Sunday, January 17, 2021

Color Me Fiery Intense Red

Color Me Fiery Intense Red

As a kid, expressive, creative, rambunctious, something of a wild card long into adulthood I loved vibrant Green-- for abundant life, for exuberant energy, vividly alive for beauty like in colors, emerald or jade,

for the natural world from creek to patch of woods behind our house on the edge of Adams village, to verdant forest green glens of the Sierras, Sequoia and Yosemite

But-- then, suddenly, unexpectedly, without conscious why; spontaneous, impulsively one day in middle life, I awoke not liking green anymore… viewing green instead as dull, insipid, sickening, repetitious, odd, over-done, humdrum...

Color me fiery Red--riveting, intense, striking sparks of light cardinal, crimson, scarlet burst into my eyes and consciousness —passionate, dazzling, blazing, heated, different...

as in exploding firework sky rockets, as pulsing red coals in a bonfire,

as an amazing psychedelic quilt by my sweetheart, like an Impressionistic painting, luminous in our house to ruby red lava in Hawaii’s volcano, intense sunsets, and Utah’s red rock

Red forever

--Dan Wilcox

Friday, January 15, 2021

The Great Barrier Reef of Human Moral Realism

At about 7 or 8, I awoke to moral consciousness and responsibility, alive and mentally kicking; then sometimes affirmed, sometimes regretting, sometimes guilty, crying and thinking, atop a huge barrier reef that first began hundreds of thousands of years in humankind’s/our human species’ past history, back to the dawn of consciousness and moral awareness!

In many ways waking to moral consciousness for every human kid is like new coral life at the top of the great physical barrier reef off the coast of Australia. The tiny new coral lives atop all the accomplishments of millions of coral who lived before it.

The Great Barrier Reef is the largest structure made by living organisms. It can even be seen from outer space.

In a similar sense, our present ethics/morality including human rights, fairness, equality, justice, compassion exist atop previous growths in ethics dating back through the many centuries and many millennia, back to the dawn of human time.

To temporarily change analogies, as kids growing up in southeastern Nebraska, we didn’t have to reinvent the wheel in order to play with our movable toys. We came to consciousness of wheels as a given, that ability/method having been discovered/invented over 7,000 years before.

In a similar sense, each generation of young humans don’t have to create basic moral rules such as be fair, don’t harm, don’t lie, don’t steal, and show kindness, tell the truth, be generous...

That doesn’t mean that every child will live by or up to those rules, just like humankind’s universal ability of language doesn’t mean that every child will do exceptionally well at speaking a particular language. Other factors can weigh in—physical problems, abuse, dysfunction, and so forth.

Sometime way back in the past, when human consciousness reached a certain state of being/becoming, such basic moral rules came into conscience, became an ought for everyone. (Exactly how humans came to moral consciousness doesn’t concern us here—that’s a whole other article. Nor do the many aberrations in human history--when immoral individuals, dysfunctional families, and twisted societies distort, even try and reverse the basic moral code).

When we reach an age of moral awareness, the new sense of “ought” comes to us based upon many thousands of years of human history. Most thinkers posit this happens to children about the age of 7, give or take a year or 2.

Very small children, of course, respond to admonishments when it comes to sharing, not harming, etc., but they probably don’t have a strong enough sense of personal “I” within a social group to consciously sense the “ought” as a universal moral code. Instead, they are mainly seeking to please their parents who care for and protect them.

And, at times, they spontaneously share, care, hug, etc., but they can also spontaneously do the opposite, too.

By the time I was 11, my deep sense of the ethical rules, the oughts, not only led me to ask forgiveness and to consciously change wrong behavior, it also led to an acute awareness of how the “moral reef” I found myself on, a part of, was, too, strangely and incoherently, at times inconsistent, and contradictory. Huge gaps existed, dangerous abysses, immoral quagmires put forth as oughts.

For instance, at that young age, I was shocked and morally repulsed when our Sunday School teacher said God had sent bears to attack some kids who had teased the prophet Elisha for having a bald head!

WHAT?! How grievously immoral and unjust! Why would the Bible, the book we were supposed to believe claim that God would do such an unfair, harmful act?

Then 2 or 3 years later I struggled with the Bible's promotion of slavery. How could the Bible—one source from which we got our moral views--condone and insist on slavery as a worthy institution!? How could Scripture in many places, (and Christians later in history and now), justify lying, stealing, killing, and claiming to own humans like tools such as their rake or hammer?

Why did nearly all Christians, Jews, and Muslims agree with this biblical view for hundreds of years?

