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Randal Auditor | joined 30 March 2005 | 140 posts


Bakker vs. Kellhus in Cranium posted 03 April 2005 in Author Q & ABakker vs. Kellhus in Cranium by Randal, Auditor

Until mr. Bakker can answer the question, you might be interested in reading [url=http://www.sfsite.com/10a/sb185.htm/:20hipzri]this interview.[/url:20hipzri]

Specifically, it contains this question:

Q: In a series filled with vivid, fascinating characters, Kellhus (for me anyway) is the standout -- not least because, unlike some other writers who portray superhumanly intelligent beings, you succeed in making his intellectual superiority completely convincing. What were the challenges of creating such a character?

A: I've always felt more intelligent when I write than when I speak. Take me away from my computer screen, and I'm lucky if my thoughts attain the clarity of Campbell's Soup. I suppose (and remember, I'm writing this response!) this is because writing allows you to step outside of time, to think a thousand thoughts where the reader encounters only one. And if you think about it, this is pretty much what Kellhus does while speaking. He stands outside the rush of verbal interaction, and so is able to scrutinize and premeditate where others can only reflexively respond.

So in a formal sense, portraying Kellhus's superhuman intelligence was relatively easy. I would start with straight dialogue for Kellhus's scenes, which I would then go over again and again, each time giving Kellhus more in the way of insights and observations. It was the substance of these insights and observations that proved exceedingly difficult to write. But here again, I had the luxury of time: I would work and rework them until I eventually came up with something 'Kellhus worthy.' I took a shotgun approach.
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Do you believe a God exists? posted 05 April 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Randal, Auditor

Nope. I don't believe in a god, I don't believe in afterlife, I don't believe there's a purpose or meaning to life. (That is, no externally imposed one. Make your own purpose if you will.) I don't believe in supernatural forces, psychic powers, spirituality, homeopathy, the lot. Never have, and I strongly doubt I ever will. (Barring reliable scientific evidence indicating the existence of these phenomena.)

That would make me an atheist. A third-generation one, at that. So I haven't had much to do with religion at all in my life. The subject does interest me on an intellectual level, though, probably because it's quite alien to me.

As for things I do believe in, I rather like the philosophy of existentialism, but I haven't studied it enough to commit myself.

Never heard of those "Left Hand Path" people, but that most definitely is not what I see as existentialism. Worshipping oneself as a god sounds rather pointless to me. (But then, most religions do.) view post


kellhus == good guy?? posted 21 April 2005 in The Darkness That Comes Beforekellhus == good guy?? by Randal, Auditor

I don't know whether universal morality exists or not, but by my code of ethics Kellhus is evil, for his casual abuse of humans when it suits his ends. Not just when it's absolutely necessary to achieve his goal, but also when it just might give him an infinitesimal advantage later on will Kellhus gladly kill, manipulate and destroy. Not even an "end justifies the means" defence (to which I do not subscribe) would get Kellhus off completely, I think.

But he is more than just evil. Cnaiur is evil, probably more so then Kellhus, since the Sklyvendi destroys, kills and maims for pleasure, whilst Kellhus destroys to achieve a goal he percieves as necessary. But even so, when the two of them travelled through the steppes I found myself rooting for Cnaiur to prevail, to defeat and kill the abomination that is Kellhus. For whilst Cnaiur is a thoroughly evil and despicable man, it's a human evil, which I can in some ways understand even as I abhor it. Kellhus... frightens me. Yes, the book would not nearly be as interesting without the Dunyain monk, so on a more rational level I wanted him to survive. But that did not change the way I felt.

I think, as some have said above, that Kellhus indeed cannot be judged by human standards. He is beyond that. But to me, that does not make him more than human. It makes him less. He no longer is one of us. Instead, he is utterly alien; the monster in the night, the beast that howls and screams at the moon, the unknown and the enemy of all. Although he wears a pleasant mask, he'll destroy you with as little thought as the beast that jumps your back in the woods. And the fact that he acts not out of mindless hunger, but out of cold logic combined with preternatural intelligence, only makes him more of a threat.

