Gods and evolution

There are some comprehensive lists of Roman and Greek gods and goddesses in Gregory Flood’s Lists of Roman Godds and Goddesses.

These were people who didn’t mess about, if they found themselves without a handy god for any occasion. They just made one. There’s a god called Scabies, ffs. (of Itching, in case you wondered).

How did we get from the complex and changing pantheons of the Greeks and Romans and Vikings and Yoruba and Egyptians and indigenous Americans, etc, etc. to the dull God of Abraham? (That’s a rhetorical question.)

There’s an analogy between loss of diversity in species and loss of diversity in beliefs. As humans have shaped more and more of the environment, more unique and colourful species tend to give way under human pressure on their habitats. So, we see the lowest common denominator species prospering. The rat, the cockroach, the pigeon, the housefly all doing very well. (Basically all grey and able to live on s.ite.)

Pantheons reflect a human-centred worldview – a capacity to look for patterns in the universe and human society and to express our innate capacity for transcendence. The list of available gods can be revised in an ongoing basis to accommodate new ones when the old ones don’t work. Human rulers were happy to promote themselves to Godhood, whenever they felt the need.

This suggests that many people were aware that their religions were human constructs but could square this with the social and psychological benefits they got from their rituals. Compared to this, worship of one God seems willfully unsophisticated, and leads to inherent logical contradictions and a need to smite the ungodly.

The one God has expanded to take over the mental and social space we have for deities, dominating whole societies and lives. As far as I can see, this represents an flattening of mental diversity, as when one species – that can live well amongst humans whether we like it or not – replaces the variety that could co-exist in a more fertile environment.

Arrogant Idiocy

Well there is a rant brewing, but sadly here in the Ivory Why Dont You Towers we are short on spare time so I can not do justice to a video posted by what seems to be the single most objectionable person I have ever had the misfortune to see. PZ Myers has posted on Pharyngula about it and pretty much says everything which needs to be said. Check it out for the full details.

In a nutshell, this snotty, arrogant kid called Kelly Tripplehorn (snope entry for background) has posted a video in which he claims his “corporation” will offer US$1000 to anyone who can solve the philosophical problem of Induction. Yeah, that is correct. $1000. Wow. Alfred Nobel, eat your heart out. Barely enough to buy a low end laptop to solve one of the major philosophical problems.

To crown things off, the nutcase Tripplehorn goes on about how “he” solves the problem by invoking God. What absolute madness. He demands a reasonable, self consistent, internally logical argument from Atheists but not his own reasoning.

I would like to go on record, having noted his only requirement is “without invoking God” to say the problem is solved, and the universe is logical and ordered because it is the will of Freya. She is neither the Abrahamic God Tripplehorn talks about, nor a generic “God” (as she is a Goddess…).

I await the US$1000. Hopefully I can use it to buy a new SatNav…

Varnishing the truth

I was wondering whether scepticism might have become too much of a habit with me, yesterday.

I suffered a wholly-predictable fake vitiligo ill effect, through ignoring the “wear gloves” warning on a can of floor varnish. Plus, I suffered the loss of what would have been a 25 to 1 return on a small investment, when I ignored the Grand National tip given to me by a drunk in the street. So I woke up this morning feeling that a bit more willful gullibility might profit me.

However, reading an old post on Deep Thoughts about unconvincing arguments for the existence of god, I was forced back to my natural state. Mojoey reckoned that the argument about having a had personal experience of god was

.. my personal favorite because I hear it the most, and what can you say? So they talked to god…

This brings up my own ideas about personal experience of transcendence. To which I am going to subject you, sorry. Continue reading