Full Accountablility


Close an eye or
Turn one blind
Filter out and summarize
Normal natural inevitable
Like the way vision and attention works
Like the way neurons refresh and
Some information gets left behind.

Conveniently forget.
Let it go.

In the big scheme of things
It’s easier to say, ‘Well, it doesn’t really matter.’
‘Don’t sweat the small stuff.’
‘No one will know.’
‘No one will remember by tomorrow.’
And just breeze by
Imaginary blinders on
Carelessly skipping, knocking, stepping
While carefully avoiding eye contact.

Live in the moment, in the present, what’s past is past.
There’s that twinge of guilt, which you crush, and say
I can’t be devoting all my timemoneyeffort to that
Even if I think it’s a good cause or is the right thing to do
It’s a small thing
It doesn’t make a difference
I have other commitments.

Besides
Everyone else does what I’m doing
This is socially acceptable.
I’m doing fine.
It’s not me
Not my job
Not my problem
Not my responsibility
I’ll mind my own business
Do my own thing.

“If you know it’s wrong, why do you still do it?”
I demand of those in my charge.
“If you know this is what you should do,
and you know why you should do it,
why don’t you do it?”
Easy questions, not so easy answers.
Easy to say, easy to think, less easy to do.

But why?
Perhaps it’s just a habit, living carelessly.
Carelessly, thoughtlessly, lazily.
Just a habit.
Perhaps we can break that habit.

It’s kind of true that in the larger scheme of things
A lot of it doesn’t seem to matter
People forget, don’t notice
No one really knows or cares or remembers
You can get by with doing the minimum.
Work smart, ignore the inconsequential.
Relax; y so serious?

Yet every action has its reaction
And every reaction a subsequent reaction
Chain reactions
And every word you say and thing you do
Has the potential
To uplift or cut someone else down
To help make the world a better place
Or not.

Your lack of action seems inconsequential
Only because you neglect
To compare it with
what it could be.

Religion’s got the right idea;
You’re always, all the time
Everywhere and everywhen
Fully accountable to god.
Fully. Accountable.
To someone who will notice and will and can call you out on it.

Let’s be fully accountable to ourselves.
Break that habit.

Let’s go.

Windy Sunsets


I love walking home in the evenings, before the sun sets on a day with nice weather like today. There’s always something so poignant and emotional and beautiful about the times of dawn and dusk.

The blue sky and it’s puffy white clouds, so beautiful, so beautiful.
We spend too much of the day indoors.
Want to just spend all my time sitting by the beach, staring into the horizon.
And feel the wind embrace you.

I love the wind, I really do. When it blows, it feels all encompassing, going around, over and, it seems, almost through you. I close my eyes as it roars past my ears and whistles through my hair. It makes me think and feel of carefree days, of freedom, of love and joy, of simple pleasures and happiness. It stirs up vagues wisps of emotion-memories of being overseas, on holiday, relaxing. It stirs up vague wisps of feeling-memories of the beach, of Bishan park, of Changi beach club, of childhood memories and being much younger. Perhaps it even reaches further back than that to the memories of childhood dreams and desires to fly.

The blue sky and white clouds and trees and wind also call up memories of Jalan Bangket. Of MacRitchie Reservoir. Of taking walks in her estate…of relationship memories.

It’s a taste. Of openness, freedom, carefreeness, contentment, peace and a simple joy… But also of days gone by. Of past simplicities and securities. Of being young, when everything was always alright. Of a happiness, light-heartedness and optimism that I no longer possess… it makes me melancholy.

The wind always fills me with emotion. If a were a theist I’d say that’s when I feel closest to God, when I can almost literally feel His embrace, his reassurance, his love. Yes, I feel so loved. But I’m not a theist.

Instead, I’d say its when I feel most alive, most aware of the beauty of life and living, most in awe and appreciation, most at one and almost at peace with the world.

The most beautiful things in life are often bittersweet, like the sunset at dusk.

Related:
I Think I Love the Wind the Best 

A Million Points of Light


Walking up the stairs, a gaze across space. Glance up, a nod and a smile.
Sitting at a desk; hurries by, a wave and a ‘hi!’.

And there it stops.

