The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
 
 
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Personal Reflections ... Politics ...

I was ‘talking politics’ today with a guy at work, and it brought back a childhood memory. Back in elementary school and high school, I was never a big fan of phys-ed, aka “gym class”. I was always runty and weak compared with the other kids, so I wasn’t much of a competitor in kickball, volleyball and the dreaded dodgeball. There was another little indoors game that I hated called “steal the bacon”.

In S-T-B, the class was divided into two groups, then lined up on either side of the gym wall and assigned matching numbers. In the middle of the gym was placed what looked like a wooden bowling pin. This was “the bacon”. Every so many seconds, the gym teacher would yell out a number, “FIFTEEN” for example. If you were assigned that number, you were supposed to jump up and run towards the pin, along with your similarly-numbered opponent from the opposite wall of the gym. Usually, the two guys would bolt up but then stop and hover crosswise around the pin, until one of the two finally grabbed it and ran for the wall. The object for the pin-runner was to get to the far side of the gym without the other guy catching up and tagging them in the back. The winner would either be the guy who made it to the wall tag-free, or the guy who tagged the “stealer of the bacon”.

Well, obviously I didn’t do too well with this game. Put up against some ruddy young Italian stallion, I’d be about 2/3 of the way to the pin as my opponent would be seizing it and swinging ’round for the wall. I’d go thru the motions of chasing him, but it was obviously a joke. The only fun for me was pondering the strategies employed in the more equal match-ups. Most kids would enter into a temporary stalemate near the pin, but once in a while a guy would come on bold and confident and go right for “the bacon”. Sometimes this worked and sometimes it didn’t. But it gave the kid a reputation for being gutsy and macho.

I couldn’t help but compare Barack Obama with those daring young men who immediately lunged for the pin and made a tear for the far corner of the gym. Senator Obama seems mild-mannered enough, but he obviously had the guts to “steal the bacon”, in hope that Hilary Clinton was not fast enough to put the tag on him and end his Presidential aspirations. The audacity of hope, indeed! Something like this is also happening here in New Jersey, with octogenarian Senator Frank Lautenberg being challenged in the local primary by a young upstart, Rep. Rob Andrews. Andrews has upset the local Democratic establishment by not ‘waiting his turn’, and his political career may be hurt if he doesn’t win the Senatorial primary next week.

It looks as though Senator Obama has just about made it to the mats that pad the far wall of the Democratic political gymnasium. It will be interesting to see what happens to Rob Andrews in next week’s primary in NJ. But the big show will obviously come in early November. If Andrews beats Lautenberg, he’s probably a shoo-in come autumn, given the pro-Democratic mood that the nation is in. However, as to whether Barack Obama can exploit that mood so as to convince the American public to trust the Democratics with both Congress and the White House . . . that’s a tougher question. The Andrews / Lautenberg race and the Obama / McCain race both divide along the age factor. Do the old, experienced politicians still know how to put the tag on the young upstarts? Can youthful agility and strength overcome the experience and wisdom of age? It’s almost as entertaining as sitting on the floor of that smelly gymnasium and hearing someone else’s number called, then relaxing and watching the fun.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:58 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Personal Reflections ... Photo ...

I took a nostalgia trip today, to Main Street in downtown Passaic. This was where my mother and father used to shop back when I was a kid. The first of the big highway malls were just starting out at the time (around 1962-63). We eventually took to the malls, with all of our fellow suburbanites, leaving Main Street to the poor and working-class folk of urban Passaic.

Well, Main Street is still there, as can be seen in the pix below. It looks and sounds quite a bit different today; Spanish language and Latin music fill the air, and the stores are certainly more colorful looking, if a bit more raffish. The big office building with the funny tower on the top is empty now, awaiting an uncertain future. My mother once worked there. The YMCA and Salvation Army are also still there, as can be seen. You also see the usual hotel for urban transients. The fancy restaurants have been replaced with fast food and ‘adult entertainment’ bars. And the last movie theater (the Montauk) has bitten the dust; even porno couldn’t sustain it. Nonetheless, it’s nice to see that Main Street still has a pulse.

 

 

 
◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:24 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
History ... Politics ...

I was watching a PBS show on Franklin D. Roosevelt the other night. As you may know, FDR was crippled and confined to a wheelchair. But he didn’t want the public to know it. Those were the days when the press could keep a secret! There were lots of clips showing all the elaborate preparations that occurred whenever FDR made a public appearance, so as to hide his disability.

