God and Free Will

February 28, 2007

God cannot do anything he wants.

I know that sounds partly heretical (of course he can, he’s omnipotent!), and partly nonsensical (what does it even mean for God to want something that he can’t have?). But I’m serious, and I’m going to give my argument for why this is true. I don’t know if it is heretical or not, and I’m not sure whether I believe this argument or not, but it is certainly intriguing.

(Note that my argument presupposes free will on the part of humanity.)

The argument goes as follows:

PREMISES:

  1. God created the world.
  2. God could have created the world differently than he did.
  3. God is omniscient.
  4. Existence is meaningless unless there are beings to do the existing.
  5. To exist is to be free.

CONCLUSIONS:

  1. God knows what the world would have been like if he had created the world differently (>premise 2).
  2. This knowledge is perfect (>p3, >conclusion 1).
  3. The only difference between the real world and this perfectly imagined world is our inhabiting the real world as metaphysical beings (>p4, >c2).
  4. God cannot control our actions, for we are free (=p5).
  5. God must know what would result from any possible action we take as free beings (>p3, >p5).
  6. If God had created metaphysical beings in every world, such that c3 was a false distinction, we would not be free, because we would take every possible action (=c5), and there would be metaphysical beings who had taken every possible course of action, which is tantamount to contradicting c4.
  7. God could not have actually created every universe he is able to imagine perfectly (>c6).

(I use “>” to mean “is derived from” and “=” to mean “is a restatement of”.)

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Music: The Scientist (Coldplay)

February 27, 2007

It’s been a, shall we say… interesting week. Starting just about last Monday. And through it all, I’ve had this damn Coldplay song stuck in my head. (Actually, that started a few days earlier, two Fridays ago, when we had Braveart at my school and a pianist came and played it for us.)

It’s not a bad song, actually, though it isn’t really the type of music I like and it gets irritating after hearing it (in my head) 100+ times. And, strangely enough, it seemed to be rather relevant to how the events of the past week have played out.

First of all, it deals with a scientist who was completely preoccupied with his work. And I am almost always preoccupied with mathematics. In mathematical news this week – I finalized my senior project (studying Cantorian set theory); I went down to Rice University and my school placed 3rd overall in their math competition; I took a physics competition today and my team got 1st.

The song is, more specifically, about a guy whose girlfriend breaks up with him because he ignores her in favor of his science. That isn’t exactly what happened to me (it was considerably more complicated than that, and I’m not nearly as depressed as the guy in the song), but it was a bit too close for comfort. And it sort of freaked me out that I heard it on Friday, it got stuck in my head the next day, and the relevant events happened five days later…

Finally, it’s about a guy who, as a scientist, clearly graduated from college. And I am now going to do so as well, as of last Wednesday. I got accepted to the University of Dallas last week, and was essentially accepted to Notre Dame as well (though I don’t find out officially until April or something). And I got a scholarship that will let me go to college anywhere I want. So now I just have to decide where I want to go.

As for the actual song – well, like I said, it’s well done. Not really my type of music. And, since it’s really popular, anyone who reads this will probably have heard it before. So I won’t say much about it.


Brickshelf.com

February 19, 2007

I like Brickshelf. It provides free hosting for LEGO-related pictures, videos, etc. Yes, the interface leaves something to be desired, but in my opinion it’s a fairly cool service to provide.

Here’s my brickshelf page.

It’s divided into 5 directories. Here’s what I have there:

Castles:

  • A Lavinian Coliseum I built. It isn’t to scale with the minifigs (if it was, it would be HUGE), but it’s still cool. One of the pictures shows a hugely oversized Legionnaire fighting a troll.
  • A stereotypical Dark Tower, like Utumno, Angband, Minas Morgul, Barad Dur, or Isengard. It has a bunch of Lichs, Skeletons, Wraiths, etc, hanging off of it. And a Dark Lord on top.
  • A Treasure Cave. This is somewhat Wesnoth-related – it is supposed to be the cave where Rugnur, Thursagan, Alanin, et al., holed up when the Elves attacked them. It doubles as the place where I store all jewel-like pieces – I find it useful to sort out the rarer bricks from the standards ones.
  • An Elven Castle, modeled on what I think Tirion upon Túna would look like. It only has one tower and the front wall complete; if I had enough white and blue bricks, I would make all four sides and a central keep, but… I don’t. The tower comes apart into 3 separate pieces, and there is actually a spiral staircase inside.

