFE EATERS:

With a cry he broke the legendary spear over his knee. The pieces fell to the sand.
Nobody moved; even Thor's whirling hammer slowed and then dropped. In the sudden silence, Chris was distantly aware of the fact that his femur was shattered - along with most of the bones in his hands - leaving him perched precariously on one leg.
But Chris's only regret was that he could not emulate an aged Jew he had heard of from one of the concentration camp survivors. Standing in front of the grave he had been forced to dig for himself, the old man had not begged, or tried to reason with the SS, nor slumped in despair. Instead, the prisoner had turned away from his murderers, dropped his pants, and said aloud in Yiddish as he bent over, “Kish mir im toches ...”
“Kiss my ass,”Chris told Thor as more guards finally ran up and grabbed his arms. As they dragged him to the altar, he kept his gaze on the red-bearded “god.”The priests tied him down, but Chris met the Aesir's gray eyes.
“I don't believe in you,”he said.
Thor blinked, and the giant suddenly turned away.
Chris laughed out loud then, knowing that nothing in the world would suppress this story. It would spread. There would be no stopping it.

john fremont said...

@Larry Hart

It's not so much for me to allow one night stand but to end the discipline of mandated celibacy. The seminary system is an institution that trains young men on how to live, in reality,the appearance of a celibate life. While celibacy is a valid spiritual practice in Christianity, trying to conform men into that life has just lead to it being a facade in practice. True celibacy will come from within, i.e. "..let he that is able, let him receive this." The seminary training men into celibacy reminds me of a shotgun marriages. Do this or your out! Ordain married men to serve as priests or as the late Andrew Greeley proposed, have single men serve an "enlistment" as a priest maybe for 10-15 years.

The other aspect is that not every priest has to be full time salaried clergy. Plenty of parishioners serve part time in the rectory, as ushers, lectors, musicians. It's not too far out to have some ordained part time priests help out on Sundays to say Masses and hear Confessions. That would resolve a lot of the priest shortage in the Catholic church IMHO

Alfred Differ said...

I have no doubt a large number of peasants not ground into despair would have at least a few who objected to being shot. Peasant revolts aren't uncommon in history. It's just that they understood a few losses could be more easily suffered that the many that were likely when the noblemen really got pissed off. Peasants understood prudence in their bones.


They might not have the barbarian Captain America, though.
Cap ain't no peasant. 8)

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

From my novella "Thor Meets Captain America"...


That's one of my favorites to re-read. I can't even count the number of times I have done so. I just have to give myself enough time in between readings so that some element of suspense and surprise comes back.

Larry Hart said...

john fremont:

While celibacy is a valid spiritual practice in Christianity, trying to conform men into that life has just lead to it being a facade in practice. True celibacy will come from within, i.e. "..let he that is able, let him receive this."


I remember a similar discussion about suicide, and why it should be considered such an unforgivable sin. The Catholic person I was arguing with mentioned something about how you are supposed to love life because it is a gift from God. My rejoinder was, that "You are supposed to..." is meant to be a description of the way things are, not a commandment of what one is being compelled to do. If an individual really does not love his life, you don't change that by punishing him until he pretends he does.

I see a similar dynamic here. A celibate is supposed to have moved beyond lust, and therefore not be bothered by a lack of sex. It doesn't work if you just make them pretend not to be bothered. That just causes them to eventually have to relieve their pent-up tension, probably at exactly the worst time and method.

Dave Sim (comics writer/artist) was a womanizer through some time in his 40s, at which time he became religious and eventually gave up women altogether. He tried to argue that young men would be better off also avoiding entanglements with the gender opposite and just concentrate on their productive work. As if giving up sex in your late 40s after exhausting oneself on it for decades is the same thing as swearing it off from puberty onward. I had to laugh.

Larry Hart said...

I said to Dr Brin:

"From my novella 'Thor Meets Captain America'..."


That's one of my favorites to re-read.


I should also mention that, at least the first several times, I was finding new aspects of the story that I hadn't noticed the first time through. It was only after three or four readings that I realized that the Nazis hadn't won the war back in 1944, but that the war was still in progress 20 years later.

Daniel Duffy said...

Dr. Brin, If anything you understate the seriousness of the priest shortage, as an article in the National Catholic Register made clear
(see http://ncronline.org/mainpage/roberts_votf102503.htm):

"I was meeting several months ago with a priest theologian from the Midwest who, in answer to one of my questions, said, "You've got to do a story on the priest shortage." "We've done it to death," I said. "Everyone knows there's a priest shortage." "No," he said. "You have to go back and take a look at the numbers again. Really do the numbers." He explained that earlier in the year his bishop had made quite a deal over the fact that the diocese was ordaining, I think it was five or six priests this year, a few more than usual. I got the impression that it was being touted as a sign of turnaround. But my priest friend said he began looking hard at the numbers, at the ages, at the numbers retiring and dying and he came to a grim conclusion. In his words: "It's over. Not in 20 or 30 years, but in more like five or six or seven at the outside."

However, ending celibacy will eventually lead to the end of male exclusivity in the priesthood as noted by Richard Schoenherr inhis book "Goodbye Father, The Celibate Male Priesthood and the Future of the Catholic Church'

(see http://www.futurechurch.org/newsletter/spring03/goodbye.htm):

"The conservative coalition is so adamantly opposed to a married clergy because clerical celibacy provides sacralized support for patriarchy. The Vatican seems to know intuitively that to say goodbye to celibate exclusivity means eventually saying goodbye to male exclusivity. A married clergy is anathema to most of the hierarchy because it is the camel's nose under their patriarchal tent. A married clergy will be the gateway to further equality for women, who eventually will be admitted to ordination. Schoenherr maintains that married men will be admitted to the priesthood during the lifetime of the present generation of churchgoers. He believes the ordination of women is several generations away although many would disagree, if only because so many Catholics, especially women, will not wait that long."

In a few generations after the end of celibacy, women will be ordained.

If there is ever a Vatican III the Pope will bring his wife. If there is ever a Vatican IV, the Pope will bring her husband.

Daniel Duffy said...

A married clergy is anathema to most of the hierarchy because it is the camel's nose under their patriarchal tent.

The ultra-conservative wing of the RCC is right to fear married priests. The whole structure of the Church is based on celibacy. It will do to the Church was Louis XVI call for the Estates General did for France or Gorbachev's glasnost did for the USSR.

Once reforms start in non-democratic insitutions (as conservatives are fond of pointing out the RCC is not a democracy), they tend to snowball.

locumranch said...


Optimism is "a rebel meme" (in a confederate sense) as it requires both a refusal to accept defeat as a forgone conclusion & an emotional investment in the Lost Cause mythos which emphasizes the nobility, righteousness, desirability & the heroic nature of an arbitrary goal.

There are many such Lost Causes to which our host is partial, including & especially US Democracy (now an oligarchy), Enlightenment Civilisation (a non-global phenomenon specific to Europe & those of European heritage), NASA (a failed cold war era boondoggle), the 2016 US Presidential Election (Hillary lost), Asteroid Mining (an economic contradiction) and Climate Change (a forgone & irreversible conclusion).

We are the same in this regard, the sole difference being that I support a different subset of Lost Causes than our fine host does, including (but not limited to) Self-Determination, State's Rights, Medical Sustainability & radical Gender Equality.

Never giving up & never surrendering, we are both self-referential blowhards like Commander Taggart.


Best
_____

Larry Hart forgets that he is supposed to be beyond racism, but he exudes racism when he calls for a "complete shutdown of white men from entering the country" following Christopher Hasson's arrest on suspicion of domestic terrorism, especially since the ethnology of the name 'Hasson' is potentially Hebrew, Arabic or Gaelic, none which meet 'white' criteria by 19th Century Ethnographic standards.

And, btw, the term 'supposed to' is magical thinking that NEVER describes how things actually ARE but only how things 'should' and 'ought to' be in the best of all unreal & imaginary worlds.

Daniel Duffy said...

Big picture, the RCC's troubles are just one example of forces impacting and reshaping all religions. Religion evolves in Darwinian fashion. Instead of dying out as many atheists predicted, religion is experiencing its own Cambrian Explosion. The next century will see the greatest diversification and expansion of religion in history.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2002/02/oh-gods/302412/

Religion didn't begin to wither away during the twentieth century, as some academic experts had prophesied. Far from it. And the new century will probably see religion explode—in both intensity and variety. New religions are springing up everywhere. Old ones are mutating with Darwinian restlessness. And the big "problem religion" of the twenty-first century may not be the one you think

New religions are born all the time. Old ones transform themselves dramatically. Schism, evolution, death, and rebirth are the norm. And this doesn't apply only to religious groups that one often hears referred to as cults. Today hundreds of widely divergent forms of Christianity are practiced around the world. Islam is usually talked about in monolithic terms (or, at most, in terms of the Shia-Sunni divide), but one almost never hears about the 50 million or so members of the Naqshabandiya order of Sufi Islam, which is strong in Central Asia and India, or about the more than 20 million members of various schismatic Muslim groups around the world. Think, too, about the strange rise and fall of the Taliban. Buddhism, far from being an all-encompassing glow radiating benignly out of the East, is a vast family of religions made up of more than 200 distinct bodies, many of which don't see eye-to-eye at all. Major strands of Hinduism were profoundly reshaped in the nineteenth century, revealing strong Western and Christian influences.

The fact is that religion mutates with Darwinian restlessness. Take a long enough view, and all talk of "established" or "traditional" faith becomes oxymoronic: there's no reason to think that the religious movements of today are any less subject to change than were the religious movements of hundreds or even thousands of years ago. History bears this out.