Maybe Kellhus is more than human. Maybe he is better than us. But so were the Martians in the War of the Worlds. And whilst I am one of those lowly humans crawling on the ground in Kellhus' shadow, every instinct I've got screams at me to kill him before it is too late. view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 24 April 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Randal, Auditor

Most of those are not problems with the idea of a higher being as such, just a very specific variant judeo-christian-muslim god. I'm sure there are many christians (etc) out there who for these very reasons (or similar ones) hold to a slightly different but more internally consistent view of their deity. And others who have some sort of explanation for these apparent (or factual?) inconsistencies.

As for time, it is a tricky concept; one that I cannot really understand, once you add in the theory of relativity. If time is relative to the observer, what does it mean for the universe as such? Or any hypothetical diety? Not a clue, really, although I do admit I find the concept of an eternal god creating all hard to accept.

[/devil's advocate]. (Or should that be god's advocate in this particular context?) view post


kellhus == good guy?? posted 28 April 2005 in The Darkness That Comes Beforekellhus == good guy?? by Randal, Auditor

I did qualify "by my code of ethics Kellhus is evil." Maybe Kellhus isn't evil for a Dunyain.

But to truly answer that question, one would probably need something to compare them with. i.e. other Dunyain or Sklyvendi. Right now, we don't know whether all Sklyvendi are murderous bastards like Cnaiur, nor do we know all Dunyain are manipulative bastards like Kellhus. Maybe the ones we see are the exceptions to the rule.

We do know Cnaiur is violent and nasty even by Sklyvendi standards; that's how he held onto his position despite being hated by all his tribesmen as a tradition breaker and father killer. Maybe Cnaiur is evil even for a Sklyvendi.

And as for the Dunyain, I'm not quite convinced they're all manipulative bastards. They teach extreme detachment and rationalism, yes. But they don't come into contact with the outside world, so they don't teach their monks to manipulate 'lesser' humans. Maybe Kellhus made that part up by himself. He's nothing if not good at improvising... view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 28 April 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Randal, Auditor

We're talking about two different things here, confusingly both called "god".

One can believe that the universe was created by some kind of external force or intelligence, and name that force "god." Let's call it a "creator."

Or one can believe in the god of the bible who is omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omniscient, etc, who rewards good people with heaven and bad people with hell, who poses rules of conduct for mortals, etc, etc. (there are, of course, a million variations on this theme.) Let's call this one "Jehova."

I personally believe in neither of these things, but I do find the first one a lot more plausible than the second. I reject the first one because I do not think a universe created by a mysterious eternal "creator" is any more logical or clear than a universe that simply is eternal (and mysterious) by itself. I reject the second for the inconsistencies and contradictions listed here, and many similar ones.

Anyway, arguments against the second kind of god do not apply to the first one at all.

Now, on a completely different tangent (one is allowed to ramble on messageboards, right?) a question for the believers in the second kind of god:

If I were to assume, hypothetically, that the bible is correct, and Jehova exist, why should I worship him?

Besides the rather obvious reason I'll be punished with hellfire if I disobey (that's not a good reason, i.m.o. Worship out of fear would not be worship at all.) and rewarded with eternal life and happyness if I do, I can't think of any reason to do such a thing. view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 29 April 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Randal, Auditor

[quote:1iucp1ld]Randal said:
"I reject the first one because I do not think a universe created by a mysterious eternal "creator" is any more logical or clear than a universe that simply is eternal (and mysterious) by itself. "

Andrew said:
It is kind of pecular to reject the existence of God merely because you see an equally plausible alternative. Wouldn't it be more consistent to reject neither God, NOR an eternal universe? OR, you ought also to reject the existence of the universe. If you hold 2 things to be equally implausible (or that neither is more 'logical or clear' than the other), then to reject one and accept the other is pure prejudice. [/quote:1iucp1ld]

No, I don't find that peculiar at all. The situation is like this: I have a question, namely: "Why does the universe exist, and how did it come into existence."

Now, one could answer that question by saying "A creator did it." But that answer is equally implausible to me as the answer "it simply always existed." In the end, both answers come down to "Because!"

So, I have two equally implausible answers. I like neither. But for the moment I'll go with the one that does not require additional outside agents, i.e. god. It's the old argument of Occam's razor.

