Uncommon Sense

May 16, 2016

Ow, Ow, Ow, It Hurts My Head

I have written often enough about the poor level of thinking I see, often associated with religion. I have recently been reading Sean Carroll’s new book The Big Picture, which I heartily recommend, in which Dr. Carroll addresses issues both scientific and philosophical (including the meaning of life!). Last night I read a principle I had forgotten about, created by German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), as stated by Dr. Carroll:

The Principle of the Best according to which God always acts in the best possible way, including in the creation of the world.

Leibnitz made the usual arguments that God is all-powerful, all-good, etc. and therefore he argued, essentially as an axiom, that everything God did was perfect and good, including His Creation.

So, if I understand the Book of Genesis right, God creates a great many animals, one of which is designed to be both his gardener and to worship him. The being and his helpmeet become disobedient quite quickly and incur God’s displeasure and banishment from his direct presence, so apparently God did something less than perfectly. Not only did he lose his worshipers but also his gardener. Then, his created beings went forth and populated the planet with animals of all “kinds” as well as people, but God was so disappointed in the behavior of the people that he decides to kill all but eight of them with a massive flood, incidentally killing the vast majority of the innocent animals at the same time. After doing that, he repents his action and promises not to do that again.

This is a shocking number of changes of mind from someone who can see the future like we can see the past. And the only reason we can think of for such actions is he looked at His Creation and thought “This is not good.”

Now, Leibnitz was no idiot. He also knew that the lifespan of an atheist in the 1600’s could be counted in days if that fact became known, so he had to espouse some sort of faith in the existence of a god. But, his Principle of the Best, seems irrational in the extreme and certainly is not supported by scripture. Did he design it as protection from potential critics or did he believe it to be true? If he believed it to be true, he must have had a very unusual reading of the first book of the Bible.

It also seems that a great many people still believe this Principle of the Best, even though it is irrational in the extreme. And while people are capable of wishful thinking, I know I am, this is massively counterproductive thinking, if one could call it thinking in the first place. If I may paraphrase Einstein, we cannot solve our problems using the thinking that got us into them in the first place.

September 24, 2013

A Bad Bet

You know the feeling. If you succumb to buying a lottery ticket, for example, you know how making a bad bet feels. No chance of winning that bet. One feels a little stupid, then feels the push back from one’s ego defending itself (Go, confirmation bias, go!).

One of your worst bad bets is causing all kinds of damage and you didn’t make it, fundamentalist Christians did. They had to defend their faith or felt they had to, and since there is only one source for their faith, the bible, they declared it to be absolutely true, every word, every jot, every tittle. This was notwithstanding the facts: that there are thousands of contradictions in bible(s)—I have to say bible(s) because there is not just one. There are thousands of different bibles.

One of the reasons there are thousands, is that authors of bibles have to select the manuscripts from which they will write their version. But the original manuscripts are not available. What is available are fragments of copies of copies of documents. The known fragments have over 100,000 differences between them. So, select away, according to criteria that you create and you, too, can draft a new bible. One comes along every year or so. Search for “bible” on Amazon.com and then step back quickly, don’t know how big that list will get! (Actually I do, I got over 340,000 hits.) Nevertheless, all of these various bibles are “true” according to these evangelicals.

Also, ignored is the fact that it has been known for a century or more and recently admitted by Israeli biblical archeologists, that the Book of Genesis (plus the next four books) is a work of fiction written in the late seventh century BCE.

Next, the law of unintended consequences comes into play. If one insists that everything in the bible(s) is true, one has to defend all of the nonsense in the bible as also being true, which gives us the “end-of-timers,” the creationists, and unintelligent Intelligent Design theorists, the believers in Adam and Eve, Noah’s flood, etc. The effect of insisting on nonsense drives away anyone of intelligence and young people in general in this country are retreating from Christianity in droves.

So what the originators of the doctrine of scriptural infallibility feared (that people would drift away from Christianity unless there was some link to “the truth”) is coming about because of their idea instead of being prevented by it. They substituted faith in a book for faith in a god and they are suffering the consequences now.

For those of us who have neither faith, this is a good thing as it gives multiple routes for people to discover that truth.

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