Sunday, September 29, 2013

Michaelmas

Saint Martin Church, in Starkenburg, Missouri, USA - Saint Michael defeating Satan - 2

Sancte Michael Archangele, defende nos in proelio. At Saint Martin Church, in Starkenburg, Missouri.
Immaculate Conception Church, in Augusta, Missouri - turkey display

At Immaculate Conception Church, in Augusta, Missouri.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Happiness

DEAR READERS, I am working on a project on the subject of happiness, and I am seeking some help on references from theology, philosophy, and psychology.

Now anyone who knows me personally may think this is an absurd project for me, since I tend to have a melancholic temperament, rarely appearing to be happy. However, this is no detriment, since theologians, philosophers, scientists, artists, and mystics are typically melancholics too, and so I am in very good company — and these are the people who are most likely to seriously consider the subject.  However, my father, who has a far more balanced personality than me, is providing practical advice on how to be happy.

Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote, “…all men agree in desiring the last end, which is happiness.” It is obvious that question of happiness is of universal importance. The Catholic Encyclopedia article on this subject begins:
The primary meaning of… [happiness] in all the leading European languages seems to involve the notion of good fortune, good chance, good happening; but from a very early date in the history of Greek philosophy the conception became the centre of keen speculation and dispute. What is happiness? What are its constituents? What are the causes and conditions of happiness? How, if at all, does it differ from pleasure? What are its relations to man's intellect, to his will, to his life as a whole? What is its position in a general theory of the universe? These are questions which have much occupied the various schools of philosophy and, indeed, have exercised men who would not be willingly accused of philosophizing. For happiness is necessarily amongst the most profoundly interesting subjects for all of us…
What I am seeking is references to scholarly writings on the subject, from theologians, philosophers, psychologists and others. I am also interested in comparing what Catholic philosophers and theologians think about happiness and comparing them to those of other religions, as well as comparing ancient understandings of happiness with modern thinking.

While I have been successful in finding many quotes and snippets of writing on the subject, I’m having more trouble finding the original works, to help judge their veracity, as well as to examine the context of the quotes.

If you could share some links or references, I would appreciate it greatly. You can either leave a comment here or send me an email at msabeln@yahoo.com.


More Mosaics at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis

I RECENTLY POSTED an article, Photos of Mosaics of Saint Louis at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, but neglected to include photos of the mosaics found at the ends of the nave. I correct this here:

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - mosaic 9 in Narthex - St. Louis Returns to Paris with the Crown of Thorns

St. Louis Returns to Paris with the Crown of Thorns.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - mosaic 10 in Narthex - St. Louis Accepts the Cross for the Crusades

St. Louis Accepts the Cross for the Crusades.

Prints of these photographs can be purchased here, with discounts available to clergy, religious, and parishes.

Friday, September 06, 2013

A Scientist Claims That We are Living in the Matrix

ACCORDING TO an article in the Huffington Post:
Physicists have devised a new experiment to test if the universe is a computer.

A philosophical thought experiment has long held that it is more likely than not that we're living inside a machine.

The theory basically goes that any civilisation which could evolve to a 'post-human' stage would almost certainly learn to run simulations on the scale of a universe. And that given the size of reality - billions of worlds, around billions of suns - it is fairly likely that if this is possible, it has already happened.

And if it has? Well, then the statistical likelihood is that we're located somewhere in that chain of simulations within simulations.
— from the article Physicists To Test If Universe Is A Computer Simulation, by Michael Rundle.

A group at the University of Washington claims that physics suggests that we are living within a simulation, which “would be a matter of looking for a “signature” in our universe that has an analog in the current small-scale simulations.” They claim that such a signature has been found.

Quantum mechanics is one of the fundamental theories of nature; the other being the theory of relativity. While quantum theory is quite successful at predicting outcomes of experiments on very small scales, it has numerous conceptual and mathematical problems. One rather embarrassing problem is that solutions to its equations tend to blow up to infinity, which requires some method of sweeping the infinities under the rug (albeit in an ad hoc way). Renormalization is one such method, and other is the lattice model, which maps space and time onto a rectangular lattice.

