Archives for posts with tag: God made man in his own image

The human head works like an organic computer.
It has a ‘hard’ component. Which is actually soft. The brain tissue.
And many levels of ‘software’.

You might want to skip this introductory part if you’re not familiar with/interested in how computers work
The ‘machine code’. The inner workings of the brain. The ‘things’ which continue to function when we’re not at all conscious. Breathing, coordination of the of various organs which keep us alive, etc.
‘Assembly language’. The level which works on ’emotions’/’feelings’. A not yet conscious baby suckles when hungry and cries when uncomfortable. A patient with dementia is not a ‘fully functional human being’ but can learn/retain many human functions.
‘High-level language’. Human conscience. While the ‘machine code’ and the ‘assembly language’ levels run in the ‘background’, human conscience constantly evaluates ‘what’s going on’ and decides ‘the next move’.

Humans, like computers, work a lot better when ‘put together’.
Each individual’s human conscience develops only ‘in concert’ with other people while the most powerful computer chip is ‘dead’ before the operating system has been installed. A (mature) individual human being might survive in isolation, but not for very long. A computer is completely useless if not ‘put to work’ by an ‘operator’. Alone or ‘inside’ a network.

Computers can ‘cooperate’ because we made them so.
Even if using various operating systems and communication protocols, we – humans, have developed them – computers, in such a way that we can communicate with them and they can communicate among themselves.

For humans to be able to communicate among themselves, they need a common language.

Computers do not need to coordinate among themselves. We’ve made them, instructed them, in such a manner that they (still) do what they are told.

For humans to be able to coordinate themselves – to act in a congruent manner, they need to use – or at least to acknowledge, the same referential system.

To think ‘alike’ or, at least, to acknowledge that ‘those who do not think like me/us might have a point’.

Historically speaking, humankind has achieved ‘coherence’ through the use of ‘religion’.

‘Reality’ – which was far more complex ‘before’ simply because the unknown is the place where fantasy is free to give birth to anything, had to be tamed. Translated into ‘operable’ things. Into generally accepted concepts. Into generally accepted ‘myths’.
And for as long as a given set of ‘foundational myths’ had maintained their ‘magic’, the religion which had been developed starting from those myths had continued to be ‘the coalescing factor’ for the community which believed those myths. Or, at least, behaved as if those myths were still ‘valid’.
Whenever those myths had failed – or were no longer enough, the corresponding religion had been quickly replaced. By another.
This was the heave-ho approach. Wholesale replacement of the referential system, which is both ‘wasteful’ and time-consuming.

In time, people have learned that it was far more ‘efficient’ to pay ‘lip service’ to each-other’s opinions
when the other side was too ‘strong’ for outright ‘coercion’. Read “conversion”.

When/where things had become ‘ripe’, some people had invented ‘science’.

Science, like religion, is a manner of thinking. A manner of translating reality into something which can be managed by the human brain.

Religion relies on a set of ‘axioms’. Which had been considered true – by those who had established any given religion, at the moment when that particular religion had been established. When freshly acquired knowledge diverges too far – and too convincingly, from the until then generally accepted ‘founding myths’, the religion which depends on those myths conserving their ‘allure’ is abandoned in totum.

Science, on the other hand, relies on a different set of ‘beliefs’.
Derived from the basic tenet of the Judaeo-Christian creed and no less axiomatic but still different.
The point being that instead of trying to fit any new information into the previously held set of ‘teachings’ science mandates the diligent use of the ‘scientific method’ whenever we attempt to evaluate any ‘piece of knowledge’:

Reproducibility: ‘do I find/learn the same thing each and every time I examine this phenomenon/class of objects using this particular procedure?

Peer review: Does everybody else who examines the same subject, using the same procedure, reach the same results? In earnest?

Falsifiability: Does the subject of our musing have a correspondent in reality? Are we concerned about something which has consequences? Can this particular ‘piece of knowledge’ be proven wrong? Or, at least, incomplete?

The three paragraphs above have described the scientific method yet I still have to mention the Judaeo-Christian belief without which science makes absolutely no sense.

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness, to rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, and over all the earth itself and every creature that crawls upon it“.