Following up on this, I came across a web site that talks about a “secret” railroad track that ended under the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in Manhattan. This track was used for a variety of things, but one of the most important uses was for President Roosevelt. This siding was walled-in, so whenever FDR visited New York they would put his private train car on this track and get him up into the hotel without any nosy reporters taking embarrassing pictures (or exposing him to a whacko with a gun).

That brought back a memory from my youth. My first real job out of college was with the United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington DC. I was working on facilities projects, and one day I was in the basement with one of the old-timers in my section. He brought me over to a dimly lit old concrete platform where there was an unused train track, which led toward a closed metal garage door. Years ago, they would occasionally open this door to let a train bring in a tank car of printing ink, for use in the money printing factory. But by the 1970s, the BEP got all of their ink in barrels that were shipped by truck and the train door was sealed. The old guy told me that as grungy as this basement scene was, it was historical; it was where they would sometimes get FDR onto or off of his train car when he was traveling to or from Washington. As with the Waldorf-Astoria siding in Manhattan, it was fully enclosed. Even better, it was government property that was guarded at all entrances (again, because this was the national currency factory).

The article about the Waldorf-Astoria siding notes that Andy Warhol once threw an “underground party” there. Unfortunately, the inky old track at the BEP enjoyed no such celebrity. But hey, at least I saw it.

PS, back on the political front, most of the pundits seem to be attributing Hilary Clinton’s demise to Barack Obama’s superior handling of the state caucuses. Senator Obama used the lessons regarding grassroots level organizing that he learned in Chicago during his days with the Industrial Areas Foundation in the caucus states; Hilary’s people stuck with a top-down reliance on the big state primaries. Given the edge that this gave to Obama, I wondered what did he have to say about IAF’s founder and guru, the legendary Saul Alinsky? Mr. Alinsky was gone by the time Obama hit the scene, but you’d think that the Illinois Senator would give him his due. However, it appears otherwise; Obama recently said that “. . . the tendency in community organizing of the sort done by Alinsky was to downplay the power of words and of ideas when in fact ideas and words are pretty powerful.”

Hmmm. This sounds a bit revisionist to me. Obama’s people used Alinsky’s organizing principles to good advantage in Iowa and a slew of other small states thereafter; that made all the difference for Obama (and it’s not a big difference, remember — he may win the delegate count by less than a 10% margin). But he seems to focus on “ideas and words” — as in an Obama speech, the event where Obama transcends himself. It’s not that Alinsky didn’t have ideas; he wrote several books, and I have one of them myself. But Alinsky wasn’t an eloquent orator, like Obama. So now the good Senator-cum-Presidential Candidate can look down at Alinsky, even though without the lessons that he learned from Alinsky’s machine (the IAF), his speeches would now be mostly forgotten.

A nation can’t live on eloquent speeches alone, as McCain will be reminding the country this fall. I’m not in any mood to vote for McCain, but I’d still like to see a bit more substance from Obama. Also some more evidence of good-old-fashioned Alinsky-style “can do”. If we were voting this fall for National Speechgiver, I’d feel entirely comfortable with Barack Obama. But as to the office of President of the United States . . .

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:10 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Brain / Mind ... Philosophy ... Society ...

Being an old guy, one of those Baby Boomers, I haven’t been very interested in YouTube. But last week I decided to check out a link to YT that I happened to run across during a Google search; it regarded property dualism. Well, I’m definitely interested in the mind versus body debate, so I had to have a look. It turns out that there are a slew of little videos that discuss the dualist versus physicalist issues regarding the mind. Just about all of them were made (and usually narrated) by young people, probably recent college or grad students. I’m pleasantly surprised to see such interest in the question. Most people my age seem pretty brain-dead about it; the prevailing attitude is “conscious, yea, I’m conscious, I’ve got a mind, so what’s the problem?” But the colleges appear to be doing a good job in “raising consciousness” regarding the brain versus soul question; they are getting the Millennium Generation interested in what I think is a really important moral and philosophical question. But, read on . . .