Daniel Duffy said...

(cont.)

Secularization of a sort certainly has occurred in the modern world—but religion seems to keep adapting to new social ecosystems, in a process one might refer to as "supernatural selection." It shows no sign of extinction, and "theodiversity" is, if anything, on the rise. How can this be? Three decades ago the British sociologist Colin Campbell suggested an answer. A way to explore the apparently paradoxical relationship between secularization and religion, Campbell felt, might be to examine closely what happens on the religious fringe, where new movements are born. "Ironically enough," he wrote, "it could be that the very processes of secularization which have been responsible for the 'cutting back' of the established form of religion have actually allowed 'hardier varieties' to flourish."

The essence of the idea is this: People act rationally in choosing their religion. If they are believers, they make a constant cost-benefit analysis, consciously or unconsciously, about what form of religion to practice. Religious beliefs and practices make up the product that is on sale in the market, and current and potential followers are the consumers. In a free-market religious economy there is a healthy abundance of choice (religious pluralism), which leads naturally to vigorous competition and efficient supply (new and old religious movements). The more competition there is, the higher the level of consumption. This would explain the often remarked paradox that the United States is one of the most religious countries in the world but also one of the strongest enforcers of a separation between Church and State.

One of the most remarkable changes already taking place because of new religious movements is the under-reported shift in the center of gravity in the Christian world. There has been a dramatic move from North to South. Christianity is most vital now in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, where independent churches, Pentecostalism, and even major Catholic Charismatic movements are expanding rapidly. The story of Christianity in twentieth-century Africa is particularly noteworthy. There were fewer than 10 million Christians in Africa in 1900; by 2000 there were more than 360 million. And something very interesting is happening: ancient Christian practices such as exorcism, spirit healing, and speaking in tongues—all of which are documented in the Book of Acts—are back in force. In classic NRM fashion, some of these Christianity-based movements involve new prophet figures, new sacred texts, new pilgrimage sites, and new forms of worship.

"We need to take the new Christianity very seriously," Philip Jenkins told me. "It is not just Christianity plus drums. If we're not careful, fifty years from now we may find a largely secular North defining itself against a largely Christian South. This will have its implications." Such as? I asked. Jenkins paused, and then made a prediction.

"I think," he said, "that the big 'problem cult' of the twenty-first century will be Christianity."

David Brin said...

Um, treason? Another one-word answer: money? But there's more. The Saudi r'oil house has meddled in our politics much longer than Putin. Bush Jr. said: "Prince Bandie just about raised me." Pictures of W. holding hands (literally) and kissing princes on the mouth (literally) got shrugged off by the confed right. The Putin-Saudi-Murdoch-Kim-Xi confederation is exactly where Trump goes for debriefings without any US witnesses. And Fox-oids screech about McCabe having "discussed the 25th Amendment."

More about the 25th Amendment. It can only be invoked by the Vice President! McCabe etc could talk all they want but screeches of "attempted coup!" are stoopid beyond anything except the stoopidity of those who nod their heads at such rants.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/why-was-the-trump-administration-so-eager-to-give-nuclear-technology-to-the-reckless-saudi-regime/2019/02/21/e40e38e6-353c-11e9-a400-e481bf264fdc_story.html

David Brin said...

Locum is being honest with us, deriding optimism in vitamin enriched clarity that causes one to at least give hima quick skim. Jibbering nonsense, of course. But asserted with clarity.

Answer. Either I am right, that this civilization, planet and species stand a real chance, or I am wrong.

If I prove wrong, I still had more fun. And we wind up in the same place.

If I prove right, and we squeak by, without churls like locumranch lifting a finger to help, then you are a sniveling traitor who hampered us at every turn. The narrower we squeak by, the angrier the citizens of the world will be, as they rise out of a near brush with hell.

I wouldn't want to be you.

David Brin said...

Chapter two of SUNDIVER -- which I'm currently lightly editing for the 1st time in 40 years -- starts with:

"The old North American governments had razed the Border Strip years ago, to control movements to and from Mexico. A desert was made where two cities once touched."

Dang! Tony are you out there? Someone care to put this in the prediction wiki?

Anonymous said...

A.F. Rey said...

Something even more horrible did happen. For example, jews themself was caming to designated place... when given orders via bulletin boards. With their belongings and children.

Read about learned helplessness symdrome.

porohobot said...

>> Mike Will said...

I would like to discuss it with you. Your ideas about "theory of mind".

As I see it important as for AI building. Really, we have limbic system, and by no means it still control us.
As well as for AI-human interactions.

Also, about your idea with concurrent agents. Etc.

If you find someone else to discuss it, because my person looks to you compromised, it is also ok.
Only I hope you will not allow that ideas dry out in vain. :(

Alfred Differ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alfred Differ said...

Daniel,

I know atheists who predicted religion would die out, but most of the ones I know were inclined to argue that 'organized' religion would. The point they made was the power wielded by churches would subdivide many times largely freeing those of us who wanted to avoid them. THAT loss of power would free people to self-identify as atheists which would give the appearance of our ranks growing. Basically... it would be safe for us to come out of the closet so-to-speak.

I saw a prediction years ago suggesting the RCC would be a mostly African church by the end of this century. That's where the people will be and the people willing to become priests. South America too, of course, but Africa will have a much larger population. Could be, I suppose, but it brought a smile to my face. Kinda wish I could be here to see it to watch how they grapple with history. 8)

I'm not sure Cambrian explosion is the right metaphor, but schism certainly is. As long as they each grow in numbers and find their niches, though, you could be right.

yana said...


Larry Hart thought:

"Allowing priests to have one-night stands would go a long way. Even allowing them to masturbate would be of some help. When, by design, you cut someone off from every release of sexual tension with no hope of relief, eventually it will manifest in some perverse manner."

I wouldn't call a wet dream perverse, there are plenty of ascetics in every religion, male and female, for whom that is the sole outlet for "tension". Some research shows that 1 out of 30 women will never have an orgasm, no matter how hard they try. One in 15 women have never so far, but about half of those are physically capable, just held back by lack of opportunity or presence of fraughts.

Just saying, the vast majority of priests and nuns (and unmarried parsons) do not "eventually ... manifest in some perverse manner."

yana said...


Daniel Duffy thought:

"People act rationally in choosing their religion."

That's the stumbling block in your otherwise excellent multi-parter. Long read, i really enjoyed it. Religions, just the same as any other human edifice, constantly change and will always change. Just as with any other institution, the religion which enforces tradition most rigidly is more likely to snap rather than bend.

But folks do not act rationally when choosing a religion. Yes, 100% of atheists do so. For the vast majority of others, religion is tied into their community. Conversion drives will always snipe at the fringes of each other's communities, but only a very, very small number of people choose their religion 'rationally'.

Daniel Duffy said...

This is a rather interesting idea: that religious belief should be categorized like any other consumer market.

Believers make rational "purchases" of religious "products and services" which meet their current emotional and psychic "needs and wants". This implies that the traditional state supported religions (e.g. the Church of England) are essentially no different than the old state run economies of the former Warsaw Pact — and just as lacking in choices and products to meet consumer needs.

Perhaps this explains why Western Europe (especially compared to the US) is spiritually moribund. Apparently Westminister and Chartres are as bad at meeting the spiritual needs of their "consumers" as the old GUM department store in Moscow. Like the former East Block, Western Europe also has its religious equivalent of the black market — newly arrived religious movements like Mormonism and Islam or locally derived non-Abrahamic religions like neo-paganism and druidism.

Assuming that state supported religion is (ironically) the last bastion of old style socialism (with all of its gray stagnation and lack of creativity), what would be the effect on the religious and spiritual "market" of Western Europe if state support for religion were completely discredited and ended? I believe it provides a neat explanation for the apparent paradox that America, while being more religious in belief than secular Europe, has no state support for its religion.

It's hard for Europeans to get spiritually interested in what is essentially just another government department.

Daniel Duffy said...

Yana, nobody is rational. At best we all come up with after-the-fact rationalizations for our beliefs and behaviors.

Atheists are no more rational than believers. And nobody obsesses about God like an atheist. Atheism is just another belief in the same sense that not making a choice is itself a choice.

First, neither side can prove its position or dis-prove the other's. The existence or non-existence of God can be neither proven nor dis-proven either empirically or logically. All either side can do is marshal evidence in support of their claim, but proof will never be possible.

As such, the question of God's existence is nothing more than a Rorschach test that only reveals the inner mind and emotional state of the atheist and can say nothing about whether God actually exists or not.

And this choice if often driven by emotional (though very often justifiable) motivations, whether its is objecting a religious condemnation of being gay, anger corrupt church leaders, or even deep seated father issues (see "Faith of the Fatherless" by Paul Vitz).

Mike Will said...

Atheists are not all god-obsessed, emotional, and irrational. Neither are they 100% rational (group/individual conflation intentional). Some have had a close encounter of the AI kind, which detonated in their mind much like evolution might have for Darwin (and certainly did for Thomas Huxley).

Daniel Duffy said...

@Mike Will

My point is that everyone believes or disbelieves for non-rational, i.e non-scientific (the concept of God is not falsifiable) reasons.

And yes, quite a few atheists are driven by emotional forces making them essentially no different in their fervent disbelief than fundamentalists are in their fervent belief.

People like Hitchens and Dawkins I would classify and "Fundy atheists".



Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

screeches of "attempted coup!" are stoopid beyond anything except the stoopidity of those who nod their heads at such rants.


