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posts by Randal Auditor | joined 30 Mar 2005 | 140

posted 03 Apr 2005, 22:04 in Author Q & ABakker vs. Kellhus in Cranium by Randal, Auditor

Until mr. Bakker can answer the question, you might be interested in reading [url=]this interview.[/url:20hipzri] Specifically, it contains this question: [quote:20hipzri][color=blue:20hipzri]Q: In a series filled with vivid, fascinating characters, Kellhus (for me anyway) is the standout -- not least because, unlike some other writers who portray superhumanly intelligent beings, you succeed in making his intellectual superiority completely convincing. What were the challenges of creating such a character?[/color:20hipzri] A: I've always felt more intelligent when I write than when I speak. Take me away from my computer screen, and I'm lucky if my thoughts attain the clarity of Campbell's Soup. I suppose (and remember, I'm writing this response!) this is because writing allows you to step outside of time, to think a thousand thoughts where the reader encounters only one. And if you think about it, this is pretty much what Kellhus does while speaking. He stands outside the rush of verbal interaction, and so is able to scrutinize and premeditate where others can only reflexively respond. So in a formal sense, portraying Kellhus's superhuman intelligence was relatively easy. I would start with straight dialogue for Kellhus's scenes, which I would then go over again and again, each time giving Kellhus more in the way of insights and observations. It was the substance of these insights and observations that proved exceedingly difficult to write. But here again, I had the luxury of time: I would work and rework them until I eventually came up with something 'Kellhus worthy.' I took a shotgun approach.[/quote:20hipzri] view post

posted 05 Apr 2005, 12:04 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Randal, Auditor

Nope. I don't believe in a god, I don't believe in afterlife, I don't believe there's a purpose or meaning to life. (That is, no externally imposed one. Make your own purpose if you will.) I don't believe in supernatural forces, psychic powers, spirituality, homeopathy, the lot. Never have, and I strongly doubt I ever will. (Barring reliable scientific evidence indicating the existence of these phenomena.) That would make me an atheist. A third-generation one, at that. So I haven't had much to do with religion at all in my life. The subject does interest me on an intellectual level, though, probably because it's quite alien to me. As for things I do believe in, I rather like the philosophy of existentialism, but I haven't studied it enough to commit myself. Never heard of those "Left Hand Path" people, but that most definitely is not what I see as existentialism. Worshipping oneself as a god sounds rather pointless to me. (But then, most religions do.) view post

posted 21 Apr 2005, 14:04 in The Darkness That Comes Beforekellhus == good guy?? by Randal, Auditor

I don't know whether universal morality exists or not, but by my code of ethics Kellhus is evil, for his casual abuse of humans when it suits his ends. Not just when it's absolutely necessary to achieve his goal, but also when it just might give him an infinitesimal advantage later on will Kellhus gladly kill, manipulate and destroy. Not even an "end justifies the means" defence (to which I do not subscribe) would get Kellhus off completely, I think. But he is more than just evil. Cnaiur is evil, probably more so then Kellhus, since the Sklyvendi destroys, kills and maims for pleasure, whilst Kellhus destroys to achieve a goal he percieves as necessary. But even so, when the two of them travelled through the steppes I found myself rooting for Cnaiur to prevail, to defeat and kill the abomination that is Kellhus. For whilst Cnaiur is a thoroughly evil and despicable man, it's a human evil, which I can in some ways understand even as I abhor it. Kellhus... frightens me. Yes, the book would not nearly be as interesting without the Dunyain monk, so on a more rational level I wanted him to survive. But that did not change the way I felt. I think, as some have said above, that Kellhus indeed cannot be judged by human standards. He is beyond that. But to me, that does not make him more than human. It makes him less. He no longer is one of us. Instead, he is utterly alien; the monster in the night, the beast that howls and screams at the moon, the unknown and the enemy of all. Although he wears a pleasant mask, he'll destroy you with as little thought as the beast that jumps your back in the woods. And the fact that he acts not out of mindless hunger, but out of cold logic combined with preternatural intelligence, only makes him more of a threat. Maybe Kellhus is more than human. Maybe he is better than us. But so were the Martians in the War of the Worlds. And whilst I am one of those lowly humans crawling on the ground in Kellhus' shadow, every instinct I've got screams at me to kill him before it is too late. view post

posted 24 Apr 2005, 20:04 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Randal, Auditor

Most of those are not problems with the idea of a higher being as such, just a very specific variant judeo-christian-muslim god. I'm sure there are many christians (etc) out there who for these very reasons (or similar ones) hold to a slightly different but more internally consistent view of their deity. And others who have some sort of explanation for these apparent (or factual?) inconsistencies. As for time, it is a tricky concept; one that I cannot really understand, once you add in the theory of relativity. If time is relative to the observer, what does it mean for the universe as such? Or any hypothetical diety? Not a clue, really, although I do admit I find the concept of an eternal god creating all hard to accept. [/devil's advocate]. (Or should that be god's advocate in this particular context?) view post

posted 28 Apr 2005, 17:04 in The Darkness That Comes Beforekellhus == good guy?? by Randal, Auditor

I did qualify "by my code of ethics Kellhus is evil." Maybe Kellhus isn't evil for a Dunyain. But to truly answer that question, one would probably need something to compare them with. i.e. other Dunyain or Sklyvendi. Right now, we don't know whether all Sklyvendi are murderous bastards like Cnaiur, nor do we know all Dunyain are manipulative bastards like Kellhus. Maybe the ones we see are the exceptions to the rule. We do know Cnaiur is violent and nasty even by Sklyvendi standards; that's how he held onto his position despite being hated by all his tribesmen as a tradition breaker and father killer. Maybe Cnaiur is evil even for a Sklyvendi. And as for the Dunyain, I'm not quite convinced they're all manipulative bastards. They teach extreme detachment and rationalism, yes. But they don't come into contact with the outside world, so they don't teach their monks to manipulate 'lesser' humans. Maybe Kellhus made that part up by himself. He's nothing if not good at improvising... view post

posted 28 Apr 2005, 17:04 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Randal, Auditor

We're talking about two different things here, confusingly both called "god". One can believe that the universe was created by some kind of external force or intelligence, and name that force "god." Let's call it a "creator." Or one can believe in the god of the bible who is omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omniscient, etc, who rewards good people with heaven and bad people with hell, who poses rules of conduct for mortals, etc, etc. (there are, of course, a million variations on this theme.) Let's call this one "Jehova." I personally believe in neither of these things, but I do find the first one a lot more plausible than the second. I reject the first one because I do not think a universe created by a mysterious eternal "creator" is any more logical or clear than a universe that simply is eternal (and mysterious) by itself. I reject the second for the inconsistencies and contradictions listed here, and many similar ones. Anyway, arguments against the second kind of god do not apply to the first one at all. Now, on a completely different tangent (one is allowed to ramble on messageboards, right?) a question for the believers in the second kind of god: If I were to assume, hypothetically, that the bible is correct, and Jehova exist, why should I worship him? Besides the rather obvious reason I'll be punished with hellfire if I disobey (that's not a good reason, i.m.o. Worship out of fear would not be worship at all.) and rewarded with eternal life and happyness if I do, I can't think of any reason to do such a thing. view post

posted 29 Apr 2005, 15:04 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Randal, Auditor

[quote:1iucp1ld][quote:1iucp1ld]Randal said: "I reject the first one because I do not think a universe created by a mysterious eternal "creator" is any more logical or clear than a universe that simply is eternal (and mysterious) by itself. " [/quote:1iucp1ld] Andrew said: It is kind of pecular to reject the existence of God merely because you see an equally plausible alternative. Wouldn't it be more consistent to reject neither God, NOR an eternal universe? OR, you ought also to reject the existence of the universe. If you hold 2 things to be equally implausible (or that neither is more 'logical or clear' than the other), then to reject one and accept the other is pure prejudice. [/quote:1iucp1ld] No, I don't find that peculiar at all. The situation is like this: I have a question, namely: "Why does the universe exist, and how did it come into existence." Now, one could answer that question by saying "A creator did it." But that answer is equally implausible to me as the answer "it simply always existed." In the end, both answers come down to "Because!" So, I have two equally implausible answers. I like neither. But for the moment I'll go with the one that does not require additional outside agents, i.e. god. It's the old argument of Occam's razor. And as for prejudice? I don't think so. After all, god and the universe are not equal. The universe does exist, and we don't know whether it ever did not. There is no evidence for a creator. To me, just accepting the universe exists and may always have in one form or another is far less of a leap of faith than inventing a creator god to answer the question. Basically, I still don't have a real answer to the question, but I don't see a reason to believe in a creator either. (At least, as far as the origin of the universe is concerned.) Maybe we'll learn more some day in the future. view post

An essay on the existence of god... sorry, it's long. posted 01 May 2005, 23:05 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Randal, Auditor

[u:1nq10sw6][b:1nq10sw6]Preliminary notes[/b:1nq10sw6][/u:1nq10sw6] Interesting discussion, this, albeit one that has been held many times before. Still, this time I participate myself. It's a good mental exercise, I think, to really try and explain one's views to a stranger. I do wonder, Andrew, what your exact position in the debate is? You obviously believe that some intelligent creator made the universe. But I do wonder what your other beliefs are. Do you also believe in a more conventional god, i.e. judeo-christian-muslim? Or just a creator, a "first cause" of the universe? Anyway, your post. My reply is going to be a long one. (well, it's tricky to explain one's worldview in a few sentences. And you did ask...) To the other worthy members of this forum, my apologies for what basically amounts to something like a thread-hijack. I guess it was inevitable once this subject reared it's head. [quote="Andrew":1nq10sw6]Well Randall, I would say based on your answer that you basically AGREE with my point![/quote:1nq10sw6] Yes, my first assertion was not very logical. It was a bit of an afterthought, a casual reference to my position, but irrelevant to my argument. (That we were talking about two different ideas called "god".) It was a line I added at the last minute, and did not really clarify my beliefs. (well, I wasn't really expecting a debate like this.) I stand by the second post, as well as the gist of the first. I still reject X, because there is no reason to accept it, and it is less plausible than other, albeit equally unsatisfying answers. (as far as I can see.) Note that this does not mean I really accept Y either, just that I think it's a possibility, which I'll stick to until new evidence is forthcoming. [b:1nq10sw6][u:1nq10sw6]Onto the main issue[/b:1nq10sw6][/u:1nq10sw6] [quote="Andrew":1nq10sw6]{snip}I would be curious to know what it would require for God to prove his existence to you if creating a universe of staggering complexity isn't enough!{snip}[/quote:1nq10sw6] Yes, that's where the difference lies between our views. [quote="Andrew":1nq10sw6]{another snip}Outside of the mind of men there is no such thing as "chance" or "random" or "unpredictable".{snip}[/quote:1nq10sw6] That sentence goes part of the way towards the answer. Chance and random do exist outside the minds of men, in my worldview. (quantum processes and all that.) Things that go one way could just as well go another. God (or in my case, the universe) does indeed play dice. A lot can be predicted, and many chances are so heavily weighed one way or another that the possibility of something else happening is virtually negligible, but in the end everything is the result of a chance process. Everything is random. In such a worldview, the existence of the universe proves nothing about a creator. Order can come from chaos all by itself, if left alone long enough. And long enough is easy if infinity is at your disposal. But, now to formulate an answer to the important question; [b:1nq10sw6] [color=red:1nq10sw6]"what would god need to do to prove his existence to me?"[/color:1nq10sw6] [/b:1nq10sw6] Which is, indeed, a tricky question to answer. One I have considered before, but which will still need some thought to arrive at a reasonably clear answer. Ultimately, it would depend on the kind of god we're talking about. The judeo-christian-muslim-buddhist whatever else you can think of gods that make up 99% of the world's religions, all make claim to influencing the world in one way or another. To prove their existence, that influence would need to be proven. Miracles would need to be shown, efficacy of prayer detected, proof of reincarnation found, etc. Depends on the exact variant of religion. In a more general sense, for me to even consider the existence of these kinds of deities, scientific research would have to prove the existence of the supernatural in one way or another. Should that happen, I will completely re-evaluate my worldview, and start considering the religions as possible fact, rather than regarding them as nonsense. Note, however, that this does not mean I'd convert. Even if christianity, to take the most obvious example, proved to be true in all it's various claims, I doubt I would turn to worship God. I don't really understand why people worship anything, be he the creator of the universe or the emperor of Hulaland. Same for morals. I do what I believe good, and will not consciously alter my positions just because it turns out some god is watching my moves from heaven. I'm not a very worshippy person, I guess. But, all this is concerning the second kind of god I discussed earlier. The acting god, not the first variant, who is merely the "first cause." The claim of the first cause "god" is far more ephemeral than the second one. Where the second one claims to be omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, whatever, the first one merely claims to be the invisible, intangible, untraceable reason the universe exists. A hard claim to either prove, or disprove. Such a creator would exist outside of our universe, in all probability, and not be subject to the laws of nature by which we live and by which all our research is conducted. Such a "god" might not want to prove his existence, might not be able to by virtue of his position outside the universe. He need not even be sentient as we see it. Which means my position on this one is rather less firm than on the other. Dismissing it out of hand, when so little is or can be proven, would be a bit premature, I think. But I still don't accept the claim the universe must have a creator, for precisely the same reason. It's so easy to claim something unprovable exists. It's a tired old analogy, but here goes anyway: how does one disprove the existence of invisible purple unicorns living on the far side of the galaxy? The only possibility would be to travel to every planet in the galaxy with supersophisticated sensors capable of finding even invisible pink unicorns. Only once every place has been visited could one safely claim they do not exist. But with our current technology, this is not possible, or desirable. So in the meantime, I'll dismiss their existence based on the burden of proof and probability. Something does not exist unless there is proof, or at least a good reason to assume it does. All of which does not answer the question "how would a creator/first cause go about proving his existence, when that may well be impossible by definition." (if it is completely separated from the physical universe and hence undetectable by beings limited by it's constraints.) On consideration, my answer would be that it is impossible for such a god to prove it's existence, or for us to prove it, because the concept thought up here is too abstract, too remote and too alien to be subjected to conventional research. Maybe, one day in the future, with advanced technology and tools, we'll be able to truly examine the origins of the universe, and come to some kind of conclusion. Only a few hundred years ago, it was impossible to think of some non-divine alternative explanation for the existence of life, let alone humans. Now, there are extensive theories to explain these things. Maybe the origins of the universe will one day be unveiled as well. But right now, I can neither prove nor disprove the existence of a "first cause." Be that as it may, I still choose not to believe in it, because for me that is the more logical way to approach a subject. I will not believe in something unprovable unless there is a reason to do so. If that means I disregard something that in the future will be proven to be true, so be it. I'd rather be overly sceptical than credulous. (note: I am not accusing you of credulity. I just state that with the worldview I have described, belief in god for me would require credulousness.) [b:1nq10sw6][u:1nq10sw6]Wrapping things up[/b:1nq10sw6][/u:1nq10sw6] After this already long post, I think it's fairly safe to state that our difference of opinion arises basically from a disagreement of what constitutes he evidence in this case. You believe in a creator, because to you the universe is obviously/logically something that must have been created by an intelligence, a god. I, however, have no problems whatsoever with ascribing something so complex and wonderful as the universe or even the laws of nature to something as basic as the result of mere chance and random processes which we do not yet understand. Or something else entirely, such as hyperintelligent aliens from the umpteenth dimension, or another kind of creator. Or I could see it as something that simply always has existed, and has no origin or cause as we understand it. Therefore, where you see evidence for one thing, I see an unexplained phenomenon which may have for which we have multiple widely differring possible explanations, none of which need be true, and some of which sound more implausible to me than others. Now, I'd better get some sleep, as this reply took rather longer than I expected. I don't think I need to reply to your "maybe Andrew is cosmic radiation" analogy, which is quite as ridiculous as my invisible purple unicorns and would only cause confusion. This post is quite long enough. view post

posted 02 May 2005, 23:05 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Randal, Auditor