As expected, most of the videos and most of the responding comments sympathize with physicalist monism. That is the ‘flavor of the day’ in academia, and the students are mostly taking the bate. No big surprise there. (There is one intelligent young YouTube contrarian who is actually defending substance dualism and theism! Hang in there,npage85.) I came across a rather cynical and rather enjoyable goof on dualism contributed by one Hurley41, and I recommend it for the humor. It starts out by trashing Descartes (oh, what a new idea!), but then shifts to a mock-religious conversion film, with stories of how dualism miraculously changes lives. Playing in the background is that familiar, cloying piano “Muzak”, the kind we old Boomers hear these days on radio commercials for cancer care centers and nursing homes. Well done, Hurley41! I definitely got a chuckle out of it.

Still, I’m a bit disturbed by this trend. The Millennium Generation is the upcoming wave, the people who will be running this country in another 20 years. The college-educated component of this generation (a significant part of Barack Obama’s wave of support, incidentally) is being taught that we are nothing but machines; cool machines like laptops and ipod’s, but machines nonetheless. They have gained the impression that neuroscience has closed the book on the last refuge of “human mystery”, i.e. the conscious mind. It appears that the Enlightenment and the info tech revolution have finally triumphed. My point is that this is going to have a big effect on American society over the next 30 or 40 years, just as the Baby Boom, with its wacky ideas and hypocrisies (think Bill Clinton), owned the 1980s and 1990s (and is still warping the 00’s).

For one thing, forget about religion and standard theistic beliefs; these kids have been inoculated against it! (Not that the Baby Boom crowd was very big on it either.) The only people who will go to church will be the working class and service industry crowd, i.e. the high school students and community college grads who never took a philosophy or neurobiology course. This split won’t be apparent only in church; it’s going to ripple through all of our social institutions. It’s going to be the techno-Enlightenment crowd versus the old-school class everywhere you look, in the workplace, in our schools, in restaurants and recreation places, in politics, in where and how we live, etc.

In sum, America is going to have a CLASS PROBLEM. There’s going to be less and less common ground between the old-school class and the “Neural Buddhists”, as NY Times columnist David Brooks recently called them (Brooks also calls them “bobo’s”, i.e. bourgeois bohemians; and he admits that he’s talking about himself). See my May 15 blog entry (below) for a cite to his article, and for more YouTube discoveries. The Baby Boomers started this trend, and the Millennium crowd is going to take it all the way. There will be two Americas; they will be interspersed geographically, but worlds apart in thinking, in needs and wants, and in political demands.

The current split between Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton supporters is a good clue to the future. But I really shouldn’t call it “good” — actually it’s rather ominous. America is not going to have the kind of unity that got it through the crises of the 20th Century, i.e. two world wars and a cold war. It appeared that America was coming back together after 9-11, but that turned out not to be much more than flag waving. The US is going to face both military and economic challenges from a slew of opponents out there, including Iran, the BRIC alliance (Brazil, Russia, India, China), al Qaeda, etc. Then throw in global warming and natural resource depletion (I’m still waiting for market forces to break the rise of oil prices), and — well, something is going to crack. America will survive, but as to whether it can continue to pull off the “Triple Crown” (guess I’m thinking about those horse races going on this time of year) of being the world’s strongest, richest and most free nation in the world — well, that is the million-dollar question.

I’m not sure what the Millennium Generation believes in. They appear to be taught not to believe in anything at all (or too much at once, as Barack Obama with his slick rhetoric has proved). As with most things, the medicine of skepticism can be helpful (e.g., it helps combat superstitions and irrational prejudices), but an overdose can do much harm. Dualism, for all its problems, does leave a wide berth for sanctity and human dignity (when intelligently presented). I’ve cast my lot with those few who argue that mental dualism has not been ruled out by the evidence, and should remain in play as an acceptable line of thought. The academic world today gives dualism a quick nod, but then highlights the glories of quasi-rational, monistic scientism. Sure, this keeps people from thinking about driving 767’s into office towers (mostly the people who weren’t going to think about that anyway). But it is also a huge social experiment that few outside of academia are presently aware of; and I can’t help but wonder if it’s going to backfire.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 12:53 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Brain / Mind ... Philosophy ...

I see that NY Times columnist David Brooks recently took an interest in the problem of mind and matter, i.e. whether we are composed entirely of matter and energy or does our conscious life somehow entail more than just physical forces at work. Brooks concludes, quite rightly, that the outcome of the academic debate regarding this topic will have “big cultural effects”. That’s why I’m interested in this debate, and have a short course about consciousness and its current academic interpretations on this web site.

