I went to see Stephen Pinker on Monday night, interviewed by Decca Aitkenhead of the Guardian, talking about his latest book, Enlightenment Now, an argument for science, rationalism and humanism. Bill Gates’ new favourite book apparently, knocking his previous favourite, Pinker’s Better Angels of Our Nature, off the top spot.
Some of us, maybe all of us to some extent, like our principles to be pure, unsullied by the messiness of reality.
Not the kind of God that most people imagine. Not the kind of God listens to your prayers and maybe answers them, not the sort of God who might tell you to do certain things, like strap explosives to yourself and blow up a bus full of people. That kind of God couldn’t exist in an infinite universe in which everything that can exist does exist. In such a universe, God is the one thing that can’t exist. There could be gods though. If we were to go to another planet and terraform it, make it like Earth, introduce advanced animal and plant life to, do a bit of bioengineering then sit back and watch it unfold, we’d be a bit like the gods of that planet. If intelligent life evolved we might find ourselves being worshipped.
At 19.44 on 2015.04.27, a Monday, I thought I’d jot down a reverie that plays out in my head from time to time in which Wol
and I discuss matters religious and I give voice to my long-held contention that Christianity includes some rather confused theology – the notion of the trinity, for example, or the idea of original sin, both of which Wol believes in, not to mention the purported divinity of Jesus. I haven’t the heart to tell him where I stand as regards Big G these days – people tend to cleave strongly to their religions (an assertion perhaps evinced by the expression “to do something religiously”), canons more than most, and there’s little point in upsetting him when ignorance can be bliss. We have occasionally had some fascinating debates on religion, usually when both of us are drunk, but it became more and more apparent that our Weltanschauungen diverged on key aspects.
This is what The Professor told his mother a few weeks ago. She blames me.
Why is Grandad old?
Because he was born along time ago.
But we’re not as old as Grandad. Why aren’t you as old as Grandad?
Because Grandad is my daddy. You can’t be older than your daddy, can you?
No! But Grandad will get older and older and older.
And then he will die?
And we will get older and older and older and then we will die. But that will be a very very long time.
But we mustn’t talk about things like that.
The Professor’s mother mentioned how she thought some parents treated their children like little adults. She thought this was wrong. I asked her what she meant. Could she give me an example? All sorts of things could be described as trying to get children to behave like adults. Teaching them to walk, for instance, or encouraging them to walk as I don’t think it’s something you really teach them.
A couple of days later she got onto the subject again and it was only then that it was clear she was referring to my efforts to get The Professor to share his toys. Toddlers aren’t meant to share, she said. They’re not old enough to understand what it means.
There are dense toxic gases and bacteria the size of buses, but apart from that, unless you’re able to see in the tenth dimension, there’s not much on Venus. Some call it the ninth dimension, some the eleventh, some the first, some say it isn’t a dimension at all. It doesn’t really matter what you call it, except to the Venusians for whom it’s very definitely the tenth dimension, and they get quite offended if you suggest it isn’t.
Back to the Swami Darmandanda lectures. Today I arrived early and Swami said he was pleased with the class, though there weren’t as many people there today. About 20, when usually there are 30, though nobody showed up late.
On the way there the baba without a blanket who turned down my offer of 5 Rupees a few days ago – I can’t buy a blanket with 5 Rupees – called me over to him again. He made out he just wanted to chat to me, but he tried the same thing two days ago when I asked him if he had a blanket. He said he did so I kept on walking.
Having breakfast the fruit salad I ordered is taking ages to arrive. I’ve already had my coffee and cinnamon roll – would have preferred it if they’d come later, but you never get things in the order that you want them in India. I tell the waiter that if they haven’t done the fruit salad yet then I’ll forget it because I have to go, but then he shows up with it.
Mangoes always taste like vomit. The rest of the fruits are good though: pineapple, banana, apple and one or two other things.