Past, Present or Future: Where Should You Live In?

Where should our place “in time” be? Should we be living in the past, the present or the future? Or maybe somewhere in between?

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Ten days ago started a new year. We are here between one year that lies in the past and another one that lies in the future. It’s a time when we can think what we can do with our past and what can we do about our future. Some people live in the past and can’t enjoy the present. Some live in the future. They live in their dreams that they hope to reach one day but don’t take care of their present. Then their neglected present doesn’t take care of their future which doesn’t deliver their hopes. Others forget the past, disregard the future and live in the moment. They end up not learning from their past mistakes and their “happy now” turns into “regret later.” To be “happy now” they often need to take away from being “happy later.” When that later becomes now they find out that instant gratification is a trap—one with delayed effect. But you need to learn from the past to see that.

Then where should one live in? The past is the time where your mistakes and successes dwell. It gives you valuable hindsight and guidance. Let it be your library. The future is the time where your dreams and goals dwell. It gives you precious foresight and vision. Let it be your lighthouse. And the present gives you a chance—the only chance—to use what the past taught you to reach the future you aim. Let it be your workshop. The past or the future never give chances but only the present does. The past gives advice and resources and the future gives hope and direction. But the present is time for action—the only time for action. Therefore, you need to act now with the future in mind under the guidance of the past. Forget the past that that drags you back. Forget the instant happiness that brings sorrow later. Forget your dreams you can’t or won’t do anything about. Today is your day. Work hard with eyes set on your actionable end goals while remembering those steps from the past that help you push forward. Godspeed!

 

Note: Original post was updated on Jan. 12, 2108

Design: What It Is and How It Can Be Detected – Part 1: From Design to Designer

A test for design and designer is put forward based on Richard Dawkins’s “The Blind Watchmaker”

StockSnap_M7MP0ATTWL-resizedOnce upon a day, on a Facebook discussion group, on a thread about design, a skeptic responded to a claim for design and designer by saying “if someone says that something was designed by someone, then we should be able to test that claim.” The discussion that followed led to this blog.

What is design and how can we identify it? Richard Dawkins addresses this topic in his book The Blind Watchmaker. He contrasts “complicated things” such as those found in biology as well as “man-made artefacts like computers and cars” with “‘simple’ things, such as rocks, clouds, rivers, galaxies and quarks.” On one hand we have biology and man-made artefacts and on the other we have “the stuff of physics.” “The difference is one of complexity of design,” Dawkins says. Then he adds “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” Thus, it’s easy to misidentify design simply because sometimes things have the appearance of purposeful design. But then how can we tell when it’s true design or when it’s only apparent, purposeless design? Is there a test that can tell us (as requested by the Facebook skeptic)?

At this point I could elaborate on William Dembski’s test for design. In his books (The Design Inference, etc.) he puts forward the concept of explanatory filter and complex specified information. That is meant to be a mathematically rigorous test for design and could get technical. Therefore I’m sticking to Dawkins and his The Blind Watchmaker book (also because some would rather take Dawkins’ words over Dembski’s words, the latter being a main intelligent design (ID) proponent). In it Dawkins makes a contrast between what he calls a “true watchmaker” (and its design) and a “blind watchmaker” (and its design). He says:

“A true watchmaker has foresight: he designs his cogs and springs, and plans their interconnections, with a future purpose in his mind’s eye. Natural selection, the blind, unconscious automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind’s eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all.”

About the blind watchmaker he says:

Natural selection is the blind watchmaker, blind because it does not see ahead, does not plan consequences, has no purpose in view. Yet the living results of natural selection overwhelmingly impress us with the illusion of design and planning.

On one hand we have true watchmaker which produces true design. On the other we have evolution (“the blind watchmaker”) which produces only apparent design. What’s the difference between them? One is mind. A true watchmaker has a mind while evolution is “unconscious [and] automatic” and it “has no mind and no mind’s eye.” Therefore the test is this: is there a mind that orchestrates the process? If there is a mind (aka, a designer) then we have true design. If no mind then no true design but only “the illusion of design.”

We can look at this another way. Other differences Dawkins underlines are foresight, planning for the future and purpose. That means:

  1. the ability to (fore)see possible outcomes or ends,
  2. to choose between these future alternative end the desired or purposed one
  3. the ability to make those changes now that will later lead to the chosen outcome.

If we allow random processes then we can have multiple possible future alternatives. But then agency or choice of one possible outcome over another, if there is any, belongs to randomness, to chance. Again, there is no foresight, no desire, no intention and no purpose. Therefore there is no true design. If a cook wants to make some soup and the cat jumps on the table and ingredients fly in the air and some end up in the soup then that soup was not designed even if it tastes very good and one tasting it may think it was. But neither the cat or the cook designed it.

