Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Small Artistic Tribute

One of the talents my dad possessed was for detailed artwork. He painted murals with fantastic scenes, as well as small scale portraits on any number of topics. But his most endearing work often came about in the simple act of writing a letter - wherein he did a sketch on the top of the letter or made it the entire design for a letterhead.

On this page are four such sketches that I took off four of his letters to me, between 2001 and 2005. The work itself says it all, and the attention to detail. To see that detail, you can click on each image to bring it up!

What is it they say? A picture is worth a thousand words?

Well enjoy the 4 thousand "words" embodied in those sketches!

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Anti-Atheists Get It Wrong....AGAIN!

The Helix Nebula captured by the Hubble Telescope - an engineering marvel and manifestation of human REASON - not superstitutious codswallop.

What exactly is it with those prone to bashing Atheists? Why, given the bounty of information available on the web do they persistently get the Atheist position wrong? Once again we were treated to another spectacle of disinformation and misinformation as well as egregious assumptions in a recent Wall Street Journal letters section ('At Their Outer Edge, All Systems Are Metaphysical', Friday, July 3rd)

Leading off the charge is David Cartwright who asks: "On what basis can an atheist assume there should or will be order in the universe?"

The answer, of course, is that the Atheist makes no such assumption! While Christians and their ilk obsess over "order" the Atheist goes by science and what its actual investigations can uncover.

In truth and fact, barely 7% of the cosmos (according to the latest cosmological findings from an array of data) can be regarded (potentially) as being matter in its normal everyday form, and hence - subject to "mechanical" forces and arranged in what some may ascribe "mechanical order". Even for this fraction, more than 99% is in the form of PLASMA - meaning hot, ionized gas.

Apart from certain instances and exceptions, when plasma wave instabilities (mostly) occur, this form of matter will not display any organizaton, far less "order".The remaining 93% of the cosmos is in the form of either dark energy (70%) or dark matter (23%). The first is currently causing the cosmic expansion to accelerate by virtue of a repulsive force that can be accounted for fully within the scope of Einstein's general theory of relativity.

Bottom line here? "Order" is the exception in the aggregate cosmos, not the rule, so the Atheist is definitely under no obligation here ....and certainly not to "assume" a thing. In fact, all the organizational manifestations we behold from our limited vantage point (say for the solar system) can be accounted for by appeal to a mix of gravitational force and electrostatic. Thus, the large original solar nebula would simply have been pulled by gravitational force into a more compact, condensed and hotter form....which became the Sun. As the contraction went on, fragments of the condensing solar gas cloud were spun off, each with their own portion of angular momentum...and these became the planets.

Thus, Cartwright's next question ('And if he sees order, where does it come from?') is also easily disposed of.

The next question 'On what basis can he trust his reason?' is also quickly disposed of.

We, including in the scientific and engineering professions, regular employ reason to devise new methods of investigation, or new machines, applications.

Thus, the success of our reason and its trustworthiness is visible everywhere one might care to look. Like that MRI machine which is making a diagnosis of a medical problem or anomaly. Or, that Mars ROVER spacecract which has been recording the Martian surface with such precision. A craft that traveled over 150 MILLION miles to the Red planet. How? Using the reason embodied in the equations of celestial mechanics which enabled us to forecast just where Mars would be in the time taken for transit, and what path the spacecraft had to take to intercept it.

You think "God" did that? Not in any way! It was applied mathematics under the direction of REASON!

One can also look at the Hubble Telescope which has captured some of the most phenomenal celestial objects in exciting detail. Its placement at 200+ miles up above the planet and its mirror (now having been corrected by reason) to achieve such resolution, is a work of the human mind and imagination unfettered by psychotic, supernatural phantasmagorias and delusions.

Look at that image of the Helix Nebula in Aquarius at the page top! THAT was captured by the Hubble! That was a work of reason in action, leading to the development of an engineering marvel able to deliver to our eyes objects tens of thousands of light years distant. Can your superstitious drivel do that, Mr. Cartwright? Can you trust your hijacked reason?

So, we have far more basis to trust our reason than the likes of Cartwright and his anti-Atheist clones have to trust their "faith" and supernatural delusions and revealed "sacred" books. None of which could have delivered a spacecraft to the planet Mars, or put a working giant telescope in orbit above the Earth!

Not to be outdone by the hitherto pitiful demonsration of his intellect, Cartwright goes on to aver: "Further, the atheist has no explanation for where the world came from"

Which echoes another letter writer (Martin M. Bednar) and his dreck that: If the universe was not created by an almighty God where did it come from?'

Given equivalent levels of doggerel, these two gentlemen can be addressed concurrently, by first giving the proviso that Atheism per se need not show or account for 'where the world-cosmos came from' since it depends on science for the answers. Science, meanwhile, offers a plausible answer in terms of the theory of quantum bootstrapping, that the universe came into being on the basis of a quantum fluctuation in space-time which provided the initial energy.

This can be shown from the energy-time uncertainty principle, given that a small enough variation in time leads to an ample energy to incept a cosmos.

The energy-time form can be written:

delta(E) delta(t) ~ h/bar

where h-bar ~ 1.02 x 10^-34 Joule.sec

Let the variable fluctuation in time be on the order of 10^-40 sec

and the change in energy is:

delta (E) ~ h-bar/ delta(t)

and one can get a handle on the energy available.

More formally, actual quantum gravity papers have been published which show how this can occur (e.g. 'Universe Before Planck Time – A Quantum Gravity Model', in Physical Review D, Vol. 28, No. 4, p. 756. In his model, T. Padmanabhan uses as a time coordinate hyperboloids of constant distance, inside the light cone of a point in de Sitter space. The point itself, and its light cone, are the big bang of the Friedmann model, where the scale factor goes to zero. But they are not singular. Instead, the spacetime continues through the light cone to a region beyond. It is this region that deserves the name, the pre big bang scenario. It is also this basis that provides the model for the instantaneous formation of the universe by a possible quantum fluctuation that arises when one treats the conformal part of space-time as a quantum variable.

