The end of the line

It’s been some time since I last posted, so you’ve probably realized that either I’m busy or have lost interest.

It’s actually a bit of both.

First, I’m in the rather stressful process of moving house, and of bringing my planetary science job to a close as I go about changing careers.

But more important, I’ve lost interest in arguing against religion. The roots of religious doctrine lie in the ancient, ignorant past, when almost everyone was superstitious by today’s standards, and almost no one understood the importance of accounting for the cognitive biases that affect us all.

This is not to say that religion fails to do good things in today’s society. Religion does a lot of good. But its supernatural claims are so obviously the result of pre-scientific ignorance. So obviously, indeed, that I no longer feel compelled to point it out.

Furthermore, despite the tone of the preceding paragraphs, I’m no longer comfortable making an ongoing project of tearing down other people’s beliefs. If people want to believe ridiculous things, they’re welcome to do so, and I have better things to do than point such ridiculousness out to them, at least in a regular forum such as this one.

And so it seems that Coming of Age is coming to an end.

I’m considering starting a completely new blog on philosophy and ethics, but I have to take serious stock of the time I have for it, and whether I have anything substantial to say.

In the meantime, this blog will stay online even though it will become largely inactive. I encourage you to delve into the various essays I’ve written over the years, if you haven’t already done so.

Thanks so much for reading.

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5 Responses to The end of the line

  1. rudyardh says:

    Well said, Keith! Look forward to your philosophical ponderings in due course. Good luck with the house moving!

  2. L.Long says:

    Best of luck on the new life.
    Its been said that a person should change their life at least 5 times.

  3. RG says:

    Thanks for writing! Maybe the blog has come of age. All the best!

  4. Nnamdi says:

    I’ll just say this: I’m sure you don’t believe science explains everything. All things physically measurable, yes. But there’s clearly more to the world than just measurable things. Freedom, Beauty, Courage, Love, Friendships, Suffering and the human experience to name a few. Science can only try to describe or measure these things that are a huge part of our existence. We are not robots afterall. Philosophy and Theology are the equivalent of Science in trying to understand these intangible concepts. To dismiss them simply because they do not deal with the measurable or people have not answered you to your satisfaction is to dismiss a majority part of the human existence.
    All the best.

    • Keith says:

      Nnamdi

      I’m not sure if you’ve read my blog, because nowhere do I “dismiss” freedom, beauty, courage, love, and other such things. These things are most certainly real, and most certainly important.

      However, if something is not tangible (in the way a brick or a tree is tangible), this does not mean it is made of some sort of spiritual substance, or that it exists in some transcendent realm.

      Rather, if something is not tangible, what we are really doing is talking about either behaviors (what tangible things do, or how they are arranged in time) or about patterns (how tangible things are arranged in space).

      Love, for instance, is not some ethereal spiritual concept that cannot be described by science. But nor is love a tangible object that can be directly observed by science.

      Instead, love is a particular pattern of tangible things (such as neurons in the brain of the person experiencing love). Love is a mental state. It is a pattern of electrical and chemical activity in the brain. No single neuron can be identified as “love”. Rather love is a phenomenon that arises from patterns of behavior and activity among a collection of neurons.

      This may sound dull and prosaic, but it appears to be true. After all, we know very well that brains are necessary for love to exist, since we only ever observe the emotion of love when it is accompanied by a brain. We can even manipulate our feelings of love by supplying the brain with certain chemicals (like the drug ecstasy, for example).

      The same basic analysis applies to all the other qualities you mentioned. Beauty, for instance, is a positive response of the human brain to certain stimuli (and a fascinating scientific question is what, in our evolutionary history, has primed us to find certain things beautiful).

      Freedom is a description of a particular type of human interaction and behavior. Friendships, courage, suffering – these can all be explained in terms of social behaviors and brain activity.

      So I have to disagree: Science is the ONLY tool we have to really explain things like freedom and love. The fact that these things are not physical objects is irrelevant. Science is about much more than observing physical objects.

      Talking about these phenomena as if they were intangible, mysterious spiritual forces, is romantic wishful thinking, and doesn’t help to explain them in the least.

      All of this said, I don’t mean to imply that love, freedom, etc., are somehow meaningless or unimportant simply because they’re amenable to scientific analysis. Love and freedom retain their deep meaning regardless of how well or how poorly they are explained by science, because that’s just how human beings are built. We’re built to find these things emotionally important. Scientific analysis of these things does not cheapen or reduce them in any way.

      All the best.

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