Sunday, 21 July 2013

World War 2 Didn't Happen!

I used to think that one should do history by facts. Much of history as I was taught it featured the worst in human cruelty, of bloodshed and warfare. This narrative didn't fit into my view of human nature, of politics, of our species' place in a grander historical narrative.

That Germany could seek to eradicate the Jewish peoples, or Russia would send soldiers over the front lines without weapons, or that people would do anything to harm the beautiful countryside of Europe is just awful. That Japan would seek to invade Australia, or that the US would built nuclear weapons - these are the facts I resented but thought I had to believe on the basis of them being fact.

But no more! Thanks to Virginia Heffernan, I am free from those pesky facts, and can choose the narrative of my liking. As she explains:
All the while, the first books of the Bible are still hanging around. I guess I don’t “believe” that the world was created in a few days, but what do I know? Seems as plausible (to me) as theoretical astrophysics, and it’s certainly a livelier tale. As “Life of Pi” author Yann Martel once put it, summarizing his page-turner novel: “1) Life is a story. 2) You can choose your story. 3) A story with God is the better story.”
Now it seems as plausible to me that world war is just a propaganda vehicle of modern day nationalists, who use fictional imagery to distract from the issue at hand. The idea that nations would actually go to war, sacrifice millions of people for pointless ends, and unleash devastating weapons that could potentially destroy the world - that's just not as compelling as one where this is merely a fiction on our society.

It's simply a matter of aesthetics that I choose to believe that war is a fiction. Life is a story, I can choose my own story, and a story without war / genocide is the better story. I'm not bound at all to pesky things like evidence and reason, or have to believe on the basis of fact and theory. Belief is an aesthetic, and believing a story that doesn't involve the slaughter of Jews, the building of the atomic bomb, and my own grandfather signing up as a teenager to help protect Australia is my choice.

It's also how I'm a billionaire, and president of Earth.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Why Aren't There More Deists?

Imagine an argument that went as follows:
How could you not consider that there may be intelligent life elsewhere in the universe? There's no reason to think that it's impossible since life appeared on earth. With there being 10^23 stars in the universe, with planets being found everywhere we look, it wouldn't be absurd to think that the conditions that allowed for intelligence life on this planet may exist elsewhere. And that's only taking into consideration intelligent life as we know it. Although more speculative, we don't have reason to exclude other paths to intelligent life under very different conditions. The range of possibilities and the vastness of the universe are strong indicators that we are not alone as intelligent life in this universe.
And then followed up with:
So UFO sightings ought to be taken as being caused by extra-terrestrial intelligence, crop circles being marks of these extra terrestrial intelligences, and alien abductions being authentic experience of these aliens.
If you weren't already convinced of the reality of alien interference on this planet, would you find the argument convincing? I'd wager not, as the original argument does little to establish the reality of interfering aliens. In other words, there's a gap between the premise and the conclusion.

This might sound like a contrived example, but it's the kind of argument I see all too often from theists. Just substitute in the cosmological or design argument on the premise, and the conclusion being the interventionist deity they happen to already believe in.

It's not just that the arguments don't validate their particular theism, it's that they don't validate any form of theism! There's a huge gap between the arguments and the conclusion, with much left resting on assumptions that are snuck in with the individual's prior belief.

What strikes me as curious is that there aren't more deists around. If one were to follow the arguments, deism would be the most parsimonious conclusion, yet deism isn't the view defended with such arguments.

Now I am fully aware that the human mind isn't completely logical, and that arguments are more justifications of an existing position than something followed to their logical ends. Even so, it does surprise me that there isn't more of a spread among believers. The range seems to be from externalising to internalising the personal god, rather than from a personal to an impersonal one.