Therefore the test is this: is there more than the deterministic causality and/or randomness? That is what Dawkins calls “blind, unconscious automatic process[es].” Then there is “no mind,” “no purpose,” no “plan for the future”, “no vision, no foresight, no sight at all.” That only gives the appearance of design. But if there is free will, which is neither deterministic causality or randomness, then we have “true watchmaker” (or designer), we have “mind,” and “mind’s eye”, “plan[ning] for the future,” “purpose”, “vision,” “foresight.” We now have true design. Thus we can say that true design is dependent on a true designer, that is, a free-willed designer.

In the same book Dawkins further clarifies: “We may say that a living body or organ is well designed if it has attributes that an intelligent and knowledgeable engineer might have built into it in order to achieve some sensible purpose…” he thus link “design” to the attributes endowed by a designer (“intelligent and knowledgeable engineer”). Such a designer can choose “some sensible purpose” to build into the designed object. This is a true designer or “true watchmaker.” On the other hand, the mindless process of evolution, he says, is a “blind watchmaker.” When its outcome looks like design (that is, it has the characteristics of design) the design is apparent. It has the characteristics which makes it look like having been produces by an intelligent designer but there is actually no such designer behind it, he says. There was no purpose for the design to end up the way it was. It only happened to be that way because 1) the mutations happened to be what they were and 2) the environment (with its selective pressure) happened to be what it was. Had the mutations been different or the environment been different (Dawkins may say if no meteor wiped the dinosaurs for example) the outcome would have been different. Apparent design just happened. True design was foreseen, intended, purposed and deliberately pursued.

Leaving Dawkins aside, if we look at the contrast between Darwinian evolution and “directed evolution” (which is a man-made, artificial evolution) we see the same characteristics: mind, purpose, foresight, goal. Here’s a quote from Design by Directed Evolution:

Evolution does not work toward any particular direction, nor is there a goal; the underlying processes occur spontaneously during reproduction and survival. The laboratory evolution experiment, in contrast, often has a defined goal, and the key processes—mutation, recombination, and screening or selection—are carefully controlled by the experimenter.

The author contrasts what he calls “‘irrational’ design” (which is what Dawkins would call apparent design or the “illusion of design”) and directed evolution design which is purposeful and done in a lab by an intelligent agent or designer (“experimenter”) which “control[s]” the process (that is, one that exercises free will to define and choose a goal and then choose those conditions that lead to the “defined goal”).

Or, another quote from Scientific American:

By selecting the bacteria more likely to survive, and allowing them to produce new mutated strains, the researchers harness the power of natural evolutionary processes in order to produce bacteria that do what they want. This process is known as directed evolution.

For directed evolution, the researcher needs to produce the right conditions for growth, continual nudges in the right direction…

The designer “select[s]”, “want[s]” a specific end result or goal, towards which he “direct[s]” and “nudges” the process by choosing “the right conditions for growth” and “the right direction.” These are all characteristics of a free-willed mind. Still another quote on directed evolution: “In the lab… we get to set the criteria for who survives.” A designer chooses the criteria with the foresight of an end in mind.

We can also look at the meaning of the term design in dictionary and we draw the same conclusion. The first entry of the definition in Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary is “to create, fashion, execute, or construct according to plan.” If there is no free will there is no creating (and no creativity); there is no plan. There is just following the path on which predetermining factors push. The 2nd entry: “to conceive and plan out in the mind.” Well, it takes a mind, the capacity to conceive and plan out! The 3rd entry: “to have as a purpose” and 4th: “to devise for a specific function or end.” Again, predetermining factors and chance have no purpose and they aim no end. They don’t weight functions and ends and prefer specific ones. Other terms used include “intent” (which is also a synonym for purpose) and “deliberate.” Neither determinism or randomness have intent or deliberation. Only free will, only a mind does.

Therefore, the question and the test whether something is truly designed is the question and the test whether there is a free-willed mind behind it. And searching for design ultimately means searching for a designer and, more specifically, for a designer’s mind. And that search, and the corresponding test, are left for Part 2.

Cosmology According to Genesis – Part 3: The Day/Night Cycle

The Genesis based cosmology proposal that, IMHO, addresses all the common objections.

stars-731493_640Part 1 presents the main questions pertaining to a cosmology based on Genesis. Part 2 addresses a popular explanation about the first created light which intends to explain the day/night cycle by proposing the same mechanism in place today: the created light came from one direction and the rotation of the Earth produced the sequence of days and nights. As I pointed out in the first two parts there are a series of problems associated with this explanation it does seem, at first, to better explain the day/night cycle.