Figures:

  • A Balrog of Morgoth. (What did you say???)
  • Alanin with the Sceptre of Fire behind him on a sled. Not that he ever actually did this in the campaign.
  • Alfhelm the Wise. I imagine Alfhelm wore mostly dark, grey-hued colors.
  • Some sword-wielding cavalry.
  • A chariot. I was inspired to make this after reading Claudius the God, which described in detail how the Celts used chariots against the Romans when they invaded England.
  • Some lancers. (Most of my cavalry comes in groups of three.)
  • A Lavinian Legionnaire. Unfortunately, I don’t have the requisite pieces to make more of these guys. The shields are rather rare.
  • A Marauder Longboat, with a Valkyrie on top, a Galdra in front, and a Lord at the oars. This one is from a set, with minor modifications.
  • A working Marauder ballista. This one is also from a set with minor modifications.
  • Three generic marauder warriors, two with axes, one with a sword.
  • A cart with merchant goods on the back. Rather peaceful.
  • A Mermaid Initiate. This was originally made as a Heroes of Might and Magic Naga, which are blue, but in Wesnoth, it is Mermaids that are blue, and Nagas are green…
  • Warrior monks! I’m not sure how useful these guys would actually be in battle.
  • A Mumak, with a bunch of Easterlings on its back. It could also be interpreted as a Nemidian Elephant.
  • An Orcish Berkserker. Not a real unit. And its skin is green, not brown – all of my LEGO orcs look like that, BTW.
  • A group of three Orcish Spearmen, an Orcish Axeman, and an Orcish Shaman.
  • A badly lit picture of a red ballista. It actually works – when strung, it fires a goodly distance, 6-8 feet.
  • Rugnur, from the Sceptre of Fire campaign, nominally. Though in reality Rugnur would never have had a long white beard or a pickaxe…
  • A cave scorpion. I really don’t like Bionicle, but I had some pieces from it and decided to make something interesting out of them.
  • A Wild Elf Wanderer. His shirt is from the Star Wars sets – I think it’s Gungan.
  • A random siege tower.
  • A troll whelp and a troll. These were made back when orcs were green. I don’t have the pieces to remake them in grey.
  • A Marauder Valkyrie.
  • Three Wolf Riders. These wolves took a lot of work to make, and I’m fairly proud of them. Though they do have a tendency to fall over. :/

Misc:

  • Pictures and video of my LEGO Machine Gun.

Shields:
(These are shields made for an abandoned project to represent the Saving Elensefar campaign in LEGO. I stopped when I realized I don’t have a good enough printer to actually make the shields.)

  • Elensian (from Elensefar) shield. The good guys!
  • Silver Claw orcish clan shield (this is the clan that attacks Elensefar, though the name is never mentioned in the campaign).
  • Forest of Wesmere shield. The emblem of the elves that attack Meneldur and his men.
  • Wesnothian Army shield. These guys also have it in for Meneldur.

Vignettes:

  • So far, I only have one thing here – a witch-burning ceremony, with inquisitor and all. The plan, however, is to make a bunch of small scenes like this, take pictures of them, and then take them apart. My next scene is going to be Vanimaro, Wild Elven King, dying on the battlefields near Iceswept Bay.

Amor

February 16, 2007

First of all, let me just say – I hate Valentine’s Day. Nothing against Saint Valentine, a martyr, but I really don’t like how it plays out in the modern day.

Now, on to my present topic.

I’d like to begin by quoting something Jetryl wrote on the Wesnoth forums recently.

The human form possesses a beauty besides that of its erotic nature, a quality that is also possessed by animals – which I offer as a proof of its existence. Much of this has to do with general shape, and structure of the muscles; it is the beauty of a well-designed machine in action. On animals, examples include the well-toned muscles of a tiger, horse, or eagle. Confer also the sheen of blonde or black hair on humans, versus the sheen and hues of a bird’s feathers. The two qualities of “human beauty” are often conflated, but are distinct.

Remember, though, that drawing a fully literal image of an animal includes elements of the animal which are unpleasant. If I draw an image of a dog facing away from me, I’m probably going to contrive some way to avoid drawing the dog’s butthole, because – even though that’s strictly realistic, it’s a bit gross. Said grossness extends to genitalia and nipples of most animals. Human beings are animals, too. Thus; the only appeal that one gets from seeing genitalia depicted on a human being is not an appeal of general form or aesthetic, but an erotic appeal; an erotic appeal which overrides our simultaneous gross-out reaction. Purely erotic appeal = pornography; …

He has a great point here about beauty. But that’s not the point I’m making here… One of the things I got from this quote is that what we find attractive in genitalia is “an erotic appeal which overrides our simultaneous gross-out reaction”.

There’s definitely some truth behind this. Sex, when you think about it, is rather gross. When you explain sex to a child, he is disgusted. And that isn’t just the result of naivete. It IS disgusting, objectively speaking. Remember – think about humans as animals.

This isn’t to say that merely because something appears strange under close scrutiny, it is actually weird. After all, have you ever had the experience of looking at a word for a very long time, and then suddenly realizing that its spelling is just strange? Often when I’m manipulating .cfg files for a given faction, say, the Dwarves, I will see the word “Dwarf” over… and over… and over.

