Friday, 7 June 2013

Dear God

First of all, yesterday's, which really is a bit poor:

Click to tweet: http://clicktotweet.com/L4DY3 .  I'm not a fan of contemporary air travel at all, mainly due to the use of heavier than air vehicles, but i was pleasantly surprised to find that Birmingham International Airport has a monorail system.  Monorails, hovercraft and airships are three things of which i am a fan but all are afflicted with zeerust - the quaintness of old design intended to be futuristic.  Hovercraft are the odd one out in that list.  I am, however, very committed to the idea of inflation as a form of air travel as it has much better fuel economy than conventional winged aircraft.  I also recognise that dirigibles are not literally inflated but have a series of gas bags inside them which are.  Helium is expensive and a by-product of radioactive decay, but no worse for that.  Hydrogen has more lifting power but was stigmatised by the likes of the Hindenburg disaster.  It's also easier to produce.  Other lighter-than-air gases are available.

I was basically stuck.  Whereas i could've gone further in elucidating what i was doing at the airport, i chose not to, so i couldn't think of a better video.  I sometimes feel there's an extra mile i can't even see, and this is an example.  I really feel i've underexploited the opportunity of being at Birmingham International Airport in a number of ways here.  Nobody has watched this video at all but for me.

Here's today's:

Click to tweet: http://clicktotweet.com/uiZkt .  Atheism is implied by various other positions but implies a more restricted set of propositions.  For instance, an atheist is unlikely to believe that Jesus is the son of God or that the Qu'ran is a divine message to humanity, although there are possibly ways in which they might.  When we refer to atheism in the West today, we often have in mind Dennett's "new atheism" rather than other atheist positions.  This is a set of positions which implies more than atheism itself does, and more specifically it's scientifically realist and metaphysically and methodologically naturalist.  All of those things are important and deserve more emphasis.  However, naturalism is not necessarily well-defined.

The Jains (yes, them again!), although they believe in karma, a soul consisting of a substance, reincarnation and moksa, tend to mean different things than Hindus or Buddhists mean by those words, although they are as committed to the ideas that they are practically the same things in terms of how one should live one's life.  For a Jain, the soul is made of matter, acquires karma, another form of matter, through a process like ionic bonding (dryness and stickiness being properties of two types of atom and connected to their observation of static electricity), which increases the mass of the soul and prevents it from rising into the blissful realm of moksa, where all is still and souls are enlightened.  To a Jain, therefore, metaphysical naturalism is very different from how a Westerner might see it.

However, the West is not immune from this problem.  Lights appearing about decomposing corpses - will o' the wisp or ignis fatuus - used to be rejected by scientists and natural philosophers, as were meteorites.  However, it later emerged that there was a naturalistic explanation for them.  Hence they were accepted within the realm of natural phenomena.  I personally believe that ghosts could be the same although my point is not directly connected to this - substitute the belief of your choice.

Methodological naturalism is another form of naturalism which sees philosophy and science as continuous and the scientific method as applicable to some degree to philosophy.  The great Willard van Ormand Quine was a methodological naturalist.

Supervenience is a popular explanation among metaphysical naturalists for various phenomena.  I've chosen not to enter into this because i wrote my Masters thesis on it and i'm probably too close to the subject to talk about it helpfully.

My point is really that naturalism of whatever kind is probably a more important feature of many atheists' belief systems and world views than the atheism itself is.

This one is even worse.  It has one view, and that's presumably mine.  However, unlike the other one, it's not dross.  It's not wonderfully focussed but it is about an issue which is absolutely central to the way atheism is generally discussed.  This probably says more about the medium than the message.  It might also say something about the weather or the title.

So, tomorrow i'm going to start playing trump cards.  I have a excellent reason for making the video i'm planning tomorrow, and i'm just going to go for it.