Avatar, the movie

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Avatar, the movie

Hello everyone. Smiling

 

I recently saw Avatar, the movie.

 

What do the atheists and other forum users here think about the idea of a deity as presented in the movie, Avatar?

 

Does that idea of a deity come from James Lovelock’s Gaia theory?

 

Is the idea of a deity presented in the movie Avatar, rational or irrational?

 

If you haven’t seen Avatar yet, you can watch it on iTunes.

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umm last time I checked it

umm last time I checked it falls under the category of sci-fiction/fantasy.....so yeah sure a deity could be logical.


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:p

latincanuck wrote:

umm last time I checked it falls under the category of sci-fiction/fantasy.....so yeah sure a deity could be logical.

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“A meritocratic society is one in which inequalities of wealth and social position solely reflect the unequal distribution of merit or skills amongst human beings, or are based upon factors beyond human control, for example luck or chance. Such a society is socially just because individuals are judged not by their gender, the colour of their skin or their religion, but according to their talents and willingness to work, or on what Martin Luther King called 'the content of their character'. By extension, social equality is unjust because it treats unequal individuals equally.” "Political Ideologies" by Andrew Heywood (2003)


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For a sci-fi/fantasy story,

For a sci-fi/fantasy story, it was a more plausible 'world intelligence' than most, the result of the interactions of an actual world-wide connected network of communicating and sensitive organisms.

If you are going to get a 'world-God', that's the sort of thing you need, rather than some purely disembodied 'spirit' thing like the supernatural critter of the Abrahamic religions.

Even the Pantheist idea is more plausible than a supernatural God, but wouldn't work well because the Universe is not a tightly interconnected thing, and communication across it is tenuous and slow, even where it is possible, ie between things flying away from each other at light-speed or greater.

I was impressed with the way they relied on actual physical connections through a bundle of fibres between the Navi and their beasts, and the trees, rather than a 'woo' like psychic channel. They appeared to have actually thought about how such an intelligence might actually work. It could have come across as too mechanical, but they managed to present in a way which wasn't too much like an ordinary plug-and-socket, what with the animated writhing fibres lin a flower-like appendage.

And wasn't being presented as infinite and all-powerful or any of that other omni-crap.

 

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Fun entertainment.  Great

Fun entertainment.  Great special effects.  Pretty.  Mindless.  Pretty mindless.

For another take on a gaia sort of intelligence, see The Powers That Be sci-fi/fantasy series by Anne MacCaffrey and Elizabeth Scarborough.  There's not much new under any sun.

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cj wrote:Fun

cj wrote:

Fun entertainment.  Great special effects.  Pretty.  Mindless.  Pretty mindless.

For another take on a gaia sort of intelligence, see The Powers That Be sci-fi/fantasy series by Anne MacCaffrey and Elizabeth Scarborough.  There's not much new under any sun.

But my point was that that Avatar actually showed an explicit physical analogue for our nervous system, that is not present in the Gaia hypothesis. So to that extent it had far more substance to support a world-consciousness.

I understand what is proposed in Gaia, and there could well be a level at which it works, in the way whole eco-systems and species interact, as there certainly are feedback mechanisms, which can lead to a measure of self-regulation, but not to anything worth regarding as a conscious intelligence in any meaningful way. Unfortunately for Gaia, there are also positive feed-back mechanisms as well, which drive things like the ice-age cycles. Gaia is a vastly over-hyped idea.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

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BobSpence1 wrote:cj

BobSpence1 wrote:

cj wrote:

Fun entertainment.  Great special effects.  Pretty.  Mindless.  Pretty mindless.

For another take on a gaia sort of intelligence, see The Powers That Be sci-fi/fantasy series by Anne MacCaffrey and Elizabeth Scarborough.  There's not much new under any sun.

But my point was that that Avatar actually showed an explicit physical analogue for our nervous system, that is not present in the Gaia hypothesis. So to that extent it had far more substance to support a world-consciousness.

 

I agree, the premise and execution was nicely done.

