The Lolife Podcast No. 63

I did an interview with PZ Myers of Pharyngula. It was done simultaneously on video and on my podcast setup, so here is the audio of the full interview. When our famous vlogger buddy Chuck Olsen has the time, I’m told excerpts of the video will be available on Minnesota Stories.

No. 63: PZ Myers of Pharyngula (Click to listen)

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The Lolife Podcast No. 63

Bush did something right?

Bush to Declare Islands A National Monument

C’mon, George, you see? It’s not that hard. Go for another! See if you can do TWO good things in your 8 years. If the second one works out, go for THREE. You don’t owe those right-wing bastards anything, man. You are untouchable! You don’t have to do shit the rest of your life. For god sake, man, do some good in the world in these last months.

Bush did something right?

Dude, Where's My Soul?

I’ve been thinking about souls lately. As an agnostic/atheist, this can be pretty entertaining. You don’t have to call it a soul, though. Even if you call it a mind or a personality, it is an odd thing.

First of all, between 50% and 80% of you is made up of water. Good ol’ H2O. I weigh (unfortunately) about 190 lb. (or 86 kg). That means that what I refer to as “me” includes 3 water-cooler sized jugs of water (about 14 gallons at 8.33 gallon/lb.). Does 3 water-cooler sized jugs of water have a soul? I would think not.

I found a site with the elements of the periodic table sorted by their presence in the human body. It looks like we are, in decreasing order of percentage, oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, sodium and magnesium. Do any of those things have a soul? Do they have a mind?

A mind, we could argue, is a higher level brain function essentially involving close analogs to computers, with data storage, processing and interconnections. Thus a mind is explicable as a rather sophisticated “ghost in the machine” that can be fully explained by physics.

Where is the soul, though? What is a soul? Why do some believe in souls? A soul, they would say, is exactly that part of us which is not a function of the intricate arrangement of various elements. It is not physical. So people have souls and water jugs do not. Who decided that? A soul, apparently, is a special designation by God of supernatural permanence. Or, to be more objective, a soul would be some extra-dimensional aspect of human beings whose existence was not dependent on the “mortal coil” here incarnated. In this case the other dimension may not be study-able, i.e. literally beyond the capabilities of 4-D science, but if this soul thing plays any role in our dimensions, it can’t be completely beyond the realm of study.

I’m trying to be open-minded and thorough because it is an important question. As a hardcore agnostic slash light-weight atheist, it is still hard for me to completely relent to the fact that I am not special. Part of me just so wants to believe that somehow I am special. As someone decidedly non-religious, that translates to there somehow being more reality than we are able to sense. A more complex answer, really, to cosmological questions than the Big Bang/GR/Quantum ones we have discovered. In a way it seems somehow to deny my humanity if I deny the possibility that maybe there really is more than we think.

There is not the slightest shred of evidence for something like this, nor the slightest evidence for God, Heaven or Hell. While it is totally natural to speculate, the only rational answer is extreme agnosticism. Or perhaps atheism. All the rest is the wishful thinking of people that just don’t want to die.

You are going to die. That is a fact. I’m not scared of dying in the abstract. I’m not scared of being dead. My life is precious and therefore all lives are precious, regardless if, and especially if, when we die we are dead. That will not hurt. The fact that we are going where all people go, even if that is to an eternity of non-being, should give us comfort.

We don’t need souls. We are special, you and me, either way.

Dude, Where's My Soul?

Zarqawi

I’m not a pacifist. It still strikes me as ironic as hell that a man who is proudly Christian, prays a lot and says he talks to God can be gleeful that people under his command directly disobeyed one of the 10 commandments — thou shalt not kill. I am of course talking about George W. Bush.

I think the 10 commandments are largely nonsense. Either they are self-evident or they are stupid. They are certainly not some majestic pillar of truth. Yet if you believe in the 10 commandments and publicly call yourself a Christian, it is hard for me to understand how you can waive that commandment whenever you wish. Did God command it or not? Is there a footnote or some legalese I missed on the 10 commandments?

I suspect that Zarqawi got what he deserved. I’m not shedding any tears over that one. I still think a political philosophy of killing your enemies is inane, if not insane. You cannot successfully kill every Arab or Muslim that hates the U.S. In fact, the more you kill the more there are.

The “success” we have in terms of killing this a-hole is illusory and is not indicative of tangible progress in Iraq. Killing people is easy compared to nation building. This administration apparently has these two things confused. Get the fucking power on, the water clean, the schools open, the markets open, provide security, expand the number of stakeholders and get rid of the overwhelming American military presence which is aggravating the situation.

Zarqawi is dead and there are 20,000 guys ready to step in and take his place.

Zarqawi

Epilogue

OK, my fascination with my little war with The Reclusive Leftist is turning into sort of a dull annoyance. We are clearly oil and water. I bumped heads with her on one other issue and it turned similarly ugly. Not blaming her, not blaming me, some people are just not good at communicating together. Back from my Usenet days I have developed certain skills. One is a pretty thick skin. I do slap back when I get slapped, but I never take it personally. Call me an idiot in one message and get back to debate in the next and I will forget all about that idiot crap. Another is a dogged persistence to the topic. I am argumentative but it is a love of debate that makes me so, not a desire to beat others down. Some people enjoy the type and style of debate that I do and others do not. It appears this style is too heavy handed for The Reclusive Leftist. Fair enough.

Someone please point me to some asshole Republican blogger I can use as a punching bag for a while…

Epilogue