It’s mind boggling, the possibilities. At every instant, you’re faced with a choice. It branches off ad infinitum, a never-ending number of parallel universes, containing every single possibility.

It’s like being in a library with a million books in front of you; A million books, a million view points, a million worlds. Astounding! The possibilities! At your finger tips! Each book you open brings you somewhere new, gives you something new, changes you in some way. The possibilities, they’re endless.

It’s like the internet; each site you visit opens up another ten links and each of those another ten and… it’s exponential!

You’re like a little frog, looking up at the vast, never-ending sky. There’s an entire world waiting to be conquered, to be explored, to be seen. The possibilities, endless.

And yet, there is stops.

You’re a frog… in a well. Or are you a frog that’s been conditioned to think there’s a well? No…I think the well’s real. Or have I merely been well conditioned?

You can’t read all of the books in the library. It’s all there, at your fingertips, but at the same time out of reach.

Every single person you walk past has their own story, a story that could fill ten novels, fill ten movies. Each and every single person you walk past has a name, a family, a history, a point of view, a personality. Their own lives, their own worlds, their own universe.

Imagine the possibilities?

They could have something in common with you. They probably do. What about that guy over there? Maybe you’d hit it off, really click. Maybe they share some of your strongest convictions. Maybe they could introduce you to a whole new world. Maybe they have the potential become your bosom buddy, if given half the chance. Maybe… one of them is The One?

Every. Single. Person. You pass by. Is as real as you are.

And yet, there it stops.

At least for me. I see the possibilities, but I don’t know how to make the connection. I don’t know how to move it past just that smile and a ‘hi’.

It’s like all of life; You could buy a plane ticket on a whim and be in Japan, or Scotland, or Italy tomorrow. Every moment opens endless possibilities. Yet… it doesn’t and yet you can’t.

All these characters, just secondary characters and calefare in the movie of my life- flat, 2D and boring. I know it’s not true! How do I give them main character statuses? More character development and… heck, give them their own spin-offs! I want to see all the possibilities. I want to see them!

It’s like a million points of lights. Each one you touch bursts into a million more points of light. Fireworks of possibilities. Never-ending ripples. Touch, touch, touch.

It must be nice to be god. The view must be mesmerizing  To be able to see all the possibilities unhidden. All the hyperlinks, all the braches and intricate patterns of interaction, all the points of light exploding and expanding outwards before you. Heck, you don’t need to be god; I can’t see it and already the mere idea mesmerizes me.

At your fingertips and beyond your reach.

Rambling thoughts on the insufficiency of God’s love


You don’t care*. No, don’t deny it, it’s true; but I understand. Humans have a limited capacity to care, limited time and attention to give. You have yourself and your family and so many other closer friends to care about first- there’s not much space left for a once a year friend except maybe once a year.

Humans have a limited capacity to care- limited time and attention. That’s one reason they invented god (or the modern concept of god, anyway). God, who has unlimited capacity to love all and everyone, and does it better then any human ever could. Because that’s what most people want most in life- to love and be loved. To feel cared for. To feel like they matter.

And yet some people would take that away from others– forbid them to love and be loved. (I’m referring to homophobic sentiments, of course.)  Why do you and how can you deny people such a fundamental need of their emotional well-being?

And this god– supposedly his love is all you need, his perfec love. The love that quenches your thirst eternally while every other leaves you wanting. And yet people who feel his love, who bask in his love are not satisfied– god is not enough (what blasphemy!) and they still need the love and support if their community, the love and support of their family, the love and support of their friends, and the love and support of a significant other. Why can’t you subsist on god’s love alone?

All men have a god shaped hole in their hearts, they say. Yet even when you’ve filled that hole with god, there’s still some hole left. How can it be that god’s not enough?

One of the favourite ‘trump cards’: the fall. We live in a fallen world. Our relationship with god now on earth is not as it’s supposed to be. It’s been tainted with sin, restricted by sin.
But even in paradise, even before sin and the fall, god wasn’t enough. Man was made to worship god, but worshipping god didn’t fulfill man enough, didn’t make man satisfied. God wasn’t enough, and god said so himself: it is not good that man should be alone. But he wasn’t alone, he was in PARADISE, with god, in his intended, untainted state, with all the incredible wonders of creation at his beck and call. And… It still wasn’t enough.

