Atheist Climber has turned 1! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

October 10, 2010 § 5 Comments

Atheist Climber is now 1 year old! AND OH HOW IT’S GROWN!

In the year that I have been writing this blog I have had over 60,000 hits and written 120 articles about Atheism, Science and Rationality, and have had over 1200 comments! That’s a lot more interest that I dared dream of, after all, who really cares what I have to say? But that said, I must say it has been a learning experience, and this blog has helped me solidify my opinions about the universe.

Thanks to all those who have supported my writings and rantings. I’ll do my best to keep it up.

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Atheist Climber Prominent People Project

September 24, 2010 § 7 Comments

Atheist Climber Blog is turning One year old on October 10! Yay! And I remember like yesterday thinking “Do I have anything to write about? Will anyone care? Will anyone read it?” I just wish I had taken more baby photos!

Well you have all spoken to me by visiting and commenting on my blog. My measure of success has been reflected in the blog stats with over 60,000 page hits, over 100 subscribers, and more than 1500 comments for the 100+ articles and videos I have posted. This far surpasses my expectations and for that I thank you all.

To celebrate, I am in the process of interviewing a selection of prominent figures in humanism, atheism, science and critical thinking. Most of these will be in the form of written interviews, but who knows? I might, down the track, do some video or audio interviews too. This will be dependent on how these interviews are received by my readers.

I don’t want to say too much at this stage, but suffice to say, I already have confirmation from a few very prominent and important people who I’m sure you’d recognise. More information to come. So stay tuned!

The first interview will be published on Atheist Climber Blog’s first birthday, October 10, 2010. So come celebrate with me, and feed your brain with the words of some great thinkers.

Thanks again,
Atheist Climber

You Are Not the Centre of the Universe

September 20, 2010 § 2 Comments

This is an amazing short video showing the relative sizes of objects in the known universe. Sit back and prepare to get some perspective. What is even more amazing is the actual space between these objects in space. Numbers and distances lose all meaning when working at this scale, and the human brain has not evolved to cope with them.

No you are NOT the centre of the universe!

Humanity, the spoiled child of the universe.

September 18, 2010 § 5 Comments

We are all born onto this Earth as the product of a mother and a father in a more-or-less helpless state. From the moment of birth we depend upon those around us to feed us and protect us from the ravages of the outside world. Unlike most other species on the planet who are born or hatched into situations that warrant that they are already on the move, a newly born human comes into the world as a completely dependent being, requiring the parents and extended families to be there for him or her. Our first moments on earth are bonding moments with our mothers, a time when we create ties that we hold onto for life. For most of us, our mothers, and to a lesser extent our fathers, are a symbol in our own lives of safety, caring, knowledge and guidance. Even into adulthood, we hold onto these bonds, for they are our introduction into the world. We are born at the center of our known universe. Parents care deeply for their children, would do anything in fact to protect them, even risking their own lives for the children to be safe. In the perfect situation, every need was provided for by our mothers and fathers, and if we asked nicely, our simple wishes could be granted. Humans need their parents and protectors, and we crave the unconditional love of our protectors well past the time when they are needed for our immediate survival. Our parents and carers are our immortal figures, always right, always there for us, and all-powerful. And they are also the deliverers of discipline and rules and guidelines for our lives.

Earth from the moon

Earth from the moon

This kind of unconditional love is soft-wired into our brains, and evolutionary advantage, which allows the brain and mind of a person to develop the complex and needed skills in early life such as speech and speech recognition, facial recognition, communication, and later motor skills like crawling, walking and digital manipulation of objects. Our societies grant us this privilege by providing us with a relatively safe place to rear our children. Most of us are not born into situations where imminent death looms in the grasses, at least, not any more.

As we grow up, our bonds to our parents weaken slightly, as we become more independent and self-reliant, but there is a part of us that still craves to be the focus of everything. We realise that our parents are simply people like ourselves, mortal, fallible and fragile. Some would say we all desire, somewhere in our psyches, to return to the infantile and helpless state, one where we are looked after and safe, with not a care in the world. As we extend our boundaries and our knowledge, our needs and wants become more complex, and we have to balance out our days in our schools, jobs, home life, social responsibilities etc. so the immediate need for parent-figures diminishes. Eventually, we pass this on to children of our own, and we become the carers and protectors of the next generation.

We know at an early age about death, and realise that we will each face death one day. Even our own parents, the ones who seemed invincible will too, one day, die. Quite a daunting idea. And in a child’s naive voice we will ask “But what comes after?” No matter how we mature we never seem to truly leave behind this need for a parental figure. We want the protection of something larger than ourselves, stronger than us, wiser and more powerful. This position is vacant in our lives, our parents being more like ourselves than we first conceived, so we have a tendency to fill this position, in our minds, with exactly what we miss from our childhood.

A creator, who by its divine hand, brought us (and everything else) into existence for us. A protector, old and wise, who knows everything. A provider, who miraculously brings to us everything we could possibly need. A disciplinarian, who will bring punishment upon us if we disobey. A friend who can see our deepest thoughts, and tell us that we are indeed special. A hand that is always there to guide in life, and help when times are tough. God is the ultimate parent-figure.

By this logic, if we are special, and cared for from above, and all is provided for us here on Earth, the logic follows that it must have been put here for us, and us alone. We are so special that God made all things bright and beautiful for humanity to enjoy, use and benefit from. Because God chose to give us life, it is our birthright to take and have all that we might want from this earth, for it is ours to take. And if we don’t get what we want, we ask, pester and request of God that we get what we want.

