Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Supernatural Thoughts

Many things I just don’t understand. Off the top of my head, here are just a few:

Human consciousness.
Mathematics in 248 dimensions.
Hummingbird flight.
People who worry all of the time.
Michael Jordan’s basketball abilities.
The meaning of life.
The popularity of American Idol.

Unlike many people, however, I resist ascribing the origins of things I don’t understand to a supernatural entity or entities pulling all of our strings.

But doing this is nothing new. Humans have invented rationalizations as long as we—and I use “we” assuming that you, dear reader, are human—have been living here.

The Mayans thought Huracan brought storms—for which the ancient Sumerians blamed Enlil. When thunder crashed, specifically, the Greeks gave (and a tiny subset of them STILL give) credit to Zeus; the Norse assigned responsibility to Thor.

As we have collectively learned more about our home planet, we’ve started to use science to explain the previously unexplained.

Weather results from a very complex series of interrelated physical events—which bedevil forecasters even now, annoying millions of travelers every day. And thunder is a shock wave that our ears detect as an aftereffect of a lightning bolt’s intense heat. The march of science makes unmagical more and more of the things thought to be magical.

Unknowns become known.

That said, plenty of room will always remain for supernatural explanations, for string-pullers in the sky, which will enable many people to live with the existential stress of knowing that we still don’t know everything.

One reason, ironically, may be physical in origin.

A recent article related the work of neuroscientist and author Andrew Newberg. This enterprising medical doctor dabbles in neurotheology—a field focused on discovering how the human brain handles spiritual concepts and impulses. His early results are fascinating: Followers of diverse religious traditions have minds that contain similar patterns and processes during meditation or prayer. There may, in fact, be universal features of our brains that enable belief in some higher power.

Another reason for the persistent belief in various forms of deities derives form the very success of scientists in revealing the secrets of nature.

Simply put, the more we learn, the more we realize there IS to learn. The ancients didn’t study 248-dimensional mathematics because they hadn’t conceived of such things. Medieval thinkers didn’t fret over the chances of a black hole gobbling up our part of the galaxy because they hadn’t discovered black holes yet.

So don’t worry, believers in the supernatural. There’s plenty to still attribute to the god or gods of your choice. And as we learn more about the physical universe and strip away the things you need to explain that way, we’ll surely draw attention to additional unknowns that our ancestors could never have dreamed of, mysteries that they failed to even imagine.

For example, they did not anticipate American Idol.

I just have to believe that they would have found a way to warn us … or at least invent a god to explain how people’s strings are being pulled.


At April 10, 2007 6:21 PM, Anonymous LisaBinDaCity replied to my musings ...

You want answers? I got answers!

Well no, actually I don't but I always wanted to say that ;-)

At April 10, 2007 10:30 PM, Blogger Lee Ann replied to my musings ...

hummingbirds are amazing and are extremely perplexing.

At April 11, 2007 12:06 AM, Blogger The Phoenix replied to my musings ...

They've identified specific areas of the brain as our "spiritual centers." It's quite fascinating. The question is - are our brains wired for spirituality by nature? Or is the brain the conduit God created to make us spiritual.

Chicken or the egg?

At April 11, 2007 6:03 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Lisa: If you've got answers, I've always got questions.

Lee Ann: I saw a documentary once that tried to explain how those little wings kept the bird going, but I still didn't understand.

Phoenix: Believers and non-believers alike hold this brain-activity information up as support for their arguments. Like so many other things, it's not likely to shake core beliefs, only reinforce them.

-- david

At April 11, 2007 1:11 PM, Anonymous Bruce replied to my musings ...

My one true belief is that American Idol will be the root cause of the downfall of the human race.

At April 12, 2007 12:45 AM, Blogger Jeff replied to my musings ...

I tend to worry quite a lot, it is probably one of my biggest problems...

At April 12, 2007 1:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous replied to my musings ...

Worse than American Idol is Canadian Idol. Isn't that a sin...worshipping false idols?

At April 12, 2007 1:50 PM, Blogger Mike replied to my musings ...

what about bumblebees? they also defy physics. actually, bumblebeees, hummingbirds, and helicopters all fly because they beat the air into submission. As for spiritual stuff, it's a windy fence to walk on. How can their be a higher power when I've seen what that power lets man do firsthand, yet how can't there be one when I should have died in some of those same circumstances? I have a theory that our brains are like satellite dishes, and we all have frequencies we choose to tune to somehow. Thus we have the spiritual ones, the ones who are psychic, the ones who see ghosts. Just the same receiver set to different channels.