 

BobSpence1 wrote:

I understand what is proposed in Gaia, and there could well be a level at which it works, in the way whole eco-systems and species interact, as there certainly are feedback mechanisms, which can lead to a measure of self-regulation, but not to anything worth regarding as a conscious intelligence in any meaningful way. Unfortunately for Gaia, there are also positive feed-back mechanisms as well, which drive things like the ice-age cycles. Gaia is a vastly over-hyped idea.

 

Gaia is indeed a vastly over-hyped idea.  It was a name put on those processes which are as you say, feedback loops and chaotic in nature.  To me, it is like talking about the goddess Pele in Hawaii.  You know she doesn't exist and have no belief in volcano gods.  But when the volcano blows, you feel sympathy with the ancient Hawaiians.

My ecology professor used Gaia deliberately in class one day.  He said we didn't have to worry about pollution or over-population as the human species was busily driving itself extinct and Gaia would take care of our pestilence just like she had all the others.  I think he was being tongue in cheek about Gaia.  But he was serious about humans' penchant for attempting to live in our own waste.  Just like colonies of bacteria who can not move out of their waste stream and so die.

I am hesitant to be as negative as my professor was, but I am not sure I am hopeful we can learn to clean up our mess, either.  And the positive feedback loops may get a lot of us some day if we aren't more careful.

-- I feel so much better since I stopped trying to believe.

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Well, as far as the movie

Well, as far as the movie went, I kind of like the nervous system analogy, apart from the fact that it did not seem to be fully connected. When a blue dude wants to ride what amounts to a blue horse, they pair up and sort of become a single entity. Ditto for the dragon things that they rode and so on. So at least that much of the system was isolated nodes that connect sporadically. But whatever on that.

 

It seemed to me more that it was the plants that provided the consistent networking, with the animals only joining in periodically and then in isolated network segments at best. Being the pervert that I am, I have to wonder how that idea applies to sex. Would not creating a neural link between a mating pair of blue people be part of foreplay? That would give a whole new meaning to the idea of a beast with two backs. [/rimshot]

 

As far as the Terran concept of gaia, I don't quite buy the idea that such a creature can exist. The most obvious issue that I see is that there is no nervous system. Sure there are feedback loops. However, they are pretty much chemical in nature.

 

At the risk of stretching the analogy too far, that seems to me to be pretty similar to hormonal signaling. It seems to me to be fairly improbable that a planet sized creature could exist with such a signaling system.

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I haven't seen it yet,

I haven't seen it yet, thanks for the spoilers.


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I think James Cameron has

I think James Cameron has read The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. I'm rereading the first chronicles now, and the part where the tree was destroyed is quite powerfully written.

AVATAR, meanwhile, was an entertaining lightweight piece of escapism, which is all I was expecting of it.  Internally consistent, solid plotting, some surprises, some good acting, adequate characterization, good story flow after an offputting start that tries too hard to be world-weary and cynical.

A planetary consciousness or even a symbiosis among all its organisms is a long way from the deity in the holy books. The dude who wrote ten commandments, five of which are "worship me only," would probably trash that planetary consciousness out of jealousy.

 

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robj101 wrote:I haven't seen

robj101 wrote:

I haven't seen it yet, thanks for the spoilers.

 

I haven't seen anything that gives away the best part of the plot.  So you are safe -- or quit reading the thread.

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Meh I was joking really, I

Meh I was joking really, I hear the plot sux anyway probably why I haven't bothered to watch it yet.

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MichaelEdits.com wrote:I

MichaelEdits.com wrote:

I think James Cameron has read The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. I'm rereading the first chronicles now, and the part where the tree was destroyed is quite powerfully written.

AVATAR, meanwhile, was an entertaining lightweight piece of escapism, which is all I was expecting of it.  Internally consistent, solid plotting, some surprises, some good acting, adequate characterization, good story flow after an offputting start that tries too hard to be world-weary and cynical.