How can it get better than that? As Adam, the first man, in paradise, knowing god? Isn’t that what Christians claim is god’s original, intended plan? Trump card ‘the fall’ is out of commission; it hasn’t happened yet. Isn’t that the thing that is separating us from god, and isn’t separation the thing that is keeping us dissatisfied? Apparently not. Adam had it all, and still it was ‘not good’.

Apparently you still need AT LEAST a mate (in addition to all of paradise and being on one-on-one speaking terms with god) to be satisfied and fulfilled.

As little sense as this makes, it makes even less sense to believe all that and still deny some people the right to love another**. God himself said that even with everything else absolutely perfect, it’s still ‘not good’ to be alone.

*Is there a difference between actively not caring and not actively caring? If there is, I mean thelatter.
**I guess this refers specifically to people who admit that homosexuality natural and beyond an individuals control but insist that they should abstain from being an ‘active’ homosexual. 

Suffering > Joy


A simple equation.

Take all the suffering in the world. Past, present, future.
And then all the joy in the world. Past, present, future.
Perhaps they even out, in the sense that the joy makes the suffering worth it.

Do you think so? We often think that falling is worth it to learn to run; a thousand failures are made up by the eventual success. (but of course, we have to think that, else how would we go on?) Does this apply on a global scale? Throughout all of history? It’s easy to dismiss your own suffering and focus on the things that make you joyful. But to bring it to a global, historical scale seems to be dismissing other people‘s suffering, which I don’t feel I have the right to do. But perhaps we can assume that everyone dismisses their own sufferings and elevate their own joys. So, while it still seems It seems doubtful that global joy would be worth global suffering, let’s just assume it is.

Next.

Take all of the suffering in hell.
And then all the joy in heaven.

By sheer numbers alone, the suffering in hell would be many, many, many, many times the joy in heaven.

And this would be God’s overview. He would see that many more would end up in hell than in heaven. And somehow he chose to go ahead with his entire plan.

If you tried to say that the joy is worth the suffering, this time you have no choice but to dismiss someone else’s suffering. And what would balancing out the overwhelming abundance of suffering, in terms of numbers?? God’s own joy in heaven?

How can that be all-loving or all-good? There’s nothing loving about eternal hell, or dismissing the suffering of many as necessary for attaining a certain good. There’s nothing good in prioritizing your own interests and glory over others, even if the ‘others’ are ‘lower beings’ compared to yourself.

Don’t tell me ‘god works in mysterious ways’. I can accept that we can’t understand God. I can’t accept that an all knowing, all powerful God is not able to simplify the concept into something we CAN understand, rather than leave us with a contradiction-filled idea. And then fault us for not getting it.

Free Will: Articles and Some Thoughts


I came across this special issue by the Chronicle of Higher Education dealing with the question “Is Free Will an Illusion?” It features 6 short essays on the topic. Pretty interesting, give it a read!

I’ve been vaguely fascinated by the topic of free will for some time. I found myself, through my own random musings, being lead more in the direction of determinism, or denying free will, which at first alarmed me because such a position felt so counter-intuitive; surely most people would reject such a position as ridiculous. Imagine my surprise and delight when I found, upon reading up more on the subject, that this was actually a pretty common position amongst those who have explored these issues!

My thoughts on free will started from thinking about religion and belief. To me, free will was religion’s ‘trump card’, the reason why suffering exists, why God cannot simply pluck us out of disasters, and essentially why I’m going to hell: because I choose to reject God.

I argued that no one chooses that. No one would ever say, “Yes, I know God is my Creator, I know he is Truth and I know the consequence of rejecting Him. But in accordance to my right to free will, I can choose to reject Him, and I do.” No body chooses to reject the truth.

I’ve heard some arguments from the religious about why God doesn’t just reveal himself to all that run as such: If God were to do that then people would be forced to believe in Him, but God wants us to come to Him of our own free will.

So… knowledge eliminates free will but ignorance allows it??

