THE FALSE FOUNDATION PREMISE-PART TWO

 

In our continuing discussion of the false foundational premise, here are two more.

FALSE FOUNDATIONAL PREMISE THREE

The Bible is the living word of God and should be obeyed.

The Bible was written by 40 men. The old testament was written beginning in 400 BC. The new testament was written beginning about 15 years after Jesus died.

The men who wrote the Bible believed that when bad things happened which people didn’t understand, God was angry, or God works in mysterious ways. These bad things included disease and natural disasters.  They believed that when good things happened which they did not understand, they were miracles from God. Now, one has to realize that in those times people didn’t understand a whole lot.

They were men of their times and they did not understand a fraction of what we understand today, such as:

  • How the human body works
  • How the weather works and what causes hurricanes
  • The causes of diseases and as a result the treatment of disease
  • Earthquakes and tsunamis
  • Biology and biological history of creatures on Earth
  • Geology and geological history
  • Celestial events such as meteor showers, eclipses and supernovas.

The Bible is replete with historical, geographical and scientific errors, as well as contradictions.

God’s values, as revealed by the Bible, are not compatible with our value system today. He is an angry vengeful killer. God tells a man to kill his son. He demonstrates his love for Man by allowing his son to be tortured and killed. He tells the elders to stone a woman who  was found to be a non-virgin on her wedding night. He ripped babies out of the wombs of women. He threatens to lay waste to towns and kill everyone including children. Slavery is permissible and it’s OK to beat the slave and even kill them. It’s forbidden for women to have power over or even teach men anything. And the most perplexing for me, God is so needy that he tells man that he must worship and obey him, or he will kill him. The Bible is a very violent book.  

Now the New Testament portrays a loving God, although if you don’t believe in Jesus you are going to be tortured for eternity. And I understand there are many passages in both the Old and New Testaments  that convey great wisdom and provide solace for those who believe. The values expressed by Jesus are wonderful.

The Bible might be the inspiration of men who believed in God, however it is not the word of God, nor should one obey all of it tenants.

“Religious traditions portray holy books as the ‘word of God’. But God doesn’t speak to us. God is the primal silence that speaks through us. All words are human words and conditioned by the human experience of living in time. They are at best partial expressions of a truth that can never be articulated. There is no ‘word of God’, but if there were it would be only one word. And that word is ‘love’.” Tim Freke

So, my contention is that the Foundational Premise that the Bible is the living word of God and should be obeyed is false.  

Now when you are talking to someone who believes that the Bible is the word of God, you will find that they justify their view by quoting the Bible; just the good parts. There is no other way they can have a discussion because that foundational view is essential to their thinking. No wonder you are going to get a fight.

FALSE FOUNDATIONAL PREMISE FOUR

A rationalistic scientific way of thinking is the only way to the truth of reality.

Ha! Bet you did not see that coming. Is it false? Hell, I don’t know. A term for this way of thinking is physicalism. The premise is that  all reality is based on material things.

Am I willing to examine whether or not it is false? Of course.

So, what are your thoughts on the Bible?

Am I being too harsh or am I just calling it the way it is?

FALSE FOUNDATIONAL PREMISE

Some ways of thinking are good and useful. Other ways of thinking are flawed. One factor in flawed thinking is when it’s based on a false foundational premise.

A premise is an assumption upon which an argument or system of thinking is built. An example is the premise that some types of bacteria can cause disease.

A foundational premise is essential to our way of thinking about something. If the premise that the bacteria causes disease is false, the entire structure around our thinking about infectious diseases would crumble.

Here are a couple of examples False Foundational Premises to further clarify what I’m talking about.

FALSE FOUNDATION PREMISE ONE

The earth is the center of the universe. The sun, planets and stars go around the earth.

This premise was held by man from ancient times to the middle ages. Calculations could be made of the movement of planets; the sun and moon and these calculations were consistent even though the foundational premise was false. This foundational premise was a part of biblical theology of the Catholic church.

Then along comes the astronomer Copernicus in the early 1500’s, who proved otherwise. The earth and planets revolved around the Sun. Did the Church say thanks and shift their theology? No. In the Bible, Joshua commanded the sun to stand still and not the earth. Critics claimed “the evidence of the senses, the thousand-year consensus of men of science, and the authority of the Bible” makes it wrong.

