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Showing posts with the label reason

Materialism, Robots and Attitudes

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Robots are starting to look and act a lot like humans.

Wondering if robots can be people, or if humans are merely biological robots, involves assumptions about reality. I'll look at one of those assumptions in this post and why I believe there's more to me than chemicals.

Whether a robot could be a person is more of a philosophical question than a legal issue. So far. The question would be particularly interesting if a robot asked to be recognized as a person. Or disturbing, depending on how you look at it.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Early Birds, Unisex Fish

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We still don't know exactly how birds got their wings. Literally and figuratively. But we're learning more about when and how they started.

Scientists in Europe and China found fossils of birds that lived roughly 120,000,000 years ago.

Other scientists found genes with some 'feather' instructions in alligators. That's old news. What's new is that one team coaxed alligator embryo scales into growing as something like very simple feathers. Part of a simple feather, anyway.

I'll be talking about those birds, alligator feathers, and why discovering something new doesn't upset me. Also a chimp, the French Revolution something Benjamin Franklin said and evolution....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Mass Murder: No Fast Fix

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This year's Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day were the same day.

Folks exchanged greeting cards. Many got their foreheads marked with ashes. And 17 were killed at a high school.

Someone's already called last Wednesday's mass murder the 'Valentine's Day Massacre of 2018.' The famous Valentine's Day Massacre was in 1929. It happened when a Chicago gang tried resolving a disagreement over bootleg booze. It didn't succeed. Not quite....

...I'm quite sure the 17 folks killed at Stoneman Douglas High School will be missed by their families, friends, and acquaintances....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Anxiety Optional

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Today's second reading from Philippians 4 says to have "no anxiety at all," praise God, and "your requests known to God." Then we'll have the "peace of God...."

I think that's a good idea: but it's not the whole picture.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Miracles

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I'll be talking about miracles today. Also religious art and kitsch, the Mayan apocalypse, and why folks occasionally see faces that aren't there. Even by my standards, this post rambles a bit.

Quite a few folks act as if they think faith and reason, religion and science, have about as much to do with each other as cheese and Wednesday.

Some go a step further, and blame the world's woes on religion.

The antics of loudly-religious folks don't help make faith look like a reasonable, or safe, part of today's world.

I think faith isn't reason, but that it's reasonable. I also think that an honest search for truth doesn't threaten faith. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 31-35, 159; "Fides et Ratio;" "Gaudium et Spes," 36)

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Still Rejoicing

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My father reminded me of this good advice when I was in my teens: "...whatever is true, ... whatever is lovely, ... think about these things." My response was something like '...because they won't last.'

I wasn't happy about saying that at the time. I still regret it.

I can't, of course, undo what was done. And the time for telling my father "I'm sorry" has long since passed. In any case, I said "I'm sorry" too often, and that's almost another topic.

The quote is from Philippians 4:6-9. I'll get back to that.

Following the advice from Philippians isn't easy for me.

But it's been getting easier as I work though a massive backlog of bad habits. Nothing unusual there, since we're all dealing with consequences of a bad choice described in Genesis 3:1-13.1...

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Truth and Love

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I take God very seriously. I also think people matter. I care deeply about truth and love.

By some standards this isn't a particularly "religious" blog.

For one thing, I keep saying that loving my neighbor and seeing everybody as my neighbor is a good idea. I'll get back to that.

For another, I write about science each Friday; real science. And I don't see it as a threat.

I don't 'believe in' science, in the sense that I expect it to replace God. That would be as silly as trying to find life's meaning in the second law of thermodynamics. It would also be a very bad idea....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Looking for Life: Enceladus and Gliese 1132 b

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We haven't found life on — or in — Enceladus. But we've found organic compounds in the Saturnian moon's salt-water geysers.

Scientists detected an atmosphere around Gliese 1132 b, a planet about 39 light-years away. It's Earth-like, in terms of size; but too hot for life as we know it. We'll almost certainly learn a great deal, though, by studying its atmosphere....

...Abraham, Moses, and Minnesota
I take the Bible, Sacred Scripture, very seriously. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 101-133)

I don't, however, insist on believing only what I find in the Bible. That's just as well, since I live near the center of North America.

I'm pretty sure that Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Saint Peter, and the rest, didn't know that the land I live on exists. But I'm quite sure that the State of Minnesota is real: even if it's not "Biblical."...

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Life, Death, and Choices

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Last week's Gospel reading, Matthew 2:1-12, ends with a sort of cliffhanger. "Magi from the east" arrived in Bethlehem, found our Lord's house, and paid their respects....

...Or maybe not so much — we read Matthew 2:13-18 on December 28. I don't suppose we'll see the massacre of the innocents1 in an animated Christmas special any time soon. It's far from the most cheerful parts of the Bible.

That didn't keep folks in Coventry from including it in their Shearmen and Tailors' Pageant. We got "Coventry Carol" from that mystery play....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Hating People: Not an Option

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This showed up in today's news ... CNET's piece quoted part of this Twitter blog post:
"Progress on addressing online abuse" (November 15, 2016)

"...The amount of abuse, bullying, and harassment we’ve seen across the Internet has risen sharply over the past few years. These behaviors inhibit people from participating on Twitter, or anywhere...."... All that reminded me of a familiar sentiment I saw on Twitter last year:
"Sometimes I wish I was religious so I could have an excuse for hating people." ...That's a lot of folks discussing religion and hate. Some agreed with the "excuse for hating people" quote, some didn't, and some discussed something completely different....
More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Sin, Original and Otherwise

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There's trouble everywhere, and that's not news. It's not new, at any rate.
"Your princes are rebels and comrades of thieves; Each one of them loves a bribe and looks for gifts. The fatherless they defend not, and the widow's plea does not reach them."
(Isaiah 1:23)

"Yes, I know how many are your crimes, how grievous your sins: Oppressing the just, accepting bribes, repelling the needy at the gate!"
(Amos 5:12) How come the world is such a mess, and has been at least since we started keeping records?

