Archive for March, 2012

Bootstrapping the Universe

Friday, March 30th, 2012

One of the things that I do in my spare time is to come up with alternate descriptions of God, or alternate ways of looking at the universe that are at least somewhat religious in their nature. Most of these are still-born, of course, not worth the time that I gave them. I once read an interview in which Barry Manilow said that he sometimes wrote as many as two hundred new songs in a month. He went on to say that most of them were terrible. I don’t come up with anywhere near that number of musings, but still, most of them are terrible.

Out of the relatively small number of godly metaphors that I’ve developed, there have been two that have stuck with me. I’ve talked about them before. There’s the view of the universe as represented by computer memory where every bit is actually set to one but where our inaccuracy in reading them renders so many as zero that we read the universe as infinitely more interesting and varied than it actually is. That one’s a little hard to explain and even when I do, I’m not sure that I’ve ever really gotten across to someone else what it is that I see in my head The other one is Polytheistic Solipsism, the theory of Polytheistic Solipsism is that we are each of us Gods and that the universe we perceive is a shared creation, a consensus reality.

I’m sort of working on a new one at the moment, it probably won’t develop into anything, like I said most of these don’t, but I thought it might be fun to share it here.

One of the ideas that religious whack jobs here in the United States have been promoting in order to try and get their theology into public schools is the notion of irreducible complexity. This comes from their assumption that if they can’t figure something out then really it must be that nobody can figure it out. It’s one of their main attacks against the notion that we evolved through natural selection. Anyway, I could go off on tangents here for thousands of words in trying to understand why and how these people come up with things like Intelligent Design, but that’s not what I want to talk about right now.

The thing is these people seem to have no problem eschewing the complexity of the evolutionary process in favor of the idea that some higher being guided things, but then seem completely unable to grasp that this raises the notion that there must have been some way that the higher being, clearly more complex than anything else whose origin we have attempted to explain, had to have him or her self come to be, without having to then posit a higher-higher being and so on to infinity. Not that these people are capable of understanding infinity.

And somehow I crossed this in my mind with the rather common tale of a guitar teacher who is only a lesson or two ahead of their students. And also with the knowledge that we humans are on a path of creating ever more complexity both in our societies and in our possessions, in our apparent quest to be one of the premiere anti-entropic forces in the universe.

So what if God did design everything, but he’s doing it by only staying one step ahead of evolution? What if God is just one lesson ahead of us, is out there laying down the pavement on the next block just before we round the bend to see it? What if the idea is that there is a God but that he himself is a product of evolutionary processes? There’s something appealing about it, but there’s also a disturbing “pulling oneself up by one’s own bootstraps” sort of “that can’t really work” aspect to it. It’s like the universe is a trough of water in an M. C. Escher painting constantly flowing downhill but still coming back around to the top again. God is just like us, it’s just that he’s already gone around back to the top once.

Still, if anyone can pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, it must be God, right. Or vice/versa-ly if one wanted to figure out whether or not they were God, the ability to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps could be considered a strong hint.

Santorum Wins

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

I’m afraid I have to apologize to The South.

So what am I about to apologize about? I was talking to God about the ongoing debacle that is the Republican primary to determine who their going to nominate to be President of the United States. I had been noticing how many states there are where Rick Santorum has come in first. I told God that I thought it was just another way for the southern states to push forward their petulance over having lost the Civil War, that they were willing to screw over themselves too if it they could mess up the “north” by doing so. God told me that I wasn’t making any sense.

He made me go look up a map of the election results.

It became pretty clear that I couldn’t blame Santorum’s victories on the confederacy. A good third of those states haven’t even voted yet, and most of the states where Santorum has won are actually in the north. They’re not on the coasts, but they are in the north.

So hey, all you redneck, confederate-dreaming states, I’m sorry. Apparently you aren’t the only ones that want to drag us down into the mud.