Upon consideration, I think I'll adress your "andrew might as well be cosmic radiation" argument as well. To recapitulate: [quote="Andrew":11cx5v7w]You accept that I exist as a separate human being, with no evidence other than the words on your screen! might i not be a bit of cosmic radiation interfereing with the Net somehow? {snip}... etc... but of course that's absurd! that's rediculous! how can there NOT be an Andrew out there writing these absurd things... naturally you would have no problem accepting cosmic radiation as the explanation of ME if all you saw on your screen was line of meaningless jibberish - random letters, symbols large blank sections followed by more jumble mumble... etc. Somehow the existence of (semi) ordered sentences, thoughts, etc; the (bare) hint of some kind of intellect causing what you see on your screen provides sufficient proof that I exist. And yet an ordered, lawful universe you say provides "no evidence" of an ordered, thoughtful cause?[/quote:11cx5v7w] This analogy is highly flawed. I believe the posts I see to be written by a fellow human being, because I have seen many messages on many messageboards in many different places, I have written some myself, and have seen other people write others. Therefore, although it is theoretically possible you're some kind of A.I. or virus, by far the most plausible assumption is you're just a human being. This analogy would apply to the universe only if there were thousands of other universes in existence, and I had positive evidence at least some of them were created by gods, I had created some myself, and seen others being created. Then, it would be silly to say: "No, [i:11cx5v7w]this[/i:11cx5v7w] universe, out of all those thousands of others, probably wasn't created by a god. Prove it was!" Secondly, your analogy is flawed in my eyes because the universe does not resemble a piece of written text. I don't think the universe is "ordered and lawful" at all. In fact, to me it looks very much the result of random processes. The "laws" of nature work the other way around. They do not dictate how matter behaves, they're simply a way of describing how it behaves. And if you study it closely, it does not behave all that orderly, and the "laws" are not all that immutable. On the smallest scale, the laws of nature are the result of probability processes. Only because our perception is limited to the macro level does the universe appear to be orderly. The "complexity" of humans or the universe is not all that surprising, it merely is a result of trial and error. There is no master plan being followed. If one were to turn time back a billion years, events might take a quite different cause. Humans might not have evolved at all, for example. Or a thousand different things might have happened. Impossible to tell. Anyway, that's how I see things. Chaos, not order, rules the universe. view post

Another looong reply... posted 05 May 2005, 16:05 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Randal, Auditor

This thread seems to generate long, [i:38bsuyj2]long[/i:38bsuyj2] replies. Hardly surprising, given the fact that libraries have been filled with this subject matter, and will undoubtedly continue to be filled. Incidentally, you still haven't told me where you stand in the debate. General "first cause" god, or Omni-everything God with a capital G? From your reference to prayer experiences, I infer the latter, but I'd still be interested to know your denomination, even if it's just out of curiosity. Are you a Christian? Muslim? Roman Catholic, Anglican, Remonstrant, Lutheran, Mormon, generic believer? (Hey, that was the original point of this thread, wasn't it?) [b:38bsuyj2]Chaos and the universe[/b:38bsuyj2] [quote:38bsuyj2]If chaos rules the universe, then basing your belief system entirely on what is scientifically provable seems a bit iffy... you will only believe what can be scientifically verified but you seem to in the same breath negate the very possibility of anything being scientifically verifiable at all, in the sense that anything which appears to be verifiable on earth from our perspective, might be completely limited to our planet, our speck of the galaxy, this instant in time and so forth. So that science cannot really tell us anything except that here on this earth, such and such seems to occur with frequency.[/quote:38bsuyj2] Well, I don't so much believe that chaos rules the universe here and now, as that the universe arose out of chaos. (quantum mess out of which big bang arose) I think our "laws of nature" apply to the physical universe as a whole, but that it is entirely possible that other universes with different laws of nature could exist, and perhaps even do, and that our laws of nature will at some point cease to apply as the universe reverts to entropy. Perhaps there exceptions to the laws of nature even within this universe. (Black holes? Wormholes? Weird stuff?) Moreover, even if things arise from random effects, this does not mean they are completely unpredictable. There still is probability. Even though the result of a dice roll is random, if you roll a million dice it's fairly safe to predict the average score will be 3,5. But I do admit that this gets rather far into quantum physics and other stuff I do not understand myself. In the end, everybody has to accept some things he's told by other people as truth, as you can't check everything yourself. In my case, I'll accept physics. [quote:38bsuyj2]I am very curious about your idea that the laws of nature are only descriptive of what matter does, and are not necessary. If they are descriptive only then what can possibly be causing matter to behave in certain ways?[/quote:38bsuyj2] Mostly, I see the same thing you do, but from a slightly different angle. You say "matter behaves in a certain way because of the (god imposed?) laws of nature." I say "Out of the big bang arose matter that behaves in a certain way. The way it behaves is described by the laws of nature." In other words, the laws of nature do not precede matter. You can't have the laws without matter, it'd be meaningless. "Before" the big bang (there is no before, time is a dimension of the universe) the laws of nature as we see them would have been meaningless. Like the idea of a time "before" the big bang. But as I said, I do not completely understand this stuff. I ought perhaps to read up on it. [b:38bsuyj2]The blind watchmaker, trial and error[/b:38bsuyj2] [quote:38bsuyj2]incidentally, when you say that humans are a product of mere trial and error, isn't it curious that you are using language best suited to describing how an intelligent process would create something? I realize it is just a consequence of language, but i'm sure you will agree that it is non-sense to speak of trial and error unless one is intentially seeking to produce a particular outcome (which in your world view is impossible in respect of the origin of humans). [/quote:38bsuyj2] No, not really. "Trial and error" presupposes a [i:38bsuyj2]goal[/i:38bsuyj2]. But it does not presuppose an [i:38bsuyj2]intelligence.[/i:38bsuyj2] You can have a goal without intelligence. Take the example of a evolution. If anything is trial and error, evolution is. And the goal is clear: reproduce yourself, maintain the species. This goal is nor formulated by any intelligence, it simply arises because anything [i:38bsuyj2]without[/i:38bsuyj2] that goal would cease to exist. Anything not good enough at achieving that goal ceases to exist. Etc. So, it is quite possible to seek to produce a particular outcome without having any intelligence interfering whatsoever. Therefore, the existence of a human does not presuppose the existence of a "humanmaker." This becomes clear when examining a human more closely. We don't appear to be designed. A clever, let alone omniscient designer could make something far more efficient than a human, without, tailbones, appendixes, ingrown toenails or dementia. All these things do not interfere with reproduction whatsoever, and therefore are not weeded out by evolution. An intelligent designer probably would have fixed these problems/redundancies and a thousand more. Note that the "desired outcome" here is not "to design a human being" and that were one to start evolution all over, we could well end up with entirely different creatures. Say, sentient dinosaurs. Or no sentient beings at all. Or something even weirder. [b:38bsuyj2]Efficacy of prayer[/b:38bsuyj2] Yes, you're right on that. Prayer and religion undoubtedly helps many people. (which is one reason I never try to dissuade people from their faith. Just defend my own lack of it.) For the effects of prayer to be evidence of the existence of a god, it would not just need to be effective, it would need to be more effective than belief in a witch doctor, new age healing guru or a placebo. But not only can this effect be explained away via psychology, for me it actually is another reason to disbelieve the existence of god. Because, if belief helps you live longer and healthier and increases mental health, it explains nicely why so many humans are religious. It's an evolutionary advantage, that's why. [b:38bsuyj2]Evidence for God[/b:38bsuyj2] [quote:38bsuyj2]I suspect Randal that what you would require would be something massive. Something so undeniably God-sent that it would overwhelm you entirely. And it would not do for it to have occured in the past!{snip}[/quote:38bsuyj2] As I stated, what would be required for me to believe in a god, depends on the kind of god. For me to believe in the Christian god would indeed require... if not something massive, more something... definite. Unambiguous. Preferably in a laboratory. Unlikely to happen, I know. And stories in the bible do indeed not qualify. Besides the doubts about the bible's origin and veracity, there's Clarke's law: any technology sufficiently advanced appears as magic to the beholder. (Or any natural phenomena sufficiently complicated.) Whilst the rise of christianity is certainly remarkable, it is by no means supernatural. In that time and age, there was a wide dissatisfaction with the established religion, and hundreds of mystery cults arose. One thrived, in part because of Constantine's conversion, but christianity really was just a sign of the times in my eyes. Fanatics always have existed, and probably always will. Other religions have their saints and martyrs. Does that prove them true? [b:38bsuyj2]The Eternal Sceptic, or an Open Mind on Religion[/b:38bsuyj2] [quote:38bsuyj2] But who can answer the eternal sceptic? I guarantee that there is nothing i could write which you could not dismiss as mere coincidence or as certainly explainable though we don't quite know how, or as historical puffery. [/quote:38bsuyj2] Yes, that's fair enough. I try to keep an open mind on most things, but I do not think there's anything you can say to convince me to become a christian. (Although I might just be persuaded of the possibility of a "first cause" god.) Not only because of the points discussed in this thread, but because there are dozens of other reasons why I do not believe in the Christian god. I do not think I could believe in him if my life depended on it. (and according to christians, it does. Now there's a pity.) And, also because I was raised an atheist and a sceptic. Much though I would like to believe my position is entirely and completely rational, I'm too much of a sceptic to believe that either. Education and indoctrination are of immense influence in these things. It's kinda hard to be a christian when you've been dismissively told by your mother from age 4 onwards that religion is "a story some other people believe is true. But don't tell them that, it might upset them." when you asked about what god is. That doesn't mean I haven't looked at the questions carefully myself when I was older, and tried to form my own conclusions as much as possible. But one does not shake off one's background entirely, as you said in your reply to Cynader. Finally, I think there was recent research that indicates there exists a genetic predisposition for or against religion. Some people are simply born sceptics, or the opposite. We all strive to keep an open mind (or so I hope) but where religion is concerned, this is rarely achieved. There is no definite answer in this debate. If there was, all sceptics would have been converted a century ago, or religion would have ceased to exist. I think it would be safe to state that this is equally true for you, Andrew. Do you think there is anything I could say to you that would make you renounce your faith? Me, a stranger over the internet? I do not particularly care to try, as your beliefs are really your own business, but if I were a particular rabid brand of atheist hell-bent on denouncing the "misguided religious fools" I doubt I would have much success. Why don't you answer the same question I did, but the other way around? [b:38bsuyj2][color=red:38bsuyj2]What would make you stop believing in God and become an atheist?[/color:38bsuyj2][/b:38bsuyj2] view post

posted 25 May 2005, 10:05 in The Darkness That Comes Beforekellhus == good guy?? by Randal, Auditor

I'd be willing to bet Kellhus is evil from the Three Seas viewpoint, too. He himself probably disagrees with the very notion of "good" or "evil." And whilst his people might well admire Cnaiur for his savagery in battle, (for which I do not condemn him either) they still think him a monster for what he did to his father. But yes, it's perhaps not the most interesting question to ask whether in this time and age Kellhus or Cnaiur would be evil. In any case, that wasn't my point. The point was, whether he works for some strange good or evil or nothing at all, Kellhus [i:wwtdqrh8]scares[/i:wwtdqrh8] me. Much more than Cnaiur, who may be a psychotic bastard, but at least is fundamentally human in the dispicable deeds he commits. And I think this is a testament to R. Scott Bakker's writing skills, for I've never encountered any villain who scared me half as much as Kellhus, be it in literature or movies. Even if it turns out he's working for the greater good all along, I'll hate and fear him. view post

posted 15 Jun 2005, 14:06 in Philosophy DiscussionConspiration theory by Randal, Auditor

Yes. It's called S.P.E.C.T.R.E. and is led by a mysterious "number 1" who owns a white cat with long fur. No, I don't... world politics are far too muddled and ineffectual to be anything but thousands upon thousands of bureaucrats working diligently to preserve their own jobs. Oh, and lobby groups. Those are powerful too, but they're hardly conspiracies. And politicians. They have some power too, but only for a short while. So they generally try to create a big mess during their term of office, so their name at least will be remembered. No, I don't really believe that either... I'm not that cynical. But I sometimes fear it's at least partially true. view post

posted 16 Jun 2005, 12:06 in The Darkness That Comes BeforeYour favourite character? by Randal, Auditor

There are two questions in there. So there's got to be two answers. Firstly, the poll question: who do you identify with. That's Akka. He's one of the few truly human and likable characters in the books. On of the few you can (or I can) indeed identify with. But the question in the topic, "who is your favourite character", gets a different answer. A favourite character is one I love to read about. An [i:2ijz2ccf]interesting[/i:2ijz2ccf] character, and sorry Akka, you're a nice guy, but not that interesting compared to the people around you. The obvious answer to this answer would be Kellhus, who is one of the most interesting characters ever seen in fantasy literature. (and probably mainstream literature as well.) But in the end, I'd answer Conphas, because whilst perhaps not quite as interesting, he's more fun to read about. Oh, and I think the poll is lacking in choices. Where is our favourite bloodthirsty savage barbarian, for one? view post

posted 17 Jun 2005, 23:06 in The Darkness That Comes BeforeYour less favourite characters by Randal, Auditor

Again, two questions here. Which character do you dislike reading about? And, Which character do you dislike as a 'person'? Anyway, the answer to both these questions is the same for me in this case. The old queen-mother. Or should that be empress-mother? She's utterly vile and disgusting, albeit in a more human way than the Consult. Which only serves to make her even more disturbing. And she's one of the few characters in literature who disgust me to the point of not wanting to read about them either. At least she's a radical reversal of the mother-figure stereotype. view post

posted 21 Jun 2005, 01:06 in Author Q & AThis time I got a question... by Randal, Auditor

I too found this series thanks to Ran's ezboard forum, and the many great reviews posted there. Word of mouth does seem to be effective.... (trying to convert my friends too.) Anyway, right now here in the Netherlands the mass market paperback has just been released, and I must say that all the bookstores I've visited these past couple of weeks are stuffed with your book. Piles of them everywhere, in the most prominent places. Even the tiny railroad station book stores I've visited stock TDTCBF, and their amount of English language books is limited to a half-dozen shelves... I don't know how the sales are going, of course, but apparently your book is seen as something big by by the stores here in the Netherlands. view post

posted 21 Jun 2005, 01:06 in Literature DiscussionWhat science-fiction and/or fantasy series do you prefer? by Randal, Auditor

Out of these? Sadly enough, I end up with the Hitchhikers guide. Oh, don't get me wrong. It's a great book, especially the first few are very funny. But I really don't care about it all that much... Problem is, I never read Vance's or LeGuin's series... pretty hard to find, in the Netherlands at least. Those might be better from what I've heard. Never read Constantine, Hamilton, Asimov or Moorcock either. Same reason. Except Asimov, whose writing I can't stomach. Williams was good enough, but the series dragged. It devolved into too many meaningless sideplots. And [i:19r4czq1]how[/i:19r4czq1] many times can main characters get kidnapped/seperated? Bradley's avalon was... well, enjoyable, despite all the weird new-age mysticism and proto-feminism. Never bothered with the books after Mists, though. Leiber was a fun yarn, but it isn't my thing. Sword and sorcery doesn't really interest me, even if this particular version was well done. So, that leaves Adams. But I should note again that I do not rate his series anywhere near my favourites. view post

posted 21 Jun 2005, 18:06 in Philosophy DiscussionWhat happens when your soul leaves your body? by Randal, Auditor

If "something" survived, they wouldn't call it [i:14cjse6l]death[/i:14cjse6l], now would they? Anyway, that's why I voted four... comes closest to the p.o.v. that death means just that. view post

posted 01 Jul 2005, 10:07 in Philosophy DiscussionAMERICAN POLITICS... by Randal, Auditor

[quote:sthyz2ap] Personally I do not want to hand most of my money over to the government and have them take care of me. Thomas Jefferson once stated that if the government has the power to give you food, clothing and shelter they also have the power to take it away[/quote:sthyz2ap] That's not quite what a social democracy is about... Yes, you pay more taxes than the Americans do. But it's not "most of your money" (here in Holland at least, effective taxation would be between 30 and 40% of total income at most. Still a bloody lot.) and you are not "taken care of" by the government. You are not given food, clothing or shelter normally. And so nobody can take it away either. The richer people live in privately owned houses, have private healthcare insurance, etc. What the system is all about is providing a safety net for those who would otherwise fall through the cracks of society. If you suffer from a chronic disease, it will be treated no matter how much money you have. If you lose your job, your children can still go to college. Of course, the system can be (and is) abused. There are unfair rules, too. Sometimes, for example, a low-end job will pay no more than you'd get from the state if you're unemployed. But basically the system is about reducing inequality and righting injustices. It's about making sure those who are unfortunate enough not to have highly marketable skills in the modern world will not suffer for it more than is inevitable. Of course, you can take the line that every human gets what he/she deserves, and that the poor have either brought it onto themselves or just have "tough luck". But this has been discussed earlier in the thread, and suffice to say most people here would disagree. Hence our system of government. And as for scary governemnt powers? Hah. In the U.S., perhaps. You have presidents with great powers which could conceivably be abused. But in Holland, I'm much more afraid of the government's incompetence and inertia than any plans to establish a dictatorship. With a dozen opposed political parties and evershifting coalitions and no rule safe by consensus, there is no such thing as "the" government which could seize power. That would require all the politicians unite towards a single common goal, and that won't happen this millennium. (as for your examples: Stalin is a bad one, he simply inherited and consolidated Lenin's power. Russia never was a democracy. Hitler and such did seize power, but they could only succeed because most of the populace [i:sthyz2ap]wanted[/i:sthyz2ap] a strongman to take over and set things to right.) view post

posted 08 Aug 2005, 20:08 in The Darkness That Comes Beforekellhus == good guy?? by Randal, Auditor

For me, to say I "like" Cnaiur would definitely be going too far. He's a murderous bastard. It's more like I'll cheer for anybody who tries to oppose Kelhus. As I said in my first post, I don't find it all that relevant whether one would call Kelhus "good" or "evil." What's relevant is him being completely alien to "normal" humans, and incredibly dangerous to them. Let me put it this way: if I were one of the people in the Three Seas and knew what I do now about Kelhus' nature, I would turn all my resources towards destroying him before all of us are enslaved. And if that would be impossible, I'd run until I'd put as much distance between me and him as possible. view post

posted 08 Aug 2005, 20:08 in The Darkness That Comes BeforeYour less favourite characters by Randal, Auditor

