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Topics - CavemanDoctor

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Off-Topic / MOVED: Ben Ali Flees.
« on: January 15, 2011, 12:37:59 AM »

General Issues / Questions / Your lot in life -- a thought experiment
« on: November 01, 2010, 04:20:49 PM »
The 'concept of sin' thread got me thinking about who we are and the challenges that are put before us.  In particular, a verse alalmakt posted:

23:62    And We do not burden a soul except with what it can bear. And We have a record that speaks with the truth, they will not be wronged.

Reminds me of this story I heard once.  A boy and his parents visited a poor city in a third world country. The boy was visibly upset over how many poor people there were, particularly poor children.  The boy saw a particular poor boy begging for money, and asked his mother, "why do I get food and he doesn't?"

I think it's a key question; one which we all ask ourselves at some point.  The basic question of "Why am I me and not someone else?"  We're so used to being 'me' that we rarely stop to think, "did it have to be this way?" 

Though it's been overused, I've always liked the Teilhard de Chardin quote: "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.  We are spiritual beings having a human experience."  We are not our physical bodies.  Rather, we are souls who use our physical bodies as tools to experience this particular plane of existence.  This is made abundantly clear when the qur'an speaks of a life we had before this one (see, e.g. 33:72).

So the question naturally arises: if we are not just who we are in this particular life, then who are we?  And why were we given this particular life?  Surely it's not just 'the luck of the draw.'

Speaking personally, I am an Iranian male who was born in the United States to a particular set of parents, with a younger brother.  It's absolutely astonishing how much of my life and its various challenges have been dictated by those few simple facts.  I was given, and am given, certain luxuries because of my lot in life, much of which was out of my control.  I was just born into it.  But why?  Why wasn't I born, say, into a female body in Bangladesh?  Nothing happens for no reason, so we have to assume it relates back to the verse alalmakt posted: everyone is given a different set of challenges, based on their lot in life.  God does not predestine our lives for us, but I firmly believe He does place each soul into a particular human body, knowing the set of experiences the soul will have to confront at different points in his or her life.  The key is in how the soul responds to the experiences.

This isn't just some intellectual exercise.  When thinking about these issues, and framing the things that happen to me through this perspective, I've found I'm much more likely to be thoughtful about how I'll approach a particular problem.  Whereas before, when some person did something negative to me, I'd get upset and wonder "why me?" now I often think differently.   My antennae go up and I think "ah yeah, there's a reason for this; my whole life has been leading up to this point." 

I know it sounds hoky but when thinking about your life experience in these terms, instead of cursing those who harm you, you learn to actually thank them for giving you the opportunity for growth.  Without those negative roles in your life, you'd have no chance to evolve.  You were meant to cross paths, so that they would be blessings in disguise for you.

Maybe, e.g., you were born to particularly harsh parents, who you feel oppress you.  Instead of wondering why you got unlucky, sit back and think about the situation as objectively as possible.  Why did this happen?  Perhaps they personify a test of patience for you.  Maybe your particular spiritual growth would be accelerated through patience, through learning to speak up for yourself, through confidence and courage, etc.  The point is none of this is just pure dumb luck.  People and situations intersect with us, for a reason.  Something like who your parents are is obviously an indicator of a much bigger test, than, say, a casual acquaintance.  But even that acquaintance may be the personification of some minor test for you. 

This is nothing novel of course.  The stories of the various prophets in the qur'an display this.  The prophets are archetypes, parables of how individuals can react to different life situations.  E.g. Job and Solomon are two poles on one spectrum; Solomon was given wealth and power, Job quite the opposite.  Both had different routes in life, but both met the challenges and presumably arrived at a similar destination.

Post is already long-winded so I'll just say this.  I think it'd be best if we conducted a thorough self-examination, asking ourselves why we are who we are.  Why are we born into this particular family, into this specific environment, with this particular human body?  There have to be reasons for this.  And connecting those dots might just give us that much more of an edge when dealing with the various challenges that befall us.

Off-Topic / Random Chain Story Post...
« on: October 30, 2010, 05:21:02 AM »
Ok, so I was told I was a bit too unamusing in my prior posts so I thought I'd try a random topic. 

Starting an RPG post of sorts.  A chain story comprising random paragraphs from all who post.  I'll start out a story with my paragraph and all who buzz in will latch on contributions to it.  Corny?  Probably.  But I'm a corny guy so....


Atop a mountain, away from all townsfolk, stands a vagrant.  Looking down at a city, glancing back and forth, focusing, our Unknown Man thinks about his plan.

"It will dumbfound all who pass by it," our Unknown Man says aloud, nary a soul around.  "Nobody will know it's coming."

With an odd grin, our vagrant walks toward his old and worn out bag.  Struggling to drag it along, our Unknown Man finally stops and sits, untying it.  Taking it out of his bag, our Unknown Man shouts out a maniacal laugh.

"Nobody will know it's coming."

Peace all,

The more I think about it, the more I realize human language is a key component to the puzzle of our existence insofar as it arose concurrently with a consciousness of self.