Later I came across other horrific texts in the Bible. Such as this in the Psalms: "How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the rock." (Psalm 137:9).

From then on, my sensitive conscience--sitting atop that great moral reef of millions of humans who came before my brief time--struggled to understand these contradictions I saw in Scripture and in Christians and others.

Aren’t these clear contradictions chasmic ‘defaults’ at least in my particular area of the deep time moral reef?

Not so argue Christian/Islamic/Jewish/Hindu-New Age/Nontheistic thinkers.

Most Atheists claim that all ethics are "subjective," "relative," "personal/cultural preferences" which change from time to time, and culture to culture. They are only a human construct, not real.

So sometimes acts considered immoral, or even evil are necessary to protect the moral code and civilization itself. For example, they agree with the British leader Winston Churchill who stated, "In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies."

While other nations--our enemies--ought to be condemned for acts of torture and the slaughter of civilians, if we choose to torture or kill civilians that isn't wrong but is good. What counts is our survival.

Millions of Christians argue from a nominalist philosophical view--the Divine Command view of ethics and Ultimate Reality. Not lying, not stealing, not harming—such demanding ethical rules aren’t eternally true.

Rather, whatever God wills/decides is what is true for humans. God is free to change the moral code anytime he sees fit to do so. If anyone doubts this, who does the individual think God is?!

In other words, for most creedal Christians (Augustinians, Reformed, etc.), God doesn't have an innate eternal ethical center/essence, but is totally sovereign, totally eternal "will" who only acts when it is for his glory and “good pleasure.”

Many Jews state that G-d created evil in the beginning! They base their view on Bible verses such as "I form the light, and create the darkness. I make peace, and create evil. I the LORD do all these things." (Isaiah 45:7)

Muslims believe Allah wills/ordains every good and every evil action and causes all horrific natural disasters. IF it happens, then Allah wills it.

For Hindus and modern New Age thinkers, Brahma causes both good and evil to exist. "God created both because both are needed. God is in the evil as much as in the good." How to Know God by Deepak Chopra

One instance of this denial of objective, universal ethics came from our Christian youth leader at a Bible study when I was 17 in 1963. He claimed and tried to convince us, based on stories in the Old Testament, that sometimes God will order us to commit immoral acts.

When, shocked and morally horrified, I spoke up and strongly disagreed, he told me personally that God was calling me to do what appears to be immoral!

According to such Christian leaders, God does as he pleases and does what will bring him the most glory. They then proceed to give examples of how God led "his people" to lie, steal, enslave, and kill in Scripture, despite the fact that these were prohibited in the 10 Commandments.

How can we human make sense of this reef madness;-)?

Is the great barrier reef of the moral code unreliable, relative, temporary, changeable?

Do the reverses which occurred during the immoral actions of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st show that ethics are subjective preferences no different than whether or not a person/society likes or dislikes the color red?

Was the Chinese practice of binding little girls' feet for a thousand years only a cultural/social preference? Neither right nor wrong?

Is the ritual of female mutilation of little girls in Islamic countries a valid religious practice? Over 85% of Egyptian parents until recently supported female mutilation as good!

What’s your thoughts on this difficult issue?

Is the moral code reef of homo sapiens a subjective construct or as real as the Great Barrier Reef?

In the Light,

Dan Wilcox

Monday, January 4, 2021

The Tails of the New Cat and the Old Mouse

Another homeless cat has adopted us the last few weeks:-) We're calling him Cinder. He's all black on top and sides, with white paws and underbelly. In honor of this new owner of us...here's a poem I wrote for another black cat that owned us a few years back, Zorro:-)

The Tails of the Cat and the Mouse

Beneath my hand the smooth mouse moves, gray and black, Its long, fibered tail swishing this and that way While I, its master, move it around. Sometimes Its corded tail catches on the keyboard tray; Perhaps I ought to buy a tailless fastback.

So goes the tail of the cat and the mouse.

My feline master, Zorro, is at the door; The living tux, white-fronted and black-masked Slinks in to claim my lap, his throne. Having just Fed himself, the cat yowls and demands a task From me. I had been working—but no more.

So swishes the tail of the cat and the mouse.

One hand's fingers peck at the disarranged Glyphs of black and white upon the keyboard; The other strokes his black crown and white jaw, And the mouse again to add more to the hoard Of text that slowly scrolls down the white page.

So curls the tail of the cat and the mouse.

Zorro, in command, sees all; the furry sphinx Adjusts his paws as I move his seat (my knees), And tracks the pad-bound motion of my mouse. Sometimes he lays a white paw on the keys; Then jumbled text appears -- a real screen jinx.