One of the “big guns” in the consciousness debate is a philosopher named John Searle. I was recently watching a lecture of his that is available on YouTube, which I highly recommend. In part 3 of the lecture, he talks about his famous Chinese Room argument, which goes back to 1980. This thought experiment was meant to specifically counter the “functionalist” notion that the essence of consciousness could be captured by the right kind of algorithm, akin to a computer program. In 1980, Searle was attacking the artificial intelligence movement, specifically the notion that AI could capture and perhaps even create consciousness (well, eventually, once it could reach a sufficient level of complexity). But he was also saying something about the deeper nature of consciousness, about how it is something more than a mixture of physical processes (even though Searle will not go so far as to embrace ontological dualism).

The Chinese Room thing is a bit involved, but it can be summarized by imagining an American citizen who knows no Chinese at all, but gets a job with a Chinese newspaper as an advice columnist. The American columnist gets letters from China, written entirely in Chinese, and has no idea what the writers are asking. This resourceful American has a book, or better yet, a computer program, that tells her what to write back in response to the various Chinese character patterns. This is one big book or program, and it pretty much covers all possibilities. So this American is quite a success with the Chinese, despite having no idea what she’s saying in her columns. Searle maintains that the cognitive (computer-based) paradigm of consciousness is just as ridiculous as saying that this American advice columnist is an expert in Chinese culture and psychology. The columnist is just following instructions, like a cookbook! In effect, Searle is saying: “a computer program can’t be like consciousness, because it doesn’t understand what it’s doing”.

However, given the way that the brain’s “computer program” works, it actually can understand. The brain uses a different type of computation method than the standard computer with its do-loops and its “if-then” statements and its “and / or” gates. In the past 25 years or so, computer scientists have started to construct “neural networks” using a large population of massively connected “decision objects” arranged in layers. Suffice it to say that such computing arrangements can mimic inductive logical processes, even given “fuzzy data input”. They can mimic the way that our brains come up with abstractions like “faster” and “farther” and “injustice” and “inadequate”, etc. With enough connections and layers properly arranged, and with proper input, they can arguably come up with the high-level abstractions like “self” and “other” and “universe” and maybe even “God”.

So, contra Searle, does this mean that machines can be conscious, and that our consciousness happens because of a machine-like brain at work? Instead of answering the question, I am going to challenge Seale’s underlying and unspoken presumption. That presumption was given to us by Descarte in his motto “I think, therefore I am”. According to Descarte, the thing that turns us into conscious humans is our ability to think, to reason, to abstract and conceptualize. And I believe that notion is wrong, and that Searle has followed Descarte down this dead end (as much as Searle would protest the Cartesian dualism). Thinking and reasoning is not what makes us conscious, even if it distinguishes humankind from most of nature’s other creatures. Instead it is feeling, experience, the vivid way that the senses and emotions play within our minds. The truth is a twist on Descarte: “I feel, therefore I am”.

As with Searle’s Chinese Room set-up, the American advice columnist I had spoke of is much like a standard computer program, with its linear logic. But there is no reason why this advice columnist couldn’t gather more data and gain inferences from that data regarding the Chinese people that she writes to. She could come to understand their environment and their ways and their language, much as a massively inter-connected neural network can form inferences from fuzzy input data. She could adapt to changes in the culture, and could learn new social concerns and words as they develop — just as a neural network computer can change its inferences and learn new things with continuing data inputs. So, in the end, Searle is attacking a false problem. (But from what I saw on his video lecture, he still isn’t ready to admit it).

Searle doesn’t like to be called a “mysterian”, but he does appear to be defending the mystery of consciousness with his Chinese Room argument. But it’s a waste of time. He got it right at the start of his lecture when he spoke of the subjective nature of consciousness, of how unique each conscious experience is. I liked one of his examples of experience very much: i.e., the experience of drinking beer. He could have stopped right there! Science can tell you plenty about the experience of drinking beer, about how alcohol content and hop oils and carbonation and specific gravity and temperature will affect the sensations that the lucky beer drinker will experience. But it can’t explain just what that experience is, or just how it relates to matter and energy and their various interactions. Consciousness is something more, and for now it remains a mystery. Ponder that the next time you quaff down the golden malt nectar of the gods. As Searle seems to have done!

(As to David Brooks — he seems to be more of a white wine person. Too bad for his conscious self.)

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:28 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Philosophy ... Society ...

