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Nothing Matters. Plenty to See Here. Time to Move On.

In honor of Darwin Day, February 12, 2013, settling on a few aspects of reality, and the big questions, means it's time to move on.

Nothing Matters. Sounds depressing doesn't it? And it can be; especially if you dwell on it.

I've spent most of the last 5 years exploring the credibility of most of humanity's current belief systems and have found little to no basis for any of it.

The journey hasn't been easy, and 29 years is more like it, but the last five has been as close to a monk-like experience a married father of 4, business owner, public official, and coach can get.

For me, it's been a fine line between giving up on life and remaining a productive participant in our community.

The Journey

What I have found on this journey is an interesting history which encompasses a fascinating series of complex causes and effects that have led to the world as we know it today.

Without a doubt, the only "truths" we know with absolute certainty is the reality that we experience directly. But even then, we can really only know this experienced truth as reality with a dose of skepticism.

That said, we know of something experienced as gravity that we've named gravity. As a result, we know that more dense objects tend to fall through less dense objects, so I wouldn't recommend testing the reality of gravity by stepping off a cliff. Trust me - you will fall.

More simply put, let's say that reality, for all intents and purposes, is that which is experienced or observed, and can be replicated. (This includes what can be inferred, like the sound made when a tree falls in a forest with no one around to hear it. The sound waves still exist outside of anyone's experience of them. This is because we know from experience and observation that trees falling in a forest make sound waves that an observer would be able to hear if they were in the vacinity. This is repeatable, testable and falsifiable.)

Without a doubt, that which has not been directly experienced, inferred, or observed, and therefore unable to be replicated, is what we call faith.

Science and Pseudoscience

The study of what is real (observable, testable, and falsifiable) is science. The study of everything that falls outside of the realm of observability, testability, and falsifiability goes by many names; some of which include pseudoscience, religion, faith, belief, ideology, half-truths, etc.

My journey is not over, as there will always be new things to learn and experience - as long as I'm breathing, but for the most part, the big picture is known - there is no known innate or spiritual purpose to life, and as Richard Dawkins likes to say, "The purpose of life is whatever you make it."

What Are We?

Each of our current belief systems are based on a simple equation: (Environment + Genetics = Choice) or Reality, if you prefer.  Choice, or Reality is a stand in for YOUR next choice, or YOUR experience of reality. This has to be differentiated from scientific reality, or more specifically, the reality that exists regardless of our belief systems. After all, believing something doesn't make it true and your personal environment (country, city, state, race, etc.) have everything to do with your belief system.

As someone relatively intelligent said once, "A fact is information that matches everything else we know to be true about reality. If it doesn't, then we either need to re-evaluate everything else we know, or discard the information as false."

This is where the basic premise that the Judeo-Christian "God" is probably not real originates. If the God-version of reality was real, then everything else we know about reality would be false...including modern medicine for example. (All of modern medicine is based on our knowledge of evolutionary biology.)

Darwin Day, The Edge, and What is Known

In honor of Darwin Day, February 12th, 2013, I intend on this being my last philosophical post for Patch, at least for awhile. I've settled on a few aspects of reality, and have decided it's time to move on.

  1. Death is finality. There probably is no afterlife. Death for humans and every other living this is just like all of space and time before we were born...nothingness. Not silence. Not darkness. Not rest...just nothingness. As Mark Twain said, "I was dead for millions of years before I was born and it never bothered me a bit."
  2. Almost everything we do is in denial of number 1. We survive for the sake of it because there is a biological drive to do so.  And as for the denial?...See the Twain quote.
  3. The biological purpose of life is to reproduce. That's it. Reproduce. Every species has varying levels of what it means to successfully reproduce. For instance, snakes are born and are pretty much on their way with life. (Good luck baby snakes.) Humans, on the other-hand, especially in what's left of the 21st Century American middle-class, have pretty much carried our offspring until about the age of 26.  The better we are at this reproduction (and in our case, parenting) process, the better chance the survival of our genes into future generations.
  4. As I said, outside of the biological purpose of life, there is no real known spiritual or soulful purpose. The reproductive purpose is simply an accident, or a matter of chance and probability. Given the physics of our universe, life is inevitable if given enough time. (This is known a priori since life is known to exist. After all, you are reading this.)
  5. Again, there probably is no god, at least not like any god that any one of us thinks we know. For example, imagine for a moment a civilization a million years more technologically advanced than us. (This is very possible in a universe that is known to be 13.7 billion years old.) Their technology would be nothing short of magic to us...making them indistinguishable from gods.
  6. The majority of physics leads to one logical conclusion. Our universe is likely one of many, if not infinite quantities of universes, making us part of a multiverse. There is even the possibility of there being multiple copies of "us," but I'll let you explore that on your own.
  7. Beyond this, there isn't much more to know on the edge of human knowledge for a layperson like myself in this day in age, and all there is to do about it is to either move on...or not.