Here, however, I show how the alternative explanation (that the original light was sourceless and omnidirectional) not only providing a better explanation for the other questions addressed in the first two parts but can also fully explain the day/night cycle. My proposed solution points to the language in Genesis of separating X from Y. I propose that separation means pushing things aside (yeah, that’s what the term plainly means, according to the distillery: “set or keep apart”). This could have been achieved by actually pushing things aside spatially or by creating more space between the two things being separated. Here’s a table to address the evening/morning cycle based on this proposal:

day 1st part (evening) 2nd part (morning)
1 darkness, Gen. 1:2 light created, Gen. 1:3
2 separation of light/darkness, Gen. 1:4 light travels the separation and reaches Earth again, Gen. 1:8
3 separation of waters/waters, Gen. 1:6, 7 light travels the separation and reaches Earth again, Gen. 1:13
4 separation of day/night, light/darkness, creation of Sun opposite to Eden. 1:14, 16, 18 Earth is in rotation and Eden gets to face the Sun; Sun takes over and “governs” the cycle 1:16
  1. Day 1 – It started with darkness (the evening) and then God created light (the morning).
  2. Day 2 – Between the end of the 1st day (when there was light) and the beginning of the 2nd day (when it was dark) God separated the light from the darkness by pushing the light away from the Earth, Gen. 1:4 (again, either by actually moving it or creating new space between it and the Earth). Thus the light was moved away and the Earth remained surrounded by darkness (the evening of the 2nd day). After one night the light traveled the distance of the separation and reached the Earth again (the morning of the 2nd day).
  3. Day 3 – Then God created an expanse called Heaven to separate waters from waters. I propose that along with the waters that were separated and pushed away, the light was pushed away too. Again, the separation would likely be one light-night-away space surrounding the earth. This separation produced the same effect as on the second day: it pushed the light away from the Earth and produced the evening of day #3. Then, again, the light reached again the earth after one night and produced the morning of day #3. (As a side note, the language here “God made the expanse and separated the waters” (Gen. 1:7) seem to imply that it wasn’t just a simple separation by pushing things away within the existing space. It seems God also created new space (the “expanse”) and it was by this that the waters were separated.)
  4. Day 4 – Now God separated the light from darkness again (but this time this is also described as separating the day from night). However, this time we are told that God created the celestial bodies: the Sun, the Moon and the stars. These “lights” (v.15) establish “signs … for days and years and … to give light upon the earth” (v.14-15). Further, it is clearly said that “The greater light [the Sun was made] to govern the day, and the lesser light [the Moon] to govern the night” (Gen. 1:16). This “governing” of the day/night by the Sun/Moon refers to the fact that the Sun (along with Earth’s rotation) takes over the job of producing the day/night cycle. There are multiple reasons to believe that, along with the creation of the celestial bodies, God changed the fabric of space: expanded the space. For one thing, there are a number of references to God stretching the heavens. Then, such a stretching could also explain the distant star light problem (to be discussed later). But for now I’m just pointing out that this stretching can explain what happened to the initial light: it was red shifted out of the visible range and became CMB (the cosmic microwave background radiation)—the one much touted by Big Bang cosmologists. Initially Eden faced away from the Sun and it was in the dark (the evening of the 4th day). Then, as the Earth rotated1, Eden faced the Sun and we had the morning of the 4th day. Adam and Eve must have been blown away by the first sunrise! Now the usual cycle of day and night that we know today started.

In regards to the issues from Part 2, this explanation, does treat the original cycle as a special case. It does justice to the distinction between the two separations (Gen. 1:14 and 1:14-18), as there are completely separate mechanisms to explain each. Further, the distinction whether it’s dark or night is no longer relative and arbitrary (as with the alternative explanation where a void, formless Earth provides no point of reference to say which side is in the light and which is in the dark). Lastly the fact that the first part of the cycle is called evening and then the second morning (instead of vice versa as it happens in other places in Gen. 1 and throughout the Bible) is grounded in what actually happened: the creation started with night and then there was a non-relative morning/day/light.

Further, in v. 9 there is a process somewhat similar to the separations pointed out here. It’s the separation of sea and land (although it doesn’t use the same separation term). While it’s not related to the light cycle, it ends with “dry land appear.” This visual result of this separation mirrors the light separation when, due to the separation the darkness (the evening) becomes visible. Likewise, after a night long the light becomes visible again (the morning).

In conclusion, I believe the omnidirectional light explanation addresses all the points raised in the first two parts. This proposal also has implication on a few other related issues that I may discuss in later posts:

  • a solution to the star light problem
  • the meaning of waters in Gen. 1
  • the meaning and the place of Gen. 1:1 vis-a-vis the rest of the chapter (if it’s a summary or not)
  • possible predictions made by this theory or explanation and relevance to physics

Footnotes:

1 There are no requirements on when the Earth started rotating. This explanation can work just as well if the Earth was created spinning at the beginning or started spinning on Day 4th. It is much more plausible however that the Earth was created spinning (or else it would require a miracle—the required acceleration to get the Earth spinning would be totally destructive).