In the early 1600’s, Galileo then furthered the work of Copernicus and the Church demanded he

“.. .abandon completely… the opinion that the sun stands still at the center of the world and the earth moves, and henceforth not to hold, teach, or defend it in any way whatever, either orally or in writing.”

They then tried him for heresy and put him in prison.

FALSE FOUNDATIONAL PREMISE TWO

The movement and position of the planets has an influence on individual lives and human events.

This premise had been around since 2000 BC. Astrology has been part of a scholarly tradition, and in academic and political circles up until the Twentieth Century. However following the wide-scale adoption of the scientific method, astrology has been challenged successfully on both theoretical and experimental grounds, and has been shown to have no scientific validity or explanatory power. It is a foundational premise that is false.

That being said, surveys show that 25% of Westerners continue to believe that the movement of planets affect their individual lives.

A number of years ago I read Cosmos and Psyche:Intimations of a New World View by Richard Tarnas. Here is my review.

This book is deeply flawed. It foundational premise is utter nonsense. Tarnas has used his vast understanding of the humanities and history and attempted to correlate trends, themes, biographies and events to the movement of planets.

Like all astrologers, he is attempting to merge the scientific and factual using his intuition, seeing correlations and causes and effects when none exist. The intuitive connection between the scientific facts and the “facts” of history simply does not work. The supposed correlations are simply subjective conjecture. And in the final analysis, the overarching question is “so what?”.

I found the book very disappointing in light of his brilliant Passion of the Western Mind.

Now for those who believe in Astrology, the web offers lots of opportunities to get a reading. Try this website. You will get a reading that will tell you a lot of contradictory information about yourself and will be of little value.

So, what is my point? The lesson here is that when you challenge someone’s foundational premise as false, get ready for a fight.  Facts and evidence may not do the trick.

In my next blog I will discuss two more false foundational premises.

Meanwhile, ask yourself. Might I have any false foundational premises in my thinking?

Do you see others basing a whole way of thinking on a false foundational premise?

EVIDENCE BASED THINKING

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There are two ways of thinking. One is objective  logical and facts-based way of thinking and the other is subjective intuitive emotional way of thinking. I’ll call the first a thinker and a second an intuitor feeler. My sense is that each individual defaults primarily to one type or the other, with the other type certainly present but to a lesser degree. One has their rational skills dominant and the other has their intuitive skills dominant. It also depends on the how our opinions have been formed. The book The Righteous Mind states that most of our strong opinions about things are brought about by unconscious cultural processes and that we use facts and logic to then justify them.  And, we can be logical and factual around some things and very emotional and intuitive and anti-factual about others. I realize that it is complicated. And of course, however one gets to one’s “truth” is right for them. But it does not make them actually right, particularly when they ignore facts.

But, as you will find as we go along in this blog, my default is toward an objective fact- based approach to thinking about things. And….I have as much bias as the next guy. I guess. And if you see bias  in my writing, I invite you to challenge me.

The scientific method and evidence-based thinking has brought mankind into the modern world and expanded knowledge and ability to improve the quality of our lives beyond measure.

Anti-science thinking generated by other underlying motivations which are not factual or logical are bad. Examples are:

Climate Change
Denying climate change because of an unwillingness to address the economic costs of  to address its issues.

Evolution
Denying evolutionary theory and a geological record with the adoption of an anti-evolution regime because it contradicts  the creation story in the Bible. Here is Biblical case for the Earth being 6000 years old. Pretty weird. You can decide whether the Earth is 6000 years old or 4.5 billion years old.

Vaccinations
Being anti-vaccination because of a totally discredited article was submitted (and now withdrawn) to a medical journal whose author lost his medical license. Said article tied vaccinations with autism.  The consequences are that there are now unnecessary outbreaks of measles.

Genetically Modified Foods
Being anti-GMO even though there is absolutely no evidence that consuming GMO foods has a negative impact on health. The position of anti GMO advocates is that the evidence has not yet been proven GMO’s to be safe, even though humans have been consuming genetically modified foods for hundreds of years. In fact, over 2000 studies have found GM food to be perfectly safe.

These are just a few examples of where evidence, facts and the scientific method are not considered when positions are taken. Opinions treated as facts are still just opinions. And if facts are ignored while only opinions and feelings are used to make decisions, then I have an issue.

How about you? Do you have an issue?

DOES THE HUMAN RACE HAVE A PURPOSE?

