xiphias: (Default)
Someone posted to [livejournal.com profile] weirdjews asking 1) if animals have souls, and 2) how wanting the body to decompose is compatible with a belief in bodily resurrection.

I think I've posted these theories before, but I can't remember. Oh, well -- if I have, that's what cut tags are for.
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So, in [livejournal.com profile] anyquestion, someone asked:

What's love? How do you define it?

I'm not trying to be cute, or stupidly cute. I really have no idea of how to define it. I'm specifically curious about romantic love, but anything is better than cluelessness, i guess.


I thought I had a pretty good answer.

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I'm pretty sure I have written about it before, but I know that I've added folks to my friends list since then, and I just mentioned this in comments to someone else. It's the story of a space station.

See, the Soviet Union was always aware that they were technically behind the United States, and made up for it in, well, brute force. For instance, they knew that their T41 tanks were like only a third as good as the M1 Abrams, so they would build three times as many tanks as the US would. So it all balanced out.

This is what they did with their space program, as well.

They knew that their tech was more likely to fail than the US technology would -- so, when they built a space station, they built THREE of them. The idea was, sure, our space station is going to fail after only a third as long as a United States built one would, but then we'll just launch ANOTHER one, and then ANOTHER one.

So they built three identical Mir space stations, at once. And they launched the first one.

Then the Soviet Union collapsed. So Mir was never going to be replaced.

Which left two extra Mirs.

One of them is missing. Nobody knows where it is.

It's been misfiled or SOMETHING. For all I know, maybe they never actually even built it, and just said that they did.

Or maybe there's a space station lost somewhere in a warehouse in Russia. A lost space station.

But the THIRD one, the third one, the Russian government auctioned off, since they weren't going to use it, and they could get some money for it. Some museum or other would pay them for it.

There were really only two possible bidders for the thing, in the world. The Smithsonian museum would be one obvious choice -- they have probably the word's most wonderful collection of spacecraft and other things like that. And the British Museum was also interested (although that's a bit outside what I tend to think of their collection's strength). They had a gentleman's agreement about what the upper limit of what they'd bid for the thing was. Clearly, no other group would be around to bid against them.

Tommy Bartlett bid against them. And won.
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So, one of the people on my friends list was in a discussion on someone else's journal, about the nature of religion, and was mentioning the discussion, and I figured I should jump in and offer my 2 cents. And as long as I offered them there, I figured I could offer them here.

(As it turned out, my input wasn't actually useful, because people just sort of ignored it and said, "Well, despite all historical evidence and theological study which shows that I'm wrong, I still think I'm right." I eventually had to say, "Oh yeah? Well, YOUR definition of religion is WRONG, and mine is RIGHT, and I know this because people pay me $90 a week to teach their kids what religion is." I hate using "arguments from authority." I just kinda got frustrated. . . )
So, here's what I posted )
xiphias: (Default)
So, over in another blog, Dwindling in Unbelief, the blogger is compiling a list of "How many folks did God kill, vs. how many folks did Satan kill, in the Bible?"

Obviously, Satan only even shows up in Job, so his total is 10. And God's is, of course, somewhere well in excess of two and a quarter million in enumerated deaths alone. Not counting "destroyed cities" and the like.

Far as I'm concerned, from how I understand Jewish theology, this really isn't much of a paradox -- nobody ever said God was nice.

To quote Sondheim:

You're so nice.
You're not good, you're not bad,
You're just nice.
I'm not good, I'm not nice,
I'm just right.


Also, from the way I understand Jewish theology, Job is one of those books, like Jonah and, arguably, Esther, that's really supposed to be a fairy tale more than something that you're supposed to take LITERALLY. So, really, Satan oughtn't get credit for even those ten. Which, again, is fine theology the way I see it -- Satan doesn't have the power to kill. And even in the book of Job, Satan is using God's power, not his own.

And, as can be expected, most of the comments to the thing are fairly moronic. I'm pretty sure that there's an inverse correlation between how fervently you hold your religious belief and how much theology you understand. So most theological arguments end up degenerating into competing camps of people yelling variations of "YOU'RE GOING TO HELL!!!!"

However, there are a couple interesting things there, and I responded to one of them.

