Counting Cats in Zanzibar Rotating Header Image

Whatever

As a subscriber to Sky I see these arseholes whenever I want. Always arguing the toss over dinos and fuck knows what else. How wrong are they? Wronger than wrong. They are epically wrong. They are not just wrong they are deranged. Fortunately evolution is weeding them out. I do not believe in “evolution”. Belief is something I leave to the religious. Instead I think it’s a bloody good theory and that means more to me. A little known fact about me was I was almost a biologist but bailed and did physics instead so I do know somewhing of what I am talking about.

I guess I am by and large preaching to the converted here but… It needs to be said. What needs to be said? This…

The tale science tells about how we got here (and got to the point where we could ask such questions) is not just truer than the bronze-age claptrap of The Bible (or Qu’ran or stories about Marduk or whatever…) but more compelling. We are DNA on the right-handed scroll and it has taken four billion years to make us. We are that amazing. Isn’t that more compelling than some old shit about talking snakes and a job done in six days? Is it not a truly grand narrative? The truth is so much more beautiful than the lie. It is also the truth and that also goes a long way on it’s own.

Ah, c’mon folks… I have heard enough from creationists about how if we’re merely risen slime we’re still slime and that in some unspecified way we are therefore still tainted by the slime. But what slime! This piece of slime can be moved to tears by the music of Palestrina, this piece of slime can be amused by the plays of William Shakespeare, this piece of slime can parse HTML and FORTRAN*. This piece of slime can factorize quadratics, do integration by parts and hold an opinion on the Copenhagen Interpretation. This is one hell of a piece of slime and so, dear reader, are you.

I am proud to be slime with post-graduate qualifications. I am stardust (so are you) created in the forge of supernovae (is that not cool?). I am atoms in motion (so are you). I am victory (so are you). I am almost everything you are and you are almost everything I am. We share half of our DNA with cabbages afterall.

What part of that profound beauty do creationists not get?

*and a few other things I can’t be arsed going into.

15 Comments

  1. El Draque says:

    I agree about the awesome magnificence of the universe, far more enthralling in complexity than the creationists’ obscurantist view.
    The final part of the Book of Job captures it, by the way, when God answers Job and shows him the wonders of Creation.

    You refer to slime.
    I read recently that because most of an atom is empty space, then a human being amounts to less than a grain of salt of matter.
    Maybe an over-estimate, but I get the point.

    But the matter of a grain of salt is not what “I am”.
    Consciousness – a spirit that can grasp the stars and a brain that can penetrate the maths of the Big Bang – is not reducible to matter.

    Creationists remind me of the joke in HitchHikers Guide to the Galaxy: that the universe is too big for most people, and they would rather live in a smaller one, so that’s what they do – make a smaller one.

  2. mandrill says:

    My take on this is that the creationists, and other believers in nonsensical fairytales, are afraid of the awesome responsibility that comes with being thinking slime. They have such low self-esteem that they cannot think of themselves as being as amazing as you point out.

    They feel that to be that amazing, they have to earn it, and they’re right. But you earning by being that amazing and accepting that you are. We are stardust. A miniscule blossoming of life in what might be a totally lifeless universe (I don’t believe that we can be the only life in the cosmos, but am open to argument). A rare and precious jewel of chemistry, physics and biology.

    El Draque, I believe as you do; that the ‘matter of a grain of salt’* is not all that I am, but with one fundamental difference. There is nothing external to myself that gives me consciousness, it is not a gift from a beard in the sky but the emergent product of all the tiny processes that make up my physical being, and the point at which these processes meet the rest of the universe. I am not the sum of my parts, but a whole formed by those parts and their interactions, with each other and with the universe around them. My consiousness is humbled by this; that I come about through processes I can begin to understand but not yet fathom fully. Your answer is ‘the soul’, I would presume, breathed into me by a faceless and unfathomable god. Your answer (if it is indeed your answer) is not humble. It is final, and brooks no further investigation. It is arrogant.

    It is not these people’s beliefs that I have a problem with, they can do whatever they like with the amazing biological machine that is their existence, what I have a problem with is their claim that their answer is the only one and there can be no other, and the fact that they would force acceptance of this belief on others.