Why am I here? Does the universe have a purpose and does the purpose include us?  “I’m not sure,” says Neil DeGrasse Tyson. “But anyone who expresses a more definitive response to the question is claiming access to knowledge not based in empirical foundations. This remarkably persistent way of thinking, common to most religions and some branches of philosophy, has failed badly in past efforts to understand and thereby predict the operations of the universe and our place within in.” So, we simply don’t know.

“We live in an uncaring universe. Any idea that it was created for our felicity must be nonsense, for each wonder to which we may point is countered by a monstrosity. To believe in the anthropic principle, that the world was created to serve us, in the face of so much suffering, is absurd, indeed it is narcissistic, even infantile.” – Peter Sellick

So how about the purpose of the human race. Does a fish or a giraffe have a purpose, other than to propagate their species? Do humans have a special place among animals and therefore have a purpose?

Well I asked my friend David King about this.  

“That’s easy.  In my humble opinion, the human race (species) has no purpose, nor does any other species.  We alone fret about “purpose” just as we fret about life after death because our development of a complex system of symbols (language) gave us the ability to contemplate things and events beyond the immediate here and now. Another question:  Why is there a universe? I haven’t a clue. Nor do I have a clue about the possibility that there is some creative force or being that’s responsible for the whole thing. Of this I am pretty sure: We are the only species that contemplates these questions.  Does that make us special? I doubt it. Without language, we’d just be another great ape.”

There is more than to this of course. How about meaning?  All of us are searching for meaning. Perhaps we are providing meaning to the universe rather than the universe providing meaning to us. When we see a beautiful galaxy, we are giving it meaning. Without humans it would not be beautiful. Plato might disagree in that he thought that beauty existed “apriori”; that it could be deduced without observation. I tend to believe that prior to humans, there was no beauty. We provide the meaning to the Universe.

And of course, it is a great mystery and as Joseph Campbell says the “mystery of being is beyond all categories of thought.”

In looking at these big questions about my place in the universe, my place in time, and the purpose of human race, I realize that, while providing context, it does little else. While the universe may be impersonal, we are not. As Victor Frankl says. “it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.”  We each need to provide meaning and purpose to our own lives based on our personal circumstances. It is not necessary for meaning or purpose to come from outside of us.

So, do you provide purpose for your life, or is purpose beyond you?
Do you provide meaning for your life, or does meaning come from beyond you?

The picture below is a photograph of earth and moon from the rings of Saturn. Saturn is 890 million miles from earth. Multiply that by 100,000 and you still wouldn’t even get out of the Milky Way galaxy.

MY PLACE IN HISTORY AND TIME

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No, I am not saying that I am an historical figure. I was born at a particular time and place and, as Michael Crichton says in his book Timeline, the most significant impact on how you live your life, is the past; when you are born and of course where.

I can’t fathom 13.8 billion years which is the age of the universe. However, I have learned that modern humans, with language and tools, evolved around 70,000 years in what is called the cognitive revolution. The agricultural revolution started only about 12000 years ago and the scientific revolution only 500 years ago. Read Sapiens to get the full story. 

Prior to 70.000 years ago, there were other human species as well as homo sapiens, which is our species of hominids. In March 2016, studies were published that suggest that modern humans bred with hominids, including Denisovans and Neanderthals. This is why many humans, including me, have Neanderthal DNA in our genome. I am going to talk about evolution in other blogs. Enough to say, that evolutionary theory is supported by overwhelming scientific evidence. So modern humans come from evolutionary processes and not that long ago there were multiple human species. So, what does that say about the idea that we are special? And in whose eyes are we special? Am I special?

About 109 billion humans have been alive since the dawn of man. I was born in 1942 along with 1,767,482 other humans in the US. So, by birthday on February 19th, about 242,000 babies had been born in the U.S. I figure that my twin brother Gordon and I were number 242, 0001 and 242, 002. The US population at that time was 135 million and there was about 2 billion people on the planet. Now there are over 7.5 billion. Only 62% of us born in the U.S. that year are still alive.  And when I die, I will join 150,000 of my fellow humans who will die that day.

I was born an identical twin with older sister Gail of Lee and Frances Anderson whose ancestors were all Northern European, mostly Scottish and German. Last year I wrote my parents’ biography. It was a joy to work on it and to get the context for the lives they lived.  If you would like to see it, here it is.