Strange. That's the very reason I enjoy reading about him. Although, indeeed, he's not someone you would ever want to get to know... view post

posted 09 Aug 2005, 20:08 in The Darkness That Comes Beforekellhus == good guy?? by Randal, Auditor

There are ways... I would never go up against the guy personally, of course. But if I were a noble of some kind, or otherwise in the position to hire assassins, there are ways. Dunyain training avails not when your food is poisoned... as far as I know. Or an assassin could simply wait until he's in the middle of a crowd (and hence suffers from an information overflow, and won't be able to notice everything) and shoot him with a poisoned crossbowbolt. Or stick a poisoned knife in him whilst his back is turned. view post

posted 09 Aug 2005, 20:08 in Philosophy DiscussionBattleground God by Randal, Auditor

That's not what they mean by that assertion. Of course (a hypothetical, omnipotent) God could change earthly language so that 4 means 5 and 5 means 4. What they mean by that question is, would a God be able to change the laws of [i:2gbsebfp]logic[/i:2gbsebfp], not of language. So, could he state that 2 and 2 make 4, but 4 minus 2 makes 1? (no matter how you change the definition of numbers, that remains illogical.) view post

posted 10 Aug 2005, 09:08 in Philosophy DiscussionBattleground God by Randal, Auditor

Yes, the test is a bit annoying with that question. Basically, if you answer that a god ought to be able to do anything, you're screwed when this question comes along, iirc. If you answer he can't change the laws of logic, you take a hit, because then he can't do [i:2pbadzq8]everything.[/i:2pbadzq8] But if you say he [i:2pbadzq8]can[/i:2pbadzq8] change the laws of logic, you bite a bullet, because that means logical, rational discussion about this god is basically impossible. view post

posted 12 Aug 2005, 16:08 in Literature DiscussionFeast for Crows due this Summer by Randal, Auditor

No, FFC does not take place 5 years after SoS.. Martin originally planned to use this "five year gap" to allow the younger characters to mature a bit, but it didn't work. Half of Dance of Dragons would have been flashbacks showing what happened in the intervening time. This would have felt both boring and contrived, or so he apparently judged, and the idea was abandoned. This is part of the reason whilst it took him so long to write this book... halfway through, he started from scratch, more or less. view post

posted 07 Sep 2005, 23:09 in Philosophy DiscussionWhat happens when your soul leaves your body? by Randal, Auditor

[quote:6tiugkfq] i'm under the impression that energy can't be destroyed, only converted to another kind of that correct? if that's correct, where does my "energy" go? or does the body just stop "making" the energy?[/quote:6tiugkfq] What is your "energy"? Your body, of course, contains lots of energy in it's mass. But it's quite obvious what happens to it. It decays, and is re-used in the world. Your worm-birdies-whatever scheme. As well as nutrition for the soil, of course. However, I probably wouldn't define mind and personality as energy. Rather, as the way your energy is ordered and stored. Information contained in matter. And that information, your knowledge and personality, can be lost if the system that sustains it fails. So, your body's "energy" remains, in different forms. But that's just the bits and pieces we're made of. What we see as the "self"; memory, personality, talents, desires... that just ceases to have meaning as soon as the body dies. Nothing remains to show it ever existed, save the memories of others and the things we wrought in life. Anyway, that's how I see things. If you start adding "souls" and other more esoteric terms to the discussion, things become a lot more complicated, and one can do little more than speculate, pure and simple. Suffice to say, the world makes more sense to me without them. view post

posted 09 Sep 2005, 14:09 in Off-Topic DiscussionWhat kind of flame warrior are you? by Randal, Auditor

Atheism is not a belief... but for some people it does become an article of faith. And it's fair to say the type here described does "hold fervent beliefs about religion." Such as "All religion is evil" and "religion ought to be banned." view post

posted 11 Sep 2005, 20:09 in Off-Topic DiscussionWhat kind of flame warrior are you? by Randal, Auditor

Quibbling about the semantics aside, the observation from the website is astute. (although not new) Some atheists are as fanatical about propagating their worldview as any fervent believer. view post

posted 12 Sep 2005, 10:09 in Off-Topic DiscussionWhat kind of flame warrior are you? by Randal, Auditor

We're not talking world politics here, c'mon. :roll: We're talking about people having flamewars on [i:ea5l6u0d]internet messageboards.[/i:ea5l6u0d] Do you claim only believers flame? In the grander scheme of things, you're right. Atheists as a group generally have not tried to violently convert others to their worldview. Several reasons for this spring to mind. Firstly, there's less of them. Secondly, they haven't been around for nearly as long a time as the religious peeps. (at least not in sufficient numbers) And thirdly, they just don't care enough. Which I suppose is your point, and which I'll be happy to grant. Most atheists, myself included, deem it ultimately unimportant what others believe, because it's just all fairy tales anyway. Hence even the most fanatical do not go around condemning and killing people for having different beliefs. And even if they do, this is not motivated by atheism, but by some other ideal they uphold. (communism comes to mind. RAF, anyone?) All of which doesn't change my position a bit in the smaller scheme of things. The description on the flamewarriors website was correct and not prejudiced, for or against atheists. view post

posted 13 Sep 2005, 14:09 in Off-Topic DiscussionWhat kind of flame warrior are you? by Randal, Auditor

Apathy isn't a requirement. In fact, I believe several definitions of atheism are used. There's strong atheism (the existence of god is logically impossible) and weak atheism (I don't believe in a god.) You could of course claim only the second of these is "proper" atheism and the first in actuality is a religious belief. I'd disagree, providing the "strong" atheism isn't posed as a general philosophy but rather turned against one or more specific examples of religions. ("The existence of the christian god as defined by denomination X is logically impossible") Even if I accept your definition, it's perfectly possible to have fanatical atheists. I only need claim they're not fanatical about their atheism, they're fanatically opposed to others' religion. They don't feel compelled to spread their doctrines. They feel compelled to denounce what they see as false doctrines. Semantics, true. But I like semantics. view post

posted 10 Oct 2005, 20:10 in Literature DiscussionA Game of Thrones by Randal, Auditor

I wholeheartedly agree. I know of no series that I've reread more often and with more pleasure. I like Ned's story arc, for example, far more knowing the tragic end approaching. I think it's even safe to say that whilst I liked the series a lot on my first read, I only came to truly love it once I re-read it and started to pay real attention to all the manifold intricacies of plot and character. view post

posted 10 Oct 2005, 20:10 in Philosophy DiscussionWhat happens when your soul leaves your body? by Randal, Auditor

What happens when your soul leaves your body? It gets eaten by a Grue. ... ... Sorry. I don't rightly know why I posted that. view post

posted 09 Nov 2005, 00:11 in Interviews and ReviewsNew wotmania Interview with Scott, Part I by Randal, Auditor

You know, I usually enjoy reading interviews for the insights they provide in the author and his works. With Bakker, though, they make me question the basic assumptions of my life. And pets [i:kxk298wm]are[/i:kxk298wm] little people. Really! I'm convinced of it! :? view post

posted 25 Jan 2006, 13:01 in ReviewsReveiw of The Last Kingdom - Bernard Cornwell by Randal, Auditor

Whilst I loved Bernard Cornwell's Arthurian series, I don't think this one was quite up to par. Not necessarily written worse, mind. But it felt way too similar to the Arthur series. The main character in particular resembled Derfel a lot. I find this to be something of a problem with much of Cornwell's work. It gets derivative of itself. Only the Warlord Chronicles transcended this and became truly good in it's own right. Oh, and can a moderator [i:r9tjozio]please[/i:r9tjozio] delete the preceding spam post? view post

posted 25 Jan 2006, 13:01 in Literature DiscussionHis Dark Materials series by Randal, Auditor

I did, some years ago. Even though it's supposed to be a children's book, it's one of the better written and more thoughtful works of fantasy literature out there and I liked it a lot. The first book especially was a marvel of atmosphere and characterisation. In the later two though, Pullman's agenda started to dominate, and this in my mind detracted from the series as a whole. Even though I liked the theme, a more subtle approach would have been better, I think. Still, a very good series. The ending to the final book was very sad and moving. view post

posted 08 Feb 2006, 01:02 in Off-Topic DiscussionWhat book or book series reminds you most of PON by Randal, Auditor

No, the main difference between these two characters would be their [i:cim7lnzh]character[/i:cim7lnzh]. Whilst some of their circumstances may be vaguely similar, there couldn't be two more different people in the world. Aragorn is dutiful, honourable, proud, noble, goody-goody. He seems to have little motivation or character in the book, mostly because he's meant to be an archetype and is only seen from the outside. (The whole Arwen story only features in the appendix) Kellhus is... rational, a genius, callous, cold, ruthless. He doesn't have a kind bone in his body, or an honourable one. He will do anything, anything at all to achieve his goal. Had Kellhus found the ring... do you honestly think he wouldn't have used it? He'd have trusted to his Dunyain conditioning to resist the mindcontrol, and who knows, he might have succeeded. (Note: this assessment of Kellhus is pre-TTT, as I haven't read that yet. Maybe he changes. I doubt it, though.) view post

posted 13 Mar 2006, 00:03 in Philosophy DiscussionDrugs by Randal, Auditor

I've solved many problems in dreams. If I dream, everything becomes clear. I can be the cleverest man in the world. The solutions jump from my fingertips without the slightest effort. And then I wake up, and I discover all those marvellous solutions I thought up make about as much sense as tax law. Although I've never used drugs, I suspect your solutions were of the same ephemeral quality, even if you had been able to remember them. I suppose an artist could create something whilst stoned. Apparently, Coleridge wrote his Kublai Khan whilst under the influence of opium, and never finished it when the buzz wore off. But I doubt more... practical issues can be solved by using such "geestverruimende middelen". (litterally, mind-enlarging substances. Though mind-blowing might also be appropriate) view post

posted 17 Mar 2006, 13:03 in Philosophy Discussionignorance or enlightenment ? by Randal, Auditor

I'd rather have the knowledge than the ignorance. But conversely, I'd rather not be depressed either. Hmm... If I was certain the knowledge would make me depressed forever and it wouldn't help me do anything about the problems, I think I'd opt for ignorance. Fortunately, for me having knowledge of how the world sucks doesn't lead to depression. (I just don't care enough, I guess. Too distant a pain.) The person who gets depressed forever when he knows how bad things are isn't me. So, in real life I'd chose knowledge, and deal with the consequences. view post

posted 17 Mar 2006, 13:03 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Randal, Auditor

[quote:2ijvtyzx]because, his existance, and the status of Jesus as his son, simply makes sense(ask me why, I dare you)[/quote:2ijvtyzx] Why? :twisted: As for the division between believers/nonbelievers rather than between good people and bad people deciding one's fate after death... that's one interpretation of Christianity I could never subscribe to even if I did believe in the truth of their teachings. It just strikes me as an unjust us-against-them mentality... it doesn't really bother me, as to me it's just a tale, but I don't really like the people who tend to subscribe to ideas like this either. view post

posted 17 Mar 2006, 13:03 in Philosophy DiscussionNuclear Power by Randal, Auditor

Windmills are butt-ugly, they really ruin the landscape. They're not a very reliable source of power either, you'll still need a backup powerplant for when there isn't any wind. You also need tons of them for our modern power needs. Solar energy seems like a better bet to me... they're already making cells that during daylight hours even if it's clouded or rainy. Not economically viable yet, but we're getting there. Less ugly, too. Nuclear energy seems like the best bet for the moment, but I just read about a M.I.T. report that concluded nuclear power shouldn't be used at the moment, or only used in the least efficient way possible with un-enriched unranium, because they fear terrorists getting their hands on plutionium otherwise... That makes no sense whatsoever to me. Surely we can't let our economy be crippled by the sheer potential of a terrorist attack? And surely even if we don't build uranium enriching plants, people could get plutionium from Russia or somewhere? view post

posted 17 Mar 2006, 19:03 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Randal, Auditor

EoC: I suppose that answers my question... sort of. I'll agree that having faith in something won't hurt. (unless it's used to justify crimes/hate/discrimination/whatever) Not sure it's a positive trait either, though that's neither here nor there. But I couldn't for the life of me understand it. Sure, have faith in something. But [i:2eaog473]how the hell[/i:2eaog473] would one do that? If you offered me a billion euros if I'd just believe in god, or Zeus, or psychic powers, or anything... I couldn't. I wouldn't even know where to begin. It boggles my mind, really, this concept of faith. Intellectually accepting the possibility of some "prime mover" godlike being is one thing, but I can't actually believe anything supernatural exists unless someone shows me at least some half-decent evidence. I seem to recall some research that indicated that religiosity is (at least in part) a hereditary trait. If that's so, I ended up without any of it. Can't say that I mind, though the concept of religion does intrigue me to no end just because it's so unfathomable to me. view post

posted 17 Mar 2006, 20:03 in Philosophy DiscussionNuclear Power by Randal, Auditor

I'd argue oil actually is one of the greatest energy sources out there... you can simply pump it up from the ground and burn it! Cheap, reliable, effective, versatile, used in thousands of chemicals and synthethic materials... oil's the greatest thing since the invention of alcohol! If anything gave us the world we have now... it's oil. Our civilisation is distinguished from previous ones by one thing only: we no longer rely for our power needs on the muscle of man and beast. All else is contingent. And oil is what made it happen. Problem is, we're running out. If not for that one, our economy would continue to be oil-based for centuries. Unless they finally get the fushion thang working. view post

posted 17 Mar 2006, 20:03 in Off-Topic DiscussionHow did you get your username? by Randal, Auditor

Perhaps because "enforcer" doesn't sound like a traditional femine profession? Gramatically speaking it may be gender-neutral, but I do not think the connotations are. (yet?) It's like "cop." One sees plenty of female police officers on the streets nowadays, but if someone says "cop" most people will still think of a man. The same goes for Xray. X-ray = science = male. It may not be pretty, but such still is the popular perception. As for my name... take a wild guess. view post

posted 18 Mar 2006, 10:03 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Randal, Auditor

I didn't know that was such a rare word... sounded right. (then again, English isn't my native language) As for faith... there are a few things I believe that have no real rational basis. (okay, probably more than a few if I take a real close look.) But I don't think stuff like putting money on the bank is "having faith." Yes, the bank can fold, but that happens very, very rarely. Banks like these have existed for a century or more without problems, and if they were threatening to collapse there would be warnings. It's possible something unexpected will happen and all the money will dissappear. But it's not very likely, so it's more sensible to put the money on the bank for the sake of convenience and interest than it is to keep it in an old sock under your pillow. After all, there are risks no matter what you do, the house might burn down or get burgled. The bank poses the safest option. But for other things, yes, there is stuff I take on faith. I believe people are to be trusted, untill they prove otherwise. I believe in progress. I believe our current world is better than the one of a hundred years ago, and that the one in a hundred years will be better still. I believe altruism is worthwile in and of itself, without any external incentive. I believe these things and more, not because of any real evidence that shows them to be so, but because I think the world is a better place to live in if people believe things like these, and because the alternatives are either a scepticism so extreme it's crippling, or another set of equally unwarranted assumptions. I'll chose the optimistic ones, in such a case. Still, none of that enables me to suspend disbelief far enough to accept the existence of God, or Zeus, or psychics, or government conspiracies. view post

posted 18 Mar 2006, 10:03 in Philosophy DiscussionNuclear Power by Randal, Auditor

What the hell is saint Patrick's day anyway? Even google went all green and fuzzy... Anyway, anti-matter is a nice dream, but for the moment no more than that, I think. From what I recall, laboratories can produce one or two atoms and hold them stable in extremely strong electromagnetic fields only. There's no way to generate the stuff that doesn't take more energy than it would produce, and no way to store it in a usable form, as far as I'm aware. (of course, this is from the top of my head and may be completely wrong) Fusion is a better bet, I think. It may not have a 100% conversion rate, but it's plenty good regardless. Deuterium isn't a rare resource, fusion power would keep the light bulbs lit well past the next millennium. As for oil causing pollution... well, not as much as coal. And we're making far less polluting engines nowadays than we did three decades ago. (except in America, where everyone still drives gas-guzzling tanks for no good reason I can discern...) view post

posted 18 Mar 2006, 16:03 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Randal, Auditor