A planetary consciousness or even a symbiosis among all its organisms is a long way from the deity in the holy books. The dude who wrote ten commandments, five of which are "worship me only," would probably trash that planetary consciousness out of jealousy.

 

Pretty decent series. Though I don't know why he has leprosy, I thought penecillin had pretty much wiped that out.

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Ah no, penicillin is not the

Ah no, penicillin is not the right drug for leprosy. What matters is that leprosy is related to tuberculosis and requires similar treatment. Basically, a three drug cocktail that has to be taken for at least a year. If you do not follow up on the deal, it doesn't get cured and the disease can become resistant to the drugs.

 

So it is still a public health issue.

 

In the case of Thomas Covenant, the disease was never fully treated but rather, it became latent in him.

 

As far as the movie goes, no spoilers but well... the word coffee comes to mind. You will know when you see it.

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Saw movie, liked it well enough

 

personally did not like the earth god thing. I agree with bob it made more sense than our religions because it was based on something actual. But because of that 'actual' I found the worshipping and primal chanting a bit superfluous. If the system worked you wouldn't need to get your knickers in a knot pleading with it to work. You would rely on it. It's only when things are inconsistent or not there at all you need to get into the begging and pleading. I thought Cameron projected earth-like religious stereotypes into the movie. I also found I was unable in my mind's eye to conjure up the sort of communications path that might allow all those different organisms to be aware of each other. Gaia was anthropomorphic and I though there was noble savage stuff going on. Even Home Tree was a bit, you know...Enid Blyton.

But I thought the blue chick was hot. All that hissing and baring of teeth had me on the edge of my seat. 

 

 

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Answers in Gene Simmons

Answers in Gene Simmons wrote:

Well, as far as the movie went, I kind of like the nervous system analogy, apart from the fact that it did not seem to be fully connected. When a blue dude wants to ride what amounts to a blue horse, they pair up and sort of become a single entity. Ditto for the dragon things that they rode and so on. So at least that much of the system was isolated nodes that connect sporadically. But whatever on that.

 

It seemed to me more that it was the plants that provided the consistent networking, with the animals only joining in periodically and then in isolated network segments at best. Being the pervert that I am, I have to wonder how that idea applies to sex. Would not creating a neural link between a mating pair of blue people be part of foreplay? That would give a whole new meaning to the idea of a beast with two backs. [/rimshot]

The same basic concept that you describe exists in Sid Meier's AC; where a vast, fungal organism essentially functions as a *massive* central nervous system operating over much of "Chiron's" surface. It is the dominant life form there the same way we are the dominant life form on Earth -and it also represents a very real, semi-natural "Planetary God" the way "Gaea" represented a fertile, life-giving Earthmother deity.

The developers of the game themselves said this concept is -within itself- based on "The Jesus Incident": in the book, like the game, a native, sessile organism basically forms a global neural network.


Back in the game: the "xenofungus" literally controls the entire ecology of Chiron, and even makes some notable attempts at assimilating the latest migrants to its world: humans. In this way, people begin to call "Chiron" "Planet" shortly after their landings on this strange world -because that is the exact same moniker the fungus uses to refer to its native world. The fungus does all of this via "psi", the fundamental element behind intelligent thought (which humans eventually learn to harness through artificial means.)

“A meritocratic society is one in which inequalities of wealth and social position solely reflect the unequal distribution of merit or skills amongst human beings, or are based upon factors beyond human control, for example luck or chance. Such a society is socially just because individuals are judged not by their gender, the colour of their skin or their religion, but according to their talents and willingness to work, or on what Martin Luther King called 'the content of their character'. By extension, social equality is unjust because it treats unequal individuals equally.” "Political Ideologies" by Andrew Heywood (2003)


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Kapkao wrote:Answers in Gene

Kapkao wrote:

Answers in Gene Simmons wrote:

Well, as far as the movie went, I kind of like the nervous system analogy, apart from the fact that it did not seem to be fully connected. When a blue dude wants to ride what amounts to a blue horse, they pair up and sort of become a single entity. Ditto for the dragon things that they rode and so on. So at least that much of the system was isolated nodes that connect sporadically. But whatever on that.

