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Prayers for China and Myanmar

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message 1: by Charissa, That's Ms. Obnoxious Twat to You. (new)

Charissa (dakinigrl) | 3620 comments Mod
The death toll in Myanmar and China from the cyclone and the earthquake are approaching the numbers from the Christmas Tsunami in Banda Ache. The World Health Organization is worried about further deaths, especially in Myanmar, due to lack of medical care, food and water. Unfortunately these are not areas that easily accept aid from the outside world.

Our lives here in America are so safe and orchestrated by comparison, I find it unfathomable to imagine that kind of chaos taking root here. But intellectually I know it's possible. Entropy rules, given enough factors. Katrina was one small glimpse of how that can happen. How fragile our world seems at times.

Sending out prayers to the souls huddled in the elements. Mother Nature can be such a merciless bitch sometimes.


message 2: by Charissa, That's Ms. Obnoxious Twat to You. (new)

Charissa (dakinigrl) | 3620 comments Mod
yup, Donna... those are more or less my prayers as well.


message 3: by Charissa, That's Ms. Obnoxious Twat to You. (new)

Charissa (dakinigrl) | 3620 comments Mod
indeed... although they are blessed with a system in place which brings aid and relief with fairly speedy manner. And we just don't see those levels of death tolls here, with our building codes and what not. But prayers all around.


message 4: by Charissa, That's Ms. Obnoxious Twat to You. (new)

Charissa (dakinigrl) | 3620 comments Mod
I guess I don't feel the same way about death as you do, Charly. There are six billion of us on the planet. I don't mind the loss of a few souls here and there to Mother Nature. But when such swaths of humanity are wiped out in a blink... it really makes me... pause.

And yes... it's bound to get messier still. Climate change is an E ride. (and no, I don't attribute the quake to climate change, thanks for playing).


message 5: by Charissa, That's Ms. Obnoxious Twat to You. (new)

Charissa (dakinigrl) | 3620 comments Mod
the next Charissa??? Oh, definitely kill that one off. You think I want any competition for being me?? Also... another of me just might rupture the space time continuum.


message 6: by Charissa, That's Ms. Obnoxious Twat to You. (new)

Charissa (dakinigrl) | 3620 comments Mod
now there's a new twist on kink... lesbionic sex with your clone. :::hed esplodes:::


message 7: by Charissa, That's Ms. Obnoxious Twat to You. (new)

Charissa (dakinigrl) | 3620 comments Mod
Well thank you Charly... I'm mostly just being flippant. I'm sure of the one life that the tornado sucked away was my kid I'd have plenty to say about it.

The mystery of our importance is still unfolding. We're a blip on the radar of geologic time. We're very fond of ourselves as a species. I suppose that's one of our endearing qualities. If we could summon as much care for the rest of creation I might cut us a tad more slack.

::::kisses Donna's petticoatie:::


message 8: by Charissa, That's Ms. Obnoxious Twat to You. (new)

Charissa (dakinigrl) | 3620 comments Mod
"A frightened seventh-grade girl was pulled safely from the rubble of a school dormitory Wednesday evening -- 50 hours after she was buried by Monday's earthquake, state-run media said."

There's your miracle life, Charly. It's stories like that that salvage such horrific scenarios.


message 9: by Paul (new)

Paul Bryant Can't resist expressing my usual thoughts in the face of such catastrophes - what kind of Intelligent Design comes up with a planet whose land masses are subject to unpredictable convulsive twitches which result in millions of deaths? Not especially intelligent, I would say. I don't know that much about designing planets but I'm sure the Intelligent Designer could have thought out the consequences of his geology a little better.


message 10: by Not Bill (new)

Not Bill | 1062 comments Can I call BS now? Intelligent Design? Are you actually buying into that? OK then... how do suppose to discern that design? My guess is that you don't buy in. How about this: shit happens. Who ever said we were put on this Earth to live the good and easy life? If I were God - and there are many who claim I am, I would want to see my handywork tested. I want to see that is up to the task when shit happens. Just because shit DOES happen doesn't mean that there isn't a Divine Spirit. It's always been true - live near the coast and you're vulnerable.


message 11: by Jackie "the Librarian", Cool Star Trek Nerd (last edited May 15, 2008 02:24AM) (new)

Jackie "the Librarian" | 1818 comments Mod
Right. It's all in God's plan, and these things were sent to try us. Like what happened with Job.
No, I can only think that if there were any kind of cosmic intelligence designing and guiding the whole, infinitely large universe, we would be as insignificant as gnats to it. Still, my heart goes out to those suffering in China and Myanmar.