And as for prejudice? I don't think so. After all, god and the universe are not equal. The universe does exist, and we don't know whether it ever did not. There is no evidence for a creator. To me, just accepting the universe exists and may always have in one form or another is far less of a leap of faith than inventing a creator god to answer the question.

Basically, I still don't have a real answer to the question, but I don't see a reason to believe in a creator either. (At least, as far as the origin of the universe is concerned.) Maybe we'll learn more some day in the future. view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 01 May 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Randal, Auditor

Preliminary notes

Interesting discussion, this, albeit one that has been held many times before. Still, this time I participate myself. It's a good mental exercise, I think, to really try and explain one's views to a stranger.

I do wonder, Andrew, what your exact position in the debate is? You obviously believe that some intelligent creator made the universe. But I do wonder what your other beliefs are. Do you also believe in a more conventional god, i.e. judeo-christian-muslim? Or just a creator, a "first cause" of the universe?

Anyway, your post. My reply is going to be a long one. (well, it's tricky to explain one's worldview in a few sentences. And you did ask...) To the other worthy members of this forum, my apologies for what basically amounts to something like a thread-hijack. I guess it was inevitable once this subject reared it's head.

Quote: "Andrew":1nq10sw6
Well Randall, I would say based on your answer that you basically AGREE with my point![/quote:1nq10sw6]

Yes, my first assertion was not very logical. It was a bit of an afterthought, a casual reference to my position, but irrelevant to my argument. (That we were talking about two different ideas called "god".) It was a line I added at the last minute, and did not really clarify my beliefs. (well, I wasn't really expecting a debate like this.)

I stand by the second post, as well as the gist of the first. I still reject X, because there is no reason to accept it, and it is less plausible than other, albeit equally unsatisfying answers. (as far as I can see.) Note that this does not mean I really accept Y either, just that I think it's a possibility, which I'll stick to until new evidence is forthcoming.

Onto the main issue

Quote: "Andrew":1nq10sw6
{snip}I would be curious to know what it would require for God to prove his existence to you if creating a universe of staggering complexity isn't enough!{snip}[/quote:1nq10sw6]

Yes, that's where the difference lies between our views.

Quote: "Andrew":1nq10sw6
{another snip}Outside of the mind of men there is no such thing as "chance" or "random" or "unpredictable".{snip}[/quote:1nq10sw6]

That sentence goes part of the way towards the answer. Chance and random do exist outside the minds of men, in my worldview. (quantum processes and all that.) Things that go one way could just as well go another. God (or in my case, the universe) does indeed play dice. A lot can be predicted, and many chances are so heavily weighed one way or another that the possibility of something else happening is virtually negligible, but in the end everything is the result of a chance process. Everything is random.

In such a worldview, the existence of the universe proves nothing about a creator. Order can come from chaos all by itself, if left alone long enough. And long enough is easy if infinity is at your disposal.

But, now to formulate an answer to the important question;

"what would god need to do to prove his existence to me?"

Which is, indeed, a tricky question to answer. One I have considered before, but which will still need some thought to arrive at a reasonably clear answer.

Ultimately, it would depend on the kind of god we're talking about.

The judeo-christian-muslim-buddhist whatever else you can think of gods that make up 99% of the world's religions, all make claim to influencing the world in one way or another. To prove their existence, that influence would need to be proven. Miracles would need to be shown, efficacy of prayer detected, proof of reincarnation found, etc. Depends on the exact variant of religion.

In a more general sense, for me to even consider the existence of these kinds of deities, scientific research would have to prove the existence of the supernatural in one way or another. Should that happen, I will completely re-evaluate my worldview, and start considering the religions as possible fact, rather than regarding them as nonsense.

Note, however, that this does not mean I'd convert. Even if christianity, to take the most obvious example, proved to be true in all it's various claims, I doubt I would turn to worship God. I don't really understand why people worship anything, be he the creator of the universe or the emperor of Hulaland. Same for morals. I do what I believe good, and will not consciously alter my positions just because it turns out some god is watching my moves from heaven. I'm not a very worshippy person, I guess.

But, all this is concerning the second kind of god I discussed earlier. The acting god, not the first variant, who is merely the "first cause."