Moving On

As I type this, my daughter, Adelaide, is 4. She is watching Daniel Tiger on PBS and singing the finale, finishing with the words "...and I....love....you." However, she changes one word. She looks at me and replaces "you" with "Daddy."

My conclusion? My purpose? I'm moving on. I want to be the best dad I can be. I want to take this "glimpse of time between two eternities" as a special experience to be absorbed and reveled in.

Since I have my basic needs served (food, water, shelter) I wish to continue what I've always done, which is to try and increase the well-being of all living things.  And lastly, because my environment is a mixed capitalist/socialist economy, I will now have some fun playing that game for a little while. 

After all, you only live once.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jason Wescoat February 14, 2013 at 08:09 PM
Obviously you know we'll disagree on the very basis of your whole post, so I won't bore any readers or you with an in depth conversation. We're not likely to change each others opinion. Either God will work on you, or I'll die and it will be over anyway. However, I have two points that are so glaring, I can't ignore. First, the evolution of a one-cell organism to the diversity of life seen throughout history has zero to do with medicine. How species change over time is obviously relevant. How species change species isn't. Second, in your list of what is "known," "probably," "probability," and "likely" fill the entire list. Obviously you're welcome to believe as you wish, but don't pretend to be the arbiter of what is "known" when you fully admit you know very little. Okay, I have a third. Never mind the philosophical questions about if we're really here or not, but assuming we are real, we know life exists. That is a priori knowledge. We don't know that physics is the reason life came into existence or that physics is the reason anything at all came into existence. That belief is called faith, at least until we observe life coming from non-life in some sort of natural form or something coming from nothing.
Karl Frank Jr. February 14, 2013 at 08:36 PM
Probability is the language of science. Skepticism is the correct language for you to use about what is known - not doubt. For instance we "know" what gravity does, but we still don't know what it "is." It would be improper to claim certainty. There is no such thing as nothing, but particles pop in and out of existence, or "nothingness" all of the time...and it's the stuff you're made of. Regardless: There was a King who took his reign as a young man. He wanted to know everything so he pulled together all of the smartest people in the world to come up with a collection of all of human knowledge. They went away and came back 20 years later with an enormous volume of all human knowledge. The king rejected it and said it was too much and he did not have time for that. He directed them to condense all of human knowledge into one sentence. In 20 years they returned, and by this time he was in his 60s when most only lived into their 30s. "So," he said, what have you?" And they replied, "This too shall pass." He thought about it for a moment, but didn't like it. There was too much that it didn't cover. "Leave and see if you can sum up all of human knowledge into one word," he said...and they did, returning again, 20 years later. By this time he was lying on his deathbed; old and frail. "Have you my answer? All of human knowledge in one word?" "Yes, Sire." We have. "Well, what is it?" "Maybe."
Jason Wescoat February 15, 2013 at 04:23 PM
That's all fine. To some extent, I don't disagree. My point is, don't claim to talk about what's known (not only your list, but your plethora of posts claiming to be about what is known), if nothing is able to be truly known.
Karl Frank Jr. February 15, 2013 at 06:54 PM
There is such thing as less wrong and more wrong. For instance Greek and Christian mythology are both known to be complete fabrications of reality. There is a documented history and evolution of Christianity in it's current form from it's roots with illiterate middle-eastern Shepherd's from 6000 years ago. What I wrote here, at the very least, is less wrong...and that is known.
Jason Wescoat February 15, 2013 at 07:41 PM
"Maybe" :)

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