When you say, “I don’t believe in God.”, it hardly feels like a choice. Given my background, the way I approach problems, all that I know and I that I’ve read up till today… couldchoose to say instead, “I believe in God.’? No. The reason why I don’t believe in God is that the concept doesn’t make sense to me. I can’t believe in God, at least not right now knowing and having experienced all that I have. Just take the case of those who deconvert– they certainly didn’t choose to lose their faith, and often times they really, really, really want to keep believing, but found that they couldn’t do it anymore.

I also wondered about when a decision counts as a choice.

If you’re ignorant and have no knowledge–say you’re given three blank doors with no clues as to which contains the prize– is it an exercise of free will when you pick one?

Or when you’re in possession of a lot of information about two different options– say you have to pick between two types of medical procedures– is it an exercise of free will when you weigh all the pros and cons and pick which one you think is best? But given the information that you had, and coming to the conclusion of which looked like the better option, could you have not picked that option?

Maybe free will and true choice only exist when there are no right or wrong implications to the choice, that is, when it is a subjective choice. For example, choosing between vanilla or chocolate ice-cream. Seems I could easily choose one or the other freely. But then again… that’s determined by some sort of internal bias– chocolate tastes better to me, or I’ve subconsciously come to prefer chocolate because there’s a subconscious, cultural implication that vanilla is for girls and sissies. If you hate durian or classical music, can you really choose to love them?

All just preliminary thoughts on a very complex issue. Hope to continue reading more and thinking more about it. :) :)

Although I’m not sure I fully support his dating analogy, the basic message is the same: it’s not a choice and no one chooses to reject God.

God, Gandhi and Ultimate Truth


Is there an Ultimate Truth? Truth with a capital ‘T’?

I feel that… an Ultimate Truth, if it existed, would have to be something deeply intertwined with the fabric of the universe, the fabric of reality. This Truth would have be intrinsically in the world, a part of the world. And the world has to be intrinsically that Truth.

Anything that claims to be true but stands apart from everything else cannot be truth, but mere delusion.

If truth is necessarily based on and based in reality, an Ultimate Truth would have to be based on and in all of reality.

Some say God is Truth.

They say that He is in the very fabric of the universe. When they look within themselves and at the world around them, they can’t help but see His hand in their hearts, in their lives, in the world.

I say that may be true for you, but for many others it’s not true at all.
There are people who see no such thing at all, all their lives.
There are people who peer at the world and into their hearts and see the opposite (ie that there is no god).
There are people who see the hand of different Gods.
There are people who, the harder they stared, the more God vanished from reality.

If God were the Ultimate Truth and in the very fabric of the universe, you would be able to find Him just by seeking, searching and exploring our reality, be it the physical reality, our mental reality or (most likely) a combination of the two. You wouldn’t need sacred texts. You wouldn’t need missionaries or evangelicals, at least not in the strongest sense of those words. The Truth should speak for itself, even if it takes some time to be heard.

“Divine knowledge is not borrowed from books. It has to be realized in oneself. Books are at best an aid, often even a hindrance. ” – Mahatma Gandhi

Texts may act like a textbooks and preachers like teachers: at their best they are but a guide to show you the things that are there and more importantly, to teach you how to find them for yourselves. Even if mathematics textbooks did not exist, 1+1 would still = 2. If the bible didn’t exist, how would we know of Jesus and his significance?

An Ultimate Truth, I feel, should be something elegant, something that transcends even as it is firmly grounded in reality. The simplest thing, even as it possess untold layers of complexity. It should unite rather than divide even as it highlights diversity.

Religion and the Gods of today’s major religions don’t feel to me like any sort of an Ultimate Truth.

Religion, the institutions of religion with their hierarchies and rules, the ancient sacred texts and holy rituals feel… too cluttered, too inelegant, too man-made. Religion is an agenda that needs pushing, it doesn’t speak for itself. How can something that is not intrinsic in reality, something that not everyone has the opportunity to discover for themselves, be an Ultimate Truth?

Which is greater, God or Truth?

If God existed, He must surely be Truth as well. If Truth existed, must it definitely be God?

“I have no God to serve but Truth.”
“I am devoted to none but Truth and I owe no discipline to anybody but Truth.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

Ghandi is a very strong believer in God (although which God and what kind of God is slightly less clear) and he also says, repeatedly, that Truth is God, and God is Truth. If that is true, than there is no conflict: He is completely devoted to God, which is Truth, and Truth, which is God. But if we were to just suppose for a moment that it might not be true– if we were to, for a moment, separate God from Truth, the above quotes would seem to indicate Truth to be greater of the two.

