Sunday, February 12, 2006

Last Night (From the pins' perspective):

Pin 4: "Haha, check out that guy with the glasses! He's got no form at all."

Pin 1: "Yeah, he looks like he's got palsey or some... OH DEAR GOD NOO"*CRASH*

Pin 1: "Why can't the girls ever play on this lane?"

Pin 4: "Yeah no kidding... those guys in the next lane just stand around half the ti... OH SHIT IT'S COMING THIS W"*CRASH*

Pin 4: "I'm going to have such a headache tomorrow."

Pin 9: "You think you're going to have a headache? What about that guy keeping score up there... he's on like his fifth caucasian... SWEET MERCY NO"*CRASH*

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

I wrote this piece several months ago, but for some reason now forgotten never got around to posting it. Enjoy or some such.

I would like to lay out for you what I believe is a logically and theologically sound case for Christian support for those measures and policies that will allow human expansion beyond earth, into the solar system, the galaxy and the universe. There is certain groundwork for the case that must be laid first.

What is the purpose of human existence? I’m not just talking about our lives in this universe, but rather, what is the ultimate purpose of our eternal existence? Frankly I don’t know, and I’m not certain that there is an entirely biblical answer that doesn’t rely on at least some guessing. However, I don’t think it’s necessary to know the specific purpose. Rather, I think it is a reasonable conclusion that redeemed humans represent a positive good.

There is the question of whether they represent positive utility for God or only for themselves and others. Certainly God is self-sufficient, but there is the question of whether that means he has no need or desire for anything outside of himself or rather that he being all powerful can create anything that he desire or needs. In the later case, redeemed humans might be considered to have positive utility for God. In the former case, on must assume that God, being entirely self sufficient is merely interested in increasing the utility experienced by other beings, and thus every redeemed human represents an increase to that total utility experienced.

If God is gaining utility from each additional redeemed human, there is the question of whether he experiences diminishing marginal returns. If that is the case, one could assume that this universe will be ended when there are n redeemed people throughout history and the n+1 redeemed person has a marginal utility of 0. Given that God is all-knowing and timeless however, one might reasonably assume that his appetites would not be limited in the same way that human appetites are limited, and that therefore God would not experience any diminishing marginal utility for redeemed humans. Thus the limit of MU(n+1) for n→∞ would always be the same positive number as MU(1).

Likewise, if God is only interested in increasing the utility that others experience, one must assume that every additional redeemed human represents the same amount of additional experienced utility. If this was the only factor to take into consideration, one would be justified in assuming that God would design a universe to produce an infinite supply of redeemed humans. Barring that, one could safely assume that as long as their was the possibility of one more person becoming redeemed, the universe would continue to exist. One might imagine some situation in which knowledge of God was entirely lost from the collective consciousness of humanity, in which case, barring further direct intervention in human affairs God would be acting rationally to bring the universe to an end.

However, the value of redeemed humans is not necessarily the only quantity to be considered. Given human history up to this point, it seems inevitable that for every redeemed human there will be some number (or fraction) of humans that remain unredeemed. Assuming that the New Testament indication that men are born and die once and then face judgment is indicative of this life being the only opportunity for redemption, then those humans that remain unredeemed at death may represent a negative utility. If the marginal utility of one redeemed human is x, then the marginal utility of one unredeemed human could be –sx, where s is some positive value (0, ∞). Alternately, as C.S. Lewis suggested in The Great Divorce the emptiness of the unredeemed could occupy a space less than a single subatomic particle in the new heaven and earth. In that case, s could be assumed to be 0. In that case, the previous thoughts regarding the likely length of the universe would still apply. If Christ’s words that the gate is narrow and few would enter are correct, one would also assume that if s has a non-zero value it is less then 1, perhaps substantially less than 1.

Assuming that t has a non-zero value, then presumably God has a slightly more difficult problem on his hands. If y(t) is the function describing the number of redeemed humans over time and b is the utility of a redeemed person, and x(t) is the function describing the number of unredeemed humans, with -a being the utility of an unredeemed human, then it would make sense for God to end the universe at time t when

∫ by(t) + (-ax(t))

over interval (0,t) has its maximum value. One interesting conclusion from this postulate is that if the ratio between y(t) and x(t) remains constant, population growth represents a gain in absolute utility for values of a(x(t)/y(t)) < b.

I think it’s a relatively safe to assume that s is zero or <1 and that therefore population growth (assuming a constant ratio of redeemed to unredeemed humans) is a goal to pursue. Presumably Christ’s Great Commission is the relevant instruction manual for maintaining a favorable ratio of y(t) to x(t), then God’s command to Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply” seems to corroborate this idea that population growth brings a gain in absolute utility.

Of course, this entire line of reasoning assumes that redeemed and unredeemed humans are the only products of this universe. It’s possible, perhaps even likely, that the goings-on of this universe may have other consequences with their own associated utilities. (One pet theory I have is that our universe may have some role to play in the redemption of the angels) However, it’s essentially impossible to make any reasoned conclusions about what such other products and their utilities might be, so it makes sense to base policy on that evidence which we do have.