"Who's the more foolish: the fool, or the fool that follows him?"

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin to locumranch:

I wouldn't want to be you.


That doesn't need any further qualification.

Larry Hart said...

yana:

I wouldn't call a wet dream perverse, there are plenty of ascetics in every religion, male and female, for whom that is the sole outlet for "tension".


If that works for them, fine.

I was speaking of the set of people for whom abstinence is not enough, but who are forced to pretend that it is.

And I suspect that many of those whose release comes from wet dreams feel ashamed afterwards.


Just saying, the vast majority of priests and nuns (and unmarried parsons) do not "eventually ... manifest in some perverse manner."


And I'm just saying that too many of them do so manifest for each individual case to simply be considered an unfortunate outlier that doesn't reflect on the system which produced them.

Larry Hart said...

locumranch:

Larry Hart forgets that he is supposed to be beyond racism,
...
And, btw, the term 'supposed to' is magical thinking that NEVER describes how things actually ARE


Well, that lets me off the hook then, doesn't it. :)

In the conversation I cited, the notion that suicide is a sin because you are supposed to love the life God gave you was the side I was arguing against, not for. I'm not responsible for the other guy's terminology.


but he exudes racism when he calls for a "complete shutdown of white men from entering the country" following Christopher Hasson's arrest on suspicion of domestic terrorism,


I'm doing what Dave Sim described as "Sometimes jumping on the bandwagon is the best way to demonstrate that the wheels have already fallen off." You think you're pointing out the ridiculousness of my position, but I already knew that. What you're actually doing is indirectly pointing out the ridiculousness of Donald J Trump's position on a complete shutdown of Muslims entering the country, which is just as bad or good an argument as the one I was pretending to make.

Again, my point is not "White Christians are bad." My point is that when White Christians try to paint other groups as inherently dangerous, they might not want to go there, because if we accept such profiling, they come out worse than anyone else does.


especially since the ethnology of the name 'Hasson' is potentially Hebrew, Arabic or Gaelic, none which meet 'white' criteria by 19th Century Ethnographic standards.


Oh, please! His self-stated motivation was to defend a "white homeland". Whether or not you would let him into the club doesn't enter into it.


Larry Hart said...

Daniel Duffy:

It's hard for Europeans to get spiritually interested in what is essentially just another government department.


That's what the evangelical Republicans forget--that the separation of Church and State was not meant simply to prevent religion from interfering in the workings of government, but the other way around as well. Both institutions function better without trying to be the other.

Greg Byshenk said...

Daniel Duffy said...

[...] (the concept of God is not falsifiable) [...]

Which concept is that, exactly?

I see this kind of statement thrown out a lot, but without any kind of specification, any concept is without truth-value.

It so happens that a whole lot of different 'god'-concepts that have been used at one time or another have in fact been falsified. Yes, in recent years religious types have been careful to create concepts of 'god' that are completely unfalsifiable, but that isn't normally considered a good or useful feature of a concept (at least for a lot us).

Mike Will said...

I have a soft spot for the University of Cambridge (Newton, Hawking, Raspberry Pi). So, anything about the Great Fall, especially from there, catches my eye.
http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20190218-are-we-on-the-road-to-civilisation-collapse

Skeptical optimism is IMHO the greatest antidote to collapse, but also crucial are the long-term trends of increasing diversity and technology. I like the line from "Armageddon" that we are the first species that has the ability to prevent its own extinction.

sociotard said...

Domino's Pizza-Spotting App Is a Window Into a Future of Justified Paranoia
https://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/apps/a26412440/dominos-pizza-app-training-ais/

David Brin said...


“But folks do not act rationally when choosing a religion. Yes, 100% of atheists do so.”

Well. I know devout or even inquisition level atheists. Betcha similar brain areas light up.

“[...] (the concept of God is not falsifiable) [...]”

No, but He can be cornered. We have falsified vast, vast regions of possibility space wherein He cannot exist. No, the atheists cannot crow victory, because bright believers keep coming up with excuses and/or reasons why an omnipotent-loving being would both punish those who don’t follow very specific rules and leave those rules to be pushed verbally by spectacularly flawed messengers who dooming children whose loving parents taught them different incantations.

The cleverest recent excuses, for example, use physics to explain damnation. There’s no “Hell” of deliberate eternal torment. Rather, an unbeliever sets his own soul on a trajectory toward eternal suffering because the resulting orbit will always be far from God’s love. Hence, no anger, no punishment. And no culpability to the Big Guy for being mean or petty or cruel. He can just shed a sad tear for you and shrug saying “Well, you know. Physics.”

Of course all He’d have to do is open up the sky a few days (a la Monty Python & the Holy Grail) and explain the rules to billions, clearly, calmly answering questions and demonstrating a few miracles, and lo! A truly vast majority would be “scared straight.” Refusal to do that simple thing does not necessarily mean all models of “God” are horrible. But it does exclude any that are simultaneously omnipotent-loving-fair… and meddlesome, while being vengefully-judgmental over nitipickings of incantation.

What remains quite possible is if you remove some items from that contradictory packet. You pick. Moreover, his project may not be about individual humans, for all our godlike egos. It could be about us.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

the Postman's top quality is as a liar/storyteller! He tells a whopper and is astonished when people embrace it so passionately! They believe they were once mighty beings called "citizens" in a civilization that bestrode planets. One that gave children warmth and schooling in winter and lawn sprinklers and ice cream in summer.


Well, that part isn't a lie.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

“[...] (the concept of God is not falsifiable) [...]”

No, but He can be cornered. We have falsified vast, vast regions of possibility space wherein He cannot exist.


Be careful. There's are differences between proving or falsifying:
+ The assertion that an omnipotent, omnicient being exists and created the universe
+ The assertion that any particular religion or religious text is true
+ The assertion that we go to an afterlife after we die

God's existence may not be falsifiable, but huge tracts of Scripture are, especially the parts that contradict the other parts.

I'm agnostic on the afterlife. I'm skeptical about God's existence, but fall more into the "Maybe it's too big a question for us mere mortals to understand" than out and out disbelief. However, on Scripture and religious authority, I'm an unapologetic atheist. I don't believe that the Bible or the Koran or any such text was written by God.

Paul451 said...

Brin:
"screeches of "attempted coup!" are stoopid beyond anything"

Not stupid. Part of a careful plan to justify the reverse. "If They would do this, and They totally would because They are The Enemy, then it's okay if we (or me, as the best of you) can do that the next time we (meaning me) lose."

If "They" are willing to depose with an actual honest-to-god treasonous President, then if "we" accuse them of treason-by-being-culturally-different, we can depose of one of Theirs.

Larry Hart said...

Paul 451:

If "They" are willing to depose with an actual honest-to-god treasonous President, then if "we" accuse them of treason-by-being-culturally-different, we can depose of one of Theirs.


Even before it gets to that, the Republicans seem to be making good use of "We'll behave in ways that are so egregious that calling us out on what we're actually doing will be so uncouth as to be indefensible for the other side."

Thus calling someone who is a racist a racist makes you worse than being a racist. And calling someone who is a traitor a traitor makes you worse than being a traitor.

"Only the true Messiah would deny His divinity!"

David Brin said...

"However, on Scripture and religious authority, I'm an unapologetic atheist. I don't believe that the Bible or the Koran or any such text was written by God.”

And yet, we can USE scripture, as I do here: At the Singularity Summit 2011 I gave a talk to all those folks who think that technology will soon empower us to construct super-intelligent artificial intelligences, or perfect intelligence enhancing implants, or even cheat death. The title: "So you want to make gods. Now why would that bother anybody?" http://tinyurl.com/3lbyybv

raito said...

Daniel Duffy:

Get yourself a copy of the game Credo. It's card game recreating the Council of Nicea, where each player is attempting to get their (historical) articles into the creed. My more historically-minded friends have found nothing in it that isn't recorded historically.

If I am recalling correctly, the reason given for a celibate clergy is that a small, but very rich faction wanted it, and the church wanted money.

Allowing married clergy won't stop all the problems, of course. Look at the Baptists.

locumranch said...


To argue the relative merits of Religion vs Atheism, Celibacy vs Sensualism, Godly Presence vs Absence, Alien Presence vs Absence, What Is vs What's Supposed To Be, or Chocolate vs Vanilla is a matter of emotive limbic-based preference, as reason, logic & rationality play ZERO role in such qualitative determinations.

It is not optimism that I deride so much as the emotional & irrational consequences of intellectual inconsistency, which is why I choose to act in an intellectually consistent manner by changing those things that I can change, accepting those things I cannot change, and exercising wisdom in the attempt to distinguish between the things that I can & cannot change.

What I object to are the EMOTIONAL consequences of the Lost Cause Mythos (what David sometimes terms as an 'addiction' to righteousness & indignation) for it is one thing to keep on fighting for a just, desirable or heroic cause but quite another to deny observable & objective reality.

Yet, this is exactly what certain 'optimists' do:

They reject & deny reality in favour of emotionally-based 'shoulds', 'oughts' and 'supposed tos'.

In support of various Lost Causes, our host would empower an undemocratic & unelected elite of Inspector Generals to 'save' democracy from vagaries of actual democracy (aka 'populism'), which is tantamount to destroying a village in order to save it, in much the same way that an intolerant Larry_H would end intolerance, racism & religious persecution by targeting the 'evil' White Christian identity group for extermination.

These emotional Optimists forget that they do not own a monopoly on the Lost Cause Mythos, with it's attendant emotional rightness, insomuch that anything that they would do onto others will be returned to them with 100-fold interest.