“For me God and Truth are convertible terms, and if anyone told me that God was a God of untruth or a God of torture, I would decline to worship Him.” – Mahatma Gandhi

If God weren’t true, He would be… worthless. If Truth weren’t God… it would still be invaluable. Truth appears to be greater than God.

“But each (religion), in my judgment, embodies a common motivating force: the desire to uplift man’s life and give it purpose.”

“After long study and experience, I have come to the conclusion that (1) all religions are true; (2) all religions have some error in them; (3) all religions are almost as dear to me as my own Hinduism, in as much as all human beings should be as dear to one as one’s own close relatives. My own veneration for other faiths is the same as that for my own faith; therefore no thought of conversion is possible.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

What is this truth that Ghandi saw in all the religions?

What does Ghandi teach? What does Jesus teach? What does Buddha teach? What does any great moral leader that we know of teach?

Love. Humility. Selflessness. Forgiveness. Honesty.
A unity, a one-ness in the world, something unchanging beneath the changing, that unites all, that unites us.
Fearlessness/detachment from worldly cares, from what others think of you.
Acknowledging your own flaws and insignificance while constantly striving to be better, constantly seeking the truth. Constantly striving for that ideal (to be christ-like? to perfection, to truth? to enlightenment?).
Love, above all else.

I’m not sure if there is an Ultimate Truth or what it may be. But if it did exist, I imagine it would be something like love.

So abstract and complex that no words can ever fully capture its essence or adequately describe all it’s nuances.
Yet it is something so simple and foundational that any new-born child can experience it for themselves. Accessible to people of all ages, of all intellects and educational levels, from all cultures and times in history. Something universal that everyone can understand and relate to on such a deep and personal level.

Elegant yet complex; accessible to all yet experienced on an incredibly personal level; Self-evident and speaks for itself; heightens a sense of being unique and special, yet unifies all like nothing else can.

Because Gandhi believed in God, he limited his non-discriminating embrace to religions. I would bring it one step further so say that all these similarities that he sees in religions, all these truths, extend to ALL people. Anyone who is searching, anyone who is striving. And aren’t we all searching for meaning and purpose, all striving to be better people, for better lives?

As he believes that the different teachings of these religions are in fact, at the core, the same and thus all true, I believe that any religious teachings can also be ‘translated’ into non-religious terms, and remain equally true.

Because truth transcends.

Words are meaningless


Sometimes I wonder what’s the point of writing anything; it seems like anything I would have to say would have been said better, more succinctly, more poignantly, by someone else. And when you see it you just feel like pointing to it and going ‘Yes! that! exactly that!’ and there’s absolutely no need for you to add anything else.

Have you ever been in a mood where every song you listen to seems to be speaking directly to your heart? Every line you read seems directed specifically to you? Every wave, smile, wink or comment from a person seems to answer something you have been muling over? It’s a sign. A message. From god, or otherwise.

Words are so limiting, words are so meaningless. Words only mean as much as we let them mean. We give meanings to words, we give them power. And we tend to give them LOTS of power, so I guess words, in the practical sense, aren’t meaningless after all.

To someone who can’t read, they’re utterly meaningless, just squiggles. To someone who has a good command of the language, they could probably ‘read’ any piece of text in any number of ways. Different interpretations, so many possible nuances in between the lines. In certain cases it’s probably more than possible to read in it something that runs completely counter to what the original author intended.

No matter how good you are with words, can you really communicate your innermost experiences to another reader in a way that perfectly reflects your private reality?

We are only individuals, and are always necessarily alone in our own heads.

Whatever our output, it has to necessarily go through someone else’s perception — all of their knowledge, understanding, language skills, life experiences, personality and mood– before if arrives at them. Whenever we see, hear, read something it necessarily goes through the same process. We can’t help but see things through our own eyes, and our own eyes are coloured and tinted. We can’t help that, but once aware of it we can be on our guard to acknowledge its effects and don’t presume to know or understand more than we do.