Shh, not so loud. The evil black helicopters are listening. Anyway, on the big bang I think you're missing the point, slightly. Nobody ever said it's the "author of life" or something. It did not "create life" either. Rather, a better way to state things would be: The evidence we currently have seems to indicate that the universe, as we know it, began with what is commonly called the "big bang." The big bang is the beginning of the universe, it didn't create anything, it doesn't explain where we come from or where we're going. It's simply something important that happened a long time ago. (quite literally, at the beginning of time.) It's the "how" rather than the "why." Science doesn't answer "why". As for the the odds of creating life being astronomical... well, how do you know that? It seems quite likely to me that given the size of the universe and the time it has existed, the odds of creating life are pretty good. We haven't quite recreated life yet in our laboratories, but we're getting there. I would be very much surprised if there were no alien life forms in different part of the universe. And anyway, even if the odds were small, that doesn't prove there's a guiding principle behind it. Sometimes things happen against the odds. Or perhaps there were a couple billion universes before this one with no life in them, only we don't know that because there was nothing to observe them. What came before the big bang? Now, that's where science calls it a day, shrugs, and admits total ignorance. There are a couple of hypotheses out there, I believe. Superstring theory posits something existing prior to the big bang, iirc. But I'm very hazy on this, and anyway that superstring stuff is about as esotheric as science gets. At this point in the discussion, I say we don't know, and possibly cannot know. Maybe in a few centuries someone will come up with a good explanation... maybe. Thing is, adding "god" or a "prime mover" to the equation doesn't help answer this question. It merely replaces the difficult question "what came before the big bang" with the equally impossible "where does god come from". And even if that question somehow doesn't bother you, this is the god of the gaps. The big bang may be the biggest gap we have, but saying Goddidit just because we can't find another explanation isn't very sensible, in my opinion. It didn't work for explaining thunderstorms or earthquakes, and it probably won't work here either. view post

posted 18 Mar 2006, 17:03 in Author Q & AReaders Choice Awards by Randal, Auditor

Huzzah! I'll quote Stegoking from over on the Westeros forum: "Scott Bakker is the best kept secret in speculative fiction." Hopefully, this means the tide is changing. view post

posted 19 Mar 2006, 22:03 in Literature DiscussionEddings by Randal, Auditor

[quote:3r0niq9a]Sophie on the Westeros forum: I read an Eddings book once. From what I recall, the book can be summed up thus: "Reformed thief achieves nirvana after having sex with his cat". It was called 'The Redemption of Althalus". I don't think 'Althalus' was the cat.[/quote:3r0niq9a] I've read a few of Eddings books a long time ago (okay, not that long a time ago really) and they were quite funny and entertaining. But the writing itself isn't that good, nor is the characterisation and the plots repeat themselves. Nowadays I would never spend time on an Eddings book, nor will I ever re-read one. As for worldbuilding... well, let's just say that Eddings' non-fiction book on this subject was rates amongst the most hiliarious things I've ever read... unintentionally. It's so contrived it becomes silly. Edited to fix tags and spelling. view post

posted 20 Mar 2006, 09:03 in Literature DiscussionNeeding some good suggestions. by Randal, Auditor

Most of the truly good fantasy series have been mentioned, besides Robin Hobb. Her Farseer trilogy is truly one of the greats. It shines the most in the characterisation department, and doesn't have as much action or pyrotechnics as Bakker (and not nearly as much as Erikson, thank god.) As for Erikson... I like the books well enough, but I understand the mixed reviews. He's big on the very powerful characters and super-powered battles with gods and all, and armies being killed by individuals. This turns some people off. Besides that, his characterisation is fairly weak and his plotting is sometimes confusing, though both of those are getting better in later books. view post

posted 20 Mar 2006, 20:03 in Literature DiscussionEddings by Randal, Auditor

The worldbuilding... decent? All the nations are based on one "trademark". One is a copy of the Roman empire and has sneaky politics. One is all merchants. One is all noble knights and opressed serfs. And characters from those nations are simply examples of the stereotypes used to establish the nation's character. Sorry, I call the worldbuilding bad. The books have their positive traits, but worldbuilding is not it. view post

posted 20 Mar 2006, 20:03 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Randal, Auditor

Made sense to me, and I agree with what you said. Though some of the more far-out hypothesises actually do say something about existence prior to the Big Bang. Superstring theory, I believe. (But I don't know jack about that.) It's not much more than speculation, though. view post

posted 21 Mar 2006, 02:03 in Off-Topic DiscussionPoll: What would you be in prince of nothing? by Randal, Auditor

In all likelyhood, I'd be a penniless peasant toiling my life away in some three-hovel village in the middle of nowhere. Even more likely, I'd have died at birth. But if I can choose, things get more interesting. Hmm... schoolmen have all this power, tempting. The more intellectual pursuits would also be more suitable for schoolmen. But the part where you are tainted and branded a sinner doesn't really suit me. Nor do the power struggles and the inter-faction wars. I'd probably choose to be a relatively minor noble somewhere. Rich enough to live comfortably and do as I please, insignificant enough not to get pulled under in some political game. Edit: I voted royalty as that's closest, but I wouldn't actually want to be royalty. Too many threats, and I don't care for having that much responsibility either. view post

posted 21 Mar 2006, 02:03 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Randal, Auditor

Pfff. That won't offend anyone. There are plenty of people in this thread who have stated something to similar effect. At worst, you'll get people who disagree with you. I don't, except perhaps possibly about the metaphysics part. "Truths that can be realised by thinking about them" sounds a bit vague to me to warrant the label "truths." Me, I'd define it as "stuff we can only speculate about" view post

posted 21 Mar 2006, 11:03 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Randal, Auditor

Why on earth shouldn't it be right? I mean, it will help people, it will hurt no people, (barring the inevitable mishaps and screwups, but those also happen with regular medicine and when you cross the road in rush hour.) so what can one possibly say against it? (apart from religious arguments.) There are risks involved, certainly. Careful testing and being pretty damn sure just what the gene therapy is going to do before applying are mandatory. But again, this goes for anything in the medical sciences. Frankly, I don't see the problem with making superhumans either, if that is at all possible. Using genetic manipulation to make everybody smarter? Stronger? Healthier? Sounds great to me. What's the downside? Humans aren't the be-all end-all of life on earth. We're just one stop along the road of evolution, and there are quite a few flaws with the product so far. Some "intelligent design" would go a long way towards rectifying that. (if you pardon the very lame pun.) Genetics is the next big frontier. In the nineteenth century, it was chemistry and mechanics. In the twentieth, the massive step was electronics and computers. In the twentyfirst, we'll master the art of genetic manipulation, and gain control over life like we never had before. view post

posted 22 Mar 2006, 12:03 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Randal, Auditor

Whilst that is true, it also applies to almost any other innovation. How many medicines turned out to have additional side effects years after their introduction? How many years did scientists work with radium before they discovered the dangers of radioactivity? How many decades did we burn coal and oil before the ecological effects became apparent? The bottom line is that there are definitely risks involved in genetic engineering, as there is in any other new technology. We should certainly do our utmost to test these things and make them safe. But we cannot let the fear of possible future dangers cripple us into inaction. If something does come up in the future, surely people will then be able to discover a solution. view post

posted 23 Mar 2006, 00:03 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Randal, Auditor

I hadn't though of that, interesting. It's certainly possible that genetic engineering will further increase the differences between the rich and the poor if the rich are actually genetically enchanced by their parents. But I think this will not be a radical departure from the status quo. Right now, the upper class already has the advantage because their children receive better education, better nourishment. They already have a higher average intelligence than the lower classes, I suspect. In our current society, we try to combat this through systems like public schooling and scholarship grants. There's also the principle of equality before law, flawed though it may be in practice. Similar devices would have to be employed for the protection of the non-genetically enhanced in the future. Even so, it is possible this would cause far more bitter class struggles than we currently have. There's also the possibility of a religious backlash. All in all, increased inequality is a downside to genetical engineering, yes. Still, I don't think such troubles would last more than a couple of generations, nor do I think our current equal law system would collapse into a genetic caste society. view post

posted 26 Mar 2006, 21:03 in Philosophy DiscussionThe problem of evil by Randal, Auditor

The second one doesn't cut it, because it has "omnibenevolent" in the description. This makes for circular reasoning. Why is it good? Because god wants it, and god is good. Why is god good? Because he does good things. So, if one can't use this argument to determine that god is "good", it again becomes a matter of complete arbitrariness. Why is god good? Because. I also disagree slightly with your first statement. In a deterministic/materialistic/naturalistic/whatever universe with no ruling god, there isn't "no meaningful answer to the problem of evil." Rather, the "problem of evil" simply doesn't excist because it's perfectly logical that "good" things happen to "bad" people and vice versa if there's nothing in the universe that cares and the concepts themselves are made up by man. view post

posted 26 Mar 2006, 21:03 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Randal, Auditor

Yes, it does tend to keep the gap intact. But I doubt anything will ever break that down completely. Even when the communists in russia tried they ended up with stalinism instead. Then again, the division between the rich and the poor is much bigger in some places than in others. Here in Europe, things aren't so bad. Are you from the states? If so, that would go some way towards explaining our different outlooks as regarding this subject, I suspect. view post

posted 27 Mar 2006, 22:03 in Philosophy DiscussionThe problem of evil by Randal, Auditor

Re: Peter [quote:dzayqrsy]I disagree even more strongly with your idea that Good is arbitrary without god to define it.[/quote:dzayqrsy] I agree. I didn't state my point very clearly, I'm afraid. I believe good and evil are concepts thought up by man, but they're not arbitrary concepts. Rather, I meant that if "good" is defined as things god does, good is abitrary [i:dzayqrsy]with[/i:dzayqrsy] god to define it. See below. Re: Wil [quote:dzayqrsy] I think this isn't entirely fair. the idea that what God decides as good is good is not necessarily circular, after all it might simply be a property of God's that what he designates as something is that thing. So, God decides that charity is good, then it is good. God decides that what he does is good, then it is too. The circularity only works if we assume that it is good that God defines what is good before He decides that it is so.[/quote:dzayqrsy] This is more or less what I meant, but I didn't state it very clearly. My first statement is mistaken, it should have been "this makes for either circular reasoning, or makes morality completely arbitrary." The reasoning only is circular if one answers the question "why is god good?" with "because he does good things." In other words, if morality is defined by god, one cannot define god by using that same morality. To take your example: morality is defined by god. God decides charity is good, so it is good. But what if he had decided that charity is evil? That cruelty is good? By your definition, he can do that. Charity would [i:dzayqrsy]be[/i:dzayqrsy] evil, cruelty good. This means morality becomes arbitrary if it is defined merely by God's will. If god bases his decisions on morality not on his whims but on other arguments, then morality is no longer defined by god. It is based on whatever arguments god used in formulating his decisions. So, if one defines "good" as "stuff god does" one either has to use a circular argument, or make "good" and "evil" arbitrary concepts based on nothing but god's whim. Therefore, whether or not God exists I do not believe he defines morality. At the most, he will be comparable to a lawmaker, but laws are based on morality, not the other way around. God would have to obey the principles of good and evil just like the rest of us. (though he'd undoubtedly be much better at it, with the omniscience and all.) view post

posted 27 Mar 2006, 23:03 in Philosophy DiscussionThe problem of evil by Randal, Auditor

Because for many the definition of good and evil includes god. Anyway, selfishness-selflessness doesn't encompass the whole of what we see as "good" or "evil." Many selfish things aren't evil, they're just not nice. In fact, arguments can be made that all human action is inherently selfish, and that supposed "altruistic" acts in fact are done to please oneself at another level. view post

posted 28 Mar 2006, 00:03 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Randal, Auditor

I strongly doubt that. Different culture, absolutely. Different prejudices. But we have them just the same. Last year, my countrymen were burning down schools and mosques after one filmmaker got murdered by a fanatic... how's that for enlightenment? Our government is mostly ineffective, our healthcare is collapsing under it's own weight. Different problems, but there all the same. Re: Virus [quote:4tv5ym2h]I believe nature knows best. To circumvent the long process of evolution which cultivates the noble and strong-willed for a prepackaged version is an insult both to nature and mankind.[/quote:4tv5ym2h] I disagree with this one. Evolution is very effective at achieving its own goals, which is creating lifeforms that are good at reproducing. Humans take the top spot here, as evidenced by current overpopulation problems. But, as those same overpopulation problems prove, evolution is flawed too. It doesn't adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. Due to the ways it works it is unable to solve problems in the most efficient way, it can only take small steps. Problems that do not directly influence reproductive capability remain unadressed. Evolution creates rugged, jury-rigged organisms. But a smart engineer with the proper tools in a controlled environment like the one we live in can do a whole lot better. We're busy developing those tools. I strongly doubt genetic engineering would make people less responsible. No matter how good your genes, you still need to learn and to work hard to get anywhere. Talent is useless if not applied. Nor would it affect "mate selection", since people don't chose their "mates" based on their genes anyway. And there's still nurture versus nature.... no matter how good the gene make-up, without a good education and good parenting the child won't get far. I fail to see the relevance of abortion and crack binge sex to this debate. Finally, I agree with Dawnstorm that evolution doesn't cultivate the "strong willed and noble". It cultivates the smart and the rapid-breeding. Are rats strong-willed and noble? Are cockroaches? Society will always favour the strong-willed. Education and upbringing will always have to instill the ideals of nobility. Evolution has precious little to do with this. view post

posted 28 Mar 2006, 08:03 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Randal, Auditor

No, it's not. You claim evolution cultivates the strong willed and the noble. Then, when I bring up my rats and cockroaches example to prove that evolution does not in fact do so you express a fear that humanity is headed the direction of these creatures... that makes no sense. Cockroaches and rats evolved without any evil meddling with evolution, right? So they're strong willed and noble? If not, how is humanity different? How can evolution be flawed? Because it can only ever favour short-term advantages. Something that will only prove helpful generations down the line will never evolve. That's why our spines aren't suited for walking upright, and will give back-problems to vast quantities of people. That's why our eyes have blind spots. That's why there are tons of genetic disabilities and diseases, people born with defects so hideous they cannot survive for more than a couple of years or decades. Recessive traits survive a very long time even if they're disadvantageous. A human engineer can improve on problems such as these. Unlike evolution, which is a blind process, a human can see what he's doing, where he's going, what he wants to accomplish. He can attempt solutions far more ambitious than evoltion can, and far more quickly. And will evolution kill us of because of hubris? Ha! It's not a god or something... we have mastered the food chain. We might be decimated by some new disease, but other than that biological threats are few and far between. (and against diseases, genetic engineering may well prove the prime weapon) Man is far more likely to destroy himself with nuclear weapons or enviromental abuse than anything natural. view post

posted 28 Mar 2006, 18:03 in The Darkness That Comes BeforeBest character by Randal, Auditor

Methinks you've missed Akka's lessons. He's conflicted, he doubts, because he has seen where the belief you have the only "truth" leads one. He doubts because he knows that certitude only stems from ignorance. His dreams have no validity in and of themselves. They prove no more than Proyas or Inrau's religious fervour does. If he believed his point of view was the only valid one, and used the power of the Mandate to enforce that claim, he'd be as bad as the people he despises. He'd be as bad as the holy war. I admire him, because he has power, yet doesn't let that fact seduce him into thinking he's better than others, nor does it lead him to seek mastery over others. Akka shows that power need not corrupt, and doubt is his means of achieving that. view post

posted 28 Mar 2006, 22:03 in Philosophy DiscussionThe problem of evil by Randal, Auditor

I agree with your points, mostly, save that I do not agree that "good" defined as "god's will" actually constitutes "good" as normally understood or defined by humans. In fact, I do not see the need for the concepts of "good" or "evil" at all in this case. I'd argue there's merely "god's will" and "opposing god's will", where the former is deemed admirable, and the second is condemned. No good, no evil. No morality as such. Side note: which one was the ontological argument for god's existence? Is it the one that went "because we can conceive of a perfect god, such a god must exist, because a perfect being would have the quality of existence, else he would not be perfect."? (if so, it's fun but basically nonsensical) view post

posted 29 Mar 2006, 00:03 in Author Q & AWill there be any sequels? by Randal, Auditor

Basically, yes. The next series will be called "the aspect emperor", if my info is up to date. But mr. Bakker is writing a non-connected book called Neuropath first, which is in an advanced state of completion iirc. view post

posted 29 Mar 2006, 11:03 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Randal, Auditor

