Atheism vs. Agnosticism and Other Crap About My Friday

Hi. Happy Remembrance day. Did you know that the word “remembrance” does not have the word “remember” in it? Something to think about.

So today I was walking to school when I passed a table full of stuff in bags. Some guy shouted to me “hey, want some free stuff?” I’ve never turned down free stuff in my life, so I asked him what the catch was. He told me that all I had to do was fill out a survey. I like surveys too, so I snatched up my free bag and grabbed a pen.

Then I found the catch: they were religious nuts trying to convert people. The questions on the survey were about religion and spirituality. As with most religion surveys, “atheist” and “agnostic” were two separate entries and you weren’t supposed to check more than one.

moses

Let me go on a bit of a rant. It is completely possible to be both atheist and agnostic (here is a nice article about this issue). The reason is that atheism deals with belief about God(s), while agnosticism deals with knowledge about God(s). I do not believe that God exists (atheist), but I also do not know whether God exists or not (agnostic). In other words, it’s highly unlikely that God exists (there is no evidence for God, and most concepts of God logically contradict themselves), but I don’t know for sure either way. Maybe tomorrow, scientists will discover incontrovertible evidence for the existence of God. And maybe tomorrow a magical fairy will fly into my bedroom with a few million dollars and all the cheesecake I can eat, but I’m not holding my breath.

If you want to get more picky, you can divide things into weak atheism and strong atheism, then weak agnosticism and strong agnosticism. Pickier still, you can point out that everybody is an atheist in some way: do Christians not deny the existence of Zeus and Aphrodite?

Anyway, I bet you’re dying to know what was in the bag of free stuff. Obviously there was a cheap bible in there, but also a nifty book about Jesus, a CD, and a DVD. If only they included some cheesecake, I might have been converted.

Oh, also, I have finally started running participants for my thesis. Yay! Four down, ninety six to go.

Now I sit at home, playing with Willow. She’s becoming bored with her toys and can only have fun by being chased around by me. Here is a picture of her being bored with her ball:

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And here is a picture of her being bored with her ball, her rope toy, and a sock:

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Isn’t she cuuuuute?

Procrastination Pictures

I should really be working right now. I’ve got a hundred things to do, some of them quite urgent and important. Instead, I’ve been trying to figure out how to get my camera phone working again. It mysteriously stopped letting me upload pictures to my computer a while ago. Luckily, my procrastination has payed off, for I finally got it working (turns out the computer doesn’t like it when more than a few pictures are on the phone at a time, so I had to delete some. I hate computers). Of course, I had to test it out a bit, so I took some random pictures. Then I remembered that I have this blog, and it’s supposed to be a log of my life that replaces the need for biological memory, so I had better post some pictures here. After all, the images will have vanished from my mind when I’m old, but they can stay on this web site until the end of the world (or at least until terrorists unleash an EMP bomb that erases the memory of every computer in Canada).

So, here is a slice of my life – a slice where I procrastinated for an entire day – in picture form.

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Here is the view from my office right now. Why is it so damn nice out? That’s another reason I can’t get anything done. When it’s nice outside, I don’t feel like sitting inside doing work.

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Here’s the computer I should be typing my thesis on, but am instead typing this post which nobody will read.

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Here’s the muffin I had for lunch.

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And here is my half full coffee, getting in my half-eaten muffin’s sun. OK, I guess I’m running out of things to take pictures of.

This concludes this incredibly exciting post. Maybe I should go actually do something, now that I’ve gotten this out of my system. Bye.

Coffee is Good For You

According to this Psychology Today article, coffee is good for you in all sorts of ways. Hooray! Now I don’t feel so bad that the only liquid I’ve put in my body today was coffee.

Now what I’m wondering is whether all the research we heard about a few years ago – about coffee causing heart disease and being addictive – is now not true any more. OK, so coffee prevents cancer now. So will I live a cancer-free life, only to die of a heart attack while I’m trembling in the line at Starbucks waiting for my next fix?

Whatever. That picture to the right is making me want some coffee. Mmmm, coffee.

Mind Podcast

Lately I’ve been into podcasts. Podcasts are basically radio shows which are recorded as mp3s, and can be set to automatically upload to your mp3 player (such as an iPod) whenever a new episode comes out.

For psychologists, a very useful podcast is Mind Podcast. It’s not flashy and exciting or anything, but this guy goes over whatever psychology topic he is studying every day. It’s like having a study buddy reading notes to you through your mp3 player. A study buddy with a cool accent. For grad students, it will mostly be review of the basics, but we can all use that once in a while.

The show is on a break right now, but I’ve been emailing back and forth with the dude who does this, and he says it will be back sometime (though maybe not as frequently…every day was a bit excessive anyway).

Note that you can get to older episodes by clicking on the Archives on the righthand side, then clicking on individual episode titles.

Caninetivity

The other night, Willow (our dog) was hyper yet bored. We were watching TV and ignoring her. So she started playing with her tennis ball. At one point, it rolled onto her blanket. She then decided to grab the edge of the blanket and yank it up, so that the ball went flying off to the side. She decided this was a fun game, so she chased down the ball, put it back on the blanket, and sent it flying again. She did this over and over, until she got bored of that too.

This got me thinking…can animals be creative? My research involves creativity, but I haven’t really come across (or looked for) anything about animal creativity. Most people seem to think that creativity is uniquely human. I’ve seen it referred to as the very thing that makes us human. Yet there was my dog, coming up with a new way to combine two items in a way she had never witnessed before. She then used this combination to satisfy her goals (i.e. having fun by chasing a ball). Is that creativity?

Usually we define creativity as doing something that is both novel and useful. This seems to satisfy both requirements. Maybe she wasn’t the first dog in the history of dogkind to come up with this game, but it was certainly new to her, and useful in alleviating boredom. So yeah, animals can be creative, by that definition. I’m sure monkeys and apes come up with even more amazing stuff than tossing a ball using a blanket.

Speaking of which, I’m listening to the new Gorillaz album for the first time, and it is just spiffy. Go buy it.

Under Construction

You know what I think I’ll do with this web site? I’ll make it my “professional” site, where I can record my school and career related activities. Sort of like a super-detailed CV / resume. I can also deal with topics directly related to my schooling and research, like philosophical and detailed psychological stuff. It will probably not be interesting to anybody except me, but that’s OK.

Unfortunately, I’m too lazy to start today, so this will have to remain as a crappy under-construction site for now. Later!

~Mike