Christian Engström, Pirat

3 maj 2013

Kopimism and The God Delusion

Filed under: English,kopimism — Christian Engström @ 12:00

The God Delusion is a sharp and funny book, and an excellent starting point for thinking about religions

(This is a continuation of the Kopimist Creation Myth, which is also available in Swedish)

Kopimism is a new religion that was officially recognized as a church in Sweden in 2011. You can read the work in progress Kopimism Level 1: The Creation here.

Richard Dawkins is an evangelist for an atheist and scientifically based worldview, as opposed to religion. In his book The God Delusion, he totally trashes God, at least the Christian god that we are used to (and the related variants within Judaism and Islam). The God Delusion is a sharp and funny book, and an excellent starting point for thinking about religions.

We can look at how the Kopimist faith would stand up to the criticism that Dawkins levels against all religions (even though most of his examples are from Christianity).

To start with, Dawkins dislikes the idea of God as the creator of the universe. He doesn’t think it makes sense, and he’s right: it doesn’t. The creation myth in the Old Testament, which is shared by Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, is severely illogical.

If God created the world, then he must have been even more complicated than the world he created, and must have existed before the creation. Where did he come from?

Instead of having to explain how the world came into being, we now have to explain how something even more complicated did. Thanks a lot, but that’s not much of a help. Here, Dawkins is absolutely right. This is the wrong direction.

But the Kopimist creation myth, how would it stand up to Dawkin’s criticism of the Old Testament?

The Kopimist creation myth begins:

In the beginning, the world was a stinking mess of ammonia, methane gas, and nasty toxic chemicals. The atmosphere was alight with flashes of pure energy. Something wanted to be born.

In ways and for reasons that remain to be explored, the ribosomes appeared, who could copy. This was the beginning of Life. We therefore see Copying as the first manifestation of the Divine Spirit.

What would Dawkins have to say about this?

Kopimism avoids the problem of having to explain where God came from, since he or she hasn’t entered the story yet. There is a manifestation of a Divine Spirit, so we suspect there may be a God lurking around somewhere, but since s/he hasn’t appeared yet, we don’t need to concern ourselves with where s/he came from, at leas not yet. So far, everything is okay according to strictly scientific atheist principles. God does not yet exist.

The only prerequisite is an Earth in primeval state, but it is assumed to have appeared in the customary way.

Here we have a well defined starting point that Kopimism and Science can agree on. This is not a demand that Dawkins explicitly makes, but I think it will please him anyway. The main theme of The God Delusion is how poorly (the Abrahamic) religions fit with science.

Kopimism does better. Before the story has even started, we have already found a connecting point that fits perfectly with both the proposed religion and with science.

The Kopimist creation myth in itself is perhaps not enough to make Kopimism qualify as a religion. A religion should have a little more than just a creation myth to offer. As mentioned, we haven’t actually seen any Kopimist God yet, and this is a demand that at least Dawkins makes.

But the creation myth at least provides a starting point for a religion that doesn’t immediately run into any of the inconsistencies that Dawkins point out in other religions.

This is a good starting point for Kopimism, I think Dawkins would agree.

We then add the four fundamental principles, the Four Kopimist K’s of Kreativity, Kopying, Kooperation, and Kwality. It is true that these additions constitute metaphysics rather than science (since there isn’t a lot of scientific data to back them up, at least not yet). But the addition is nevertheless done in the same way that new scientific theories are added to the body of existing science, by adding the hypotheses that these Four Fundamental Principles represent important aspects of the universe we live in.

There is no conflict between recognizing that science is valid and believing that Creativity, Copying, Cooperation, and Quality are forces that exist and drive evolution on. Kopimism suggests an addition to science, not a replacement for it.

I hope Richard Dawkins would find this to be and acceptable religion, even from his perspective.

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CC-BY-NC Christian Engström

2 maj 2013

Kopimism: The Laws of Nature Just Set the Stage

Filed under: English,kopimism — Christian Engström @ 11:37
Click to read the earlier parts of Kopimism: The Creation

Click to read the earlier parts of Kopimism: The Creation

(This is a continuation of the Kopimist Creation Myth, which is also available in Swedish)

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that the laws of nature are just depressing when you read them. We do, after all, call them ”laws”, and laws tend to be rather depressing and miss out on all of the fun.

If you had never been to a pub but had read all the laws that regulate it, you would probably not feel very keen to visit one. You would have read pages and pages of legal laws to deal with drunkenness, disorderly behavior, fistfights, food poisoning, and watered-down beer. If this was the whole truth about an evening over drinks together with friends, you would do well to avoid it.

But of course, the laws that regulate a night at the pub don’t tell the whole truth. They set out the restrictions that the involved parties have to follow, but they make no or little mention of the magic of spending a pleasant evening together with friends.

The laws that regulate a theater are the same. There are lots of rules on how theater building should be constructed and how the emergency exits should be located, but (at least in a free society) there are very few laws that regulate what goes on on stage, and no mention at all of the magic you can experience in the audience when you see a great play.

The laws for the theater set the stage, but leave it open what happens on that stage.

The laws of nature, in the same way, provide a foundation and set the stage for interesting things to happen on the next level. It is true that the laws themselves are just a bunch of restrictions on what can happen in the world, but the fact that they are a depressing read doesn’t mean that we need to feel depressed about the meaning of the universe.

No matter how restricted we might feel by the laws of nature, we can take comfort in the fact that everything that is not expressly forbidden, can and will be seen as a possibility.

According to Newton’s (or Einstein’s) theory of gravity, and apple and a rock will fall to the ground in exactly the same way, at exactly the same speed. Does this mean that science says that apples and rocks are the same? Are you the victim of unscientific superstitions if you enjoy eating an apple, but refuse to eat a rock?

No, of course not. To claim that would be a complete misunderstanding of how scientific laws work, and what they do and don’t say. It is true that the theory of gravity makes no distinction between apples and rocks, as it does not recognize ”taste” as a factor. But this does not mean that the theory of gravity refutes or denies the concept of taste. It is just silent on the subject. This means that it doesn’t rule it out, so it can very well be.