    *The true nature of matter is something a more qualified person could probably educate you about, but from my limited understanding; You say an atom is mostly empty space, I say it is all ‘empty’ space. Take the nucleus of an atom apart and you will find even more space. Take the particles so obtained apart, and guess what? More space. Matter is an expression of energy as I understand it and at the levels you are talking about, that is all we are. Energy, vibrations, potentials, probabilities and harmonies. If you want to hear an angelic chorus, that is what you should be listening to. So, I go one further and say that we are nothing, held together by energies and forces we have only just begun to understand. Quantum Physics is a mind-fuck and a half.

  3. Infidel753 says:

    “What slime” indeed. I see nothing ennobling about believing that we were created perfect but almost immediately blew it because a talking snake persuaded a woman to eat a piece of fruit, and that we have all been fallen and unworthy ever since because of that.

    I know a fair bit about chimpanzees and hunter-gatherer societies. I know where we really started. And so I can see the civilization we’ve built since then as the tremendous achievement that it is.

  4. Nick M says:

    ED,
    Would that be “Do you know the ordinances of Heaven, can you apply their rule on earth” and all that jazz.

    Mandrill,
    I do not take your view that religion is necessarily arrogant. From my experience religious folks are just as likely to be humble questing types as the rest of us. Some do come over as smug but I doubt they are any smugger than the likes of Dawkins. Dawkins who has squandered his talent (when he writes on biology he’s engaging) on dissing religion and (irony is a wondrous thing) creating one of his own. I’d rather be marooned on a desert island with a representative of one of the major (and sane) religious traditions than a reductionist twat like Dawkins. I am pretty much a mysterian on the nature of consciousness. You think QM is tricksy – nah. Consciousness – that’s difficult. That’s trying to take x apart and the only tool you have is x itself. And here is the kicker… Consciousness is almost certainly not a quantum phenomenon. It is almost certainly Newtonian, Maxwellian.

    And it’s almost not the point. You can explain sexual attraction in terms of pheremones and facial symmetry but does that not at some deep level miss the point? Because that’s not what you feel when you flirt with a pretty girl and she reciprocates… And in a very real sense that is not what you are doing. I hate Robin Williams. He made “Jack” which is by far and away the closest I ever came to walking out. Unfortunately that was not an option because it was 9km above the North Atlantic but he (or the script writer) does hit on a truth in Dead Poets Society. Language was invented to woo women. It’s all in the “lyrics” – as a mate of mine with an above average success rate put it.

    Infidel,
    I have a rather depraved take on the Bible. I can’t help but feel the snake was the hero of that episode.

    “Those who know the most must mourn the deepest o’er the immortal truth the tree of knowledge is not that of life”. – Byron.

    I have a soft-spot for Byron. I am a Nottingham graduate and just outside of town is his old gaff, Newstead Abbey (which looks exactly as it should) where he kept wolves in the chapel. He was a piece of work. His dad, “Mad” Jack Byron had a little fort at the end of a lake and used to recreate naval engagements using canon and peasants in rowing boats. My sort of nutters. Brilliantly demented the lot of them and his daughter Augusta Ada, Countess Lovelace (the “Princess of the Parrallograms”) was the muse of Charles Babbage and the first ever programmer.

  5. Whig says:

    I think I stop worrying about God when I understood that human beings are (to quote Erich Fromm) `nature made aware of itself.’

  6. [...] Link, via samizdata. I believe it is, and I can’t but believe that the reason why some people think differently is that they’ve either never been told this narrative, or have never given it a shot, even if they have. If you’re one of those people for whom using multiple senses at the same time increases your susceptibility level and the impact level of that which is communicated (most people are, and the fairy tale guy with the long white beard up there has nothing to do with this either), I would expect the video from Nick M’s post to increase the force of the argument further: [...]

  7. El Draque says:

    Mandrill:
    Curious you mention the soul, when I didn’t. I didn’t do so, though I thought about it, for a reason: I’ve never seen one.
    I rarely mention this story, but I would swear it happened. At about the age of 10, at a church school, I was taught about evolution of man from apes. Later on, I heard the vicar say that “Animals do not have souls, only humans have an immortal soul”.
    So I wondered – possibly my first sceptical question – “So at what point in evolution did the soul appear?”
    I have never forgotten that question, but never found an answer. I cannot see a definite difference between Man and animal that would convince me that humans are that unique. Perhaps all life has an immortality of a kind, by reason of its existence.

    So the way you word it is entirely acceptable to me, and indeed you do it better than I could at present.

    That I see the world as “created”, and others see it as “not created” is of course a matter of faith.

