A few thoughts on free will

My mind ran away last Sunday morning, again, while trying NOT to listen to the priest during his weekly rambling-paraphrasing-scolding which may take all of 20 minutes during mass. And my thoughts were revolving around free will.

The concept of free will is very dear to us and I have already written about it here in regards to religion. This Sunday morning, my musings were a little deeper: I am convinced that, as many of my atheist friends contend, an omniscient all-powerful and benevolent God is fully incompatible with human free will.

Consider this: I am free to "sin" or not to "sin". God has no power over my free will (or chooses not to exert it? not really clear). So, leaving aside that probable breach of God's all-mightiness, God allows me to sin all I want.

However, this presents me with two conclusions that are incompatible with all of God's usual attributes. If I am "free to sin" and God will not interfere with my choices either a) he is not omniscient and did not know I would sin or b) he is not benevolent at all, since he knows I will sind and be condemned but did not create me in such a I way that I would choose not to sin.

This is the kind of internal logical inconsistencies religious dogmas are full of. Maybe I am too simplistic but I just don't buy these illogical beliefs.

I would love to hear a religious apologist try to refute my argument. My feeling is that they would choose the cheap and easy way out: God's purposes are beyond human comprehension.

And that may be true for I do not understand. I am only human.

Does my cat really want to kill me?

Is your cat plotting to kill you?

According to this test I ran, my cat is figuring out ways to get me to meet my maker (whoever or whatever that is...) Being the egocentrical foolish cat lover I am I had interpreted all those signs of cat-plotting as genuine signs of affection or at least, acceptance of a helpful human who dutifully feeds and pets a deserving feline.

This got me thinking into these conspiracy theorists. You can have all these little, sometimes meaningless signs that, as a whole, can lead you down a completely wrong path.

A friend of mine believes in the Iluminati. He says that there is a global hidden government that, in true puppet master fashion, "manipulates" elections, orchestrates wars and directs world economy. If asked why Obama was elected or why we are currently in the beginning of a serious recession, he will answer that it serves the Illuminatti's purposes. Of course, those "purposes" being as sinister as can be expected from such a secret society, are not easily understood by us, common people.

I wish there were a global government. It would make life so much more easier, without the Castros, the Chavezes and the Ahmadinejads... or at least keeping them in line.

There is more than a little paranoia in the conspiracy theory mindset. It may be a result of our evolutionary path: more intelligence begets more mental instability. In any case, many of the conspiracy theorists see the same things we critical thinkers see and interpret them on a completely different light.

My cat is not plotting to kill me. In her small, limited conscience, there is room for dreams of rodent-catching, eating and my obligation to pet her as often as she wants to. After that is off to sleeping it off on the hood of my car (it is warm and cozy, isn't it?) and not much else... Killing me is definitely not in her agenda. Believing that would make me one of these crazy conspiracy theorists.

Now, that cat over there at my friend's house... he may be subject to the Illuminati's cat-mind control...

And... more about Coffee?

Yesterday when I was doing a little bit of research on my coffee piece, I came accross an interesting tidbit: Coffee was banned until...

Let's back up.

Coffee was discovered in Ethiopia, after shepherds noticed their goats and sheep getting all wired up after eating these red berries... After that, it spread rapidly through the arabic world.

Coffee was introduced in Europe through the venetian trade; the venetians had a lot of contact with the north of Africa and they brought coffee up north. But, apparently, coffee failed to gain traction with the europeans until after Pope Clement VIII declared it "a christian beverage" in 1600, taking away the blemish of being a "heretic muslim" concoction.

Isn't it amazing?

Thinking critically about... coffee?

Picture from Wikipedia Commons. Follow links below to see the article on Coffee.

This morning I resisted being rushed. For one reason or other we were late for church and I just stayed behind, finishing my freshly brewed cup of coffee. And enjoying it a lot more than listening to the priest paraphrase the current gospell reading.

Coffee cannot be rushed. It is to be savored and enjoyed. You can't leave it aside and keep on drinking: it has to be hot. All this got me thinking...

Coffee is a vice and an addiction. I find it helps me awaken in the morning, not being a morning person, and also keeps me productive in the early hours of the afternoon, when sleepiness creeps in after lunch. According to Wikipedia caffeine content in my cup of java may be in the range of 200-230 mg, which is enough for me to have addiction and withdrawal symptons. (Granted, these are only anecdotically recorded but...)

Coffee is an acquired taste. I drink coffee since I was very young (less than 5 probably) and I cannot get rid of it... On the other hand, my children were not accustomed to coffee when they were growing up and now that they are teenagers, they have little or no affection for my favorite concoction. Many of my friends who are not coffee drinkers (actually one of then is a coffee-t-totaler) did not get used to it when they were young and they find it distasteful.

Coffee is a social ritual. It is customary to offer coffee to visitors and talk about having a cup of coffee with friends in order to get together and socialize. In fact, I have used just that excuse to meet some fellow bloggers.

Coffee must be drunk hot. I keep remembering how Arthur C. Clarke used to have his space-faring characters complain about "tepid coffee". It makes perfect sense to me. As a result of my work, I know that 60-65 °C is about as hot as can be handled with your bare hands; above that, you tend to get first degree burns. However, for whatever reason, my mouth is able to handle higher temperatures, probably as high as 75°C and I have my coffee usually at a warm 60-65°C, which (I know) my hands cannot handle. In a spaceship you do not need the whole 15.6 psi of atmospheric pressure (sorry, I have never learned the kg per square centimeter units) since 80% of that is contributed by nitrogen and you can get by with 7-8 psi of an oxygen-rich atmosphere. At that low pressure you would not be able to heat coffee to the full 70-75°C without boiling it and you would have to drink it at 40°C or so... distastefully tepid. That is why in a normal atmosphere you should not neglect your cup of steaming java for long.

And coffee is such an important part of the world economy. The ups and downs of the market affect the livelihood of millions of people accross the world, especially in developing countries like mine, which is one of the top ten producers in the world (again, according to Wikipedia).
So coffee is a very important part of my life and that of many others.

A good subject to think about, in critical terms.