A Frame of Paper And Ink

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This is a response written to a pair of articles written by Jonathan Pageau, Most of the time the Earth is Flat and Where is Heaven.

Hello Jonathan,

Thank you, for an interesting pair of articles. I find it fascinating to get a glimpse into another mind so different from my own. I am a firm believer in the Munchhausen trilemma which, to me, clearly demonstrates that all world views, including both my own and yours, are baseless. This leads me to live in two frames of reference, my own and another that attempts to approach the objective in which I see my own frame of reference as no better or worse than anyone else's. Therefore, if I seem to criticize your world-view in this comment, please remember that at one level, I don't see my world-view as any better than yours.

Still, from the perspective of my own world view, I think your world view is more egocentric than anthropocentric. That is, you say, "And most of all, if we wish to understand religion and its symbolism, if we wish to understand the Bible or icons or church architecture we must anchor ourselves to the world of human experience, for that is where we can love our neighbor. " You believe that by living in the world of human experience (i.e. in an anthropocentric world view) that you will live a better life. But your aim is not to truly live in more harmony with all your human neighbors, but instead to live facing more directly toward your God.

But your God is yours not mine. Therefore, from my perspective, your desire is your own and your world view is your individual world view and your desire to sink back into that world view is centered on yourself (i.e. egocentric) and not anthropocentric at all.

On the other hand, as an atheist, I am not interested in either an egocentric or anthropocentric world view. The ancient culture I want to approach is the oldest one, the nomadic band hunter-gatherers, who lived in a truly natural world with thousands of other species living around them and with no clear hierarchy of species. To me, that is from my perspective, your hierarchic world view, which places humans above non-human life forms and then invents still higher forms to populate a mythical hierarchy above themselves, seems likely to be a recent invention from the last ten thousand years. It certainly is not a natural world view for me. I was raised an atheist in a Western High-Tech Democracy. The natural reaction to un-elected hierarchical authority for me is rebellion. If I suddenly found that your God really did exist, my natural reaction would be to form a protest movement and demand free elections. Rule by Divine Right isn't part of my mythology.

When I walk down the street, I don't see a flat world under a dome. I look carefully at the way sunlight plays through clouds and I see that the world is spherical. I see the phases of the Moon and I see sunlight reflected off a sphere. I watch the relationship between the phases of the Moon and the position of the Sun and I see the geometry that science describes. I have walked up and down sedimentary strata of rock and seen fossils with my own eyes. I have examined sedimentary rock and recent unlithified sediments and seen the same structures with my unaided eyes. I know the Earth is older that the Bible says, not because of intensive work with microscopes but by counting out paces as I cross thick slabs of sedimentary rock and then finding identical patterns of sediment at the bottom of one slab and the top of another. The fact that scientists have helped me to know to look for these things doesn't change the fact that I experience them with my own eyes, unaided by a frame of metal or glass.

On the other hand, I would argue, that to see the world as naturally hierarchical and as described in the Bible requires that you embed yourself in a frame of reference bordered by the edge of pages of theological text. I would argue that you must actually believe what these pages say is truer than what you see with your bare eyes. This is what Christians told Pagans. Christians said, "Don't believe in the world the way, you always experienced it. There is just one God. We have a book what says so." Christians told Pagans to stop believing their own experience and accept that what was presented in a frame a paper and ink was truer. How can you expect to convince me that this frame of paper and ink is any different from a frame of metal and glass?

Actually, it is quite easy for me to see a difference. The frame of metal and glass predicts the behaviour of the material world while your frame of paper and ink does not. You want me to believe that your frame is superior because it did not bring about nuclear weapons or iPods. But the frame of paper and ink did bring about the Crusades and the Inquisition. Those who used Crusades and the Inquisition might just as easily have used nuclear weapons if they had been available. You might claim, rightly, that it was a poor interpretation of the frame that brought about those atrocities. I can just as easily claim that it was a poor interpretation of the frame of metal and glass that brought about nuclear weapons.

Even without DNA analysis, Darwin and his followers saw, largely just by going out and looking, hardly ever using a microscope or telescope, that all Life was one big related family. They saw that an Earth worm was just as fit for its lifestyle as humanity was for its. They saw that the whole body of Life on Earth was one allied force fighting to create more Life, more diversity of Life, more complexity of Life, in a largely inanimate universe. This insight helps me to love my neighbour, but not just my neighbour, but all living creatures. It helps me to see coral and trees as creators of living environments, three dimensional folded surfaces on which Life can diversify and flower. In that sense, they are hierarchically above humans, in my frame of reference.

Your second article asks, "Where is Heaven?". In my frame of reference, heaven is here on Earth, for now. It is humanity's task to make it in the heavens as it is on Earth by creating Life forms which can survive on other worlds. This is the service we have the power to perform. Our purpose is not to make it on Earth as it is in Heaven as I have heard Christian's pray. In my frame of reference, the heavens are mostly baren vacuum filled with hard radiation. To make it on Earth as it is in Heaven would require nuclear weapons. Neither, is it our greedy purpose to prepare ourselves for an afterlife which is heavenly perfect. I am happy to face my own finite nature and work toward a near infinite future for Life.

If you find your medieval frame of paper and ink more meaningful than carefully examining the world around you, then far be it from me to tell you to stop reading your paper and ink. The Munchhausen trilemma applies and I can not prove that paper and ink is inferior to careful examination of reality. But please don't hope to convince me to abandon my enhanced vision of metal and glass in which I can extend the world I experience day-to-day without contradiction or unnecessary self-delusion.

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