The feeling you get about four o’clock in the afternoon when you haven’t got enough done.
(see also: Deadlines)
This quote from Douglas Adams‘ 2001 interview with American Atheists (subsequently reproduced in The Salmon of Doubt) perfectly describes my attitude towards belief and religion (see also: this quote from Alan Turing):
AMERICAN ATHEISTS: Mr. Adams, you have been described as a “radical Atheist”. Is this accurate?
DNA: Yes. I think I use the term radical rather loosely, just for emphasis. If you describe yourself as “Atheist”, some people will say, “Don’t you mean ‘Agnostic’?” I have to reply that I really do mean Atheist. I really do not believe that there is a god — in fact I am convinced that there is not a god (a subtle difference). I see not a shred of evidence to suggest that there is one. It’s easier to say that I am a radical Atheist, just to signal that I really mean it, have thought about it a great deal, and that it’s an opinion I hold seriously.
Other people will ask how I can possibly claim to know? Isn’t belief-that-there-is-not-a-god as irrational, arrogant, etc., as belief-that-there-is-a-god? To which I say no for several reasons. First of all I do not believe-that-there-is-not-a-god. I don’t see what belief has got to do with it. I believe or don’t believe my four-year old daughter when she tells me that she didn’t make that mess on the floor. I believe in justice and fair play (though I don’t know exactly how we achieve them, other than by continually trying against all possible odds of success). I also believe that England should enter the European Monetary Union. I am not remotely enough of an economist to argue the issue vigorously with someone who is, but what little I do know, reinforced with a hefty dollop of gut feeling, strongly suggests to me that it’s the right course. I could very easily turn out to be wrong, and I know that. These seem to me to be legitimate uses for the word believe. As a carapace for the protection of irrational notions from legitimate questions, however, I think that the word has a lot of mischief to answer for. So, I do not believe-that-there-is-no-god. I am, however, convinced that there is no god, which is a totally different stance and takes me on to my second reason.
I don’t accept the currently fashionable assertion that any view is automatically as worthy of respect as any equal and opposite view. My view is that the moon is made of rock. If someone says to me “Well, you haven’t been there, have you? You haven’t seen it for yourself, so my view that it is made of Norwegian Beaver Cheese is equally valid” — then I can’t even be bothered to argue. There is such a thing as the burden of proof, and in the case of god, as in the case of the composition of the moon, this has shifted radically. God used to be the best explanation we’d got, and we’ve now got vastly better ones. God is no longer an explanation of anything, but has instead become something that would itself need an insurmountable amount of explaining. So I don’t think that being convinced that there is no god is as irrational or arrogant a point of view as belief that there is. I don’t think the matter calls for even-handedness at all.
Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.
Douglas Adams (1952-2001)
There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.
There is another theory which states that this has already happened.
Today would have been the 60th birthday of Douglas Noel Adams, a writer who has had a profound impact on many people’s lives (including my own) due to his famous trilogy in five parts: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He was a staunch atheist (“Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?“), a serious fan of technology (especially the Apple Macintosh) and a passionate advocate for environmental and conservation causes.
DNA sadly died in May 2001 at the age of 49 (with his life celebrated every year on the 25th May by Towel Day), but his contribution to science fiction, comedy and satire lives on. I would have no hesitation in naming HHGTTG as one of my most treasured books; I regularly re-read it and it would certainly be top of my Desert Island Discs book list. If you have not yet had the pleasure, I urge you to do so.
I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.
Douglas Adams (1952-2001)
I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
Douglas Adams (1952-2001)
I agree with Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged (who has unlucky to have immortality inadvertently thrust upon him by an unfortunate accident with an irrational particle accelerator, a liquid lunch and pair of rubber bands) regarding Sunday afternoons :
It was the Sunday afternoons he couldn’t cope with, that terrible listlessness that starts to set in about 2:55, when you know you’ve taken all the baths that you can usefully take that day, that however hard you stare at any given paragraph in the newspaper you will never actually read it, or use the revolutionary new pruning technique it describes, and that as you stare at the clock the hands will move relentlessly on to four o’clock, and you will enter the long dark teatime of the soul.
In the beginning the Universe was created.
This has made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.
I’m not trying to espouse nihilism or trivialise recent events (especially in conjunction with my previous HHGTTG post) — I’m well aware I have a penchant for describing current (any?) events and people’s actions through the medium of xkcd or HHGTTG — some of the sights over the past five nights have been profoundly distressing and frustrating (as has some of the reporting).
I’m just not quite sure how to reconcile how I feel about the recent riots (but yes, I truly believe it is rioting/looting and most definitely not “protesting”), without going all Daily Mail (which appears to be fairly standard practice across a number of social media platforms of late).
Comments gratefully received…
The major problem — one of the major problems, for there are several — one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them.
To summarise: it is a well-known fact that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarise the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.
To summarise the summary of the summary: people are a problem.
N.B. I had always thought this was a truism (albeit slightly tongue-in-cheek), which (cynically) went hand in hand with “quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”.
It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.