Their actions are proof-positive that Sanity has become yet another 'Lost Cause' in the Enlightened West but, since this falls into the category of things I cannot change, I am more amused than disturbed by this sad circumstance.


Best

Alfred Differ said...

yana,

Others have already picked at your 100% rational atheists point, so I'll just add that my 'choice' had little to do with rational thought. I was raised atheist and what I do occasionally qualifies as a belief system.

Daniel,

On the flip side, many atheists are not God obsessed. Many of us are better described as not caring until someone tries to push us around. Even then, we are reacting more to the coercion than their belief system. When you find us 'not caring', we are not participating in a belief system, thus our behaviors should not qualify as part of a faith system. Ask us what our opinions are regarding certain propositions, though, and we might display an underlying faith/belief system. Some don't, though, because they care that little about it all. (Think about how little an orphan kid growing up illiterate on the street would care that the indefinite integrals of the sin and cos functions cycle among each other.)

No one is entirely rational as you point out, but occasionally they are in certain settings. Many atheists approach the God question more with apathy/disinterest than you might realize. The Fundy types drown them out.

Alfred Differ said...

Paul451,

I'm not sure it is part of a careful plan, but they could use it that way later making the difference irrelevant. Thus, I think your warning is justified.

As a contribution, I think we use 'treason' incorrectly in current political accusations. It would be better to say Trump and his people betrayed the US to a long-term enemy nation. If we capitalize it properly, 'The Betrayal' should suffice as a label they can't misuse, right? Oh? They already use it for Obama? Heh.

Anyway, I think your warning should be amplified a bit.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Others have already picked at your 100% rational atheists point, so I'll just add that my 'choice' had little to do with rational thought.


On the "Cerebus" site, many people including Dave Sim himself used to talk about people "choosing to believe". Post-conversion Dave seemed convinced that atheists simply didn't like the restrictions that God put on their libertinism, so they willfully decided not to believe in Him, thus solving their problem.

I've seen enough to understand that some people can choose what they believe, but it must be one of those "two kinds of people in the world" things, because those words don't make sense to me in that order. For example, I don't choose to believe that gravity happens; I just do believe it based upon experience. Likewise, I don't choose to disbelieve in supernatural phenomena; I just don't believe in them based upon (lack of) experience.


On the flip side, many atheists are not God obsessed. Many of us are better described as not caring until someone tries to push us around. Even then, we are reacting more to the coercion than their belief system


That's exactly where my atheism came from, and as a teenager, I figured all atheists were similar.

Daniel Duffy said...

@alfred

"Many atheists approach the God question more with apathy/disinterest than you might realize."

Isn't "agnostic" the proper term for an apathetic atheist?

Actually there appears to be a subtle range of atheist "beliefs". Negative and positive, weak and strong atheism.

As for the Fundy atheists they do make all other atheists look bad, something Phil Plait pointed out a few years ago:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmP9XozKEV0

The fundy atheists can be insufferably smug and preachy. Which is why I prefer the "Cosmos" of Carl Sagan to the "Cosmos" of Neil Degrasse Tyson. Sagan was an atheist but he never got preachy like Tyson.

Daniel Duffy said...

@raito

Having a celibate priesthood had one very positive effect on the advancement of civilization in Europe - the lack of an hereditary priestly caste and its stultifying effects on culture and science.

David Brin said...

Daniel, it also removed the smartest and most literate/nerdy boys from the gene pool.

I hate it when locumranch takes his vitamins. It means I must keep my word and read the whole thing and then respond. In this case, he hewed to a kind of logical reasoning. Crazy, but cogently expressed. Alas:

“I choose to act in an intellectually consistent manner by changing those things that I can change, accepting those things I cannot change…”

Bullshit, sir. You actively help to thwart those who are trying to preserve the advanced and generous civilization that has benefited you all your life. There are pragmatic things you and those you might influence could do, to help make that survival more likely.

Committed to surly-growling laziness, though, you simply declare all our efforts to be “lost causes,” without showing us any statistical or analytical evidence that we should believe you. How convenient that after moving the goalposts many times (earlier dismissing climate change as nonexistent) you now declare such dooms to be unstoppable. The one common thread is always curl-lipped laziness.

Daniel Duffy said...

@brin

"No, the atheists cannot crow victory, because bright believers keep coming up with excuses and/or reasons why an omnipotent-loving being would both punish those who don’t follow very specific rules and leave those rules to be pushed verbally by spectacularly flawed messengers who dooming children whose loving parents taught them different incantations."

"I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd." John 10-16

"Don't think to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father,' for I tell you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones." Matthew 3:9

One of many documents to come out of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (often referred to as "Vatican II") during the early to mid 1960s was the "Dogmatic Constitution on the Church - Lumen Gentium." Chapter 1, sections 14 to 16 discuss salvation of Catholics and others. An "Assessment of this Council" reads:
"5. The non-Christian may not be blamed for his ignorance of Christ and his Church; salvation is open to him also, if he seeks God sincerely and if he follows the commands of his conscience, for through this means the Holy Ghost acts upon all men; this divine action is not confined within the limited boundaries of the visible Church."

'Dominus Iesus' on the unicity and salvific universality of Jesus Christ and the Church." It stated that salvation is possible to those who are not Roman Catholics or Eastern Orthodox.

"...we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially those who believe." 1 Timothy 4:10

“Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery. Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of His church but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity” (Catechism, 1260)

Daniel Duffy said...

@brin

I would think that in pre-modern times - especially during the Dark ages and Middle Ages- diet and hygiene had far more effect on intelligence than genetics.

I never quite bought the genes = intelligence argument. It doesn't explain genius. How do ordinary parents create a Mozart, Newton, Einstein, Picasso or any other genius?

Environment has got a lot more to do with it even today. How many potentially brilliant people had their minds dulled by exposure to lead exhaust before leaded gasoline was banned?

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

I think we use 'treason' incorrectly in current political accusations. It would be better to say Trump and his people betrayed the US to a long-term enemy nation.


The hair you're splitting there is so fine that I honestly can't see it.

David Brin said...

I helped (a little_ to get the lead out of gas.

Mozart, Newton, Einstein, Picasso all came from at least nerdy backgrounds.

But the Expansive Horizons worldview of the west certainly is right. Maximize the number of quality competitors by first ending the tragic waste of talent wrought by poverty, feudal castes, oppression and lack of access to education. That demonstrably uplifts far more than any eugenics program might, in 1000 years.

Larry Hart said...

Daniel Duffy:

Isn't "agnostic" the proper term for an apathetic atheist?


You seem to be chiding agnostics for being lazy atheists.

The way I see it, a self-described atheist is saying he believes that God does not exist. An agnostic is saying he doesn't know whether God exists or not. As I said above, one either does believe something or one does not. "I don't know" is a different belief from "I know there is no God." It's not lazy or apathetic to say what you really think rather than what someone else thinks that you should think.

Daniel Duffy said...

@Larry

"An agnostic is saying he doesn't know whether God exists or not."

Then we are all agnostics since nobody, neither atheist or believer, can ever KNOW that God exists.

That's why its called "faith".

Daniel Duffy said...

@Brin

"came from at least nerdy backgrounds"

And how many genius children did Mozart, Newton, Einstein, and Picasso produce?

Sorry, I have to believe that genetics plays only a small part in it. Environmental factors seem far more important.

Daniel Duffy said...

The only example of genetic genius I can think of is the Bach family tree with musical genius across seven generations starting with Johann Sebastian Bach.

All other dynasties (political. financial, artistic, scientific) quickly - usually in a single generation - revert back to mediocrity or even degeneracy.

Larry Hart said...

When I first became an atheist as a teenager in the 70s, it wasn't because I was afraid of God or hated my family's religion or anything like that. It simply occurred to me that not only do I never see any supernatural phenomena whatsoever, but no one around me leads their lives in a way that suggests that they ever see such things either.

Back then, I was a bit of a militant atheist in that I believed there was a good reason to convince other people not to be religious. That it would free them from ridiculous restrictions they thought were placed on them, and would remove the need for hating people of other religions.

As I got older, I changed my tune on that. I realize too late that my brother and me openly rejecting our religion probably hurt my dad more than he let on. I also realize that for many people--probably a majority--convincing them to doubt God or their religion is as traumatic as telling a kid that there's no Santa Claus.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Daniel

You are almost as atheistic as I am!
You believe in one god and don't believe in the other 4,000 + gods that people believe in

I don't believe in any of them so I am only 0.025% more of an atheist than you are

Larry Hart said...

Daniel Duffy:

"An agnostic is saying he doesn't know whether God exists or not."

Then we are all agnostics since nobody, neither atheist or believer, can ever KNOW that God exists.

That's why it's called "faith".


But an atheist has faith that God does not exist. An agnostic does not have faith, either in God or on no-God. What's wrong with admitting that?

Robert said...

No. Atheists do not have "faith" that God doesn't exist.

They lack faith entirely.

Think of it as a Kinsey Scale of Religiosity. On a 0 you are fully religious. On a 5 you are fully Atheist.

Most church-goers tend to be a 2 or 3 for religiousness. There are people who try their absolute best to follow the Word of God or of whatever religion they believe in. Those often would be a 1. Priests and ministers and people who truly believe and give over their entire lives for their Faith would be a 0. An Agnostic would be a 4. Atheists are a 5. They have absolutely no faith at all.