Cosmology According to Genesis – Part 2: Weighing the Directional Light Scenario

The directional-light/rotating-Earth scenario is analyzed and its shortcomings are pointed out.

The first part presented the main questions and went into some details in regards to the following questions related to the original light God created in Gen. 1:3:

  • Did God create the light itself or the source of the light?
  • Was the light localized?
  • What happened to this original light?
  • How was the day/night cycle achieved?
  • Was God’s bringing about the darkness a separate act from the creation of light?

The conclusion of Part 1 was that a sourceless, non-localized seems to be the best explanation to all of these questions (except the one about the day/night cycle). By sourceless light, I mean that God created the light itself, not a source of light. By non-localized light I mean that the light was not localized to a specific place and therefore the light did not come from a specific direction (as a sourced light is) but came from all directions (so that the light was omnidirectional). This means that the whole sky was shining not just a spot on the sky (as it’s the case with the Sun). Of course, this requires that the whole sky was not shining as bright as the Sun. More light (coming from all over the sky) of less intensity would have done the same job as the Sun. However, the problem with the non-localized light explanation is that at first sight it doesn’t seem to provide a very good explanation of how the night/day cycle was achieved. On this point, an alternative explanation (a directional light together with a rotating Earth) seems to provide a better explanation—the one that we have today. If the light is directional (as it is the case now, coming from the direction of the Sun) then the side of the Earth opposite to the Sun would be in darkness—in the shadow cast by the Earth itself. If further the Earth is rotating then we have a cycle of day and night just as we have today (except that the initial light did not come from the Sun which was created later and took over as the source of light).

However, there are some problems with this directional-light/rotating-Earth explanation:

  1. As discussed in Part 1, such an explanation (directional light plus rotating Earth) provides a less satisfactory answer to all the other questions mentioned above.
  2. The first light was clearly a special case—it was not the light from the Sun that we are now accustomed to. Further, it didn’t seem to have a source. The first sequence of day and night was special as well. The first day had no sunrise and no sunset. This differences from the present conditions make it likely that the mechanism used for the day cycle would have been different than the one in place today (when the light is coming from one direction and the night is created by the rotating Earth’s own shadow)—which is what the directional light explanation proposes.
  3. The separation of light/darkness in Gen. 1:4 seems to be separate and distinct from the separation of day/night, light/darkness din Gen. 1:14, 16, 18. However, in the directional-light/rotating-Earth scenario, part of the mechanism (Earth’s rotation) used in the later verses is already in place in the first verses which makes for less of a distinction than the text seems to imply.
  4. In a directional-light/rotating-Earth scenario it is difficult to say whether “it is evening” or “it is morning” because both of them existed at the same time. One could say that there was light and day after the creation of light (which was the case for one half of the Earth) but at the same time one could that the darkness and night continued after the creation of the light (which was the case for the other half). One may be tempted to point to the location of Eden as a point of reference (saying that Eden was on the dark side of the Earth at first). But this is not satisfactory because on the first day there was no Eden. Given that the Earth was formless and void with land not yet separated from waters, there was no point of reference and thus this distinction seems arbitrary.
  5. The fact that the sequence is presented as night/day (or, more exactly, evening/morning) instead of day/night, light/darkness seems rather odd given this explanation. Not only that this distinction is arbitrary but picking the darkness/night first doesn’t fit with other references to light in Gen. 1 (and generally in the Bible) where the light and the day are put first and the darkness and the night second second (Gen. 1:4, 14, 18).

The question then is whether can we arrive at a mechanism for the day/night cycle based on the omnidirectional light explanation that adheres to a plain reading and also addresses the points above? My answer is an emphatic yes and will be discussed in the next post.

Cosmology According to Genesis – Part 1: The Main Questions

Can we work out a logically consistent cosmology based on Genesis 1?

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There are several important questions to be answered in order to derive a Genesis based cosmogony and cosmology. Some key terms from Genesis 1 need first to be clarified, such as day, light and waters.

In this post I’ll address the second term, light, and the corresponding question What is the meaning of light in Gen. 1? This discussion assumes that /day/ means what it would have most likely meant to the original audience of the book of Genesis: a 24 hour time interval or something comparable (I may discuss this in another post).

Another important question is about the structure of Genesis 1. In particular, whether the first verse is an opening verse or a summary of the whole chapter (or something in between). I will leave this discussion along with the meaning of waters and day mean for later posts.

There are several questions to be asked about the light form Gen. 1:3 (‘And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.’).

1. What was the original light?

It’s pretty clear that it was visible light (since it was contrasted to dark and evening) and that it seemed to have supported vegetation before the Sun did (given that the Sun was created after vegetation was created).

2. Was the light created at the very beginning of creation or subsequent to that?

The answer should be pretty obvious here. First there was darkness (Gen. 1:2) and then there was light (Gen. 1:3).