"O Lord... Ooh, You are so big...So absolutely huge. Gosh, we're all really impressed down here, I can tell You."

From Monty Python's Meaning of Life


message 12: by Charissa, That's Ms. Obnoxious Twat to You. (new)

Charissa (dakinigrl) | 3620 comments Mod
Arthur: "Good idea Lord!"

God: "Of COURSE it's a good idea!"

-Holy Grail

ps... Hey NB... you just broke the Snark-O-Meter. Careful there, pooty.


message 13: by trivialchemy (new)

trivialchemy I don't mean to interrupt the snarkathon, but if I were designing a universe to be populated by willful, autonomous and creative free beings, and I had to choose between:

(a) a giant Chuck-E-Cheese's with infinite tokens or
(b) a morally ambiguous universe, rife with disaster, pain, and opportunity for the expression of strength, ingenuity, and creativity,

I'd go with (b). Whether this makes me an intelligent hypothetical designer or the contrary I leave to the judgment of others.


message 14: by Paul (new)

Paul Bryant Isiah - that makes you an Intelligent Designer with a really mean streak. What's all this pain for? So we can grow spiritually? Worship you better?


message 15: by Charissa, That's Ms. Obnoxious Twat to You. (new)

Charissa (dakinigrl) | 3620 comments Mod
It all comes back to a matter of degrees I think. A little bit of pain wakes us up, encourages us not to be complacent. Gives us something to rise above. But too much pain shuts us down, disables us, and seems to be just a really bad idea. Maybe it's just a good idea gone bad. Or maybe it's just random as fuck. My experience with the Male face of the divine is that he is a rather stern fellow. Where people came up with this whole "loving God" idea I have no idea. His idea of love seems to be a spanking before bed and no tea. Bastard.


message 16: by trivialchemy (new)

trivialchemy >>What's all this pain for? So we can grow spiritually? Worship you better?

>>Anyone who thinks pain is especially ennobling probably isn't on a first name basis with the bastard.

I didn't imply any such thing. Ad hoc justifications aren't necessary. It seems obvious to me that pain, or "bad" in general, is a necessary adjunct of autonomy, as I initially suggested.

In fact, Charissa's probably hit it best: "it's just random as fuck." That's because our universe operates on reliable, but complicated and probabilistic, laws. If these laws weren't reliable, the creatures within it would never be able to will anything -- the outcome of any given act would have unpredictable effects. Thus, autonomy would be impossible.

If these laws weren't complicated and probabilistic, then of course it would be obvious that every action was predetermined and, therefore free will (or, I'll allow, the appearance thereof) would also be impossible.

But having natural laws like this makes nature itself unpredictable, and sometimes very violent and the agent of a great deal of pain. Unfortunately, this pain is a simple companion of autonomy. You don't get one without the other.

But don't take my word for it. Thought experiment: be your own intelligent designer. Try to imagine a universe populated by totally autonomous beings in which pain did not exist. Everyone is happy all the time. I humbly submit that a universe lacking pain (more generally, "bad") is either logically contradictory, or highly restrictive of autonomy. But if I'm wrong, I'd love to hear the universe described which demonstrates me so.


message 17: by Charissa, That's Ms. Obnoxious Twat to You. (new)

Charissa (dakinigrl) | 3620 comments Mod
I adore your brain Isaiah.


message 18: by Paul (new)

Paul Bryant Isaiah - are you arguing for Intelligent Design here? If so I don't get this argument. Imagine a universe with a bunch of happy robots with no free will. They live, they love, they die at the age of 120 with beatific smiles, their extended families gathered around them. None of them have experienced an earthquake. There are no Ted Bundys in their world. Someone says - hey, bud, you know something? We're just a bunch of robots! Ain't got no free will at all! We're spiritual pygmies because the only bad thing that happens is occasionally the grapes don't peel themselves fast enough as they drop off the vine right into our mouths. Other guy says - yep, ain't that a bastard. Pass me another leg of turkey and a beer would ya?
Yes and another thing - in this world with all of its earthquakes and people being trapped underneath heavy masonry and gradually suffocating todeath, but slooowllly, you think we actually have got autonomy?