Tom said...
That's quite paradoxical. As a human, our entire concept of cause and effect presuppose a time frame in which any given event takes place. Think about it...for you to claim that something 'caused' or 'created' something else, you have to have accepted the premise that the cause came before the effect.
So, in order for your Creator to live up to his name, time must have existed. Humans simply cannot fathom a "beginning of time", because the term 'beginning' implied that there was time BEFORE that event, in which that certain event never took place. Again, causation presupposes both existence and time. Either god is subject to the the constraints of time and therefore is not omnipotent or he does not exist at all.

That was an interesting enough comment that I decided to follow up with this: )
xiphias: (Default)
And one of them, Ed, the owner of the service, specifically wanted me for it. It looks like I'm going to be their go-to guy for bar mitzvahs. Because they've got a good working relationship with the caterer for bar mitzvahs, and, as the caterer said, "Ed sends me his best people." I'm apparently one of his best people.

Damn, I'm good.

So, given that I'm good, I thought I'd write up a bit of Advice for Bartenders, 'cause, what's the point of being damn good if you can't wax pedantic about it?
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So, two posts back, I mentioned that I'm teaching myself to knit. And [livejournal.com profile] classics_cat said to not get discouraged since EVERYONE's first attempts at knitting suck.

It's not to worry.

See, I've got a theory. In fact, this is one of those things that I WISH people would quote me about. I mean, I come up with all these cool Laws of Nature, and name them after myself, and nobody USES them:

Xiphias's Law Of Pizza: The best pizza in the world is the stuff made at the shop right around the corner from where you grew up.

Xiphias's Law of Epistemology: That which exists is possible. (This came about after a Usenet debate in which some people mentioned that their Finnish saunas got up to 230 degrees F (110 C) and that, while you couldn't stay in TOO long, it was REALLY refreshing. Other people claimed that it was entirely impossible for people to survive when the temperature was over the boiling point of water, because the people would boil. The first group of people replied that they did it regularly, but this failed to convince the second group of people. It was for this reason that I discovered that it had to be codified -- if people do it, then people CAN do it. This seems to be a fairly difficult concept to grasp on Usenet.)

And my THIRD law: Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.

'Cause, see, if you can do something well, it's not a challenge to do it. ANYONE can do something they can do well. But if it's worth doing, it's worth doing even if you can only do it poorly.

The rule "Anything worth doing is worth doing well" is a useful rule. For big projects. But it's not terribly useful on an individual level. On the individual level, it's more important to remember that it's the DOING that's important, not the WELL.
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We're at my parents' house; my niece and nephew and their parents were over for the weekend for New Year's, and they just left, and Lis is asleep, and I was telling my parents about how Intelligent Design actually all holds together, if you assume that HUMANS aren't the creature that was designed. As I said, "So, all you need is to think of a creature without joints, without teeth, and whose eyes don't grow from their optic nerves, but are intelligent and have the ability to use tools. . . "

And Dad said, "Oh! Octopuses!"

I explained about Cthulhu and the Flying Spaghetti monster are probably therefore just visions of the Great Octopus.

And I explained my further theory about how, according to this theory, the purpose of humans was to be controlled by the Intelligent Designer to create global warming to make large shallow seas over the coastal areas that humans have built up, so that the octopuses could have the benefit of our structures while they created their own society.

And Mom said, "So, the Bush Dynasty is being controlled by Cthulhu in order to destroy humanity?"

And Dad said, "It explains a lot about Cheney -- he always did have that kind of fishy, Innsmouth look to him."

I said, "Yeah. This has actually been keeping me up at nights. . . it all hangs together all too well. If you can come up with ANYTHING that would be an argument against this, anything that will make me feel better about this, I'd love to hear it."

Mom and Dad were quiet and thinking for a while. And Mom said, "Well, they'll probably need a small slave population of humans to work the dry-land areas for a while. . . ."

(Other comments: "Well, if the Greenland ice caps go, the sea levels will go up about fifty feet. Once the octopuses get MIT, it's all over. On the other hand, they'll also get Logan Airport, which should slow them down some. . . 'I dunno, man, I went to this place near the shore, and I was stuck there for six freakin' hours. . . '")
xiphias: (Default)
So, late at night when the Midnight Creepiness was keeping me awake in my bed, as it sometimes does, I started thinking about "Intelligent Design".