3. Did God create the light itself or the source of the light?

The plain reading of the Bible clearly supports a sourceless light. Verse 3 mentions the creation of the light itself in contrast with the creation of the sources of light (like the Sun and the stars) which happened later in verses 14-18.

4. Was the light localized?

That is, did the light come from one place and one direction (as it happens when it’s coming from a source of light) or was it omnidirectional, coming from all directions? Since it seems that this light didn’t have a source of light (see the question above), it seems more likely that it was non-localized and omnidirectional. Why would God create the light as though coming from a source when in fact it didn’t come from any light source? Not only that but, in order to produce the day/night sequence (to be discussed below), God would have had to create the light in transit in such a way to very much look like coming from a source. One seeing such light would easily be mislead to believe that it’s coming from a source and it doesn’t seem that God would intend that.

The difference between localized and non-localized light is the difference between the light coming from the Sun and CMB (the cosmic microwave background radiation). The latter can always be measured at any point and, when measured, it will be coming from all directions. To delve further into the difference we can consider the perceived “constancy” of the light. The Sun’s light, once observed, it’s gone. The Sun constantly produces new light and therefore we’ll see new light coming and gives the impression that the light persists and “stays” where we see it. But God created the initial light in an act not in a process. This doesn’t fit well with the localized light scenario. An omnidirectional light, like CMB, does not require new light to be created. Since light goes in all directions then at any point there will always be other light coming to that point (light which is not newly produced). Therefore, to an observer, the light seems to persist. The difference is that it now seems to persist from all over the sky (the whole sky was shining as opposed to the Sun shining).

Another difference is that localized light will create darkness (as objects casts shadows—the side of the Earth opposite to the Sun) but an omnidirectional light could not create darkness. This has implications for other questions below.

5. What happened to this original light?

First, the Bible doesn’t say that God later annihilated the light. In regards to its relation to darkness, God “separated” the light from the darkness. He did not spoke the light out of existence. He did not replace it with darkness. Further, after this separation (and before the creation of the Sun and stars) there was light again. There was no mention of new light created so it must be the same light. This means it was not annihilated. If it was annihilated later, after the creation of the Sun we would expect some mentioning of it. And the whole annihilation does not fit well neither with the idea of creation (which is the very opposite of annihilation) nor the fact that God called the creation “good” (if it’s good why destroy it?). Therefore, it seems more likely that God did not destroy the light He created in the beginning.

If it was localized and unidirectional then the light will have likely just ended up far away, lost in the vastness of space. But, again, it seems more likely that it was not localized and that means that it should still be around. CMB (the cosmic microwave background radiation) fits the bill here except that it’s not in the visible range. However, just like in the Big Ban theory, an expansion of space after the initial creation of the light could have turned the initial light into CMB.

6. How was the day/night cycle achieved?

If the source of light was localized (and thus the light was directional coming from that source) and the earth was rotating then the two together would explain the cycle. Thus, darkness characterized the side of the Earth that was opposite to the Sun and, due to Earth’s rotation, any place on the Earth, such as Eden, would cycle through day and night. This makes sense and it’s what we know to be happening now it’s not necessarily what happened at the beginning. For one thing, the first days had no sunsets and no sun dawns (simply because there was no Sun yet). They were not the regular days and things being different on those first days should not be unexpected.

Further, as pointed out under question #3 above, such a localized light doesn’t seem to fit Gen. 1. Localized sources of light were clearly created later. But if the light was non-localized then the outstanding question to be addressed in the next post is, given non-localized light how was the cycle achieved?

Another proposed suggestion was that the initial light was pulsating (switched on and off to produce the day/night cycle). This scenario would involve either localized or non-localized light but is problematic because, without a source, the light must effectively be destroyed and then recreated again when it’s turned on. That’s certainly not the plain reading of the Gen. 1.

7. Was God’s bringing about the darkness a separate act from the creation of light?1

Picking up on the localize light/rotating Earth answer above, it further poses a problem because it implies that the answer to the current question (if bringing about darkness was a separate act) is “no.” In this scenario darkness would automatically happen due to the given setup, how a localized light plus a rotating Earth work. Darkness would simply be an implicit side effect of interposing an object (the Earth) in the path of a directional light so that half of the Earth would be in the shadow it itself casts. This is a problem because it doesn’t fit with the language of Gen. 1 where bringing about darkness took a distinct step subsequent to the creation of light: the separation of light from darkness (v. 3-4). (Also, the separation of the waters may to be related to the next cycle of evening and morning, see v. 7-8.) God had to do something to separate the light form darkness but in the localized light/rotating Earth scenario He would have not had to do anything since it was simple a natural effect of the setup already in place.

