Top Leaderboard, Site wide
Shop the Truthdig Gift Guide 2014
December 19, 2014
Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines
Sign up for Truthdig's Email NewsletterLike Truthdig on FacebookFollow Truthdig on TwitterSubscribe to Truthdig's RSS Feed

Get Truthdig's headlines in your inbox!


A Win for the Cuban People






Truthdig Bazaar more items

 
Arts and Culture

Back to the Dawn of the Modern World

Email this item Email    Print this item Print    Share this item... Share

Posted on Apr 20, 2012
philobiblon (CC-BY)

Harvard professor and author Stephen Greenblatt won a Pulitzer Prize this week for his account of how an ancient Roman philosophical epic jump-started the modern world.

“The Swerve” tells the story of the role that poet-philosopher Lucretius’ “On the Nature of Things” played in the Renaissance, a three-century, cross-cultural explosion of the intellect that pulled Europe out of the Dark Ages. The poem argued for a godless universe and against religion and superstition in the name of humanism and prefigured modern atomic theory with the notion that matter was composed of tiny, indivisible particles that “swerve” and collide. —ARK

Harvard Gazette:

Once thought lost, the poem was rediscovered on a library shelf in the winter of 1417 by a Poggio Bracciolini. The copying and translation of the book fueled the Renaissance, inspiring artists such as Botticelli and thinkers such as Giordano Bruno; shaped the thought of Galileo and Freud, Darwin and Einstein; and had a revolutionary influence on writers such as Montaigne and Shakespeare and even Thomas Jefferson.

Greenblatt’s book argues that the influence of Lucretius’ work washed over modern thought like a tidal wave, anticipating not only social thought, but whole branches of modern science.

“It argues that the universe consists of atoms, void, and nothing else,” Greenblatt explained earlier this year at the third in a series of book talks given by Harvard faculty and alumni as part of Wintersession programming. “The atoms are eternal and always moving. Everything comes into existence simply because of the random movement of atoms, which, given enough time, will form and reform, constantly experimenting with different configurations of matter from which will eventually emerge everything we know, and into which everything we know will collapse.”

Read more


New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

Night-Gaunt's avatar

By Night-Gaunt, April 27, 2012 at 12:09 pm Link to this comment

Okay Christian69 I mean Christian96 so funny as in NOT. But I couldn’t expect much more from you at this stage. You are out of ammunition so you resort to trite little things. Instead of just not commenting.

That is Doctor Carl Sagan to you fellow.

What “logic trap” is that? Saying it is doesn’t make it so. Explain.

Report this

By christian96, April 27, 2012 at 11:16 am Link to this comment

How would I negotiate Satan(escuse me, I meant Sagan’s) “logic trap?” I would avoid it!

Report this
vector56's avatar

By vector56, April 24, 2012 at 12:12 pm Link to this comment

Ed; interesting analysis.

Report this

By Ed Romano, April 24, 2012 at 10:56 am Link to this comment

Wow ! This forum is like 16 cats in a dark closet where someone just opened the door and threw in a live mouse.

Report this
vector56's avatar

By vector56, April 24, 2012 at 9:05 am Link to this comment

“I don’t have a garage therefore I don’t have a
dragon. “

christian96; nice way to avoid Sagan’s argument.


I am curious; how would one such as yourself negotiate Sagan’s “logic trap”?

Report this

By christian96, April 24, 2012 at 7:05 am Link to this comment

I don’t have a garage therefore I don’t have a
dragon.

Report this
vector56's avatar

By vector56, April 24, 2012 at 6:09 am Link to this comment

mondobizarro;

The “skepticism” argument I put forth had little or nothing to do with Brian Green it came from Carl Sagan (“The Dragon In My Garage”).

I do not share your opinion of Green; personally I think he does a heck of a job making complicated ideas accessible to “the common folk” such as myself. Like Sagan before him, Green opens the doors to an elite club and invites all who dare to wonder to come in.

Report this

By mondobizarro, April 23, 2012 at 10:52 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Vector,

Enjoyed your posts but would urge a little skepticism with Brian Green. The guy is
the Paris Hilton of pop science—he’ll say anything to get attention. His job is
more about science speculation and titillation than it is about scientific accuracy.
There’s hardly a sensational hypothesis out there that he hasn’t entertained at one
point or another.

Report this
vector56's avatar

By vector56, April 23, 2012 at 9:40 am Link to this comment

““Imagine that, despite none of the tests being successful, you wish to be scrupulously open-minded. So you don’t outright reject the notion that there’s a fire-breathing dragon in my garage. “

Anyone here still wants to claim “neutrality” on the “God” question?

