Tag Archives: universe

The size of the universe makes the desert god just a grain of sand.

29 Oct

A while back I did a post on this but I since stumbled across this amazing clip from “Through the Wormhole” narrated by god himself, Morgan Freeman. Check out the scale of the universe, from a hula hoop to 15 billion light years away, and then back down to the atom level….amazing.

Now when I watch that I have what some people might call “a religious experience.” The size and grandeur of the universe is almost beyond comprehension.

What baffles me is how people can see this magnificent universe and believe that, not only are we the only intelligent life forms to inhabit it, but that it was created especially for us. It blows my mind almost as much as comprehending the size of existence. I think Christopher Hitchens says something really relevant to this in the first minute of this short three minute clip; keep in mind the scale of the universe that you just saw in the other video:

Macro arguments vs Micro arguments

17 Oct

I feel a lot of times atheists get bogged down arguing the particulars of a religion. While this can be fun sometimes, it can be extremely aggravating as it gives the religious a lot more room to wiggle out of things, redefine terms, move the goal posts, be vague, etc. The way I see it, all of the arguments tailored to their religion can easily be nullified by attacking the source: the existence of god. If you can shut them down here, then it doesn’t matter what some book says, or what they feel in their gut, or what a friend told them. Every single argument they could make about their religion depends on the assumption that god exists.

The simple fact is that there is no evidence for the existence of god; all they have are logical fallacies, appeals to emotion, and “god of the gaps” arguments. With the null hypothesis, burden of proof, and Occam’s razor all in your favor, their claims fall to the floor. Just keep asking for evidence at every turn. For example: “Well who made god?” “Oh, he’s eternal and outside time and space, the law of cause and effect doesn’t apply to him.” “Oh, that’s a convenient ad hoc fallacy. What evidence do you have that god, if he/she/it hypothetically existed, contains those traits of being eternal and outside time and space?” At this point they probably will come at you asking “well who made the universe”, which assumes several things, but you can point out that the way the universe operates, it would be able to create itself without the need of a god. The idea that it’s ok to say “I don’t know” really baffles believers. Uncertainty scares them, hence why they cling to the false certainty and security of faith. Point out that we don’t have all the answers right now, but that you’re willing to work to discover them rather than throw up your hands and declare “god did it!”

If you can master these macro arguments and keep asking for evidence every time they claim god has X,Y,Z attributes, all the micro arguments about the bible’s validity, or Jesus’ divinity, etc, don’t matter at all.

(Note: this isn’t as well worded as I would like, so I’m probably going to edit this, but I just wanted to get this out there before I went to sleep. I’ll fix it when I’m no longer exhausted)

New sci-fi games, same old motifs

3 Aug

Recently I purchased a copy of Blizzard’s new Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty game. I love playing it and enjoyed the story, but something occurred to me: this is the same motif every sci-fi space game uses.

Here is the formula:

  • Human-ish space marines of some flavor
  • An advanced alien race, usually religious fanatics of some kind
  • Some type of infection or bug alien that is threatening the universe

The player (usually as a human space marine) starts off by fighting the advanced aliens, only for the third party (bug/infected) to enter onto the stage, where by both the humans and aliens form an unstable cease fire to fend off this greater threat.

The similarities even bleed over into the look of the units:

Space marines: From left to right, Mass Effect, Halo, Starcraft, Warhammer 40k

The aliens: (again) from left to right, Mass Effect, Halo, Starcraft, Warhammer 40k

The bugs/infested, again, from left to right, Mass Effect, Halo, Starcraft, Warhammer 40k

The stories are pretty much the same:

Mass Effect: Human must build an intergalactic team to fight off the Reapers who are going to wipe out all life in the galaxy…again. (Reapers use husks, infected like zombies)

Halo: Lone space marine Master Chief must fight first the Covanent, a group of aliens on a space crusade, and then the flood, infectious spores with a hive mind that tries to wipe out all other life in the universe. (Halo rings designed to kill all life and starve them out)

Starcraft: Terran (humans) fighting Protoss aliens from time to time, but then the Zerg, a ravenous swarm controlled by a hive mind, tries to kill everything in the universe

Warhammer 40k: (Ok, this is a lot more complex, but in Dawn of War II, the space marines were fighting advance aliens, Eldar, and then the Tyranids (almost exact copies of Zerg) show up.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy these stories, they’re fun, but for crying out loud, can we mix it up a bit? I’d like to see some other threat besides a giant swarm of infected/bugs moving through space and/or an advance mysterious group of aliens, otherwise known as space elves. (Have you noticed that? They’re always space elves! Sleek and beautiful, often relying on ranged attack and cloaking.)

I understand why space elves and bug swarms are so popular, they’re easy to do and to give them a motive for destroying everything, just play the religion card (hey, works here on earth) or say “because they’re hungry and they need to feed….on everything”. Done, motive set, hero can swing into action. What else could you save the universe from? It has to be something living is. For example, it wouldn’t be much of a fun game if the thing threatening the universe was a natural phenomenon.