2:31 "And He taught Adam the names of all things, then He displayed them to the angels and said: Inform Me of the names of these if you are truthful."

This verse is often taken to mean that God gave humanity the gift of knowledge.  And while I certainly think that is part of it, I actually think the verse may be referring more to the gift of language.  Metaphorically, language is the ability to "name things." 

But, it is much more than that.  Certainly, the main distinction one can draw between human beings and other animals is that, while animals have consciousness, human beings have self-consciousness.  We are aware of our own consciousness.  We know that we know.  I think, in a very real way, human language -- this ability given to us by God -- is a window to the Divine.  With the gift of language, a mental revolution occurred.  A new realm of existence opened up.  And I'm not being facetious, I mean that literally.  With language, the human being -- a local animal constrained by a primate nervous system -- was able to experience the non-local realm of the Divine, was able to transcend spacetime and engage in otherworldly activity for the first time. 

Think of it: our souls, our sense of self, would not exist if not for language.  They go hand in hand.  When you are alone in your head, navigating the interior that is your mental space, you are inevitably engaged in an inner dialogue, an expression of language.  You think "I am hungry," "I am happy," "I am CavemanDoctor," etc. etc. These are all inner expressions of language.  Without language, there would be no sense of "I" with which you identify.  You would not feel a separateness at all.  The language-less soul-less organism would merely be a facet of the universe doing its thing, not unlike a star spewing out radiation, an ocean crashing onto a shore, or an orange tree spawning an orange.

But with this gift given to us by the Divine, the human being has been able to transcend the universe.  Through this transcendence, the universe doubles back on itself.  The human being becomes the eyes through which the universe sees itself, the vehicle through which the universe becomes cognizant of its own existence.  God has given us this gift, and concomitant responsibility.  The human being has become the "khalif" of this material universe (2:30) because he has been given the ability to "name things."

Language and self-consciousness are two sides of the same coin.  The coin is the soul.

Remarkably, paleontological evidence closely aligns with this line of thought.  Date ranges vary but, roughly speaking, the human being (Homo sapiens sapiens) emerged onto the scene roughly 200,000 years ago.  Anatomically speaking, if we were to find a perfectly preserved specimen from 200,000 years ago, it would resemble me and you today.  If you'd carve open its cranium, you'd see the same brain that me and you carry around in our heads today.  And yet, that human being was a drastically different organism.  He used very rudimentary stone-axes, and was by almost all accounts, just an animal.  He might have been able to grunt and point but he had no use of language in the sense we are talking about here. 

This continued for 150,000 years or so.  Then, about 50,000-40,000 years ago, something bizarre happened.  Though the anatomy stayed the same, the human being almost overnight completely and utterly changed.  Tools became inexplicably advanced, visual expression found its way onto cave walls, and by most accounts, human language arose.  This is one of the modern mysteries of evolutionary biology.  So drastic was the change that paleontologists call it The Great Leap Forward.  Language, art, and culture sprang forth from the same brain that existed for 150,000 years prior.  And what bothers evolutionary biologists is that it happened so suddenly.  Materialist reductionists like to think everything happens randomly within the confines of natural selection, and therefore changes are made gradually.  But, the evidence in this case, disagrees.  150,000 years nothing....then suddenly, BOOM.  Massive, massive changes in human behavior without any anatomical change.  Biologists have been backed into a corner and speculate as to a "neural rewiring of the brain" due to some "major genetic mutation."  Of course, this is wild speculation. 

It was as if...gasp, a soul had been suddenly inculcated into Homo sapiens sapiens, changing it from an advanced primate into a full-fledged human being.  The Creator introduced the soul, a Divine spark, into the advanced primate, simultaneously giving rise to language and a concept of consciousness of self. 

General Issues / Questions / 'Having no doubt whatsoever...'
« on: October 10, 2010, 01:52:17 AM »
49:15 "Mu'mens (believers) are those who believe in GOD and His messenger, then attain the status of having no doubt whatsoever, and strive with their money and their lives in the cause of GOD. These are the truthful ones."

I'm not sure what the purpose of this thread is except to say that I have had a very bizarre year of sorts, the feeling of which the bolded part of this verse captures for me.

For the longest time, I have had a belief in God.  It was mostly arrived at logically, through intellectual means, peppered here and there with glimmers of actual experience of the Divine.  The glimmers weren't sufficiently overwhelming enough for me to completely remove all doubt.  My ego always chattered to me, whispered at me, suggesting that this or that experience could just be coincidence, delusion, or desire. 

I had a highly personal experience recently which I can't really talk about, but which was undoubtedly a 'mystical' experience as the wisdom traditions call it.  I can now fully relate to 49:15.  I have zero doubt.  I am 10,000% positive God exists.  In fact, even speaking of it in those terms does it no justice.  Talking about percentages belittles it.  It implies being convinced of something, and being convinced still implies an intellect at work, and it's much more than that.  My intellect has been satisfied for a while; I'm talking more about an experience.  A transition from belief/faith into knowledge/experience.  No more leap of faith, but rather absolute certitude.

