A Sermon for Modern Mankind
Friday, April 16, 2021
Wednesday, May 2, 2018
Modern American Society would likely see both of these previous attempts as 'outdated', 'old fashioned' or even 'primitive'. After all science tells us a lot about happiness right? Brain scans like fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and EEG (electroencephalogram) along with blood test can show us all the workings of the brain from an electrical and chemical perspective. Further, we can take the data and identify a number of chemicals (dopamine, serotonin, adrenaline, endorphin etc.) present that correlate or predicate experiences that can be identified or associated with happiness. From here drugs can be produced that will either supplement these chemicals or trigger our own increased production of these chemicals, hence doctors can prescribe happiness.
Assuming all human experience is reducible to chemical and electrical impulses in our brains that should be the whole story. Problem solved...but it most certainly is not.
Science can recreate the sensation of happiness based upon observations of our brains whilst we’re happy but that is not the same as making us happy. Happiness persists after the sensation of happiness has passed. This passing transient happiness can be called chemical happiness. Chemical happiness leads to addiction because whether we are aware of it or not we become capable of properly identifying the sensation of happiness with the chemical cause of our transitory happiness and begin to seek out the sensation alone which leaves us feeling empty once it has passed. True Happiness remains as a feeling of satisfaction after the sensation of happiness has left us. Thus we feel satisfied instead of empty and are less likely to seek out the sensation alone as the satisfaction that remains is a far more pleasant experience.
A Neuroscientist sympathetic to this account of the experience of happiness may be so bold as to create a chemical cocktail that will place the proper chemicals in our brains at the precise times needed to give us the boost of happy feelings as well as the satisfaction feelings in an attempt to avoid the empty feelings that lead to addiction. The only trouble here would be to somehow trick the recipient of these chemicals so that they don't associate the taking of the medication with the subsequent happiness feeling. Once that association is made the recipient will likely discover that the chemical therapy is the source of happiness and seek it out, further exasperating the problem.
So what is the solution? Guiding each individual on a exploration of themselves where they learn the true external and internal triggers that cause their brains to produce those very same chemicals. Does this assume that humans are Pavlovian flesh robots, who merely need certain programming to be happy? What does this mean for issues of freedom and will power? My suspicion is that Freedom and Will Power are the source of the answer to human happiness. But that is a topic for another time.
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
There is a saying: "Complex problems have many simple, easy to understand wrong answers". As I researched Dark Matter (I must explain that I am an armchair physicist, not an academic physicist) I discovered more details about the problem and what the observations were indicating. From what I've read it appears that we are in the post Michelson-Morley and pre-Einstein phase with regards to Dark Matter.
That is to say that in the late 19th and early 20th Century we (the scientific community) faced experimental data that challenged our prevailing theories. Theories that held the world together. Nature's mysteries were staring us in the face and we were at a loss for explanation. That is where we are today. Back then, Einstein came to the rescue with a theory so bizarre, yet so simple and elegant, that it must be one of those 'easy to understand wrong answers'. Today we are waiting for an Einstein to help us understand what we are seeing.
This fresh mystery may require as dramatic a paradigm shift as Einstein's theories or Quantum Mechanics. Perhaps instead of unifying gravity with QED we will be incorporating a new, third variant to explain all this missing matter and energy? Perhaps our understanding of space-time will be turned inside-out or upside-down and this will all make sense. My suspicion is that our understanding of time is to blame and will be revolutionized in the answer to this mystery. What if space-time is composed of a defined minimum quanta (string theorists seem to believe space is at minimum 1 plank meter in size, so why not space-time. 1 plank metersecond?) that expands in all 10 dimensions in the presence of energy, but remains static in the presence of matter? Would shape of space-time would inflate and deflate constantly, almost breathing, as energy passed through, or would the expansion cease to contract as energy passed? Could this be reconciled with relativity? QED? Would the math help explain those moments after the big bang?
The great thing about the mysteries of Dark Matter and Dark Energy is the possibility it represents. It shows us that the further we reach with our understanding the further we realize we have to go before we understand our universe.
Dark Matter may be found to have prosaic explanations like the WIMPS or something similar but I sure hope not and I think the mystery of Dark Energy is a clue that something we haven't even imagined is at work out there.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Bourbon versus Scotch
This blog is dedicated to philosophy so it may appear odd to have an entry about tasting the difference between
Philosophers have been debating the importance of physical experiences, or sensations since the beginning. Epicurus is said to have commented that it is best to have water and bread everyday of ones life so that when presented with cheese it will appear a feast. Now Epicurus while father of hedonism, ended up a hermit who reveled in simplicity, while later followers of his philosophy took it mean living in the extremes of pleasure. Moderation has dominated the content of most ethical talk of sensations and pleasure over the years, allowing for people to enjoy life and its sensual pleasures so long as not to overindulge in any one aspect of sensual delights. In keeping with this, expanding ones breadth of sensual experience will allow for a greater range of moderate sensual appreciation and a deeper enjoyment of life.
That being said, I have always been jealous of those who can enjoy a good whisky, wine or cognac. So in an attempt to be able to appreciate the joys of such spirits I have decided to embark on a spiritual culinary journey whereas I attempt to develop a taste for whisky.
Whisky is made from the distillation of a cooked fermented mash of grains. A grain or combination of grains is mixed with water and yeast, similar to the mash created to brew beer, and let to ferment; a process wherein the yeast eats the sugar in the grain and as a byproduct releases alcohol. The mash is boiled and the alcohol is distilled and collected. Distilling is the process by which the alcohol vapor is separated from the mash and cooled through copper tubing and collected as a clear, odorless and tasteless spirit. The clear liquid is not whisky until its aged in a barrel, typically an American white oak barrel.
Let’s talk about the difference between Bourbon and Scotch. First we will look at bourbon. A bourbon mash is made from 51% corn and a combination of other grains such as rye, wheat and barley. Water from the bluegrass region of
Single malt scotch is made from a mash of 100% malted barley. Malted barley is barley that has begun to germinate before it is combined with water and yeast in the mash. For a whisky to be called scotch it must be distilled and aged in
To the taste test. I have an ounce of Maker’s Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky, 90 proof, over a large ice cube and ounce of The Speyside Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky aged 12 years, 86 proof, over a large ice cube. To set the mood I set my Pandora to the Frank Sinatra station and sipped each drink following it with a palate cleanser of ice water (I know ice water is an inadequate palate cleanser but I did also take a moment in between each sip to reflect on the flavors).
How do they taste? Well, at first taste, right after poured over a large ice cube, I preferred the sweeter taste of the scotch to the bourbon. However, after the ice began to melt the bourbon’s stronger flavor better offset the kick of the spirit underlying both drinks. It may have been Summertime playing on the radio but something about that American born bourbon sat well with me in the end.
Bourbon is a truly American drink and that may have affected my opinion in this particular tasting but I have yet to really gain a taste for whisky. Made from mostly corn, that most truly American grain, and only made in Kentucky there is a certain national pride associated with bourbon that I’m sure resides in every Scotsman as relating to scotch.
In short this not over by far as I have an entire bottle of Scotch to begin to enjoy and most of a bottle of Bourbon to finish. Cheers!