Tuesday, December 9, 2014

I'd Rather

The sign reads, "I would rather live my life as if there is a god and die to find out there isn't, than live my life as if there isn't and die to find out there is."
There is so much wrong with this picture.  But I love logic puzzles, and this is an old one.

Let's break it down.  First off, it is a simple restatement of Pascal's Wager.  The wikipedia article makes for good reading.

But here's my own simple analysis.  And I'm no Pascal, but I'll try anyway.

First off, and not to be picky, but why is it in quotes?  Did somebody actually say this?  And if so, who?  A great inspirational leader I suppose.  And if not, perhaps the sign maker?  Pretty sure it wasn't Jesus.

Basically, what it says to me is that I would rather live my life with one set of beliefs only to find out when I die that they were wrong, than to live my life with a different set of beliefs only to find out they were also wrong.  And that just sounds absurd.

Stated differently, "I'd rather live my life thinking I'm right and die to find out I'm wrong, than to live my life thinking I'm wrong and find out I was right".  It's just mixed up and crazy when put like that.  Not so inspirational now, I guess.  So let's move on.

Next, the statement itself requires that I will live past my own death to find out whether I was wrong or not.  Well, that seems absurd.  But let's make that part of what belief in god is, remembering that not all belief systems require and afterlife.  "I would rather live my life as if there were an afterlife and find out there is not, than live my life thinking there wasn't and find out there was."  Ah, there's some meat on the bone at last.  But again, if there isn't an afterlife you'll never know it.  If there is, then we're back to Pascal's Wager, an absurd paradox.

So let's take that out and have it read, "I would rather live my life as if there is a god, than to live my life as if there isn't."  That seems more straight forward.  But then you have to ask what god, or which god, and does it matter?  Can you choose your god?  There are quite a few of them, and even quite a few interpretations of something so seemingly fundamental as the christian god. Again, it gets very confusing.

And how would your life be different if there was or was not a god?  How would you live differently in either case?  Maybe I'd be forgiven for my trespasses or something.  But I live a good life and I don't have all that many trespasses to worry about.  But maybe it's different for you.  I'd like to know.

In the end, the truest words in this sign are the first six.  "I would rather live my life".  So I'll go do that now.

Pray for me

I'm kidding.

Praying might help you free your mind of worry and in so doing think up a way to actually help the other person.  But praying for someone else cannot possibly do any good unless you also take some action.  In fact it can do just the opposite.  In fact, there's a study, quoted in the NYTimes, that says praying for post operative heart patients statistically created more stress and worse outcomes, Once they hear that people are praying for them, they tend to think they must be much sicker than they thought they were, which adds to their stress.  So, long story short, it's really best never to pray for other people.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

On my theory of Belief

OK, this is a biggie.  It came to me this past month as I was struggling with some things.  I don't know if this will make sense, but I'm going to try.

It started when I got a new Android phone.  A great phone.  Lots of people use them.  So I had this new phone and about a week after I got it I went on a trip to Nashville to visit my son.  All of that went fine.  This isn't really about the trip, although to some extent it is.  You see the return flight was scheduled for 6;30 AM, which meant, working backwards, I'd have to get up a 4:30, do all my morning stuff and try to get to the airport by 5:30 at the latest.  I always like to give myself an hour.

So, I set my alarm on my new phone for 4;30, just in the same way I'd always done on my old phone.  I'd used the alarm on the new phone a few times for work related stuff, so I was confident about using it for this flight.  Of course if I missed the flight, that would be really bad.

I slept well.  My wife's alarm went off.  She did her stuff.  I dozed waiting for my alarm.  Even though we'd agreed on a 4:30 wake up, I figured she'd set hers for 4:00 since that's what the clock on my phone said.  Around the same time I noticed the clock on the bed table said 4:32, which I took to mean that someone, some dickhead obviously, had changed the time on that clock to make it about half an hour fast.

Then my wife gets out of the shower and asks me why I'm not getting ready.  That's when it struck me that my phone/clock was off by exactly 30 minutes.  OK, so how does that even happen?  That's a whole 'nother discussion.

The point of this little though exercise is that because I owned the clock/phone, and because I had set it myself, I believed it to be right, even in the face of two controverting facts.  1) My wife's alarm went off and she got up, and 2) the bedside table clock was 30 minutes ahead of my clock.

The power of belief is such that it can lead us to completely color the perceptions of things happening to us.  I thought the rest of the world must be wrong, that my clock must be right.

But that's not the only time it happened.

Well, I figured out why the clock was off.  Actually I didn't figure out why it was off, I just figured out that it was not set to pick up the network time.  Once I found that configuration option the time on the phone changed to the correct local time.

So later that same week I found myself driving from Buffalo to Rochester for a 9:00 AM meeting.  It's just over an hour drive and I wanted to get there early so I figured I'd leave Buffalo by 7:00, settle into Spot Coffee on East Street by 8:15 and it would be all ducky for my 9:00 AM meeting.  I set the alarm for 6:15AM.

The morning of the meeting I got up as the alarm rang, showered and packed, and then checked one of the games I habitually play.  Now I knew that a certain time in the game was supposed to run out overnight, but I saw that it had not.  That should have been a clue.

