Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Why is there something rather than nothing?

"Why is there something rather than nothing?" is a common question that arises when discussing theology and the origin of the Universe. The question, I posit, is flawed. The problem is in the use of the word "why", which implies purpose or design, which means the question is biased to begin with. It's a trap. Attempting to answer the question misleads into futile debate. There is no "why". There is no purpose or design.

The Universe exists, period. End of discussion. "Why does it exist?" is a pointless question; because there is no answer. Why can't you divide a number by zero? Because you can't divide by nothing. It's a mathematical impossibility.

If you ask me, personally, what I think of the origin of the Universe, I will probably suggest a thought experiment that goes as follows:

If we look back in time to the theoretical Big Bang singularity, we will find that space contracts, and time, being relative to space, slows down. So as time slows down and we approach the event horizon, the laws of physics begin to break down. What this means is that there is no way to measure or quantify when or how the Universe began. In short, there never was a beginning. The Universe has always existed. There never has been nothing. So the question of "Why is there something rather than nothing?" is unanswerable.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Double Supreme Court Victory

Today is a glorious day in the annals of gun-toting atheism.

Today, in the case of McDonald v. City of Chicago, Illinois, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Second Amendment to the Constitution not only applies to the Federal Government, but also to the States and local governments.

The effect of this court ruling is undeniably far-reaching. For one, it strikes down Chicago's unconstitutional handgun ban. But it also establishes a legal precedent that invalidates pretty much any State or municipal gun ban across the country. The result is simple: the Supreme Court now officially interprets that every sane, law-abiding US citizen has a right to own a firearm, as no State has the authority to abridge the rights of US citizens. Skeptics can be reassured that the mentally ill and felons are still unable to legally acquire and own firearms. Moreover, laws that establish qualification requirements for the acquisition of firearms and restrict carrying into sensitive places (such as government buildings and schools) are still in effect. So do not expect the United States to revert to the days of the wild west, as reasonable regulations are still valid.

Read the US Supreme Court opinion (warning, it's 214 pages long):

The second victory was in the case of Hastings Christian Fellowship v. Martinez (warning: this is 85 pages long) in which the Supreme Court ruled that schools had every right to deny recognition and funding to student groups that discriminate in their memberships. The case was brought about when the Christian Legal Society at Hastings College of Law sued the school after being denied funding, on grounds that as a religious group, they had the right to exclude non-Christians from membership, and that the school should go ahead and fund their discriminatory little group anyway. Well today the Supreme Court disagreed. Not that any right-minded atheist would ever want to join such a group anyway, but the decision flies right into their faces.

I am most certainly a visionary. The Supreme Court agrees with me!

Perhaps I should go to Law School with hopes of one day becoming a Supreme Court Justice, because apparently, that is where I belong.

In the meanwhile, the United States marches slowly but surely towards gun-toting atheism, and it's a beautiful thing.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Existential Angst?

You all know the story of George Washington's axe? The handle has been replaced three times, the blade has been replaced twice. Not a single molecule of the original axe is present within it, yet there has been a continuity. Therefore George Washington's axe doesn't exist, because George Washington's axe only exists as a concept.

I don't believe that I have an immortal soul. I believe that I only exist as THIS mind in THIS body. But what is my mind? An ever-changing collection of thoughts, emotions and memories. Definitely not the same mind I had last night. But what is my body? A collection of roughly ten trillion cells, constantly dividing, dying, being replaced. Roughly every seven years, a new set of cells makes up my body. (Bone cells live up to 10 years). So this is not even the same body that I possessed seven years ago.

Who am I then? Same as George Washington's axe, I am a concept. In other words, I am an illusion.

The molecules that constitute the body of this illusion will be gobbled up by the sun about 7.5 billion years from now, when our very own Sun becomes a red giant and swells up to encompass the orbit of the Earth, that is, if our planet isn't already annihilated in the collision between the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy, expected to take place 3 billion years from now.