According to the Old Testament, God had made man to “rule… over all the earth itself”. Which means that God was going to refrain himself from performing other miracles. The Earth being entrusted to the rule of man means that man was going to ‘see’ the same thing each and every time he was looking at the same thing. From that moment, ‘things’ were going to ‘happen’ in a ‘rigorous’ manner. No more ‘hanky-panky’, no more divine intrusion. From then on, things were going to happen according to the ‘law’. ‘Regularly’, hence ‘reproduciblely’. In a consistent manner!
Again according to the Old Testament, ‘God had made man in His image’. Hence all men – and women, had been created equal. In the same image, that is. And all men – and women, harbor something ‘special’. A spark of divinity! They have all been created in the image of God itself, hence they all should respect each-other. And each-others’ opinions! Hence ‘peer-review’.
All that remains to be ‘explained away’ is the small matter of falsifiability. Of science concerning itself only with verifiable subjects. Which brings us back what was the man supposed to rule over. ‘The earth itself’. The realm of reality. Man – men and women, were supposed to rule over ‘reality’, not over other people.
They were supposed to concern themselves with ‘evident’/measurable things found ‘on earth’, not with ‘fancy’ figments of ‘unaccountable imagination’.

Ooops!
If both religion – well, at least the Judaeo-Christian one, and science depend on the same axiom/fundamental myth, then where’s the difference?
As I mentioned before, whenever fresh knowledge contradicts ‘irreparably’ the before held religious convictions, the community who upholding those convictions reaches a ‘passage rite’. Has to either ‘close its eyes’ – actually denying reality, or change its religion. The very definition of the ‘heave-ho’ approach.
For those using the ‘scientific method’, things are a lot simpler. And smoother. For them, reality suffers a constant change. Piece-meal instead of wholesale. ‘Easy-does’ it instead of ‘gung ho’.

One other thing before I let you go.

“If you’re not a scientist, and disagree with scientists about science, that’s not disagreement! You’re just wrong!”

Well, this is the most unscientific thing I’ve read for a long time.
What comes next makes absolute sense. If you apply the scientific method to “Science is not truth. Science is finding the truth.” you determine that the message is consistent, agreed among the peers and falsifiable. Science can be misused and, potentially, the very meaning of the word can change in time. For now, the generally accepted meaning of ‘science’ is, indeed, ‘the path towards truth’. And, by definition, all scientific knowledge is considered to be ‘improvable’. Hence forever ‘not yet true’.
Coming back to the ‘disagreement’ part, this is an obvious ‘sleigh of hand’. For starters, ‘scientists’ do not concern themselves with ‘science’. Each of them controls an area of expertise. Which is not the entire science…
Furthermore, what does it mean ‘you’re not a scientist’?!? You don’t have a formal accreditation? Anybody who uses the scientific method when examining the reality is a scientist, regardless of their credentials.
I presume the author meant well. There are quite a few people out there who are in the ‘business’ of sowing doubt. Who contradict whatever ‘starts their ire’. Who very ‘skillfully’ spin apparently convincing words about subjects of utmost importance. But if we want to remain true to our words, if we want to remain on the straight and narrow path to truth, we must convince our audience with arguments. We must un-spin those ‘words’ in a rigorous manner.
Using the very same set of ‘spinning skills’ downgrades us to ‘their’ level.
As the saying goes, ‘Don’t allow your opponents to drag you to their level of expertise. Remain on yours. Any attempt to beat the other guy using their weapons will, more often than not, yield the undesired result. For the obvious reason that they have used those weapons for far longer than you’.

One of the oldest literary works, a poem written some 4 millennia ago, is about the prince of the land, Gilgamesh, helping his ‘commoner’ friend, Enkidu, to reach ‘full human-hood’. Along with the rest of the people under Gilgamesh’s stewardship.

Prometheus, the Titan who had given us “the gift of fire and the skill of metalwork“,  ended up chained to a pole and having his liver eaten out by an eagle.

The Jewish God had made Man in His own image. All men, and women, equal among themselves – since they had all been cast in the same mould, and all of them sharing a divine spark – since that mould had been made in God’s resemblance.

Some two and a half millennia ago, in India, Siddhartha Gautama – the highly pampered son of a local ruler, had figured out – and started to teach his followers, that the manner in which you lead your life is far more important than being celebrated as a winner.

About the same time, in China, Laozi had written a “handbook for the ruler. He should be a sage whose actions pass so unnoticed that his very existence remains unknown. He imposes no restrictions or prohibitions on his subjects; “so long as I love quietude, the people will of themselves go straight. So long as I act only by inactivity, the people will of themselves become prosperous.””.

Two millennia ago, in Jerusalem, a teacher had reminded us that God’s teachings have been meant to be followed in earnest, not ‘faked’ in a callous manner. And that we should respect each-other, regardless of our respective ranks.

Less than three short centuries ago, Adam Smith had figured out that human society has passed through a series of ‘stages’:  “the original “rude” state of hunters, a second stage of nomadic agriculture, a third stage of feudal, or manorial, “farming,” and a fourth and final stage of commercial interdependence.
‘Commercial interdependence’ meaning that each and every one of us depends on everybody else.

“We don’t expect our dinner from the benevolence of the butcher, brewer, or baker but from their regard for their own interest; we appeal not to their humanity but to their self-love, and talk to them not of our needs but of their advantages.”