I’m currently reading a book by David Bohm and David Peat (Science, Order and Creativity), which is mostly a collection of interesting thoughts from the 1980’s. One of those interesting thoughts regards the distinction between discussion and dialogue regarding positions on important social issues.

Discussion is mostly what we do here in America today; i.e., we make up our minds and enter into discussions with people having different opinions. Those discussions are meant to either browbeat the other side into giving in and accepting our own ideas, or finding a compromise whereby each side gets something (as much as possible), but also accepts some dissatisfaction. The underlying assumption is that both sides stick by their guns. By contrast, dialogue is to enter into talks with an open mind about why the other side disagrees with you, with a willingness to listen and maybe change your opinion if your opponent has a good point. Unfortunately, that’s not the American way. We have way too much discussion and way too little dialogue here, especially in our politics. But ain’t that America.

Here’s another random thought regarding a philosophic issue stemming from science fiction, i.e. the Star Trek stories. In the various versions of Star Trek, people can be instantly “beamed up” from one point to another using a teletransporter device. This is a few centuries in the future, remember. I was never bothered by this idea, but after reading some philosopher’s comments about it, I now am. Not that it’s a real issue; the actual technology to teletransport people is hardly even imaginable right now. But still, the transporter concept touches on some underlying issues regarding who we are and what our lives and self-identities represent.

The big question about the teletransporter is this: is that really you at the other end after the process is over? Or did you die in the process, with some bogus copy of you being created? And even if the copy was perfect, is that still really you? There are various interpretations about how the teletransporter would work; in one interpretation, all of the sub-atomic particles that make up your body would be transported at near the speed of light to a re-assembly point. So, the re-composed body is made of exactly the same stuff. That sounds comforting. But still, in the scrambling process, you actually stopped living; you were dead for a few instants. But then again, a lot of people have been dead temporarily but revived after some trauma.

It sounds to me as though the human identity would survive the Star Trek transporter process, IF all of your experiences up to the micro-second of transport were captured and conveyed to the reassembled body on the other planet (or where ever); and if your exact stuff went down in the “beam”. Now what if that varied? What if the stuff you were made of prior to teletransport were thrown away, and you were reassembled with identical particles from where you landed? That makes me feel a little more queezy; but OK, so long as the copy on the other side were perfect, no real problem. I mean, we change our atomic composition every day by some percent. No one stays exactly the same in physical makeup.

Next possible problem: what if the transport problem scanned you about a half second or so before you lost consciousness, and then re-assembled you using that scan information? The “you” in the transporter room went on living for another half second or so before you were scrambled out of existence. The copy that was built on the planet Zarcon didn’t catch what you might have thought or felt in that final half-second. So, were you killed? Or was a little bit of you killed? Are you still comfortable that the teletransported copy of you would really be you? And what if the machine had a little stall, and you went on living for a minute or two — would you want to hit a red-button and stop the whole process before being atomically dismembered?

And then of course there are some wacky possibilities that could occur if the machine further malfunctions. What if the machine copies you and reassembles a living copy of you down on Zarcon, but fails to scramble the original you? So now there are two of you, having the same memories, the same identity, the same jobs, the same families, the same wife . . . but who is the real you? Figure that one out.

(And yes, there was a Star Trek TNG episode called “Second Chances” where Riker had been beamed up from a planet years ago but the original on the planet survived. And the planet-refuge was later recovered by the Enterprise, and thus had to deal with the beamed-up version of Riker.)

For now, we have bigger problems to worry about, like $5 a gallon gas and $1.50 a pound rice. But still, for a true geek like me, it’s an interesting little diversion. So beam me up, Scotty. And I’ll see you on the other side.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:55 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Politics ...

So the Democratic nomination season is finally over, but for the shouting (mostly about the Florida and Michigan delegates, the vice presidential candidate – and just how to win in November). But I’m still a little unsettled about Rev. Wright and Obama’s “small town bitterness” remarks from a few weeks ago. If Obama is going to analyze the sociology of small mostly-white towns in terms of economic hardships, then perhaps he needs to do the same for Rev. Wright. Good for the goose, good for the gander, right?

OK, so let’s think about what Rev. Wright said – and its acceptance, if not whole hearted endorsement, by many African-Americans – in terms of the economic hardships faced over the past 200 years by blacks in America. On one level, this analysis makes a lot of sense, and re-enforces some of what the good Reverend is saying. On another level, it diminishes the social, theological and artistic context of the black experience (as well as minimizing the many great achievements by black Americans).