And eventually I will start to think that there is something just odd about the look of the word. Something perverse about having a “d” followed by a “w”, or about the letter combination “arf”… but that doesn’t mean the word “Dwarf” is actually eldritch.

Of course, sex is natural, and necessary for human reproduction, and sexual attraction is natural. But that doesn’t mean it is beautiful, when you think about it.

So maybe we’re better of just not thinking about sex at all. I am reminded of the quote, by Aldous Huxley, that “an intellectual is a person who has found something more interesting than sex”.

This can be seen, I suppose, as a Decartesian attempt to deny the physical nature of mankind. But really it isn’t. I’m not saying that sex is evil, I’m saying that it just isn’t that important. God is sexless. Never forget that.


The Melting Pot

February 9, 2007

Today is Friday, the day of Freya, the Goddess of Love. And Valentine’s Day is coming up. So something dealing with the days of the week seems appropriate.

Here we go… a poem I’ve written on this very subject.

WEEKDAY OF THE CONQUEROR

To begin our vika, the day of the Sunna
Lighting the path, the lord of the sky
Then realm of the dead, marked by the Móna
The silver orb, it floats slowly by.

Tyr’s time now comes, the fighter god
Off to battle, off to war;
Now Odin’s day, the ravens’ lord
God of wisdom, wolf and war
And Thor, his day, the lightning-strike
In enemies inspiring fear
Freya, goddess, last, Odin’s wife
Most lovely fair of all Æsir.

At week’s end, then comes Saturn, ’twas
The lord of time, but that was Rome
No time this day, by William’s cause,
Is this day so far from its home.

An impostor; the King of Time’s
Confusion has been done.
Cursen week; cursen tongue.

And some comments on it.

The poem is composed of six couplets, running through the first six days of the week, followed by four lines about Saturday, the last day of the week, and then three rather confused lines about how the week has been cursed.

The poem is essentially about how the Germanic and Latin cultures mixed and melded to form the English language as we know it today. The poem takes a stance against this meld. It says that the English language, exemplified by our names for the different days of the week, has been corrupted by the infusion of Latin (via the Normans).

This is clearly a historical simplification, but the basic idea isn’t meaningless. Th poem says that culture is a good. Before William the Conqueror invaded (quite a bit before, really), there was the Germanic culture, and the Roman culture. They were both rather fascinating. By mixing together, though, they became, by comparison, boring and sterile. They lost the parts that made them unique, and retained that which was by comparison universal. They became homogeneous.

Eventually, if present trends continue, all humanity will share a common culture. If that happens, we will have lost something, something that probably can never be regained.

But something was also gained in this transaction. Long before ol’ William invaded, England had been Christianized. This was, in my opinion, quite clearly a Good Thing ™. And it could not have happened without the interaction of cultures. Christianity could not have spread in the first place without the Roman Empire, which connected all the different peoples around the Mediterranean into one great nation. (Note that this, too, is reflected in the poem. The word “cursen” sounds like “cursed”, but it is really a shortened version of the word “Christian”.)

It doesn’t seem, then, like it would have been possible for Christianity to enter England without changing more than just their pagan religion. And the changing of language is a very natural process (though it can be on occasion forcibly imposed). So it seems foolish to lament that the world is a melting pot, on its way to homogeneity. This trend will, in fact, probably work for the advantage of Christianity.

And, while it still seems unfortunate to me, the fact is we still have preserved of Old English the most important result of any language – literature. We still have Beowulf, and Pearl, and all the rest. So it’s acceptable, I guess, to lose one culture and gain another, so long as you retain the memory of that culture, and that culture’s literature. You even seem to gain something – variety.

For now we have literature written in both Old English, and Middle English, and Modern English. And Latin, and Spanish, and French, and Italian. And in every other language on earth. That does indeed seem better to me than having only Old English and Latin as possible languages.


The Month of February

February 5, 2007

My choice shall be easy this month. February is, quite simply, the Month of Math. This is proven by the fact that, at the math contest I attended on Feb. 3rd, I won a brand new calculator (a TI-89 Titanium). Among other reasons it is the month of math:

  • We had half of a contest on Groundhog Day (the other half was earlier in the week, and not in this month).
  • We have another contest tomorrow.
  • We have another contest on the 23rd.
  • I am going to spend a great deal of my free time this month writing a poem about math.

So, if this is math month, what Wesnothian character am I? I would associate math most with Dacyn. This is for a couple of reasons. One of them is that Dacyn is based at least somewhat on my brother, who is even better at math than I am. Another is that Dacyn is a white mage, and thus a servant of God, and, as I’ve said previously, Math e God.

So, this month’s character is…

Dacyn, the Mage of Light.

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