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Do We Have Freewill?

July 22nd, 2013 by Michael Tabor

freewill

I’ve always thought that the freewill/determinism argument was one of the most interesting bones of contention in all of philosophy because it really does touch on what Sam Harris says “everything that makes us distinctly human.” Just imagine if we indeed did not have freewill -everyone would have to rethink his or her position about morality, law, politics, of course all of the major monotheistic religions, personal accomplishment, intimacy, feelings of guilt and responsibility, and quite frankly, EVERYTHING. Not until I watched this video lecture http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_FanhvXO9Pk  I’d always thrown my hat into the freewill camp, but now I’m not so sure where I stand; the arguments for everything that we do as being determined are so strong and compelling that I now just don’t know ummmm….

So WhaDaYaThink ? What do you think ? I can spell out all of the salient points and arguments for and against freewill but if you can find the time to watch this video  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_FanhvXO9Pk  , Sam Harris can and does this far better than I can ever do (Sam Harris has written a book on freewill and has been thinking about and studying the concept his whole life).  As Sam states in this monumentally profound lecture, initially one may think that not having freewill to be grim and depressing but actually if you think it through, it’s actually incredibly liberating; essentially your life doesn’t change one iota except  you may become a more compassionate, understanding and tolerant person and you lose the baggage of pride, guilt, and remorse which were no fun anyway.

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Enough! Stop Gun Violence

December 18th, 2012 by Michael Tabor
Twenty precious children/babies were massacred on Friday and they will never have another birthday, fall in love, graduate from college, find a cure for cancer, win a Nobel prize, and even have children of their own. Six adults were also slain and their awesome responsibility and prodigiously important job of teaching and educating our children has been dashed and blotted out.
Words are monumentally inadequate to describe the absolute horror and despair the parents, siblings, relatives, and other loved ones of the victims must be nightmarishly enduring; not to mention all of the good people across the entire nation who are weeping because of that unique virtue of empathy that we humans possess. “This could have been my child.”
It has been four days since the unspeakable tragedy in Newtown, CT and this country is still numb and shocked beyond belief and now we and the public officials to whom we have entrusted the duty to legislate policy that will ensure our safety and enable us to lead normal lives have come to our senses and have declared resoundingly – ENOUGH! We are going to do 2 things: 1. Legislate draconian laws banning automatic and semi – automatic weapons and permit only law enforcement to own these weapons of mass destruction (yes – that’s what they ought to be called – WOMDs) 2. Enforce the laws we pass. The response I hear over and over again whenever the aforementioned is expressed is “Then only the bad guys will have them.” Well, my response is – GREAT – now we know who the bad guys are. This would make law enforcement’s monumentally difficult job of identifying felons SO much easier. Just think, it’s not unlike the broken windows theory which empirical studies have successfully proven this style of combatting crime works.
Is it a sacrifice for gun enthusiasts ? I suppose one can view it as such, but my question to all of you out there who might be against new legislation is – what’s more important, your gun or the safety of your child. The proof is in the pudding – the United States easily has more guns than any other industrialized nation, hence more crime – logic 101.Japan remarkably suffers from fewer than 2 gun – related homicides per year because guns are banned (I was shocked too but here is the source

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/07/a-land-without-guns-how-japan-has-virtually-eliminated-shooting-deaths/260189/

We waited on longer lines at airports and permitted security to search our bags after 9/11, so shouldn’t we make the same sacrifices and perhaps only be slightly inconvenienced for our children ? This is a no-brainer. NO MORE SCHOOL SHOOTINGS !!! Gun enthusiasts, get a new hobby; why don’t you pick up reading, music, art appreciation, etc. – the world is so rich, besides you will become more cultured and have a more varied life. Isn’t there more to life than collecting objects that are manufactured for one reason and one reason only – to KILL.

So WHADAYATHINK ? What do you think ? Let’s stop killing each other and imagine like John Lennon did.