When a snowboarder is doing a jump, the theory of gravity will very accurately predict how her center of gravity will move through the air. But it will say noting at all about the flips and spins that she and the audience are interested in. Those are described by other physical laws of motion, that don’t contradict the law of gravity, but supplement it. No matter what kind of movements a snowboarder does, she will not be able to suddenly remain suspended in mid-air in defiance of the law of gravity. But there are a lot of other pretty amazing things that she can do without breaking any laws of nature.

The law of gravity places no restrictions whatsoever on anything that it does not explicitly claim to predict. As far as it is concerned, anything is possible on any subject that is outside the scope of the law, from the flips and spins the snowboarder is doing, to the mental attitude that she had when she won the gold medal.

The snowboarder’s rotations around her center of gravity can be described by other basic physical laws, and the mental attitude of a winner cannot, but as far as the law of gravity is concerned, both these situations are okay. As long as there are no claims that with the right mental attitude you could defy gravity and start levitating, the basic physical laws have no opinion at all on the importance or existence of mental attitudes. They don’t confirm it, but they certainly don’t deny it.

Another example would be the laws of chemistry that we learned in school. Those laws say that some atoms feel they are missing some electrons, and others feel that they have too many. This attracts them to each other if they get a chance to even things out.

An oxygen atom feels it is two electrons short, and hydrogen atoms feel that they each have one too many. This makes them very keen (as in hydrogen gas explosion) to join forces whenever they get the chance, and the resulting compound (water) is very stable. This is all according to the basic laws of chemistry.

The same basic laws say that carbon atoms equally feel that they have four electrons too many or too few, which makes them happy to build molecules together with other atoms of their kind. The basic laws of chemistry don’t place any restrictions on how complex those carbon based molecules can be, but they also don’t say whether there will actually be a lot of very complex carbon based molecules, or how those molecules would look if they did exist. The basic laws of chemistry don’t predict the existence of self-replicating double helices of breathtaking complexity, they just don’t deny the possibility.

This is how all scientific theories and formulas work.

Scientific theories claims to tell the truth and nothing but the truth. But no scientific theory ever claims to tell the whole truth.

The underlying laws of nature place certain restrictions on what can happen on the next level of complexity. Atoms can’t break the basic laws of chemistry. A snowboarder can’t levitate. You can’t walk on water.

But apart from these and similar restrictions, anything else goes.

The whole idea with the metaphor of the Giant’s shoulders is that you’re allowed to stand on them, and add whatever you want, as long as it doesn’t contradict the foundation you are standing on.

We can add more science, in the way that biochemistry was added to basic chemistry. Since the biochemical laws that describe DNA molecules don’t contradict the basic chemical laws for carbon atoms, they are free to put whatever they want on those shoulders, and everybody is perfectly happy with the relationship between basic chemistry and advanced biochemistry.

The laws of advanced biochemistry adds magic and miracles in a space where the basic laws of chemistry just said ”that’s random”. We know now that the shapes of complex proteins are not at all random, even if this is what science said when basic chemistry was all the chemistry that had been invented.

When a scientific theory says ”random”, this does not mean ”Move on folks, there is nothing to see here!”. In fact, it very often means the opposite: ”This is unregulated space, so here magic may appear!”. To add things to the body of known science is the very essence of the scientific philosophy.

Alternatively, we can add metaphysics or religion to the foundation provided by the giants of science. The result will be metaphysics or religion rather than science, since the additions won’t fulfill the criteria of science (like being supported by a lot of scientific evidence). But as long as the additions don’t contradict the laws of science, we don’t have to make a choice between science and religion.

This is what Kopimism sets out to do. We accept that the laws of nature are by and large a good description of those aspects of the universe that they actually describe. But on those shoulders, we add the Four Kopimist K’s — Creativity, Copying, Cooperation, and Quality — to give meaning and direction to the evolving universe. Even if what we are adding is not science, but metaphysics or religion, we play within the rules for adding things to science.

We take note of the fact that although the laws of nature known are great at explaining a whole lot of things, they make no claim whatsoever to describe everything knowable, not even taken together.

According to science, there can be no God that can make apples fall upwards just because he feels like it. That would violate the laws of nature. But there can very well be a God out there that touches the minds of humans and (at least sometimes) inspires them to do great things. A God of that kind wouldn’t have to violate any laws of nature to be effective.

Richard Dawkins and other critics of religion are right when they point out that there is a conflict between the Abrahamic God described in the Bible and the laws of science as we know them. Virgins giving birth, and prophets walking on water and resurrecting people from the dead, are phenomena that contradict science. A religion that insists on those miracles being real, cannot be reasonably be reconciled with what science teaches. If you want to believe in the God of Abraham in a literal way, you either have to renounce science as false, or live with the fact that you have an inconsistent worldview.

But this does not mean that every potential religion has to be in conflict with science.

Science does not disprove the existence of magic, miracles, or metaphysical structures that add purpose or direction to the creation. After all, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, so if science was fundamentally incompatible with every form of magic, it would mean that no major scientific advancements would ever be possible. This is clearly not the case.

The Kopimist religion adds four fundamental principles to the description of the world that science provides us with. These are the Four Kopimist K’s: Creativity, Copying, Cooperation, and Quality.

These principles do not contradict science in any way. The are extra-scientific, meaning that they go beyond what (today’s) science teaches. But they are not anti-scientific, since they do not cause any conflicts with the existing body of science, or the philosophical principles that form the basis for science.

As Kopimists we believe in science, since it quite obviously works and is incredibly useful. But we also believe in a world full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.

We Kopimists believe that the Four K’s of Creativity, Copying, Cooperation, and Quality provide a perspective that will let us see magical things and get a deeper understanding of the world we live in. Time will tell if we are right in this. But right or wrong, we have at least shown that there is nothing anti-scientific about our beliefs.

The chasm between science and religion, that opened up with Isaac Newton and has continued to present day, can in fact be bridged quite easily. All it takes is for Science to show a bit of humility, and not claim to be explaining more than it actually does, and for Religion to show bit of common sense, and not insist on miracles that are quite clearly in breach of underlying laws of nature. There is ample room in the universe for all the magic you could ever wish for anyway.

”Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it,” author Roald Dahl reminds us in a top rated quote.

The religion of Kopimism aims to do this.

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CC-BY-NC Christian Engström

29 mars 2013

Kopimism, Richard Dawkins, and the Paradox of the Cheerful Atheist Scientists

Filed under: English,kopimism — Christian Engström @ 13:38
Click to read the earlier parts of Kopimism: The Creation

Click to read the earlier parts of Kopimism: The Creation

(This is a continuation of the Kopimist Creation Myth, which is also available in Swedish)

In the previous Kopimist sermons, we have seen how the laws of nature predict doom and gloom, and preach that everything is just a meaningless consequence of how it accidentally happens to be. Does this mean that scientists generally feel gloomy and sad when they think about the universe?

No, not at all, quite the opposite in fact.

You don’t have to see many science documentaries about life, the universe and everything to be drawn in by the enthusiasm and sense of wonder that both the narrator and any scientists that appear in the program communicate. The mathematical formulas that they have discovered to describe the universe may be ever so depressing. The scientists who say they believe in those formulas, and only in the formulas, tend to be as cheerful and optimistic about the future as ever.

Richard Dawkins is a leading evangelist for believing in science, and science alone. Dawkins came to prominence with his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, which popularised the gene-centred view of evolution and introduced the term meme, Wikipedia tells us.

In his book The Magic of Reality from 2011, Dawkins summarises his views like this [in my translation back from Swedish]:

The real world, as seen by science, has its own magic — the kind of magic I call poetic magic: an inspiring beauty that is so much more magical because it is real, and because we can understand how it works. Compared to the true beauty and magic of the real word, magical formulas and sorcerers’ tricks seem cheap and superficial. The magic of reality is neither supernatural nor a trick, but quite simply wonderful. Wonderful and real. Wonderful just because it is real.

This is a very good, sensible and beautiful position, and in fact very similar to what Kopimism is saying as well. We Kopmists see the world as a magic, exciting work in progress, driven by the four fundamental principles Creativity, Copying, Cooperation, and Quality. The quote from Dawkins expresses what we Kopimists believe, in a very concise and beautiful way.

In the Kopimist faith, we have added the four fundamental principles, in particular Creativity and Quality, to the foundation of science that we share with Dawkins. This makes it easy for us Kopimists to justify our positive outlook on life.

We believe that there is Quality that guides us in the right direction towards the good, we believe that Creativity will continue to spur us onwards, and we believe that Copying and Cooperation provide tools to transform creative ideas into new reality. When the beauty of nature fills us with a sense of wonder in the way that Dawkins describes so well, we have a sound theological and philosophical argument to justify the happy smiles on our faces.

But Dawkins himself has a lot less theoretical justification for his positive world view, if he wants to base it entirely on science, and nothing but science.

According to evolutionary biology, which is Dawkins’ primary field of science, the entire miracle of life on earth can be described as the influence of random noise in the sexual reproduction process, combined with a crude mechanism for weeding out individuals that are unsuccessful in the all-out conflict over scarce resources. What’s so wonderful about that?

If there is beauty in a universe controlled entirely by chance and mechanical laws, that beauty would have no meaning anyway. According to science and Dawkins, that beauty has just appeared by accident, like if there happens to be beautiful reflections in the pieces of glass on the ground after someone has broken a shop window. Even if it looks like a heap of sparkling and valuable diamonds on the ground, this is just an illusion, and there is little to miss once it gets swept away by the street cleaners.

Dawkins of course has every right in the world to have his positive and confident view of the universe and the future, and we Kopimists share it. We believe that many people would become happier if they joined us in this belief. But if Dawkins wants to maintain that he is basing his positive world view on science alone, there appears to be quite a gap between what the scientific laws say about the universe, and how the scientists actually perceive it on an emotional level.

Albert Einstein is another example of an eminent scientist holding a world view that is atheistic, but filled with a sense of wonder and trust in the future. Dawkins uses Einstein as an example in the book The God Delusion, and (on page 36) he quotes Einstein saying:

I am a deeply religious nonbeliever. This is a somewhat new kind of religion.

I have never imputed to Nature a purpose or a goal, or anything that could be understood as anthropomorphic. What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility. This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism.

Again, a very sensible and positive way of looking at the world, but the positive emotion seems to be quite out of touch with the equations he was basing his model of the universe on.

According to Einstein’s theory of gravity, the destiny of the universe is to become either a black hole where everything has been crushed, or an ever thinner emptiness where everything is too far away from everything else to do anything interesting. Which version of infinite boredom represents the future of the universe, according to Einstein’s theory, depends on the value of a cosmological constant that may or may not exist, and that nobody likes anyway.

This is what Einstein’s theory says about the universe we live in. What does he have to be so confident and positive about?

Kopimism solves the apparent contradiction between the scientists’ gloomy theories and cheerful outlook on life by adding the four fundamental principles to the laws described by science, in particular Creativity and Quality. These principles do not contradict science. They are merely an addition to the strict scientific natural laws, and help explain the magic of reality and give us a reason to feel trust in the future, even though we cannot say what that future will contain.

When Dawkins speaks about the inspiring beauty of reality, he is absolutely right. Nature is filled with the most stunning beauty, from the tiniest detail of an insect’s antenna up to magnificent ecosystems that go from horizon to horizon. This is what Robert M. Pirsig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance calls Romantic beauty, the kind of beauty that is immediately apparent to the eye.

Dawkins is also right when he talks about how wonderful it is that we can understand how reality works, that we can learn to see and appreciate what Pirsig would call the Classic beauty of the universe, the structural beauty that makes it all fit together.

For a Kopimist, it is easy to agree with both Dawkins and Einstein in their sense of awe an wonder. This is how we feel as well.

But even if we agree, we should note that the minute these prominent scientists started to talk about beauty, they left the realm of science and entered that of philosophical speculation.

