If we had all the answers to the BIG questions, then what?

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If we had all the answers to the BIG questions, then what?

(Thought Experiment)

I will define a thought experiment to be one in which you GRANT certain premises to be true and then discuss the implications.

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1. GRANTED: A Genie pops out of a bottle on the beach and grants you one wish.

2. GRANTED: You wish to know the answer to all questions you pose in the future. In essence, you wish for all-knowing omniscience.

3. GRANTED: If you were omniscient, you would know the answers to all of the BIG questions: Theism/Atheism, Ethics, The Mind/Body problem, etc.

4. GRANTED: You are given the opportunity to write an essay to your fellow humans telling them what to DO based on your knowledge, but you cannot tell them the answers to the questions. In essence, you can tell them what to do, but you can't give them any justifications.

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What do you think you would tell people to do?

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I think that I would find out:

1. There is no God.
2. There is no soul.
3. We determine our own ethics and assent via social consensus. You are bound to a set of ethics formed by your government.

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Suppose that I found out there was a God, we had souls, and ethics came from God.

What would be different? Worship God? Hope to have a good afterlife? Obey God's commandments?

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I ask this question because I spend an AWFUL lot of time thinking about the "big questions" because I am wading in uncertainty. I think, "You know, maybe if I really knew with certainty the answer to all of these questions, maybe I'd get on with my life and make the world a better place!"

In sum, I think I spend so much time on philosophy and thinking about the big questions, I lose sight of what I would do if I knew the answer.

Well, upon reflection, let me answer my own question about what I would write to people on what to do. And because I think the answer would ultimately be THE SAME even if theism -- or worse, Christianity -- were true; I think this is important to think about...

"Dear humans, I am your omniscient brother, and I have some advice for you all. Enjoy your lives, but try not to harm other people. In fact, do your best to help other people who are in a worse situation than you. It would be good for everyone to not worry about security, health, shelter, food, and water. You should do what's in your power to help with that. Try to prevent other people from suffering at the expense of your happiness. It would also be good to preserve the environment for future generations."

I think this important because of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

In short, REGARDLESS of whether Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, or Mamboogaism (joke religion) is true, I think it is our duty to help people ascend on Maslow's hierarchy.

I suppose I am also arguing that IF God exists, he would think worshipping him was a total waste of time that could be spent on helping other people ascend on Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

Simply put, religion is a colossal waste of time if our end goal is to help other people.

Perhaps therein lies the GREATEST logical contradiction of ALL religions: If God is omnibenevolent, he would be selfless -- and he would want us to help other people BEFORE worshipping him. Worship is a waste of time if helping your fellow humans is primary. Perhaps philosophy is too?

-----

I would say the goals of this group, many other atheist groups, Sapient, Dawkins, Flemming, and Harris is noble.

I see ethical nobility in Sapient's mission statement: "Freeing people of the mind disorder known as theism."

Wasting time on worship of non-existent deities could be spent on other more constructive things. Moreover, religion causes genuine harm to people and the world in that its misguided philosophy conflicts with rational public policy domestic and abroad.

I also admire the plan to encourage members of this forum to do community service and give to charity, since theists claim that atheism leads to diminished charity efforts and apathy. On the contrary, I think it leads to an ethical code that demands charity and service to humanity.

Anyway, it's late now. But I hope to write a bit more on this subject...

(You know it's late when you misspell "write" as "right" in the above sentence.)


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For christmas, instead of

For christmas, instead of giving presents to anyone, I gave 100 bucks each to the Red Cross and the RRS because I believe in the motives and goals of both. Perhaps a good first step towards the ethical code I'm proposing. I think next year I'm going to ask my family not to buy me any gifts, rather to make charitable contributions in my name as well. I feel especially shitty that I might be enjoying the new possession of frivolous items I don't need while other people are suffering from living without things they DO need and that they're forcefed theism to cope with their unhappiness.


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If I knew all the anwers

If I knew all the anwers and wanted people to learn it or do what is right all I have to do is ask the right questions. Thats just me doing what I want to do without breaking the rules.

 

The other parts about helping people were good as well, however it is kind of hard to get past the questions without answering them or at least getting to the point where you think you have a good enough of an understanding at the time.

I agree that we should help people in general, but good luck on getting down to how to do that. I mean thats right up there with world hunger and sickness. Even harder if you think about how those things are apart of it.