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky-tacky,
Little boxes, little boxes,
Little boxes, all the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they're all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses
All go to the university,
And they all get put in boxes,
Little boxes, all the same.
And there's doctors and there's lawyers
And business executives,
And they're all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same.

And they all play on the golf-course,
And drink their Martini dry,
And they all have pretty children,
And the children go to school.
And the children go to summer camp
And then to the university,
And they all get put in boxes
And they all come out the same.

And the boys go into business,
And marry, and raise a family,
And they all get put in boxes,
Little boxes, all the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they're all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same.

Autonomy schmautonomy.


message 19: by Charissa, That's Ms. Obnoxious Twat to You. (new)

Charissa (dakinigrl) | 3620 comments Mod
awww... I love that song... my dad and I used to sing that together when I was a kid. Yay Malvina Reynolds! Did you know it was written about the houses on the hillsides of South San Francisco and Daly City? It's true.


message 20: by Jackie "the Librarian", Cool Star Trek Nerd (new)

Jackie "the Librarian" | 1818 comments Mod
The houses built for all the families of servicemen after WWII, I believe?


message 21: by Charissa, That's Ms. Obnoxious Twat to You. (new)

Charissa (dakinigrl) | 3620 comments Mod
oh perhaps... I had never heard that. They look like they could be from that era.


message 22: by trivialchemy (new)

trivialchemy "Intelligent Design" with a capital I,D, Paul? Give me a little more credit than that.

What I'm "arguing for" is no more than exactly what I've argued for -- that the existence of pain and catastrophe in the universe is an incoherent argument against the existence of an intelligent designer of the universe. Is that an argument for "intelligent design?" No, it's an argument against bad arguments.

Back to your two points: First, your song is cute, but I can't really think you've confused so completely autonomy of the will and total independence from social and natural processes. Obviously we're not totally independent beings -- the natural world affects us, and society affects the decisions we make in a much more profound sense. Nonetheless, a human being ordinarily has the capacity to _will_ whatever he wants. If you don't want to get a ticky-tacky box and send your kids to summer camp, by all means, make a bonfire with your money and run naked through the streets screaming Alex Jonesisms. You may end up in jail (having lost social autonomy, I suppose), but your _will_ was perfectly autonomous.

Your more important argument is the bit about the robots. I'm going to ignore for a second that having a universe with apparently infinite resources and lacking cyclical processes like death might actually not be possible assuming a consistent set of physical laws has to exist. But am I to understand that if you were designing a universe, this is how you would do it? More importantly, can you understand the arguments that some poeple might have against this universe ---? namely, that no creative processes attributable to a person's will seem possible? If you can understand that some people (i.e., me) with apparently conscious intelligence would not design a world in such a way, for articulable reasons, then you must admit that the existence of pain and catastrophe as a byproduct of physical laws is a totally unsatisfactory argument against an intelligent designer.


message 23: by Paul (last edited May 23, 2008 03:39AM) (new)

Paul Bryant Hi Isaiah - I just don't understand this statement:

" a human being ordinarily has the capacity to _will_ whatever he wants. "

Does "will" here mean "wish"? If it means anything more, then no, a human being can't will anything he wants. Can you explain a little more?

Re: the happy robots. "can you understand the arguments that some poeple might have against this universe ---? namely, that no creative processes attributable to a person's will seem possible?"