The claim of the first cause "god" is far more ephemeral than the second one. Where the second one claims to be omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, whatever, the first one merely claims to be the invisible, intangible, untraceable reason the universe exists. A hard claim to either prove, or disprove. Such a creator would exist outside of our universe, in all probability, and not be subject to the laws of nature by which we live and by which all our research is conducted. Such a "god" might not want to prove his existence, might not be able to by virtue of his position outside the universe. He need not even be sentient as we see it.

Which means my position on this one is rather less firm than on the other. Dismissing it out of hand, when so little is or can be proven, would be a bit premature, I think. But I still don't accept the claim the universe must have a creator, for precisely the same reason. It's so easy to claim something unprovable exists. It's a tired old analogy, but here goes anyway: how does one disprove the existence of invisible purple unicorns living on the far side of the galaxy? The only possibility would be to travel to every planet in the galaxy with supersophisticated sensors capable of finding even invisible pink unicorns. Only once every place has been visited could one safely claim they do not exist. But with our current technology, this is not possible, or desirable. So in the meantime, I'll dismiss their existence based on the burden of proof and probability. Something does not exist unless there is proof, or at least a good reason to assume it does.

All of which does not answer the question "how would a creator/first cause go about proving his existence, when that may well be impossible by definition." (if it is completely separated from the physical universe and hence undetectable by beings limited by it's constraints.)

On consideration, my answer would be that it is impossible for such a god to prove it's existence, or for us to prove it, because the concept thought up here is too abstract, too remote and too alien to be subjected to conventional research.

Maybe, one day in the future, with advanced technology and tools, we'll be able to truly examine the origins of the universe, and come to some kind of conclusion. Only a few hundred years ago, it was impossible to think of some non-divine alternative explanation for the existence of life, let alone humans. Now, there are extensive theories to explain these things. Maybe the origins of the universe will one day be unveiled as well.

But right now, I can neither prove nor disprove the existence of a "first cause." Be that as it may, I still choose not to believe in it, because for me that is the more logical way to approach a subject. I will not believe in something unprovable unless there is a reason to do so. If that means I disregard something that in the future will be proven to be true, so be it. I'd rather be overly sceptical than credulous. (note: I am not accusing you of credulity. I just state that with the worldview I have described, belief in god for me would require credulousness.)

Wrapping things up

After this already long post, I think it's fairly safe to state that our difference of opinion arises basically from a disagreement of what constitutes he evidence in this case. You believe in a creator, because to you the universe is obviously/logically something that must have been created by an intelligence, a god.

I, however, have no problems whatsoever with ascribing something so complex and wonderful as the universe or even the laws of nature to something as basic as the result of mere chance and random processes which we do not yet understand. Or something else entirely, such as hyperintelligent aliens from the umpteenth dimension, or another kind of creator. Or I could see it as something that simply always has existed, and has no origin or cause as we understand it. Therefore, where you see evidence for one thing, I see an unexplained phenomenon which may have for which we have multiple widely differring possible explanations, none of which need be true, and some of which sound more implausible to me than others.

Now, I'd better get some sleep, as this reply took rather longer than I expected. I don't think I need to reply to your "maybe Andrew is cosmic radiation" analogy, which is quite as ridiculous as my invisible purple unicorns and would only cause confusion. This post is quite long enough. view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 02 May 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Randal, Auditor

Upon consideration, I think I'll adress your "andrew might as well be cosmic radiation" argument as well. To recapitulate:

Quote: "Andrew":11cx5v7w
You accept that I exist as a separate human being, with no evidence other than the words on your screen! might i not be a bit of cosmic radiation interfereing with the Net somehow? {snip}... etc... but of course that's absurd! that's rediculous! how can there NOT be an Andrew out there writing these absurd things... naturally you would have no problem accepting cosmic radiation as the explanation of ME if all you saw on your screen was line of meaningless jibberish - random letters, symbols large blank sections followed by more jumble mumble... etc. Somehow the existence of (semi) ordered sentences, thoughts, etc; the (bare) hint of some kind of intellect causing what you see on your screen provides sufficient proof that I exist. And yet an ordered, lawful universe you say provides "no evidence" of an ordered, thoughtful cause?[/quote:11cx5v7w]

This analogy is highly flawed. I believe the posts I see to be written by a fellow human being, because I have seen many messages on many messageboards in many different places, I have written some myself, and have seen other people write others. Therefore, although it is theoretically possible you're some kind of A.I. or virus, by far the most plausible assumption is you're just a human being.