Now, as most of you are aware, one of the really strong arguments against the idea that some "intelligence" of some sort set out to "design" people is that, well, people are really stupidly designed.

But then it struck me.

What if we're not the point? What if the reason that we can choke, have blind spots, have crappy knees and so forth, is that we're SUPPOSED to be disposable? What if the whole purpose of humanity is to break up the surface of the world, and then cause global warming to cause great, warm, shallow seas to cover large swaths of the world, so that the creature that the "Intelligent Designer" ACTUALLY designed can take over?

You know, the one with eyes WITHOUT blind spots, because they're outgrowths of the skin, instead of the optic nerve? The one that can't choke, because it has gills? Has no joint problems because it has no joints?

Now, the only reason why octopuses HAVEN'T developed actual sapience, I think, is because of their 1) darn short lifespans and 2) dying after breeding. But if an octopus developed that actually stayed ALIVE after breeding, and then actually RAISED its offspring, well, THAT would be a creature an intelligent Intelligent Designer could be proud of designing.

And what if that's actually what is going to happen? What if that Intelligent Designer, an octopod creature, is sleeping RIGHT NOW under the sea, influencing the dreams of mankind to help us destroy ourselves and create the world for Its children?

Ia, Ia, Cthulhu fthagan!
xiphias: (Default)
Some things that just sort of popped into my head this morning in the shower:

Intelligence is the ability to figure out how to do things.
Wisdom is the ability to figure out what to do.

In other words, "intelligence" lets you figure out the means, "wisdom" lets you figure out the ends.

Philosophy is a discipline which is effectively a "virtual machine" which allows you emulate wisdom using intelligence.

However, you need at least a certain amount of wisdom to "aim" the virtual machine of philosophy in order to get useful results. Without a smidgeon of wisdom, philosophy can just end up with useless wanking that doesn't actually do anything particularly useful. But, properly aimed, philosophy allows you to get much more wisdom out than just wisdom alone.

"Ethics" is related to philosophy, in that it's a "white box" in which you place a situation, apply intelligence, and you get to watch the gears crank, and out comes an answer which tells you what to do in the situation.

"Morality" is a "black box" in which you place a situation, apply wisdom, and you CAN'T see the gears crank, and out comes an answer which tells you what to do in the situation.

Because "ethics" is a "white box", and "morality" is a "black box". it's much easier for "morality" to lead people horribly wrong. You can get wrong answers out of either ethics or morality, but because you can see how "ethics" works, someone else can point out where the gears are slipping and coming out with a wrong answer. But you can't do that with morality.
xiphias: (Default)
So, this is an analogy I've been thinking about for a while, and Lis has been pushing me to finally write about it in my LJ. As a matter of fact, she's bribed me with an offer of fudge, so here we go. I've been thinking about this since before Worldcon, and I remember talking about it with folks there, but haven't really posted about it.

There's something that has struck me as really, really odd about how a certain segment of the right-wing talks about homosexuality. There are a whole bunch of comments that I'd been hearing for months which all have an underlying assumption that "homosexuality is incredibly attractive." I'm not going to mention specific quotes, mainly because I found them somewhat disquieting and I don't want to think about them, but there were about half a dozen quotes from Republican congresscritters and pundits which made no sense to me until I applied that filter to them, and they then started to make sense. Things like, "If you COULD sleep with men, why would you ever sleep with women, since men would understand your body better?"

And this finally gave me a way to think about and understand their position.

Y'see, I belong to a religion which forbids me to sleep with men and to eat bacon. As it turns out, I have done both.

Bacon is better.

I know perfectly well that not everyone feels that way. There are plenty of people who just plain don't like pork products. Some people are grossed out by them. Some are grossed out by meat in general, some just find pigs disgusting. And I know for a fact that there are really quite a number of people out there who rather like the concept of having sex with men. I've dated some of them.

But for me, bacon is far more tempting than sex with guys is.

So, I started thinking. How would I look at the world if I really took my religion's prohibition against bacon very seriously, and as a universal law, rather than just as an odd little tribal taboo (which is how I do perceive it -- that doesn't mean I don't consider it important, but I consider it to be a rule that is just supposed to be applied to MY tribe, and not to everyone).
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