Report this
vector56's avatar

By vector56, April 23, 2012 at 9:38 am Link to this comment

Sagan’s “Dragon In My Garage” Part 2;


“Imagine that, despite none of the tests being successful, you wish to be scrupulously open-minded. So you don’t outright reject the notion that there’s a fire-breathing dragon in my garage. You merely put it on hold. Present evidence is strongly against it, but if a new body of data emerge you’re prepared to examine it and see if it convinces you. Surely it’s unfair of me to be offended at not being believed; or to criticize you for being stodgy and unimaginative—merely because you rendered the Scottish verdict of “not proved.”

Imagine that things had gone otherwise. The dragon is invisible, all right, but footprints are being made in the flour as you watch. Your infrared detector reads off-scale. The spray paint reveals a jagged crest bobbing in the air before you. No matter how skeptical you might have been about the existence of dragons—to say nothing about invisible ones—you must now acknowledge that there’s something here, and that in a preliminary way it’s consistent with an invisible, fire-breathing dragon.

Now another scenario: Suppose it’s not just me. Suppose that several people of your acquaintance, including people who you’re pretty sure don’t know each other, all tell you that they have dragons in their garages—but in every case the evidence is maddeningly elusive. All of us admit we’re disturbed at being gripped by so odd a conviction so ill-supported by the physical evidence. None of us is a lunatic. We speculate about what it would mean if invisible dragons were really hiding out in garages all over the world, with us humans just catching on. I’d rather it not be true, I tell you. But maybe all those ancient European and Chinese myths about dragons weren’t myths at all.

Gratifyingly, some dragon-size footprints in the flour are now reported. But they’re never made when a skeptic is looking. An alternative explanation presents itself. On close examination it seems clear that the footprints could have been faked. Another dragon enthusiast shows up with a burnt finger and attributes it to a rare physical manifestation of the dragon’s fiery breath. But again, other possibilities exist. We understand that there are other ways to burn fingers besides the breath of invisible dragons. Such “evidence”—no matter how important the dragon advocates consider it—is far from compelling. Once again, the only sensible approach is tentatively to reject the dragon hypothesis, to be open to future physical data, and to wonder what the cause might be that so many apparently sane and sober people share the same strange delusion. ”

Report this
vector56's avatar

By vector56, April 23, 2012 at 9:36 am Link to this comment

The Dragon In My Garage
by
Carl Sagan
“A fire-breathing dragon lives in my garage”

Suppose (I’m following a group therapy approach by the psychologist Richard Franklin) I seriously make such an assertion to you. Surely you’d want to check it out, see for yourself. There have been innumerable stories of dragons over the centuries, but no real evidence. What an opportunity!

“Show me,” you say. I lead you to my garage. You look inside and see a ladder, empty paint cans, an old tricycle—but no dragon.

“Where’s the dragon?” you ask.

“Oh, she’s right here,” I reply, waving vaguely. “I neglected to mention that she’s an invisible dragon.”

You propose spreading flour on the floor of the garage to capture the dragon’s footprints.

“Good idea,” I say, “but this dragon floates in the air.”

Then you’ll use an infrared sensor to detect the invisible fire.

“Good idea, but the invisible fire is also heatless.”

You’ll spray-paint the dragon and make her visible.

“Good idea, but she’s an incorporeal dragon and the paint won’t stick.”

And so on. I counter every physical test you propose with a special explanation of why it won’t work.

Now, what’s the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all? If there’s no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true. Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder. What I’m asking you to do comes down to believing, in the absence of evidence, on my say-so.

The only thing you’ve really learned from my insistence that there’s a dragon in my garage is that something funny is going on inside my head. You’d wonder, if no physical tests apply, what convinced me. The possibility that it was a dream or a hallucination would certainly enter your mind. But then, why am I taking it so seriously? Maybe I need help. At the least, maybe I’ve seriously underestimated human fallibility.

Report this
vector56's avatar

By vector56, April 23, 2012 at 9:28 am Link to this comment

Some here have declared that it would be “foolish” to assume that the Super Natural (God(s)) does not exist. I have experienced this type of argument before when the Corporate Media presents two opinions, one plausible, the other unlikly and treat both as if they were on equal footing.

Carl Sagan’s “The Dragon In My Garage” (in my opinion) close the book on where the burden of proof should lay when one side asserts the “fantastic”.

http://www.users.qwest.net/~jcosta3/article_dragon.htm

Report this
Lafayette's avatar

By Lafayette, April 23, 2012 at 3:03 am Link to this comment

VOLTAIRE

Lucretius was never nailed to a cross and therefore could not have become a god. His words were not made into epistles and, were it not for Bracciolini, would be undiscovered perhaps to this day.

From 1BC to the twentieth century BC is not even an historical blink-of-an-eye considering the real age of the earth - the immensity of which relegates our pitifully short existence into near irrelevance. Just another “event” on earth’s time-line - as interesting as, but not more so, than that of the dinosaurs.

It took mankind 2000 years to wake up to the notion that perhaps other, more natural forces were afoot making the heavens change and thus the tides. Or that what mankind could not see with the naked eye was far more important to its existence than what it could see.

Such revelations either heighten or diminish the relevance of “a God” omnipotent. Either “He” invented it all ... or he does not even exist.

Zat is ze kweschun. Which is simply and purely a matter of individual faith - that we each must chose to accept or not.

So - one might ask - given that the question can not be answered definitively, except by faith, why should the existence of god be allowed to interfere with the policies we earthlings make to administrate our existence?

Or as Voltaire deftly phrased it (so as to not offend the religious powers of his time): “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him!”

Voltaire did not believe that any single religious text or tradition of revelation was needed to believe in God. Voltaire’s focus was rather on the idea of universal laws, demonstrable and still waiting to be discovered in the physical world as well as those of the moral world. That is, underlying every religious system along with respect for nature.

Had Voltaire read Lucretius’ poem? Hard to tell. But whereas Voltaire did seem to believe in a Supreme Being, Lucretius evidently did not believe in the Roman pantheon of Gods.

But where Voltaire was most instructive was in underlining mankind’s need to believe in a deity – which is a common attribute of many religions on earth most of which otherwise differ greatly.

Report this
vector56's avatar

By vector56, April 22, 2012 at 4:43 pm Link to this comment

“The nuclear age,
which will leave unimaginable filth and horror for thousands of years to come,
was ushered in by Einstein, Teller, and Oppenheimer, and it was done in secret
without the content of any legislative body, much less the approval of the
public and the majority of the scientific community.”

Gulam;

One problem with your rant above; Einstein was a Jew and most if not all of the military brass who worked on the two Atomic bombs dropped on Japan where “Christian”; that also goes for the guy (Harry Truman) who gave the order to drop them.

Report this
vector56's avatar

By vector56, April 22, 2012 at 4:13 pm Link to this comment

christian96;

You seem to be the “poster Girl” for what we Godless Liberals refer to as a “Religious Nut”!

Science is no more a “religion” that “terrorism” is a thing to go to war against. One is a “tactic” the other is a “method” of problem solving.

As far as my people (Atheist) being “immoral”; take a stroll through history and compare the endless events of mass murder, torture holy wars and genocide carried out in the name of one God or another.

Morality, or the lack of has nothing to do with having an imaginary “Sugar Daddy” in the sky.

“They want to do something opposed to the
rules of God such as lick someone elses genitals,”

As far as your “licking genitals” comment goes, I must admit we Godless ones do try to keep an open mind.

Report this
vector56's avatar

By vector56, April 22, 2012 at 3:52 pm Link to this comment

“Objective for what?”

Shades of Dyslexia;  Shenonymous, I should have said “Subjective”!

Report this
Night-Gaunt's avatar

By Night-Gaunt, April 22, 2012 at 3:30 pm Link to this comment

Christian96 even your own book of myths, Bible explains that part about eating fruit from the tree of knowledge of Good an Evil. Now if they had gotten to eat from the tree of Immortality we would have been as gods or so JHVH is said to have said. So Adam an Eve were banished, though Adam an Steve remained.

Whenever you make a decision on anything do you pray? If not why not or so why so? We do many things that “god” use to do like deciding what to eat or if we will have slaves or will free them or will kill or not. We do lots of other things too that you may mistake for you god’s province. That is your mistake. It is a human province an for any other intelligent species there are or will be somewhere in the 100 billion known galaxies.

Intelligent species do it, it isn’t the province of some deity created by primitives to guide them. For you perhaps but not for some of us. Making your own decision is just that. You are to blame or to get credit for it. Nothing more. No gods just us.

Report this
Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, April 22, 2012 at 2:11 pm Link to this comment

Sorry christian96, on this I claim you are completely and utterly wrong. 
There has never been nor is there any argument or evidence presented
that compels or justifies belief in a deity nor any of the alleged divine
places both heaven or hell.  If you want any one to believe you, you
must show what you say is the truth. I don’t say god does not exist, to
do so is unprovable and sheer folly.  I rest in the comfort of my own
mind free to think for myself and not commanded by any religious
dogma and what I see is a fact that no one has ever given reason for
giving up one’s mind to believe in superstitions and supernatural
existences. 

There is no atheist religion.  Nothing is worshipped by atheists.  There
are groups like the Brights who seek truth and encourage freethinking. 
And other groups work together to advocate political freedom to think
as they choose and promote humanism.

Report this

By christian96, April 22, 2012 at 1:27 pm Link to this comment

Shenonymous—-All atheists have set themselves up
as God determining what is right and wrong in their
lives and in some instances trying to project their
world onto others. Atheists like to use the crutch
of “scientific facts” for their little created world.
The problem is science is not going to give them
morals for living among other people. Look at
Washington for example.  These ignorant leaders have
driven God out of institutions and now find the
world crumbling around them morally with no answers
for putting humpty dumpty back together again.  They
will reap what they sowed and it ain’t gonna be
pretty.  My heart goes out to the children who had
to be born into this Godless leaderless world.

Report this
Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, April 22, 2012 at 12:53 pm Link to this comment

christian96, April 22 at 11:06 am – On occasion I find we agree,
christian96, but on this would you please name the atheists who
set themselves up as god?  It is an ostentatious and unsubstantiated
statement and does not compute with what I understand about atheists,
or rather I like Hitchens term a bit better but is essentially a synonym,
anti-theists, I being one of them.

Report this

By christian96, April 22, 2012 at 12:06 pm Link to this comment

Atheists have set themselves up as God.  They have
a GIANT problem.  They are not God.  They don’t want
to folow God’s rules because they don’t like the rules.  They want to do something opposed to the
rules of God such as lick someone elses genitals,
seek pleasure in anal stimulation, etc., etc., etc.
They should probably read what Dr. Freud had to say
about genital and anal fixations.  However, even
Dr. Freud won’t be able to help them escape what
is rapidly approaching.  In Matthew 24:21 Jesus
tells about a time of great tribulation coming upon
the world, “For then shall be great tribulation, such
as was not since the beginning of the world to this
time, no, nor ever shall be.”  Unless you have had
your head stuck in the atomic structure of the sand,
you can tell from developments on earth that we are
RAPIDLY approaching the time of the GREATEST
TRIBULATION EVER on earth.  Let your atheism save
you from that time. AMEN!

Report this
Gulam's avatar

By Gulam, April 22, 2012 at 11:11 am Link to this comment

1. The great civilizations and religions that were dominant
on the earth at the beginning of recorded history are as
much a product of the survival of the fittest as are the
individual species. That the great civilizations share many
basic values like patriarchy indicates that these are very real
survival advantages for societies that practice themover the
long run, though they may not be as immediately useful
in driving consumer spending as doubling the number of drivers
was for the oil and gas industry.

2. The atheism and the worship of science by secular Jews is
as much a religion or a cult as any other sect like the Mormons
or the Baptists. Rebellious Jews poured out of the ghettos with
a creed that was precisely the opposite of the one that they felt that they had
been force-fed for centuries. That they came from a community that had highly
valued literacy for centuries gave them great verbal and logical advantages, and
their successes have been such that they have presumed to in fact become
gods themselves, leading mankind off into the universe in gender-neutral
starships with these heroes at the helm, but no they are just part of yet another
religion, one that is remarkably similar to that of the Philistines whose empire
was based on trade and whose values are measured in gold.

3. Trotting out Einstein as a hero to which one can continually appeal for
authority is not a practice destined to last. This is the man who went to the
American President with the idea of making an atomic bomb. The nuclear age,
which will leave unimaginable filth and horror for thousands of years to come,
was ushered in by Einstein, Teller, and Oppenheimer, and it was done in secret
without the content of any legislative body, much less the approval of the
public and the majority of the scientific community. The entire nuclear madness
is one horrible human mistake, and Einstein was not the kind of person whose
life and “contribution” will stand up to long term attention, unless you think
Hiroshima and Fukushima are success stories.

Report this
Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, April 22, 2012 at 10:13 am Link to this comment

Objective for what?

Report this
vector56's avatar

By vector56, April 22, 2012 at 9:53 am Link to this comment

“These, yes, could be considered a ‘natural’ progression, except
there is a vast difference between how far humans have progressed in
its nature in comparison, or contrast if you will, with any other entity for
which we so far have knowledge.  This is the usefulness of making
distinctions which no other natural thing does.”

Kinda feels like a “Planet of the Apes” moment when “we” declare that something that is unique to us puts us apart from all of Nature. The assessment does not seem very objective.

Report this
Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, April 22, 2012 at 9:04 am Link to this comment

Essentially vector56, April 20 at 3:45 pm, you are right, if man is a
natural entity then all that issues from humanity is natural.  I heartily
agree.  However, to make consciousness and cognition easier, which
is itself a uniquely human intention, science has separated what is
formulated, prepared, constructed (even though other animals con-
struct, but rather out of innate habit), discovered and forged not only
materials and objects made from materials, but have developed think-
ing skills far beyond what any other animal has, humans wonder about
things, their origins, the quality of their relationships with one another
and the world in which they find themselves, and imagine possible
worlds.  These, yes, could be considered a ‘natural’ progression, except
there is a vast difference between how far humans have progressed in
its nature in comparison, or contrast if you will, with any other entity for
which we so far have knowledge.  This is the usefulness of making
distinctions which no other natural thing does.


jimmmmmy, April 21 at 9:31 am – All matter is composed of subatomic
particles, of which there are many and varied kinds.  Electricity is energy,
is physical phenomena that arises from the behavior of electrons and
protons caused by the attraction of particles with opposite charges and
the repulsion of particles with the same charge.

