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Angela, CSS, and my view of the universe - Unbeliever's Land
...The continuing chronicles...
Angela, CSS, and my view of the universe
I'm old.

I post to LJ, I blink, and it's been a month already.  *SIGH*

The good news is, Angela continues to improve.  I can't even COUNT the number of times we've gone out to eat, or the number of movies we've seen in the theater, since she was released from the Care Center.  (We've even gone to a couple of movies we weren't DYING to see, but she was like, "hey, I'm out, and I don't wanna go home yet".)

She's gone grocery shopping with me a few times (in the wheelchair, but STILL).  Her walking continues to improve.  All told, things continue to look better... :)

Corvallis Secular Society held our first "Ask an Atheist" event last week, where we invited the public to come and see for themselves that Atheists Don't Eat Babies.  The theme was Morality.  How can atheists know right from wrong without God leading the way?  (Of course, we could ask the rest of you the SAME THING SINCE THERE IS NO GOD argh blarg blah...)  (And this is why I'm not the one in front of the audience, taking questions.)

It went well.  We had over 50 people in attendance -- not bad for a first try.  And they were all respectful and polite.  Even the Christians.  (The MOST polite, why-can't-we-all-get-along type was apparently a full-on Creationist, though he didn't mention that part until afterwards...)

So yeah, we'll probably do another one in a few months.

But Creationist Dude left me just dying to do my whole "How It All Started" spiel.  And since I didn't do it THERE, I thought I'd try to type it up here.  I've never really written it up.

So here goes.

Religious people "feel" their way to the truth all the time.  The following is the truth as *I* "feel" it.

Imagine a godless universe.

[Immediately, you ask "How did the universe get created without God?"  I say -- how did God get created?  If God can have "always existed", then so can the universe.  The "first cause" argument is stupid.]

So -- the universe exists, and conditions are right to support life.

["Aha", you say.  "What are the odds that natural laws would work themselves out such that life would be possible.  God must have done it!"  I say -- GIVEN THAT WE WOULDN'T BE AROUND TO OBSERVE any universe that DIDN'T support life, the odds that any universe we observe WOULD support life is 100%.  Until you can prove that this is the only universe that has EVER existed, the "ideal conditions" argument is equally stupid.]

Our solar system forms, the Sun and planets coalesce, Earth cools, oceans form, primitive life begins.

["Aha.  How did life..."  -- Oh shut up.]

From single-celled to multi-celled, from simple to complex, over millions of years, life evolves.  Species mutate, branch off and die, other species take their place.  The planet cools and warms, glaciers and volcanoes come and go, huge meteorites crash into us, but life is never utterly extinguished.  It keeps growing, evolving, until eventually a branch called "primates" develops -- and one group of these primates starts to be more successful, and stand apart from other species due to slightly higher intelligence.

This peculiar species isn't stronger, or faster, than other primates.  But it starts using tools.  And it works together a bit better.  Virtually all animals communicate to SOME degree -- but this species manages to communicate more complex thoughts.  And communication is CRUCIAL.

With communication comes LEARNING, and UNDERSTANDING.  "Heavy thing HURT.  Sharp thing STAB.  Use heavy and sharp thing, kill animal, get fur and food."

This is key.  Some species climb trees.  Some species live in caves.  Some species kill with claws and teeth,  Some species scavenge others' kills.  From the very beginning, THIS species succeeds because it LEARNS and UNDERSTANDS.  The most successful individuals -- the ones that live long enough to breed -- are the ones who learn and understand the best.  That is this species' "trick".

Now freeze at this moment -- primitive man, just starting out, just clever enough to fashion a few tools and grunt a few thoughts to others.  Just starting to THINK for the first time.  What does it see?  What does it learn?

Well, for one thing, man learns PROJECTION.  You hit me, it HURT!  I hit you, you make noise like I make when I hurt.  Maybe YOU... hurt!

I don't feel the pain directly; I don't *KNOW* you hurt.  But your noise sounds like MY noise when *I* am hurt!

This is the beginning of reason.

Now put yourself in this man's place.  You are all about UNDERSTANDING.  UNDERSTANDING is what helps you survive.

Some things are easy to understand.  Some are harder.  But some things make no sense at all.

What is the bright thing that moves across the sky each day?
What are the tiny dots that move across the sky each night?
Why does water fall from the sky sometimes?
What is the scary flash and loud boom that sometimes happen when the water falls from the sky?

These things affect you!  You need to understand!  But you have no means to understand these things.  (You won't be able to invent the tools that help you learn the answers for tens of thousands of years!)

So what do you do?  You project!

Water falls from my eyes when I am sad -- maybe the sky-water is from a really really big person crying!

When I hurl a rock at a cave wall, there's sort-of a flash of movement and a loud noise.  Maybe the bright flash and loud boom are from a really big, strong person who is ANGRY and throwing things!

If there are big, powerful people in the sky, crying and throwing things, then we smaller, less powerful people down below better keep them happy!

How do we do that?  How do we make them happy?

Well, what makes US happy?

Meat!  Food!  We should kill an animal, and not keep it, but... sacrifice it... as a gift to the sky-people.  And then they will like us!

And thus, religion is born.

All you're doing is trying your level best to UNDERSTAND the world around you, using the best tools you have available -- your limited intellect.  You're doing SCIENCE, prehistoric-style!

And THAT is what religion is.  Science 1.0.  Our first attempts at understanding the world around us.

As time went on, of course, religion evolved.  SOME people started taking it upon themselves to interpret the will of the sky-people.  Different people interpreted the sky-people differently.

Sometimes, humans would decide that the sky-people wanted us to get along, and come up with rules for us to follow to accomplish those ends. 

Other times, humans would conveniently decide that the sky-people wanted US to go kill THEM -- and take their valuables (including their women).

It turns out that sky-people (who never actually SPEAK, but apparently do lots of big, scary things) are VERY... convenient.  For all sorts of purposes.  For good, and for ill.

Earlier religions generally had a separate sky-person (i.e. "god") for every purpose.  One for each season.  One for war, one for peace, one for death, one for beauty... later religions settled one ONE god for ALL purposes.  But the origin is the same.

Some people make a big deal out of the fact that almost all societies have had religion of some sort -- as if it proved that some "god" or "gods" must be true.

But of course, we wouldn't be human without a burning desire to understand the world around us -- regardless of whether or not we have adequate tools with which to actually find the answers.

Magical sky-people are a perfectly reasonable first attempt at explaining the unexplainable in a strange, scary world.

It's just that now, science has come a long way.  And we have better answers.

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Current Emotional State: contemplative contemplative

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