Scriptures are considered the word of God. If you are atheist like me, you know that all words come from men. Gods have no words. This raises an interesting question about the men who wrote down these words. Why did they imply (or flat-out say) that they were uttering God’s words?
In the last post, I gave vent to all my left-wing righteousness against the growing income disparity. Then it occurred to me — a totally uniform wealth distribution is stochastically unlikely. In fact, it is over seven billion times less likely than one person in the whole world holding all the wealth in the world. That brings me to the topic of this post – what is the most likely wealth distribution?
I read on BBC yesterday that the richest 62 people in the world now earn as much as the poorest half, which would be about 3.5 billion people! Although there is some confusion about the methodology, it is clear that the wealth and income have been getting more and more polarized. The rich are certainly getting richer. Income inequality is more acute than ever.
Most religions believe that we have a soul. They don’t quite define what it is, but they are all quite sure that we have it.
A bit of reading in philosophy will lead us to the notion that the soul holds the key to our personal identity. In other words, if I put your soul in my body, then you would find yourself trapped in my body. My body would not be going around feeling that there is a strange something inside me. So your soul is expected to be the key to your personal identity.
I read somewhere that what Descartes really said was, “I think, therefor I am French.” Or may be, “I think in French, therefore I am.” Ok, that was in a phrasebook called Wicked French. In reality, the phrase was originally written in Latin, I believe — Cogito Ergo Sum. It introduced us to the beautiful geeky word Ergo. But what does the statement really mean?
It is a sensible question: What does it feel like to be a bat? Although we can never really know the answer (because we can never be bats), we know that there is an answer. It feels like something to be a bat. Well, at least we think it does. We think bats have consciousness and conscious feelings. On the other hand, it is not a sensible question to ask what it feels like to be brick or a table. It doesn’t feel like anything to be an inanimate object.
A conspiracy theory remains a theory and fodder for crackpots until it is blown wide open. At that point, the crackpots become award winning journalists and the leaders who were considered national heroes become sociopathic criminals. Such is the fickleness of popular opinion, and so it will be with the 9/11 conspiracy when it becomes widely known (if it ever does) that it was a conspiracy.
I want to wrap up this series on atheism with a personal story about the point in time where I started diverging from the concept of God. I was very young then, about five years old. I had lost a pencil. It had just slipped out of my schoolbag, which was nothing more than a plastic basket with open weaves and a handle. When I realized that I had lost the pencil, I was quite upset. I think I was worried that I would get a scolding for my carelessness. You see, my family wasn’t rich. We were slightly better off than the households in our neighborhood, but quite poor by any global standards. The new pencil was, to me, a prized possession.
The atheist-theist debate boils down to a simple question — Did humans discover God? Or, did we invent Him? The difference between discovering and inventing is the similar to the one between believing and knowing. Theist believe that there was a God to be discovered. Atheists “know” that we humans invented the concept of God. Belief and knowledge differ only slightly — knowledge is merely a very very strong belief. A belief is considered knowledge when it fits in nicely with a larger worldview, which is very much like how a hypothesis in physics becomes a theory. While a theory (such as Quantum Mechanics, for instance) is considered to be knowledge (or the way the physical world really is), it is best not to forget the its lowly origin as a mere hypothesis. My focus in this post is the possible origin of the God hypothesis.
Personally, one of the main reasons I started taking the conspiracy theories about 9/11 seriously is the ardor and certainty of the so-called debunkers. They are so sure of their views and so ready with their explanations that they seem rehearsed, coached or even incentivized. Looking at the fire-induced, symmetric, and free-fall collapse of WTC7, how can anyone with any level of scientific background be so certain? The best a debunker could say would be something like, “Yes, the free-fall and the symmetry aspects of the collapse do look quite strange. But the official explanation seems plausible. At least, it is more plausible than a wild conspiracy by the government to kill 3000 of our own citizens.” But that is not at all the way they put it. They laugh at the conspiracy theories, make emotional statements about the technical claims, and ignore the questions that they cannot explain away. They toe the official line even when it is clearly unscientific. They try to attack the credibility of the conspiracy camp despite the obvious fact that it has the support of many seasoned professionals, like architects, physics teachers, structural engineers and university professors.