If humans have thoughts, and there is hardly an argument that they
don’t, they are found to be eleco/magnetic waves-particles traceable
using an electro- encephalograph, already mentioned in this forum,
which records the electrical activity of the brain, a brain which is not
debatably made of material matter.  The article found at
http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/brain_basics/know_your_brain.htm
gives an excellent explanation of the way brains emit thoughts.  “The
brain and the rest of the nervous system are composed of many different
types of cells, but the primary functional unit is a cell called the neuron.
All sensations, movements, thoughts, memories, and feelings are the
result of signals that pass through neurons.”  Even though at present
their resolution is somewhat crude, techniques such as
electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG), can
measure the electric and magnetic fields that are produced when
neurons fire in brains, humans’ or other animals’...

There are a number of proposals on how quantum
mechanics would enter into thinking using the micro-
tubules. Physicist Roger Penrose in his books, The
Emperor’s New Mind
and Shadows of the Mind,
”proposes that some effect of quantum gravity would
cause the collapse of the wave function describing
the states of the electrons in the microtubules and
that this collapse produces a conscious thought.

Also Rethinking Neural Networks: Quantum Fields and Biological
Data
edited by Karl H. Pribram expands on the material connection
between subatomic particles and the brainwaves of the mind.


Night-Gaunt, April 21 at 6:28 pm – remember that physics separated
from philosophy also showing there is a tendency in humans to sort and
categorize so that thinking may further itself.  Otherwise the ordering of
the chaotic mismash of thinking becomes organized and thereby logical
reasoning enabled.  It is similar to the human tendency to look for
patterns.

Report this
vector56's avatar

By vector56, April 22, 2012 at 6:43 am Link to this comment

“Or as Aristotle put it, “if the eye is the body then sight is the soul.” A nice metaphor.”

Nice metaphor; not really. The “sight” is no more the “soul” than epileptics were Demon possessed. Sight is external sensory input (light) being translated by the brain.

Report this

By christian96, April 21, 2012 at 8:14 pm Link to this comment

What the world needs is more people willing to be
an ass.

A—-Art

S—-Science

S—-Synthesis

Report this

By SomeoneInAsia, April 21, 2012 at 7:28 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As a non-Westerner I frankly get a bit weary of this predilection on the part of Western intellectuals to speak of the works of some dead white men giving rise to things like ‘modernity’ etc, as if (1) the entire world would and should have acknowledged and accepted some universal standards in the way we think, live etc and (2) non-Westerners are too stupid to figure out such ways by themselves.

The fact is that until the 19th century most of the societies of the non-Western world followed their own ways of life and thought and wouldn’t have dreamt of adopting anything from the West, thank you very much. Nor were the non-Western ways of life and thought all superstitious drivel, to be driven away (no doubt) by the blinding effulgence of the Western intellect. East Asia alone produced important thinkers (long after Confucius) that Western scholars themselves have compared to what were supposed to be some of the West’s greatest minds. Impressive achievements may also be noted in other spheres e.g. literature. I don’t want to appear as one of those angry Chinese nutcase ‘patriots’, so I shan’t bore my readers with the details, though I’d certainly be glad to supply them if requested.

As for just how much better the paths charted out by the white man are, vis-a-vis those soggy pre-modern mud tracks trodden upon by us non-Western neanderthals, one has but to look at the sorry state of affairs towards which the whole bloody paradigm of infinite growth and the sharp depletion of nonrenewable resources caused by it are now leading us. At least the good old ways of life and thought offered by my mother culture wouldn’t have led to those, whatever might have been its other defects.

Report this
Night-Gaunt's avatar

By Night-Gaunt, April 21, 2012 at 7:28 pm Link to this comment

You must remember that Lucreitus a poet translated or transliterated Epicurius flat prose into melodious hexameters. Without that it would have languished ignored an eventually discarded. Science an art should not have separated we need to merge them again somehow so that the general population would not feel alienated from science. To take the best from both into a synergy that can be both enjoyed an educational. Though we need at the same time to make sure we can reach proper maturity as well.

Electro-chemical activity make up our minds. The brain is the hard-wet ware an the energy expended among the gray matter by the white matter like photons or electrons running about inside a computer. Or as Aristotle put it, “if the eye is the body then sight is the soul.” A nice metaphor.