This analogy would apply to the universe only if there were thousands of other universes in existence, and I had positive evidence at least some of them were created by gods, I had created some myself, and seen others being created. Then, it would be silly to say: "No, this universe, out of all those thousands of others, probably wasn't created by a god. Prove it was!"

Secondly, your analogy is flawed in my eyes because the universe does not resemble a piece of written text. I don't think the universe is "ordered and lawful" at all. In fact, to me it looks very much the result of random processes. The "laws" of nature work the other way around. They do not dictate how matter behaves, they're simply a way of describing how it behaves. And if you study it closely, it does not behave all that orderly, and the "laws" are not all that immutable. On the smallest scale, the laws of nature are the result of probability processes. Only because our perception is limited to the macro level does the universe appear to be orderly.

The "complexity" of humans or the universe is not all that surprising, it merely is a result of trial and error. There is no master plan being followed. If one were to turn time back a billion years, events might take a quite different cause. Humans might not have evolved at all, for example. Or a thousand different things might have happened. Impossible to tell.

Anyway, that's how I see things. Chaos, not order, rules the universe. view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 05 May 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Randal, Auditor

This thread seems to generate long, long replies. Hardly surprising, given the fact that libraries have been filled with this subject matter, and will undoubtedly continue to be filled.

Incidentally, you still haven't told me where you stand in the debate. General "first cause" god, or Omni-everything God with a capital G? From your reference to prayer experiences, I infer the latter, but I'd still be interested to know your denomination, even if it's just out of curiosity. Are you a Christian? Muslim? Roman Catholic, Anglican, Remonstrant, Lutheran, Mormon, generic believer? (Hey, that was the original point of this thread, wasn't it?)

Chaos and the universe

If chaos rules the universe, then basing your belief system entirely on what is scientifically provable seems a bit iffy... you will only believe what can be scientifically verified but you seem to in the same breath negate the very possibility of anything being scientifically verifiable at all, in the sense that anything which appears to be verifiable on earth from our perspective, might be completely limited to our planet, our speck of the galaxy, this instant in time and so forth. So that science cannot really tell us anything except that here on this earth, such and such seems to occur with frequency.


Well, I don't so much believe that chaos rules the universe here and now, as that the universe arose out of chaos. (quantum mess out of which big bang arose) I think our "laws of nature" apply to the physical universe as a whole, but that it is entirely possible that other universes with different laws of nature could exist, and perhaps even do, and that our laws of nature will at some point cease to apply as the universe reverts to entropy. Perhaps there exceptions to the laws of nature even within this universe. (Black holes? Wormholes? Weird stuff?)

Moreover, even if things arise from random effects, this does not mean they are completely unpredictable. There still is probability. Even though the result of a dice roll is random, if you roll a million dice it's fairly safe to predict the average score will be 3,5.

But I do admit that this gets rather far into quantum physics and other stuff I do not understand myself. In the end, everybody has to accept some things he's told by other people as truth, as you can't check everything yourself. In my case, I'll accept physics.

I am very curious about your idea that the laws of nature are only descriptive of what matter does, and are not necessary. If they are descriptive only then what can possibly be causing matter to behave in certain ways?


Mostly, I see the same thing you do, but from a slightly different angle. You say "matter behaves in a certain way because of the (god imposed?) laws of nature."

I say "Out of the big bang arose matter that behaves in a certain way. The way it behaves is described by the laws of nature." In other words, the laws of nature do not precede matter. You can't have the laws without matter, it'd be meaningless. "Before" the big bang (there is no before, time is a dimension of the universe) the laws of nature as we see them would have been meaningless. Like the idea of a time "before" the big bang. But as I said, I do not completely understand this stuff. I ought perhaps to read up on it.

The blind watchmaker, trial and error

incidentally, when you say that humans are a product of mere trial and error, isn't it curious that you are using language best suited to describing how an intelligent process would create something? I realize it is just a consequence of language, but i'm sure you will agree that it is non-sense to speak of trial and error unless one is intentially seeking to produce a particular outcome (which in your world view is impossible in respect of the origin of humans).