”Beauty” is not a scientific term within either physics or biochemistry. As Pirsig points out, there are no scientific instruments that can measure beauty or Quality objectively, and nobody expects that anybody will be able to design such instruments in the future either. A cornerstone in Pirsig’s philosophical reasoning is that he refuses to provide a scientific definition of Quality, as any attempt to do so would reduce it into something different and smaller.

The Quality that Pirsig is talking about is not a part of science as we know it, but neither is it opposed to science in any way. It is an addition, not a replacement. The reason that Pirsig started to think about Quality in the first place was that he wanted to defend Science, which he called The Church of Reason, from real or imagined metaphysical threats.

So even if both Dawkins and Einstein and Pirsig are outside the realm of science when they are talking about beauty, there is noting wrong with that. Beauty is not anti-sientific concept, it is an extra-sientific one. It does not contradict science, it just goes outside it, and talks about things that are not described by the mathematical formulas that represent our laws of nature.

Nothing wrong with that, but it deserves to be pointed out for clarity.

I think Dawkins and other evangelists for what they call a ”scientific” atheist world view would do well to admit that their belief system does not just consist of the laws of science and nothing more, but of additional components as well.

I think many people who are considering giving up their old religious beliefs in favour of a more atheist world view get a feeling of philosophical claustrophobia when the case for a scientifically based world view is presented as ”science, and nothing but science”.

Since Dawkins is talking about ”beauty”, which is not a scientific concept, he has obviously  taken at least one step beyond science as such in the world view he is preaching.

Why not admit that, when doing so would remove a barrier that at least some people feel they must overcome before they can seriously consider the message that Dawkins and others who agree with him are trying to share?

We Kopimists believe in the laws of science, but we believe there is more to the universe than just that. We believe not only in science, but also in the four Fundamental Principles, the Four Kopimist K’s of Creativity, Copying, Cooperation, and Quality.

With Quality as one of our Fundamental Principles, we can agree wholeheartedly that reality is indeed beautiful, both in a Romantic and Classic sense, as Pirsig explains those terms in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Kopimism does not go against science, so just like for Dawkins, our beliefs are not anti-scientific. But we point out that in order to believe in the beauty of science, it is not enough to believe in science alone. You have to believe that there is something worth calling ”beauty” as well.

We Kopimists acknowledge that we do, that we see a universe that is full of it.

This is an insight and a world view that we want to share.

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CC-BY-NC Christian Engström

20 januari 2013

Kopimism and the Struggle Against Thermodynamics

Filed under: English,kopimism — Christian Engström @ 14:18
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Click to read the earlier parts of Kopimism: The Creation

(This is a continuation of the Kopimist Creation Myth)

After the previous Kopimist sermon on the laws of nature and the restaurant at the end of the universe, Björn Persson made some comments that I want to highlight and agree with.

Björn Persson wrote:

You make it sound like science preaches that the end is nigh. That’s not very accurate. It’s true that science tells us that everything will come to an end eventually, but it also provides an estimate of how long that will take, and it turns out that the restaurant Universe will remain open for a very very very VERY long time still. There’s lots and lots of time to kopy, kooperate and kreate kwality, and the heat death of the universe is definitely not something you need to worry about on a human time scale. I find that much more reassuring than some religion whose gods might decide to destroy the world on a whim tomorrow.

This is absolutely true, and if I accidentally scared someone into a panic by divulging how the thermodynamists envision the end world, I hope they will relax after reading this clarification. Even the most alarmist projections concede that we have billions of years before it happens, so panic is a bit premature. If you are planning to stand on a street corner with a the-end-is-nigh sign, you have ample time for a cup of coffee before you take up your post.

But this doesn’t really make the laws of thermodynamics any less depressing. Not only do they present a vision of infinite boredom, they also say that the road there will be painstakingly slow. Since when does making dullness slower and last longer make it more fun?

Thermodynamics is beginning to look more and more like the big villain that we need to do something about, if we want to have any fun in this universe.

Björn Persson continued:

It’s also not correct to say that the universe is less interesting today than last Thursday. The maximum entropy state is indeed not very interesting, but neither is the minimum entropy state. The interesting things happen between those extremes, and that’s right where we are now. If you want to claim that we have passed the peak of interest and are now going downhill, then you’ll have to prove it, because I see no indication that that would be the case.

This is a very interesting point. In the Kopimist model of the world, we have Kreativity as a Fundamental Principle to counteract the constant increase in entropy over time. Since we see Kreativity as an invisible force that flows through the universe at all times and all places, all that is needed for the universe to become more fun from one Thursday to another is that the force of Kreativity is strong enough compared to the other natural forces that are pulling the universe towards the long and boring heat death.

For a Kopimist there is hope, even without breaking the laws of thermodynamics.

But what is the standard view of mainstream physics on this point? If it is true that the complexity of the universe is in fact increasing now, or at least that the complexity increased at some point in its history, where did this increase come from? What was or is the driving force for this according to classical mainstream physics?

Myself, I don’t know enough physics to answer that question, but I hope there will be a fruitful discussion between those who understand more about thermodynamics than I do, and Kopimist theological scholars.

This appears to be a good starting point for further explorations of the role of Kreativity in the universe.

Björn Persson concluded:

Look at it this way:

Thermodynamiks shows that if kompleks things are left alone they will slowly but inevitably lose their kompleksity and their kwality, but the dekay kan be kounterakted by kopying them kontinuously.

Therefore a good kopimist should kontinue kopying and kreating interesting things of ever greater kwality, kontributing to keep dekay at bay by inkreasing the overall kompleksity faster than the dekay kan dekrease it.

To this, I can only say: Yes! This is theological konstruktivism at its very best.

We have gone straight from the Four Kopimist K’s — Creativity, Copying, Cooperation, and Quality — and the most fundamental laws of physics, to a practical rule of thumb for how to lead a good Kopimist life. And not only that, the rule of thumb built on this foundation coincides with what we had already felt in our hearts would be the right way for a Kopimist to act in the world.

We are on the right track.

