Taking Science on Faith

Series of two articles and letters to the editor in the NY Times, and a SlashDot thread …

Dennis Overbye “Laws of Nature, Source Unknown”

Paul Davies “Taking Science on Faith”

(More of the same by the same authors in the latest “Edge“)

Letters to the NYT Editor “Scientific Method; Evidence not Faith”

SlashDot “Where Do the Laws of Nature Come From ?”

Forwarded by Gary Wegner, picking up on Pirsig’s “Ghosts” theme on “scientific laws” in Chapter 3 of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Robert M Pirsig

“feigning twentieth-century lunacy”

just like everyone else.

Gary highlights this “SPUN1352” response in the SlashDot thread …

There are three basic approaches to this existential dilemma. First, decide based on arbitrary experiences that one particular explanation is right. Second, decide that no particular explanation matters since you can’t know which one is right for sure, and get on with your life. Third, go batshit insane.

Buddha was asked a number of questions by a wise philosopher of the time, such as “Is there a soul,” “Is there a God” and “Is there life after death?” Buddha refused to answer because the answers aren’t important. If they are important to you, there is a more basic question you should be asking first, which is, “Why is it important for me to believe that I know the answers?”

You will find the answer to this is always some variant of, “Because I’m afraid of dying and knowing the right things will help keep me from ceasing to exist.” So the question becomes, why am I afraid of dying? And the answer is almost always something along the lines of, “Because I see myself as fundamentally separate from the Universe, and when I die, I’m gone.

This is based on the fact that mind has privileged access to some of it’s own internal state. No one else seems to know our internal worlds, and so we fear that when we die, those worlds will be lost. Worse yet, as we believe we are the only ones who can put them in their proper context, when we die, they might be misinterpreted.

Well, buck up. You aren’t separate from the universe. You are not a subject, observing the objects. You aren’t a little man sitting in your head looking out through your eyes and hearing through your ears. The sense of self is just another sense, just another track in the recording. No one is listening because there aren’t any such things as individuals to observe.

Is that confusing or upsetting? Then you are stuck in dualistic thinking, and will always be, in some sense, scared of death. If you can let go of dualism and realize that there is no subjective observer separate from the objects observed, but that observation still exists, then you will be free and it won’t matter one bit whether we are living in a simulation, or even whether there is a God, a soul, or an afterlife.

Interesting final quote – see my last Dawkins “Talking Point” piece, where I think I quoted Dennett that, to an atheist or agnostic, the question of the existence of god can be of no pragmatic consequence. But so much more in there … more later.

If you ask the wrong (existential) question …

the answers aren’t important.

[Post Note – It occurred to me that the quoted expression “Why is it important for me to believe that I know the answers?” is in fact a meta-question – a why-question about why-questions. See next “meta” post.]

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