I was born in the midst of a World War II; the biggest most destructive war in the history of mankind. 60 million people died, 3% of the population. In the 20th Century, there were over 160 Million human beings killed through war, genocide and murder by other human beings. This is a staggering number, and a testimony to the complexity of the human condition. The good news is that the first 18 years of the 21st century has not had that kind of devastation, although humans now have the capability of obliterating the entire civilization of the planet with billions of people dying.

Here is a 1996 letter to my son Barry and my parents and the WWII generation.

While born during a war, war did not impact me significantly. I have led a blessed life with a higher standard of living than 99.9% of humans who have ever lived.

I have never been hungry. I have not been ravaged by disease. I have led a relatively economically stable life. I have never truly needed or wanted for anything that was significant. The important material things in life have always come my way. I have not been subjected to violence. And… I am not rich but certainly not poor. I have been treated well due to luck and circumstance. That’s it. Pretty amazing for 76 years.  

The Buddhists say that the quality of your life has been influenced by the “karma” that you generated in your previous life. If so, my previous life generated an incredible amount of generous positive karma.

One’s life also is influenced by the station into to which one is born. Station in this context means societal rank and position, including economic status. I was born into a family of doctors. My father was a doctor as was his father. He had an established medical practice in Jackson Heights New York City. During his lifetime my father provided for us in New York City, during the war and after the war in California where we moved when I was 4 years old. We were not rich, although people thought we were. All doctors were thought to be wealthy.

So, I grew up in a family of smart educated people and was expected to go to college and continue at the station that I was born into and I have basically done that.

During my lifetime, some terrible things have happened in the world and there have also been wonderful things. Amidst wars and famine there has been an ever-evolving level of prosperity.  While there are still many poor and many hungry, fewer people are starving in the world than ever before. Many of the major plagues and epidemics of the past are no more. Modern science has eliminated them. More on that in a later blog.

In addition to an overall increase in the well-being of people, there are fewer people who are oppressed in totalitarian societies and monarchies. And for me, born in the United States, a free and democratic country…well, another example of how I have been blessed.

I don’t know how much longer the human race will continue to exist, but I do know that our time is finite. And of course, so am I.

So, where do you fit into history and time? Do you have the same perspective as I do? Have you been more fortunate or less fortunate?

MY PLACE IN THE UNIVERSE

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When I was a boy I hiked a lot in the Sierra mountains. One of my favorite places was Desolation Valley near Lake Tahoe.  Camping next a pristine lake with canopy of thousands of stars in the sky over head provoked a lot of wondering. Men and women have been looking up and wondering about their place in the universe and what it is all about for thousands of years. And at 76, I still don’t know the answer. I do know that the universe is beyond huge and contemplating it makes me feel insignificant.  

When you see a graphic of the sun and the solar system, the proportions are way off. The sun is 100 times the diameter of the earth. 1.3 million earths could fit inside of the sun. The sun is 800,000 miles in diameter, so if the earth were at the center of the sun, the surface of the sun would be 1.5 times past the moon.  The Sun makes up 99.86% of the mass of the Solar System. And it’s the Earth and other planets and asteroids which make the most of that remaining .14% of the Solar System.

The earth is 25,000 miles around and 7000 miles in diameter. From the deepest oceans to the highest mountains is only 12 miles.  If the earth was the size of a bowling ball, the surface would be smooth. The oceans would be wet spots. If you held it, it is unlikely that you would even feel thunderstorms or hurricanes. Perhaps there would be tinkling in the palms.

The earth is 93, 000,000 miles from the sun. Viewed from the sun, the earth is less the size of the period at the end of this sentence. From outside the solar system, the earth is less significant than one grain of sand on all the beaches on earth.

The sun in our sky is in an undistinguished part of the universe (the outskirts of the Virgo Supercluster) in an undistinguished galaxy (the Milky Way) in an undistinguished region (the Orion Arm).

And there are 400 billion suns in the Milky Way Galaxy. And there are hundreds of billions of galaxies. Astronomers have recently discovered a star 9 billion  light years from Earth.

Many of the observations of the universe are made by scientists analyzing the electromagnetic spectrum which includes radio, microwave through far infrared, visible light, ultraviolet, x-rays, gamma rays, and high energy gamma rays. Scientists are now beginning to measure gravitational waves in black holes using instruments so sensitive that they will measure vibrations the size 1/1000th the nucleus of an atom.   The reason I am mentioning this is that it occurred to me that the ability to measure things beyond an entity’s ability to biologically perceive them would be a good criteria for determining intelligent live elsewhere in the universe.

