Sunday, May 04, 2003

Call me Ishmael ... I'm sorry, I had to say that.

I had been planning on writing some cool software to encapsulate my thoughts on the meaning of existence, but, given that I work 50-60 hour weeks, with half of that spent writing commercial software, and that age is catching up with me (somewhat), I don't think that's going to happen. Hence, the blog.

When I was young, I always was disappointed by old people. I thought they were supposed to be wise and stuff. Mostly, the ones I knew seemed to be stuck in loops that they hadn't tried to change for the last 30 years or so. ("I'm an Amuracun citizen, I have a right to my opinions, no matter how ignorant or outmoded, etc.")

I have always enjoyed children. Their minds are so much more open to new ideas. So, as my children (4) have grown, I have had lots of good talks with them and their friends. I think that the general concensus is that I have some interesting insights that they have enjoyed hearing, and my kids are now mostly gone ... So, I guess I need another forum to dispense my WOW (Words of Wisdom, aka bullshit) from -- hence, the blog

Brief bio: Born 1951 in Louisville, KY, 2nd of 7 (MMMFFMF). Raised Catholic. Graduated MIT, BS Physics 1972. 2 years, MIT Center for Space Research staff scientist. Returned to Louisville in 1974, worked as an engineer until 1977, then went to work for DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation, eaten by Compaq, eaten by HP) and have worked in software development ever since. Moved to Lexington, KY in 1980. Married 27 years, 4 children (MFFF) current ages 26-20.

Overall belief structure. I have 3 beliefs and one hope:

  1. Something is better than nothing. Lots of ways to say this. Basically, we exist. If we didn't, something else would. Nature abhors a vacuum. Existentially, it means you like to dance. Mytho-poetically: the great mother, the void, was lonely. Her loneliness created a potential from which the universe sprang into existence. The universe expands and contracts, making love to the nothingness. Clearly, I am a pulsating universe fan. I am really having trouble getting behind the current open universe / dark energy stuff.
  2. The force of life is strong. Once anything learns to replicate, you can't stop it. Evolution is the song of life. I had totally believed that we would find life almost everywhere in the universe. But, maybe not -- see for instance "Rare Earth" -- the idea of which is that it takes a lot of things to happen right for intelligent life to develop.
  3. Children are sacred. I used to have just 2 beliefs. I think you can derive #3 from #2, but I decided, it's worth emphasizing anyway. I was talking with my middle daughter today, currently Seeking after Truth, she was espousing that there was no good and evil (more Zen than Nietzsche I think), and I disagreed. To me harming children is always wrong, no matter what. This is a moral absolute.
Finally, the hope:
  1. I hope the human race survives 1 million years. In "The Diversity of Life", Edmond O. Wilson (the ant man, father of sociobiology) says that the average life of a species is ~ 1 million years. In "Consilience", he says that homo sapiens sapiens (us) has been around for ~ 200,000 years. So, imagine the human race in 800,000 years. That's ~150 times the length of recorded human history. It boggles the mind. Also, "the hope" I think reminds me of how incredibly young humanity and human civilization are, on biological, geological, or astronomical time scales.
At a more detailed level, I agree pretty much with the principles of the Council of Secular Humanism. I give them money, as well as the ACLU (it's great to be a card-carrying member!) and Planned Parenthood. My children were all raised as atheists and have all pretty much thanked my wife and I for that.

Enough for now. Time to have a smoke and then watch "Law and Order" (the only TV I watch besides this is occasionally the Daily Show with John Stewart, and, of course, South Park. The Simpsons is very good, but it's on too early for me).

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