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The Question to Which Nobody Has the Answer

September 26th, 2012 by Michael Tabor

If you are a religious believer, you know what question I am going to pose: If you claim that “God” created the world then it stands to reason to ask– Who created God and  who was the intelligent designer who created the God who created God, ad infinitum – an infinite regress. Conversely, what was going on before the big bang? What banged and why? A plethora of scientists can explain what happened 1/1000 of a second before the bang but they’re all clueless in terms of what was going on before – perhaps, nothing? Can anyone wrap his or her brain around absolutely nothing existing for a long period of time?
There is a Russian physicist, Andrei Linde, who claims that we humans, will sometime in the near future, be able to create our own universe in a lab if we like. He has a theory called chaotic inflation, which in a nutshell states that we need 100 thousandth of a gram of matter and some negative energy and BAM – we’ll have created billions and billions of galaxies – no supernatural abilities necessary. However, is this something we would want to do? And, wouldn’t making another universe crowd in on the one in which we live now? Actually, Linde stated that the universe would just simply expand into itself, so there would be no danger of the aforementioned. How about this: would you want to have some sort of control over your creation – Creator and Creation just like the religions (myths) we have now. Just think (this is out there, but…) our world maybe some higher power’s physics project,  after all our world is VERY weird and it’s certainly far from perfect. “Your grade for the creation of the Milky Way Galaxy – C-.”
The real question is – Why is there something rather than nothing? To think about this too long can literally drive you crazy. Sir Bernard Lovell claimed that “pondering it could tear the individual’s mind asunder” and William James said that this is the “darkest question in all of philosophy.’ Some physicists are now asserting that there is something to nothing – it’s actually something you can measure, something akin to dark matter.
So does anyone out there have a clue about creation? Since the beginning of mankind, all civilizations have had creation myths i.e. Christian- Judea has Adam and Eve, etc. This is quite interesting – there is  a tribe in Africa called the African Bantus who claim “The entire contents of the universe e.g. sun, stars, land, sea, animals, fish, man, woman were literally vomited out of the mouth of a nauseated god called Bumba. ” Sounds crazy, right ? But is it any crazier than the whole Adam and Eve rib story? What do you think ? WhaDaYaThink ?

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You are Your Brain – or Are You?

March 11th, 2012 by Michael Tabor
Are “you” just a mere physical object of your biology or more specifically – your brain or are you essentially an immaterial “soul.” When I say you, I am talking about the you that really matters like your conscious life or the part of you that smiles, thinks, plans, reasons, feels, writes poetry, has memories, falls in love, laughs, cries; has the ability to build the Hubble Telescope, to be creative and have all sorts of dreams and aspirations. This is the you who is confronted with mini moral dilemmas every single day and who acts on these situations and makes choices that are good or bad, moral or immoral, self – centered or selfless. This is the you that has freewill (or do we? another blog) and who deliberates and is involved in all decision making of how we ought to behave and the very you who can ponder the very question of whether or not “I am nothing more than a product of that 3 lb. grey mass contained within my cranium with its 100s of billions of connections and all of the electrochemical activity that takes place there; or I am certainly more than just some thing or physical object, I have private subjective experience and I am capable of falling in love and in fact love to such a profound degree that I can love another person (i.e. your child) more than myself. ”
I probably know about as much as most lay people about the brain e.g. the medulla is responsible for heart rate and respiration, the cerebellum plays a part in body balance and muscular coordination and the hypothalamus plays a role in hunger, thirst, feeding and sleep – in other words the unconscious things we need in order to survive; but the real action or the thing we call “I” takes place in the cortex and the 4 parts or lobes of the cortex. I think the brain injury to Phineas Gage is probably the ideal case history to ponder and study when thinking in terms of the brain/mind versus the immaterial soul. For those of you who are not familiar with the unfortunate accident that took place in 1848, here it is in a nutshell: Phineas Gage was an American railroad construction foreman who, long story short, was a victim of a horrible accident in which a large iron rod was driven through his cheek bone all the way through and out of his brain and skull and who still miraculously survived. The problem was there was severe damage to Mr. Gage’s left frontal lobe. Yes Phineas Gage survived all right but he certainly was not the same solid citizen he once was.
Before the accident Phineas was respectful, honest, hardworking, responsible and just an all-around good man. After the accident his behavior became very erratic- he started cursing, drinking and womanizing; he began mistreating his wife and children, became a braggart, couldn’t hold a job, started lying, brawling and stealing – he had sadly lost his moral compass and his ability to know right from wrong or if he did he didn’t care. In short, the people who knew Phineas said he was no longer the same man – his personality had changed for good.
Whether or not all the shenanigans Phineas Gage was said to have taken part in may or not be apocryphal the fact certainly remains that the brain is a remarkably complex biological system. In fact a neuroscientist can tell you that there are more neural connections, pieces, and parts in just an inch of brain matter than there are stars in the Milky Way Galaxy (Wow). So if I snip off a piece of that wet, disgusting grey matter inside your head, will you still be the person with the same hopes, dreams, and aspirations? Surely not but the question still is out there – is there such a thing as an immaterial soul or are we just a brain?  So WhaDaYaThink ? What do you think ?
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Life after Death: Is it possible?