 

It seemed to me more that it was the plants that provided the consistent networking, with the animals only joining in periodically and then in isolated network segments at best. Being the pervert that I am, I have to wonder how that idea applies to sex. Would not creating a neural link between a mating pair of blue people be part of foreplay? That would give a whole new meaning to the idea of a beast with two backs. [/rimshot]

The same basic concept that you describe exists in Sid Meier's AC; where a vast, fungal organism essentially functions as a *massive* central nervous system operating over much of "Chiron's" surface. It is the dominant life form there the same way we are the dominant life form on Earth -and it also represents a very real, semi-natural "Planetary God" the way "Gaea" represented a fertile, life-giving Earthmother deity.

The developers of the game themselves said this concept is -within itself- based on "The Jesus Incident": in the book, like the game, a native, sessile organism basically forms a global neural network.


Back in the game: the "xenofungus" literally controls the entire ecology of Chiron, and even makes some notable attempts at assimilating the latest migrants to its world: humans. In this way, people begin to call "Chiron" "Planet" shortly after their landings on this strange world -because that is the exact same moniker the fungus uses to refer to its native world. The fungus does all of this via "psi", the fundamental element behind intelligent thought (which humans eventually learn to harness through artificial means.)

 

Sherri S. Tepper - Sideshow  (1993)

 

Is there a new plot twist anywhere?

-- I feel so much better since I stopped trying to believe.

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"If death isn't sweet oblivion, I will be severely disappointed" - Ruth M.


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MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD! You

MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD! You have been warned.

The world-building borrowed heavily from other good (and no-so-good) books. It struck me most like the planet from Midworld, by Alan Dean Foster (who tells good stories, but is not the most accomplished writer).

As far as the movie itself: it was decent. The story wasn't bad. Cameron does know how to direct action, though some of the scenes were a bit drawn out. Overall, decent pacing, brilliant (both in the meaning of 'intelligent' and 'brightly-colored') visuals, and fairly decent -- if shallow -- characterization.

What sucked: the natives being so much like American natives. What the fuck was up with that? I thought we'd had enough of the SF stereotyping trope with George Lucas's horrible movies? Everything else in the movie was smartly done, if a bit derivative. Why the hell did he cop out and make them so like the Dances With Wolves tribe?

Anyway, as far as the world-encompassing intelligence goes, I was rather impressed with the execution. It puts to shame the whole Gaia hypothesis.

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Kapkao wrote:The same basic

Kapkao wrote:
The same basic concept that you describe exists in Sid Meier's AC; where a vast, fungal organism essentially functions as a *massive* central nervous system operating over much of "Chiron's" surface.

 

Kapkao, let me introduce you to real. Real is the opposite of imaginary. Imaginary is what computer game mostly are. Especially the ones where a world spanning fungus can carry signals around in a reasonable time frame.

 

Don't get me wrong, imaginary is fun. I forget which novel it was in but I recall reading one where a sentient species was something close to a flock of tiny little birds. A good fraction of the flock could be asleep, foraging or mating at any given time without changing the identity of the creature substantially. Also, the more individuals active in the flock, the smarter the creature was.

 

For sci-fi it was a cool concept and probably worth exploring.

 

For a discussion of a real, world spanning type of critter, things change somewhat. I would not suppose that alien life needs to have exactly the same thing as the nervous system that developed on our planet. Even so, the speed at which information propagates around a critter is relevant.

 

A critter the size of a planet that can only move information at, say, 1 foot per hour is not going to be a mind that we are going to interact with in any meaningful way. Even allowing for some sci-fi sort of a mind, it is going to think really slowly.

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Answers in Gene Simmons

Answers in Gene Simmons wrote:

Don't get me wrong, imaginary is fun. I forget which novel it was in but I recall reading one where a sentient species was something close to a flock of tiny little birds. A good fraction of the flock could be asleep, foraging or mating at any given time without changing the identity of the creature substantially. Also, the more individuals active in the flock, the smarter the creature was.