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Kopimism: Vetenskapen suger som religion

Filed under: kopimism — Christian Engström @ 11:48
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Klicka för att läsa de tidigare delarna av Kopimism: Skapelsen

(Det här är en fortsättning på den Kopimistiska skapelseberättelsen och en översättning av en predikan på engelska)

De vetenskapliga naturlagarna är ganska deprimerande läsning för den som vill känna entusiasm inför livet och framtiden. De målar upp bilden av ett trött och ovilligt universum, som mest bara vill lägga sig ner och dö.

Saker som är i vila vill helst fortsätta med det, säger Newton. Atomer och molekyler kan tänka sig att fnatta runt en stund för att hitta det läge som kräver minst energi, men sedan vill de helst stanna där, säger kemin. Allt går mot en fesljummen homogen gröt där ingenting intressant någonsin kan hända, säger termodynamiken.

Hej hopp, det var ju muntra besked.

De vetenskapliga modellerna är fria från självmotsägelser (mestadels), och de har ofta en klassisk inre skönhet som modellbyggen betraktat. Men de erbjuder inte mycket till krok att hänga upp framtidstro eller livsglädje på.

Vi är på restaurangen vid universums slut en stund efter sista beställningen, tycks vara vad vetenskapen säger. Ljuset är fortfarande tänt och det pågår alltjämt intelligenta diskussioner runt om i salen. Men personalen har i tysthet börjat förbereda för att stänga ner hela etablissemanget, och det kan inte längre dyka upp någonting nytt på borden.

Just för ögonblicket kanske restaurangen Universum är ett fascinerande myller av mångfald, men det är bara en övergående fas, säger vetenskapen. Vi har de naturlagar vi har och som dök upp innan sista beställningen, och medan du läser det här håller de långsamt men tålmodigt på att mala ner och slipa bort allt som kan väcka intresse och sticka ut. Universum idag är inte riktigt lika spännande som det var i torsdags, och ännu mindre än torsdagen innan det, för färden på det sluttande planet kan bara gå utför.

Ordningsvakter förklädda till fysiker med inriktning på termodynamik patrullerar restaurang Universums lokaler och säkerställer att varje händelse och rörelse, hur spektakulär och fascinerande den än kan verka på ytan, ändå bara är ytterligare ett steg mot den stora nedstängningen. Det universum som startade med en smäll är på väg att långsamt malas ner till en snyftning, och kommer sluta i den oändliga tråkigheten, säger den naturvetenskapliga dogmen.

Ungefär vid den här punkten brukar vetenskapsmännen känna sig nöjda med teoribygget och titta upp från sina formelsamlingar för att inhösta folkets applåder. Men till sin stora förvåning möts de inte alls av så stora skaror vetenskapligt ateistiska materialister som de hade förväntat sig, och som de tycker att de förtjänar.

Varför är det inte fler som jublar över deras elegant detaljerade beskrivning av ett sönderfallande universum på en meningslös färd mot den totala tråkigheten?

Det är en fråga som faktiskt uppriktigt förbryllar ett ganska stort antal vetenskapsmän, ofta med en IQ runt 150 eller mer. Hur kommer det sig att så många så smarta män och kvinnor går bet på en så enkel fråga?

Svaret är att även om det här är den världsbild som vetenskapsmännens formler beskriver, är det oftast inte alls vad de själva tror och känner i djupet av sitt hjärta. Men vi återkommer till det. Nu har vi de här deppiga naturlagarna att ta hand om.

Måste det verkligen vara mot lagarna om man vill känna lite glädje och förtröstan inför framtiden?

Att bara förneka att naturlagarna gäller är en möjlig utväg, men den är inte särskild attraktiv. ”Ni vetenskapsmän kan ha alla era tjusiga lagar och teorier, men på min mark faller äpplen i den fart de själva behagar, och jag och mitt gevär tänker se till att det fortsätter vara så, i Herrans namn” är en ståndpunkt som man kan ha om man vill, men som de flesta människor inte tycker är särskilt elegant.

Man kan beklaga det faktum att vetenskapen ställer upp restriktioner för vad som kan passera som en någorlunda vettig religion, men i praktiken är det svårt att göra någonting åt.

Jag kanske inte gillar den allmänna relativitetsteoring, eftersom den är väldigt konstig och går emot allt jag lärde mig var sant när jag växte upp i en newtonsk värld, men att förneka att den stämmer vore bara fånigt. Även om jag själv inte förstår teorin (och det gör jag inte), så vet jag att min mobiltelefon använder den för att räkna ut positionen på GPS:en. Om den allmänna relativitetsteorin inte var en giltig beskrivning av världen skulle min telefon vara ännu mer vilse än jag själv när jag är i en främmande stad. Det är den inte.

Och eftersom den inte är det, tycks det enda realistiska alternativet vara att mer eller mindre motvilligt acceptera att relativitetsteorin, och alla de andra naturlagarna som vetenskapsmännen har upptäckt, är giltiga och måste följas, oavsett hur otillfredsställande det än må kännas ur religiös synvinkel.

En del kanske tycker att jag ger upp den här punkten för lätt, och att en riktig religion borde försvara sig med alla rimligt lagliga medel när den kommer i konflikt med vetenskapen. Men det har visat sig vara en ganska misslyckad strategi för att hantera vetenskap och teknologi på frammarsch.

När den katolska kyrkan 1632 bestämde att Herr Galileo Galilei hade fel, och att jordkretsen står fast och icke vacklar, som det står i bibeln, kanske det kändes som en försvarbar position just då. Men även om så var fallet spårade det hela snabbt ur.

För att hålla fast vid ståndpunkten att solen löper i sin bana över en platt jord idag, tvingas man inte bara hävda att det finns en världsomfattande konspiration som innefattar alla sjökaptener och piloter som utåt låtsas att de navigerar på en glob, men i själva verket använder sina hemliga och sanna kartor över den platta jorden för att komma fram till sina respektive destinationer i tid.

Ur europeiskt perspektiv måste man också ta till sig den sorgliga insikten att alla amerikaner och australiensare tydligen är med i samma konspiration, annars skulle de inte låtsas ligga och sova mitt i natten varje gång man ringer dem från Europa under dagtid. Amerikaner och australiensare, å sin sida, skulle tvingas dra slutsatsen att en av de ledande medlemmarna i den här konspirationen måste vara den heliga romersk-katolska kyrkan, annars skulle de inte sända sin midnattsmässa live vid så många olika tidpunkter som alldeles uppenbart inte är midnatt runt om i världen.

