Religion

Be cool like Carl, and keep your hands off my science

My suit is made of SCIENCE

Carl Sagan was one of the greatest people who ever lived. Like ever. Seriously.

Not only was he a badass scientist (astrophysics, cosmology, astronomy etc) and science populariser, he was also a cannabis advocate and all around CHILL DUDE. He currently holds the world record for cheesiest yet sincere grin:

"Tee hee, science!"“I fucking LOVE science dawg”

In 1980 two great things happened. One, I was born and two, Carl Sagan started broadcasting his show Cosmos: A Personal Voyage on television. Cosmos was a thirteen part science based documentary show, chronicling science’s greatest achievements throughout the existence of the human race. Even though it’s over thirty years old it is still well worth watching today, not just for the science but also for Sagan himself. His amazingly calm and dreamy voice makes learning seem like pure pleasure and his empathy for all living things was something to be admired. He did so much for science that I can’t even begin to scratch the surface so you should go and at least read his wiki page, I guarantee that you’ll like what you read.

Carl Sagan died in 1996 and the world lost one of the greatest defenders of truth it has ever known. However just as the memory of Carl lives on today, so does his show Cosmos in a reboot of sorts being presented by one of today’s leading science populariser guys, Neil deGrasse Tyson.

ndgtThis guy. His head is just a bit smaller than Jupiter.

So far there have been three episodes of the new Cosmos that have aired, I’ve seen the first two and NDT does a brilliant job of carrying on Sagan’s legacy. You can tell he is just as excited about spreading knowledge and science as Carl was, and he pays homage to his mentor in a most respectful and touching manner in the first episode.

It’s a great programme and something that is badly needed these days; a science show about science and nothing else. But of course, you start to talk about Evolution and then BAM – the crazies come out of the woodwork:

Creationists want equal airtime on Cosmos

That’s right folks we cannot have a science based show that is just about pure science without those loveable bunch The Creationists throwing their extremely uneducated and tiresome opinions and objections into the mix. They want Cosmos to talk about the non theory that is Intelligent Design and how Creationism is a legitimate subject that should be taught as a science to children. This is idiotic. This is like watching Battlestar Galactica and complaining that there are not enough cowboys in it. It’s like listening to classical music and moaning that there is no dubstep style drop in the middle of the track.

You do no get to complain about this, fundamentalist religious people. You have entire channels, no scratch that, entire NETWORKS dedicated to god bothering. You would laugh in the face of anyone who demanded that you give Evolution equal time on one of your “Praise Jesus by giving us all your money” shows now would you?

Leave the science to the scientists and push your own silly agendas on your extremely well financed cable TV channels. Cosmos is about Science, not your false mythos. Evolution is not ‘just a theory’ and if you still cling to that belief then get a dictionary and actually look up what the term ‘theory’ means in a scientific context. The theory of Evolution is FACT, not a hypothesis. There are thousands of pieces of evidence and thousands of peer reviewed studies that prove it and refute Creationism at every turn.

Please, I know I’m not a massive fan or religion and a lot of what I say is hyperbole but I want nothing more than to accept religion as something that certain people do and get some good out of. It may not be my cup of tea but if it influences your life and the lives of those you care about in a positive manner, great – that is a good thing and you can believe whatever you want. However if your beliefs are dangerous, if you spread lies and misinformation and hatred and bigotry, you make it very hard for me to tolerate you.

jesus_and_the_dinosaursThis never happened

Cosmos is currently broadcasting on Sunday nights on FOX in the states and on Sky1 here in the UK. I highly recommend you watch it. In the meantime here is a cool little music video that features both Carl Sagan and NDT as well as a host of other important scientists (Feynman, Nye and more!).

Enjoy The Symphony Of Science – We Are All Connected (and it’s true, we are).

f.

 

Sonder and Stardust

Sonder is a relatively new concept. In short, it’s the realisation that everyone around you has their own stream of consciousness, their own complex thought patterns, their own dreams & fears. Look here’s a pretentious, artsy GIF that gets the message across better than I can:

sonder

So basically when you walk past someone in the street and you see them staring into space and you think “I wonder what’s going on there…” That’s sonder. A strange term but one I like and one I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. It’s part of my new and fragile ethos of ‘choose how you react to things better’. Instead of getting pissed off and angry at the guy who rushes past you in the train station and knocks you out of the way, consider that they might be in a hurry for something that is very important to them. Maybe they are running to catch a connecting bus to go to the hospital to visit their dying father, or maybe they are late for a meeting with an old friend they haven’t seen for years. Point is, you’ll never know exactly why. They could just be an inconsiderate asshole who pushes people out of the way because ‘they’ are more important, but you’ll never truly know, so why spend time and energy getting bothered by it?

I should stress that this is really something I haven’t even considered until quite recently. Of course it was right for me to get pissed off at these kinds of GRIEVOUS OFFENCES AGAINST MY PERSON! Of course it is they who are the asshole! I never really saw it from any other perspective, so I’m trying to change that.