I think you somewhat missed my points, virus. (but perhaps I didn't state them clearly enough) [quote:36t243tx]Short-term advantages? Some species are nearly as old as the planet itself! I believe you are talking about technology…[/quote:36t243tx] By this I mean that a change is [i:36t243tx]only[/i:36t243tx] beficial from evolution's point of view if it provides an [i:36t243tx]immediate[/i:36t243tx] advantage. If something mutates that will [i:36t243tx]eventually[/i:36t243tx] become something hugely beneficial, but doesn't help right now, it will not be retained and the beneficial trait will not evolve. Moreover, evolution can't take a step back. If something has evolved and is helping, it cannot be replaced from the ground up by a new ability that will do a better job, because that would involve a short term disadvantage to gain a long-term benefit. To take the spine example: it was originally evolved for species walking on 4 legs or swimming. When man started to walk upright, the spine was adapted, but it still wasn't truly suited for bearing the weight of the entire human body, giving humans never-ending back problems. It would have been better to design a new skeleton from the ground up, but that is not possible in evolution. You can't "unevolve" the first spine. (as for my info on the spine... it comes from a Dutch newspaper article I read some time ago. But a quick google search confirms it, for example [url=]here.[/url:36t243tx]) Additionally, evolution will only solve problems that directly affect the capability to breed. For example, dementia is not a disadvantage evolutionary speaking, because by the time a creature becomes dement he'll have finished breeding and raising his children, so if his brain melts away that's no issue. However, it's quite a big deal for humans who have to deal with their loved ones slowly becoming childlike strangers. Finally, evolution only works on the long-term. Our modern society is changing so mind-bogglingly rapidly that previous evolutionary advantages are now fast becoming crippling disabilities. For example, growing fat and being lazy are highly advantageous in evolution. If you're fat, you won't starve if bad times come, and it means you use the food you eat more efficiently. If you're lazy, you conserve energy until you really need it. This also means you'll need less food, and are far more capable of survival in meagre times. I need to explain what effect those traits have nowadays... [quote:36t243tx]These defects are the product of bad breeding and nature intended this, She is not wrong. If a species grows slovenly then it will become extinct as deserved. [/quote:36t243tx] Bullshit. Those defects are the product of evolutionary flaws, not bad breeding. They're inherent in the human species. Nature "intends" nothing, it is a mindless process. And where on earth do you get concepts like "nature isn't wrong" and "extinct as deserved" from? Evolution has nothing to do with survival of the "deserving." A species cannot "grow slovenly", it can merely be replaced by a better species, or perhaps fail to adapt to a changing environment. Deserving has nothing to do with this, no more than the moon "deserves" to orbit the earth, or light "deserves" to travel at 300000 kilometers per second. [quote:36t243tx]Please explain how evolution is a "blind" process[/quote:36t243tx] Evolution is a blind progress, because it's essentially trial and error. Things mutate, they either breed or they die. If they breed, the mutation is passed along, and continues to breed. Evolution is blind because it doesn't have a goal, it doesn't know where it is going. It's simply a matter of some things working and others not working, without knowing the reason. Humans have the advantage in this, because rather than relying on random chance to produce the wanted mutation, they can actively search for it. Moreoever, they can make improvements that would never evolve naturally, such as my dementia example. However, you are right in stating your doubts about human foresight. In many cases, we don't know what we're doing either. But that doesn't mean genetic engineering should be thrown out with the bathwater... it just means we should take care, and not attempt anything too ambitious until we've thoroughly tested simpler procedures. [quote:36t243tx]I was merely pointing out that nature finds a way toward balance. Man should discover and appreciate nature and this balance, since he is a part of it, rather than trying to conquer it. Also, you said yourself that overpopulation has become a problem. How about depletion of resources?[/quote:36t243tx] Nature may find a balance, but the fact is that as a species we've overcome this for the most part. There are no longer any predators but ourselves, famine no longer is a risk. (most every famine last century were caused by war, not a physical lack of food. Or they were the work of idiotic leaders like Mao.) Disease isn't a shadow of the threat it posed in the past. As you rightly pointed out, this has brought it's own problems with it, such as overpopulation and depletion of resources. I'll agree a balance must be found here, but it's not nature's balance. That would involve killing 90% of the earth's population in diseases and famines until we're reduced to numbers the world can comfortably support. We'll find our own way, with solar and nuclear energy to replace the natural resources we've used, with birth control and cultural changes to limit population, with engineering to drain seas and cultivate mountains. Perhaps, one day, we'll even be able to cultivate other planets, and so truly escape all bounds of nature. [quote:36t243tx]When gene manipulation is as easy as making a choice it oversimplifies a vastly complex process. Nature gives us our frailties for a reason, or would you have us be immortal?[/quote:36t243tx] No, nature did not "give" us frailties for "a reason." They either are things simply inconsequential to the evolutionary process, or flaws remaining from previous evolutionary steps. Some of our "weaknesses" would indeed have been instrumental in our evolution. If proto-man had been strong and fast with great sharp claws and teeth, he'd never have learned to use tools. And you'd have a point if you said that we're busy wriggling out from under the mechanisms of evolution, and that in doing so we may well be preventing future evolutionary improvements. But I don't care about any of that. Evolution isn't all that it's geared up to be, and personally I'm not about to wait another few million years for the next evolutionary steps. Humans can do better than natural processes. We're indeed trying to master nature, and a damn good thing that is too! I think we've just about succeeded. And as for immortality? That too may be down the line, if current theories on cell reproduction and decline prove correct. Not sure we're psychologically fit to handle that, but that's for another generation to worry about. Anyway, my bottom line would be that you're right to draw attention to risk of human failings messing stuff up, but that given the magnificent possibilities lying before us I do not think that should stop us, merely slow us down to a safer pace. And anyway, we're not talking about changing the entire human species right now, we're talking about curing all kinds of terrible diseases and disabilities by through genetic engineering. Would you truly have us do nothing just for the fear our solution may prove wrong? EDIT: and you still haven't shown how evolution cultivates the strong-willed and the noble rather than the cockroaches and the rats. view post

posted 29 Mar 2006, 11:03 in Literature DiscussionAnyone read American Gods, by Neil Gaiman? by Randal, Auditor

Hmm... whilst that was true for American Gods, it definitely wasn't for Sandman. That one only grew in strength towards the end. I'm not into comics for the most part, but Sandman is a work of the highest art. I also strongly recommend his short story collection "smoke and mirrors." In the short story format, Gaiman's strong ideas are more effective than ever, and aren't hampered by dud finales. Some stories are funny, (chivalry) some are disturbing (babycakes) and some are just so weird in concept you can't help but enjoy them. (bay wolf) view post

posted 29 Mar 2006, 13:03 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Randal, Auditor

Yes, with "humans have the advantage" I mean that humans can actively search for solutions for specific problems, whilst evolution either needs hundreds of thousands of years to come up with something similar, or may fail to come up with a solution at all because the problems don't directly impact the capability to reproduce. I mean that genetic engineering would be able to solve problems natural selection never could by itself. You're right that I probably went too far when I stated that we are beyond evolution now. Got carried away by my argument, sorry. Your comparison of war with locusts is apt, I think. I do believe that many of the natural constraints of this world have been overcome by humans. In that sense, we [i:3b0mnpzr]are[/i:3b0mnpzr] above nature. But the principles of evolution do still apply, albeit at a social level rather than at a genetic level. view post

posted 29 Mar 2006, 19:03 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Randal, Auditor

Nah, what you said sounds just about right to me. Dawnstorm: never heard of this Stableford fellow, but it's a concept I've come across in a number of different science fiction novels, though not as the main subject. I'll check this book out if I can find it somewhere. (which isn't a given here.) [/off-topic] view post

posted 30 Mar 2006, 12:03 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Randal, Auditor

Seconded. I was actually about to propose something similar with "natural selection" opposing "genetic engineering." But yours is even clearer, given that Warrior Poet sees genetic engineering as another form of natural selection. Warrior priest: I'd never dream of denying evolution is a marvellous system, and gets very good results. But neither would I claim the results are perfect. Humans can be improved upon in many ways, as I've outlined a couple of posts earlier. So, to take Dawnstorms definitions, I'll state that in my view genetic engineering is a good thing, because spontaneous mutations won't solve our problems, and won't do it fast enough. I acknowledge the risks Virus and Warrior Poet are pointing out, but I don't see that a legitimate reason to stop us. There always is a risk involved in innovation. The Wright brothers ran a pretty bloody big risk when they tried to fly in that ramshackly machine of theirs... but where would we be if they hadn't? [quote:2lnmi8uj]A couple thousand years is a good long trial isnt it, thats why evolution in the long term works better theres time to weed out problems and see what a change in genes effects years later[/quote:2lnmi8uj] I disagree with this one, warrior poet. That's not how natural selection works. It doesn't "try" anything out. Either sometimes mutates, or it does not, and if it mutates and it works, it becomes dominant. Whether or not there turn out to be side effects later on. Once a mutation has been accepted, there's no going back, unless a further mutation occurs. The thousand years aren't a trial period, they're a waiting period. Waiting for the right mutation to come along. view post

posted 31 Mar 2006, 02:03 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Randal, Auditor

Uh... oops? I noticed I had messed up your name, and went back to edit it... but missed that one, apparently. I suppose warrior-poets are counterintuitive or something. view post

posted 31 Mar 2006, 02:03 in Off-Topic DiscussionBad, bad book. BAAAD. by Randal, Auditor

The worst book I actually finished was "Emperor: the Gates of Rome" by one Conn Iggulden. It claims to be a historical novel about the life of Ceasar, and is about as accurate on Roman history as David Gemmel's Rigante books. (but with worse writing and characterisation.) As an amazon review stated: "This book would be comparable to Bernard Cornwell writing about sergeant Wellington winning the battle of Trafalgar." view post

posted 31 Mar 2006, 16:03 in Literature DiscussionAny Wolfe fans? by Randal, Auditor

Yes, I've read quite a lot of Wolfe's work. Book of the new sun, Latro books, Wizard Knight books, There are Doors, Free Live Free, Castleview, Peace, Book of Days (short fiction), probably one or two more I've forgotten. Still have to find the Book of the Short Sun, amongst other things. They vary wildly in accessebility, style, theme, I've found. Some are fantasy, some more science fiction, others could be described as magical realist if you want to give Scott Bakker a heart attack. Personally, I didn't really enjoy Castleview or Peace, too weird and convoluted and there didn't seem to be too much of a story. Free live Free and There are Doors were fun, if not particularly memorable. I liked many of the short stories. Of the series, the Soldier books probably are my favourites. They actually were amongst the first fantasy books I'd read, just a year or two after Lord of the Rings. They make for a good introduction to Wolfe, I find. Wonderful atmosphere, and the plot device works. It's just not like anything else you've ever come across, yet it makes complete sense within it's own context. I found the ending unstatisfying, though. The Wizard-knight books were far more accsesible than Wolfe's previous stuff, and I enjoyed them. Fun play with the conventions of fantasy novels and traditional knightly romances. Even though the main character is from our 20th century, it's a lot closer to the actual medieval books I've read in subject, though of course the style is Wolfe's. Still, I didn't think them as strong as the Soldier books. The Book of the New Sun was certainly difficult in places, and I had to go back a chapter or two every once in a while to make sure I wasn't missing anything. Even then, I'm sure I missed plenty of stuff, I'll need to re-read them soon. Still, I liked the books, very intruiging stuff. But it never really connected on a personal level, not like Tolkien or Martin or Hobb or Kay do. All in all, I suppose Wolfe is a more intellectual form of entertainment, and I can see where Ross is coming from about the characterisation and language. Wolfe is more about an intruiging plot and characters that make me think, and indeed about puzzles. I read him because I want to know where he is going with his books and ideas, not really because I can emphatise with the characters. (well, with Latro I could to some extent.) I'd say that Bakker is not unlike this in some regards. His books too I love mainly because they make me think. However, Bakker isn't nearly as extreme, I'd put him half-way between Wolfe and Martin. Not quite as sophisticated (and heavy going) as Wolfe, but with better plot and characters. Not quite as vibrant in his characterisation as Martin, but far more interesting ideas and concepts. view post

posted 31 Mar 2006, 17:03 in Off-Topic DiscussionSex by Randal, Auditor

I never seem to have replied here, so a belated vote: male. (now, there's a surprise, what with my username and all.) Gierra: I'm not sure I agree with you there. Violence for the sake of it would be boring. And even violence that serves a purpose can be... too much. I personally think Scott approaches the border here, I can see the purpose some violent scenes serve, but I sure don't enjoy reading them. Sappy endings are the other extreme, of course. But the sappyness of the ending (is that a word?) need not be related to the violence quotient in the book. view post

posted 05 Apr 2006, 19:04 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Randal, Auditor

Cool, didn't know there were people working with this stuff on the forum. That guideline very sensible, and would I think alleviate some of the reservations people in this thread had. As for the social divide... that's the cause, not the effect. Genetic engineering will give the upper class yet another tool to consolidate their position, but only because they already have the dominant position. At worst, it will reinforce the existing divide, but I doubt it will create a new one. view post

posted 06 Apr 2006, 11:04 in Off-Topic DiscussionPoll: What would you be in prince of nothing? by Randal, Auditor

That's what surprises me most about this thread... people actually want to [i:2ey1up8w]be[/i:2ey1up8w] a Scylvendi? What the hell? I mean, these guys are cruel and savage in any sense of the word, have a society that discourages any form of human affection, regularly go and murder or rape their neigbours. (or both.) They have a lifestyle where you never take a bath, never read a book, are always riding and moving from place to place, looking after herds. Where the weak are despised and the strong rule all. A society moreover that's so traditional and rooted in it's track that nothing new ever happens. Generation after generation, the same wars, the same raids, the same rapes and murders. You can't do anything new. I mean, even if you admire their "passion and fierceness" of the Scylvendi... wouldn't this schtick get old real fast? view post

posted 07 Apr 2006, 10:04 in Philosophy DiscussionChe Guevara by Randal, Auditor

I think he truly was an idealist who fought for the greater good, but I'll never approve of his methods. I think the label hero is unwarranted in this context. "The road to hell" and all. But I readily admit my interest in and knowledge of the man is cursory at best. view post

posted 07 May 2006, 21:05 in Literature DiscussionWho is most offensive. by Randal, Auditor

I can easily understand people finding the PoN offensive. In fact, that would be the most common complaint people have about the book, I hazard to guess. First there's the sex. Then the rape. Then the violence. Beyond that we have the treatment of women throughout the series. All these are of course included deliberately by the author, all those serve to make a point, but all those can and will offend people. Anyone so offended by the series is extremely unlikely to be present at these forums, though. Anyway, I voted Goodkind because he's just about the only author on the list I've read apart from Bakker. (And even then it only was a short story in the Legends collection. Still, it managed to reach my top 10 "worst ever" list.) Additionally, the man himself can be very offensive in his interviews. I tried Heinlein once, but I was turned off by the blonde warrior princes with the big breasts who turned up from nowhere to sleep with the macho US marine hero. Going by X-ray, I was wise to call it a day. view post

posted 10 May 2006, 22:05 in Literature DiscussionPON vs MBOF vs ASOIAF by Randal, Auditor

People say that about ASOIAF, but if you stop and count the casualties you'll find that only 3 PoV characters are lost, and one of those is still alive, and another of those is... not quite dead. Quite a few supporting characters die, but most of those aren't very important. Maimings tend to be relatively frequent... but that doesn't result in the removal of the character. On the contrary, it can make them all the more interesting as they struggle to deal with disabilities. If I were to complain about Martin's attitude towards the characters it would be that he doesn't kill them [i:24cha3oh]enough[/i:24cha3oh]. That is to say, all too often the characters appear to be in grave danger or even dead, only for them to turn up alive and well in their next PoV chapter. [quote:24cha3oh]there always seems to be that little something missing and I think it is the lack of real battles. He knows he can't write them well, so seems to either ignore them or just gloss over them and give the results of what happened through other means. But at least he knows his limitations. If he attempted to write them it would throw off the quality of the overall book too much I think.[/quote:24cha3oh] I would disagree with this too. The battle of the Blackwater for me is one of the greatest battlescenes in any fantasy I can name. It certainly moved me more than anything Erikson ever attempted. Nor is it glossed over, being described from three different points of view in a half dozen chapters. But it is true that Martin doesn't focus on battles a great deal, and that Feast lacked them altogether. I would call that immaterial, though. A fantasy book doesn't need battles to be good. Some of my favourite fantasy novels have no battles at all, or gloss them over. (Guy Gavriel Kay, Robin Hobb, to name a few.) I rather think the problem of Feast was lack of plot progression. Sure, tons of stuff happened, but most of it was newly added plotlines. The Faith, Dorne, the Iron Islands, Cercei's prophecy. On a grander schale, the situation at the end of book 4 is more or less the same as at the end of book 3, except in the Iron Islands. Cercei's plot was kinda big too, but it wasn't even resolved in this book. Same for Brienne. ps. I don't visit the Malazan forums, so I don't know what the opinion on Prince of Nothing is there. But on the ASoIaF boards I've seen it done the other way around, with Erikson being denounced as a pre-school writer incapable of forming a coherent sentence, let alone a plot, and Bakker being hailed as the greatest event in fantasy since greek mythology. There are quite a few Erikson fans as well, but on the whole they're outnumbered by people who prefer Bakker. (most of whom, including myself, have a considerably more moderate opinion on Erikson, I hasten to add) view post

posted 14 Jun 2006, 10:06 in Literature DiscussionIan Irvine by Randal, Auditor

Yes, I did read the "view from the mirror" series. Whilst it did avoid many of the cliches that harm fantasy, it simply wasn't a very good story, I found. I mean, [i:1dlgprwc]how[/i:1dlgprwc] many times did either or both of the main characters get kidnapped? I also found most of the characters to be terribly frustrating. I've forgotten the exact details, though. It's been a couple of years since I read the books, and they didn't exactly inspire me to revisit them. view post

posted 25 Jun 2006, 23:06 in Literature DiscussionThe Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (first series) by Randal, Auditor

From what I've seen, the Gap series is even darker than Covenant. I've only read the first series though, and that one isn't a great favourite of mine. I find myself agreeing with Brys. The two books in the gap series I've read so far were much better. The characters outdo Covenant in the being screwed up department, though. They're not even anti-heroes anymore. I really have to find those last three books. view post

posted 01 Jul 2006, 09:07 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Randal, Auditor