The researchers are using the lattice model, and are using predictions from this model to make the bold claim that we are living in a simulation.

Just the other day, I had some correspondence with a philosophy student, who is writing a thesis on quantum mechanics. Here is part of what I wrote to him:
…I do think that some of the interpretations of QM are motivated from bad philosophical thinking or ideology.

However, I believe that one key to digging deeper into the quantum world is to abandon Euclidean geometry as a framework — it is often assumed — but as we know, both space and time are created things, and not absolute.

Renormalization is one unsatisfying way around the infinities generated by Euclidean geometry, but this directly implies that space is quantized; however, grid lattice formulations are just silly, in my opinion.

Clearly, there has to be something that looks like geometry as we approach classical lengths, but has fewer axioms on the quantum scale. Also, there needs to be something in the formulation which does not strongly differentiate 'here' from 'there', in order to derive a simple explanation of confinement and quantum entanglement. Assuming pure geometric locality has gotten physicists into trouble many times. I haven't thought of it much, but there should be similar nonlocal interactions across time. That would be stunning, but shouldn't that naturally come from the theory somehow?

Perhaps a bit of mystical contemplation is needed, for all these theories — and theology — point to an underlying unity…
Euclidean geometry, despite all of its complexity, derives ultimately from five simple axioms [later expanded, taking into account some assumptions by Euclid]. The fifth axiom, the parallel postulate, was abandoned by Einstein, and from that he derived the general theory of relativity, which posits that space can be warped. On ordinary scales that we experience, space appears to be absolutely flat and so we can use Euclidean geometry without error. Likewise, some other tweaking of the axioms of geometry ought to give us something that is closer to nature, but on the human scale will resemble Euclid.

The grid lattice formulation used by the researchers in their thought experiments is just silly, and the so-called signatures they have discovered could fall out naturally of a better theory, and not be a by-product of computation. Would nature actually work in such a manner? Of course not — but because the physicists use it, leads some of them to believe in the greatest conspiracy ever devised, that we are living in a computer simulation, which was the central premise of the plot of the popular film from 1999, The Matrix.


Simulations nested within simulations. This seems rather fishy, as well as familiar to those who know Church history.

Ultimately, this is a modern rehashing of the oldest heresy, that of Gnosticism, said to derive from Simon Magus, who offered to buy Saint Peter's power of healing, and it is from that heretic that we get the sin called simony, the buying and selling of ecclesiastical offices. The Gnostics disbelieved that a good God would create a cosmos with evil within it, and so they posited a series of universes within universes; the final one being created by an evil god, whom they identify with the God of the Old Testament. Jesus, in their system, is simply a god from a higher-order universe, who gives believers true knowledge (gnosis) which will save them. But even a superficial reading of scripture will disprove both ideas.

This contrasts sharply with the orthodox view that the world was created very good, and that evil is a by-product of free will which has been misused, and that Jesus saves through self-sacrifice.

Gnosticism is quite popular today, as seen in the article Rapture and the Gnostic Tendency. We must hope that this computer simulation idea does not gain traction, but knowing the perversity of academia and the media, we may be in trouble, for this type of thinking tends to have an extreme hatred for the material world. The Gnostic tendency is to be extremely violent, for the world in their eyes is evil: and modern believers may think that a computer simulation has no intrinsic value. May God help us if someone proposes that we ought to 'reboot the universe.'

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

A Day of Fasting and Prayer

POPE FRANCIS exhorts:
…There are so many conflicts in this world which cause me great suffering and worry, but in these days my heart is deeply wounded in particular by what is happening in Syria and anguished by the dramatic developments which are looming…

To this end, brothers and sisters, I have decided to proclaim for the whole Church on 7 September next, the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace, a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative.

On 7 September, in Saint Peter’s Square, here, from 19:00 until 24:00, we will gather in prayer and in a spirit of penance, invoking God’s great gift of peace upon the beloved nation of Syria and upon each situation of conflict and violence around the world. Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace! I ask all the local churches, in addition to fasting, that they gather to pray for this intention…

[source]
That's prayer and fasting, folks.