So twists the tail of the cat and the mouse.

The mouse and I, we know who holds the power; My feline Lord meows imperiously Demanding my attention, all at once. What else have I to do but serve? So he Leaps down with tailed pride from his catnap hour.

So waves the tail of the cat and the mouse.

Impatient and commanding, Zorro stands Begrudging time I spend to clear the screen. I open the door; the king of cats takes leave While my obedient mouse sits, quite serene. The jungle tale, not tech, surely rules my hands.

So ends the tail of the cat and the mouse.

--Daniel Wilcox

First published at Anthrozine

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Missing Star and Cradle in Palestine-Israel

Missing Star and Cradle

Weird Christmas Eve 46 times past
With no holly, blinking red or green lights,

No 'holy' decorations, only the gaudy glare
Of cold Jerusalem's neon theater sign;

We watched Catch 22 with our kibbutz bunch
After being frisked for bombs at the entrance.

Years explode by while politicians yet pitch
Uncradled in the maze of their doctrinal hype;

The sacred cave's still dark and unstable,
For more unwise men, so starless, misrule.

--Dan Wilcox

First pub. in Danse Macabre
and in poetry collection,
Psalms, Yawps, and Howls

Monday, December 7, 2020

Review of the Philosophy Book, War of the Worldviews by the Phyisicist Leonard Mlodinow and Spirituality leader Deepak Chopra

War of the Worldviews: Where Science and Spirituality Meet--and Do Not

This book shows great potential. Consider the depth of the worldview questions that Chopra and Mlodinow answer based upon their counter views of Reality!

How Did the Universe Emerge?

Is the Universe Conscious?

Is the Universe Evolving?

What is the Nature of Time?

Is the Universe Alive?

What Is Life?

Is there Design in the Universe?

What Makes us Human?

How Do Genes Work?

Did Darwin Go Wrong?

What Is the Connection Between Mind and Brain?

Does the Brain Dictate Behavior?

Is the Brain Like a Computer?

Is the Universe Thinking Through Us?

Is God an illusion?

What Is the Future of Belief?

Is There a Fundamental Reality?

And Mlodinow’s explanations are lucid, detailed, and measured. Chopra less so, though he makes a few good points that show the weaknesses of Mlodinow’s worldview, Naturalism.

The huge problem elephant in the room is Chopra’s ‘Spirituality” an Asian religious philosophical worldview, basically a non-organized Hinduism shorn of ritual and mythology based mostly in the Upanishads. He not so subtly fails to explain the central essence of his beliefs-- that all is God.

Though he hints at it by quoting the famous statement in the Upanishads that Reality is ‘THAT’; we humans are THAT! A famous rock group in the late 1960’s wrote a New Age song with that key line as its chorus.

In shocking contrast, Mlodinow’s “Reductionist” view diminishes the human species to only physical particles, though he tries to avoid the nihilism of many modern hard atheist/materialists by being civil in his responses and trying to present a humanistic view of the human species.

But he never explains how IF mind only comes from the brain, and the brain from mindless and meaningless evolution, and at the microlevel reality is deterministic, how in the cosmos can humans have any significance, how can “wonder” and “caring,” exist except as illusions, etc. How can humans have any worth, be more than particles moving about?

At the same time I was listening to the Audible version of this book, I read an intriguing review of British philosopher Christian List’s book, Why Free Will Is Real, and also listened to a deep interview with him by Michael Shermer of Skeptic Magazine.

Though, at times List is also unclear how one can avoid the opposite abysses of Scylla versus Charybdis—all is aware Mind versus all is meaningless atoms-- at least he does explain a middle way.

Like the famous astrophysicist George Ellis, and other non-reductionists, List explains the key is to realize higher-level activities in reality can’t be reduced to only microlevel atoms (like materialists and other reductionists attempt to do).

For instance, it’s the case of comparing physics at the microphysical level where only atoms are moving about with in contrast, the physicist at the conscious aware level wo is taking a break and deciding whether or not to have tea or coffee:-).

Or think how different only atoms physically determined reality is from at a far more complex different level, a psychologist helps an emotionally disturbed human to choose to change his destructive habits.

Or how different only atoms in a materialistic reality is from at the more complex level where an architect plans whether or not to use steel and glass on the front side of a new office building.

Obviously, the latter 2 examples of humans making choices can’t be reduced to only the movement of deterministic atoms from the Big Bang.

List’s view of reality is very different from both the “Conscious Mind of the Universe” of Chopra and the hard materialism of Mlovodov.

