May 7th, 2012 by Michael Tabor
How many times have I heard people say something to the effect i.e. “If there is no God, then life is meaningless. “This assertion has always left me scratching my head and utterly perplexed. “Why bother raising a family if they’re all going to perish and die someday… ” This sort of illogical thinking has reinforced my belief that man is a strange species indeed; smarter yes, but stranger than any other primate is. I hear this time and time again from Christian fundamentalists who make the claim that if we don’t live for eternity and there is no afterlife then life ceases to matter. One might argue that since our time is limited, then life ought to be all the more important.
I’ve written before about how living forever would be a Kafkaesque nightmare, and I now want to just touch upon how foolishly inane this notion of thinking that a life that goes on and on and on and on – forever and ever without end is the only existence that would render life important and meaningful. This is just nonsense. The fact that we will one day no longer exist should not nullify or marginalize our life one iota, no matter how long or short of a time we live.
I must admit that I have been guilty of this sort of wrong-headed thinking when I was in college after a friend of mine had died at a young age. That semester and the semester after that , my grades dropped precipitously. “What is the point of studying and getting good grades if we’re going to die someday?” I suppose the fact that my friend’s death was unexpected and premature – he died way too young; was really the cause of my angst. The real issue at hand was that anyone of us can die at any time, but since I was 20 years old, wasn’t diagnosed with a terminal disease, and dying from an accident or mishap was remote, my emotional response was inappropriate. There are no guarantees as to when and how long we live but the fact that we are going to die doesn’t make life meaningless. Having stated the aforementioned, I personally think that most people do however die too soon; life is so ineffably rich and beautiful (often – it can be awful and ugly too)that I can envision myself living for centuries (this is science fiction here but ..) even thousands of years without getting bored, as long as my body held up.
But, even if I died tomorrow, and there was no afterlife,etc. I would still be full of gratitude and would consider myself an incredibly lucky person to be born and had had a life at all.
I’m going to conclude this blog with a little something that Shelly Kagan from Yale put together to illustrate and put into perspective how mind-bogglingly amazing it is that you and I are here alive. Here we go – If there are 5 billion people in the world today and roughly 2.5 billion are men and 2.5 billion are women the potential birth algorithm would be calculated as follows: 2.5 billion women x 30 years of childbearing years x 12 eggs x 2.5 billion men x 50 sperm producing years x the unbelievable average of 40 million spermatozoa per ejaculation the number you end up with is 1.5 million, billion, billion, billion potential births and after this generation gives birth you would then end up with more potential people than all the particles in the known universe.
So WhaDaYaThink ? What do you think ? Just think if your great, great, great, great grandmother had a headache and perhaps had sex 5 minutes later, you would not be here.
April 28th, 2012 by Michael Tabor
I bet you never heard the chicken and the egg debate framed in such a way, unless you happen to have the good fortune of stumbling upon Robert Sapolsky’s lecture series of Biological Psychology on YouTube. Many folks go on you tube for music, others for human pratfalls (boring), and still others for cute or odd animal behavior. I personally go on for 2 reasons: yes I play guitar and if you’re having trouble playing Steve Howe’s – ‘The Clap’ I can always check out YouTube and get a note for note lesson from the actual Steve Howe for nothing. Amazing ! Who needs to pay $30 per hour for a teacher? (Will YouTube eventually supplant the need for a real music instructor? For me the answer is yes, for beginner’s no but I’ve been playing for decades and that’s another blog).
I love YouTube for enabling me to play any song under the sun (accurately) for nothing. Yes, some people charge but if you really search, you can always find any song for zip. The second reason I am in love with YouTube is for purposes of higher education. Indeed, you can take an entire course, a full semester, at Yale for absolutely nothing; and the great part is there’s no homework and you’re not graded. For me this is a dream come true. Now I must admit you probably have to be at least 40 to be attracted to this wonderful feature (after 16 consecutive years of school, the last thing a 22 year old recent college graduate would want is more school) and furthermore the # of schools offering free classes is growing.
I can switch gears and go anywhere I want with this blog at this point e.g. why we hate school when we are young and later love it when we reach middle age, why having a lecture on tape is better than just attending, – simply because if your mind wanders you can always rewind and go back to what you missed (the ideal situation would be attend the lecture and then watch the tape), I have always loved learning but hated school because I, just like everybody else, was more concerned about what part of the lecture would be on the mid-term and final because after all, sadly getting an ‘A’ in the course is more important than absorbing and enjoying every morsel of what is said. The ultimate goal of every professor or teacher I have spoken with is to ensure the student 1. Grasps and understands the complete course and 2. most importantly the ultimate goal is to encourage the students to become interested in the subject enough to go further and continue learning about what he or she was taught. Finally I can elaborate on how a person should be graded – I would throw out multiple choice questions, stick only to essay, and lastly I would have the instructor or T.A. sit down with the student alone and ask him telling questions and the final question would be to ask what this particular person got out of the course and how the instruction affected one’s outlook in the real world. The aforementioned would take a lot more money and resources but so what ! – More jobs and a more educated populace.
I will in the future blog about everything mentioned in the last paragraph but for now, all I want to do is alert all the readers of this blog about what a goldmine YouTube is. BTW, this is not an ad – honest; YouTube is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Hey and what was so great about sliced bread anyway. So WhaDaYaThink ? What do you think ?