  8. Pa Annoyed says:

    El Draque,

    If the”soul” is what you are: your personality, your memories, your ideas, your experiences, then it is shared and survives in the minds of all the others who know you. Culture is a great sea of soul-stuff, sloshing from brain to brain. “We” are all temporary patterns in one eternal ocean, like ripples and vortices. Any one whirling pattern fades or is shattered on the shore, but the flowing dance of minds goes on.

    What defines personal continuity in the philosophy of mind? What makes you you? Are you the same person from moment to moment, from year to year? The matter that makes you up comes and goes. Your appearance changes. The memories and personality of the infant you once were are very different from you now. In what sense are you the same person? If you are teleported through a Star Trek transporter, are you still you? If an atom-perfect copy is made, are you both you? And if you are told that according to Quantum Field Theory that every particle of your body is annihilated and recreated countless times every nanosecond in a blur quantum physicists call the ‘brown muck’, does it make any difference? The boundaries are indistinct when examined closely. Maybe they are no more than a consequence of our love of sharp categories?

    Mind-stuff is patterns in matter, obviously, but when those patterns pass from person (to processor to paper) to person, isn’t it also obvious that parts of our minds are shared? We have only temporary custody of our thoughts.

    If minds are the same things as souls, then maybe other animals can learn to have immortal soul from associating with us.

  9. RAB says:

    Well Alistair Crowley once asserted that actually EATING animals raised their conciousness by passing them through our superior system.
    By that criterion, veggies are raising a Little Shop of Horrors.

    Not so much the most evil man in the world
    More a Merry Prankster!

  10. El Draque says:

    Pa Annoyed:
    Thanks for the exposition.
    A copy of me isn’t me, any more than a good photocopy is the original.
    I’ve heard before, people claim that we live on in the memories of others. Eternal life is gained by the eternally famous.
    Sounds a bit hard on the humble, actually.
    No, I rather incline to the more-than-three-or-four-dimension view; that from the point of view of eternity, everything that has lived, is in a sense still alive.
    The God who created the heavens and the earth knows us all, every one of us.
    I don’t speculate about life after death, but I know Christians who do. They look forward to having a good chat with Saint Paul.
    I think Olaf Stapledon (best SF writer ever) put it best when he imagined an after-life as “an eternal moment”.

  11. Pa Annoyed says:

    El Draque,

    But the original is a trillion-times copy, too. QFT, remember? :-)

    Yes, block time another way of thinking about it.
    But the truth is probably stranger than we can imagine.

  12. NickM says:

    ED,
    At the risk of sounding flippant I shall quote Woody Allen. “I don’t want to achieve imortality through my works. I want to achieve it by not dying”.

    OK, I wrote my MSc thesis on Godelian Cosmology and Time Travel. Now Godel was pretty much an Idealist in the old school Germanic way. And in fact his interest in General Relativity was sparked by two things. A desire to explore that and being pals with Einstein at Princeton. A little digging revealed something quite stunning. Godel (and he was/is not alone here) believed that everything exists in 4D. That was partly his point in creating a cosmology in which time travel is possible because if you can go into the past then that means the past in some sense still exists. He later ret-conned his cosmological reasoning (because people though he was barking – Hugh Everett got much the same reception with Many Worlds) because he thought it could explain the rotation of galaxies. It doesn’t and that’s a schoolboy error. It might if the axes of rotation of galaxies were aligneed rather than pretty much random.

    Godel was nuts by the way. Absolutely paranoid. Starved to death in the end because he refused to eat anything other than his wife’s cooking and when she died that was it. Google up a piccy of him. He was the epitome of the mad scientist. I dunno what it is about Mittel Europe but they fair churn them out over there. Nikola Tesla also springs to mind. Actually I do know. Or rather intuit. Having recently been to Prague and seen the rodent balancer… There is something in the mindset of what was the Austro-Hungarian Empire which is just raving.

  13. US says:

    @Nick M:

    Gödel died while his wife was hospitalized. Adele Gödel survived him by three years.

    He was still a complete nutter in the end though.

  14. Nick M says:

    Thanks for the correction.

  15. Vivien Akpa says:

    I believe as you do; that the ‘matter of a grain of salt’* is not all that I am, but with one fundamental difference. There is nothing external to myself that gives me consciousness, it is not a gift from a beard in the sky but the emergent product of all the tiny processes that make up my physical being, and the point at which these processes meet the rest of the universe.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: