Nov 17, 2022
“Madison Avenue knows us. It knows that our deepest longing is to be ourselves, to be what we are, to lose our absolute freedom in the security of an identity....'Never happening!”
Nov 8, 2022
Election Day 2022
“Whatever we do, each of us is commenting on the current state-of-affairs, advocating for some future state-of-affairs, or rejecting the political process altogether.”
Sep 29, 2022
A Many-Worlds Interpretation of Social Dynamics
“There was more cultural overlap between the Confederate States and the United States in 1860 than there is today between red states and blue.”
Aug 9, 2022
Who Is Mary?
The relationship between Jesus and Mary is the relationship between God and the World, and the relationship between God and the World is the paradigm of all external relatedness.
Aug 4, 2022
Contemporary views of Time include such ideas as: ‘there is no such thing; it’s an illusion; it’s a giant block and every moment is a slice; time is just one more dimension in spacetime,' etc.
Jul 28, 2022
A Many Worlds Interpretation of Social Dynamics
“There was more cultural overlap between the Confederate States and the United States in 1860 than there is today between Red States and Blue.”
Jul 14, 2022
Special Issue Ahead--Your exclusive look at ATM's Summer Issue
All of us at AT are super excited about what we’re building: a hyper-active community of folks dedicated to the convergence of science, philosophy, and theology in the 21st century.
Jun 16, 2022
“Do I really have to wait three months for more ATM?" No, you do not! We’ve decided to add a special issue (7/15) to our 2022 publication schedule. Here's what we have planned...
Jun 9, 2022
Believers Need Not Apply
We’ve constructed a super-elaborate cosmology to explain how ‘it is’ arose spontaneously from ‘it is not.’ (If that doesn’t make any sense to you, trust me, it doesn’t make sense to me either.) How did the universe come to be? It just did! How did the ratios of the masses of subatomic particles get so finely tuned? They just did!
May 26, 2022
The Power of Intuition
I love to say, “I know.” Be honest, so do you! We all love to say it – well, all of us except Nicholas of Cusa (1401 - 1464), who preferred to say, “I don’t know.” But that’s another story for another day.
May 12, 2022
Being and Nothingness
But there are holes in this Swiss cheese. First, while it is true that ‘events’ constitute the universe, what we’re calling ‘events’ (above) are rarely primordial events.
May 3, 2022
You have Nothing to Lose but Your Clouds...What if you could vote to change the weather?
Suppose every day we could vote what weather we were to have tomorrow. What fighting there would be, what killing of one neighbor by another…most things that we vote for do not really matter, you are a little more or a little less uncomfortable as the government does one thing or another but the weather oh dear…that would be a disaster.”
Apr 28, 2022
Is it possible to write an autobiography of everyone, to somehow incorporate the wildly varying events of different people’s lives into a single story? Absurd, right? But not so fast!
Apr 26, 2022
A survey of Western traditions suggests that May Day might once have been the most important day of the year. That’s right, May Day! This day links pagan fertility rites, mythology, cosmology, Christian theology, and Marxist ideology. Quite a feat! Or is it?
Apr 12, 2022
We expect that death will seem closer each time we check, but surprisingly, that isn’t what we experience. It seems as though death were retreating from us. The closer we get, the further it recedes.
Apr 7, 2022
The Problem of Evil Through the Prism of Job
A famous paradox runs like this: “Is it good because it is God’s will, or is it God’s will because it is good?” In other words, is God subject to universal ethical standards or are those standards universal merely because God wills them?
Apr 5, 2022
The Riddle of the Sphinx
What walks on four feet in the morning, two feet at noon, and three feet in the evening? Of course, by now we all know the answer: human beings. Babies crawl (4), adults walk (2), seniors often need a cane (3). But there’s more to this riddle than meets the eye.
Mar 29, 2022
Pardon My Language! (An Introduction to Gertrude Stein)
For the most part, modern English limits itself to a handful of cases, voices, moods, etc. That would not do for Gertrude Stein. She needed more!
Mar 25, 2022
“…And the Pursuit of Happiness.” (The Declaration of Independence, 1776)
We honor ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ as inalienable human rights, but not all of us can say with assurance that we are always on the side of ‘life’ and ‘liberty’. Sometimes we can’t even agree on what these words mean, and we certainly don’t agree on how these rights should be applied in specific situations. (For example, many of the men who wrote the Declaration themselves owned slaves. We don’t always see ourselves through the eyes of civilization or the lens of history.)
Mar 22, 2022
Can Subject/Verb Agreement Make the World Go Round?
We imagine that our world is made up of ‘things’ (nouns), their accidental qualities (adjectives), and the relationships between them (verbs). We imagine this because just such a classification system is embedded in our native tongue: modern English, for example, or most any other contemporary Indo-European language.
Mar 10, 2022
Classification is a tool we use to organize our experiences into categories based on the intrinsic content of those experiences. Flying in planes may define a different category of experience from hiking in mountains. Of course, no two flights are ever the same, nor are any two hikes. Still, it is useful for some purposes (not all) to classify these experiences differently.
Feb 28, 2022
The Gospel of Luke
In the Gospel of Luke, a lawyer questions Jesus: “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29) The question resonates through all eras and across all cultures. Our mental apparatus is tuned to notice differences among otherwise similar entities; we find it much harder to pick out similarities. Intelligence tests given to children often ask them to distinguish differences: e.g., which of these shapes is not like the others? The same tests given to adults (e.g., MCAT and LSAT) are more likely to ask them to find similarities (i.e., analogies).
Feb 24, 2022
500 Year-Long Nap
It’s 1000 A.D. and Pope Sylvester II is the undisputed leader of the Christian Church in Europe. He is also generally regarded as the continent’s most accomplished scientist.
Faith was strong at that time, but it did not interfere in any way with the exploration of nature. The relationship between Science and Religion was symbiotic…and synergistic. It was widely accepted that God revealed himself through the structures & processes of the universe as well as in Scripture & Tradition.
Feb 17, 2022
Homer, the blind poet, and Parmenides, the pre-Socratic philosopher, provided European civilization with its first comprehensive view(s) of the world. Homer gave us the Iliad, an epic poem detailing major events during the Trojan War, and the Odyssey, an epic focused on the experiences, thoughts and values of one man, Odysseus, himself a Trojan warrior.
Feb 14, 2022
There Are No Theists in Foxholes
“There are no theists in foxholes,” at least not according to ‘conventional wisdom’. After all, even Dostoevsky had a death bed conversion! So, in this rare case, it turns out that conventional is, in general, correct.
Or was he correct! I do not think it is correct any longer. Why not? What changed?
Feb 10, 2022
Turing, Searle, & Penrose
According to Alan Turing of ‘Turing Test’ fame (1950), we can have no privileged insight into the state of another entity’s consciousness. Turing taught that we can only evaluate the consciousness of another entity by experiencing the behavior of that entity. If a machine interacts with you in a way that is indistinguishable from the way another human being would interact with you, then you have no logical grounds for regarding the machine’s thinking process as different in any meaningful way from your own. Who knows, as we subject a machine to the Turing Test, that same machine may very well be conducting a Turing Test on us!
Feb 7, 2022
Dr. Martin Luther King
“We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.”
Feb 2, 2022
Today is the feast of Candlemas, aka Groundhog Day.
Candlemas is a Christian holiday commemorating the presentation of Jesus at the Temple. In accordance with Leviticus 12, it falls on February 2nd, which is also final day of the Christmas–Epiphany season. In some countries, Christians don’t remove their Christmas decorations until the day after Candlemas.
Jan 31, 2022
“I am stuck on Band-Aid ’cause Band-Aid’s stuck on me!”
So says the jingle for one of the world’s most iconic products. But more importantly, and quite unexpectedly, this slogan is one of the best examples of ‘middle voice thinking’ in American pop culture.
Jan 27, 2022
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” ——
These words are attributed to Viktor Frankel, holocaust survivor, philosopher, and author.
Jan 24, 2022
Book of Job
Continuing with the Book of Job theme, Job is arguably the most important work in the entire Old Testament, possibly the second most important book in the whole Bible – behind the Gospel of John. Some Jewish commentators claim that it is the 5th book of Moses and rightfully belongs as part of the Torah. It is frequently quoted in the works of the Church Fathers (100 – 500 AD), perhaps more than any other single book of the Bible, and it has inspired a number of modern adaptations (e.g., Archibald MacLeish’s J.B.).
Jan 20, 2022
Adam and Eve
In one respect at least, The Book of Genesis and the Book of Job are mirror images of one another. In Genesis, mankind (Adam) finds itself in Paradise with all its needs met; yet ‘Adam’ chooses to sin. In Job, a man (Job) finds himself in the most dire straights possible; yet he continues to practice virtue and he defends both God and Goodness against the relentless taunting of his wife and 3 (or 4) so-called “comforters”.