While Mldodov presents his case more moderately than such as Sam Harris with his podcast “Tumors All the Way Down,” the claims seem to be essentially the same-- only atoms are real, not human value and worth, and alternative and creative choices.

Those are illusions. And Jerry Coyne who claims that a human who “chooses” to murder or rape couldn’t have done otherwise since all atoms at the physical level of Reality determines everything.

Overall, though War of Worldview is worth the read, I was dissatisfied with both worldviews, would choose neither.

Evaluation: C+

Dan Wilcox

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Practical Moral Realism versus Theists and NonTheists' Claims that They Know the Nature of Reality

Again, so many nontheists and theists are claiming to “know” the nature of Reality. Heck many of them state that even if the cosmos repeated a “trillion” times, I would still hit the wrong key for a word in the last sentence, the Civil War would be fought, and the Germans and Russians would still mass-murder many millions of humans, etc.

Either because the Cosmos itself is huge deep time determinism or because God foreordained/determined every future event, every movement of even one molecule before time existed.

In contrast, it seems that the Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh has a far better view: "Life is so short. It must not be spent in endless metaphysical speculation that does not bring us any closer to the truth."

Thich doesn't mean that he doesn't speculate sometimes. I've read a bunch of his books and he does at times deal with metaphysical ideas—some even very esoteric. But for the most part Thich is concerned with living ethically at this moment and the next moment.

Notice two key points: Much metaphysical speculation is just that--intellectual guessing about what no finite human knows. I must admit as a thinker, I enjoy intellectual thinking games that theologians/philosophers engage in. They are fascinating. And in some ways they enhance one’s thought life. HOWEVER none of that has ever helped me be more compassionate or patient or just or kind.

No theologian or nontheist philosopher's claims-- either about what ultimate reality was doing before creation or in contrast claiming the cosmos is meaningless matter, energy, and chance has ever helped me live my daily life ethically.

Furthermore, I find myself wondering how the creedal theologians or the nontheist philosophers "know" so much about Reality considering that the cosmos itself is many thousands of light years across, and cosmologists think there may be even a multiverse, etc.

How do creedal Christians ‘know’ that God preordained most humans to eternal torment before the creation of the universe? That all humans are inherently evil?

How do Nontheists know that there is no purpose, no meaning, no ultimate reality to all that is? That all humans have no inherent worth?

I admit, I don't know Reality in this sense.

Rather, I have experienced that matter, chance, and energy are NOT the final word about life. Over 65 years, I have experienced that infants aren’t “in essence, evil.” But I don’t “know” in an intellectual sense.

Lest I take us down a dead-end side-trail, I will avoid giving detailed examples (though it is difficult for me as a retired literature teacher and creative writer not to; I am example-driven:-)

My trust that we experience Ultimate Reality in peak experiences, in altruistic actions, in just methods is only that. It’s not “belief” -driven like the claims of many famous theists and nontheists.

Notice Thich's last word in his wise sentence: "closer to the truth."

I do think that reason, communion, sharing, caring in the Light do bring us closer to ultimate.

But I don’t “know.”

Hope in the Light of Reason, Altruism, Justice, Honesty...

Dan Wilcox

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

The Importance of Defining the Term "G-d" When Discussing Philosophy, Worldviews, and Lifestances

The famous philosopher Martin Heidegger seems to show insight for how atheists and theists ought to dialogue: "Who is God? That is perhaps beyond the possibilities of our asking. But what is God? That we should ask."

Too often atheists assume a particular image, usually an anthropomorphic one, as the given for the definition of the term, "God."

And, too often, theists assume (except for fundamentalists and creedalists) that everyone listening to them will not associate their use of the "God" word with mythological versions.

That's one reason I prefer Webster-Merriam Collegiate Dictionary's first definition of the word, God: "the supreme or ultimate reality:"

Then with that start, theists and atheists can more clearly articulate what they do and do not think is true about reality, whether atheism generic is more true, atheism-materialism, particular organized religion's various anthropomorphic versions of "God," various forms of deism, process thought of Whitehead, Asian philosophical views, etc.

Is "ultimate reality" Chance or Determinism or the Good or Intelligence or Impersonal Will or Illusion of Matter or Laws of Physics or Consciousness or Principle or Trinity or Multiple Realities or Infinite Mind or Emergent from Matter or Process or Mystery or Unknown, and so forth?

There is something to be said for Einstein's emphasis that the human species in trying to ferret out the truth about reality is like a small child in a vast almost infinite library who has just started to explore.



In the LIGHT,

Dan Wilcox