Now if we could just figure out a way to make all of us at once both intelligent, understanding an wise. Then we might actually accomplish more than simply changing the planet’s atmosphere an land to create a Hot House earth by accident.

Report this
vector56's avatar

By vector56, April 21, 2012 at 5:46 pm Link to this comment

jimmmmmy;

This is starting to feel like a “Penis” waving contest that is avoiding the point of the post!

First; E=mc(squared). Matter accelerated to the square of the speed of light converts to energy. If matter is made of “atoms” and can convert to energy than it must follow that energy is matter (atoms) in it’s other state!

Light energy manifest itself as partials and waves; little packets of energy (quanta) called “photons”.

Generally speaking, “it is the same dammed stuff!

Now, can we get back to the God Dam point of the fucking post!!!

Philosophy, not so much physics.

During the “dark ages” those who who were epileptic were thought to be possess by demons; due to their lack of understanding of the natural world. Today we understand that this medical conditions has little to do with Demons and “Science as a Candle in the dark” helped to illuminate this “Demon haunted world”. This is the subject of the post; please Jimmmmy, leave your insecurity at the door and lets have a conversation about the post?

Report this

By jimmmmmy, April 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm Link to this comment

Vector 56 Now I"m wondering what the definition of thought would be to make sense of your contention I agree free electrons are not atoms .I’m aware of the statement about energy changing states I agree that we are bio mechanical devices powered by very low voltage.  However “thought as atoms” does not work for me. Book recommendation, Life and Energy by Isaac Azimov . He tries to reduce all bodly processes to equations. I didn’t finish it the math became to complex for me. I don’t recall what he said on energy requirements for thought.I loaned it out and didn’t get it back I’m going to look for another copy at the book fare.

Report this
vector56's avatar

By vector56, April 21, 2012 at 3:20 pm Link to this comment

“An EKG can measure electrical
impulses emitted by your brain but doesn’t necessarily measure electrical impulses of thoughts.”

christian96;

An EKG measures electrical impulses emitted by the “heart”; an EEG measures electrical impulses emitted by the brain.

I too like Jimmmmmy am a Atheists. The post talks of the age of superstition giving way to the “age of reason”; you christian96 seem to be a “throwback” to the good old days (the dark ages) when ghost and Demons ruled the world. Carl Sagan wrote a book just before he died titled; “The Demon Haunted World (Science as a Candle in the Dark)”. Maybe, just maybe it will pull your mind out of the gutter?


“look up the definition of energy I believe it makes your assertion nonsense. Thoughts cannot be composed of atoms, because energy is a process caused by the decay of atoms, or so it says my dictionary. that is the intermediate step to be dealt with if you want to fly the idea that “thoughts are composed of atoms.“Had me going for a while. “


Jimmmmmy, my boy; ever heard of a little thing called “The Law of Conservation of Matter and Energy”?

It states that Matter and Energy can not be created or destroyed, only changed in form.

Jimmmmmy, you state below;

“thoughts cannot be composed of atoms, because energy is a process caused by the decay of atoms, “

Lets say you die and your body “rots”; if someone says that the decay from a rotting Jimmmmmy is something other than the “stuff” that made up Jimmmmmy you would consider them a liar or a fool.

A thought is composed of “electrical” impulses “jumping the gap”; these electrical impulses are “free electrons” which are part of “atoms”.


“How many atoms in a thought, does a true thought require more or less atoms than a false one? How about conscious and unconscious thoughts? “

Now that we have established that thoughts are bio-electrical impulses we can move on to the “mechanics” of thought.

Consider the complexity of DNA; 4 base pairs create all of the diversity seen in all life on earth. Simple things (4 base pairs) in complex combinations can create results that appear to be magic or supernatural to the untrained mind.

The same thing applies to the bio-chemical mechanics of the thought process; the base elements are the same, but the combinations of “If, Then statements and Logic gates that are redundant and over lapping build from simple electrical impulses to a crescendo that eventually yields consciousness!

Sagan summed it up in “The Demon Haunted World (Science as a Candle in the Dark)”; replacing “magic” with the “scientific method” and critical thinking will pull us out of the “dark ages” and into the light of reason.

Report this

By jimmmmmy, April 21, 2012 at 3:02 pm Link to this comment

Christian96 , I try to avoid religious discussion because of the violent reactions of most Christian promoters, but you introduced the topic into what I thought was an intriguing scientific idea , turns out it was not that intriguing but what the hell. Trying to rope Einstien into Christianity is like MR. Romney baptizing the pope into the Mormon faith,after he died. Pretty dubious. We are way off topic here.The idea of Lucretius as the necessary cornerstone of western science .I also find dubious,tending toward ludicrous.