On the other hand, another problem with the localized light is that it does require a separate mechanism for darkness on the first evening. On subsequent evenings the darkness was achieved by the shadow cast by the Earth while there is no shadow for the first evening. There is however no reference in Gen. that there was such a change of mechanism.

The one distinction that seems to be made by Genesis is the one implied by stating twice the separation of light from darkness (first in 1:4 and then in 1:14-18). If light was already separated from the darkness (and a mechanism for the day/night cycle was already in place) it wouldn’t make sense to separate the light from darkness again unless there is a new kind of separation, a new mechanism that takes over the old one. But the localized/rotating-Earth explanation doesn’t fit because there is no major change in the mechanism (the same rotation of the Earth is used in both cases). Therefore the directional light explanation requires more distinctions that the Genesis seems to make (change in the mechanism through which the night was achieved from the first night to the rest) and doesn’t make a distinction when the text does make one (the distinction between the first separation of light and dark in 1:4 and the one in 1:14-18).

 

Conclusion

It seems that a sourceless, omnidirectional light is the most likely answer and the most plain reading of the text for most questions above. However, for question #5 (about the cycle), this answer doesn’t seem to fit while the alternate answer (a directional light with a rotating Earth) seems to make more sense. However, my proposal (which I’ll discuss in the next post) is that we can interpret Gen. 1 so that the sourcless/omnidirectional light can not only properly explain the cycle but also be the plain reading of the text. Of course, this is my own interpretation of Genesis 1 and I don’t claim it to be the absolute truth. But I honestly find it to make sense.

Note: The blog (question #6 and #7) was updated on 11/25/2017.

Footnotes:
1 Credit goes to Ticho for pointing out this aspect (on a non-public discussion group).

The Pence Diversion

Is Pence’s leaving early from the Colt’s game a political stunt or just a diversion?

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Recently the liberal media made a point that Vice president Mike Pence’s leaving early from a Colts’ game when about 20 players knelt for the national anthem was a political stunt. But if it was a political stunt then what was the players’ kneeling? If Pence’s action was premeditated then how was the player’s action? The liberal media frames the stories in a such a way in order to manipulate the masses. The same type of premeditated action is framed, in case of NFL players, as something great and honorable, standing up for what they believe (well, in this case for standing down for what they don’t believe in). As Peter Heck points out, the liberal sports writers “have fallen all over themselves applauding the publicity stunt of players taking a knee during the anthem for weeks now.” But when it’s not in their favor it’s framed in a negative light as a “political stunt.” This way the masses’ attention will be distracted from the fact that, if the NFL players have the right to stand down for our country’s flag then Pence (as well as anybody else) has even more right to not want to see an NFL game where the country’s flag is dishonored. But the media’s pointing to a “political stunt” is a diversion. It’s political manipulation and it’s so Orwellian and so typical of liberals.

Pence said that he left the game “because President Trump and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our flag, or our national anthem.” Well, that sounds too good to give it to the conservatives, let’s make it be about being a political stunt. I’m pretty sure that Pence realized that it will draw the public’s attention but his office said that the ticket was bought well in advance because “former Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning was set to be honored at the game.” But regardless when the ticket was bought, the kneeling NFL players also realized very well that their action will draw the public’s attention. Most likely that’s the main reason that they did it in the first place. They didn’t do that before the Kaepernick’s first public display of kneeling down for the anthem. They didn’t do it before this was publicized as an act of protest against the country’s leadership. It’s not that their beliefs changed. It’s just that they found a venue to advertise what they believed—a way which was deeply offensive to Trump’s administration and many Americans. They wanted to make a point—which makes it a political stunt. Therefore, if Pence’s action was a political stunt, the NFL players’ was even more so. If Pence’s action was premeditated, the NFL player’s was even more so. But to the liberal media the former is a disgraceful premeditated political stunt and the latter is a right and an action worthy of praise. Each event in a different light in order to influence the public’s beliefs and views.

Another response to Pence’s action is claiming that it cost taxpayers reportedly $250,000. Sports writer Zac Keefer made the same point. One could easily point out, based on data the Business Insider acknowledges that, considering that $45,000 trip that Pence had to make anyway, and the fact that Republican National Committee will reimburse anyway a part of the trip, the cost becomes much smaller. But the issue is not the cost. If they cared so much about the tax payer’s money they could have also questioned many of Obama’s trips, such as his golf trips. But they didn’t. The whole point is to create a diversion, to distract the public’s attention from the meaning Pence himself claimed for his action (as to not dignify the disrespect for our country’s soldiers, flag and anthem). Such a meaning, in the public’s minds, is damaging to the liberals marketing (the use of NFL player’s kneeling for their advertising) and they employ diversion as a means of damage control. It’s sand thrown in public’s eyes so that they can’t see what the liberal media doesn’t want them to see.