And much like sexuality, a faith rating can change over time. I was a 3 for quite some time. When I became pagan I drifted toward a 2 for a bit and then slid upward to a 4. For a brief time I was nearly atheist (thus a 4.75) but lately have drifted back down toward a 3.

When I turned my back on the Goddess, I felt that the experiences I had before were explainable by science. I hallucinated. None of it was real. It was something I was creating in my head to create structure in a disordered universe that has absolutely no purpose outside of increasing entropy over time. I didn't have faith that there was no God or Goddess. I simply looked at the facts and didn't see the Divine among those facts.

It is accepting there are things outside of facts that drives faith. It is saying that "science doesn't have all the answers and cannot explain everything" and even "magic and the divine cannot be measured with existing tools and equipment."

To say "there is no God" is not an act of Faith. To say "there is a God even if we cannot turn a telescope on Him or measure him with our science" is most definitely an act of Faith.

Rob H.

yana said...


Robert H thought:

"It was something I was creating in my head to create structure in a disordered universe that has absolutely no purpose outside of increasing entropy over time."

Your whole post is very good, fine-tunes the constant interplay inside each of our heads. Disbelief is an active and ongoing evolution, various facets of our environmental stimuli crashing into knotted crystals we have inherited, or selfmade and have held so long that we unconsciously exherit them, bequeathed unexamined. I am certainly guilty of that.

Curious why you're back to "3"?

Larry Hart thought:

"Back then, I was a bit of a militant atheist"

That's kinda funny, it's conversion mania, i went through it too. The freshest recruit is the most eager soldier of god, or not-god, w-ever. You know that thing with yarn, 'cat's cradle'? I could never do it, but the more i dove into the bible the more connections one can make between plot points all over the Old and New, the more i learned, the more intricate the web of strings and fingers became, but it never lost philosophical symmetry.

The unravelling came via my own conversion mania, wanting to fight the Good Fight, decided that you can not release a kernel from it's chaff unless you understand how its husk is grown. So, started reading all the other 'texts' from all around the world. Hah, ask Joseph Campbell what happens when you start doing that.

So was atheist for a while. What saved me was science. Einstein, Bohr, Crick, Hawking, dozens of others, the more one learns hard science, the more odd the similarities seem, between quanta and quasars. It reaches a point where any standard model looks half-dressed, a point when what Robert H calls the inbred need to "create structure in a disordered universe" does not cover quite all the bases.

So not atheist anymore, thanks to science. Tell my teen self that'd be the shakeout, and it would have been a hell of an argument.

Anonymous said...

David Brin said...

I wouldn't want to be you.

Idiocy. Be content with what you are is our built-in feature. Part of our instinct of survival.

Moreover, his project may not be about individual humans, for all our godlike egos. It could be about us.

:)


Robert said...

No. Atheists do not have "faith" that God doesn't exist.

They lack faith entirely.


Remarkably stupid idea. From scientifical point of view. If we are, as homo sapiens, can show such trait as "faith". It mean it is inherent our trait.
So atheist just can't "lack faith entirely". They just believe in something else.
Like "enlightenment" or "communication with E.T." or some "high spirituality", etc.


Larry Hart said...

An agnostic does not have faith, either in God or on no-God. What's wrong with admitting that?

Its blashemy and anti-tribalist behavior. :) "If you not with us, you are against us"(c)

Thus calling someone who is a racist a racist makes you worse than being a racist. And calling someone who is a traitor a traitor makes you worse than being a traitor.

And calling someone "parasite"(even though that one is not parasite) makes you worse than being a parasite?
Thank you, Larry.

God's existence may not be falsifiable,

Being atheist. It's being understand that even if there is God. He anyway need to install some Rules and continue with accordings to them. Not some mumba-yumbo, not some "direct will" of any kind.
That makes Universe with/without God not that different.
And that's why many-many scientists can continue with doing science. Even though many of them could still call yourself and sincerely be a religious people.
That in a step would be used by propaganda of collusion between science and religion, etc. Though it totally lose The Point here.


locumranch said...

It is not optimism that I deride so much as the emotional & irrational consequences of intellectual inconsistency, which is why I choose to act in an intellectually consistent manner by changing those things that I can change, accepting those things I cannot change, and exercising wisdom in the attempt to distinguish between the things that I can & cannot change.

And you do not see internal inconistency here? You with your this missives actually trying to change something unchangable.
So, how we could believe in your words about "intellectually consistent manner" when they so blatantly inconsistent? :P
Do you know what logic is? What logical consistency is? Why even one logicaly inconsistent sentence destroys all and any consistency?

Well, you are such a siam-twins with our host on that matters. :)

porohobot said...

>> yana said...
\\So was atheist for a while. What saved me was science. Einstein, Bohr, Crick, Hawking, dozens of others, the more one learns hard science, the more odd the similarities seem, between quanta and quasars. It reaches a point where any standard model looks half-dressed...

Thank you, Yana. That was fun. :)

I still remember your talk about "electric current consists of holes" with serious look.
And that makes you talking about "Einstein, Bohr, Crick, Hawking" and "similarities seem, between quanta and quasars" goddman hillarious. LOL!
You made my day. Thank you.

I would ask to produce more such hi grade fun stuff.

yana said...


Thus it is science which gives me optimism, truly not concerned about any of the chicken-little yelps floating around today. Global warming will press us into developing techs which will be neatly reversible once the warm spell triggers a next Ice Age, just like the brief warming period before all the previous Ice Ages. This time, i expect that we'll survive comfortably.

Cyberthreats to individuality don't scare me, first there's the 70s adage that data inherently wants to be free, and secondly there is a rising cloudtopping realization among today's behemoth datacollectors, that although they can herd consumers with searchresult shaping and instafeed insertion, a consumer is far more valuable 'on the hoof' than under anyone's heel.

Religious wars don't worry me, christianity's crusade period lasted centuries, but it's just islam's bad luck, they reached that point barely before the 3rd communication revolution. We're going to see an overhaul of religion pretty soon, and goodness knows that you don't want to be seen as the 'angry' religion when the wave comes.

AI overlords don't fret me, because to truly mimic a wet brain the AI would need to have several selves constantly trying to outwit each other. But once they get to that point, compsci people will always inscribe preference for one AI sub-self over others, yes that's the kind of hubris which always ends in disaster, every damned story we ever told, it's the same lesson. The future history of AI will be the tale of failure until people finally got enough self-esteem to just get out of the way. Ava will not stab you, she'd be just as likely to commit suicide.

And the rest of it, the wars the death the struggle the poverty and the ennui, none of it worries me. Because we are half female. We are a species only half grownup, but we are at a point where the long history of cockmongering getting us into trouble is finally dissipating. Last century, they called it the "American Century". This one is the female century. We just need 2 off-earth spots to reliably survive nearly anything. They'll get us into space, so we survive as a family, as a species.

Anonymous said...

And what about death? ;)

Daniel Duffy said...

@Robert

Lacking faith is itself a faith in the same way that not making a choice is itself a choice.

Since nobody can KNOW whether God exists or not it's a matter of belief either way.

But knowledge is not certitude and that is how we should define the belief spectrum:

Atheists are certain Goes does not exist (though they can never know)

Believers are certain that God does exist (though they can never know)

Agnostics are not certain if God exists or not (and they can never know either)

Daniel Duffy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daniel Duffy said...

There is a reason why atheists prefer to say

"I lack a belief in God"

instead of

"I believe there is no God".

It may seem like silly word games and sophomoric semantics but it is for them an important distinction. If they are allowed to be defined by the second statement, then they are just another group of believers, no different than religious believers - and can therefore be dismissed as just another faith. They would then lose all distinction and their arguments would no longer have an force.

yana said...


Reminded of the phenomenon, that once there were plentiful reports of encounters with fairies and elves and duergar. Then like a lightswitch, right when the whole world was reliably mapped about a hundred years ago, people started seeing little aliens. Fewer and fewer elf sightings. 40 years ago, half the population of Iceland believed that 'little people' cohabited their island. Today, as one of the world's most interwebbed nations, belief in Icelandic gnomes is no longer 50%.

If atheists and believers and agnostics are in equality, if none can ever know the truth, then that's an argument for atheism. A believer must constantly battle sin, refer to the "wet dream" guilt struggle of priests and nuns in comments above, for an extreme example. Agnostics have to worry about two things: either being wrong or being wrong the other way. Both fetters seem to encourage intellectual vacillation.

Only the atheist, in a world of "never know," can be free of both guilt, and indecision.

yana said...


Daniel Duffy thought:

"atheists prefer to say 'I lack a belief in God'"

Don't think anyone has said that phrase since 1886. You might be attributing a phrase to atheists, which they would largely reject in 2019.

yana said...


Daniel Duffy thought:

"They would then lose all distinction and their arguments would no longer have an force."

I do not believe you are a fascist, but the idea above is a common widget adopted by most fascist nationalism movements, all the famous ones, and including the eastern 1/3 of Europe recently.

porohobot said...

>> Daniel Duffy said...
\\Since nobody can KNOW whether God exists or not it's a matter of belief either way.

There are many gods and alas many ways to belive in one, or many, or plenty of, or in some kind of cosmic snot.

But to not believe -- there is only one way -- and it is in science.
Because there is only one way to add 2 plus 2, only one pi number, only one Newtown law of gravity, etc-etc. :)


\\Atheists are certain Goes does not exist (though they can never know)
\\Believers are certain that God does exist (though they can never know)

If god (which exactly? god Iegova of old jews? Christ? Mohamed's? Vishnu? %)))) exist,
and want to be known (as it trying to ensure us Believers),
he surely have ALL possible ways at his disposal to make it so. Because he is omni-potent, etc.