Once upon a time, there was the belief that the god or gods looked over all of us, the same gods for everyone. But our human conceit and self-importance has grown to the point where many believe that God is personalised, like the license plates on a car, to suit the wants and needs of an individual, as if to say that a single life is so important that God will be what you want it to be. So often people say things like “My god isn’t like that” or “The god I know is against that,” to match the intended outcome of the person saying it, like matching the personal god to the shoes that person is wearing. God is the ultimate accessory that no Prada handbag can match.

It seems that despite all the personal maturation that each person does in a lifetime, we as a species still struggle with being alone. The formative moments of our lives, where each one of us is the center of the known universe, carries on into adulthood in the form of creator-gods and all-powerful beings. And this carries with it the unfortunate side-effect of thinking that, because the Earth suits us so nicely then it must have been made for us. We have to realise that the inverse is true, that it is precisely because the Earth suits us so nicely that we exist at all. Humanity is the spoiled child of the universe, and we need to grow up.

The passage that lead me to write this blog is below, in Carl Sagan’s piece entitled “Consider Again that Pale Blue Dot”, a revisitation to the Pale Blue Dot from 1996.

“We seem to crave privilege, merited not by our works, but by our birth; by the mere fact that, say, we’re humans, and born on Earth. We might call it the anthropocentric, the human centred conceit. This conceit is brought close to culmination in the notion that we are created in God’s image. The creator and ruler of the entire universe looks just like me.

My! What a coincidence! How convenient and satisfying!”  – Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan – Consider Again that Pale Blue Dot

September 15, 2010 § 1 Comment

“We seem to crave privilege, merited not by our works, but by our birth; by the mere fact that, say, we’re humans, and born on Earth. We might call it the anthropocentric, the human centred conceit. This conceit is brought close to culmination in the notion that we are created in God’s image. The creator and ruler of the entire universe looks just like me.

My! What a coincidence! How convenient and satisfying!”  – Carl Sagan

The Mind is Everything

September 15, 2010 § 8 Comments

Is there a sense of determinism in the universe? Does the universe have a purpose?

My personal understanding of the universe is that there is no definite purpose for the universe, merely that the universe is a result of a series of events, which were the series of a previous series of events, which in turn, are the result of a previous series of events etc. But this is a gross over-simplification. Obviously, since some state that time began with The Big Bang, then how could there have been “previous” to The Big Bang? Unfortunately we may never know, because events before a certain stage of development of the universe are hidden behind an “event-curtain” or “event-horizon” (also known as the cosmological horizon) much like that which surrounds a black-hole. The idea here is that light travels at a finite speed, and objects are also moving at a second finite speed. In order for us to be able to see these objects, they must be travelling away from us (or us from them) at a relative speed less than the speed of light, otherwise the light fails to reach us. It is because of this event-horizon that we cannot see past the event of the fledgling universe, and the light will never reach us here on earth, as we are moving away from that position in space faster than the speed of light, relative to it. (In the case of a black hole, the objects move toward the black hole so fast that light cannot escape back out, so once it’s past this event-horizon we can’t see it any longer.)

Image from Hubble

Image from Hubble

But I digress. The universe is still reacting to the initial conditions that caused its beginning, at least as far as we we can see into the past. This being the case, I think it is folly to think that the universe has a personal interest in you, as a person and what happens to you in your life.

There are those who think that there is no god, but believe that the universe is “guiding them in some way”. I’m not one of these people. I think the universe is indifferent to our existence. I’d even go so far as to say I think the universe has no capacity to “know” anything in any case. I have said this before in previous blogs.

The universe as God?

As to the idea that the universe has a predetermined pattern which the human (and all action takes for that matter) in a Donnie Darko-esque way, well I can’t say one way or the other. But i must say, apart from the ideas of cause and effect, I’d have to say, in my experience, when people say “The universe is telling me to blah blah blah…” what they REALLY mean is, “My subconscious is telling me to blah blah blah,” or “I’m not sure why, but I really feel like I should blah blah blah”. The idea that the universe has a personalised deterministic nature is the human mind’s anthropromorphising of the universe, giving the universe some sort of human characteristics, specifically that of caring for us, combined with the innate wish that everything will work out for the better if we just trust in the “will” of the universe.

We do wish that we were “looked out for” in some way. It would make life a whole lot easier if we could simply throw our hands in the air and say something like “If it is the will of the universe, than that is the way it should be.” It would also be very nice to think that, at any given moment, we were being looked after by a surrogate parent, be it God or the universe. This makes sense, because as we are growing up when we are unsure, or hurt, or scared, we look to our parents or our guardians to give us support, guidance and comfort. The universe however is not capable of this, at least not by my understanding. In our minds, we can formulate all sorts of ways the universe or gods or nature is looking out for us, and for some this is seen as a reassuring. This all takes place in our minds.

The mind is everything.

Everything we see, feel, interpret, wish for, know and experience. That’s not to say there’s not more to the brain than we understand, because there IS more than we understand. The brain, however, is far more complex than a simple binary machine, capable of only “yes/no” decisions piled one upon the other. In fact, we are only beginning to understand the workings of the mind at all. Personally I’m very excited to see what we find out about the workings of the mind. Once we have unravelled the brain, can we then have better control over ourselves, our decisions and our beliefs? Will we then be ready to let go of our wishes to be looked after by the universe or god?

Inspired by Jonathan’s blog piece here.

Carter Emmart demos a 3D atlas of the universe

September 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

From the talk:

“So I’d like to just say that what the world needs now is a sense of being able to look at ourselves in this much larger condition now and a much larger sense of what home is. Because our home is the universe, and we are the universe, essentially. We carry that in us. And to be able to see our context in this larger sense at all scaleshelps us all, I think, in understanding where we are and who we are in the universe.” – Carter Emmart

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