While Adam put his ‘significant other’ (Eve), the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (apple), and even the serpent (Satan) ahead of God, Job never waivers in his monotheism: “For I know that my redeemer lives and that he will stand on the earth on the last day, and though after my skin (is gone) worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh I will see God, whom I shall see for myself, and mine own eyes shall behold, and not another’s.” (Job 19: 25 & ff)
Jan 18, 2022
Last week (1/10/21) we talked about the idea that God is better understood as a ‘process’ than as a ‘person, place or thing’. Readers have asked me to clarify, and perhaps expand, on that thought.
While most religions and spiritual practices share ideas, there are a few ideas that are unique to Christianity, e.g., the Trinitarian model of God. According to this model, God is one entity (or ‘substance’) expressed in three ‘persons’: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Each of these ‘persons’ is wholly and fully God; and yet God is not God without these three distinct expressions of Godhead. In the Christian view, the nature of Divinity is to be understood as the relationship among three independent persons.
To add yet another layer of complexity, in the Trinitarian model The Holy Spirit is the relationship between the Father and the Son, but that relationship is in no way subordinate to the Father and Son. Rather, the Holy Spirit is a person in his own right, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Son.
In 325 A.D., the Council of Nicaea published the basic tenets of the Christian faith in a document now known as the Nicene Creed. This Creed reads, in part, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son, he is worshiped and glorified.”
So, God is indeed ‘process’ (i.e., relationship, dialogue, love). So, while God transcends all parts of speech, God functions more like a verb than a noun. From 1 John 4: 8 to the latest hippie bumper sticker the message is the same: “God is Love.”
Most religions and spiritualities emphasize the importance of Love. Those that include the concept of God often crave God’s love. Their bumper sticker might read, “God loves!” paraphrasing the ever popular, “Jesus saves”.
But a God who loves is not the same as a God who is Love!
But when we think of process, we think of something that unfolds in time. God, however, is eternal (non-temporal); he exists outside of space and time. So how can God both be pure process and non-temporal? How is that possible?
For the most of the Church’s history, this was a mystery that had to be accepted on Faith alone. But those of us privileged to live in the 20th and 21st centuries can see that non-temporal process is not an attribute of God alone. In fact, non-temporal processes underly the entire phenomenal world. The temporal processes that we work with every day are just the tip of a much larger, non-temporal iceberg.
Specifically, I’m talking about ‘non-locality’ (Bell) and ‘the collapse of the wave function’ (Schrödinger). John Bell showed that once subatomic particles have interacted with one another they can remain entangled no matter how far apart (in space or time) they may come to be. In that case, for them there is no space or time. And it is believed that most subatomic particles in the cosmos today are ‘entangled’. Therefore, the web of non-local, non-temporal entanglement is much more fundamental and universal than the web of space-time.
Likewise, Schrödinger (famous for his ‘cat’) showed that what we call ‘things’ and ‘events’ depend upon the ‘collapse’ (or resolution) of a probability function known as the ‘wave function’. Before collapse, the wave function does not exist in spacetime but rather in a dimension we know as ‘probability’. Only after the wave function has collapsed (possibly as the result of a broken ‘entanglement’, above) does it enter into spacetime (as an object or event).
So, we ‘moderns’ do not have to accept the idea of God as non-temporal process based on faith alone. Rather, we have empirical examples of non-temporal processes right in our material world.
Jan 10, 2022
God is Eternal
According to the Trinitarian model, God is relatedness, dialogue, love. Therefore, God is process, the process that animates the spatiotemporal world and the process that constitutes His own Being. But when we think of process, we think of something that unfolds across time. God, however, is eternal; He exists outside of space and time. So how can God be both pure process and atemporal? How is that possible?
Jan 6, 2022
In my last post, I reflected on the idea that all the world’s ontologies (philosophical, theological or scientific) fall into one of two camps: (A) Some sort of Determinism, where the ‘actual’ is ultimately embedded in what is falsely called the ‘potential’ or (B) some sort of Indeterminism where potentiality is selectively converted to actuality through an agency that somehow, in some way transcends pure potentiality itself.
Jan 2, 2022
There Must Be Something Before There Can Be Nothing
From Aristotle to Whitehead, from Sartre to the 20th century ‘quantum mechanics’, there is a broadly held view that Being at its core is Pure Potential. Potentiality is selectively converted to actuality through the agency of something other than pure potentiality itself.