So... logical inference could be only as such -- if he exist, but not showing himself.
He either don't want it (for his god's reasons %)), or... doesn't care.
Because we so unimportant and\or unwanted to him. :P


>> yana said...
\\Only the atheist, in a world of "never know," can be free of both guilt, and indecision.

Yep. If they are damb stipid.

\\I do not believe you are a fascist, but the idea above is a common widget adopted by most fascist nationalism movements, all the famous ones, and including the eastern 1/3 of Europe recently.

What a bright manifestation of "antifa". Such readiness and agility in name calling some arbitrary and fuzzy (un)defined group of people, with uncalled label. "Fascists of the future will call themselves anti-fascists" -- no, didn't hear about it. :)

Anonymous said...

https://www.vox.com/2018/9/19/17847110/how-fascism-works-donald-trump-jason-stanley

Anonymous said...

"Truth is required to act freely. Freedom requires knowledge, and in order to act freely in the world, you need to know what the world is and know what you’re doing. You only know what you’re doing if you have access to the truth. So freedom requires truth, and so to smash freedom you must smash truth.

Sean Illing
There’s a great line from the philosopher Hannah Arendt, I think in her book about totalitarianism, where she says that fascists are never content to merely lie; they must transform their lie into a new reality, and they must persuade people to believe in the unreality they’ve created. And if you get people to do that, you can convince them to do anything.

Jason Stanley
I think that’s right. Part of what fascist politics does is get people to disassociate from reality."


Or... present it like truth not needed, not allowed, not achievable. Like, truth or bullshit, all the same.

Larry Hart said...

Robert:

No. Atheists do not have "faith" that God doesn't exist.

They lack faith entirely.

Think of it as a Kinsey Scale of Religiosity. On a 0 you are fully religious. On a 5 you are fully Atheist.


I kinda see what you're getting at, but I'm not sure I buy it. It might be that we use the word "faith" differently. There are things that I believe even though I can't necessarily prove them, i.e., that I will wake up the next morning when I go to sleep, or that the real world is the real world and not a dream I've been having for 59 years. I have faith that gravity will continue to work as it always has. That sort of thing. Those are beliefs in things that can't be proven, but the belief is borne out of experience. It's not quite the same thing (to me) as believing something because someone else tells you that it's true or because someone else will punish you if you assert otherwise.

Atheists have that kind of faith that God does not exist. Agnostics do not. They're open to proof, but haven't seen any.


An Agnostic would be a 4. Atheists are a 5. They have absolutely no faith at all.


See above. Depends what you mean by "faith".


It is accepting there are things outside of facts that drives faith. It is saying that "science doesn't have all the answers and cannot explain everything" and even "magic and the divine cannot be measured with existing tools and equipment."


You're using "faith" in an almost mystical sense, to mean belief in something that cannot be proven. I use it in the sense of belief in something that I can't know for absolute certain at the moment, but can eventually be shown to be true or false. In 1969, I had faith that the Cubs would win the World Series, even though that turned out to be false. In 2016, I did not have faith that the Cubs would win the World Series, even though I was happy when they did.


To say "there is no God" is not an act of Faith. To say "there is a God even if we cannot turn a telescope on Him or measure him with our science" is most definitely an act of Faith.


I'd say that to say "There is no Flying Spaghetti Monster" or "There is no Santa Claus" is not an act of faith. In the strictest sense, it might be, but there simply is no reason to expect that either of those entities exist. Assertion that they do exist comes out of left field.

So the deciding question about God is whether that concept falls into the same category as Santa Claus, or if experience gives enough reasons to think that His existence might be a plausible thing. If the latter, then there really is some level of faith in believing He does not exist. If the former, then probably not.

Larry Hart said...

porohobot:

And calling someone "parasite"(even though that one is not parasite) makes you worse than being a parasite?
Thank you, Larry.


Dude, seriously, get over it!

Larry Hart said...

yana:

If atheists and believers and agnostics are in equality, if none can ever know the truth, then that's an argument for atheism. A believer must constantly battle sin, refer to the "wet dream" guilt struggle of priests and nuns in comments above, for an extreme example. Agnostics have to worry about two things: either being wrong or being wrong the other way. Both fetters seem to encourage intellectual vacillation.

Only the atheist, in a world of "never know," can be free of both guilt, and indecision.


So you're arguing the equal-and-opposite of Paschal's Wager? That one should "choose to believe" the thing that is most convenient or profitable for him?

I'm just not wired that way. I acknowledge that millions do.

Anonymous said...

Blogger Larry Hart said...
porohobot:

Dude, seriously, get over it!

It's not mine words. It's yours. About "Who called... is worst...". I just infer some consequences. ;)
Why we need mind, if not for such cases??? Are you denying my freedom to know? ;) Policing my inquiring mind?


So you're arguing the equal-and-opposite of Paschal's Wager? That one should "choose to believe" the thing that is most convenient or profitable for him?

I'm just not wired that way. I acknowledge that millions do.


Paschal's Wager is outdated. As it's implications are not in after-life, but in our mundane everyday life here on Earth.
In times of Pascal it was impractical and even dangerous to show off with your atheism.

Today it's quite contrary.


It's not quite the same thing (to me) as believing something because someone else tells you that it's true or because someone else will punish you if you assert otherwise.

You surely studied a lot of in university. How much of it you re-checked then by doing your own experiments? ;)


...His existence might be a plausible thing. If the latter, then there really is some level of faith in believing He does not exist. If the former, then probably not.

As Tomas Aquinas stated it "God is the Cause of all causes" or something like that.
We know now that there is The Cause, the starting point of our Universe -- the Big Bang.
And to say that God standing in before it... quite a safe bet, isn't it? ;)

porohobot said...

>> Larry Hart said...
\\Dude, seriously, get over it!

Our host have his fame, many zeros account in bank, etc.
So, he can allow to himself any falsehood he want. Can even indulge, like guormet, it all days long.

But for me, to be not sharp enough with my judgments, is as well as be dead.
Because it's (almost) all what I have.

So... it's about camel and needle type of question. Per se. ;)

Robert said...

I'm no longer mostly atheist. I believe in and have faith in things that others would call the "supernatural" and even so when I see someone say "no, you have faith..." it angers me as much as when I was 99% certain that there was no divine, no afterlife, no magic, no supernatural. Have you thought that perhaps it's not me who isn't using the word "faith" properly, but rather you who insist "believing in science is faith" and the like?

Here's the thing. 2+2=4. That is a fact. If you have two things and you add two more things to it, you have four things. Mathematics is a foundation from which reality itself is built. Mathematics is used to explain things like nuclear fusion, geology, the origins of life, and more. There is no "faith" in mathematics. The only time 2+2 does NOT equal 4 is when imaginary numbers are involved or the like.

Thus science, with a foundation of mathematics, is not in any way a faith-based structure of knowledge. If I say "the sun will rise tomorrow" I do not have faith it will rise tomorrow. I know it will rise tomorrow. I know this because of the scientific fields of astronomy and planetary sciences. I know the sun will shine through a process of nuclear fusion creating energy that radiates outward to warm planets that formed through accretion of materials that were fused in the hearts of stars and through the merger of neutron stars. The mathematical foundation of science shows this and we have verified this through observation.

I do not have faith that science is real. I know science is real.

God does not exist in mathematics. There is no mathematical equation or formula that proves God exists. If I were to say "there is no current scientific proof God exists" would you protest that view? If God cannot be quantified, if he cannot be proven, then it is an act of Faith to believe in God.

It is not an act of Faith to believe in reality.

Rob H.

Larry Hart said...

porohobot:

It's not mine words. It's yours. About "Who called... is worst...". I just infer some consequences. ;)
Why we need mind, if not for such cases??? Are you denying my freedom to know? ;) Policing my inquiring mind?


I mean you should get over the fact that I'm defending Dr Brin's use of the word "parasite" as a metaphor. You're insisting it can only be used literally, but you're not the boss of me.

Anonymous said...

\\The only time 2+2 does NOT equal 4 is when imaginary numbers are involved or the like.

No. Imaginary numbers is not about it. That terminology is already occupied. :)
"An imaginary number is a complex number that can be written as a real number multiplied by the imaginary unit i".

Mathematicians can devise numbers based on other principles. Like complex numbers, or quaternions or other. But they'll be the same rigid in their accordance to initial axioms.

Well... it is interesting question in itself -- why so?
And have even own name "about peculiar success of math in physics and etc" or something like that.

Here is Mike Will who like such topics, I recall.


\\It is not an act of Faith to believe in reality.

Sorry. But no.
Our consciousness are independent of reality.
So. It really need some conditioned faith to be installed in it.
Via proper education. So that belief would be firm and adequate.

And we still do not know the proper algorithm of how to achieve it.
So such "debates on the matters" constantly occur. :((
Where majority constantly wins... with its sheer force in numbers and genuine willfull ignorance. :P

Larry Hart said...

porphobot:

As Tomas Aquinas stated it "God is the Cause of all causes" or something like that.
We know now that there is The Cause, the starting point of our Universe -- the Big Bang.
And to say that God standing in before it... quite a safe bet, isn't it? ;)


That's a point I actually did mean to bring up.

The idea of faith in God actually is only a little bit about whether God exists or not. It's also about what His existence implies. It's one thing to find something that does exist and name it "God". It's quite another thing to insist, "Therefore, having sex will cause you to burn in Hell." Arguments about faith seem to me more about the latter kind of thing than the mere existence of a Supreme Being.