 

My real suggestion is to think not just how to help people, but get them to help themselves at the same time. Yes its good the man doesn't die that night, but you can't be there for him every night. 


hellfiend666
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Void has a point I'd like to

Void has a point I'd like to expand on a little.  Helping others is always a noble cause, but, it can also weaken the charracter, and sometimes, the morals of the reciever.  One who recieves a neccesity through charity is often not rewarded with the lesson of how to achieve it on their own, and is therefor robbed of the personal growth said lesson can bring.  Thusly deminishing the character of the individual, and in some extreme cases, teaching them that they can get what they need by doing nothing but asking for charity.  We must always be mindfull of how much we help.  Guidance is one thing, but generosity should be tempered with consciencious foresight.  It is very eloquently summed up in the old proverb, "Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day.  Teach the man how to catch a fish..." and, well, y'all know the rest.  So, to answer the question at hand.  If I were bestowed with the knowledge suggested, I would try to teach people how to achieve the same knowledge on their own.  Show them which path to walk, but not hold their hand the whole way.  Some, would inevitably, stray from said path, and they may learn something positive in doing so.  If not, well, you just have to accept that some people (more than I like to admit) aren't ready for said knowledge, and that others are just plain near-sighted and selfish.  Some people will never listen to reason, no matter how hard you hit them with it, or how well you present it.  You can only truely help those who are willing to help themselves.

The darkness of godlessness lets wisdom shine.


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For simplicity and time, I'm

For simplicity and time, I'm going to distill the topic back into the original question:

"If we had all the answers to the BIG questions, then what?"

Then that very question becomes the next big question. Eye-wink

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.


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Whoever said that quote

Whoever said that quote about giving a man a fish vs teaching him to fish obviously never went fishing!

Matt Shizzle has been banned from the Rational Response Squad website. This event shall provide an atmosphere more conducive to social growth. - Majority of the mod team


triften
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The problem with this

The problem with this scenario is that you are personally endowed with said information.

Tada! You are no different from any random preacher or person witnessing to others. All you have is your personal experience.

Or do we assume that your all-knowingness enables you to convince others of your autheticity (by making disturbingly accurate prediction about things around you)?

-Triften


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Two things:

Four Points:

1. Triften: We assume only that you are omniscient and that you have ONLY the ability to right a letter to humanity about what to do with human life. Rather than making this my own argument -- I am asking you what YOU would write. But my conclusion is that regardless of the answers to most of the "big" questions, the letter might contain the same information: That is, enjoy life; and help others to enjoy life too.

2. Hellfiend: There was one point in my life where I studied Buddhism, Gnostic Christianity, and a number of audio courses from the company "Nightingale Conant" (which includes Deepak Chopra among its speakers). Wayne Dyer is another.

Let me focus on Nightingale Conant first. A recurring theme of all the speakers for that company is to be selfless and virtually annihilate your ego in order to learn the real truths in the world.

I reject this assertion.

If we are to be "selfless" and help others while denying our own selfhood, we lose track of what it means to help other people.

If it is good to help others, then the reason is because other people have "selves" that are worth helping.

In other words, when you help someone, you do so because of their ego and self; and to deny your own selfhood would be contradictory to the reason for helping others.

Thus, I am arguing strongly against ascetic religious traditions.

I think it is very important for individuals to have an ego, to enjoy life, and ascend on Maslow's hierarchy. Denying your selfhood denies the very reason for helping others. So rather than punishing yourself by helping others (Mother Theresa), I would encourage people to live full lives and realize their full potential... But help others in addition.

If everyone in the US adopted an ascetic lifestyle, our economy would go in the toilet. As a result, we would have no money for foreign aid or any resources to help anyone else. In essence, our capitalism is necessary to help others. But we should at least try to help the economies of impoverished countries.

3. On "Teaching a Man to Fish". I'm by no means advocating we just throw money at problems and think they're going to go away. I think we give billions of dollars every year to African countries that wind up in the hands of warlords and tribal chiefs. I watched a segment on the nations most generous philanthropists by John Stossel. I'm not a fan of Stossel. Stossel was giving one of the philanthropists a hard time about not donating MORE money -- since he had billions and donated still only a fraction. Aside from the argument that he needs investment money to make more money... He argued that simply throwing money at charity does no good. One must carefully study how to put the money do good use so that it succeeds. I think the reason why Warren Buffet gave 30 billion to the Gates Foundation was because he was confident in the ability to distribute the funds successfully and not wastefully. I totally agree with you that we should teach people to be self reliant.

 Voiderest states:  "My real suggestion is to think not just how to help people, but get them to help themselves at the same time. Yes its good the man doesn't die that night, but you can't be there for him every night."