So when I see lone people on the street, I wonder what they are thinking. Sometimes when I walk past them it feels like our beta waves synchronise and I can read their thoughts. I can tell if someone is happy, sad, contemplative, worried, anxious, angry. Not all of the time, but sometimes.

Sonder lets me be that person, if only for a nanosecond. I don’t mean I become them, that’s dumb, but on some level I feel like a connection is made to another sentient creature whether we like it or not. Perhaps we are all just a floating consciousness and our physical bodies are nothing more than a projection our minds give us to make us feel more comfortable.

Anyway my point is that sonder is something that allows me to regard other humans as more than just ‘the dick that pushed me down as he ran through the station’ and suchlike. Our shared consciousness is the only thing that really makes us who we are. We are not our physical bodies, it’s just meat and organs and blood. Our minds are not tangible things that you can see or touch, and yet they are still very real.

Which brings me to the other thing. It’s all made of stardust. Everything.

I just had my second therapy session where we started to do some cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) tailored for me. Despite my initial resistance to CBT I am willing to give it another shot, plus the therapist is quite good at explaining how it can be very different for different people and doesn’t seem to be bullshitting me. Part of the first steps in my CBT is to identify what some of my core beliefs are. She had inferred several already from our sessions together and one of the things she put down was nihilism. For those who are not aware Nihilism is a doctrine, most famously adopted by Friedrich Nietzsche, which posits that life – that is, human life and all life on earth (possibly the universe) –  is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value. Now I DO believe this, but not in the way you may think.

I consider myself an armchair progressive nihilist. Life doesn’t have a purpose, there is no crazy god that demands your worship, and there is no real meaning to it all. But that’s the whole point, you make of life what you see fit. The point of life is to come up with a point and that is not a bad thing, it’s actually quite beautiful if you stop to think about it. We and literally everything around us are all composed of elementary particles created in the heart of a star. We are here by virtue of an ancient cosmic explosion that allowed the heavier elements to form out of the fusion of hydrogen and helium which provides the nuclear fuel for all the stars you see in the night sky. We are random collections of energy and matter and the fact that we are here at all to comment on that is incredible, is it not?

We don’t need a meaning to life, we don’t need a big all-encompassing reason to be. We are here and we are conscious and we can observe and influence our environment. There doesn’t need to be a point and there is nothing wrong with that. Some people covet money and some people want fame. Some people wish to eat only of the earth and not from the bodies of animals. Some people want to play music and some people want to play football. Some people take drugs and some people don’t. It is enough that we have those options available to us, we do not need arbitrary reasons for it all. We are at the behest of the cosmic giggle and we will continue to be long after our physical manifestations wither & die and the protons & neutrons that make up the atoms in our bodies become recycled into a tree, or a rock, or a flagpole on a far away alien planet.

We are all made of stars, and that’s totally fine. If that makes me a nihilist then I will wear that badge with pride.

f.

p.s. Here is some music that I associate with sonder because it’s beautiful, just like the concept. Thank You Space Expert:

God is not a doctor

Right, it’s fairly obvious I’m not a believer. There is no man in the sky watching and waiting for you to sin. The Christian Bible, and any other religious text that claims otherwise is bullshit, sorry but it is. You don’t need a creation myth and archaic, arbitrary rules that propagate hate and fear. The universe is wonderful enough without you having to create a magic ghost.

I am not ignorant enough to categorically state that there was not some kind of creator. It is entirely possible that during its ~14 billion year life span thus far that the universe could have created an entity which has evolved to the point where it can manipulate matter on a sub-atomic level and hence ‘create’ worlds or even life. Sure, that is 100% feasible.

They might have even created us and this planet, or at least set certain events in motion that led to us evolving, before they wandered off to conduct another cosmic experiment in another galaxy. This is all entirely possible, a creator could exist. They just don’t give a shit if you are gay, believe in other gods, or want to flip on a light switch during the Sabbath. They don’t care if you make large buildings and fill them with gold in their name, and they don’t want any of your prayers. If there was a creator, capable of shaping individual atomic elements into the complexity you see around you in nature, why the fuck would they need you to pray to them?

Why am I talking about this? Because I see a disturbing amount of people on this blogging platform that put their entire lives in the hands of a made up being. More worryingly, they propagate the myth that simply praying away your troubles is good enough. Specifically I’m referring to those who treat mental illnesses such as depression as something that only god can fix. Actual quote I read today from a commentator regarding someone suffering from depression:

“Only God can heal and help us through all of these traumas that we endure in this life.”

I’m sorry what? In one short sentence you’ve just undone all of medical science history. Only God can help me? That is a dangerous sentiment to spread to impressionable or vulnerable people. I am not denying that peoples individual spirituality can be a healing factor in their life, but to state something so absolute in such a matter of fact way is deplorable.

does-prayer-workIt says fact on it so it must be right

Praying does not heal bones, cure disease, or alleviate depression in the long term. Stop pretending it does.

f.