If I take the perspective of me on earth from the end of the milky way galaxy or from a galaxy thousands or billions of galaxies away, my existence and mankind’s existence can only be viewed as inconsequential. If you look at the cosmos as whole you wouldn’t even know that the earth ever existedSo if I  look at my place in the universe from the perspective of size, I am less than insignificant. And yes, I realize that my body has atoms from the big bang 13 billion years ago, so I am part of the universe. See Astrophysics For Those in a Hurry.

If the earth were the size of bowling ball,  my 6”3” body would be proportionally less a micro.

So how about going the other way. What is my body compared to the smallest particle known? The average human’s size compared to the universe’s size is actually larger than the human size compared to a Planck scale, that is the size where classical physics stop working and only quantum physics is applicable. This means that there are particles that if scaled up to a meter would make my scale larger than the entire known universe. There are particles in us that are smaller compared to us than we are compared to the entire universe.

The other remarkable thing is that we, or at least the cosmologists, have learned such an incredible lot about the universe in just the last 100 years. One hundred years ago, we did not know that other galaxies existed. Now we know that there are billions and that there may even be multi-universes.

Some think that our consciousness is creating a “cosmic consciousness”.  “This consciousness shows the cosmos to consist not of dead matter governed by unconscious, rigid, and unintended law; it shows it on the contrary as entirely immaterial, entirely spiritual and entirely alive; it shows that death is an absurdity, that everyone and everything has eternal life; it shows that the universe is God and that God is the universe, and that no evil ever did or ever will enter into it; a great deal of this is, of course, from the point of view of selfconsciousness, absurd; it is nevertheless undoubtedly true.” (Bucke)  No, it is absurd. And it is not true just because you say it is. This is akin to Tertullian, an early Christian author who said, “I believe because it is absurd”, Which in its capacity for rationalization is something like the Guinness World Record: with that attitude, you can rationalize any idiocy ever imagined, and the sillier it is, the more reason you have to believe it.  Ken Wilber’s The Religion of Tomorrow.

To me, it is the height of arrogance to think that the gelatinous blob in our skulls has some degree of significance and influence on the universe or that the universe does not exist and that our consciousness, which is eternal, does. Carl Sagan calls this the human centered conceit.  Prior to sentient life on earth there was no consciousness. And you can say, well “How do you know it is not otherwise?” And to this I say, “I don’t, but neither do you”.

That being said…..

There is such a thing as Panpsychism, which postulates that the universe is conscious.  And there are people who believe this and use current astrophysics and quantum physics to speculate about it. I am really annoyed by those who use the language of current physics such as particle theory and non locality to make shit up about spirituality and our place in whatever we are in. Deepak Chopra and Gregg Braden are examples of this. They promote spiritual ideas and move into nonsense language such as “pure potentiality”.  (Google this for a meaningless definition.) It reminds me of the Wittgenstein’s quote that “when philosophical problems arise, language goes on a holiday.” Here is the Deepak Chopra Random Quote Generator

I attended a ten day Vipassana meditation retreat about ten years ago and again this last September. During my first retreat, I came to the very profound realization, at my core,  that the only certainty is change. It was so profound for me that I cried. It is the only thing that I can say is true; that everything is changing every microsecond. And to know something, anything, with certainty was very meaningful.  We all look for certainty in the mystery.  Some through religion, and some through science and some through pure intuition.

Our planet and all of what we have created will disappear, perhaps in a supernova. And even more stupendous, the universe itself is expanding and will eventually become totally dormant according to all cosmological calculations.

And so in the final analysis, nothing matters. It is totally impersonal.  And, paradoxically, everything matters to me, right now.

So all of the above is the logical and rational evidence-based thinking Bruce pontificating. As you will see in future blogs, there may be more to it when exploring subjective realms.

From so many years ago being awed in Desolation Valley, I am now awed by the images from the Hubble Telescope with such things as the The Pillars of Creation Galaxy.

The beauty is breathtaking and  mystical. So from my perspective there is something sacred about the universe.

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To learn more about the universe just search Google. This TED talk will give you a 20 minute history of the universe.

Here is a remarkable creation story written by 11 year old granddaughter Cassie Anderson.  A Creation Story