At April 13, 2007 12:14 AM, Blogger Phats replied to my musings ...

I am really pissed off at the weather right now

I don't understand Math, why I ever had to take any in the first place. I never use any of that crap in my day to day life. American Idol is freakin' great man!!

At April 13, 2007 12:21 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Bruce: I can't find grounds to disagree with you.

Jeff: Take a deep breath, realize that there are things you cannot change, and move through the worry!

Jenna: That raises the question ... what is a "true" idol?

Mike: I like the satellite dish theory. Didn't da Vinci come up with that centuries ago?

Phats: I think you're in the minority on American Idol. But you're probably in the majority on the math point.

-- david

At April 13, 2007 8:24 AM, Blogger Stacy The Peanut Queen replied to my musings ...

I cannot stand American Idol...but I LOVE Survivor. Go figure.

Something that's always amazed me is that how do palmetto bugs know who to chase after you spray them with bug killer? It NEVER failed waaaay back when we lived in a VERY old house and a palmetto bug would come crawling in, I'd grab a can of bug spray and spray them and they'd take flight...and DIVE BOMB ME! I'd run screaming my head off in fear.

How do they know???

At April 13, 2007 12:23 PM, Blogger Godwhacker replied to my musings ...

Here are my best answers :)

Human consciousness ~ a flicker of energy on a biochemical computer.

Mathematics in 248 dimensions ~ take two aspirin.

Hummingbird flight ~ they're not very heavy and they're very very fast.

People who worry all of the time ~ isn't that what "they" want us to do?

Michael Jordan’s basketball abilities ~ proof of progress in our evolution towards the divine.

The meaning of life ~ see that Monty Python movie.

The popularity of American Idol ~ one part schadenfreude, two parts bad taste.

At April 13, 2007 2:52 PM, Blogger Phats replied to my musings ...

Minority?! it's the #1 show on television! have you watched it it's so good?

Math blah who needs it.

At April 15, 2007 11:31 AM, Anonymous LisaBinDaCity replied to my musings ...

*waves hi*

At April 17, 2007 7:00 PM, Blogger Layla (aka Barbara) replied to my musings ...

I just awarded you the "Thinking Bloggers Award" look at my blog for details, the post should be up soon :)

At April 17, 2007 9:48 PM, Blogger :P fuzzbox replied to my musings ...

I generelly am not one given to supernatural thoughts but I do believe that Sanjaya Malakar could possibly be the spawn of Satan.

At April 17, 2007 10:15 PM, Blogger Lee Ann replied to my musings ...

Hey David!
Hope all is well.

At April 17, 2007 11:07 PM, Blogger Ray Van Horn, Jr. replied to my musings ...

American Idol = The Gong Show 2000. Why doesn't America realize it's being duped as a cost-effective test market? There's a question for the universe...

At April 18, 2007 8:58 PM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

I've been away--as you will see in my next post--thanks for your comments.

PQ: MAybe it's not the palmetto bugs ... do all life forms tend to dive bomb you?

GW: If I had known you had all the asnwers, I'd have given up pondering such things long ago.

Phats: I say "minority" because even people I know who DO watch the show have never said it's "great." Most often, they say they watch it because everybody else is. See Ray's comment just above this one for the reason.

Lisa: Thanks for waving. Did you see my wave, too?

Layla: I'm honored! I'll go check it out now that I'm back.

Fuzz: I believe "sanjaya malakar" translates to "what the @&%#" from the original Klingon.

Lee Ann: All is very well, thanks. Same to you.

Ray: Bravo. You've captured the essence of it!

-- david

At April 19, 2007 6:43 PM, Blogger Tai replied to my musings ...

My dad and I had a conversation the other day about things that may or may not exist, ie ghosts/aliens.
We determined that there is much in the universe that (wo)man does not know, so the possibility of just about anything being true isn't to be automatically negated.

At April 19, 2007 7:32 PM, Blogger Godwhacker replied to my musings ...

"Nature herself has imprinted on the minds of all the idea of God." - Cicero

I had no idea that Cicero worked for CNN :)


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