No I don't. My happy robots in their world of no pain write books and read them too, they sing happy songs. Or maybe they don't - maybe they get their typewriters out and feed in an A4 page and then can't think of a damn thing worth writing about except gardening tips. Wow - heavy. No Dante, no Shakespeare, no Marcel Proust, no Emily Dickinson and no Eminem in their world - catastrophe. No Mona Lisa, no mona anything because they haven't got anything to mona about. But instead of discussing if the bleak existential depair of The Road by Cormac MacCarthy is even worse than the bleak existential depair of Winter Light by Ingmar Bergman this is what they say : "I taught my dog a new trick today." Or: "this new flavour of ice cream is fabulous". Or : "I will learn how to keep bees today."

"If you can understand that some people (i.e., me) with apparently conscious intelligence would not design a world in such a way, for articulable reasons, then you must admit that the existence of pain and catastrophe as a byproduct of physical laws is a totally unsatisfactory argument against an intelligent designer. "

No, I do not admit that. I think we are talking about the possibility of intelligent design here, perhaps not in Upper Case but in some kind of lower case, and if so, what's intelligent about several thousand people dying slow lingering deaths in Burma and China? Nothing. Does their pain make human life meaningful in some way? No. In fact their agony diminishes me, I can do nothing for them. I turn the tv off, sickened. There is no intelligence here. There is no design. The idea is offensive. (If we aren't talking about intelligent design then what are we talking about?)



message 24: by trivialchemy (new)

trivialchemy Apologies I have such a slow response time here. I'm traveling around Asia at the moment (just arrived in Nepal) and internet time is, if not absent, limited.

I consider the activity of the will to be a relatively well-defined philosophical idea, but I suppose it's always best to force me to define how I am using words, lest semantic confusion result.

When I say that a person has autonomy of the will, or that a person can "will whatever he wants" I simply mean that at any given moment any time, a person may actualize any conceivable activity of his person (body and mind) which is not forbidden by physical principle. To will something is, colloquially, to decide to attempt to do it.

For example, if I decide to attempt to imagine having sex with someone, I can do so quite easily. The moment in which I begin to perceive the fantasy is the actualization of the will's operation. I have willed the fantasy into being. However, if I simply decide to attempt to have sex with someone, I'm not necessarily going to actualize that intercourse. If I employ my wit, aplomb, and staggering good looks to woo a delectable strumpet, then perhaps those activities will result in success; however, if I attempt to use physical force, the object of my desire may kick me in the balls, or mace me, or what have you. Then, her will would have actualized something in the physical world which impeded my rape on physical principle. Similarly, if I will a leap off a building my body is more than happy to comply, but if I will that I should not be injured on landing, Newton's first law will undoubtedly intervene.

(OED says: Will, v. . . . to set the mind with conscious intention to the performance or occurrence of something; to choose or decide to do something, or that something shall be done or happen.)

Now, my problem with robot world, is that their seems to be no way to simultaneously guarantee this autonomy of the will and perpetually happy robots. You say your robots have typewriters -- well, what if one robot decided to try to beat another robot over the head with a typewriter? In your world, either this is possible and causes no pain or is not possible. If it is not possible, then autonomy of the will is somehow restricted. There is a natural law which states "beating of robot comrades over the head with typewriters shall be impossible."

If it is possible, but causes no pain, either Newtonian physics is inapplicable in robot-land or pain simply does not result from the application of blunt force trauma. If Newton's laws are inapplicable, I'll need a consistent set of physical laws from you which enable these robots to be physically localized, to locomote, to sustain themselves and their society energetically, etc. If pain does not result from blunt-force trauma, then what if, like my example of fantasy, a robot willed to imagine causing pain by blunt-force trauma. Is he unable to do so? If that is the case, the will's autonomy is restricted. If not, it is also so, for there is a law which states "willing the production of pain through blunt-force trauma shall be permitted but the actualization of this willed action in the physical world shall be prohibited (arbitrarily)."

Now, all this may seem petty to you and you can set about trying to excuse the robot/typewriter exception away, but the point is much more general than that. When you try to restrict the existence of pain which is, quite generally, a product of natural law, you inevitably start producing laws which almost without exception restrict the autonomy of the will.