When you read a text, it can say different things to different people. A simple song can resonate deeply with so many people.

This says less about there being omens, signs and messages form god in the world, and more about the way humans perceive, and how we are all more alike than we are different.

The most meaningful words are the most meaningless, for that can’t be quantified, qualified or proven and yet can be said by anyone at all.

I saw a picture of you hanging in an empty hallway. I heard a voice that I knew and I couldn’t walk away. It took me back to the end of everything; I taste it all, I taste it all…the tears. again.

Outside the rain’s falling down–there’s not a drop that hits me. Scream at the sky but no sound is leaving my lips. It’s like I can’t even feel after the way you touched me. I’m not asleep but I’m not awake after the way you loved me.

I can’t turn this around; I keep running into walls that I can’t break down. I said I jut wander around with my eyes wide shut because of you. I’m a sleepwalker. 

Let me out of this dream. 

Everywhere that I go, I see another memory. And all the places we used to know, they’re always there to haunt me. I walk around and I feel so lost and lonely. You’re everything that I want. But you don’t want me. 

I’m a sleepwalker. Let me out of this dream.

A similar feeling to my Limbo.

Richard Dawkins and Archbishop Rowan Williams


So I watched this today:

 

I felt that Richard Dawkins did most of the talking and that the archbishop didn’t really go in depth into his own views nor really explained or pushed any point. He mostly posed questions, clarified what his views are not, and gave very vague diplomatic sounding answers. At least, vague to me, someone who is not familiar with his positions.

In summary, I have to agree with the top comment on the video: Richard Dawkins made some clear points, the archbishop made some vague points, and they both come across as very nice and altogether too civilized and polite people. Sorry, no locking horns or bloodshed at all.

Some ideas that were discussed and my two cents:

The part I liked was the exploration of the idea of the first human, or rather, the lack of a first human. Highlighting the point that there may not be a distinctive point where are new species emerges. Exactly! Taxonomy, the classification of biodiversity, is an arbitary, human-created system. It’s a classification system created by us to allow us to conveniently describe the world we see. The world, more often that not, tends not to fall obediently into the nice distinct categories we draw up, at least not without plenty of exceptions to every rule.

The part about language was interesting too– whether it was a sudden change in those particular genes, something that arose gradually or arose as a side-effect result of some other ability.

I wish they had gone more into the issue of consciousness though, and I wish the archbishop had elaborated more on his view (I assume?) that science may not be able to explain consciousness. Personally, I don’t see a problem with a gradual consciousness arising from brains. It seems completely plausible and even likely to me that the gaining of consciousness and self awareness (and ‘god awareness’?) could have been a gradual evolutionary process as well.

I mean, we can see all sorts of different ‘levels’ of consciousness and self awareness in the living things around us; From plants (completely unconscious, unintelligent and unaware) to simple organisms to insects (are insects conscious?) to birds and mammals like cats and dogs which have discernible personalities even but probably don’t self reflect too much, to elephants, apes and dolphins that are definitely conscious and probably self aware to some extent at least, even if we can’t tell if they ever reflect on the meaning of life or question why they do things.

I also agree with Dawkins that self-awareness would probably be gained way before we would call it human, and I’d add on that I think any ‘god awareness’ would probably come quite a bit after what we would likely call human.

The archbishop wondered about the problem of getting something non-physical (ie consciousness) from something physical, and coincidentally I had recently discussed some similar ideas with a friend. Again, I don’t see a problem, but maybe I’m missing something, making a mistake somewhere.

I don’t see why what we know about how the physical brain relates to non-physical processes doesn’t solve this problem. When certain physical parts of the brain are damaged, there is a resulting damage to memory, or speech. When you stimulate parts of the brain, there is a resulting sensation. Specific chemicals (neurotransmitters) result in certain feelings or emotions. Doesn’t this close the gap between the purely physical and the non-physical?

Then the question of whether computers can have consciousness and free will.

Dawkins imagines if you were able to programme a computer so well that it could behave as though it were conscious well enough to fool people, and while he hesitate to call that consciousness, it seems like he has to committed to that view.

The response to that was that it’s pretty ridiculous to commit to such a view, since computers are mere tools; they can’t even add 2 and 2 or tell the time, they can only do what you tell them to.