Report this

By christian96, April 21, 2012 at 2:33 pm Link to this comment

Jimmmmmy—-I was using your question because I thought
it was a logical question regardless of your particular religious beliefs or lack thereof.  One
thing I do enjoy about living in America is that we
are free to express our particular prejudices.  I
could start a dialog about christianity versus atheism but have found from previous encounters that
it would be a waste of time and space.  If atheism
provides you with a confortable explanation for your
and others extant existence then fine.  Christianity
happens to do the same for me. Since you appear to
consider yourself to be scientifically oriented you
may find it challenging to know Albert Einstein
said in a book entitled Ideas and Opinions, “If
we would remove all the additions which have been
made to the teachings of Jesus over the years, we
would have basic teachings upon which to build a
foundation for world peace.”  Quite a statement coming from a very bright scientist.

Report this

By jimmmmmy, April 21, 2012 at 1:57 pm Link to this comment

Vector 56 , look up the definiton of energy I believe it makes your assertion nonsense. Thoughts cannot be composed of atoms, because energy is a process caused by the decay of atoms, or so it says my dictionary. that is the intermediate step to be dealt with if you want to fly the idea that “thoughts are composed of atoms.“Had me going for a while.

Report this

By jimmmmmy, April 21, 2012 at 1:41 pm Link to this comment

Chistian 96 Please don’t use my question in your post I was talking from a scientific basis. As a Practicing Atheist I have a bible in my bathroom for laughs and ammunition when attacked by christians. I believe religion is the start point for humanity in philosophy . The Bible is rubbish and we should have outgrown it centuries ago. if religion wasn’t so goddamn profitable and comfortable within the cancer of capitalism.

Report this

By christian96, April 21, 2012 at 12:44 pm Link to this comment

Vector56—-How can you prove that thoughts are
“bio-chemical” impulses?  I find it difficult to
accept the analogy that you make between computers
and thought processes.  An EKG can measure electrical
impulses emitted by your brain but doesn’t necessarily measure electrical impulses of thoughts.
I like the question by “Jimmmmy” in refernce to,
“How do you measure the atomic structure of specific
thoughts?” I will relate to two personal experiences.
First, while teaching Educational Psychology in the
mid 1970’s I had an usual dream.  In the dream I was
watching my body asleep on a bed and the face of
Albert Einstein was talking to my body lying in the
bed.  When Albert Einstein used a word I was not
familiar with I awoke from the dream.  I spent considerable time awake in bed trying to understand
how my mind could use a word in a dream with which
I didn’t understand while awake. I didn’t reach any
conclusive answers.  A few years later an incident
in my life caused me to begin studying the Bible,
which I have been doing for approx. 35 years.  The
Bible discusses spirits which can influence thoughts
both positive and negative thoughts.  For example,
Jesus was trying to explain to his disciples about
his impending crucifixion.  His apostle, Peter, said,
“Lord, this isn’t going to happen.”  Talking to Peter
Jesus said, “Get behind me Satan.”  He wasn’t talking
to Peter but to the spirit influencing the thoughts
of Peter. It was at that point I became aware that
spirits can influence thoughts.  Then, I started
studying the Bible trying to understand the influence
of spirits on thoughts in various instances in the
Bible.  Then, I became sensitive to possible influence of spirits upon other people on earth. I
recall the Son of Sam saying a dog told him to kill
people.  Seemed like the possible work of spirits
to me.  Most people, especially psychologists, dismiss spirits as “myths,” folklore,” etc. Assuming
spirits exist are they composed of atoms?  If so,
how would you measure them?

Report this

By jimmmmmy, April 21, 2012 at 10:46 am Link to this comment

Lucretius was certainly a strong contributor , but “jump started” thats a little strong. Its like the guy looking for The meanining of it all in The HitchHikers guide and after 10 million years of computer work is told 42, I think was the answer. These old prestige school profs. seem to feel the need to own history, they find a person or cause reseach it extensively and assign it as a main cause of Historical change, usually in a book This strkes me as a very conservative manifestation the university system as they become more and more for profit. Sort of like the 70s when the right hi-jacked Jesus and turned him into a corporatist.

Report this

By jimmmmmy, April 21, 2012 at 10:31 am Link to this comment

I don’t want to agree with you that thought is atoms, but I’m not smart enough to know why. I’ve had the idea that thought is energy since childhood but energy as atoms is a step to far for me. I need to reference Sam Harris on this or Lawrence Krause on string theory. Can you flesh that idea out a little? I love the internet every day I find something intriguing and this is a poser. How many atoms in a thought, does a true thought require more or less atoms than a false one? How about conscicous and unconscious thoughts?