Even if somehow humanity survives all this, we are doomed to what astrophysicists call "heat death", or the final thermodynamic state of the Universe, in which the Universe has achieved maximum entropy, and through expansion, not enough gravity exists to pull matter back together, and not enough energy exists to sustain motion or life.

So we are doomed either way we look at it. So... what's the meaning of life? Why do I go to work every morning and pay my bills? What is the point? We all know where it's headed. We're all already dead.

We can't control tectonic plates and geological changes. Land gets swallowed by the sea, the sea bed slides into the earth's mantle, plates collide and create mountain ranges. Ice ages destroy all vegetation and scrape the ground bare, global warming floods low-lying lands, and then new ice ages begin and the cycle goes on.

We are insignificant in the greater scheme of things.

That's when I remember saying that I'm an illusion anyway. So who cares about how it's going to end... what matters is that there is good wine and good beer and good food to be enjoyed, right here right now. Sure, we are overpopulated and we are destroying this planet. But this planet has had its share of cataclysmic extinction events in the past, and the Universe just kept on trucking. Should we protect the environment and preserve our health? Absolutely. But we are only buying time.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ever wondered why atheist bloggers prefer to set their targets on Christianity?

Have you ever wondered why it is that atheists seem to focus enormous amounts of attention on Christianity, but not as much on Islam or Judaism?

Well, if I may explain my personal opinion on the matter, it has to do with differences in the level of complexity.

Judaism: Belief in one supreme God who occasionally interacts with mankind, and communicates via prophets.

Islam: Belief in one supreme God who occasionally interacts with mankind, and communicates via prophets, esp. via his prophet Muhammad.

Christianity: Belief in one supreme God who very often interacts with mankind and who in the past decided to taint all of humankind with the Original Sin over- of all things- a fruit, and who decided to impregnate a virgin so that he could put his soul inside her womb and be born as a man so that he could live as a human being for thirty years, turning water into wine, healing the sick, healing the blind, walking on water, raising the dead, be arrested, tortured, brutally executed, and then resurrected so that whoever believes in him is no longer tainted with the curse of Original Sin that HE himself put on mankind in the first place, and that every Sunday he must be honored by eating his flesh and drinking his blood, by fear of burning in the flames of Hell for eternity.

Correct me if I've gotten anything wrong.

So if you are a Christian, please put yourself in the shoes of a non-Christian (hmm what do you call us again, heathens?) and try to imagine how it all sounds to us...

The simple fact that Christianity is based on central themes of such convoluted unsubstantiated complexity, is the reason why it attracts the rants of atheists so much more than Judaism or Islam. Imagine a big, flashy, Las-Vegas-style neon sign that says "Look at me! Look at what I believe in! Come on join the club or your immortal soul will BURN IN HELL!"

That, in a nutshell, is the reason why.

Peace be with you.

Kelo v. New London

Though I am not a member of the Libertarian Party, nor am I a member of any party, for that matter, I did sign up for their weekly newsletter, question of keeping track of where they stand on issues.

Today, I received an email from executive director Wes Benedict, explaining that tomorrow is the 5th anniversary of the infamous Kelo v. New London court decision, in which the Supreme Court of the United States decided "that it is acceptable for government entities to condemn and seize private property, even when the purpose is to offer that property to another private owner for economic development. ", which is a horrible attack on private property rights. In preparation for the construction of a shopping mall, Susette Kelo's property was seized, condemned, razed, and is now a vacant lot.

The funny part of that email follows (not funny for Ms Kelo, but funny in terms of the way it was worded):

"Even more shamefully, the proposed development never materialized. The Institute for Justice recently noted that 'The very land where Susette Kelo's home once stood remains barren -- home to nothing but feral cats, seagulls and weeds.'"

The Supreme Court obviously doesn't care about your house. They have made it clear that they care more about the interests of real-estate developers who want to raze your property.

To preserve property rights, it is imperative that this court decision be reversed.