Adam Smith,
An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 1776

In other words, Adam Smith reiterates the very same thing that has been already told so many times in so many ways.

That it is in the interest of each and everyone of us for the free market to remain free. If we allow any of the ‘butcher’, ‘brewer’ or ‘baker’ to take any kind of precedence over any of the other – or over any one of us, then we are all doomed. Including those who had enjoyed, for a while, the spoils of ‘precedence’.

I’m not making much sense here?

Let’s take a short glimpse back.

Not many of Gilgamesh’s ‘nephews’ have followed his example.
During their rule, the area had been a quagmire of internecine warfare. It still is, unfortunately.

Prometheus’ is a very interesting story.
His very gallant exploit was punished dearly.
What if there is some hidden meaning to it? Related to that of the ‘original sin’?

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

So what do we have here?
The serpent gives Eve an advice – which comes to be true, Adam and Eve haven’t died from eating ‘the apple’.
Adam and Eve ‘realize they were naked’ and dress themselves.
God finds out and chastises Adam: ‘what have you done? Haven’t I told you not to eat from that tree?’.
Adam snitches on his woman, the one made from his own rib, at his own request:  “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” And Eve passed the blame along to her teacher…

Well, maybe there is a sort of an ‘original sin’… and not one necessarily based on our tendency to disobey orders… after all, ‘disobeying’ is the only way to learn anything…

Let’s go back to the Bible.

22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”

What if God was not as much mad at Adam and Eve for acceding to self awareness as he was afraid of what they will do with their newly acquired skill? Specially if they would have been allowed to hone it for any considerable amount of time?
Specially when considering what each of them had done after they had learned about their individual oneness? Tried to blame others for what each of them had done?
Each of them had tried to use whatever difference there was between their individual beings and all the rest to their exclusive advantage? As a way to invent and win a competition instead of a reason to start and engage in a cooperative effort?

Would it be farfetched to interpret this episode as ‘God, in his immense wisdom, knew that allowing an imperfect ‘knowledgeable person’ to ‘hold on to power’ for too long would transform that person into a tyrant?’.
For we are, all of us, ‘imperfect knowledgeable persons’… regardless of what we think about ourselves…

Going back to Prometheus, ‘fire’ and ‘metalwork’ are powerful ‘competitive advantages’. Societies which control these ‘skills’ can very easily subdue those who don’t. And they have done it, several times in history.
With ‘mixed’ results, to put it mildly.
Could it be that Prometheus’ punishment is a metaphor meant to teach us about the perils of inducing extreme disparities among various groups of people?

The Jewish people have demonstrated an uncanny ability to survive. As a people, I mean. Against incredible odds.
I don’t know whether this has anything to do with any help from God but I’m convinced it has everything to do with the manner in which they treat each-other. More precisely, with the manner in which they help and respect each-other.

Only three countries in Asia have not been completely overrun by the Europeans during the XIX century. China, Japan and Thailand. The common thread among them is that all three follow the teachings of Buddha and Laozi. Which are very similar, in their essence.

Christian Europe, the land inhabited by people supposed to love each-other, has somehow reached a world dominant position during the XVIIIth and  XIXth centuries, process which has been furthered by the rise of the equally Christian US of America.
Unfortunately, during the same three centuries, the same Euro-Atlantic space has been the theater and origin of the bloodiest conflicts in the history of humankind.

The free-market capitalism envisioned by Adam Smith worked wonders.
Well, not the capitalism itself. The people cooperating according to Smith’s division of labour in the realm of the free market.
The entire world is currently living in way better conditions than, say, one hundred years ago.

Yet, there are some ominous clouds rising their ugly heads over the horizon.

In Europe – which had wised up after WWII, at least temporarily, ‘differentialism’ is on the rise again.
The Cold War had ended but those who won it didn’t apply the lesson that had become evident after WWI and WWII. That the victor has to help the vanquished out of its war induced relative misery if things are to be settled for good.

For many, capitalism has become synonymous to greed.
Which is both absolutely wrong and very descriptive of the current situation.

How about us making better use of the comprehension skills for which Adam and Eve had been banished from the Paradise?
And revert to more modest manners? More helpful for our longer term survival?

Would it make any difference if I reminded you that Rome had fallen while Byzantium had survived for another millennium?
What was the difference between these two?
The people in Byzantium had converted en masse to the religion which considered people as being ‘Equal Children of the Loving God’ while the Roman emperors had continued to bribe their ‘constituents’ with ‘panem et circenses’.

“He would rather govern rich men than be rich himself; since for one man to abound in wealth and pleasure when all about him are mourning and groaning, is to be a gaoler and not a king.”

Thomas More, The Utopia.

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