17:36 "And do not uphold what you have no knowledge of. For the hearing, eyesight, and heart, all these you are responsible for."

My hearing and eyesight (i.e. sensory-intellectual apparatuses) were always convinced but now my heart knows as well.

Has anyone else felt this?  If so, was it one significant experience?  Or a gradual process? Care to share what spurred it on?

What actually prompted me to make this thread was Carl Jung.  My favorite psychologist of all time, a great scholar who fused spirituality with the science of the mind.  When he was 82 years old, he gave this interview to BBC.  In this 20 second clip, he's asked about his belief in God.  And what he says, and the peaceful knowing smile he says it with, hits the nail on the head for me.

I would never presume enough to compare myself to Jung or to call myself a mu'min, but all I know is I now have felt exactly what Jung felt:

And it's such a beautiful feeling.  Excuse the sentimentality.  :D


Discuss Latest World News / Super Harvest Moon tonight
« on: September 22, 2010, 01:15:10 PM »
Not sure how this affects those in the Southern Hemisphere but for those in the North, today is apparently a very rare event with regard to the moon.  Should be interesting.


Sept. 22, 2010:  For the first time in almost 20 years, northern autumn is beginning on the night of a full Moon. The coincidence sets the stage for a "Super Harvest Moon" and a must-see sky show to mark the change of seasons.

The action begins at sunset on Sept 22nd, the last day of northern summer. As the sun sinks in the west, bringing the season to a close, the full Harvest Moon will rise in the east, heralding the start of fall. The two sources of light will mix together to create a kind of 360-degree, summer-autumn twilight glow that is only seen on rare occasions.
Super Harvest Moon (moonrise, 550px)
The Harvest Moon of Oct. 3, 2009, photographed by Catalin M. Timosca of Turda, Romania.

Keep an eye on the Moon as it creeps above the eastern skyline. The golden orb may appear strangely inflated. This is the Moon illusion at work. For reasons not fully understood by astronomers or psychologists, a low-hanging Moon appears much wider than it really is. A Harvest Moon inflated by the moon illusion is simply gorgeous.

The view improves as the night wears on.
Super Harvest Moon (conjunction, 200px)
A Moon-Jupiter conjunction on Aug. 26, 2010. Credit: Tom Cocchiaro.

Northern summer changes to fall on Sept. 22nd at 11:09 pm EDT. At that precise moment, called the autumnal equinox, the Harvest Moon can be found soaring high overhead with the planet Jupiter right beside it. The two brightest objects in the night sky will be in spectacular conjunction to mark the change in seasons.

The Harvest Moon gets its name from agriculture. In the days before electric lights, farmers depended on bright moonlight to extend the workday beyond sunset. It was the only way they could gather their ripening crops in time for market. The full Moon closest to the autumnal equinox became "the Harvest Moon," and it was always a welcome sight.

This one would be extra welcome because it is extra "Harvesty."

Usually, the Harvest Moon arrives a few days to weeks before or after the beginning of fall. It's close, but not a perfect match. The Harvest Moon of 2010, however, reaches maximum illumination a mere six hours after the equinox. This has led some astronomers to call it the "Harvestest Moon" or a "Super Harvest Moon." There hasn't been a comparable coincidence since Sept 23, 1991, when the difference was about 10 hours, and it won't happen again until the year 2029.

A Super Harvest Moon, a rare twilight glow, a midnight conjunction?rarely does autumn begin with such celestial fanfare.

Enjoy the show!

General Issues / Questions / MOVED: Where is the edit button
« on: February 17, 2010, 03:16:35 AM »

General Issues / Questions / Let's discuss some Theistic Proofs
« on: March 23, 2008, 09:38:05 PM »
Peace all,

I am curious as to what Theistic Proofs users on the forum subscribe to, either consciously or unconsciously.  We can hopefully discuss these Theistic Proofs in kind, in order to better substantiate the rationality of our beliefs (See qur'an 17:36). 

Some basic points:

1) By Theistic Proofs, I propose to mean arguments that you adopt as evidence for the rationality of your belief in a God. 
2) A Theistic Proof need not be a deductive argument (i.e. an argument whose conclusion must be true, if the premises are true) since I'm sure many of us would agree that such arguments are uncommon vis a vis the belief in God. 
3) Rather, Theistic Proofs in my experience tend to be inductive arguments (i.e. arguments whose conclusions are rendered probable, given the truth of their premises).
4) Since we oft discuss them elsewhere on the forum, I prefer to only speak of non-qur'anic Theistic Proofs.  That is to say, let's not discuss Theistic Proofs that have at their foundation the divinity of the qur'an (e.g. the argument from science, the argument from inimitability, the argument from mathematics, etc.)

So with those considerations in mind, what are some Theistic Proofs that you all subscribe to?  Hopefully this thread can foster some serious discussion.  :bravo:

And if you are of the view that Theistic Proofs aren't worthwhile intellectual pursuits, or are unnecessary (in any sense of the term), please discuss why, as that in itself is a fundamental question in the philosophy of religion.

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