But the most impressive fact is how blind some liberals are. Stephen Holder who called Pence’s action “pre-planned outrage” and “fake outrage,” and “total publicity stunt,” was asked “to clarify whether it qualifies as a publicity stunt when players kneel.” His response was: “Probably to you, because you either aren’t listening to them or don’t care. Good day.” The irony is that in the midst of being blind to his own bias, Holder accuses Tony Katz (who asked the question) of being biased and insensitive. As Peter Heck puts it:

Sorry, but that’s just too funny. I’m guessing Holder doesn’t even realize that the exact same thing can be said about his response to Pence: Holder either isn’t listening to Pence when he explains why he left, or he doesn’t care. The vice president stayed, stood, and honored the flag and anthem while it was performed. He chose not to stay and honor the players who disrespected that flag with his presence at their game – like countless other fans have done as well. This isn’t that difficult to understand.

Keefer, Doyel, and Holder don’t want anyone telling players they have to stand for the anthem. But they’re totally fine with telling the vice president he has to stay for the game. This might be why they write about balls for a living.

The Pence incident is just an example but it is so typical of how liberal media deals with the events they report. I’m not saying that the conservative media doesn’t have bias. More or less, everybody does. I do. You do. But the hypocrisy of the liberal media, their self-righteousness (or, in their language, self-political-correctness), their reframing of the data in such away to manipulate the public opinion needs to be pointed out. (And yes, political correctness is another reframing of terms but that’s for another post.)


PS To the liberal readers: While this is about the media bias (and some are so blind that they don’t even realize how they manipulate the public because they deceived themselves to believe what they are saying before selling it to the public which is worse than marketers which at least are aware of what they are doing) this is also an opportunity to find out your political bias level. This is for liberal readers not because the conservative ones don’t have any bias to test but just that this happens to be a good test for ones and not for the others.

For a liberal reader, there are two elements involved here. One has to do with truth and the other with liberalism.

An unbiased liberal reader will care about truth before about caring about taking sides. It’s sad situation when people’s ability to look at the truth is impeded and their beliefs are manipulated. An unbiased reader will welcome when such manipulation is pointed out and will be glad that it was caught. On the other hand, a biased liberal reader will be upset with the whole blog—after all, it reflects negatively on liberals. He will care more about one’s side than about truth. It’s simply because, to him, it’s about pushing liberalism forward more than pushing the truth forward. Regardless if you like it or not, that’s the difference between the attitude of a biased and unbiased liberal (well, more exactly, between a mostly unbiased and mostly biased liberal). The same difference applies to conservatives to any other kind of bias for that matter.

They say that love is blind. Not only that bias leads to cognitive blindness but also that “love” will be easily saddened and offended and will make the topic a “hot topic.” Just try to say something true and negative to a parent about his or her kids. The more negative it is, the more likely the parent will disagree with you and get upset. An impartial judge will not have much emotional involvement nor interest in any side winning and therefore will not get upset if either side looses. An impartial judge will have a “cool” judgment of the facts. This is exactly what we have here. And where you position yourself in the range between “I’m glad I read this and caught this situation. People should know when they are manipulated by the media” and “I’m upset this makes liberals look bad. These are all stinking lies!” will tell you how strong your bias is. The more upset and defensive you got the more biased you are. That’s simply how it works. The more love, interest and emotional involvement you have with a side of a debate the more biased you are and the more upset you will be when your side will be put in a negative light. After all, they are right, love is blind. When you have a side to protect you will get defensive and emotional. But when you have the truth to uphold then sides don’t matter and you will keep your cool.  This test is not about being liberal or conservative. It’s about you being honest to yourself. You’ve got nobody else to fool or honor here.

Of course, here I assume that the data indeed strongly points out that some liberal media outlets are indeed hypocritical and manipulative, at least in this respect. I find the facts just too hard to deny. But if you think I’m wrong in my assessment please comment below and I’ll be willing to reconsider my point.

Is There Any Acceptable Definition of Free-Will?

Yes, we can talk about free will. No, we don’t need to throw the notion in the garbage bin of meaninglessness.

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Somebody wrote to me a private email pointing out that I wrote an essay on free will (Is Free Will an Illusion? Part 1 – The Origins of Free-Will Denial) and I didn’t even define it. While I have reasons not to define it I agree with him that it would have been better if I did. So I will try to remedy that here.

While defining one’s key terms is good practice and can be even expected when there is any risk of ambiguity, I think that free will is a special case. That’s because we do have an inner, first hand experience of free will. In a way it’s similar to how St. Augustine described time:

What then is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks, I do not know.