No, not really. "Trial and error" presupposes a goal. But it does not presuppose an intelligence. You can have a goal without intelligence. Take the example of a evolution. If anything is trial and error, evolution is. And the goal is clear: reproduce yourself, maintain the species. This goal is nor formulated by any intelligence, it simply arises because anything without that goal would cease to exist. Anything not good enough at achieving that goal ceases to exist. Etc.

So, it is quite possible to seek to produce a particular outcome without having any intelligence interfering whatsoever.

Therefore, the existence of a human does not presuppose the existence of a "humanmaker." This becomes clear when examining a human more closely. We don't appear to be designed. A clever, let alone omniscient designer could make something far more efficient than a human, without, tailbones, appendixes, ingrown toenails or dementia. All these things do not interfere with reproduction whatsoever, and therefore are not weeded out by evolution. An intelligent designer probably would have fixed these problems/redundancies and a thousand more.

Note that the "desired outcome" here is not "to design a human being" and that were one to start evolution all over, we could well end up with entirely different creatures. Say, sentient dinosaurs. Or no sentient beings at all. Or something even weirder.

Efficacy of prayer

Yes, you're right on that. Prayer and religion undoubtedly helps many people. (which is one reason I never try to dissuade people from their faith. Just defend my own lack of it.)

For the effects of prayer to be evidence of the existence of a god, it would not just need to be effective, it would need to be more effective than belief in a witch doctor, new age healing guru or a placebo.

But not only can this effect be explained away via psychology, for me it actually is another reason to disbelieve the existence of god. Because, if belief helps you live longer and healthier and increases mental health, it explains nicely why so many humans are religious. It's an evolutionary advantage, that's why.

Evidence for God

I suspect Randal that what you would require would be something massive. Something so undeniably God-sent that it would overwhelm you entirely. And it would not do for it to have occured in the past!{snip}


As I stated, what would be required for me to believe in a god, depends on the kind of god. For me to believe in the Christian god would indeed require... if not something massive, more something... definite. Unambiguous. Preferably in a laboratory. Unlikely to happen, I know.

And stories in the bible do indeed not qualify. Besides the doubts about the bible's origin and veracity, there's Clarke's law: any technology sufficiently advanced appears as magic to the beholder. (Or any natural phenomena sufficiently complicated.) Whilst the rise of christianity is certainly remarkable, it is by no means supernatural. In that time and age, there was a wide dissatisfaction with the established religion, and hundreds of mystery cults arose. One thrived, in part because of Constantine's conversion, but christianity really was just a sign of the times in my eyes. Fanatics always have existed, and probably always will. Other religions have their saints and martyrs. Does that prove them true?

The Eternal Sceptic, or an Open Mind on Religion


But who can answer the eternal sceptic? I guarantee that there is nothing i could write which you could not dismiss as mere coincidence or as certainly explainable though we don't quite know how, or as historical puffery.


Yes, that's fair enough. I try to keep an open mind on most things, but I do not think there's anything you can say to convince me to become a christian. (Although I might just be persuaded of the possibility of a "first cause" god.)

Not only because of the points discussed in this thread, but because there are dozens of other reasons why I do not believe in the Christian god. I do not think I could believe in him if my life depended on it. (and according to christians, it does. Now there's a pity.)

And, also because I was raised an atheist and a sceptic. Much though I would like to believe my position is entirely and completely rational, I'm too much of a sceptic to believe that either. Education and indoctrination are of immense influence in these things. It's kinda hard to be a christian when you've been dismissively told by your mother from age 4 onwards that religion is "a story some other people believe is true. But don't tell them that, it might upset them." when you asked about what god is.

That doesn't mean I haven't looked at the questions carefully myself when I was older, and tried to form my own conclusions as much as possible. But one does not shake off one's background entirely, as you said in your reply to Cynader.

Finally, I think there was recent research that indicates there exists a genetic predisposition for or against religion. Some people are simply born sceptics, or the opposite.

We all strive to keep an open mind (or so I hope) but where religion is concerned, this is rarely achieved. There is no definite answer in this debate. If there was, all sceptics would have been converted a century ago, or religion would have ceased to exist.