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Trusting Feelings: Within Reason

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(From John Martin, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)

Anger is bad, right?

Yes, sort of, but it's a bit more complicated than that.

Emotions, anger include, are good; in the sense that they're part of being human. They're "...the connection between the life of the senses and the life of the mind...." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1764)

In another sense, emotions aren't good or bad by themselves. What matters is what we decide to do about them. (Catechism, 1762-1770)

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Sandra and Tommy: Apes and Ethics

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A court in Argentina said that Sandra the orangutan is "una persona no humana (non-human person)" in 2014.1 Or maybe 2015. I'll get back to that.

Instead of going ape over that news, I learned a little about Sandra, the Buenos Aires Zoo, and the curious case of Tommy the chimp

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Temperance, Catholic Style

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(From O. Herford, via Life Magazine/Wikipedia, used w/o permission.)
("Life" magazine, Demon Rum, and Matthew 12:45: June 26, 1919.)

My household is "dry:" there's no beer in the fridge, wine in a rack, or whiskey on a shelf. That's partly because I drank too much, which was a very bad idea. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2290)

After that experience, I could get cherophobia and virtue confused — but I won't.

Cherophobia, aversion to happiness; and hedonophobia, fear of pleasure; are real words. But "blessed are the miserable, for they shall spread misery" is not in the Beatitudes. 1...

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

"Have No Anxiety At All"

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My wife gave me a familiar 'did you really say that?' look a few days ago, after I said I didn't understand why so many folks are upset about current events.

She had, as usual, reason on her side. I've gotten upset, a lot. I'm pretty much the opposite of phlegmatic.

But I don't see much point in contemplating cracked mirrors, or taking my cue from Yeats:
"...The mirror crack'd from side to side;
'The curse is come upon me,' cried
The Lady of Shalott....
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("The Lady of Shalott," Tennyson (1842))
"...Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.


"Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand....
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("The Second Coming," William Butler Yeats (1920)) ...Like quite a few other folks at the time, Yeats was getting over the Great War

Charleston Church Shooting: Emotions and Reason

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A young man joined a Wednesday evening Bible study group at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, earlier this week

After participating for about an hour, he killed nine of the folks there and left.

I'm angry, and sad, that nine lives were unjustifiably ended in that church: and am profoundly impressed at the calm shown by some of the victims' relatives.

In my considered opinion, what the young man did was wrong. I'll get back to why I think that's true: and what I'm doing about my anger and sorrow.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

The Universe: a Magnificent Tent

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Folks have looked up and been impressed for a long time:
"1 Think! The heavens, even the highest heavens, belong to the LORD, your God, as well as the earth and everything on it."
(Deuteronomy 10:14)
"The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky proclaims its builder's craft."
(Psalms 19:2) That galaxy is M31, the Andromeda Galaxy. Back when I was in high school, a fair number of books I read called it the "Great Andromeda Nebula." More up-to-date books occasionally called it an "island universe."

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Charlie Hebdo, Chick Tracts, and Getting a Grip

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As I'm writing this, 19 folks in France have died because — it's complicated.

Assuming that the Kouachi brothers had religious motives for killing folks at the Charlie Hebdo offices is, I think, reasonable: but it's an assumption.

Assuming that Charlie Hebdo's distinctly irreverent treatment of Islam led to this week's attack is — that's complicated, too....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Joy and Standing Orders

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My father reminded me of this good advice when I was in my teens: "...whatever is true, ... whatever is lovely, ... think about these things." My response was something like '...because they won't last.'

I wasn't happy about saying that at the time. Decades later, I still regret the statement. I can't, of course, undo what was done: and the time for telling my father "I'm sorry" has long since passed. In any case, I said "I'm sorry" too often, and that's almost another topic.

That quote is from today's second reading, Philippians 4:6-9. I'll get back to that.

Today, thanks to very powerful antidepressants and a few other psychoactive prescriptions, I no longer have to fight the controls to make my brain work. I even have moments when I feel good about who I am and what I do.

That's a nice change of pace....

Joy, Zest, and Mud
As it is, I had an opportunity to reason my way out of suicide: and developed a knack fo…

Science, Faith, and Leaving the 19th Century Behind

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(From Peter Kennett, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(M31, the Great Andromeda Galaxy, one of 54 galaxies in the Local Group, photographed in 2005.)

Folks can see the Andromeda Galaxy from Earth's northern hemisphere: on a clear night with no moon, anyway. Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi gets credit for 'discovering' it: but I'm pretty sure that quite a few folks had seen it before he mentioned "A Little Cloud" in "Book of Fixed Stars," somewhere around 964.

Knowledge and Change
In 1764, Charles Messier, another astronomer, put the galaxy in his catalog as a nebula: object M31.

By the 19th century, astronomers realized that some light from the Andromeda "nebula" resembled light from stars. In 1925, Edwin Hubble used observations of Cepheid variable stars to demonstrate that the Andromeda Galaxy was another "island universe:" far outside our Milky Way Galaxy.

Light from the Andromeda Galaxy passing Earth today has been traveling…