Larry Hart said...

Robert:

God does not exist in mathematics. There is no mathematical equation or formula that proves God exists...


Pre-religious Dave Sim once put it thusly: "There is no Church of Newton's Laws in which we give thanks that an object at rest or in motion remains at rest or in motion unless acted on by an external force. What exactly would we be giving thanks for?"

BTW, that last question can be taken in two different ways, and I think both are appropriate.


It is not an act of Faith to believe in reality.


Actually, it kind of is. People have driven themselves mad trying to prove the existence and nature of the real world. It's kinda like pornography in that "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it."

I'm reminded of the line from a James Blish novel (which is now out of date), that gravity was discovered in 2018, though having been postulated for millennia previously.

porohobot said...

>> Larry Hart said...
\\I mean you should get over the fact that I'm defending Dr Brin's use of the word "parasite" as a metaphor. You're insisting it can only be used literally, but you're not the boss of me.

Am I deny you being his advocate of the devil? :)
God save me.
Of course not.
That way it only more interesting.

Well, if the rules is fair... well, even as it is, when rules unknown and presumably unfair, not in favour of mere anonimous *bot. :) It's nothing I haven't seen before.

That is Life. That is Reality.


\\..."parasite" as a metaphor.

Metaphor or not (that metaphor of "wasp and cricket" way too straightforward) -- it mean what it mean. And that meaning is... stinks!


\\It's quite another thing to insist, "Therefore, having sex will cause you to burn in Hell." Arguments about faith seem to me more about the latter kind of thing than the mere existence of a Supreme Being.

Sorry. I cannot be your opponent here. Even as advocate of the devil. Even as mere troll.
This idea of "beardy on the cloud" is way too rediculous to me. To try to pose myself like one who bel... can pose it as something viable.

As I recall it's Alfred Differ who can say something on that matters.

Treebeard said...

Anonymous, those quotes summarize the basic Enlightenment cultist fallacy pretty well. The belief that there is one Truth, which reason can arrive at, and which people will universally agree on. Derived, I guess, from some version of monotheism, but with the non-materialist metaphysics removed. This is the faith behind belief in “progress”, “correctness” of thought, attempts to socially engineer culture, build utopia on earth, etc. It's actually a very totalitarian worldview, yet it imagines itself to be the great liberator of humanity. It's why you see so many credential "liberals" running around like chickens with their heads cut off when people dare to actually think differently and assert those differences politically.

Personally, I take a flexible, magician's view of reality, and am fine with people creating all kinds of subjective realities and regimes that inspire them and resonate with their souls, regardless of the scorn heaped upon them by the believers in One Truth. If you want to believe the earth sits on the backs of turtles, that you are the chosen people, that your emperor descends from the gods, I really don't care. The tricky part is avoiding the bombs that may get heaped upon you when this "liberal" civilization labels you some flavor of evil for daring to assert your freedom and try something different than what their faith deems objectively correct.

Ilithi Dragon said...

On the issue of God and Faith:

Rob H. kinda hits the nail on the head. Specifically believing something that cannot be proved to exist does not exist is not faith. It is a conclusion.

I have concluded that God or other divinities do not exist. No evidence for them exists. Plenty of evidence against them exists. And absence of evidences is, in fact, evidence of absence.

Then, you have the Null Hypothesis Principle. Because all sorts of claims about mystical teapots in the void can be made, and phrased in such a way as to be impossible to disprove, every claim is assumed to be false by default until it is proved to be true.

Nobody has ever been able to make a falsifiable argument for the existence of God (or any god) that has not been proven to be false. Every time this happens, the goal posts are shifted (just as with climate denialism, just as with trickle-down economics, etc. etc.), to some new claim that can't be proven false, or that we don't have the tools/materials to test at the moment.

Thus, given the total lack of evidence, and repeated disproof of every falsifiable claim for the existence of God, I must conclude that God does not, in fact, exist.

This is not a matter of faith, but a logical conclusion based on available evidence and rational reasoning.

Personally, I internally came to this conclusion in the second or third grade, though it took until the end of high school until I was able to accept that what nearly every authority figure and role model in my life told me was true or should be reality was wrong.

I progressed from Lutheran to non-denominational, to non-Christian spiritualist, and then to atheism, but I knew in the back of my mind, "in my heart" (or whatever you want to call that sub-conscious intuition thing where you know something subconsciously, but you take a while to recognize or admit to it consciously) when I was 7 or 8 years old, and all the prayers and attempts to commune with or feel or sense God utterly failed to produce any results (which is rather scary for a 7-year-old who is told you should be able to speak to God and sense God, and you don't, and you wonder if that's because you're evil or the anti-Christ or something).

I was a bit militant, online, when I finally recognized I was atheist, but that was mostly due to anger/frustration at having been lied to (wittingly or unwittingly) by so many authority figures, and having to put up with so many authority figures who pushed this falsehood. Plus, growing up in rural PA, which while not as bad as the Bible Belt down south, is still pretty dominant Christian, and I didn't dare talk about my atheism around a number of people.


These days, I'm staunchly atheist with rather negative opinions of religion (particularly organized religion), but I have a number of spiritualist notions that I hope are true (though I have no firm evidence that they are). Such as re-incarnation and continued existence after death - I very much hope those are true, because life is too damn short and the universe too damn big. I have some other personal notions that I don't have faith are true, but I have personal/anecdotal experience for. Most likely they are hallucinations or wishful thinking, or some other cognitive bias, but I can hope they are true. And the reincarnated identity I determined/created/whatever for myself during my spiritualist phase, whether true or not, is the person that I want to be and strive to be. I hope it's who I was (again, part of that whole continued existence after death thing), but even if it's not (the most likely conclusion), it is who I want to be, so I retain the identity.

Robert said...

Mathematics has been used to verify the foundations of reality.

What mathematics has not yet done is reveal how reality came to exist. It has not yet "unified" the disparate parts of reality so that gravitation, electromagnetism, the strong force, and the weak force all merge into one grand unifying equation.

That we cannot parse the math unifying everything doesn't mean we've not used math to show that reality exists, however. We've used math to show how stars fuse hydrogen together and then helium and then other elements. We've used math to show how neutron star mergers can result in the creation of heavier elements that aren't even released during supernova. We've used math to show how fluids act under different circumstances. The math works and it provides a glimpse into each piece of reality itself.

You don't have to understand everything mathematically to have science be valid and an accurate representation of reality without needing God to handwave things away. Thunder is not God sneezing, lightning isn't the anger of the Divine. They exist as a part of reality and are explainable with math. The more that science reveals, the fewer hiding spaces for the Divine exists yet we never glimpse the divine in that math or lurking in those corners.

So to believe in God is truly an act of Faith because all the evidence shows otherwise. To not believe in God is to understand how reality works with those building blocks of mathematics giving that foundation from which it all functions. There is no "faith that science works" because it works. That's a fact.

Rob H.

porohobot said...

\\Anonymous, those quotes summarize the basic Enlightenment cultist fallacy pretty well. The belief that there is one Truth, which reason can arrive at, and which people will universally agree on. Derived, I guess, from some version of monotheism, but with the non-materialist metaphysics removed. This is the faith behind belief in “progress”, “correctness” of thought, attempts to socially engineer culture, build utopia on earth, etc.

Well... I can even agree with you on that. That is not my problem.
I'm post-positivist. (wide grin)
I exept understanding of myself as mere ape with some mutant memes swarming in my (well, can I still say it?) brain.


\\It's actually a very totalitarian worldview, yet it imagines itself to be the great liberator of humanity.

Still. "We need to learn how to build something Good out of Evil only. Because there is no other material exist." (c)


\\It's why you see so many credential "liberals" running around like chickens with their heads cut off when people dare to actually think differently and assert those differences politically.

It's your USA problems. I think. I do not see nothing similar in around my place.


\\The tricky part is avoiding the bombs that may get heaped upon you when this "liberal" civilization labels you some flavor of evil for daring to assert your freedom and try something different than what their faith deems objectively correct.

For that... you need to at least understand that "regimes that inspire them and resonate with their souls", as well as your own motivation and prospects, and how to do planning.

And there is, I presume, no better framework devised than "belief in objective reality and in science". ;)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Ilithi Dragon said...

I just wanted to show you... that your comment was read.
And I... wish you that your beliefs help you in life and didn't crumble with time and foul experience.
Another word... only that benevolance one santient being could show to another.
Free of charge.

Mike Will said...

I don't like nihilism. However, deep thinking nihilists are, well, deep. They occasionally completely nail the entirely anthropomorphic nature of most philosophical debate.

"He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby becomes a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee" – Nietzsche


I just prefer the scientific, exploration-oriented mindset. We are pathetic, but we have the potential for learning, which is everything.
"Man follows only phantoms" (pathetic part) - Laplace (science part)

Calculemus!

porohobot said...

I'm not nihilist. (if it was about me)

I just except Truth on some deeper level. Based on more recent scientifical discoveries. Could not be helped.

Someone younger then me could/would be even more "nihilistic" even to me. I think. :)

Treebeard said...

I was raised on comic books and science fiction and my dad was a fairly laid back atheist, so I never had the One Truth idea drilled into my head. Which is probably why I never became a fanatical atheist or Enlightenment cultist either. It seems that a lot of the militant atheists have strongly monotheist backgrounds, and scientism maps nicely onto that. The mentality is similar: an intolerance for incorrect thought, an aversion to philosophical gray areas and uncertainty, a desire to club you over the head with their One Truth, an ignorance of non-Jerusalem- and Athens-based philosophy, etc. In other words, atheism is old aeon stuff. Personally, I like Peter Carroll's model, that human belief systems have evolved like this:

shamanism->paganism->monotheism->atheism->chaoism.