I might see how things become more muddled if you add a creator/mother nature/universal source to things. (what, pray tell, is a universal source? Didn't know that one yet...) But I think this statement is a bit... arrogant. Who decides what is appropriate use of this technology, you ask. But who are you to decide that "we should not look upon those are genetically different as being bad"? We're talking about disabilities here. Not discrimination. We're talking about people for whom it will be next to impossible to lead a normal life thanks to conditions they were born with. People who live a dozen years in pain, and die. Because they had a genetical defect. Does it really help these people to say "you're simply genetically different, that's not a bad thing."? As for allowing natural selection to take place... why would we want that? Natural selection operates on a timespan of hundreds of thousands of years. Millions. It's neither smart nor reasonable to say such and such problem might be solved by natural selection in 102000 AD. Nor are many genetical defects likely to disappear through natural selection, because being recessive and rare, they are unlikely to prove disadvatageous to carriers of the defect. (who do not suffer from the actual disability) Yes, our society tampers with the "survival of the fittest" paradigm. The fittest no longer needs be the best hunter, strongest killer, fastest breeder. But this has been going on for centuries. And not through genetical engineering either, but through things like charity, taking care of those to weak to survive on their own. I think most people would agree this is not a bad thing. Moreover, as was pointed out to me earlier in the thread, this does not mean there is no more natural selection. The requirements just have changed. Physical strength or weakness is no longer as important as it used to be, instead the fittest is he who is the smoothest talker, the most accomplished business man, etc. I think it's cruel and arrogant to state we should "let nature take its course" and let people who had bad luck in the genetic draw suffer and die. There's no reason to suppose that the way things have been in the past is the way things are "meant to be" at all. And when you say we should do this so we do not lose our opportuny to express compassion... well. I am dumbfounded. You are not expressing much compassion here. Let people suffer so you can then show compassion for them? Do you not see the inherent contradiction in this? As for "creating a monster"... well, I somehow doubt the odds of that happening are very great. This is not a horror movie after all. Why should nature be inherently better than humans? But as you can read earlier in the thread, current gene therapies do not run this risk as they do not actually tamper with inheritable qualities. They just seek to treat the symptoms of disease and disability in the individual, much like ordinary medicine does, though different in its methods. view post

posted 31 Jul 2006, 13:07 in Philosophy Discussionignorance or enlightenment ? by Randal, Auditor

I hope that was sarcastic. But even if it was, it's quite the misreading of Gierra's statement. Thinking some more about it, I suspect what she says is true of everyone with some knowledge of world affairs who's not chronically depressed. Does reading about war and deaths of innocents in Libanon spoil your day? Or does it make you shake your head, reflect on the sorry state of the world for half a minute, and move on with your day/life, like I do? And if so, does it have anything to do with lack of empathy, or is it just a matter of setting your priorities straight? view post

posted 31 Jul 2006, 13:07 in Philosophy DiscussionThe problem of evil by Randal, Auditor

[quote:3lk0tv7e]her analysis of Mephistopheles kind of pokes a hole in the notion that even "evil" beings think they are doing "good" in some personal fashion.[/quote:3lk0tv7e] Does she claim that not [i:3lk0tv7e]all[/i:3lk0tv7e] "evil" people think of themselves as doing mostly good? If so, that's rather obvious, I'd say. Obviously there are people who think what they do is wrong but do not care. Or does she claim that [i:3lk0tv7e]no[/i:3lk0tv7e] "evil" person thinks of him/herself as being a "good" person? If so, that's quite the claim to make, and one that seems to be rather obviously wrong, whatever Faustus may have said to Mephistopheles. Many people set out to improve the world only to start a reign of terror. "The road to hell..." and all. view post

posted 04 Aug 2006, 10:08 in Philosophy DiscussionThe problem of evil by Randal, Auditor

So, you're saying, and this Midgley is saying, that [i:ekbvlayb]every[/i:ekbvlayb] so called "evil" person at some level believes himself good? Now I think I understand your argument. And now I understand it, I will disagree with it. Certainly, I'll accept that everybody works towards some goal he sees as positive. For himself. But not at all necessarily "good." Take the mercenary, the hired killer. He kills who he's told to, because it pays. He cares not one whit for the morality of it all. Will kill innocents along with guilty, as long as he is paid. He knows this is "wrong" but hey, it pays the bills, right? And it's not as if he knew any of those people, it's not as if he gave a damn about any of them. This man, should he exist, surely does "evil" without any rationalisation or higher objective besides simple monetary gain. Or take a psycho sadist, who derives personal pleasure from torturing hookers to death. You might call him insane, and he is by our standards. But such a person might very well be aware what he does is "wrong", "evil", and do it anyway because he gets a kick from it. Now, you might call those motivations (money, personal enjoyment) "an outcome they regarded 'good' or 'right' for them in their own sense". But I think that's stretching. They don't think it's good. They think it's convenient. They're as negative as Mephistopheles, and for the same reason. (I should imagine he too was thoroughly amused by the Faust episode.) Secondly you might argue that people like I've described don't exist. Well, I can't prove they do. I certainly don't know any. If you think there are no such people, we'll have to agree to disagree. view post

posted 04 Aug 2006, 10:08 in Philosophy Discussionignorance or enlightenment ? by Randal, Auditor

Well, I still state you misread Gierra's post. After all, I derived another meaning from it, that was later on confirmed by the original poster as being right, so of our two readings mine would seem to be, to the casual observer... the correct one. From Gierra's statement it is clear that she is generally content even though she is aware that many other people in the world are suffering. She asks whether that is normal, OR whether that makes her a sicko who takes pleasure in bad things. You interpreted her as saying "I take pleasure in bad things, does that make me a deranged sicko?" That is a misreading. And a severe one, I might add. The second sentence is a question. "Does being content equal taking pleasure in bad things?" Had your reading been correct it would have been a statement. I'll also dispute it's mean to draw attention to a (possible) misreading of another person's statement on an internet messageboard. Many are the flame wars that have started over such inconsequential things, and I for one am always grateful if mistakes on my part are pointed out. view post

posted 06 Aug 2006, 18:08 in Philosophy DiscussionThe problem of evil by Randal, Auditor

Would it be possible, Iago, for you to moderate your tone a bit? I have to say, some of your remarks get a bit on my nerves. ("crap on your head") Discussion is very civil here most of the time, and I regret to say you convey a somewhat less civil impression to me. Yeah, you're joking. Still. Anyway, on Mephistopeles, Lucifer, evil, good, the lot. I readily concede I do not understand what you are saying, Iago. And therefore it's entirely possible I was disagreeing with something you never said. In fact, the point of my previous two posts was to find out what you did mean. You give some interesting examples, but what is your point? For the record, my thought was that even Mephistopheles would have some sort of positive personal goal in pursuing the destruction of Doctor Faustus, otherwise the whole story wouldn't make any sense. Okay, so the story doesn't really care about Meph's motivation, and you could argue a devil WOULD pursue negativity for its own sake, but in that case it becomes rather irrellevant in a discussion about the nature of good and evil because humans aren't devils and always have some motivation, even such a simple one such as enjoying doing "evil" things. Hence my assumption in my previous post that Meph's motivation was precisely that, and therefore him being comparable to the mad serial killer who kills for the joy of killing. So, if we want to keep this discussion somewhat meaningful, I'd really appreciate it if you tried to clarify your position. Right now I gather it to be: "Not every person who does evil believes himself to be good, but every person who does evil does work towards some goal he sees as positive for himself, and doesn't simply indulge in "evil" acts for their own sakes." As for my point, your analysis is more or less correct. Note that I need not accept the existence of an absolute "good versus evil" axis for it to work, though. Only the person committing the "evil" act and not caring has to believe in it, and acknowledge he falls short. Whilst not caring. You're right I do believe in non-relative "good" and "evil", though. Not as some shining metaphysical truth external to the universe, but rather as a universal basic sense of right and wrong based on empathy inherent in human nature. (and perhaps some logic) With a lot of grey areas and fuzziness leading to huge differences from culture to culture. Anyway, that's another discussion. view post

posted 06 Aug 2006, 18:08 in Philosophy Discussionignorance or enlightenment ? by Randal, Auditor

My guess is you are normal, Gierra. The guy on the subway being treated badly is near, it involves you directly, and it is something you could change if you wanted to. Therefore you are affected. The people on the infomercial are far away. You don't know them, you have never seen them. You can't even be completely sure they are what they appear to be. They've probably been selected by the makers of the infomercial to appear as pityful as possible, in an attempt to manipulate you into feeling guilty and sending them money. They're also quite likely beyond your ability to help. Even if you do send money to whatever charity they're endorsing you can't be sure it will arrive, or that it will do any good even if it does. You will not get any reaction if you try to help, you will never see these people again. Moreover, you know that these people on the infomercial are a couple amongst hundreds of millions living in poverty or distress. You can't get worked up about all of them and have a life left of your own. So, why not pay attention only to those you are close enough to affect? This would more or less sum up my feelings on similar matters. The latter part perhaps reeks of cynicism, but it certainly doesn't make me a sadist. It's normal. People care about spouse and children first, friends and family second, people in their neighbourhood/town third, countrymen fourth, people in similar countries fifth, people in exotic countries far away last. I don't know if your feelings on seeing infomercials resemble mine, but I strongly doubt they're informed by cruelty. Not caring isn't cruelty. It's a survival tactic. Desentisation of course plays a role, but only a slight one, because as you yourself said, you do care about injustices and suffering closer to home. view post

posted 17 Dec 2006, 17:12 in Philosophy DiscussionChristianity: Revelations by Randal, Auditor

The end of the world has been predicted thousands of times, literally. The apostles believed (or some of them did) that Jezus would return in their lifetimes. All the early christians believed it would be but a few decades. In the year 1000 hordes of people left their homes to preach the end of days that was sure to come, for example. The have been millions and millions of prophecies throughout history. Vague words and sentences have been interpreted in hundreds of ways. Who is "the short haired man"? Or what is your "fig tree"? Plausible cases can undoubtedly be made for it to be any of several dozen things. It's speculation on speculation, supposition on supposition. All in all, it's a castle build on clouds. Even if you believe the bible to be true, there is no reason to believe the end days are just around the corner. Anyway, I had heard that the whole rapture belief was rather controversial even within christianity, and that it doesn't actually say anything definite about it in the bible. I'd also heard that the rapture theology only arose somewhere in the last century or so. view post

posted 21 Dec 2006, 17:12 in Philosophy DiscussionSorcery by Randal, Auditor

So, the original question was "have you ever personally seen any form of magic?" My question to that would be, how on earth is one supposed to recognise magic when one sees it? Suppose I see something. Something strange, something I cannot explain. Weird lights in the sky, a premonition that turns out to be true, a seemingly miraculous recovery or stroke of luck. How do I know it's magic? And not a passing plane in a cloud, a strange coincidence, selective memory? As Arthur C. Clarke said, it's impossible to distinguish sufficiently advanced technology from magic. Suppose I saw something inexplicable. Magic, or a passing UFO doing incomprehensible things? (not that I think there are alien spacecraft visiting earth either.) Now, one can easily imagine demonstrations of magic that would leave very little room for doubt even on the part of the most sceptical observer. But when talking about witnessing the effects of sorcery, we're not talking about New York being transposed to New Zealand, I assume, but rather more mundane occurrences. So my answer would be that I have never seen any sorcery, and that I suspect that any and all cases that have been witnessed also have alternate explanations that would not contradict everything we know of the laws of nature. But even if tomorrow I witnessed honest to god real magic, I could never recognise it as such because I would not interpret something as magic. Therefore, the question is rather meaningless. The only people who witness magic are those who already believe in it and explain what they see in the context of that belief. view post

posted 18 Jan 2007, 02:01 in Philosophy DiscussionSorcery by Randal, Auditor

Never saw the movie, but I did browse the book. It showed some clever use of the "appeal to the consequence" logical fallacy. (If I'd accept materialism life wouldn't have meaning! It must be false) Also lots of Ramtha quotes. Still, it did have quite some correct information alongside the pseudo-science. Which probably explains why so many people buy into it. view post

posted 27 Jan 2007, 14:01 in Philosophy DiscussionThe Meaning of Life by Randal, Auditor

Whilst I agree with you in principle, I do think current astronomical observation indicates that the galaxies are drifting apart from eachother, not orbiting around something. view post

posted 28 Jan 2007, 02:01 in Philosophy DiscussionThe Meaning of Life by Randal, Auditor

Bah. Pessimism. Who'd have thought a thousand years ago we'd ever understand the workings of the climate, of diseases, of the sun? We've only been working on this science stuff for a comparatively very short time. We only have a very limited quantity of data on the universe. I say we're going to discover one hell of a lot more. Not everything, perhaps. But if humanity doesn't exterminate itself in the next couple of centuries, we'll get a decent way ahead. And as for concepts like "infinity" arising in the human mind, I don't see how or why that would require anything "external." It's simple extrapolation. Things end. I don't want them to end. What would it be like if they didn't end? Bingo, infinity. Whether the concept has any actual meaning, or whether or mind can truly grasp it if it does, remains a different question, of course. But I can conceive of all kinds of things, even illogical or impossible things. Nothing divine about it, just human reasoning and deduction turned the other way. view post

posted 27 Mar 2007, 23:03 in Philosophy DiscussionLife and Death by Randal, Auditor

Curethan: Evolution is a fact. It has been observed repeatedly, and also is evident from examining the fossil record. There also is a theory of evolution. This seeks to explain how the observed phenomenon of evolution actually works. Why things mutate, how they mutate, when they mutate, etc. This is a theory in the scientific sense of the word, like you described. Compare, for example, gravity. Gravity is an observed fact. Stuff falls down. Newton came up with the theory of gravity seeking to explain how it works. He was fairly close, though later theories amended and improved his. view post

posted 28 Mar 2007, 09:03 in Philosophy DiscussionLife and Death by Randal, Auditor

Gaps in the fossil record have nothing to do with it. Of course there are gaps... how could there not be gaps? It's random stuff we found from thousands and millions and hundreds of millions of years ago. The point is evolution exists. We can reproduce it in a laboratory with some sufficiently quickly reproducing species. We can show its existence in the fossil records whether or not there are gaps. We can show it by examining the genes and physical attributes of currently living species, showing they share some common ancestor. [quote="Stephen Jay Gould":3nrm1zd3]Well, evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from apelike ancestors whether they did so by Darwin's proposed mechanism or by some other, yet to be discovered. [/quote:3nrm1zd3] There is also a theory of evolution. And some variations on that theory. And that theory has plenty of gaps in it and it's quite possible it will turn out to be wrong in how it explains some of the processes of evolution. But evolution itself merely means, according to [quote="":3nrm1zd3]3. Biology. change in the gene pool of a population from generation to generation by such processes as mutation, natural selection, and genetic drift.[/quote:3nrm1zd3] These changes in the gene pool have been shown. They have been reproduced in laboratories. They are fact. So evolution is both a fact and a theory, and neither of those statements contradicts the other. Notes: my quote came from [url=][u:3nrm1zd3]The Stephen Jay Gould archive[/u:3nrm1zd3][/url:3nrm1zd3] view post

posted 28 Mar 2007, 20:03 in Philosophy DiscussionEvolution vs Creation by Randal, Auditor

True, we'd missed this one so far. I take issue with the options, though. Evolution is not random. It's commonly held to work through natural selection. So whilst life may not be intelligently designed, it's not randomly put together either. It's the product of lots of trial and error. view post

posted 28 Mar 2007, 22:03 in Philosophy DiscussionEvolution vs Creation by Randal, Auditor

Jamara: I disagree. Trial and error does not presuppose intelligent design. Quite simply, to me it means some species become extinct and others do not. Some mutations become dominant, others quickly disappear. Some species succeed, others fail. You're right of course that the adaptation of species is a response to changes in environment and various other outside factors which they have no control over. But even if it's random factors determining which environmental factors species have to handle, and which actual mutations and changes occur, it is not (usually) random which species survive and which do not. That depends on how successful their adaptations are. So to me, trial and error presupposes a direction in evolution, which there is. Species progress towards more advanced forms, more specialised ones. But trial and error does not require agency. Merely something that decides what succeeds and what fails. And that something is the world. Some species survive in it, others do not. view post

posted 29 Mar 2007, 00:03 in Philosophy DiscussionEvolution vs Creation by Randal, Auditor