Till slut blev den intellektuella bördan med att upprätthålla den här alternativa världsbilden för mycket för till och med den katolska kyrkan, med alla dess resurser. År 1992, tjugotre år efter månlandningen, kom påven Johannes Paulus II ut ur garderoben och erkände att trots allt är nog jorden en blågrön boll som snurrar runt en vanlig sol någonstans i de mindre attraktiva ytterområdena i en vanlig galax.

En rättvis och välförtjänt seger för vetenskapen, absolut, med tanke på hur många vardagsmirakel i konsumentstorlek vetenskapen lyckades leverera under de mellanliggande 360 åren, medan kyrkan var upptagen med att klamra sig fast vid sin fasta och icke-vacklande jord.

Men inte särskilt uppmuntrande för vår självkänsla, vi som en gång var skapelsens krona, krönta med ära och härlighet och bara ett snäpp under en Gud som visserligen kunde vara ganska oberäknelig ibland, men som åtminstone fick oss att känna att vi var viktiga på något sätt i Hans stora plan.

Många människor känner att fastän vetenskapen är toppen, och har givit oss både mobiltelefoner och dubbelt så lång medellivslängd för dem som kommer i åtnjutande av dess frukter, så förlorade vi ändå något när vi bytte bort vår speciella relation som Guds utvalda mot teknikens underverk.

Men att ”byta bort” saker luktar knapphetsekonomi och tänkande som hörde hemma i det andra årtusendet. Det är inte Kopimism.

Målet med Kopimismen måste vara att förena vetenskap och religion, vilket betyder att vi måste respektera vetenskapen. Men ska den vara en religion måste den också erbjuda en väg framåt och en positiv vision. Vi vill inte behöva välja antingen eller, vi vill ha både teknikens under och en känsla av en högre mening och anledning till hopp.

Det här är vad Kopimismen vill erbjuda. Tack vare de Fyra Kopimistiska K:na — Kreativitet, Kopiering, Ksamarbete och Kvalitet — kan vi det.

Kopiera och Sprid!

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19 januari 2013

Kopimism: Science Sucks As a Religion

Filed under: English,kopimism — Christian Engström @ 23:29
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Click to read the earlier parts of Kopimism: The Creation

(This is a continuation of the Kopimist Creation Myth)

The laws of nature are pretty depressing reading for anyone who wants to feel enthusiasm for life and the future. They paint the picture of a tired and unwilling universe, that mostly just wants to lie down and die.

Things that are at rest prefer to stay that way, says Newton. Atoms and molecules may hustle about for a bit until they find the position that demands the least energy, but once they’ve found it they pretty much want to stay put, says chemistry. Everything is moving towards a lukewarm homogenous soup where nothing interesting can ever happen, says thermodynamics.

Thanks a lot, that’s very cheerful.

The scientific models are free from self-contradictions (mostly), and they have a lot of Classic inner beauty as models. But they don’t provide much basis for feeling trust in the future or joy in life.

We’re at the restaurant at the end of the universe just after last call, seems to be what science is telling us. The light is still on, and there are still intelligent discussions going on in the room. But the waiters have discretely started to prepare closing the whole establishment down, and nothing new will appear on the tables.

Right now, the restaurant Universe may be a fascinating web of diversity, but this is just a phase that will pass, says science. We are stuck with the natural laws that appeared before last orders, and even as you are reading this, they are slowly but patiently grinding down and polishing off anything that might attract interest or stand out. The universe today is not quite as interesting as it was last Thursday, and even less interesting than the Thursday before, because the slide down the slippery slope is a one way ride.

Security guards dressed up as physicists specialized in thermodynamics patrol the premises of restaurant Universe, and make sure that every event and movement, no matter how spectacular and fascinating it may look on the surface, is still yet another step towards the big shutdown. The universe that started with a bang is gradually being ground down to a whimper, and will end up in a state of infinite boredom, says the dogma of natural science.

Roughly at this point, the scientists usually begin to feel satisfied with their theoretical model, and look up from their mathematical formulas and expect to be met by cheering crowds. But to their great surprise, the hordes of scientifically atheistic materialists are not at all as large or as jubilant as they would have expected, or as they feel they rightly deserve.

Why are so few people applauding their elegant detailed description of a collapsing universe on a pointless journey towards total boredom?

This is a question that genuinely baffles a quite large number of scientists, often with an IQ around 150 or more. How can so many so bright men and women fail to find the answer to such an easy question?

The answer is that although this is the vision of the world that the scientist’s formulas describe, it is not what most scientists actually believe and feel in the bottom of their heart. But we’ll return to that issue. First, we have these natural laws of doom and gloom to take care of.

Must it really be against the laws if we want to feel some joy and trust in the future?

To simply deny the validity of the laws of nature would be one option, but it’s not a very attractive one. ”You scientists may have all your fancy laws and theories, but on my property apples fall with whatever speed they want, and me and my gun is gonna make sure it stays that way, praise the Lord!” is a position you can have if you want, but which most people don’t find very elegant.

You can bemoan the fact that science places restrictions on what can pass for a reasonably rational religion, but in practice there is very little you can do about it.

I may not like the General Theory of Relativity, since it is very weird and goes against everything I learned to be true when I grew up in a Newtonian world, but to deny that it’s valid would be just silly. Even if I don’t understand the theory myself (and I certainly don’t), I know that my mobile phone uses it to figure out the position on the GPS. If the General Theory of Relativity wasn’t a valid description of the world, my phone would be even more lost than I am in a foreign city. It isn’t.

And since it isn’t, the only realistic option seems to be to more or less grudgingly concede that the Theory of Relativity, and all the other laws of nature that the scientists have discovered, are valid and have to be observed, no matter how unfulfilling they may feel from a religious point of view.

Some people would feel that I am giving up this point to easily, and that a proper religion should defend it self by all reasonably legal means when it comes into conflict with science. But this has turned out to be rather an unsuccessful strategy in the face of steadily advancing science and technology.