We experience time regardless if we understand it or not. (As a matter of fact I find the matter of time fascinating and I did quite a bit of research on it. My conclusion is that there are problems with the concept of time, for example the way that second and meter are defined leads to circular definition as both rely on the equation of velocity c = s/t where c, the speed of light, is given and you have two unkowns, s and t, which render the equation unsolvable—but that’s another topic for another post). In the same way we experience free will and have an intuitive notion of it regardless whether we can properly define it or not or whether we can explain it or not.

Descartes’ famous cogito ergo sum is based on the same direct inner experience. He didn’t need any external proofs that he is in fact doubting or that he is thinking or existing. It was the mere inner experience of it.

But if we can say cogito ergo sum then maybe we can also say “I choose, therefore I’m free.” It is what, after all, Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, did as he describes in Man’s Search for Meaningone of “the ten most influential books in the United States” (of course, some may need to reinterpret here what “influence” means along with what it means that the book has “merit”). He “concludes from his experience that a prisoner’s psychological reactions are not solely the result of the conditions of his life, but also from the freedom of choice he always has even in severe suffering.” As Frankl says himself:

But what about human liberty? Is there no spiritual freedom in regard to behavior and reaction to any given surroundings? … Most important, do the prisoners’ reactions to the singular world of the concentration camp prove that man cannot escape the influences of his surroundings? Does man have no choice of action in the face of such circumstances?

We can answer these questions from experience as well as on principle. The experiences of camp life show that man does have a choice of action. … Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom, of independence of mind, even in such terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress.

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

Just as our experience of doubting and thinking prove our own existence (a-la Descartes), our experience of choice may prove our own freedom.

To give another example, you can’t properly define all the words in a dictionary. If you try, you will end up with circular definitions (such as to be means to exist and vice-versa). What do we do then? Throw away the dictionary and give up on communication? No, we simply accept an intuitive notion of some basic terms even though we can’t properly define them. Guess what, everybody else has the same intuitive notion and we have no problem communicating.

The insistence that we should throw away the concept of free will as meaningless has its roots in the logical positivists’ insistence that there are verifiable statements and the rest are unintelligible or pseudostatements. But it is with good reason that logical positivism fell out of favor. As philosopher Thomas Nagel says1 “logical positivism can be eliminated immediately” by applying its claim to itself. This renders it self-defeating. But the same is the situation with free will denial (since it’s related to logical positivism). If you treat the most basic terms in a language as meaningless because can’t establish a “proper definition” for them then you end up with virtually the whole vocabulary being meaningless as all the rest of the terms are ultimately defined in terms of the basic terms. Then the statement “free will is meaningless” is meaningless as well!

That’s, of course, an extreme position that the free will deniers don’t take. Because they are fine with undefined terms and with intuitive notions. But the inconsistency is here: if we find both inner experience and intuitive notions acceptable, then why isn’t the intuitive notion of free will acceptable? Why isn’t a direct, inner experience-based or phenomenological definition of free will acceptable? Things that cannot be properly expressed in words are not few. And things to which language just doesn’t do justice are even more. And “free will” is a prime example.

We can build on this intuitive definition even though not as much as what free will is but more in terms of what it is not (to be done in later posts). However, for the purpose of communication, the intuitive, phenomenological notion does suffice (as we do communicate about time, Descartes’ thoughts and the undefinable terms of a dictionary). The insistence of having a “regular” definition is unwarranted (as it is in other cases I pointed out). After all, free will is not your regular thing. In fact, it’s hard to pick anything more unusual than it. That’s of course if it turns out that it’s not an illusion. If it is, then, well, you can’t really pick anything at all. But at this point, regardless if it is an illusion or not, we can still have a discussion about it. There is no need to throw it in the garbage bin of meaninglessness as though nobody has the vaguest idea what they are talking about. They may not have an explanation but they do know what they are talking about.

This intuitive definition is not an ostensive definition. The problem with ostensive is that requires something external to point to. Free will, however, is an internal experience. An ostensive definition is needed when the other person doesn’t know what you are talking about. However here you have the same experience of free will that I have. The matter is not that you don’t know what I’m talking about. The problem is that you can’t comprehend to your satisfaction what I’m talking about (aka what you are experiencing). Now calling my experience “free will” should suffice to point to the same kind of experience that you have.

Having said that, I could still go further in describing it. While we all experience the passage of time we can’t directly point to it. It’s an inner experience. But we can give enough external clues to point to the same experience in the other person.

Therefore to spell out this intuitive definition, it’s the experience that the outcome of my choices are actions and not mere reactions. That I can make a difference in my life and I’m not just a spectator to my life. That the possible alternatives that I’m facing are, until the moment of my decision, open-ended and not predetermined. That I’m an agent and not merely a robot.

[Note: Last three paragraphs added on 6/28/2017]

Footnotes:

1

The Last Word by Thomas Nagel, a more complete quote:

It is usually a good strategy to ask whether a general claim about truth or meaning applies to itself. Many theories, like logical positivism, can be eliminated immediately by this test.