Rainy Day Sidewalks

Friday, March 16th, 2012

God and I were out walking in the rain this week. Well, I was huddled under my umbrella, so I was only sort of in the rain, and God tends to walk between the drops, so I’m not sure that that counts either. I asked God about that, asked her if she didn’t like getting wet, or what. She told me that she didn’t mind the wetness but she didn’t like getting hit by the rain drops. She said that thousands of little annoying projectiles hurtling her way reminded her too much of people praying, and while she can’t do anything about the prayers she can sidestep the raindrops.

One of the things you see when you go out in the rain is the normally timid and shy snails and worms wandering out all over the place. They’re right out there on the sidewalks brazenly braving the elements. So I asked God about that. She told me that the snails like it for the same reason that so many people like iceskating; they get to practically glide along, feeling the wind rushing past and going where the whims of the moment will them to, forgetting their cares, abandoning their woes.

But the worms? She has no idea what they’re up to.

And a Pinch of Salt

Friday, March 9th, 2012

Salt. Have you noticed what’s been happening with salt?

As a society we’ve adopted various social conventions and various mechanisms, both overt and oblique, to try and be all that we can be. We use a combination of laws, taboos, and social stratifications to try and coerce each other into doing what’s right and what’s best.

Of course we don’t always agree on what’s right and we don’t always know what’s best.

And God likes to point out, that sometimes what’s right for one person isn’t what’s right for another. We end up having to strike compromises, and having to agree to disagree, and having to live in a world where some people think that a blow job counts against your virginity and some people think that it doesn’t.

But I digress.

And while I like digressing, I realize it’s not for everybody.

So one of the things that God and I noticed is the changing place of salt in our society. Good old sodium chloride. We need a certain amount of it in our diet, and so we’ve evolved to rather like the taste of it. But we’ve discovered that it’s a major contributor to high blood pressure, and now that we’ve eradicated a lot of diseases, solidified our place at the top of the food chain, and generally learned how we can live our lives free from death by more and more unnatural causes, we’re getting around to being very concerned about things like high blood pressure. So we’ve put a lot of social pressure into suggesting we should maybe go a little easy on the salt.

Even foods that aren’t actually labeled as “low in sodium” have gotten on to the bandwagon and reduced, at least somewhat, the amount of salt they contain. We’ve learned to experiment with spices and also found other ways to enhance our cooking, without resorting to piling on the salt. All in all, we’ve made headway.

But we still have an industry that’s devoted to the production and distribution of food grade salt. So what are they to do? Well, they’ve actually figured that out. If salt isn’t wanted on our healthy foods, well, why not put it in dessert? And now we have “salted caramel” as one of the hot new candies, finding it’s way into our snack bowls and our ice cream flavors. And I don’t mind because it’s actually pretty good.

Just, please don’t tell the tobacco people. I really don’t want to see “salted caramel, now with nicotine” on my store shelves.

Like Alike

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

God and I were out walking today, enjoying a bit of nature, when he remarked to me that a tree is like a community. We played with the idea for a bit, noting among other things, that leaves are like the people in a town, each not much on their own but still providing a necessary contribution to the whole.

We discussed how different kinds of trees paralleled different types of human collectives. Trees which lose their leaves in the winter could be considered like our annual events which are communities in their own rights; things like renaissance fairs, or Burning Man, or science fiction conventions. We noted that some trees grow tall and thin and some spread wide, just as some cities keep themselves close and others sprawl across whatever land they can grab.

We went on like that for awhile, and then I decided to take the analogy to another scale. I pointed to the stars and declared that galaxies were, in their own ways, like trees, and therefore also like communities. For instance, in a spiral galaxy like the Milky Way, the arms are like branches and the stars are like leaves. Apart from galaxies are nebulae, and nebulae are like rural communities, they’re loose confederations seemingly just waiting for the population to become dense enough to incorporate.

God told me that if we looked around enough and were willing to be a little loose in our definitions we could find analogies in almost anything. If we’re willing to work a bit, we can see that just about anything is like just about anything, in at least some ways. So I guess the real lesson here goes to the very meaning of life itself, and what I’ve learned about life is that life… life is like an analogy.