Thinking

I get great pleasure out of thinking. Concentrating on the meaning of life is as satisfying to me as, I presume, it is for a golfer to concentrate on an important putt. I don’t place any greater or lesser importance on my pleasure than on the golfer’s pleasure. I write these thoughts largely for myself though it is quite possible that if I were the only person in the world, I would not bother.
Would I still think if I were alone? One of the things I have found when I am alone is that I frequently think in the past tense. “As I walked up the road toward Mt. Vesuvius from where the bus had dropped me …” I was 27 when I was having that thought in those words while climbing Mt. Vesuvius. I wrote them down in my diary along with the thought “If there was only one person left on earth, and he was I; He would die. Why?”
Why? Because the thought in my head seemed to indicate that I was not climbing through a flowering orchard on a spring day with the cone of Vesuvius ahead of me for my current pleasure but rather for an experience that I could relate to others. Otherwise, why were not my thoughts in the present tense?
Deep breath. “Ahhh. The air is so sweet. God! I love this.” I breathe the air again. I look toward a sound and see a bird. As I emerge from the orchard and start up the cone I can feel my body carrying me upward smoothly. I pause and turn to look out over the bay of Naples. No words in my head about what I am doing. I’m just doing it. No recording necessary.
Would my mind be blank, blank of worded thoughts that is? I shouldn’t think so. The bird might call to mind something I know of birds that could be added to. The fragrance of the air might recall a spring day somewhere in my past. The pull of gravity on my body might bring thoughts of pride at my fitness or a resolve to become more fit. But I’m glad my thoughts weren’t in the present tense. Realizing that brought the philosophical thought, that I was not doing this for myself alone. It is those somehow larger thoughts that I enjoy most, larger and ever so debatable.
There are many things I would not do were there not other people to tell but that is a different thing from thinking. If all other people on the planet suddenly disappeared, would I stop thinking? First I would probably think that was strange. Then I might think it a bit frightening. My life would clearly be different with no one to talk to. I would have to sort out my needs and figure out how to meet them. There would be no one to generate electricity or make matches. How would I cook food? Where would I find food? There would be a lot to think about, at least at first.
At age 27 I thought that I would die if I were the last person on earth. Now, I’m not so sure. Of course I would die eventually but I’m not sure that I would just curl up and die because the only reason for living was to communicate with others. I think I would want to solve the important questions like food and shelter and then I think I would be able to amuse myself with thoughts about the meaning of it all. What was going on? What was I supposed to be doing? The thoughts might not be global or cosmic so much as “What is over the horizon?” “Am I truly alone in the world or are there people that I can find somewhere?” “How did this happen?” Ah, the thoughts seem to progress toward the more philosophical fairly soon.
It is difficult to try to understand thinking before there was language. One model would be animals, I suppose. What does the woodchuck think when it’s nose touches my electric fence for the first time? How do animals learn to be fearful of predators? Are they fearful or merely cautious? What did the early hominid think before language? Can there be thoughts before language?
If I try to think without using words, I think I can have thoughts. Are they thoughts or emotions? Certainly they would be extremely limited absent thoughts from others through written and spoken words. Hunger, shelter, sex are processed through the brain. Those are the “thoughts” I can imagine without words as I sit here half a million or so years later. It was clearly thoughts that brought about the development of tools. It has only been within the past 3,000 years that we have been thinking philosophically. Most of our thought up until then, I suspect, was focused on survival and on improving the quality of life.
What is my dog thinking when she huddles close to me during a thunder storm? What is she thinking when, alone in the house during a thunder storm, she gets into the bathtub? If dogs could communicate about things like thunder, would they exchange ideas on how to cope, try out each others ideas, and come to a general agreement on which strategy worked best?
Before language did hominids wonder what thunder was all about? Did they try to figure out a reason behind it? Once they developed language how did they come to the conclusion that thunder was caused by a god driving his chariot across the sky? As I try to think myself into the skin of people living under those conditions it seems a pretty logical explanation for something that was inexplicable at that time.

Another country heard from

Thomas, you wrote, ” I do believe there was a man named Jesus who grew up in Nazareth.”

I don’t. I’ve only recently come to this conclusion after I read this:

http://rosarubicondior.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-historical-evidence-for-jesus.html

Good stuff, though, even if he was a myth… If only people read the Jefferson Bible instead of the King James version.

Another Country

Thank you, Another Country. The link is excellent and I think we are in agreement that there is good stuff in the New Testament whether or not Jesus put on his sandals one foot at a time or if he existed. My fundamentalist friend, Michael, thinks there is good stuff also; I have asked him twice which was more important believing Jesus was the way to heaven or living a good life. He has not answered either time which leads me to believe he thinks believing is more important than understanding or doing.
I tend to believe there was a man who got it right who lived about the time attributed to Jesus and that a number of people heard him and realized he was onto something. The disciples became, if not already, itinerant preachers. They tried to get people to understand the message and as they traveled around they embellished the story creating the myth that is the New Testament. Folks who use their minds, however they got them, can see the beauty of the message of loving everyone and try to bring it into their own lives. Followers, dare I say sheep, pick up the easy way which was probably not part of the original message and can go to bed comforted every night because they have accepted Jesus as their savior and whatever they did during the day is less important. I feel quite sure that the person who understood loving neighbors and enemies as stated directly and through the parables never said he was the way into heaven as that notion is not at all loving

Darwin Still Disputed

When I read that one third of Americans don’t believe in evolution my cynical self branded them as Republican rightwing nuts. Reading further I found that “43% of Republicans and 67% of Democrats say humans have evolved, a 24-point gap.”  It took Christians 100 years to accept the science that the earth was not the center of the universe. Evolution is taking a bit longer. On The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin was published in 1859.