I think it would be safe to state that this is equally true for you, Andrew. Do you think there is anything I could say to you that would make you renounce your faith? Me, a stranger over the internet? I do not particularly care to try, as your beliefs are really your own business, but if I were a particular rabid brand of atheist hell-bent on denouncing the "misguided religious fools" I doubt I would have much success.

Why don't you answer the same question I did, but the other way around?

What would make you stop believing in God and become an atheist? view post


kellhus == good guy?? posted 25 May 2005 in The Darkness That Comes Beforekellhus == good guy?? by Randal, Auditor

I'd be willing to bet Kellhus is evil from the Three Seas viewpoint, too. He himself probably disagrees with the very notion of "good" or "evil." And whilst his people might well admire Cnaiur for his savagery in battle, (for which I do not condemn him either) they still think him a monster for what he did to his father.

But yes, it's perhaps not the most interesting question to ask whether in this time and age Kellhus or Cnaiur would be evil. In any case, that wasn't my point. The point was, whether he works for some strange good or evil or nothing at all, Kellhus scares me. Much more than Cnaiur, who may be a psychotic bastard, but at least is fundamentally human in the dispicable deeds he commits.

And I think this is a testament to R. Scott Bakker's writing skills, for I've never encountered any villain who scared me half as much as Kellhus, be it in literature or movies. Even if it turns out he's working for the greater good all along, I'll hate and fear him. view post


Conspiration theory posted 15 June 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionConspiration theory by Randal, Auditor

Yes. It's called S.P.E.C.T.R.E. and is led by a mysterious "number 1" who owns a white cat with long fur.

No, I don't... world politics are far too muddled and ineffectual to be anything but thousands upon thousands of bureaucrats working diligently to preserve their own jobs. Oh, and lobby groups. Those are powerful too, but they're hardly conspiracies. And politicians. They have some power too, but only for a short while. So they generally try to create a big mess during their term of office, so their name at least will be remembered.

No, I don't really believe that either... I'm not that cynical. But I sometimes fear it's at least partially true. view post


Your favourite character? posted 16 June 2005 in The Darkness That Comes BeforeYour favourite character? by Randal, Auditor

There are two questions in there. So there's got to be two answers.

Firstly, the poll question: who do you identify with. That's Akka. He's one of the few truly human and likable characters in the books. On of the few you can (or I can) indeed identify with.

But the question in the topic, "who is your favourite character", gets a different answer.

A favourite character is one I love to read about. An interesting character, and sorry Akka, you're a nice guy, but not that interesting compared to the people around you.

The obvious answer to this answer would be Kellhus, who is one of the most interesting characters ever seen in fantasy literature. (and probably mainstream literature as well.)

But in the end, I'd answer Conphas, because whilst perhaps not quite as interesting, he's more fun to read about.

Oh, and I think the poll is lacking in choices. Where is our favourite bloodthirsty savage barbarian, for one? view post


Your less favourite characters posted 17 June 2005 in The Darkness That Comes BeforeYour less favourite characters by Randal, Auditor

Again, two questions here.

Which character do you dislike reading about?

And, Which character do you dislike as a 'person'?

Anyway, the answer to both these questions is the same for me in this case. The old queen-mother. Or should that be empress-mother?

She's utterly vile and disgusting, albeit in a more human way than the Consult. Which only serves to make her even more disturbing.

And she's one of the few characters in literature who disgust me to the point of not wanting to read about them either.

At least she's a radical reversal of the mother-figure stereotype. view post


This time I got a question... posted 21 June 2005 in Author Q & AThis time I got a question... by Randal, Auditor

I too found this series thanks to Ran's ezboard forum, and the many great reviews posted there. Word of mouth does seem to be effective.... (trying to convert my friends too.)

Anyway, right now here in the Netherlands the mass market paperback has just been released, and I must say that all the bookstores I've visited these past couple of weeks are stuffed with your book. Piles of them everywhere, in the most prominent places. Even the tiny railroad station book stores I've visited stock TDTCBF, and their amount of English language books is limited to a half-dozen shelves...

I don't know how the sales are going, of course, but apparently your book is seen as something big by by the stores here in the Netherlands. view post


What science-fiction and/or fantasy series do you prefer? posted 21 June 2005 in Literature DiscussionWhat science-fiction and/or fantasy series do you prefer? by Randal, Auditor

Out of these?

