Idea for a play: Gödel

Kurt Gödel is a fascinating figure to me, ranking above Einstein, in many ways: more philosophical, and with a tragic life story. And many deep, misunderstood, and often little-known insights into reality that I think would appeal to people, much as Copenhagen or Life Story did.

I think he’d make a great subject for a play…

Perhaps “Against Time” as a working title.

Vanishing Point

Vanishing point is about perspective, and the singular pleasure and pain of being human.

What motivates the start of the movie is not that he ‘bets‘ his friend he can do the trip – Kowalski demands a car: he has, for a motive never stated, to leave that night and return to SF.

There is a lot un-said in this movie. It does not have the answers. Just a looming question: Why? And a simple answer, provided by Cleavon Little’s Super Soul: the last free spirit in America – speed is freedom, and, with it taken (forgive the pun) America, and, Kowalski, dies.

There are lot of details: girls, corrupt cops, simple people, simple evils… but for me, what hung it all in place was speed… skiing down a mountain, driving a car, piloting a space ship… liberation is fundamentally connected to MAD (mass * acceleration * distance). And if people thought this movie was mad, they missed the joke: it’s on you, friend.

post script: this review gives a lot of valuable detail about the film, including an explanation of why it is so visually stunning: The cinemtographer was A. Alonzo who created the aesthetic that is so important for Roman Polanski’s wonderful Jack Nicholson FIlm noir classic, Chinatown (1974).

Pascal’s Wager: Why it is wrong, and why following it suggests we should be bad, not good!

Pascal’s Wager: Why it is wrong, and why following it suggests we should be bad, not good!
Pascal’s suggested in his wager that, while we could not reasonably prove the existence of God, a rational man would nevertheless behave as if he existed, because the cost was nill and the benefit immense. By God, of course, Pascal meant the 19th Century Christian God. Because this God offered eternal life as the reward for faith and moral behavior, and assured the faithful that they could attain this reward through no-other path, the rewards for faith were indeed high.
But for Pascal’s wager to be valid, we must assess the likely utility of faith in this God not just by comparison to no faith in this God, but to faith in all the possible Gods.
Faith in any one of these other possible Gods may rule out rewards from whichever turns out to be the real God.
And we have many versions of what is required of the faithful, and mistaken choices here again rule out the reward.
Many Gods also do not offer Heaven. Greek mythology, all men pass over the Styx into Hades. To varying fates assuredly (vis Sisyphus), but none to heaven. What if God has been deposed by one of his offspring (a distinctly possible outcome even in modern christendom, and the origin of the Devil – a powerful counter-god, with his own place of eternal life). In Christian mythology, hell is bad, but the wagerer but account for the possibility that Satan is, like 20th century fighters against slavery a moral improvement from his former lord. What Pascal’s wager fails to provide, then, is any guide as to what it is we should do to gain rewards in an unknown after-world.
I also find it repugnant to conflate moral behavior with rewarded behavior, and God might too. SO, you just have to figure out what is right (most of us are well equipped to do this), and then do it (most again can).
PS: Pascal’s Triangle is still just fine 🙂
Pascal suggested in his wager that, while we could not reasonably prove the existence of God, a rational man would nevertheless behave as if he existed, because the cost was nill and the benefit immense. By God, of course, Pascal meant the 19th Century Christian God.
Because this God offered eternal life as the reward for faith and moral behavior, and assured the faithful that they could attain this reward through no-other path, the rewards for faith were indeed high.
But for Pascal’s wager to be valid, we must assess the likely utility of faith in this God not just by comparison to no faith in this God, but to faith in all the possible Gods.
Faith in any one of these other possible Gods may rule out rewards from whichever turns out to be the real God!
And there are numerous extant versions of what is required of the faithful, and mistaken choices here again rule out the reward.
Even worse, many Gods do not offer Heaven. Greek mythology, all men pass over the Styx into Hades. To varying fates assuredly (vis Sisyphus), but none to heaven.
Finally, what if God has been deposed by one of his offspring (a distinctly possible outcome even in modern christendom, and the origin of the Devil – a powerful counter-god, with his own place of eternal life). Belief on the ex-God may now be punished. Alternatively, while in Christian mythology, hell is bad, the wagerer must  account for the possibility that Satan is, like 20th century fighters against slavery a moral improvement from his former lord.
We might too look around, and wonder about the God who chose to expresss his creation through millenia of evolution and extinction, and even today programs sentient beings with crippling genetic diseases. You might too, like me and many moral philosophers, find it repugnant to conflate moral behavior with rewarded behavior, and God might too: Faking it won’t work.
What Pascal’s wager fails to provide, then, is any guide as to what it is we should do to gain rewards in an unknown after-world.
So, you just have to figure out what is right (most of us are well equipped to do this), and then do it (most again can).
PS: Pascal’s Triangle is still just fine 🙂

Gedanken experiment

I read the phrase gedanken experiment the other day, and though I knew from reading about Einstein as a kid that this means “thought experiment” I was stimulated to learn more about the word gedanken. Finding it was not in my Dictionary made me think about what I thought it meant—Not a bad thing to do.

Of course a Gedanken experiment is exactly the opposite of an experiment: it is armchair theorizing: Not much different, then, from making up some data. However, while a Gedanken experiment is not experiment, it does capture what is missing from definitions of science which focus on hypothesis testing: Science is Gedanken + experimentation: thinking, creativity, and conversations with oneself and others— disciplined and made practical by testing with data.