So, perhaps we see just why Senator Obama’s comments were hurtful, and why his failure to extend them to his own social and ethnic milieu has negatively affected his support within the Euro-American community. That is, other than the educated liberal component of that community. But remember, that component gave us George McGovern, Michael Dukakis, John Kerry, Al Gore and Adlai Stevenson. It’s true that “white power” is declining in America, and that in a few decades whites will no longer be the majority ethnic group. For now, though, working-class whites still comprise the pivotal voting block that decides who the President will be. Senator Obama is obviously going to need to work harder to gain that group’s support.

Ironically, the thing that got Obama in more trouble, i.e. economic analysis, might be the same thing that could help him get out of the Reverend Wright jam. At bottom, both blacks and whites care most about electing a leader who will help butter their bread and pay their mortgage. Sure, they want a person who is also a social and “spiritual” leader (in the sense of “American spirit”). They also want a strong commander-in-chief (another thing Obama is going to need to work on). But cash is still king here. If Obama could in fact merge the “black-man blues” with “white town bitterness” on the grounds of economics, and then sooth all of that angst with promises of economic unity and common purpose, he might somehow get out of the racial-tension trap that he fell into. If he could say that he understands the financial anxiety experienced by Americans of all colors and creeds, if he could promise that all boats will rise and everyone will do better under his watch, then the beer and NASCAR crowd might break for him yet.

One bad omen for Obama, however. The superdelegates are already starting to desert Hilary and jump on the ‘good ship Barack’. But one of the most recent converts is a Jonah – none other than 1972 Presidential candidate George McGovern himself (the guy who gave Nixon a landslide victory). Storms ahead for Obama, no doubt.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:33 pm       Read Comments (3) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Monday, May 5, 2008
Photo ...

Here are some pix of the birds that I was talking about yesterday. They’re still here, fattening up. The shots were taken through a window screen so they’re not the best, but you still get the idea.

 

◊   posted by Jim G @ 11:30 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Saturday, May 3, 2008
Art & Entertainment ... Nature ... Personal Reflections ...

I was watching “Carrier” on TV last week, a 10 hour PBS series about life aboard a modern US Navy aircraft carrier (the USS Nimitz). Instead of providing an analysis of US military technology and naval strategy, the show was mostly an Odyssey tale devoted to the 5000 sailors, airmen and Marines serving on board the Nimitz. It focused on the human stories involved in a 6-month mission cruising around the Pacific and Indian Oceans, a mission which included a few weeks of combat action from the waters of Iraq. This all took place in 2005.

I didn’t see every minute, but what I did see was pretty good. Most of the crew is young, in their 20’s, so there’s a lot of relationship stuff and “new baby back home” stories. The Navy forbids dating or sex between crew members serving on the same ship, but it does happen; one guy got in bad trouble for it. So there’s a lot of soap opera / reality-TV going on in Carrier.

But being an old geek, the stuff that I liked most was about operations, e.g. steering the ship, tending to the nuclear reactors and launching the aircraft off the deck. I got really caught up in the part where they were trying to land some fighter jets at night when the seas were rough and the deck was pitching and rolling. They finally got all of the jets  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 1:42 pm       Read Comments (6) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Philosophy ... Spirituality ...

I found an interesting website about God recently. Specifically, it provides a philosophical critique of various theological notions such as God’s all-knowing and all-powerful nature, or God’s ability to relate to mere mortals. It’s called Battleground God. It asks you a series of questions regarding your concept of God, then it sends back a series of questions and challenges, questions that start with “if what you say is true, then how can it be that…” I.e., the usual philosopher’s hyper-logical crap.

The “Battleground” questions are interesting and thought provoking, but they ultimately are bound up within their own assumptions (just as they criticize believers in God to be bound up in theirs). They seem to forget that their logic is ultimately a system of symbols and rules which are subject to the limitations of Godel’s Theorem. So, just as the human mind has the ability to perceive something more than the propositions put forth by our systems of symbolic logic (consider: the only reason we know of Godel’s limitation is because of this inherent ability), then why can’t there be a metaphysical entity that exists beyond the boundaries that our logic systems set?

In other words, don’t take Battleground God too seriously. And another thing: when you click  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:46 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
 
 
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