So, you might say "alright, what is wrong with restricting autonomy of the will? we've got ethereal robots in ethereal land, with say a single physical law which says robots must float in nothingness and type out gardening tips." That example is apagogical, of course, but it should show you that beings in a world without autonomy of the will can have no action attributed to them at all. It is not their gardening tips which they are writing, for all gardening tips are a consequence of a simplified set of physical laws which requires them to produce gardening tips.

In other words, when I said "no creative processes attributable to a person's will seem possible," I wasn't bemoaning the absence of "mona anything," rather it was the inability to attribute creation to a person's will which I was upset about. Much of new world theology (viz. Whitehead, Hartshorne -- not in deference to their views, but rather an example of a place where these views are well-articulated) envisages man's principal purpose in life as the production of creative work (not necessarily art). Without autonomy of the will, anything (whether mental or physical) which a man created, he could not therefore be held responsible for. The creative works would not be his, they would be a product of his dysfunctional (limited by natural law) autonomy.

So, I can now elaborate my claim to say that if you can understand that some people (i.e., me, Whitehead, Hartshorne) with apparently conscious intelligence would conceivably design a world whose purpose for the beings inhabiting it would be to create things of their own will, then you must admit that the existence of pain and catastrophe as a byproduct of physical laws which permit the existence of autonomous wills is a totally unsatisfactory argument against an intelligent designer.

I apologize for the length of the foregoing, but you've demanded much of me in your challenges. I hope I've also answered your question: "Does their pain make human life meaningful in some way?" Because, of course, it does not, and I never said it did. It's autonomous creativity and intelligence which makes life meaningful; unfortunately, pain is a logical and physical adjunct of those two.


message 25: by Paul (new)

Paul Bryant Hello Isaiah - I appreciate I may not get a reply for a while, but that's okay. I hope you have the patience to forage further into the thickets of semantic meaning. I am still not sure I understand you very well.

Some while back you wrote :

"In fact, Charissa's probably hit it best: "it's just random as fuck." That's because our universe operates on reliable, but complicated and probabilistic, laws. If these laws weren't reliable, the creatures within it would never be able to will anything -- the outcome of any given act would have unpredictable effects. Thus, autonomy would be impossible. "

So : this universe of ours is paradoxical - it operates on reliable laws (i.e. mind-lessly, without sentience) in order that we humans can have our sentience and thus our will and individuality. Is that correct? That's a point which I hadn't noticed before. Onto the current debate. You say

" Obviously we're not totally independent beings -- the natural world affects us, and society affects the decisions we make in a much more profound sense. Nonetheless, a human being ordinarily has the capacity to _will_ whatever he wants. "

But I think your first sentence completely undermines your second there. Many gay people in Muslim countries would gladly exercise their will to have gay relationships but are terrified to do so. Thousands of people wish to be able to break free of the oppressions in their lives but circumstances crush their will. In these very common situations, I can't see the person involved has what you describe as the capacity to will whatever he wants.

As for my alternative world of no pain (no gain!) : I chose to call its dwellers happy robots precisely because I am suggesting that a state of happy robotdom is possible, given a dispensation other than this here and now. It's an alternative world and in it the people have no autonomy, no creativity, but they don't give a monkey's, because they don't know what autonomy and creativity is, they're robots, they've been programmed. All they do is write gardening tips and go to the poodle parlour twice weekly, and they really enjoy their admittedly brainless lives. The gardening tips are all useless, they don't really have gardens, they aren't creative. Their poodles are robot poodles. But if a happy robot took a peek into our world she would shriek and hop right on back into hers. Ours is nasty.
I think we are simply repeating the cuckoo clock speech from The Third Man here:

"Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

Here the Renaissance stands for human autonomy and the cuckoo clock is the happy robot world. Is this the argument? If so I think the game of human creativity and autonomy is not worth the candle.

If however you're saying that given the laws of physics earthquakes are definately going to happen and unless I can figure out how to run a different set of physics I'm stuck with earthquakes, you may well be right, it's beyond my competence to say, but that wasn't the argument.


message 26: by trivialchemy (new)

trivialchemy I appreciate this thoughtful response, Paul, I'll get back to it when I have economical internet access.


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