I had the hotel breakfast and noticed that the restaurant was really empty.  That should have been a clue.  I got in my car and noticed that the clock radio was set an hour early.  That should have been a clue.  All of these clues that I'd gotten up an hour early and it never occurred to me that my phone was off by an hour until I got to Rochester and Spot Coffee wasn't open yet.

So this is the set up.  These are the events that got me thinking about the power of belief, and how it can radically change our perceptions of the real world.

I'll write more about this later..

Thursday, June 19, 2014

P Z Meyers

We heard P Z Meyers speak last night at the Mark Twain house in Hartford, CT.  It's funny because I didn't know he was speaking.  I went because a friend wanted to go to a lecture.  When we got there they had his book for sale in the lobby, but it still didn't sink in.  Finally when he took the stage and they announced him I understood who we were seeing.  I guess I'll do almost anything for a friend.

Now, I'm no great fan of Mr. Meyers.  I find his blog a tiresome mix of cynicism, god-baiting, rabble rousing and self worship.  During his lecture he was much toned down from his blog persona, a persona which adequately obscures his lack of depth.  So I was a bit relieved, and a bit disappointed.  When I saw who it was I expected to not enjoy myself very much, but as it was, it was far better than sitting at home and watching TV.

The title of his new book, by the way, is "The Happy Atheist", which I take to be carefully crafted in direct conflict with his opponents who call him one of the Angry Atheists.  There was very little anger last night.  No fire and brimstone.  Some amusing stories.

He explained himself well in one respect, that is how be came to be the Pharyngula Blog author and what one might reasonably call an Angry Atheist.  It was only he came to teach Biology at UM that he started to run into Christians who opposed his teachings, siting utter rubbish based on no scientific facts.  They made his life difficult, and apparently Pharyngula was in response to those people.  It grew from there.

He's mellowed, or so he says, from the times when he desecrated crackers and led students on a field trip to the Creation Museum.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

What Religion Are You?

"What Religion are you?" she asked.
"How often do you fuck your husband?", I responded.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

God, can I ask You a question?

Me: God, can I ask You a question?
Me: Promise You won't get mad
Me: Why did You let so much stuff happen to me today?
Me: Well, I woke up late
Me: My car took forever to start
Me: at lunch they made my sandwich wrong & I had to wait
Me: On the way home, my phone went DEAD, just as I picked up a call
Me: And on top of it all off, when I got home ~I just want to soak my feet in my new foot massager & relax. BUT it wouldn't work!!! Nothing went right today! Why did You do that?
Me (humbled): OH, I probably should have set my alarm clock since knew I had important meeting, but I went to bed drunk and said fuck it.  My bad!
Me: (ashamed) And my car hasn't started right for weeks.  I should probably get that looked at.  I know it needs a new battery. Nobody's fault but mine.
Me (embarrassed): And I know the lunch server.  She's is going through some tough times.  I could have been more understanding instead of getting all huffy.  What's a little cheese?
Me (softly): And cell phones suck, I know that. Calls always drop.  I probably shouldn't have been talking while driving anyway.  Good thing there's caller ID on this thing.  I can see who it was and call them back later, unless it was a telemarketer.  Even God can't stop telemarketers.
Me: And OMG! What am I doing?  Why do I have to make this stuff all about me?  And why do I have to pretend that someone did stuff TO me?  That sounds so unhealthy!
Me: I really need to start to trust myself, work on my relationships, get some excercise instead of relying on a foot massager, eat better, drink less, spend less time on facebook, etc.
Me: Hmmm.... Taking an active role in my own happiness... That actually sounds like a pretty good plan.
REPOST if you Believe in HIM
Worth posting.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Sunday Service

On Easter Sunday we were treated to the Missa Gaia. which we didn't realize was not only based on the structure of the Catholic Mass, but contained parts of it.  When we came to the Beatitudes I almost lost it.  Part of the Sermon on the Mount, they proclaim that the meek, the poor, those in mourning, the hungry and thirsty, the merciful the peacemakers, the pure of heart, and the persecuted all suffer in this life but will find their rewards in heaven... and... yeah... I have a problem with that. While it's true that we all suffer to some extent in this life, the only reward after death is death itself, as in no longer being a participant in this world.  If you think that's a reward then I feel sorry for you, and you need to work to improve your lot right now and right here.  There is no other way.

Last week there was an article in the WaPost about five myths of Easter.  It closed with "Choose not to believe in the Resurrection, and Jesus is just another prophet. Believe in the Resurrection, and your whole life changes".  And yes, that's true.  Once you choose to believe in the Ressurection, you have to believe in a whole parcel of other stuff that comes along with it, otherwise the Ressurection is impossible and doesn't make any sense.  Much of what you have to believe in support of the Ressurection is just horrible stuff, most of which is either just not true, or not applicable in today's modern world.

So let me counter that.  If you choose NOT to believe in ressurections your whole life changes for the better, because things finally make sense.  Reject heaven and god, all things become clear and you are able to live in the here and now, which is where it all takes place.