Enjoy this Pew report:

http://www.pewforum.org/2013/12/30/publics-views-on-human-evolution/

Climate Change Dialogue III

ME: How do you feel about the following two quotes?

“Suddenly the hockey stick, the poster-child of the global warming community, turns out to be an artifact of poor mathematics. That discovery hit me like a bombshell, and I suspect it is having the same effect on many others. How could it happen?”
Richard Muller October 2004
OF: From what I’ve read about Mr. Mann’s hockey stick theory, I definitely agree with the comment.
ME: How about this one?
“It’s a scientist’s duty to be properly skeptical. I still find that much, if not most, of what is attributed to climate change is speculative, exaggerated or just plain wrong. I’ve analyzed some of the most alarmist claims, and my skepticism about them hasn’t changed.” Richard Muller July 2012

OF: I think the second comment hits on what I’ve been saying for a long time … there can’t be that many “climate scientists” on the planet … we wind up with a lot of people with degrees in biology and other scientific fields writing articles on things well beyond their core competency, but it’s all feel-good sort of stuff and gets lots of support.

ME: OK, Old Friend, this is my last shot; I’ll leave you alone on this subject after this. Those quotes by Richard Muller, a global warming denier questioned the temperature statistics used by climatologists. He created Berkeley Earth http://berkeleyearth.org/to address potential biases in the land surface temperature record and got grants, among others a $150,000 grant from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. He felt there were biases from urban heating, from data selection, from poor station quality and from human intervention and data adjustment.
Please take a serious look at this research and tell me how it is flawed.

http://berkeleyearth.org/pdf/berkeley-earth-press-release-july-29.pdf

OF: while I’m reviewing what you sent, please take a squint at this:

Subject: Amid criticism, Berkeley Earth extends record, upholds findings : Nature News Blog

http://blogs.nature.com/news/2012/07/amid-criticism-berkeley-earth-extends-record-upholds-findings.html

Apparently some folks think Mr Muller is a flipping idiot … certainly not me … I do hope he’s not doing that tree ring thing

ME: Thanks for this link. I enjoyed it immensely especially the link to climatologist Judith Curry’s blog where I found this quote from climatologist Ken Caldeira:
I am glad that Muller et al have taken a look at the data and have come to essentially the same conclusion that nearly everyone else had come to more than a decade ago. The basic scientific results have been established for a long time now, so I do not see the results of Muller et al as being scientifically important. However, their result may be politically important. It shows that even people who suspect climate scientists of being charlatans, when they take a hard look at the data, see that the climate scientists have been right all along.

***I am looking forward to my friend’s response to the Berkley Earth research and conclusions in which Professor Muller states:

“Much to my surprise, by far the best match was to the record of atmospheric carbon dioxide, measured from atmospheric samples and air trapped in polar ice.” Muller emphasizes that the match between the data and the theory doesn’t prove that carbon dioxide is responsible for the warming but the good fit makes it the strongest contender. “To be considered seriously, any alternative explanation must match the data at least as well as does carbon dioxide.”

Global Warming Dialogue II

You may recall from Dialogue I that I asked my Climate Change Denier Friend if he felt dismissing 6 panels that exonerated the East Anglia scientists after the hacked emails was a reasonable approach to denying the validity of their work.

Old Friend: You got me … didn’t even read what you provided about those panels … I gave up on them when one of the first ones came out exonerating the guy from Penn State.

ME: So, if something comes along that doesn’t agree with your view, you disregard it, don’t even try to understand because your mind is made up?

OF: Don’t even recall why I found that to be a rigged jury, but I did.

ME: I believe I told you why. It was a very, very spurious argument. “Rigged jury” on

House of Commons Science and Technology Committee (UK)
Independent Climate Change Email Review (UK)
International Science Assessment Panel (UK)
Pennsylvania State University (US)
United States Environmental Protection Agency (US)
Department of Commerce (US)

Here is how you did it.  . Throw out House of Commons Committee (government and all governments are corrupt); Independent Review (one of this group was connected with E.A.); International Panel (government); Penn State (a guy there was among the emailers); EPA (they never do anything right); and the Dept of Commerce (government).

There. Now you don’t have to do any digging to try to figure out why you found those six panels to be rigged. I think Associated Press did some digging also but that’s liberal media so easily dismissed. I wouldn’t want you to worry about how you dismissed and continue to dismiss all of the climate models but it seems to me that this one event (the emails) and dismissing the findings of the panels has done that. It seems to me that if something doesn’t fit what you believe to be the case, you dismiss it.

OF: There was more than enough smoke to confirm to my satisfaction the existence of several fires.  Defending East Anglia would seem to be the height of folly … not too many even try.

ME: You dismiss the fact that 97% of climate scientists around the world believe that human activity is causing global warming.

OF: I think the fact that East Anglia University and its long list of (discredited) resident scholars have faded into virtual nonexistence on the global warming issue is all anyone needs to know.

ME: Interesting piece of information. The East Anglia climate model is still in the forefront. I believe it has been mentioned in some of the links I sent you. You see, when the six or more panels exonerated the scientists they were, well, exonerated, at least in the eyes of all but followers of Murdock Media.

OF: Fact is, their tidal wave of grant money intended to prove the point has dwindled to a tiny ripple.  They screwed the pooch and everyone knows it … well, almost everyone, certainly those shoveling money.

ME: I’d love to know the source of this information.

Note: My Old Friend has not responded to this perhaps because I asked him to send me credible links other than blogs and opinion pieces.