That agency is called ‘Creativity’ by Whitehead, ‘Le Neant’ by Sartre, or ‘Collapse of the Wave Function’ by Schrödinger. In none of these cases, however, does pure potentiality alone determine its own actuality (that would be Determinism and would negate the concept of ‘potentiality’ entirely). Something other than pure potentiality itself must convert what could be to what is.
The Apostle John expressed the same idea: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him and without him nothing was made.” (Jn 1: 1 – 5)
According to John, “the Word of God’ (Christ) is what converts potentiality to actuality. Everything that is comes to be through that ‘Word’ and without that ‘Word’ nothing comes to be.
In final analysis, I think that all the world’s ontologies (philosophical, theological, or scientific) fall into one of these two camps: (A) Some sort of Determinism (where the ‘actual’ is ultimately embedded in what is falsely called the ‘potential’) or (B) some sort of Indeterminism (where potentiality is selectively converted to actuality through an agency that transcends pure potentiality per se).
Group A would argue that there must be nothing before there can be something; Group B would reverse it: there must be something before there can be nothing.
Nov 29, 2021
A much beloved friend and family member sent this to me T-day morning. Much appreciated! But I could not help but notice the care taken to avoid any reference to “God, the father almighty, creator of Heaven and Earth”. I am not suggesting that everyone must believe in God. Far from it. But I am suggesting that substituting various ‘pagan’ alternatives does not work: “god (as if God could be anything else but a proper noun), universe, life, earth”. Imagining that any of these could be sui generis capable or creating all that is ex nihilo is absurd. If you don’t buy into the “God Hypothosis”, ok, well and good, but suggest a viable alternative.
Nov 24, 2021
Happy Thanksgiving! Really? With COVID, economic insecurity, terrorism, etc. what do we have to be thankful for?
Only everything! Literally…every thing. Being is a function of being good. (Don’t tell that to my 10 year old self.) We ‘are’ only in so far as we are ‘good’. We don’t realize it, but we have a blind spot. Sadly, we are not “all that we could be”.
But what is this thing called ‘Good’ that we celebrate this week? It’s God. It’s what makes Being be. It is the yardstick by which we measure everything in our world. But because it is a yardstick, it can’t be among the things that it measures. It must transcend our everyday world. And what transcends our everyday world is what we call “God”.
Nov 15, 2021
“The Electrical Life of Louis Wain” is a movie currently playing on Amazon Prime. Louis is an early 20th century English painter with zero artistic merit…but that’s not important. What is important is the way Louis experiences the world.
From time to time, he encounters the ineffable in the course of his everyday living. He imagines that what he is experiencing is a form of ‘electricity’ that permeates the world but lies beneath the plane of ordinary sensory perception.
Many of us have had a similar experience; but I doubt if any of us called it “electricity”. In my day, it was fashionable to call it “energy”; Star Wars called it “the force”. I wonder, what’s the current nom de jour?
The ineffable is the ineffable because it is…well, ineffable. It is the ‘immanence of transcendence’ in our everyday world. If we must name it, we must name it metaphorically. It is, after all, ineffable.
In classical times, it might have been called “beauty”; in the middle ages, “God”. But to Louis Wain, it is “electricity”. How come?
Louis Wain lived in the final days of a dark age ironically known as The Enlightenment. Though long past, it still casts a shadow. The Enlightenment was rooted in materialism and mechanism and in the certain belief that technological progress would inevitably bring about Utopia. So “electricity” was the closest anyone of that era could come to naming the ineffable.
We know better today; but we are still struggling to find our own metaphor for the immanence of transcendence in the world.
Nov 8, 2021
Absolute evil is non-being. But non-being is inconceivable since whatever we conceive is conceived as at least potentially being. Non-being is not and has no potential to be.
Nov 4, 2021
Everything IS Possible
Yesterday, my 8 year old grandson told me, quite authoritatively as usual, “Nothing is impossible, everything is possible.”
My first thought was, “Hmm, that doesn’t seem right.” But I should have known better; whenever I disagree about anything with any of my grandchildren, I am usually wrong.
In this case, I started coming up with examples of things that are impossible. For example, a circle that is also a square. But then I realized, it’s not that a ‘squared circle’ is impossible, it’s that it’s not a thing.
Despite riddles to the contrary, you cannot have something that is black and white at the same time. The meaning of the concepts themselves, the words ‘black and white’, preclude something that is both. (White is the sum of all colors; black is the absence of any color.)
On the other hand, a unicorn, even if does not actually exist, is certainly possible. There is nothing about the attributes of a unicorn that would make its existence an impossibility.