December 29th, 2011 by Michael Tabor
Before responding to this question kindly view the video below (if you haven’t seen it already – the video has gone viral) in which you will see via flash card a boy with a fatal heart condition explain in heart wrenching detail his near-death experiences.
http://gma.yahoo.com/video/news-26797925/sick-teen-s-videos-go-viral-after-death-27729605.html#crsl=%252Fvideo%252Fnews-26797925%252Fsick-teen-s-videos-go-viral-after-death-27729605.html
What makes the video all the more poignant is the fact that the youngster died on Christmas day this year shortly after he made this tape.
There have been numerous documented cases in which a person, who right before he or she dies, has the very same experience: sees a very bright light (sometimes a tunnel), witnesses a flashback of one’s life, and has an intense euphoric feeling. Steve Jobs said aloud, “oh wow, oh wow, oh wow’” and then died.
A person who believes in life after death will boldly pronounce that the individual is going to heaven or something of that sort. On the other hand, a secularist will provide an elaborate explanation of what typically happens to human beings shortly before death, e.g. the part of the brain responsible for vision is stimulated which accounts for the bright lights; and mercifully, human nature has an innate mechanism which discharges massive amounts of “feel good” neurotransmitters such as endorphins, serotonin, GABA, etc . which is why a dying human being feels a sense of peace and euphoria.
So WhadaYaThink ? What do you think? I’m not sure where I stand on this. I would be assured of an afterlife if Abraham Lincoln, George Carlin, and Steve jobs all came back from the dead and proclaimed to the world that there’s more to come. Personally, I don’t think it really matters once the person is dead. Death which is not even a state of being (obviously) is not intrinsically bad and if there is something after this (this actually scares me more – what if the life after this is bad – ahh I don’t believe in a “hell” from a spiritual or scientific standpoint. A benevolent God doesn’t like pain and a painful existence serves no purpose or utilitarian function for a neutral universe ) so be it.
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“I am a deeply religious nonbeliever”

March 26th, 2011 by Michael Tabor

“Science without religion is lame”, “Religion without science is blind” and “God does not play dice with the universe.” The title and the three quotes chosen to start today’s Op-ed blog came from the man who although dead for more than half a century is more relevant, talked about, debated over and referred and alluded to perhaps more now than when he was alive. The quotes resonate deeply with me and articulate my very own worldview except in terms of word choice, I would supplant “spirituality” (religion conjures up a self-promoting organized belief system) for “religion” though I think it is obvious Einstein meant the same thing.

I want to write about the two most important disciplines and branches of knowledge one can possibly study and analyze and arguably the only (if one considers the W’s – who are we, what are we, where did we come from and where are we going to the most important question of all – what is the meaning of life ? )fields of study worth pursuing – science and religion.