Given the preceding, why do I think that Christians should pursue human expansion throughout the universe? I think that such a policy would serve both to increase the population, and also provide evidence to help maintain the ratio of redeemed to unredeemed humans. I will address these two ideas in turn.

First, extending human habitation to extra-terrestrial venues provides the opportunity to avoid the Malthusian limits on population growth that exist here on earth and thereby enable geometric growth of total human population in the universe. We would collectively be very fruitful, and would be doing so in a manner that would enable higher standards of living for all of humanity by circumventing the inherent resource limitations of the earth. While “the poor will always be with us”, there does seem to be a biblical idea of improving the physical/temporal lives of others. While practically speaking that is perhaps easiest to observe when done one neighbor to another, but that doesn’t contraindicate the desirability of increasing global (ie. universal not merely terrestrial) standards of living.

As to maintaining or increasing the ratio of redeemed to unredeemed humans, I would suggest that as the amount of time since Christ’s life on earth increases, that increasing amount of time can act as a stumbling block to belief. In other words, it becomes easier to dismiss the idea of Christ’s life/death/resurrection as myth the more ancient it seems, and the longer the amount of time past without the promised return of Christ. Thus, I would suggest that all other things being equal, there would be a tendency as t increases for the ratio y(t) to x(t) to decrease due to this stumbling block.

Human expansion throughout the universe would provide a counterbalance to this sap upon faith. The greater the sphere of human expansion throughout the universe, the more evidence accrues to humanity’s uniqueness in the cosmos (this is assuming that we don’t run into any other sentient beings in our expansion) which would tend to support the Christian notion of God’s particular creation and plans for us.
Well well... although I suggested in my previous post that there wasn't "any sort of "grand strategy" or necessarily any deliberate coordination at all" in the muslim outrage in the streets, it seems that some folks think that is precisely what is going on.

An interesting postulate about Iran as motive force... while I certainly don't put it past the persians to take whatever advantage they can from the situation, I'm a bit more skeptical about their being the catalyst for the whole thing. Time will tell I guess...
It seems that the brouhaha over the Danish cartoons has finally reached the mainstream press, at least based on my viewing of the nightly news this evening. I've been following the developing story mostly online, and if you're just catching up now, you may want to get up to speed with a few links. (Thanks to Glenn Reynolds)

Perhaps more important, SA has a apropo reaction as well.

Some thoughts from me...

First of all, I think that the majority of the "muslim" reaction to the danish cartoons is being both manufactured and exploited bysome subset of those who are the "powerbrokers" if you will in muslim culture/majority muslim nations. I'm talking about both those figures that Western minds would conceptualize as political (such as the rulers of various middle easter nations) and those leaders that Westerners might classify as religious or spiritual (ie. clerics and imams). I think this manipulation is likely going on in both European nations and in Middle Eastern nations, although I'm not suggesting that there is any sort of "grand strategy" or necessarily any deliberate coordination at all. Rather, leaders of muslim "communities" in European nations are likely seeing an opportunity to push for more power in those respective nations, while Middle Eastern politicians are likely seeing an opportunity to try and manipulate Western nations and their relationships.

What is perhaps most surprising about this situation to me, is that there seems to be an upsurge in European solidarity, coalescing around the principle of free speech. The fact that papers in other nations have reprinted the original dozen cartoons suggests that there are indeed perhaps still things for which Europeans are willing to fight. It has up to now not been entirely obvious that such was indeed the case.


On a different note, last night's sermon seemed related. It turns out that there are six hundred million extant copies of a single image of Jesus. A cursory google search will reveal hundreds if not thousands more images ranging from medieval to modern, pious to profane. All of these images are of a man for which no contemporary image (or even physical description) is available. While certain "modern art" depictions (juxtaposing a crucifix and excretory waste for instance) may spark distaste and public opprobrium from Christians, there is no tradition or sanction for violence as a reaction to any sort of "imag-ing" of Jesus.

Mohammed suffers from the same lack of contemporary depictions or descriptions as Jesus. Similarly, a rather wide range of images of the "prophet" exist as well. However, a certain school of Islamic religio-jurisprudence seems to have gained a dominant position among the ummah -- one that actively forbids depictions of Mohammed (In the above link, scroll down to see images from which the face of Mohammed has been removed at some point)

Two points here... first, the existence of a range of historical images of Mohammed lends weight to the idea that the current controversy is at least in part manufactured. Even if setting fire to embassies is the "authentic expression of Islam" in the present, the existence of these images argues that it need not be. Secondly... I just wonder about the theology surrounding such a religious "law", and what effect it might have practically on adherents... if Mohammed, a mere man (secretary for god that was claimed to be aside) becomes impossible for people to even "image" ismply by virtue of having taken notes for god, what hope do normal folk have of interacting with god at all?

Saturday, February 04, 2006

A public service announcement for those who write fan fiction.

Not everyone whose iris reflects light in the 475 nanometer wavelength has cerulean eyes!

At twenty-four words, that will be thirty-nine cents sir.

Send it collect.