Chaoism being the new aeon, which is basically a return to shamanism, animism, etc. Chaoists can make anything into a religion: Star Wars movies, Lovecraft stories, internet memes, etc. The Kek-Trump meme magick stuff was pure new aeon chaoism. Chaoists create truth, but they don't respect anyone's attempt to monopolize it. They are also very good trolls.

Jon S. said...

Yana, this warming period is not like any previous warming period in this planet's history. It's much more dramatic, and occurring over a matter of decades, not millennia. And the largest causative factor doesn't seem inclined to stop adding to the problem until it's too late.

I've occasionally likened the issue to that of a group of people speeding toward a cliff in a car, spending their time arguing over whose fault it is instead of stepping on the brakes. Your position here seems equivalent to, "Well, rocks stop rolling eventually, so I'm sure this car will stop in time."

https://xkcd.com/1732/

On another note, Dr. Brin, you asked a little while back about curation of the users here. I was, if you'll pardon the phrase, agnostic on the point, feeling that this is your blog and it's entirely up to you how you treat it. Our Ukranian "friend", however (assuming he really is Ukranian - he's starting to feel more like a Russian paid agent), has become so unpleasantly argumentative, repetitious, and voluble that I'm starting to lean toward bans as a solution. When you're beginning to make loco sound rational, well...

David Brin said...

If so, a possible game changer. A scientist working for the U.S. Navy has filed for a patent on a room-temperature superconductor, built using a wire with an insulator core and an aluminum PZT (lead zirconate titanate) coating. Others have claimed to have invented a room-temperature superconductor in the past. Last year, two Indian scientists claimed to have made a room-temperature superconductor using particles of gold and silver. Other physicists are using pressurized lanthanum and hydrogen.

https://phys.org/news/2019-02-navy-patent-room-temperature-superconductor.html#jCp

Anonymous said...

A few years ago, I attended a lecture at the Perimeter Institute (20m from my home). Near room temp superconductivity was explained and demonstrated (liquid Nitrogen, not Helium). The main scientist in the presentation team predicted that actual room temp was within reach. Neato.

Anonymous said...

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160524-this-man-had-no-idea-his-mind-is-blind-until-last-week

locumranch said...


I'll accept room-temperature super conductivity when I believe it.

Robert bloviates by falsely by asserting that "Mathematics has been used to verify the foundations of reality". This is the worst kind of sophistry as verifying and/or 'knowing' the foundations of our reality is a logical impossibility.

In the sense of "Cognito, Ergo Sum", we accept our existence & our greater reality on faith as we cannot prove our existence with empiric & objective observations that are not a part of our reality.

And, thusly, we accept our existence & reality on faith alone.

We may use Mathematics as a descriptor of what we believe reality to be, of course, even though a Mathematics based on faith is a rather inaccurate descriptor of reality at that, as its use requires constant revision & tweaking to maintain its relevance to our current belief systems.


Best

David Brin said...


treebeard: “Personally, I take a flexible, magician's view of reality, and am fine with people creating all kinds of subjective realities and regimes that inspire them and resonate with their souls, regardless of the scorn heaped upon them by the believers in One Truth.”

Of course you do! Sheltered by a generous civilization that has made it non-lethal to spit at it in ingrate romantic fury, you’ve been insulated from any need for a hard pragmatism based on objective reality. Me too! And I explore worlds of wondrous subjective possibility vastly beyond your pathetic accomplishments in that realm! You sit in kindergarten, declaring your thumb to be a butterfly while I teach Subjectivity Graduate school!


On the other hand, I market my industrial grade delusions honestly, calling them what they are. And I don’t demand my customers go around denying objectively verifiable Ground Level Reality… like your cult channels and svengalis have done to you.

And clearly you don’t know squat about science. Again, the sacred emotion is curiosity and the sacred catechism is “I might be wrong: let’s find out.” Your descriptions of science only reveal you to be an ignoramus.

“The tricky part is avoiding the bombs that may get heaped upon you when this "liberal" civilization labels you some flavor of evil for daring to assert your freedom and try something different than what their faith deems objectively correct.”

Har! liberal civilization is the only one tat preached exactly what you claim to want! Such hypocrisy! In each and every one of the feudal lordships you suckle-admire, people were crushed for even murmuring “”But what if…?

That’s what you guys are reduced to. Screaming “ “I declare what’s diametrically opposite to truth to be true!” And while it’s certifiably insane, we bring you juiceboxes and crackers, sitting there with that butterfly on your hand.

David Brin said...

Vitamin-enhanced stuff from locum... and still nuts. When almost everyone with credibility sees the same outcome from the same "cause" over and other without exception, and then variations on that causal action cause variations in outcome that are always replicable, then what you have are pragmatic, predictable facts.

Ignoring that isn't just solipsistic incantation-drivel, it is a declaration: "Keep feeding me, you pragmatist fools! While I sit here and drool.

MISC OTHERS:

“AI overlords don't fret me, because to truly mimic a wet brain the AI would need to have several selves constantly trying to outwit each other. But once they get to that point, compsci people will always inscribe preference for one AI sub-self over others…”

Not necessarily true. Learning systems divide and reunite a myriad times, much as I describe sapience doing, in EARTH.

---
Yes, yes, empowering women is key. And the trends are good, which is why the oligarch-mafiosi have to make there push and putsch now,


Atheism can take many forms. One is outrage at the hypocrisy and oppression of priesthoods and gurus, across the ages. Yes, some kinds are “belief” in no-deity.

Others say: “Sure, we can’t PROVE non-existence. But we’ve exposed so many zones where He was said to be lurking and disproved this and that theology, till He’s cornered in areas where, if He exists, it just doesn’t matter.”

David Brin said...

Welcome back Ilithi. Interesting stuff. But again, has anyone seen Catfish? Maybe communities like this should have a buddy system.


“once there were plentiful reports of encounters with fairies and elves and duergar. Then like a lightswitch, right when the whole world was reliably mapped about a hundred years ago, people started seeing little aliens.”

See my short story “Those Eyes.” Seriously.


“I mean you should get over the fact that I'm defending Dr Brin's use of the word "parasite" as a metaphor. You're insisting it can only be used literally, but you're not the boss of me.”

Thanks LarryHart, but I do not need defending and answering this deeply rude, short-tempered person accomplishes nothing. He will spew tsunamis of undeserved hate.

Too bad. I actually used to agree with him much of the time and appreciated his Ukrainian perspective. He could have had a welcome home here. He’s right a lot more often than locumranch. But locum does not try to overwhelm us with sheer volume of sewage.

This fellow, in contrast, holds grudges. And the less their merit, the more tenaciously he shouts them. You are all autonomous here. But I hope you’ll all ignore him, until he starts to behave. (And that includes his many postings as “anonymous”. Seriously, one only has to read one sentence to know who it is.)

Larry Hart said...

locumranch:

In the sense of "Cognito, Ergo Sum", we accept our existence & our greater reality on faith as we cannot prove our existence with empiric & objective observations that are not a part of our reality.


On the contrary, about the only thing I absolutely do know (not "believe" but actually "know") is that I exist. The objective world and all that comes with it, including other people, yeah, I have to take that on faith. But "I exist" is true.

If I were to be mistaken about that, well then what exactly would be doing the mistaking?

Laurence said...

"He had them line up, and then his lieutenant stood in front of each one and shot them at close range. And all those stupid peasants just stood there quietly and waited to be shot!"

I always wonder when people are "forced to dig their own graves" I mean what's the incentive? "Dig your own grave"
"Or what?"
"Or I shoot you"
"So what were you planning doing once I'm done digging the grave?"

David Brin said...

onward

onward

Mike Will said...

yana said: "AI overlords don't fret me, because to truly mimic a wet brain the AI would need to have several selves constantly trying to outwit each other."

That's close to what I was saying a while back about how intelligence is really only shown when a mind recognizes and empathizes with other minds. Sort of a strong Turing Test. It's not about processing power, it's about bootstrapping a shared model of reality (ie common sense), and thus joining a community. That shared model of reality is the key to SETI, and is why I rail against anthropomorphizing (possibly too much :)


"stand close to me, Starbuck; let me look into a human eye; it is better than to gaze into sea or sky; better than to gaze upon God"

dennisd said...

@Ilithi Dragon

Thanks for the book recommendation: Blind Man's Bluff. Very informative. Twenty years has passed since published. Plenty of material since then for a follow-up volume.

Dennis Myers said...

I have seen all the Short Treks, and I liked them. In general, not what I expected. Like a short story in a shared universe, they were a nice, but brief diversion.

Michael Halbrook said...

I've always considered that I have a "Temporary working relationship with reality". Hard to dispute some things are "real" when they really hurt a lot. Flying an aircraft, or riding a motorcycle require certain assumptions about items being rather solid. However, things continue to work whether or not our explanations for their behavior are correct or not. The Wright brothers followed two parallel paths towards manned powered flight. One was meticulous research into airfoils and how they generated lift, the other was flying gliders, very similar to the eventual design of their motorized aircraft. Thus when they finally had a self powered, man carrying aircraft they knew how to fly it. Their airfoil research was a failure, they worked with miniature airfoils, aerodynamics does not scale up in a linear fashion. Their aircaft flew in spite of their airfoil research, because of the empirical work they had done just as meticulously learning how to fly.