So, historically we’ve gotten this all wrong. Everything IS possible! But not every random combination of attributes constitutes a thing.
Nov 1, 2021
It takes roughly 100 years for the bleeding edge discoveries of science to be fully integrated into the popular psyche. For example, Newton’s 17th century discoveries did not become common knowledge until the 18th century. And this is great news!
20th century science produced three absolutely revolutionary discoveries: relativity, quantum mechanics, and non-locality (Bell’s Theorem). Today, a “what you see is what you get” view of the world is entirely untenable. But don’t tell that to your neighbor: popular culture is still firmly rooted in 19th century mechanics.
But if past is prologue, the 21st century will see these insights integrated into public consciousness. Science, which plunged us into the so-called Enlightenment, will provide a tunnel out of that Dark Age into something brand new…and unpredictable. Exciting times!
Oct 28, 2021
The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (aka ‘entropy’) ensures that the universe will meet with a bad end: oblivion! Our lifelong battle against evil (the absence of order, i.e., the absence of being) is ultimately hopeless. Evil will triumph in the end…gradually, sporadically, but inexorably! But this all takes place in spacetime; what if spacetime is not all there is to Being?
Spacetime represents an unrelenting progression from past to future; we know it as ‘aging’ (mortality). But there is a problem with this model. If everything is either past or future, then nothing is present, and if nothing is present, then nothing actually is. Bottom line, if there is being, there must be a ‘present’. But there is no present in spacetime (and if there is, it is infinitesimal and so of no consequence).
If there is Being, there must be a Present. That is where Being resides. To be is to be present. The Present is a dimension perpendicular to spacetime. It is what people mean when they talk about ‘God’.
The world consists of events. No event is 100% evil and only one event (God) is 100% good. The Present (God) preserves what really is (i.e., the good) and harmonizes every such good into a single event which, per Alfred North Whitehead, is God’s Consequent Nature.
So, the battle against evil is ultimately hopeless, but the struggle itself is the source of all hope – the fruit of all faith and the expression of all love.
Oct 21, 2021
In school we were taught to recognize homonyms, synonyms and antonyms. But there are no antonyms! Cold is not the antonym of hot; they are both relative measures of molecular motion. Likewise, ugly is not the antonym of beauty. Everything, no matter how ‘ugly’, contains an element of beauty; otherwise, it would neither be ugly nor beautiful…it would simply not ‘be’ at all! “Everything is beautiful…in its own way!” ‘Ugly’ is somewhere on the aesthetic scale just as cold is somewhere on the scale of molecular notion (aka ‘temperature’).
All of which leads us to a surprising conclusion: there are no antonyms (plural), but there is an antonym (singular). One, single, universal antonym! One word is the antonym of all other words; and that one word is ‘evil’ and its many synonyms (different word, same meaning): non-being, nothingness, etc.
Oct 18, 2021
How and Why
Prior to 1600, to be accepted in the West, any new scientific theory had to demonstrate that it was compatible with the basic tenets of Christianity. Since 1600, every religious doctrine has been required to demonstrate that it is compatible with the discoveries of modern science.
Oct 14, 2021
If He Chooses to Do So
My previous ‘thought’ concerned God’s dual role as ‘Creator of heaven and earth’ and ‘comrade-in-arms’. Further reflections:
How can God be the creator of a radically free universe and yet play a role in the evolution of that universe? The answer lies in standing an old proverb (‘Man proposes, God disposes’) on its head. In fact, it is God who proposes but ‘man’ (i.e., worldly events) that disposes. Consider God’s words in Deuteronomy (30:19): “I set before you life and death (God proposes). Therefore, choose life. (Man disposes)”
Oct 12, 2021
The Creation Story in Genesis makes it clear that ‘Adam and Eve’, and by extension the entire cosmos, are entirely free; otherwise, the idea of ‘creation’ would be a sham. If the cosmos is just a figment of God’s imagination, subject to his absolute control, then it is not ‘created’ at all but just ‘dreamed’. Creation implies that a new entity comes into being that is no longer subject to the will or the whims of its creator.
Oct 8, 2021
Nihilism comes in two flavors: Ontological Nihilism (“Nihilism of Being”) and Ethical Nihilism (“Nihilism of Value”). Shakespeare (anticipating post-Enlightenment science: bootstrapping, heat death, entropy, etc.) would be an example of an ontological nihilist:
“We are such stuff as dreams are made on.” (The Tempest)