When the Catholic Church decided in 1632 that Mr. Galileo Galilei was wrong, and that the world is firmly set on its foundations by the Lord and cannot be moved, as the Bible says, it may have seemed like a defensible position at the time. But even if it was right then, things very quickly got out of hand.

To sustain the view that sun is rising and setting over a flat earth today, you would not only have to maintain that there is a world wide conspiracy among all captains of ships and airplanes to pretend in public to be navigating on a globe, while in reality they are using their secret and true flat-earth maps to get to their respective destinations on time.

From a European perspective, you would also have to note with regret that all Americans and Australians seem to be members of the same conspiracy, or they wouldn’t be pretending to be asleep in the middle of the night every time you phone them from Europe in daytime. Americans and Australians, on their part, would have to conclude that the Holy Roman Catholic Church was also a leading member of this conspiracy, or they wouldn’t be televising their Midnight Mass live at so many different times that are quite obviously not midnight around the world.

Somewhere along the line, sustaining this alternative world view became too much even for the Catholic Church, with all its resources. In 1992, twenty-three years after the moon landing, Pope John Paul II came out of the closet and admitted that after all, the earth probably is a blue and green ball twirling around an ordinary sun somewhere in the less fashionable outskirts of an ordinary galaxy.

A fair and well deserved victory for Science, of course, considering how many everyday consumer grade miracles Science had managed to deliver in the intervening 360 years, while the Church was busy holding on to its firmly established unmoving earth.

But not very uplifting for our self esteem, We who once were just a little lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honour by a Lord that admittedly could be a little erratic at times, but at least made us feel that we were important in some way in His big scheme of things.

Many people feel that although science is great, having delivered both mobile phones and a doubled life expectancy for those who get to enjoy its fruits, something was still lost when we traded our special relationship with God as the chosen ones for the marvels of science.

But ”trading” things smells of scarcity economies and second millennium thinking. That’s not Kopimism.

The aim of Kopimism must be to unite science and religion, which means respecting science. But if it is to be a religion, it must also provide a way forward and a positive vision. We don’t want to choose: We want both the marvels of science and the sense of a higher purpose and a reason for hope.

This is what Kopimism sets out to achieve. Thanks to the Four Kopimist K’s — Kreativity, Kopying, Kooperation, and Kwality — we kan.

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3 januari 2013

Creativity: The Zeroth Kopimist K

Filed under: English,kopimism — Christian Engström @ 13:49
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Click to read the earlier parts of Kopimism: The Creation

(This sermon is part 6 of Kopimism: The Creation. It has previously been published in Swedish.)

In the Kopimist creation myth so far, we have identified three Fundamental Principles that are part of the creation:

1. Copying
2. Cooperation
3. Quality

These are three Kopimist K’s.

But there is still something missing. The principles of Copying and Cooperation explain how life could develop, and the principle of Quality gives a direction and answers the question ”towards what?”. But we have no principle that explains why life emerged in the first place.

We have Copying as a principle, but we have nothing to copy. We have Cooperation, but we have no projects to cooperate over. We have Quality, but no myriad of projects to evaluate and choose between.

If Kopimism was a car, we would have steering and brakes in the form of Quality, and wheels and transmission in the form of Copying and Cooperation. But no engine to move it all forward.

We have omitted to include something that explains the most obvious observation you can make about life, the universe and everything: That it exists, even though it wouldn’t have to.

Earth itself (the rock) had no need for developing life on its surface. It would have kept spinning whether somebody lived on it or not.

And once there was life on Earth in the shape of lots of unicellular blue-green plankton in the oceans, it could have stopped there. No space traveler passing by would have said ”Oh, a primordial ocean with blue-grenn plankton, what an obviously unsustainable position for an ecosystem, they neither have peacocks nor parsley”.

But yet life did appear on Earth, and the pretty boring soup of plankton did transform itself into the infinitely rich diversity that we see around us in nature, including both peacocks and parsley. There must have been other, much simpler, sustainable positions than this, if sustainability was all nature was after.

So evidently nature isn’t looking for sustainability, at least not only. Nature wants to have some fun as well, that’s obvious. This explains all the strange creatures on Earth, including the very silliest that Douglas Adams wrote about and the BBC filmed.

We add one more Fundamental Principle, and put it before all the other:

0. Creativity

Why before the other?

Creativity must have come first, maybe even before the universe itself. If, despite everything, it was in fact a divine being that created the world, then he/she must first have come up with the idea of doing it. Definitely creative, and before it actually happened.

And if the universe emerged by itself when a point of nothing somewhere in the void got bored with being nothing, and became a Big Bang instead, then the impulse to do something wild and crazy, something creative, must have appeared at the very latest in the same instant the universe was created.

And when we look at the world around us, we see that Creativity did not just exist at the moment the universe, or life, was born. It’s everywhere all around us all the time, and it has been throughout history.

The peacock and the parsley were refined in their respective shapes by Quality, and live on through sexual reproduction, that is: a combination of Cooperation and Copying. But when a primordial ocean of plankton had the impulse to start developing in the direction of peacock and parsley, this was because our universe is brimming with Creativity as a fundamental principle.

Universes want to have fun.

This is the zeroth Kopimist K, and the most fundamental of them all.

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2 januari 2013

Three Kopimist K’s: Copying, Cooperation, and Quality

Filed under: English,kopimism — Christian Engström @ 16:06
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Click to read the earlier parts of Kopimism: The Creation

(This sermon is part 5 of Kopimism: The Creation. It has previously been published in Swedish.)

The Kopimist creation myth so far identifies three Fundamental Principles: Copying, Cooperation, and Quality — Three Kopimist K’s.

This is a nice alliteration, and that’s a good sign. But apart from that, do these three Fundamental Principles fulfill reasonable criteria that you would place on this kind of religious or philosophical systems? Let’s examine this.

The rules for religions when it comes to choosing holy principles in practice boil down to ”anything goes”. There are no particular requirements that the description of the world should be logical or consistent in order for something to qualify as a religion. Kopimism of course fulfills these (non-)requirements, but so do all other religions as well, no matter how illogical they are.