But maybe there in lies the heart of the problem. “Save the universe!” limits you to only a hand full of things that could possibly threaten an entire universe. Maybe the games need to lower their sights a bit in order to open up more possibilities. This would in no way be less interesting. Drama is drama, whether it is played out on an inter-galactic stage or between 2 people. If done right, it can be interesting regardless of the scope. What about sci-fi politics? We have plenty of games about past wars, why not make some up about future wars? How about stuff like colonies breaking off from the home world for their freedom; space civil wars. What about evil corporations in space? Space trade wars? If we brought it down even smaller, space bounty hunter games, space mafia, etc, there are as many possibilities in space as there are here on earth, regardless of the scale. The possible content is endless, unless you go for the ultimate “save everything” story that’s been done to death.

Hell, here’s an idea, why not play as space bacteria on an asteroid, battling other space bacteria while trying to burrow deep enough into the asteroid so you don’t burn up in entry to a planet? That might sound boring, but use your imagination, you could turn it into an RTS or a first person shooter. That’s drama on a microscopic scale. Throw in a bacteria love story and you’re golden. ^_^ (Don’t worry, the idea will grow on you)……..sorry.

Oh, and one last thing about scale. I understand that levels in a game can only be so big before they become very impractical, but why is it that events happening on one small part of a planet decide the fate of the entire planet? Think about this. One of my favorite tv shows, Stargate SG-1, had this problem all the time. They would travel through the stargate to another world, billions of light years away, and never go to far away from that gate. While in that one spot they’d make blanket judgments about the planet, including climate, people, politics, religion; everything from one little town. Could you imagine someone trying to generalize the earth from one small town? What if it was a town in Morocco? Japan? Sweden? China? Mexico? Any change in location would give extremely varied results. Yet despite this, sci-fi games continue to generalize an entire planet from one location. Take starcraft II for instance: On the last mission I land on a planet to confront the boss. Of the entire planet, I manage to land in exactly the right place despite being ambushed and all the ships going down in flames.  How does the battle that takes place on this one spot of the planet then decide the outcome on the rest of the planet? That’s like coming to earth, coincidentally landing exactly where  you need to be to do something, say a small town in Idaho, and then after completing whatever you needed to do in Idaho, declaring victory over the entire planet…. <facepalm> I understand that it’s like this because of TV show set limitations, or the limitations of a game level, but it still bugs me.

It’s a miracle!

12 Jan

So a few weeks ago my girlfriend and I were walking to my apartment after parking my car. It was a cold and clear night and to our delight we found this upon looking up at the moon.

Yep, it was a really cool looking halo around the moon. It’s not the first time I’ve seen something like this, and I think one of my girlfriend’s friends made a comment about it being religious in nature.

Naturally, this peeved me to no end. Whenever there is a natural phenomenon that people can’t immediate explain there are some who will make the large, and completely unfounded, jump to a religious explanation. This is in itself a contradiction. “I can’t explain X, so therefore I can explain it we god!”

Before I tell you what actually causes these halos, lets look at the implications of calling this a miracle. Calling this a miracle from god asserts that

  1. There is a disembodied intelligence in the universe that magically exists from nothing and made everything out of nothing (for which there is no evidence)
  2. This disembodied intelligence who created all of existence decided to zoom in on our galaxy (us out of billions) , and then from our galaxy decided to zoom into our solar system (out of further billions), and then from our solar system decided to zoom in on earth, specifically Lynchburg Virginia. (can you sense how ridiculous this is becoming?)
  3. This disembodied intelligence who created all of existence then decided to create a little circle around the moon for unknown reasons as a way of communicating with us instead of doing so directly and making their presence irrefutable.

“Miracle” encompasses all of these absurd assumptions. It is vastly more complex than the simple and actual explanation of ice crystals in the atmosphere.

“A circular halo, often referred to as just a halo, is formed by the refraction of sunlight through cloud suspended ice crystals as opposed to raindrops or other liquid water suspended in the air.”

No crazy disembodied floating man needed, so think twice before leaping to conclusions. Remember, it is perfectly ok to say “I don’t know”!

The natural state of things

29 Sep

It’s so hard to do anything, there is so much resistance to everything. Water will eventually wash away soil no matter how hard the soil tries to resist. It’s the natural state of things. Buildings will eventually crumble and fall, it’s the natural state of things. Everyone you love will eventually die, it’s the natural state of things.  The universe will eventually spread out and cool down into cold dead nothingness, it’s the natural state of things.

There are just so many things that if left by themselves will revert back to the natural state of shit and nothingness. It’s a fight to do anything. Even gravity is against you. I put a pencil on a desk and it rolls off and falls, and so I must bend down and fight gravity to pull it back from its natural state. I know that sounds trivial, but it’s the little things that get me down.