Your points are quite right of course, Jamara, and do not contradict what I meant. I suppose I am merely not expressing myself clearly... I certainly did not mean to suggest anything guides evolution besides natural selection. I do think it's quite obvious life has become much more advanced over the ages, though. A trilobyte isn't as advanced as a fish. An early mammal, like the Sabre Tooth tigre, isn't as advanced as our current tiger. Not every new lifeform is automatically more advanced than the last, though, and primitive lifeforms do continue to enjoy success. Hmm. I suppose I should reformulate my statement. "Over time, more advanced species evolve." Anyway, I think I can state my view simpler; In the past few billion years, an incredibly large amount of lifeforms have existed. Currently, only a percentage of those remain. The others are extinct, either because of changing circumstances or because of better adapted species that displaced them. Those species can be said to have failed at surviving, at procreating. The currently surviving species are the ones that succeeded. In general, they can be said to be better adapted to the environment and to competetion with eachother than the ones they displaced or replaced. (though probably some just got lucky, but that's not to the point) I probably should use a different term, seeing as this one causes lots of confusion. Edit: Warrior poet Thanks for changing. view post

posted 29 Mar 2007, 09:03 in Philosophy DiscussionEvolution vs Creation by Randal, Auditor

I wasn't claiming the sabre tooth tigre is more advanced than the modern one. I was claiming the opposite. But you quite probably know a lot more about this subject than I, my knowledge comes from a general interest book or two I've read on the subject a years ago. I am not altogether knowledgable, not even for an amateur. So if I say something you think is wrong, it's quite likely I misunderstood something. For example, I was under the impression that the earlier mammal species that evolved soon after the death of the dinosaurs were fairly primitive and crude, being replaced in later generations with more advanced and modern species. (but looking on the internet, it seems the sabre-tooth tigre was a bad example as it isn't anywhere near as early as I thought, some indeed living tens of millions of years ago, but others surviving until quite recently.) Similarly, I was under the impression that the dinosaurs were more advanced than earlier species of lizard, for example having more efficient legs directly under the body and possibly being warm-blooded. Does having more efficient legs count as being more advanced? view post

posted 30 Mar 2007, 11:03 in Philosophy DiscussionThe Meaning of Life by Randal, Auditor

Much else, sure. But the world? We couldn't destroy it if we tried. Something would survive. The world is a pretty big place, and life is pretty tough. view post

posted 30 Mar 2007, 19:03 in Philosophy DiscussionThe Meaning of Life by Randal, Auditor

Slight problem with that line of reasoning. For companies to invest in space travel, it has to be profitable. And it has to be profitable NOW, not in 50 years. There's some tentative attempts with shooting people's ashes into space, plans for a moon hotel... but all in all, there is no sound commercial reason to go to space. view post

posted 31 Mar 2007, 17:03 in Philosophy DiscussionThe Meaning of Life by Randal, Auditor

True. Don't tell me dogs meeting aren't sizing eachother up and deciding which one is superior. Don't tell me my cat doesn't get in a bad mood occasionally and takes it out on whatever human is near her. Most of the bad parts about humanity are also the most natural, the most instinctive. Many are also seen in the animal world. Some of the good parts also. view post

posted 02 Apr 2007, 10:04 in Philosophy DiscussionThe Meaning of Life by Randal, Auditor

Side note: even in antiquity and in primitive societies, people lived far beyond 30. Average age a thousand years ago was about 60, iirc. With one very important caveat: average life expectancy was around 60 for children above the age of ten. The very low actual average lifespan was because lots and lots of children died in infancy. Simple math. If one child dies at 3 months old, and the other lives to be 60... average life duration is 30 years. view post

posted 03 Apr 2007, 00:04 in Philosophy DiscussionThe Meaning of Life by Randal, Auditor

We would. For us, this is too horrible to contemplate. But many older cultures tried to get in the habit of not getting too attached to a child until it was a few years old and less likely to succumb to a disease. I think quite a few would not even name the child until it was one or two years old. But yeah, this is one thing that we're well rid of this century. (on the other hand, reduction of child mortality is what's causing this overpopulation problem we have now.) view post

posted 12 Apr 2007, 09:04 in Philosophy DiscussionSpoiler! Kellhus by Randal, Auditor

Yes, that's how I read that passage too. view post

posted 01 May 2007, 09:05 in Philosophy DiscussionSpoiler! Kellhus by Randal, Auditor

I haven't read anything by Nietzsche except that quote, I admit. I do not see how sympathy has to be religious, though. I don't even see a connection with religion at all. Is that a meaning Nietzsche gives to the word? What is sympathy in the religious sense, and how does it differ from sympathy in the normal sense? But this potential confusion aside, I simply do not see any lament on loneliness in what you cite. If the complaint here is about loneliness, surely he would WANT to be understood, so that others might share his bewilderment and desolation? Surely he would not fear others joining him in his state of enlightenment? This is a lament, yes. A lost feeling, sure. But it is not being set alone without anyone to feel [for] you. It is not loneliness that is lamented, rather it is the loss of innocence, the loss of sheltering ignorance. Loneliness is perhaps a side-effect of this, but it is not the main problem or even mentioned at all in the text you cite. view post

posted 01 May 2007, 22:05 in Philosophy DiscussionSpoiler! Kellhus by Randal, Auditor

[quote:m7w5jvob]I don't think that I have to explain 'helping the fellow man' and such being a religious thing[/quote:m7w5jvob] Is that what Nietzsche says? I wouldn't agree. Helping the fellow man is a societal thing. Evolved because it makes the community stronger. Though I can see how Nietzsche would think otherwise given the knowledge of his times. view post

posted 02 May 2007, 10:05 in Philosophy DiscussionSpoiler! Kellhus by Randal, Auditor

I'm not talking about now. I'm talking about the dawn of time when the proto-humans came out of Africa. I believe helping the fellow man was a societal need that was later reinforced and enforced by means of religion, not the other way around. See, religion does not create morality. Rather, it's used to enforce it. "If you steal, you'll go to hell." Or "If you attack a guest, you blaspheme against the sacred guest right and Apollo will strike you down." Those laws against stealing and attacking guests very likely predate the religious taboos. They exist for a reason, namely to make a society work. Society is not based on religious values... religious values are based on society. Mythical stories and legends and divine laws almost always work in the interest of the status quo. They describe why it is right and just that the world is as it is and that everybody should work to keep it so. After all, some basic elements of charity have been observed even among colonies of apes... those hardly have any religious motives to help the weaker members of the colony. (now, of course it's quite possible depending on your religion that you disagree with me. But equally, it should be obvious that "helping your fellow man" isn't universally seen as a religious thing.) view post

posted 02 May 2007, 15:05 in Philosophy DiscussionSpoiler! Kellhus by Randal, Auditor

My view is purely naturalistic. The way I see it, morality is a social and biological construct. It is not based on any outside "truth" or objective standard. Rather, it is something that evolved in our species. The biological part being empathy. People can to some extent feel or at least know what others feel. This makes morality possible, and this makes a society possible. I believe animals have this trait also, to different extends depending on species. The social part builds on this. A social grouping, like a tribe of primitive humans, can only work if people mind each other's feelings and obey certain rules and don't just work for their own selfish ends but also for the common good of all. And don't bash each other's skulls in when drunk. So rules are introduced. Taught from childhood on and reinforced by empathy, these become quite powerful a hold on people. Then, as society advances morality is reflected on. That's where philosophy and religion comes in. People start dressing the "why" in terms of divine commands or nobility of character, etc. The rules are also refined at this stage and start being applied more widely than just to your own immediate social grouping. The rules themselves also evolve as the societies do. What is good in a tribe of hunters may not be quite as practical in a city-dwelling people. I believe that this also explains why normal decent people can so very easily be made to hate and destroy those different from themselves, be it the neighbouring country or people worshipping a different god. Morality originally was something that applied to your own people only, everybody else was fair game. Empathy works on individuals, not crowds. It's very easy for humans to disregard the suffering of the many, suffering that is far away, or a combination thereof. I'll add as a disclaimer that this is all based on a layman's understanding of sociology and biology and mostly is distilled from a variety of sources into something that makes sense to me. I haven't given this a lot of thought or done much research and there quite possibly are some glaring errors in here. It sounds right to me, though. view post

posted 03 May 2007, 16:05 in Philosophy DiscussionSpoiler! Kellhus by Randal, Auditor

Well, empathy is natural. We know where in the brain it is. We can cut it out of people if we want. It's been researched. People with certain types of brain damage lose their sense of empathy. (and of course you have sociopaths who don't have it in the first place) Empathy as a social construct doesn't work. Or at least it doesn't fit the evidence. As for the rest of your post... as far as I can follow it, the Freud part sounds like bollocks to me. Where does he get his "prime father" and "pleasure instinct" from? Sounds like he made it up on the spot. (and isn't Freud considered obsolete anyway? His sex-obsession shows in everything he writes including this.) view post

posted 03 May 2007, 20:05 in Philosophy DiscussionSpoiler! Kellhus by Randal, Auditor

It's not a "biological substance" as such. More of a way the brain's wired. Instinct, if you will. Sociopaths don't have it for the same reason some people are born without arms or with three legs or with autism. They're birth defects. As to how we got it in the brain... undoubtedly it evolved. I don't know which animals have it and how much. Fish have no empathy, apes do seem to have it. But it evolved somewhere along the road. It's a very useful talent. view post

posted 06 May 2007, 21:05 in Philosophy DiscussionSpoiler! Kellhus by Randal, Auditor

[quote:vixmcmtx]The nurture instinct, as you describe it so far, cannot be a biological trait for compassion.. [/quote:vixmcmtx] It still can be. Things just aren't simply as clear-cut as all that. Other instincts are at work too. And lions, as far as I know, are rather rare among mammals in killing the young of its own species and google suggests there are rather specific circumstances accounting for this, namely the lion's evolutionary desire to reproduce overriding a nurturing instinct. Children being left behind if deemed too weak to survive is another very reasonable instinct that doesn't override the desire to nurture. It simply limits it, to prevent energy being wasted on those who would die anyway. (this is fairly common among animals. You can see it with litters of young cats sometimes, where mothers refuse to nurse the young) Just because the nurturing instinct isn't always the sole or indeed most powerful motivator doesn't mean it isn't present and important and can lead to compassion. I don't know either whether it's stronger in women or not, but it's definitely present in men also. The point is rather that without empathy and compassion, one cannot nurture effectively. How else to recognise the wants of one's ofspring? And how to make it sufficiently imperative to act upon them immediately? And once compassion exists, it's quite easy to extend it to a community and then wider still, and expand it into morality. After all, it has distinct benefits for society as a whole. [quote:vixmcmtx]So far, it seems a necessity! (For what exactly?) [/quote:vixmcmtx] Of course it's a necessity. For the survival of the species, of course! Without nurture, the young do not live. By the way, I should note that I agree wholeheartedly with Jamara's previous posts. (which leads to the situation of the two of us ganging up on you a bit, Sokar. Sorry about that) I should also note that I have the sneaking suspicion that he/she knows rather more about this subject than I do. For me, it's mostly common sense and observation talking. And out of curiosity, Jamara, what are those three species of baby birds that are considered cute? Ducks and related waterfowl would be one, I can safely say. Baby ducks are always a big hit with children, and they do look very cute. (I can safely attest after spending half the week-end taking my niece to feed the ducks) Whaddayacallits, young chickens (chicks? chicklets?) would probably be another. As for other species... I just think we don't often see their young. Not sure a young dove or blackbird would be considered un-cute by humans. view post

posted 08 May 2007, 11:05 in Philosophy DiscussionSpoiler! Kellhus by Randal, Auditor

Curious. Must be a national thing... we don't have any baby turkeys around here, nor have I ever seen a baby pheasant. But tons and tons of baby ducks. (And baby moorhens. And the Eurasian Coot. Or so google tells me these birds are called in English.) Must be all the water around here. But yes, these too are all fowl. Curious indeed. view post

posted 10 May 2007, 20:05 in Literature DiscussionGollancz S.F. by Randal, Auditor

Haven't read Abercromby yet, but I'm going to. I've heard lots of good things about him. Plus, he's part of the "mock Goodkind" secret society, which is a plus in any case. [quote:2b0n6ccb]Joe Abercromby wrote: I cannot speak for Scott Lynch, but I can state CATEGORICALLY that [b:2b0n6ccb]my [/b:2b0n6ccb]books have [b:2b0n6ccb]nothing [/b:2b0n6ccb]to do with fantasy, but are, rather, high-brow literary novels with important socio-political points to make. They merely happen to include magic, barbarians, mysterious wizards, mysterious journeys, lots of swords, and even the odd slinky sorceress, all happening in an imaginary place that I made up. Cliches? Archetypes? Stereotypes? No. These are the [b:2b0n6ccb]instruments I use to investigate the universality of the human condition[/b:2b0n6ccb]. [/quote:2b0n6ccb] (from the Westeros messageboard.) view post

posted 11 May 2007, 13:05 in Literature DiscussionGollancz S.F. by Randal, Auditor

Just bought it. It begins with the chapter titled "The End." I'll post my thoughts later. view post

posted 13 May 2007, 11:05 in Philosophy DiscussionEvolution vs Creation by Randal, Auditor

Yes. I find it completely and utterly unbelievable how people can hold the view that animals have no feelings or emotions. Have these people ever had a pet? My grandmother is one such. She just can't get out of the mindset "animals are dirty and icky and inferior." Just how is it that my cat can show jealousy, bear grudges, behave guiltily, or peevishly? Mimicking? Pah. I've known the beast for eight years now. view post

posted 13 May 2007, 11:05 in Philosophy DiscussionIs the idea of a "god" inherent in our minds? by Randal, Auditor

Isn't that a bit like the "god of the gaps", though? Science goes to more and more places all the time. For me, I don't "get" spirituality. What the hell is it? Utterly alien to me. If it believes in souls and such, I don't see much of a difference with religion. Okay, I see a difference... but they both seem part of the same thing to me. Or perhaps you could say religion is one way to express spirituality, whatever it is. As for the "unexplainable"... it is just that. Unexplainable. Inserting souls in there or whatever to me makes no sense whatsoever. What's wrong with things being unexplainable? We're just limited humans with a few centuries of collective experience behind us, after all. Let it be unexplainable. Some we'll explain anyway, later, when we know more. Some will never be explained. Cannot be explained. Would I rather know? Would I rather have an explanation? Of course I would. But an explanation that has no evidence for me is no explanation at all. Science and spirtuality need not be enemies per-se, but neither need they be neighbours. Or aquintances. Or living in the same country. They're unrelated, as far as I can see, save where sciences proves certain specific "spiritual" claims wrong. To go slightly back on topic... I would think that if people are born with the idea of religion, it's not all of them. I probably wasn't born with any at all. view post

posted 13 May 2007, 17:05 in Literature DiscussionGollancz S.F. by Randal, Auditor

Just finished "the blade itself." Entertaining, well written, well characterised, interesting enough setting. Good? Definitely. Very good. But not excellent. Unlike Bakker, there's nothing particularly innovative in here. Nothing that makes you think. No really new concepts. And taken as a story, it's not quite as good or quite as vividly painted as, say, George R.R. Martin's work. Nor is it as funny and fresh and witty as Scott Lynch's Lies of Locke Lamora, to name another celebrated new writer. Plus, it suffers a bit from "this is a fantasy series, and after 500 pages the plot is just about ready to get started." (though to be fair, the same could be said for The Darkness that Comes Before) All in all, I do recommend it. It's fun, and I definitely don't consider my money wasted. In fact, I'll probably go buy the second book tomorrow. But it won't be making my top 100 list, I think. view post

posted 13 May 2007, 22:05 in Philosophy DiscussionEvolution vs Creation by Randal, Auditor

It's not about loving animals here. It's about depicting them as something they evidently are not. As for logic... that wasn't being argued about. Nobody said animals apply logic. (though it has been shown in more advanced animals. If they use a stick to hit a tree so a piece of fruit drops... that shows they have some knowledge of causality) We were talking about emotions. Emotions do not require a human thinking process. As for your main point... it's not one that lends itself to a response. I can but shrug. Snapdragon: what options do you mean? Evolution and creation are not necessarily mutually exclusive. You can very well believe there's a god or flying spaghetti monster or alien prankster who created the universe in which life then evolved. (according to a divine plan, if you want.) There's plenty people who believe this, including many christians including the last pope. (not too sure about the current one) That's why there's the "evolution + creation" option in the poll. Or do you refer to other mutually exclusive options? Which? view post

posted 14 May 2007, 00:05 in Philosophy DiscussionEvolution vs Creation by Randal, Auditor

A bit difficult to combine them all. If the bible is true, then "alternate intelligent design" isn't. If you interpret it literally, evolution and ID plus evolution are out. Whether one of the other combinations is plausible... well, it depends what you consider plausible. I certainly see no reason to assume that some life evolved naturally, some of it was made by an alien with a hangover, and some of it was created by god as the bible states. (though the alien with the hangover would explain the platypus) view post

posted 14 May 2007, 09:05 in Philosophy DiscussionEvolution vs Creation by Randal, Auditor

Jamara: maybe try to argue it in the new bible thread... let's keep this one about evolution. Snapdragon: whilst it would be possible, I guess, that primitive lifeforms came into existence naturally at one point of the earth, and that a meteor with different bacteria crashed at another point of the earth, giving rise to types of life with different originins, it's not likely or logical to assume that. When you see thousands of forms of life, and then examine their internal structure, their genes, and discover that they are all very, very similar to one another, to the point where we share a majority of our genes with many species, if we see that all life uses the same processes to replicate at a basic level, is made out of the same substances, etc, etc... Then the logical conclusion is that life had one origin. One origin only. Assuming there are more than one is based on nothing and extremely unlikely. Of course, I don't get why people would believe the earth is only 6000 years old either and there's no evolution. It's just as obviously wrong. But that one is better saved for the bible thread I believe. view post

posted 14 May 2007, 11:05 in Philosophy DiscussionEvolution vs Creation by Randal, Auditor