I would argue that "helping people" means also getting them to help themselves and for a long term solution. 

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4. On Africa: Africa is a continent full of misery; and I think a big part of it is the lack of contraception -- taught by Christian missionaries. In some cases, bringing people up on the hierarchy and providing for their needs means preventing some kids from being born so that others may flourish. I'm awfully glad my parents had only 4 kids instead of 13. As for the violence and warlords in Africa, I have no answer. It would seem that if we're ethically bound to liberate Iraqis, the same could be said for Africa, ie Sudan, Rwanda. But realistically, we know that the Iraq war had nothing to do with humanitarian reasons and the Bush administration spun everything and tried to rewrite history after no WMDs were found.

 5.  And on illegal immigration:  Stop spending billions on a silly fence that will do nothing.  Spend money on INS administration to facilitate legal immigration.  It takes years and years to come to the US legally to get citizenship.  So Mexicans are going to come here anyway.  Better to regulate them than have them here illegally.  We can't keep tabs on illegal alien criminals.  And we make it basically illegal for illegal aliens to pay taxes.  Then we bitch about illegal aliens not paying taxes and using our school systems.  Make them legal, and let them pay taxes just like everyone else.  If we don't want them in because they speak another language and they have darker skin, then that's racist in my opinion.  I think Mexicans have a shitty living situation in Mexico.  First, we should do what we can to make Mexico a happier place to live so they won't keep coming here (if that's what we want).  But catch 22 -- we secretly want to suppress the economy of Mexico to buttress our own.  Remember all the opposition to NAFTA and free trade?  So we want the Mexican economy to be shitty, but we don't want Mexicans to leave Mexico.  How does that make sense?  Furthermore, it is obvious that many Mexicans coming to the US are poor -- but that doesn't mean they're stupid or have less potential than Americans.  I think it's silly to say that Mexican kids are eating up our school resources and State budgets.  Even if they pay their taxes -- we still need people to do menial jobs, and if they don't quite make enough money to pay for their children's education -- then so be it.  We would suffer much worse without their workforce.  They get paid crappy wages, so sending their kids to school seems like a fair tradeoff.  Case in point:  helping people is a difficult dilemma.


Vastet
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The problem is that none of

The problem is that none of us has any idea what we'd write. We might think we'd write one thing or another, but it's a thought out of ignorance. One question is, would you even write anything at all?

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MrRage
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Vastet wrote: One question

Vastet wrote:
One question is, would you even write anything at all?

I wouldn't want to write anything, because I couldn't write about the answers, and the answers are what we need. This sort of letter wouldn't be anything different from any other holy text in existance. It would promote the same stagnation in our ethics and behavior as these holy text do. Something like this will only perpetuate faith over reason.

Also, a letter without the answers wouldn't quench many people's thirst for knowledge about the world, and I believe this is an important need. It's the unanswered big questions that kept me a Christian long after I realized the bible was full of it.


triften
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doctoro wrote: Four

doctoro wrote:

Four Points:

1. Triften: We assume only that you are omniscient and that you have ONLY the ability to right a letter to humanity about what to do with human life. Rather than making this my own argument -- I am asking you what YOU would write. But my conclusion is that regardless of the answers to most of the "big" questions, the letter might contain the same information: That is, enjoy life; and help others to enjoy life too.

Ah... I see. Hmmm.

A problem that arises in my mind is that in order to prove one's veracity is that I might want to write predicitions, otherwise why should anyone think me correct? But, wouldn't the predictions themselves have an effect on what actually happens? Could I some how keep the predicitions (say one for every 100 years or something) secret until after they were supposed to have happened?

 I'd probably write at length various predictions and I imagine "the" answersthemselves wouldn't take up much space. (Maybe I imagine the universe to be too elegant.)

-Triften 


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triften wrote: doctoro

triften wrote:
doctoro wrote:

Four Points:

1. Triften: We assume only that you are omniscient and that you have ONLY the ability to right a letter to humanity about what to do with human life. Rather than making this my own argument -- I am asking you what YOU would write. But my conclusion is that regardless of the answers to most of the "big" questions, the letter might contain the same information: That is, enjoy life; and help others to enjoy life too.

Ah... I see. Hmmm.

A problem that arises in my mind is that in order to prove one's veracity is that I might want to write predicitions, otherwise why should anyone think me correct? But, wouldn't the predictions themselves have an effect on what actually happens? Could I some how keep the predicitions (say one for every 100 years or something) secret until after they were supposed to have happened?

