Tuesday, December 31, 2013

GE reason at work

According to almost every measure the number of Atheists in the US is increasing dramatically. The current state of Atheism has been achieved through the advance of mundane concepts like reality and sanity. Atheism has advanced, and will undoubtedly continue to advance, through the intrinsic instability of the religious system of delusion. There are three extrinsic events that could significantly destabilize the social construct of religiosity. I have decided to name these the three epiphanies, and I’ve talked about them in the past.

They are:

  1. The Cloning of a human being
  2. The singularity of an AI with human intelligence.
  3. Definitive contact with extraterrestrial intelligence.

The number of people who self-identify as not religious is increasing, while the number of people identifying as religious is decreasing. Between 2005 and 2012 the religiosity index for the USA decreased from 73% to 60%; in another decade religiosity may be a minority opinion in the US. The number of strong (self identifying) Atheists has not increased at a rate equaling that of those leaving religion. People lose faith, but they do not necessarily replace it with strong Atheism.

I have had the pleasure of “de-converting” a couple folks to strong Atheism; at least there are a couple folks who jokingly self identify as my “converts”. They have unanimously described their deconversion as a moment of little, almost no, significance; they cannot even attribute a specific moment to that point where their Faith was completely gone. They had been pleasantly free of Theism for quite a while, and then accidentally noticed that they were. They describe an overwhelming sense of “so what”. One expressed annoyance at it not being more of a great epiphany.

Converting to any Theistic religion is bound to be more exciting as one is actually discovering something so new that has literally never existed before their personal discovery of it. Unfortunately, as is the case with delusions, realizing something exists does not mean it actually does exist. Since Theistic god(s) do not exist the moments leading up to their discovery are not contaminated by hints of them.

Imagine, on the other hand, finally coming to believe in gravity. Like it or not you have been dealing with gravity before you were born. Gravity exists whether you believe in it or not. Coming to believe would be more of a succumbing to the mounting evidence, and gradually neglecting to maintain the delusional infrastructure needed to maintain a non-belief in gravity.

Each of the three great epiphanies (I think I will call them the “great” epiphanies for dramatic effect) would be something new. They are not equal in the magnitude of their impact, or in how clear it might be that they have been realized.

Certainly meeting a normal person who was conceived by cloning is very clear evidence of Great epiphany 1 having been realized. However, it is likely that religions’ would simply soft-pedal their previously intense focus of human reproductive mechanics to “accept” the reality of a clone.

Religious apologists have been moving the goal posts to avoid dealing with the realization of GE2. When AIs passed initial implementations of the Turing test new ones were devised that were more realistic. Philosophers rang in with obfuscation like the language abstraction layer in John Searle’s Chinese Room.

Realization of GE3 probably requires that we tease meaning out of some incredibly distant staticy radio broadcast. How much context is needed to understand the meaning in a broadcast signal. Imagine trying to decipher the meaning behind some randomly intercepted Pop song from Earth. Imagine trying to decipher the meaning in a few lines of the song “MacArthur Park”?

MacArthur's Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain

I don't think that I can take it
'Cause it took so long to bake it
And I'll never have that recipe again, oh noooooo

"MacArthur Park" was written by Jimmy Webb and Adrian Drover

The GEs may still be waiting in the wings, but reason plods on.

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