Everyone alive including you are here by accident. (Religious fundamentalists will argue that your existence is preordained.) Perhaps one of the most enjoyable and utterly jaw-dropping summation of the odds of YOU – I mean you being here alive today on Sat. 3/26/2011 or anytime thereof is as unfathomable and even inexpressible that it can only possibly be conveyed metaphorically. Bill Bryson does just that in his introduction of his brilliant and enormously enjoyable popular science book – ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’.  It’s about 8 pages in length and I strongly urge everyone of my readers to read this; you needn’t even purchase it or read the whole book, just  take it off the bookshelf at your local Borders (they better not go out of business – Ch. 11 – I love Borders) and read the introduction. I know it left me with a completely new perspective on the likelihood of being here – alive now – in a nutshell everything, I mean everything to the tiniest most imperceptible occurrence, happening or event had to be just the way it happened or there would be no you. I am going too long on this I will not re-iterate this great writing – just read it!

Moving on to the meat of the text, I believe and would like to think that religion and science are not incompatible and that the incredible advances of man in terms of understanding consciousness, the cosmos and multiple universes and viewing certain aspects within this terrain with a certain ineffable metaphysical lens can lead to perhaps more similarities than differences.

I think the key here is having an open mind and be willing to tolerate other people’s belief system without attacking it. Though I agree with everything Richard Dawkins has to say and in my view the Christian apologists embarrassingly fall short in those inane evolutionary/creationist debates, I question not whether Mr. Dawkins is triumphant but why he is so adamant about utterly diminishing the Christian faith to nothing more than a fairy tale or a Santa Claus for adults.

We do not have the answers – theologian or scientist. But I think they ought not be enemies – I think it’s been more than amply proven that these so- called holy texts – The Bible, Koran, etc. – were written by man to help  man understand his world. Science can easily decimate the argument for a 7000 year old earth or an ark that held two of every species, etc. but I personally still hold onto that mysterious and spooky  universe that Einstein embraced.

So now it is your turn WHADAWETHINK ? Eastern religion or philosophy welcomes the advances of science whereas the monotheistic religions such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam seem to view science as somewhat as a threat , do you see this as being the case ? Do you see religion and science becoming more at odds with each other or perhaps maybe working together and the only real difference being the fact that the world is looked at through a different lens? Please open this up and present your opinion; this is obviously an area in which the greatest thinkers of the world have been pondering since time immemorial.  

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Theologian’s Dilemma

February 19th, 2011 by Michael Tabor

For those of you here reading this now and who believe in God please see if you can resolve what I call – The Theologian’s dilemma.

In order to arrive at any sort of logical conclusion or proof one must have a basic structure which include premises to support any given conclusion.

I am 47 years old and I have yet to hear anyone come forth with a strong argument to resolve the Theologian’s Dilemma. The argument goes as follows:

Premise Theologian’s response

  1. God is all powerful –                                  Yes
  2. God is all knowing and omniscient –               Yes
  3. God is all that is good –                             Yes

Now here’s the zinger:

4.  Do bad things happen?                The obvious answer is YES – but it can’t be

If you answered yes to all 3 of the above premises then your answer cannot be yes to the 4th question – do bad things happen. One of the premises must be removed in order make sense. If an all powerful, all knowing benevolent God was aware of an imminent deadly Tsunami which would kill tens of thousands of people, an all-powerful God who was also all good would certainly use (his/her/gender-free) power to stop it. If he (we’ll just stick with male gender) didn’t have the power to stop it then God is not all powerful!

No one can satisfactorily answer the Theologian’s Dilemma. Some folks will proclaim it’s because of freewill. God has given us freewill, so he can’t possibly intervene. Well, if that’s indeed the case then God is not all good. Try this one out on your self (and you’re not even God) – if you were walking along a path and you took notice of someone strangling a child and you had the power to stop it, would you? Or would you say to yourself – no I couldn’t possibly intervene; the killer is merely exercising his freewill.

So now it’s your turn. WHADAWETHINK? This is quite a thorny dilemma, isn’t it ? Can you resolve this ? Do you believe in an all-powerful, omniscient and benevolent God ? How can one reconcile the Theologian’s Dilemma ?

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