12 November 2005

The problem with being an atheist . . . or, sometimes you have to follow the lead of your dogs.

It's not easy to have as the core of your personal philosophy: "I do not believe in God". It takes a lot of courage. Unlike a religious person, I do not have pat answers as to why I am here on this earth. Instead I am constantly reinventing my raison d'etre. I can't accept a static answer: a set of beliefs, rules, and dogma. Most of the time I fly along fine but sometimes I fail completely. One thing I know for sure - I cannot take the leap of faith and believe in god. I can see some sort of spirit of mankind, or there might be some sort of force that created all this, but it doesn't make any sense to me that there is a god who would answer prayers and help you accomplish what you want on a daily basis. I want to take credit for my own accomplishments and I can accept my shortcomings and the consequences if I make a mistake. No excuses. I am not going to be good because of fear of hell, I am going to do the right thing because I would not be myself if I didn't.

The Particle Physics course that I am currently listening to on my commute to work touches on the relationship between philosophy and physics. Heck, it does more than that, the whole goal of physics is to figure out this world, and what is that but philosophy? The scientists do not speculate whether or not a higher power might have created the world [at least not in their scientific journals, they might in the social hour], they only want to figure out everything about it down to the most minute particles. When something is discovered that does not follow the current laws of physics, at first it's like their whole world is shaken, because these laws are their metaphor for god. But then they adjust their models, their theories, and are all excited about the new information because now they know a little more. Curiousity, learning something new, boy, those are a couple of the perks in life.

I like this thought from a recent Science News article: "Scientists question, test, evaluate and retest various hypotheses . . . they're not expecting 'truth' because they know that 'uncertainty flows through science like water'".

I can do this, I can live with this uncertainty flowing through my life. At least on a good day I can.

And a good day can begin with stepping out the door in the early dawn, a small red sliver of neutrino-emitting sun in the east above the cliffs, the dogs rushing excitedly ahead of me. Then they both stop and listen. So I follow their lead and stop too, and listen. There it is: the elk squeals from a ways down the valley, and the cry of a mountain lion far in the distance. I draw in a deep breath of this world.

Let's go puppies.



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