Christianity, for example, teaches that God is some kind of extraordinary white elderly man with a beard, who is:

  1. Infinitely powerful (omnipotent),
  2. Infinitely good (omnibenevolent), and who
  3. Follows the dealings of humans on in detail, often on an individual level (omniscient).

Considering the amount of pointless and terrible suffering in the world, it is obviously impossible that there should exist a being with all these three properties.

All Christian theologists know this, of course, because this problem is so well known that it has a name of its own: the theodicy problem. Most of Christianity’s best brains have spent a considerable amount of their time on it for almost 2000 years, but none of them have been able to solve it. This is not because they were lazy of stupid, but simply because these three principles are irreconcilable in a world where evil exists.

You can pick any two of these properties for your God and still be within the realms of logic (and you get three different and interesting visions of God depending on which property you decide to downgrade), but you cannot logically believe in all three at the same time.

But the rules for religions don’t prevent anybody from believing in all three at the same time anyway. Hundreds of millions of Christians do exactly this, and as long as they are happy with it I think they should continue. There is no rule that bans you from believing in illogical things when it comes to religious views.

The legal rules that we have, and that we should have in a decent society, say that people are free to believe in whatever they want. Nothing at all if they wish, a Spaghetti Monster if that feels better, or an elderly white gentleman with conflicting properties for those who prefer that. This is called Freedom of Religion, and is one of the cornerstones of a free and open society.

But just because a religion may be as illogical as it wants, doesn’t mean it  has to be.

The rules of philosophy for systems of fundamental principles are a little more strict. Philosophers are inspired by natural science and mathematics, and feel more comfortable if a philosophical system isn’t too obviously self-contradictory.

This poses no problem for the three Kopimist principles of Copying, Cooperation, and Quality. There is nothing impossible in the idea of a world where all three coexist. They obviously do in reality, so we can be quite certain that this is possible.

There also shouldn’t be too much overlap between the different principles, according to the rules of philosophy, and it is considered an embarrassment if one of the principles turns out to be unnecessary, because it is already covered by two or more of the other ones. But the Kopimist K’s of Copying, Cooperation, and Quality pass this test as well.

  • Quality was the Fundamental Principle that we added last, since we felt that the two other principles were not enough, not even in combination, to explain why things on the whole have been going as reasonably well as they have, even though nothing turns out the way you expected. The reason we added Quality as a Fundamental Principle was that we were unable to deduce it from the two principles of Copying and Cooperation.
  • Cooperation can hardly be described as an inevitable logical consequence of Copying and Quality. With only those two principles we would have lots of individual cells swimming around in the oceans, and the ones with the most Quality would do best. But without Cooperation as a further fundamental principle, it is hard to explain the development of multicellular organisms. From their own perspective all the tiny unicellular plankton in the primeval ocean were fine just as they were, and had no particular interest in the development of multicellular great whales that would eat them.
  • Copying cannot be described as a logical consequence of Cooperation and Quality either. But without Copying, all the beautiful things that might appear as a result of Cooperation and Quality would be of limited practical value. No matter how great they were, they would only exist in one copy, which is pretty insufficient to fill up a whole ecosystem. Unless plants and animals could reproduce, create new copies of the same species, life would not exist. In the same way, there is no particular point in a team of researchers having produced the world’s greatest scientific report through Cooperation and Quality, unless the report and its findings are copied and shared with other scientists, giving them the chance to stand on the shoulders of giants. Copying is needed as a fundamental principle in its own right.

The rules of science are similar to those of philosophy, but with even stricter demands on the pieces being compatible and without internal contradictions. Science also demands experimental data and observations of reality to support the model.

This look at the internal relationships between Copying, Cooperation, and Quality is of course not as thorough as when a mathematician checks her axioms (fundamental principles), or when a physicist checks which forces and formulas are really necessary in a particular model, so the Kopimist theology presented here does not fulfill the requirements of science. But I don’t think that it has to, at least not here and now. The requirements of philosophy feel like a more reasonable level for a new religion.

This first evaluation of the Kopimist principles shows that they are not contradictory, and at least don’t overlap in an obvious way. We are miles ahead of the Abrahamic religions when it comes to logical consistency, at least so far.

But within mathematics and natural science it is customary to ask one more question when evaluating proposals for sets of rules or principles.

Are the proposed principles sufficient?

My answer to that question is actually no. I think we need one more Kopimist K to explain how the world we see around us emerged.

But until the next sermon, we will introduce a temporary K to keep the model from collapsing overnight:

Cliff-hanger! 🙂

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1 januari 2013

A Kopimist Creation Myth in Swedish and English

Filed under: English,kopimism — Christian Engström @ 20:19
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I have put together a consolidated version of the posts that I have been writing on this blog about a Kopimist Creation Myth.

It is available in Swedish and English. At the moment, there are some Swedish articles that have not yet been translated into English.

This is a work in progress.

All comments are very welcome.

Read Kopimim Level 1: The Creation (so far) in Swedish or English.

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29 december 2012

Kopimismen ökar enligt Språkrådet

Filed under: kopimism — Christian Engström @ 12:10
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Aftonbladet uppmärksammar Språkrådets lista med nya ord som dykt upp 2012. Jag lägger speciellt märke till

kopimismökad användning: politisk och religiös ideologi med informationsfrihet i centrum

Jag får erkänna att jag inte hade en aning om att användningen av ordet hade ökat, men det är förstås mycket glädjande. Mätt i antal troende har vi ju fortfarande en bit kvar tills vi kan mäta oss med de stora världsreligionerna, så det är bra om det finns tecken på att vi ökar.

Jag hoppas att vi med tiden kommer få se ett livskraftigt Missionerande Kopimistsamfund med både vigselrätt och ett erkännande av LCHF-kost som religiös specialmat på flyget. Att de målen kanske känns avlägsna idag gör inte så mycket. Både Paulus och Muhammed kan intyga att även den längsta resa består av ett steg i taget.

Jag önskar alla Kopimister ett

Gott Nytt Missionsår 2013!

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