I'd probably write at length various predictions and I imagine "the" answersthemselves wouldn't take up much space. (Maybe I imagine the universe to be too elegant.)

-Triften

 Well, I would agree that it would be good to add some predictions in to boost your authenticity and superlative knowledge credibility.

AFTER you do that, then what do you say?  I agree that you should make yourself seem credible, but considering that the essay must tell humans what to do with their lives or "how to act as humans," then what would you say? 


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MrRage wrote: Vastet

MrRage wrote:
Vastet wrote:
One question is, would you even write anything at all?
I wouldn't want to write anything, because I couldn't write about the answers, and the answers are what we need. This sort of letter wouldn't be anything different from any other holy text in existance. It would promote the same stagnation in our ethics and behavior as these holy text do. Something like this will only perpetuate faith over reason. Also, a letter without the answers wouldn't quench many people's thirst for knowledge about the world, and I believe this is an important need. It's the unanswered big questions that kept me a Christian long after I realized the bible was full of it.

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IN SUMMATION OF MY REPLY:   "Are there any objective goals of human society?"

 ---------

Well, I suppose I'll grant this.  I like the concept of Maslow's hierarchy in this context.  I keep coming back to this because I think it applies directly to what you're saying.  I assume you know what the hierarchy is or have checked the two links I posted above.

I don't necessarily agree that Maslow's hierarchy verbatim, but I do agree with the "idea" of Maslow's hierarchy.  That is; humans have base needs that must be met before "worrying" or "satisfying" "higher" needs.

 For instance, I think you would probably agree that food, shelter, water, and security are -- at least -- things you need to worry about FIRST before answering the "Big questions".

So the "thirst for knowledge" would be something that would come AFTER food, shelter, water, security, etc.

 For me, I would actually place the "thirst for knowledge" as an even more important need than many social endeavors, as I find myself devoting more time to studying than investing time in friendships or romance.  Simply put, I care more about knowledge than I do about the feelings of romantic love or some other needs.

For Maslow, it would seem that "thirst for knowledge" comes AFTER social needs.  But with everyone?

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I'm not sure if this interests anyone here but me, but I'll continue to try to explain it better.  I hold a rudimentary education in psychology, and I consider myself a skeptical novice at it.  That is, I am skeptical of the methods of the study of psychology in general.

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ALL atheists, in my opinion, are existentialists on par with Jean-Paul Sartre.  That is, his philosophy entails this simple statement:  There is no God, therefore there is no set meaning in life, and you make up your own "meaning" in life.

I feel as though I'm becoming more abstract and digressing, so I hope you follow.  If not, I suppose I will be reminded by a total dearth of responses. 

Perhaps the larger scope of my original posting is this question:

 "Are there any objective goals of human society?"

 Sartre essentially says that the meaning of INDIVIDUAL human lives is subjective for each person.

I don't think he says anything really about SOCIETY or multiple individuals as a whole.  That is, "Are we ethically bound as a society to do anything for our fellow humans?"  I think we are.

In listening to an audio course entitled, "Ideas that Shaped Mankind," I came to the realization that the GREAT PROGRESS of human civilization was based on the principle that AFTER humans didn't have to worry about where there next meals would come from, where they'd get water, or how they'd stay safe from other humans and predators....  they were able to take up the LUXURIES of philosophy, science, and technology.

If I'm hunting for wild boar all day, I have no time to think about the great mysteries of existence, nor would I even care.

In fact, there are a number of philosophers, including Thoreau and perhaps Jean Jacques Rousseau who would claim that shifting away from the concern for basal human needs has actually made us more discontented with our lives.

A modern example of this philosophy is Chuck Palanhuik's "Fight Club" novel - slash - Jim Uhls' screenplay adaptation:

"In the world I see - you are stalking elk through the damp canyon forests around the ruins of Rockefeller Center. You'll wear leather clothes that will last you the rest of your life. You'll climb the wrist-thick kudzu vines that wrap the Sears Tower. And when you look down, you'll see tiny figures pounding corn, laying strips of venison on the empty car pool lane of some abandoned superhighway."

 Thoreau's Walden:

"Simplify, simplify, simplify!...  Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life? We are determined to be starved before we are hungry."

My mind is troubled by this thought (that is indeed hard to verbalize):

Once we know the answers to the big questions, then what?  What do we do?  If you were omniscient, would the meaning of your life be annihilated?  I would have to say that a big part of the meaning of my life is the search for knowledge.  MrRage, you and I share this need.  But what if the need were satiated, THEN WHAT?

