Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sword Of Truth

I've been reading Terry Goodkind's "Sword of Truth" series recently. Good fun, for the most part. A lot of interesting philosophy hidden in there, but that's not really what I want to focus on here.

Instead, I want to focus on the existence of "supernatural" versus "natural" phenomena. Those are loaded words, so let's instead talk about things that exist inside of one reality (the super-reality), but impact another (the sub-reality). That is, the rules of the sub-reality do not define those of the super-reality, but are in some sense, a subset.

- Ghosts (or disembodied minds) are a part of the super-reality.
- Embodied minds are a part of the sub-reality.
- God would be part of the super-reality.
- Humans would be part of the sub-reality.

The "Sword of Truth" series is about magic, and wizards, and spirits, and ancestors living on in an afterlife similarly to Greek mythology. There is a "Creator" who is supposedly manifestly creative, or good (kind of a mix between the Titans in Greek mythology, and Yahweh... but not Jesus), and a "Keeper of the underworld" who is supposedly manifestly destructive, or evil (kind of like Hades). Even the labels "good" and "bad" are not very good labels, since Goodkind makes the point that death is not manifestly evil, since it is a necessary part of life, but just "is". But I digress.

What does this have to do with the super- and sub-realities?

The point is, in Goodkind's universe, the "super-reality" continually manifests itself in various ways in the "sub-reality". They are constantly making observable consequences (including the Keeper itself attempting to enter the sub-reality). Magic is part of the super-reality that impacts the sub-reality. "Life forces" within people (think "The Force" in George Lucas's mythology of Star Wards, which Goodkind calls "Han") routinely can affect the laws of nature. One can start a fire by rubbing sticks together, or one can start a fire by thinking about "fire" and having the "Han" light it for you.

There are basically no people in Goodkind's world that do not believe in this "super-reality". There are no "naturalists". There are no "atheists", for the most part. Why is that? It's because there are manifestations of the "super-reality" that regularly impinge upon the "sub-reality", over and over again, with marked clarity and an abundance of evidence. There is no need for "faith" or "belief" that there is a super-reality... in fact, in Goodkind's world, you'd have to be insane NOT to believe in the super-reality.

But what does this tell us about OUR reality?

It tells us that there is nowhere near as much evidence for any "super-reality" that exists outside of our own "sub-reality". In our "sub-reality", all convincing evidence points to the fact that the "sub-reality" is just "reality", and there is no "super-reality". I can say with certainty that should I have been born into Goodkind's reality, I would be a firm believer in "Han" and the "super-reality", and would hope to study it myself as a wizard or something. However, I'm not part of that reality. I'm part of this reality. Instead of pretending that there IS evidence for "super-reality", I've opened my eyes and given myself the opportunity to honestly look back at the things that used to convince me that there WAS a "super-reality", and examine them in an unbiased way.

As soon as I did this, I realized that, without a single exception, there was no real true evidence for any "super-reality" whatsoever. No feelings that could not be explained by ordinary brain chemistry. No happenstances that could not be explained by coincidence, or luck (good or bad). No indications that I could communicate with "The Creator" or "The Keeper" via any means. No indications that prayer is effective. No indications that there is a benevolent "plan" for my life, or the lives of those around me.

All I see evidence for is the universe existing, without any super-reality impacting it.

Now, I have told you that should there BE some true evidence for a "super-reality" as per the case of Goodkind's universe, I'd be the first to admit that such a "super-reality" exists and we should take great care in finding out about it. As it is, in our reality, the only reality that is apparent to me, I have no reason to pretend that there IS a super-reality, nor that even if there WAS some hypothetical super-reality, that it impacts us or guides us in any way.

Therefore, I am an atheist in this reality. Specifically, since it doesn't seem to make a difference one way or another, I am an apatheist in this reality. People can talk all they want about "evidence for creation being everywhere", but the bottom line is, it isn't. It's not that it CAN'T be everywhere. Even a mere mortal human being (Terry Goodkind) can describe a universe in which it would be everywhere.

It's just that it ISN'T everywhere, in this reality. There is no evidence for a super-reality. There's only this reality. Deal with it, and move on.

by Rapp of AvC

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Biggles vs Allah

In one of the Biggles books, Biggles pulls a Muslim out of a pit.

Hearing the Muslim thank Allah, Biggles said "Allah pushed you in; I pulled you out." 

The Muslim didn't get the point; it still didn't occur to him to thank Biggles.

by ranjit of AvC