July 2019 Archives


I've recently started reading some posts by Sean Carroll at his blog, Preposterous Universe. Carroll is a physicist and an atheist, and he has written a ton of fascinating material about physics and cosmology. I'm learning some new stuff, even though I disagree with his premise/conclusion about the existence of God.

I'd like to briefly discuss one paragraph in his essay titled, "Rapped on the Head by Creationists". (I'm not going to critique the whole essay because I'm not smart enough and don't have the time to work things out.)

As I like to emphasize, the God hypothesis could in principle count as a scientifically promising explanation, if only it could actually explain something new, something beyond our mere existence. For example, it's unclear why there are three generations of fermions in the Standard Model; can God perhaps account for that? Even better, make a testable prediction. Does God favor low-energy supersymmetry? What is God's stance on proton decay, and baryognesis? If you are claiming to explain some features of known particle physics or cosmology by appeal to God (and maybe you aren't claiming that, but some people are), you should be able to carry the program forward and make predictions about unknown particle physics. Otherwise you are just telling a story about stuff we already know, without explaining anything, and that's not science.

My opinion is that this paragraph illustrates a significant lack of humility by Carroll that is common among modern atheist scientists.

Whether or not you believe God exists, it's foolish to argue that the "God hypothesis" hasn't produced anything of value -- any new knowledge, philosophy, science, art, etc. Western Civilization is a cultural edifice that has been built on the foundation of the God hypothesis over the course of several thousand years, and it's naive to think that any modern Western person is learning or accomplishing anything without standing atop this monumental structure. (Richard Dawkins makes exactly this error -- divorcing the Enlightenment from its historical and cultural foundation.)

Science, rationalism, and enlightenment thinking are children of the God hypothesis. You may think -- like Nietzsche -- that the children have now overthrown their father and that "God is dead", but don't be so arrogant as to deny their paternity. Modern man is the inheritor of an ancient and powerful legacy, and he should be grateful rather than arrogant.


We don't know all the details, but it seems that the mystery of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 is mostly solved.

In truth, a lot can now be known with certainty about the fate of MH370. First, the disappearance was an intentional act. It is inconceivable that the known flight path, accompanied by radio and electronic silence, was caused by any combination of system failure and human error. Computer glitch, control-system collapse, squall lines, ice, lightning strike, bird strike, meteorite, volcanic ash, mechanical failure, sensor failure, instrument failure, radio failure, electrical failure, fire, smoke, explosive decompression, cargo explosion, pilot confusion, medical emergency, bomb, war, or act of God--none of these can explain the flight path.

The why is still unclear. The most interesting hypothesis I've read is that the pilot was involved in a conspiracy to steal cash, gold, or jewels that were frequently transported on the flight by Chinese plutocrats smuggling their wealth out of China. In this scenario, the pilot was simulating the flight path of the airplane at home because he wanted to make sure that it wouldn't be recovered easily and no one would figure out that a) his body wasn't on board, and b) neither was the treasure.


A question from Quora: Who would stop me if I legally bought the Mona Lisa, then ate it?

What a fun question! But instead of answering the boring element of it, let me question the premise.

If I somehow acquired the Mona Lisa I wouldn't eat the whole thing. First, it's made of wood, so eating it would be unpleasant. But second, it would be a lot more fun to just eat a small part of it. I'd cut out a small, unobtrusive piece from the background and record a video of myself eating it. Then I'd resell the painting to put it back into circulation. Having forcibly inserted myself into history, I'd now be eternally linked with one of mankind's greatest works of art. I'd post the video of me eating the Mona Lisa on Youtube and live off the proceeds for the rest of my life.

And since Quora is showing me art-related stuff, here's a likely apocryphal story about Pablo Picasso:

Legend has it that Pablo Picasso was sketching in the park when a bold woman approached him. "It's you -- Picasso, the great artist! Oh, you must sketch my portrait! I insist."

So Picasso agreed to sketch her. After studying her for a moment, he used a single pencil stroke to create her portrait. He handed the women his work of art.

"It's perfect!" she gushed. "You managed to capture my essence with one stroke, in one moment. Thank you! How much do I owe you?"

"Five thousand dollars," the artist replied.

"But, what?" the woman sputtered. "How could you want so much money for this picture? It only took you a second to draw it!"

To which Picasso responded, "Madame, it took me my entire life."

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