 

 

Cool - passenger pigeons.  Too bad they're extinct.

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Not really passenger

Not really passenger pigeons. This was a dude that you could have a conversation with. It did not matter that part of him was always off doing other stuff. His personal continuity existed as long as most of him did.

 

Of note to the point that I have, the more units of him that are active, the smarter he is. However, a greater total mass also had the issue of speed of communication. Bigger could be smarter but it would also take that much longer to come up with the answer.

 

I suppose that whatever planet he came from might have self organized into a gaia like critter. However, such would never have resulted in a technological civilization. That would require the “birds” to organize into smaller units where efficiency would allow a degree of specialization.

 

 

Edit: Note that I am using the masculine pronoun out of convenience. The author never covered the matter. I would assume that a correct pronoun for this dude does not obtain in the English language.

 

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Answers in Gene Simmons

Answers in Gene Simmons wrote:

Not really passenger pigeons. This was a dude that you could have a conversation with. It did not matter that part of him was always off doing other stuff. His personal continuity existed as long as most of him did.

 

I was only thinking that they must have been the author's inspiration.  I'm guessing the original passenger pigeons were just as dumb as the Indian Rock pigeons.

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Answers in Gene Simmons

Answers in Gene Simmons wrote:

Kapkao wrote:
The same basic concept that you describe exists in Sid Meier's AC; where a vast, fungal organism essentially functions as a *massive* central nervous system operating over much of "Chiron's" surface.

 

Kapkao, let me introduce you to real. Real is the opposite of imaginary. Imaginary is what computer game mostly are. Especially the ones where a world spanning fungus can carry signals around in a reasonable time frame.

 

I'm sorry; what brought this up again? And how did "real" come into this conversation?

Two can play at the needless and incredibly impractical game of 'pedantry ad absurdum'. (regardless of what Blake says about it being "the way of the ninja".)

 

Quote:
A critter the size of a planet that can only move information at,

It's amazing how little you took in from my post- this is a 'critter' spanning an entire world (as in the entire surface) rather than being "the size of a (entire world)".

 

Quote:
say, 1 foot per hour

Nope, try again.

Hint: central nervous system. As in, electrons. DUH!

Although, (similar to what I originally stated) the game hints at another fundamental, physical component to the fungal mega-intelligence (and likewise human intelligence) besides electroconductivity; psi. This is, perhaps, why the 7 major faction leaders eventually start having awkward dreams shortly after the start of the game. The xenofungus, or "PlanetMind" (as it calls itself in the dreams), is attempting to contact the now somewhat unwelcome guests trampling about at its 'doorstep'. The fungus actually feeds off of -and grows more intensely from- the thoughts of all the newly arrived human residents on Chiron.

 

Quote:
is not going to be a mind that we are going to interact with in any meaningful way. Even allowing for some sci-fi sort of a mind, it is going to think really slowly.

According to whom? You? Human thoughts don't move at "one foot per hour". They move much more closely to the speed of light. Why should one expect a naturally-occuring neural net to be significantly slower or even faster?

Your meta-inferred, noncanon silliness aside, it has been demonstrated numerous times and to varying degrees that naturally occurring organisms and cellular tissues can perform many of the fundamental 'work' tasks that we, as a species, normally relegate to industrial machinery. While the 'endstage product' (usually fecal matter of some sort) rarely has a significant, positive impact on industrial economy, it is not to say that we won't be able to replace most of the electrodependent tools and processes with a living, breathing, thinking artificial organism of some sort, in the distant future.

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cj wrote:Sherri S. Tepper

cj wrote:
Sherri S. Tepper -

Sideshow

  (1993)

 

Is there a new plot twist anywhere?


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Kapkao wrote:cj wrote:Sherri

Kapkao wrote:

cj wrote:
Sherri S. Tepper -

Sideshow

  (1993)

 

Is there a new plot twist anywhere?