Day in and day out, not getting anywhere, it’s a struggle just to get out of bed. My body aches and I’m tired, I’d much rather revert back to being in bed, but I must fight the forces trying to keep me down to go out and perform meaningless tasks.

I used to be all “I want to save the world and help people”, now I’m not sure. It seems that the world is just spinning down the drain, and any attempts to make things better are ultimately pointless. So why fight it? Things in life are naturally shit. Starvation, suffering, and death are the natural states for millions around the world. Masses of people will naturally do stupid shit, like vote republican. Why fight it? Yes they will do stupid stuff, and yes they will suffer for it, but they are so fickle and possess such a short term memory that they will continue to repeat the same mistakes and expect different results. It’s just natural for them. Shit is the natural state of things.

As much as it seems reasonable to just go with the flow and be evil, I can’t. It’s my natural state to be a good person, and so I lament all the shit in the world, but I feel unable to do anything to stop the natural state of things. I think I would be happier if I was indifferent to other people’s suffering. It would make living in this world as we slowly circle the drain easier.

My #1 reason for rejecting faith

9 Apr

If I had to give one reason for why I disagree with religion and its view of reality, it would this:

It is true that I make some assumptions. I assume that I exist. (I think therefore I am) I also assume that the universe exists based on my observations. It is true that my observations could be wrong, and that we are all just brains in a jar, or in the matrix. It is true that since I don’t know the future I can’t be absolutely 100% positive a ball will fall when I drop it. These are the shortcomings of observation.

Yet even with these shortcomings, religion and observation’s views about reality are not equal. Simple stated, observation produces practical benefits that religious belief does not. A thousand years ago the majority of human population was busy trying to produce enough food to keep from starving, and they often did. Nowadays, through the application of observation, 2% of a first world country can supply enough food to feed the other 98% of the population. A thousand years ago we didn’t know why the moon moved in the sky. Now we know, and not only that, we’ve traveled there and returned home safely. Two hundred years ago we didn’t understand what caused infections and disease, now we have anti-biotics and modern medicine that save thousands of lives daily. All of these advancements were the products of applied observation, science. Unless you live in a cave (which you don’t since you’re on a computer reading this) you use the benefits of science everyday.

The history of the relationship between science and religion is a history of religion making claims, only for science to come along and disprove them. This is simply because religion was originally invented to explain the then unexplainable. Why does it rain? The gods make it rain. Why does the sun move across the sky? Ra in his sunboat moves it. Why are there seasons? Because Persephone ate from the fruit of the underworld. How did life arrive on the planet? God made it. Why are there so many languages? The tower of Babel. These are just a few basic examples but the list goes on and on. The religious understanding of how reality operates is skewed in many areas, from medicine, to anatomy, to astronomy, to physics, to biology, and chemistry.

Yet religion can hardly be blamed for this. The sacred texts of the world’s major religions were written centuries before the advent of the scientific method. They did the best with what tools were available. So given this pattern in the history of science and religion’s relationship, I feel it is reasonable to assume the pattern will continue; much the same way that based off of previous observations I can predict that a ball will fall when dropped. This is related to the idea of the “god of the gaps”. The idea behind “god of the gaps” is that god resides in science’s gaps in knowledge. Even Newton reached a point where he couldn’t go any further and declared “god did it”. Yet since the advent of science these gaps have been slowly filled. Everyday the gaps that god can live in get smaller and smaller. There is nothing to suggest that the trend will not continue.

<Edit> Afterthought: I forgot to mention the complete lack of evidence for the existence of any supernatural beings. There is just as much evidence for the existence of Ra as there is for Yahweh, zero. Now I’m not saying they can’t exist. If I did I would be making a positive assertion which would shift the burden of proof to me. (Despite the fact that it is impossible to prove a negative) Yet as long as people claim that being X exists, they have the burden of proof. The bigger the claim, the bigger the amount of proof required. Claiming that there is an all powerful, all knowing, invisible being(s) in the sky is a huge claim. You use this same logic everyday. If someone said they had a diamond the size of a car in their backyard, you’d want to see it. Our legal system works off of this same concept. Innocent until proven guilty. The prosecution makes the positive assertion that the defendant is guilty. It is up to the prosecution to provide enough evidence to prove their claim. Until guilt is proved, the court operates under the assumption of innocence. Religion is no exception.

To tie it back to the original post, people often try to claim natural things in the world as evidence for their god. Even if it was evidence for the existence of a higher power, there is no reason to then attribute that higher power with all the attributes the religious do, i.e. all-knowing, all-powerful, loving, intervening in human affairs, etc. The funny thing is that the things the religious have claimed in the past have slowly been explained by science.

Occam’s razor states that when presented with two competing explanations, the one containing the fewest superfluous entities is to be preferred. The naturalist explanation always has the fewest superfluous entities, and better yet is demonstrate-able. From these observations we can learn about how the universe we live in actually works, and then take that knowledge and apply it to better the human condition.