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March 2009

"Stages" released today!

Today I'm starting the process of releasing my follow-up to Midnight Snow.  The album is called Stages and it consists of 10 new tracks.  I'm also releasing an Artist Commentary video in support of the album, which I think is the best way for me to present and explain the work.

Like Midnight Snow, the album is being released under the Creative Commons license, which means you can download it for free and use it in any way you like as long as you give the artist credit.  For now, the release is centered around the French music site, Jamendo.  In the coming weeks and months it will also be made available wherever digital music is found. 

I hope you find the album enjoyable and meaningful.


Posted by Mark Manney (mark.manney@infobeing.com).

Defining God as Ignorance

The longer one is free from the influences of religion, the more clearly one is able to see it.  I was watching a discussion on Slovak television last night between 5 scientists, from different fields, who all agree that science cannot explain everything and so, therefore, there must be a higher power or God.

Of course I've heard this argument before.  After all, it is probably the least controversial, most non-committal position on religion to say that you believe there "must be some sort of higher power".  While such a position on the matter is safe and non-offensive, it is equally absurd.

Next time a person says something along these lines, ask them exactly why they believe there "must be a higher power".  The experts I mentioned on this panel have apparently thought long and hard on the topic.  They explained that, while science can explain how things work down to the most intricate detail, science cannot explain why.  Imagine a child asking a question such as, "Why does the light bulb make light?"  You can explain all the details about electrons, circuits, etc., but you will probably only have the same question repeated, "But I still don't understand why the light bulb makes light."  Why light?  It's an interesting question that demonstrates nothing other than ignorance.  In this case, I'm not using the word ignorance as a negative thing.  To the contrary, to ask that question shows a sort of humble respect for the fact that we don't really understand space and time completely. 

But it is a very long and absurd leap to say that, because I do not or cannot fully understand this matter, there must be a God in the sky who is watching us, who sent his only begotten Son, the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, down to earth to save us from our sins.  A complex mind, a humble mind, is able to accept the fact that we don't know everything...we cannot know everything.  This doesn't make us weak, it makes us humble and respectful to nature and our place in it.  A simple mind arrogantly makes up or believes ridiculous stories in a desperate attempt to provide comfort by pretending that complete truth and wisdom can be obtained. 

Another interesting example was discussed.  An environmental scientist discussed the idea of photosynthesis.  He described the perfection and elegance of this process.  He talked about how there is perfect balance, no waste, no externalities.  He concluded that only a Higher Power could have designed such a thing.  What he demonstrated was an embarrassing lack of understanding about the principles of evolution.  In fact, evolution explains photosynthesis quite well. 

Evolution explains everything life is and everything life does.  Evolution involves living organisms competing for resources.  The sun is a resource and plants take advantage of it.  They also take advantage of water and CO2.  What they produce as a byproduct is oxygen.  But one organism's waste is another organism's resource.  Animals breath oxygen and can eat plants.  The net result looks like perfect balance, when in fact it is the result of a process.  That process is evolution.  Where there isn't enough water, plants don't grow.  Where there aren't enough plants, animals don't exist.  What we see is a state of balance, but it isn't because it was designed that way; rather, it is because some organisms died and others succeeded...some species lived and others went extinct.  While we humans might perceive a perfectly designed balance, it is only because we are biased by the perspective of our existence in a single space and time.  What some people can't comprehend is that billions of years led up to this moment and a lot of stuff had to happen to make things the way they are.  To fail to understand this is to fail to understand evolution.  Evolution is the most basic principle of science.  You cannot call yourself a scientist if you don't understand it thoroughly.

On a side-note, it cannot be true that both evolution is true and religion is true.  If you understand evolution as everything life is and everything life does, if you understand that every idea, every word, every thought is a product of the process of evolution (not just the biological aspects of life but also the behavioral), then you understand that our notion of religion is, itself, a product of evolution.  You understand that The Bible, The Koran, or any other religious work is simply a product of the process of evolution.  Evolution explains it perfectly.

One of the survival traits of being human is the desire to understand and explain.  It is this very important impulse which has led us to survive and thrive in a harsh natural world.  But we have to be honest about the limitations of this impulse.  The simple fact is that we will never know whether anything happens after death.  We will never comprehend the concept of infinity or understand what was before time.  We will never understand exactly how something may have come from nothing.  There are concepts we are probably not able to understand.  We have to find the courage to resist our egotistical need to feel that we know everything.  We need to stop "plugging-in" the concept of God whenever we encounter something we do not, and cannot know.  It is perfectly acceptable to be at peace with the idea that some things cannot be known.  The alternative (making up stories to explain the things we don't know or cannot know) makes a person look really silly. 

Look at it mathematically:

(What we do know) + (What we don't understand, or "X") = (Complete and perfect knowledge)

Are we going to plug in religious stories and pretend we have complete and perfect knowledge, or are we going to find peace in letting "X" be "X" (which it always will be, regardless of how hard we try to explain it away)?

Posted by Mark Manney (mark.manney@infobeing.com).