I think an answer such a question depends fully on your underlying assumptions about what consciousness is and how it comes about.

If we were really able to, one day, programme a computer to be so human and life-like, like in science fiction (I, Robot? A.I.?) where computers for all purposes appear exactly like they have a unique personality and free will, then how could you say they weren’t conscious? If we were really able to reach that point, you wouldn’t find it so ludicrous an idea. Of course, if you think they couldn’t possibly be conscious, that would also mean you think it’s impossible for computers to ever reach that stage, that it’s impossible for something programmed by humans to cross that line, to truly have consciousness or free will.

Free will is indeed a tricky one; I think most people would disagree about determinism? and Richard Dawkins is understandably hesitant about his position too. But in recent months, I’ve found myself tending very much towards that sort of thinking: everything that we do or feel happens as a result of millions of factors that we have no control over; from my innate personality or temperament to the weather on a particular day affecting my mood to my education and upbringing that affect the way I think and see the world… is there still room for free will?

It seems incredibly counter-intuitive to think that I do not have free will, and yet maybe that’s just due to… reactionary prejudice to the idea? I mean, saying you have no free will… seems to eliminate self (that we cherish so much) altogether: you’re nothing but a robot or simple animal merely reacting to (external) stimulus in accordance to the abilities and tendencies of  your hardware (ie your brain and body).

Yet, even if I did believe that I don’t truly have free will… the ‘no free will’ universe and the ‘free will’ universe would be indistinguishable– I’d have no way of telling because in practice there are so many billions of factors involved that go into causing any emotion or decision-making in me that the illusion of free will would still remain.

The experiment Dawkins mentions about your brain ‘deciding’ to make a decision before ‘you’ do is interesting, but I think it’s difficult to draw any real conclusions from it. Couldn’t it just mean that there is a time lag between when you actually decided and when you’ve realize you’ve decided? or between when you actually decided and when you’ve managed to convey to the experimenters that you’ve decided. On it’s own i don’t think it really shows determinism, or whether souls exist or not. On it’s own it’s just… interesting.

I don’t think investigating only “small scale, short term and uninteresting decisions” is a problem though, as the archbishop thought it was, unless you mean to draw a distinction that in picking up a glass of water you exercise less free will than when deciding whom to marry, which I don’t think is coherent.

I like the idea Dawkins put forward about the human brain going beyond what one would expect for mere survival, that in order to build a brain to survive in a mundane world, it is difficult to build a brain that is not also capable of doing more advance things like mathematics and philosophy. I’m not sure I agree fully because I think all the complicated bits of our brain could have evolved just like the simple bits: because they DID give us an advantage.

What advantage could the tendency to philosophize about metaphysical issues possibly give to animals whose main concern is to find food, shelter and mates? Well, wouldn’t an inquisitive mind capable of seeking explanations have benefited those that did manage to come up with answers that could improve their hunting abilities or survival? And of course there the social aspect: we’ve evolved to live in groups.  Surely that way of living could results in the selection of much more complicated mental states.

Things the archbishop said that I found surprising

1. Immortality is a matter of faith and not something that can be proven by reason. He even seems to discount near death experiences.

2. I’m not sure if I’m understanding what he said in reply to the question “was the universe designed” but this is what I got:

The fact that there is a universe that is intelligible, that hangs together, that has processes that converge to certain ends is part of what he means when he says that god created the universe and that god is an intelligent god.

Involving god in the micromanagement of the processes is problematic because of the moral question, ‘if god can do that (stop suffering), then why doesn’t he do it more often?’

Is that what he’s saying?

3. There is no first human and no adman and eve.

I suppose I haven’t read up much on views that assume parts of the bible as myths or allegory, so I don’t understand it much.

But the inevitable question is: once you give up the claim of the inerrancy of the bible, once you decide some parts aren’t properly true, then how do you decide which parts are and which parts aren’t? If you can give up the story of adman and eve, what’s stopping you from giving up the story of Jesus’ resurrection? Doesn’t the bible give a genealogy all the way from Adam to Noah? Abraham? Jesus? So if Adam isn’t real, how do you know where ‘real’ starts?

… argh, this post is altogether too long. Xp