 

it did not have a deity in the movie its just that the whole planet is alive, connected thru all the tress neural network


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When I saw it, it felt to me

When I saw it, it felt to me like an effort to minimize the moral ambiguity of the situation in the film. Where if there was nothing to their tribal religion, the Na'vi could be seen as simply xenophobic and ignorant in their refusal to deal with humanity, by making the their "god" a massive living being, it makes it harder to sympathize with the (already flat and bordering on caricature) antagonists. Just one more thing to harden the anvil the film wanted to drop.

But it misses something in the way it deals with what could have been an interesting concept. An actual network of nerves or similar linking an entire ecosystem's flora (and, somehow, fauna) would be an extraordinary thing, but since the focus of the movie was elsewhere, the thing and its implications weren't really explored.

As to if such a thing were rational or irrational, well, yes and no. The movie sidesteps questions of the supernatural by inventing a scientific reason for apparently supernatural beliefs If it's looking to make a real case for spirituality of any stripe, though, it shoots itself in the foot. Of course if there were a verifiable phenomenon behind x or y belief it would be rational to accept the phenomenon and at least give the belief due consideration. But 1) that tends not to be true in real life 2) just because a thing is real doesn't mean the myth behind it is, too (see also: lightning, earthquakes). As I said, the film doesn't really explore the Na'vi religion adequately (nor the friction sure to come from the inevitable scientific inquiry into their "mother/god/thing"), and it doesn't make any points regarding spirituality that are applicable to reality, so there's not much to say.


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Possibly relevant to your

Possibly relevant to your point Sirrah would be a conjecture that I have made in plenty of other threads. Never in this context but it applies here well enough.

 

The Nav'i did not have a god in the sense of an invisible man in the sky who is watching when you beat off. Rather, they have something tangible that they can interact with on a regular basis. When it suits them, they can plug in and be a part of the whole deal.

 

Now could such a thing really exist on some planet? Obviously I am lacking critical data to provide a proper answer. However, I don't think that such a thing could be called intelligent in any sense where we would be able to converse with it. More probable I think would be that it would be something that responds to stimuli over a global scale.

 

For example, if the planet is subject to Milankovich type orbital fluctuations, then it might be capable of adjusting weather patterns in such a way that cloud cover could be changed to mitigate the global warming/cooling as needed. Basically, it only effects changes on a global level and fairly slowly.

 

Now the thing here is that such an entity is causally connected to the world in a way that is real and detectable. Thus, I just can't see trying to apply a label of supernatural to it. It is a natural thing that is part of nature.

 

On the other hand, if something could be deemed as apart from/outside of nature, then I don't see a causal connection as all that apparent. Looked at that way, the planet Pandora does not have a supernatural god. It has a real thing that can be studied and learned about. Compare that to planet Earth which as far as anyone can tell does not have a real thing that can be studied and learned about, so what the epistemological people are on about is something supernatural.

 

Of course, in that sense, supernatural is equivalent to not real. What philosophers and theologians are doing is thinking really hard about stuff and wondering what they can come up with. However, at no time is the real existence of what they are thinking about in any doubt. It doesn't exist.

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Kapkao
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Adventfred wrote:Kapkao

Adventfred wrote:

Kapkao wrote:

cj wrote:
Sherri S. Tepper -

Sideshow

  (1993)

 

Is there a new plot twist anywhere?

 

it did not have a deity in the movie its just that the whole planet is alive, connected thru all the tress neural network

Yeah, I later researched it over the 'net.

edit; nevermind, I just now noticed the "movie" portion of your post.

“A meritocratic society is one in which inequalities of wealth and social position solely reflect the unequal distribution of merit or skills amongst human beings, or are based upon factors beyond human control, for example luck or chance. Such a society is socially just because individuals are judged not by their gender, the colour of their skin or their religion, but according to their talents and willingness to work, or on what Martin Luther King called 'the content of their character'. By extension, social equality is unjust because it treats unequal individuals equally.” "Political Ideologies" by Andrew Heywood (2003)


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But this did not make new