Yesterday, in fact, I was reading a short biography of the renowned philosopher, Bertrand Russell.  Apparently, Bertrand Russell was born into money, and gained a large inheritence.  The book stated that because he had no worries for money, philosophy was the next step.  If you had everything you needed materially, then what?  You devote yourself to knowledge...  And what interested me greatly is that Russell, after devoting many of his years to knowledge, came to be greatly compassionate towards other people and sought to do as much as he could for the advancement of peoples everywhere.  One of his last great passions was the prevention of nuclear proliferation.

So perhaps, the summary of this post might be this...

 After you have all you need regarding food, water, shelter, and security, then what?  (Everyone on this forum who has internet in their home has met these needs.)

You want something else.  You get bored.  You could live a base existence trying to simply survive -IN NATURE- and working day and night.  Perhaps that would be satisfying.  (Thoreau and the Fight Club quote.)  (Thoreau actually lived in a cabin in the woods as a hermit for a number of months -- learning to be a survivalist -- and the pleasures of "simplifying".)

So suppose you've got those base needs met.  Then it seems like a crossroads with several options.

Some people choose to make lots of money so they can buy shit they don't need just to entertain themselves. (Fight Club).  I have to say, I do a bit of this, but not all that much.  I live fairly simply, and spend most of my leftover money on books.

 Some people choose to fall in love, get married, and raise a family.  That is by far the norm.  Doing this can come in concert with or to the exception of earning lots of money and spending it frivolously.  Of course, kids place a large financial burden on someone.  Supposedly the satisfaction of childrearing makes up for it.

Some people choose to concern themselves with knowledge, and that's what I choose.  I don't care how much money I have, even if I had a big family, or whatever, the pursuit of knowledge would forever be an unsatiated need that propelled the meaning in my life.

But back to Thoreau, who said, "We are determined to be starved before we are hungry."  I tell you what, this scares the shit out of me, and almost seems to make the "purpose" in my life nihilistic.

I realize that if I had all the answers and the "meaning" of my life were satiated, I'd "starve" for something else to devote my time to.

In essence, life becomes a big exercise in "thirsting," "starving," and "needing" SOMETHING...

----

My conclusion, which I hope you understand by now, is that knowledge would appear to be the only human "need" that can NEVER be satiated -- hence if the purpose of our lives is "to have needs and be hungry for something" then the thirst for knowledge will keep us busy forever!

As a thought experiment to myself, I suppose I wonder what would happen if I were omniscient and this need were completely annihilated.

My response, then, would be to elevate the lives of other humans to such a state that they TOO could engage in intellectual pursuits or other luxuries -- after their base needs are met.

In essence, I'm not simply stating that we should prevent people from suffering or dying.  I'm saying that we should improve the quality of their lives.

The whole thing seems maddening however, by the fact that the entire exercise is circular reasoning and infinite regress.  There is never an end point.  HENCE, maslow's hierarchy is not a triangle or pyramid at all;  IT'S A CYCLICAL PROCESS.

I fear I have lost everyone here, as I've written this in one stream of consciousness with no editting.  A dearth of responses will signify this.

Next topic....  Buddhism. 

 


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You're a little hard to

You're a little hard to follow, doctoro, but I think I understand what you're getting at now.

Fight Club is just about my favorite movie. It really struck a chord with me. I grew up really poor, but with the understanding I could be happy without much material things. I got this attitude from my father, who's about the only Christian I know who takes Matthew 6:25-34 seriously.

Later on the band Fugazi was very influential with me. This is from their song Merchandise:
"Merchandise keeps us in line / Common sense says it's by design /
What could a businessman ever want more / than to have us sucking in his store / We owe you nothing / You have no control / You are not what you own"

Although I wouldn't hurt a fly, I found the destruction in Fight Club intoxicating. Maybe it's my desire for the rest of the world to quiet down and let me spend some time thinking.

I don't know if my need for knowledge is more than my need for love. I'd say they're about the same for me. I really value people who have the same knowledge need, and foster that in me. But I can be comfortable alone, and being around lots of people actually can give me migraines. I would value learning above recognition and success.

Anyway, down to the main point. I don't know how to answer whether or not there are objective goals for society. I would think a generally better quality of life (more happiness, less suffering) would be a goal. How to do this is debatable. How is the quality of life in the western societies? Depends on who you ask. I, for one, think my quality of life went up when I moved to a smaller town and didn't have to deal with things like commutes, loud urban environments, etc. But, my brother lives in Manhattan, and loves it. This sounds pretty subjective.

Am I getting the sense of what you're saying?