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Saturday, January 5, 2008

Chapter 2: Reason Driven - You Are a Work of Art

Price starts this chapter by pointing out that fundamentalism is never self-supporting. All kinds of side-stepping and irrationality ensue because fundamentalism is never self-consistent. If there is no rational explanation for a belief, the default answer is mostly "God will tell us when I get to heaven," which is about the biggest cop-out I can imagine.

Price discusses my point from the review of Warren's book, that god eternally punishes people if they get things wrong, so how can he be a loving god? How can he let egregious suffering occur on a daily basis? How can he allow, nay actually planned for, hideous and debilitating birth defects?

He also points out that based on fundamentalist views, there is no free will. Everything was planned by god in advance, so if it's true, you don't really have any choice at all. It seems to me that a lack of choice breeds an inherent lack of meaning. Fundamentalists would have all of us practicing the "masochism of the battered wife who meekly responds to every imagined divine blow with 'Thank you sir! May I have another?'"

In retrospect, it's easy to see things as planned. We could compile a list of all the lottery winners in the last few years, and from that view point, it may seem that those individuals were destined to win. Beforehand, however, we see the same situation as chance. The characteristics of the situation haven't changed, just human perception of it. This speaks to the assertion by fundamentalists that the universe was created just for us, because it's perfect for us to live in. Again, it can always be interpreted as planned in retrospect. Had things been a little different at the origin of the universe, perhaps different life forms would have evolved somewhere else in the universe. They they might see the universe as made for them.

Price reflects on the improbability of a specific person being here, from all the sperm and eggs that did not develop into a human, not even counting all of the other statistically improbable events that had to happen before that. It all comes down to the anthropic principle. If it were any different, we wouldn't be here to speculate about it. By being alive, you've won the lottery, and it makes life all that more rare and precious to live.

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