We're talking about the origin and development of species here, not about what happens in a person's life. When talking about how life forms developed, we're talking about genetics and genetics only. The development of the genes (which survice and reproduce, which don't) is indeed impacted by climactic changes and external factors including luck, but that is not the point. The point is that there is no reason to assume different forms of life on earth had different origins, seeing as how their basic structure is nigh identical. view post

posted 14 May 2007, 19:05 in Literature DiscussionGollancz S.F. by Randal, Auditor

It's a real quote, but it's a joke... like I said in my post, it's a mockery of certain other writers who take themselves too seriously. No sane writer would claim his work is important in this way. Seriously. Would he use the term "high brow" if he meant it? As for the books, like I said in my reviewish post above, "it has nothing to really make you think." Fun, well done, but no, he does not make important socio-political points or attempts to. The best description would be from one of the reviews I read: an 80s style traditional fantasy story, only told through cynical postmodern eyes. (To which I would add: with better characters.) view post

posted 14 May 2007, 23:05 in Philosophy DiscussionEvolution vs Creation by Randal, Auditor

This is a well-known and common misconception. Evolution does not violate the second law of thermodynamics, because the earth is not a closed system. [u:2aa7jjwm][url=]Read here.[/url:2aa7jjwm][/u:2aa7jjwm] [u:2aa7jjwm][url=]Or here, for the short version.[/url:2aa7jjwm][/u:2aa7jjwm] Edit: The "just a theory" argument is another old and tired misconception. Evolution is a theory like gravity is a theory. In science, a theory is as good as it gets. Evolution as a phenomenon has been observed repeatedly. The theory seeks to explain how it actually works. My second link explains that particular misconception also. Enthropic existence: Cheers for that post! [quote:2aa7jjwm]on the development of about deforestation? or an aerobic environment becoming anaerobic? this is more than genetics.[/quote:2aa7jjwm] Snapdragon: I'm afraid I don't quite understand what you're getting at. Sorry. I just don't get the meaning. What are you arguing? What does deforestation have to do with genetics or evolution or intelligent design? Do you mean that species can become extinct because of outside factors? That's obvious, but doesn't mean much in this discussion. Luck does play a role, a disaster can destroy an otherwise viable species. I just don't see the relevancy. view post

posted 15 May 2007, 08:05 in Philosophy DiscussionIs the idea of a "god" inherent in our minds? by Randal, Auditor

Science does make the assumption that our perception of the world is valid. If you believe we live in the matrix, science loses its value. Still, I think it's a reasonable assumption. If you assume your senses and measurements are all conspiring to deceive you, there's precious little you can achieve anyway. And science [i:3oi4bwdi]works[/i:3oi4bwdi]. The predictions it makes, the medicines and machines based on it, they all appear to work to those same senses. Of course, you could say that they really don't work and that our senses are deceiving us again into thinking they do... but that's a rather futile exercise. Our perceptions are all we have to go on, so accepting them is the most sensible course of action in my opinion. view post

posted 16 May 2007, 11:05 in Philosophy Discussionthe bible is the solution by Randal, Auditor

That's what I thought as well. The first five books. view post

posted 28 May 2007, 20:05 in Philosophy DiscussionEvolution vs Creation by Randal, Auditor

Well, aren't we still apes? As far as I know, humans are classified in the same family as Gorillas and Orang Utangs and Chimpanzees. We're all great apes. view post

posted 01 Jun 2007, 12:06 in Philosophy DiscussionThe idea of global beauty by Randal, Auditor

I don't think it exists. The majority of the world's populace has despicably poor taste. (where 'taste' is defined as 'likes the things I like and/or think admirable', though naturally the things I like are superior to the things others like.) Seriously. I think cultures and classes are too different for anything to achieve 'universal' appreciation. How large a percentage of the world's population would have to deem something aestethically pleasing for it to be deemed "globally beautiful"? And can you name some examples? What kind of thing would be enjoyed by all kinds of people? Definitely not music. Paintings? Not a chance. Statues? I doubt it. Human beauty? Absolutely not. Natural vistas? Perhaps your best bet. Maybe there are landscapes that would impress people regardless of culture or class. Still, there's plenty of people who don't care for that thing at all. And quite possibly some cultures in which the entire concept is seen as daft. I don't see it. view post

posted 08 Jun 2007, 07:06 in Philosophy DiscussionEvolution vs Creation by Randal, Auditor

No. The Neanderthals came long after the Homo Habilis. They're much more closely related to us and much more advanced. My knowledge of this is pretty fuzzy. I seem to recall some theories saying modern homo sapiens replaced them after the ice ages, and other theories saying they interbred until the Neanderthal disappeared. But that may very well be outdated. view post

posted 12 Jun 2007, 21:06 in Philosophy DiscussionWhat is going on in Iraq? by Randal, Auditor

Germany and France were against the war. Iraq was not their enemy, they said. (and rightly so. Saddam was a despicable dictator, but not intent on world conquest.) They didn't fight because they had no business attacking Iraq. Plus, it would have been political suicide for them to try and attack Iraq, their populace was dead set against. It's called democracy. Also, Germany or France or both couldn't have conquered Iraq on their own anyway. At least, not without a lengthy and difficult war. They don't have the resources and their armies are mostly designed to fight together with the rest of NATO or to defend their own soil. They don't have fleets of super aircraft carriers, they don't have military bases all over the world, and they have a fraction of the US's military budget. As for why Bush attacked... I never did understand. At the time, I believed they had WMDs, but I thought that wasn't a sensible reason to attack either. Of course, I never bought the Al-Queda connection, and neither did anybody else in Europe that I know. Now, I just don't know. Pride? A belief they could easily reform the Middle East and avert a long-term threat to the US? Those seem most likely to me. Oh, and regarding US debt: don't Bush's tax-cuts have something to do with that too? Increase spending whilst decreasing revenue has always sounded like bad economics to me, unless it's done for very specific reasons. (Keynes isn't all that hot anymore) view post

posted 13 Jun 2007, 19:06 in Philosophy DiscussionWhat is going on in Iraq? by Randal, Auditor

France is plenty powerful, sure. Many times more powerful than the Iraqi army at its heighday, certainly much stronger than the one Bush Junior fought. But does France have the logistical capability of actually getting hundreds of thousands of men to Iraq with sufficient supplies, lodging, etc? Britain found it almost impossible to retake the Falklands. Now, those of course were much farther away, but they also were very small and had a non-hostile population. If France couldn't use all the American airbases around, and wasn't given passage through Turkey or other surrounding countries, how the hell would they get their superior army to Iraq? view post

posted 13 Jun 2007, 22:06 in Philosophy DiscussionWhat is going on in Iraq? by Randal, Auditor

"America should really stop declaring war on verbs." I forget who said it, but I do agree with this quote. It's so much more sensible to wage wars on tangible things. view post

posted 25 Jun 2007, 08:06 in Philosophy DiscussionWhat is going on in Iraq? by Randal, Auditor

Enkidu: if you're suggesting the Crusades caused the decline of the various Muslim states, I would have to disagree. They were a disruption, but a fairly minor one at that. They didn't fail because Europe lost interest, but because everything they gained was reconquered and it simply proved unfeasable to campaign so far away from home. (The first crusade was the least organised and probably military least impressive crusade, but had by far the greatest success. Later crusades, including actual royal armies, frequently returned without accomplishing much.) I'm not an expert on history of the area, but I always thought the Mongol invasions were rather more damaging than the crusades ever were. (the crusaders at their height held... what. A dozen cities? They never came even near threatening Egypt or Baghdad.) view post

posted 26 Jun 2007, 16:06 in Philosophy DiscussionWhat is going on in Iraq? by Randal, Auditor

I'd argue with placing the Reconquista as part of the Crusades. I mean, sure, the label was used, but it was a very different beast. The crusades to the holy land were fought for mainly religious reasons and were strategically and tactically rather unsound due to the vast distances involved and lack of long-term commitment. (from a western p.o.v.) The reconquista was very simply a part of the ongoing struggle between the Muslim invaders and the remnants of the prior visigothic occupiers. It was a plain old normal war, where religion was used by the christian kingdoms to give their troops' morale a good boost. (far more relevant than the reconquest itself, in my opinion, was the later religiously inspired intolerance shown... spanish inquisition, anyone? Still, I don't think that can be blamed on the crusades either. There were plenty of christian crackdowns.) view post

posted 27 Jun 2007, 11:06 in Philosophy DiscussionWhat is going on in Iraq? by Randal, Auditor

Modern historians no longer regard economical reasons as driving the crusades. This was popular in the Seventies when they wanted to explain everything from large socio-economical movements and disregard emotional and political reasons, but in the case of the crusades it is no longer tenable. Current consensus is that whilst the Crusades had their fair share of adventurers, the vast majority were pious men who wanted to do good for their soul and religion and then return home. Remember, most crusaders did return home. They didn't go to conquer tracts of land for themselves... they travelled thousands of miles through extreme hazards, fought against terrible unknown foes in unfamiliar terrain with unfamiliar weapons, then perhaps stayed at a holy place for a while, and then returned home. Perhaps they brought some souvenirs, looted a few coins, yes. But do you really think that was motivation enough to brave all that hazard and accept casual ratings which must have been immense through attrition alone? If it had been money they wanted, they could have become a mercenary in the war next door. No, the motivation was mostly religious. view post

posted 03 Jul 2007, 22:07 in Philosophy DiscussionWhat is going on in Iraq? by Randal, Auditor

Secure trade routes? That's the first I've heard of that. How does invading Jerusalem and trying to hold onto it despite it being thousands of miles away from your heartland and nobody being willing to put enough resources into defending it improve trade? Especially as the trade is going through Constantinople or the Italian cities anyway? How exactly is being the middleman here worth sending tens of thousands of soldiers and fighting endless wars of attrition when there's no real realistic prospect of holding the land for long? Who exactly wants this? The pope? He calls the crusades. But if so, why are all kinds of minor nobles answering? How the hell do they benefit? How does trade with the east help the King of England if securing it means he has to leave his kingdom for years on end and causes no end of trouble at home? Same for all other kings? If it's about trade, why all the effort to take Jeruzalem which isn't even a port? Why not focus on Antioch? Why can't you just trade with the muslims? I'm sorry. But as a motivation, that makes no sense whatsoever to me. Who says it was about the silk route? view post

posted 05 Jul 2007, 10:07 in Philosophy DiscussionIs the idea of a "god" inherent in our minds? by Randal, Auditor

[quote:ds88aesu](an idea that's been growing since the early 1900's)[/quote:ds88aesu] Actually, this idea was already getting rather popular with various ancient greek philosophers. Plato probably thought something of the kind. Of course, then the Christians came along and claimed their god was this one god... still. view post

posted 19 Jul 2007, 10:07 in Philosophy DiscussionOK Creation - but why? by Randal, Auditor

Odds are just as good we're a game-show. view post

posted 17 Nov 2007, 23:11 in Philosophy DiscussionFree Will by Randal, Auditor

I think this is all a bit vague. "Free will reduced to something less than is commonly understood." Well, what is commonly understood? I believe free will of a sort exists in that people make choices all the time... but also that they're determined, in that given the same arguments they would make the same decision in every parallel universe. After all, your decisions aren't made by random chance, are they? They have reasons. If those reasons don't change, the decisions do not change either. "I would not have done that in his place" still applies, because you -would not- have done so in 'his' place. After all, you have access to different information, have a different brain with which to process the information, different experiences, different desires, priorities and ideals to motivate your decision... you would make a different decision because of that. Quite possibly in fact a better one. I think that is plenty free enough. We do the best we can according to our abilities and desires. But there's nothing magical about it, nothing that stands above the laws of nature, nothing that escapes the principles of causality. The causes just very often are found in your character, rather than in external circumstances. I don't see how that conflicts with concept of humanity at all. view post

posted 19 Nov 2007, 14:11 in Philosophy DiscussionFree Will by Randal, Auditor

The problem is, I fail to see the distinction. The causes do not shackle us to a certain path? What -then- are your choices [i:3obj2ppd]based[/i:3obj2ppd] on? If you choose to execute the murderer in your example, why? And if next you do not, why not? Do you really think that given the exact same data and reasons, the exact same time to deliberate, you would make a different choice in a paralel universe? A choice not based on what you believe right, not on the reasons given, not on anything visible or measurable? You would 'just' come to a different conclusion? Why would you choose differently if the circumstances are the same? I honestly see no reason why anybody ever would. Or should. What meaning do our choices have, after all, if they can change... for no discernable reason? I do not see how that is any better than random chance. Note that I am not arguing against your example at all. Of -course- deliberation plays an important role. -Of course- you make every effort to choose what you think is best. Deliberation is an important factor in deciding what is best, in analysing the data you have. Your mind and thought processes are one of the most important causes that determine the eventual outcome. However, I also think that your deliberations would bring you to the same result in the end in any and all possible paralel universes provided the circumstances remain the same. You would think the same thoughts and arrive at the same conclusions. Why? Simply, because you are doing the best you can given your capacities. So you always choose what you think best or most pleasant, etc. I suppose I am not very much hung up on the question of whether the choice is "free" or not. I don't care, as long as I am still exercising judgement, still trying to find the best path. That to me is a lot more relevant than any ephermeal concept of "free will." So in short, what I am saying is you [i:3obj2ppd]could[/i:3obj2ppd] choose differently, if you were a different person. But you [i:3obj2ppd]will not[/i:3obj2ppd] choose differently as long as the circumstances remain the same, because your deliberations will eventually lead you to accept one choice as the right or most favourable one. And you will go with that. PS: Quantum theory is a nice one, often pushed forward by people advocating free will. Unfortunately, quantum universe does not support a truly free will either, as all it allows for in the way of undetermined events is random chance. view post

posted 21 Nov 2007, 21:11 in Philosophy DiscussionFree Will by Randal, Auditor

I apologise for not replying to your post point by point. I had started to, but felt it reduced the clarity of my post and risked getting side-tracked into endless rambling. I will shortly note that my opinion of human nature is not all that optimistic. I just do not feel there is much of a difference between rational and irrational reasons where this discussion is concerned, and threw them all under one header. Maybe I should have been clearer. Now, your main objection seems to be the lack of meaning in a deterministic universe, so I will try to clarify my position on that. My point, and it may seem like sophistry though I do not intend it that way, is that even though you will always make the same choice no matter how many exactly parallel universes there are, it still -is- a choice. It -is- based on all those deliberations, on what goes on in your mind, on rational reasons and irrational ones like that sudden surge of anger when the defendant smiles smugly. Just because it is predictable, does not to me make it any less valid. Another person would have made a different choice, a better one or a worse one. You yourself in a bad mood might have made a worse one. You yourself but with less self discipline might have made a worse one. So why not praise a person who makes good choices? Why not condemn one who makes bad ones? It still is your personal achievement as much as anything you do is. When deconstructed far enough, your ability to make those choices is not really the result of personal merit, yes. It is determined by your inborn intelligence or lack thereof, by the experiences you have had, by whether or not you are easily swayed by emotions or not and then whether your toast burned in the morning... you make good choices, but someone who makes bad ones through hot-temperedness could not suddenly to decide not to be hot-tempered and start making good ones. But all that would -also- go if through some unknown measure the choice was -not- predictable. Just like a top athlete isn't really that good by his own merit, it is largely inborn talent. A genius is praised for his work, but he was born a genius. An altruist is praised for his good deeds, but derives pleasure and statisfaction from helping others. Self-control can be learned to an extent, but is much easier for some than for others. Maybe that too makes you think the world is devoid of meaning. However, I think the evidence is incontrovertible even leaving aside the issue of free will that much of who and what we are is decided by nature and nurture, and that any praise (or blame) given is given to those people who were lucky enough, talented enough and ambitious enough (or the reverse) to achieve greatness. (or be failures) I confess I do not find that greatly troublesome. I mean, it would be nice if the world was truly fair, but obviously it is not. If someone achieves great things, I am impressed even if his talent was inborn. If someone makes good choices, I will praise them even if he made those choices because he was born with a sound sense of judgement. And if someone lets his judgement be swayed because he broke his shoelaces in the morning and is in a bad mood, I'll kick him out of the court if at all possible because he will achieve bad results, even if he cannot really help his temper. That also applies to choices made. Even if they are as free as you believe I think you would agree that that freedom only goes so far, that not everybody has it in him to make good choices no matter how hard he tries, and that not everybody has it in him to even try hard. Some people would just not care. So my bottom line would be that finding out free will does not exist would not make the world any more devoid of 'meaning' than it is already, and does not make people more or less accountable than they with free(er) will. I'm sure you've noted I have made no effort here to defend my position that there is no true free will. We can get back to that later, if you wish. I found this more interesting to talk about. view post


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