Report this
vector56's avatar

By vector56, April 21, 2012 at 5:42 am Link to this comment

Brian Greene (Professor Mathematics & Physics Columbia University) suggests that our 3 dimensional reality might only be a “projection” from the two dimensional realm of “Black Holes”.

Consider it for a second; the 3D space and all that we know as “reality” could be a GUI generated by a natural machine(s) (black holes) that exist in “2D flatland!

“The holographic principle, simply put, is the idea that our three-dimensional reality is a projection of information stored on a distant, two-dimensional surface. Like the emblem on your credit card, the two-dimensional surface holds all the information you need to describe a three-dimensional object—in this case, our universe. Only when it is illuminated does it reveal a three-dimensional image.”

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/physics/fabric-of-cosmos.html

Report this
vector56's avatar

By vector56, April 21, 2012 at 5:21 am Link to this comment

the bottom line christian96 is that bio-chemical-electrical impulses (thoughts) are just as “Natural” as any other activity within the biosphere.

Report this
vector56's avatar

By vector56, April 21, 2012 at 5:12 am Link to this comment

“Are your thoughts composed of atoms?”


christian96; Yes!

Thoughts are “Bio-Electrical” impulses. Think (no pun intended) of it this way; Your computer used something called a GUI (Graphic User Interface) to display the “machine language of the computer (binary) in such a way where the “cyber” reality you work, play and explore looks very different from the ones and zeros the CPU can only see; you might say the CPU dwells in a kind of electronic “Flat Land”.
Now, lets say I took a hammer and smashed your CPU, hard drive and motherboard! Most here would assume that the GUI that was displayed on the Monitor (Windows) would not remain. Once the thing(s) that generated the GUI are destroyed the GUI which is in reality only a “projection” of what the hardware generated will dissipate.

Our minds are somewhat like a GUI; and our “wetware” (brains) act like the hardware in a computer that generate cyber reality. The “you” that you know is nothing more than a bio-electrical projection that springs from that grey matter between your ears. Damage the source of the projection, and the GUI will stop!

Any more questions?

Report this

By christian96, April 20, 2012 at 8:07 pm Link to this comment

Vector56—-Are your thoughts composed of atoms?

Report this
vector56's avatar

By vector56, April 20, 2012 at 4:45 pm Link to this comment

Amazing! Reality itself is a creation of the “half spin” of an Electron.

Humbling isn’t it?

A few years a go I got into an argument with an old friend who insisted on dividing reality into two basic categories; Natural and Man (human) made.

My friend insisted that everything that was sprang from the mind of Man was to be considered “Man made”: plastic, science, culture, technology, literature,...
All the other “stuff” outside of Man; subatomic interaction, the movement of the stars and planets, and the evolution of the biosphere itself was “Nature”.

Just as I take issue with my religious friends separating reality into “Natural” and Super Natural” realms I also have a problem with the separation of humanity (man) and the natural world.

My logic goes like this;

If Man (humanity) is part of the biosphere and everything within the biosphere is “natural”, should it not follow that all that springs from the mind of humanity is also natural? If this is so, then the separation of “Man made” and “Natural” is a facade created only to stroke our ego.

Report this

By Michael, April 20, 2012 at 4:45 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“Centuries before the rediscovery of Lucretius many Christians incorporated philosophical accounts of pleasure and love from the classical philosophers into their theology. Aquinas and Dante, who play little part in Greenblatt’s description of medieval Christianity, found room for both love and pleasure in their philosophies. Those “classical” currents within Catholic thought are a much more likely source than Lucretius for Thomas More’s descriptions of the rational pleasures enjoyed by his Utopians. They are among the many strands of thought that lie behind “renaissance” thinking, and indeed behind humanism too.

Greenblatt’s story of the unleashing of the pleasure principle on the European world after the discovery of Lucretius conveys his own passion for discovery, and displays his brilliance as a storyteller. The Swerve is, though, a dazzling retelling of the old humanist myth of the heroic liberation of classical learning from centuries of monastic darkness. The light of Rome fades into gloom, sheep graze in the Forum; then the humanists rebel against the orthodoxies of the church, bring about a great recovery of classical texts and generate a new intellectual dawn. This book makes that story into a great read, but it cannot make it entirely true.”

Dr. Colin Burrow, Oxford U.

Report this
 
Monsters of Our Own Creation? Get tickets for this Truthdig discussion of America's role in the Middle East.
Right 1, Site wide - BlogAds Premium
 
Right Skyscraper, Site Wide
Right 2, Site wide - Blogads
 
Join the Liberal Blog Advertising Network
 
 
 

A Progressive Journal of News and Opinion   Zuade Kaufman, Publisher   Robert Scheer, Editor-in-Chief
© 2014 Truthdig, LLC. All rights reserved.

Like Truthdig on Facebook