Yes, that’s right, singular. This was the early 90s; it was wheeled between classrooms on a trolley and played a selection of blocky educational games about as engaging as a marketing pamphlet about sensible shoes. Later, there were computer rooms, but we certainly didn’t have mobile phones to consult on any given enquiry. FBI agents on TV had mobile phones; kids at school did not. Teenagers didn’t have an important reason to warrant getting one. That last part hasn’t really changed.
Anyway. The point I’m underlining is how widely available information is. With the powerful array of devices often only a tap from the internet, we’re more plugged-in than ever. Access to incredible resources like Wikipedia have revolutionised autodidactism and even regular taught education. Thanks to the concept of crowd-content, you can find videos about any kind of esoteric thing you are trying to do; from upgrading Nerf guns to learning when to omit the phrase “watashi wa” in Japanese.
When discussing spiritualism, philosophy or religion it doesn’t take long to encounter the apparent impasse of “but concept X might be right”, where the concept is not falsifiable. Most of us with an empirical bent are content to ditch these ideas, because the lacking or counter evidence is often compelling enough. But I want to look at what happens when we don’t, and why a belief contrary to evidence is a no-win risk. To take a belief in something contrary to (or without) evidence is the colloquial (and less misleading) definition of the word ‘faith’. The “risk” we’re talking about can also be hugely variable; it could be as little as some of our time or as much as the welfare of a nation. Either way, I’m going to assume there is something lost by believing in a falsehood, as in reality there nearly always is.
So. We have our belief that is neither provable nor disprovable, as all persistent faiths necessarily are. We have no substantial supporting evidence for this faith, perhaps even evidence against it, but ultimately it is not disprovable. It might be true, the adherents stubbornly insist, and What (as a Liberty University student once fatefully asked Richard Dawkins) if you’re wrong?
When Teleportation was first developed in early 3.2.C, there was vehement opposition to its adoption for human transportation. Disassembling the atoms of a person at location A, transferring their quantum-precise state as information and using it to reassemble them from different atoms at location B; was heatedly argued to be quite different from moving a person from A to B. One of the spheres of human thought to feel most threatened was spiritualism, or more precisely, Religion.
Finally trial runs were carried out with a pioneering group of human volunteers, garnering intense public attention despite best attempts at privacy. When the participating individuals proved to be fine and without side affects (as many artificial rodents had been previously), the debate only heightened. “We do not transmit souls across, yet these people are no different than they were before. How can you claim there to be a soul when it affects nothing?” argued project observer, Dr Zan Taku Blinar. Spiritual counter-arguments held that, as the soul’s mechanism was unknown, it couldn’t be ruled out as somehow following the intended person to their new form.
There was also much agitation about the subjective experience. If you step into a booth that destroys all your atoms, you are actually killed; despite the fact it doesn’t feel like it. To the traveller, you merely become unconscious and wake up in a new location. It is compared by most to the sensation of falling asleep. It seemed incontrovertible now, that human consciousness was anything more than immense patterns fired by the brain’s neurons.
As ever, it was the economy of convenience that won out and humankind soon embraced the benefits of travelling as information; with the vast new avenues it opened for interplanetary flight (an endeavour that had stagnated for hundreds of years as humans sought to break the light barrier) to name just one. Those adverse to teleportation became a common but private assortment; like those with apprehensions about flying.
In the years that followed, many religions attempted to reconcile with the implications of teleportation. Some even claimed that teleporting successfully proved the strength of the ‘tether’ to one’s soul, with some cults even going so far as using teleportation in rituals to prove faith. Nevertheless, religion by 3.2.C was more of a personal pursuit than the political force it had once been.
Having worked under a gambling corporation for several years, I can tell you a thing or two about odds. Perhaps most important of all is that humans are typically rubbish at them. Probability incompetence is a regular affliction to the human race; from betting and court evidence to management planning.
Which brings me to a common refuge of theism and one of the chief contributers to agnosticism. Pascal’s Wager goes something like this… Continue reading →
The essence of my argument is that God does not exist, and that this can be proved from a logical perspective. It can also be argued that, while the logical perspective is often denounced as inadequate for ‘spiritual’ questioning, it is nevertheless the only truly objective measure of truth. Everything my senses tell me could well be a lie; but I have to give them the benefit of the doubt as I have no real reason to suspect so, and to distrust them is not going to gain me anything.
Likewise, the reasoning of fundamental logic (if A /= B, B cannot equal A) might well be false when talking about God. Yet I have no reasons to suppose, while describing all the workings of the universe*, they are wrong about this one particular issue. Continue reading →