I Might as Well Get This Off My Chest

Anyone up for a good rant?

 

If you are, by all means continue reading, and imagine the following delivered with flecks of spittle and appropriate pulpit-pounding. If you aren’t, by all means find something else to read. I can be diplomatic – even conciliatory – if the occasion demands but I’m not going to be in this case. I cannot un-see what I see, and sometimes I just have to vent. If you find my tone somewhat strident, I can’t say I disagree with you. What you are about to read reflects a very real side of me – one that I have to live with daily. It has largely been shaped by a fundamentalist Christian upbringing that I certainly did not choose to be born into and that I consider a form of child abuse. I hope I’ve been clear. Here goes – let’s see how many metaphors I can mix:

 

The most urgent task of our time is to kill the hydra-headed monster known as religion. Until we manage to drive a stake once and for all through the heart of the vicious Mesopotamian god who still holds sway over and commands the blind obedience of billions of Christians, Muslims and Jews, all our attempts to wake up an extinction-bound humanity and galvanize them to action will avail nothing. No devout Christian – I’m talking here about True Believers™ who seriously think that God has a perfect plan for this planet and every human on it, is in control of everything that happens and is going to intervene just in the nick of time – is ever going to give a rat’s ass about the looming climate change disaster, or the meltdown of nuclear power plants or the drawdown of ancient aquifers, or the collapse of civilization as the peak of hydrocarbon extraction is passed and our worldwide technological faux-perpetual-motion machine begins to sputter and creak: Jesus is waiting in the wings, ready at his father’s command to ride once again into human affairs, this time on a white horse, vanquishing Satan and setting everything to rights.
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Determinism: Weather, Chaos, and the Human Mind

The weather is an incredibly complex system; it fluctuates, it moves, it reacts, and it behaves in certain ways. The weather can also be modeled by certain equations that predict its behaviour; when specific conditions are put in place, the weather will behave accordingly. Similarly, when different numbers are put into the equation you’ll end up with different outputs. The weather forecast is fundamentally uncertain because the weather is so complex it seems impossible to predict its behaviour with certain accuracy. However, imagine if one had all of the information relating to the set of starting conditions the weather behaved on. They would know the starting position of every molecule, the starting position of every atom, and every force acting upon such subatomic particles. Equations that perfectly model the weather could be put together if one had all of this information.

 

Meteorologists have been trying to construct better and better equations modeling the weather for decades, among them the famous mathematician and meteorologist Edward Lorenz. Edward was trying to construct equations modeling the weather when he came to the realization that the weather’s behavior relies heavily on its initial conditions, thus making long term predictions for the weather’s behavior is foolish. Even the slightest variation in the starting position of each molecule in the atmosphere could make the weather behave in a different way, the error would magnify over time as the particles continued to move and collide. It was this incredible unpredictability that gave the weather its properties, and Edward Lorenz would call this the butterfly effect. The butterfly effect is the event in which a small change in a complex system can have much larger implications further down the road.
Continue reading “Determinism: Weather, Chaos, and the Human Mind”