As Padmanbhan shows in his paper, such a cosmos from nothing is perfectly expected and indeed, follows from the basis of the tensor set up, the light cone restrictions and so on. As he notes, ff the Euclidean four-sphere were perfectly round, both the closed and open analytical continuations (using complex integrals around specific paths), would inflate forever. This would mean they would never form galaxies. A perfect round four sphere has a lower action, and hence a higher a-priori probability than any other four -metric (x, y, z, t) of the same volume.

I don't doubt that most laymen can't understand conformal space-time or de Sitter space or much (if anything) of Padmanabhan's paper, but that deficiency doesn't mean a God did it!

Therefore, the fact that an explanatory basis does exist means that science need not depend on faith or 'God' for cosmic origin since so doing would commit the fallacy of ignotum per ignotius or explaining the not well understood by the even less understood. Thus, Atheists do have a basis for where the cosmos comes from if they choose to invoke it from scientific hypothesizing!

As for Cartwright's (final) claim that Atheists must fess up to having 'no basis for objective morals' - I am afraid not. What the Atheist avers is that the only basis for a practical ethics must come from humans, since any god-based form is inevitably quixotic and inconsistent.

In line with this, any persistent observer of human social interaction will note that the vast majority of people are law-abiding and decent folk who naturally practice a common-sense, utilitarian ethics. No supernatural law or commandment ordains this behavior. Instead it is the conscious and deliberate recognition that the promotion of the welfare of others is directly linked to the one's own welfare. Compromise others' security, and you in effect compromise your own. Undermine their welfare and you also undermine your own.

No god is necessary.

By contrast, religious morality is predicated on some formal codification of expected human behavior in terms of absolutist propositions, not subject to debate. The typical moral code of a religionist, whether Muslim, Pentecostal, Catholic or Jewish, isn’t subject to evolution or variation based on contingencies, or externalities. This blindness probably results from a 'control' meme that proclaims the morality as ‘god-ordained’ or revealed in some scripture or other. If ordained by a god - whether Allah, Jehovah, Yahweh or whoever, it cannot be compromised or altered no matter what.

As Kai Neilsson asked in his book (Ethics Without God, Prometheus, 1992) : "Is an act good because God did it, or is it good independent of such action?" For a genuine ethical basis, any human action must be totally independent of whether a god did it (in scriptures) or ordains it. It must be good on its own merits.

A first test, as Neilsson observes, is ethical choice predicated on a humane standard. Consider: if a human parent knows his child is trapped in a burning house, s/he will try to save it however s/he can. There is no way the human parent will simply walk out and allow 'fate' or "free will" of the child to make the decision. If the human parent has an ounce of common decency s/he must intervene. However, god-ists seem quite happy to let their deity off the hook, when and where it suits their fancy.

Start then with the standard deity template, say espoused by 99% of Christians. This entity is posited as both omniscient and omnipotent (all knowing and all powerful). Let us say, as occured back in 1994, It knew from before all time that enraged Hutu tribal killers in Rwanda were headed for its "houses of worship to slaughter Tutsi tribe minorities hiding out there. Being omnipotent, it also had the power to halt the mammoth bloodletting as opposed to letting its church be used as an abattoir. Did it? No it did not! It permitted the Hutus to slaughter the men, women and children within it. All innocents. All dead.

Those (like Cartwright) who would defend such a deity - but who would hold a human parent accountable for negligence or manslaughter by allowing their child to perish in a house fire (when the child could be saved) - disclose inchoate ethics. To wit, demanding a vastly lower ethical standard of behavior for their deity than for fellow humans.

Those who beg the question with theo-babble ("we cannot fathom the ways or mind of God") are no better, and do no better. In many ways, they're worse, because they lack even the courage to face their own logic. And the consequences of their definitions! They either invoke the escape clause of "faith" or the impotence of human logic beside the alleged Divine Mind. (And surely, if humans sprung from such a mind, comprehensibility of its ways and modes must follow. Else he, she or it could as well be a Demonic clown who allows humans - innocent children- to be slain for sport) Thus it follows, even from the most generic examples (presupposing a supernatural, omnipotent force) that human ethics trumps divine ethics on its face.

If it does so, then it must also trump any and all human extensions of divine ethics. Whether in the ten commandments, canon law or wherever. Hence, it follows that human ethics and ethical standards can exist independently of invoking any divine or religious fluff, affiliations or baggage.

In terms of said "baggage" what the religionists have done is to take the natural code of (humane) ethics most people follow and embellish it with a blizzard of superstitious precepts and injunctions. These are superstitious since, inevitably, they are linked to the supposed dictates of a supernatural "being" who will not hesitate to "punish" those who disobey "him". Ethics without god then, is ethics elevated to its highest consistent standards without the need for baffling with bullshit.

A very good article for the basis of a godless morality, and especially for ethical imbeciles:

As for letter writer Prof. Thomas Wooley's claim that science flourished in the West only because of the "faith of the curious" - no.

Because those like Galileo did not let their faith dictate their findings. Wooley mistakes the circumstantial condition of their (faith) backgrounds for the driving force behind their scientific methodology that enabled key discoveries (e.g. the heliocentric solar system, as opposed to the geocentric one of the Church) that contradicted the dogmas of faith.

Of course, none of this will stop the next religiously deluded loon from attributing false motives, concepts, insights or assumptions to Atheists. This god-besotted and money-worshipping society has too much invested in supersitition and bilge to stop now.