Sadly enough, I end up with the Hitchhikers guide. Oh, don't get me wrong. It's a great book, especially the first few are very funny. But I really don't care about it all that much...

Problem is, I never read Vance's or LeGuin's series... pretty hard to find, in the Netherlands at least. Those might be better from what I've heard.

Never read Constantine, Hamilton, Asimov or Moorcock either. Same reason. Except Asimov, whose writing I can't stomach.

Williams was good enough, but the series dragged. It devolved into too many meaningless sideplots. And how many times can main characters get kidnapped/seperated?

Bradley's avalon was... well, enjoyable, despite all the weird new-age mysticism and proto-feminism. Never bothered with the books after Mists, though.

Leiber was a fun yarn, but it isn't my thing. Sword and sorcery doesn't really interest me, even if this particular version was well done.

So, that leaves Adams. But I should note again that I do not rate his series anywhere near my favourites. view post


What happens when your soul leaves your body? posted 21 June 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionWhat happens when your soul leaves your body? by Randal, Auditor

If "something" survived, they wouldn't call it death, now would they?

Anyway, that's why I voted four... comes closest to the p.o.v. that death means just that. view post


AMERICAN POLITICS... posted 01 July 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionAMERICAN POLITICS... by Randal, Auditor

Personally I do not want to hand most of my money over to the government and have them take care of me. Thomas Jefferson once stated that if the government has the power to give you food, clothing and shelter they also have the power to take it away


That's not quite what a social democracy is about...

Yes, you pay more taxes than the Americans do. But it's not "most of your money" (here in Holland at least, effective taxation would be between 30 and 40% of total income at most. Still a bloody lot.) and you are not "taken care of" by the government. You are not given food, clothing or shelter normally. And so nobody can take it away either. The richer people live in privately owned houses, have private healthcare insurance, etc.

What the system is all about is providing a safety net for those who would otherwise fall through the cracks of society. If you suffer from a chronic disease, it will be treated no matter how much money you have. If you lose your job, your children can still go to college.

Of course, the system can be (and is) abused. There are unfair rules, too. Sometimes, for example, a low-end job will pay no more than you'd get from the state if you're unemployed.

But basically the system is about reducing inequality and righting injustices. It's about making sure those who are unfortunate enough not to have highly marketable skills in the modern world will not suffer for it more than is inevitable.

Of course, you can take the line that every human gets what he/she deserves, and that the poor have either brought it onto themselves or just have "tough luck". But this has been discussed earlier in the thread, and suffice to say most people here would disagree. Hence our system of government.

And as for scary governemnt powers? Hah. In the U.S., perhaps. You have presidents with great powers which could conceivably be abused. But in Holland, I'm much more afraid of the government's incompetence and inertia than any plans to establish a dictatorship. With a dozen opposed political parties and evershifting coalitions and no rule safe by consensus, there is no such thing as "the" government which could seize power. That would require all the politicians unite towards a single common goal, and that won't happen this millennium.

(as for your examples: Stalin is a bad one, he simply inherited and consolidated Lenin's power. Russia never was a democracy. Hitler and such did seize power, but they could only succeed because most of the populace wanted a strongman to take over and set things to right.) view post


kellhus == good guy?? posted 08 August 2005 in The Darkness That Comes Beforekellhus == good guy?? by Randal, Auditor

For me, to say I "like" Cnaiur would definitely be going too far. He's a murderous bastard.

It's more like I'll cheer for anybody who tries to oppose Kelhus. As I said in my first post, I don't find it all that relevant whether one would call Kelhus "good" or "evil." What's relevant is him being completely alien to "normal" humans, and incredibly dangerous to them.

Let me put it this way: if I were one of the people in the Three Seas and knew what I do now about Kelhus' nature, I would turn all my resources towards destroying him before all of us are enslaved. And if that would be impossible, I'd run until I'd put as much distance between me and him as possible. view post


Your less favourite characters posted 08 August 2005 in The Darkness That Comes BeforeYour less favourite characters by Randal, Auditor

Strange. That's the very reason I enjoy reading about him. Although, indeeed, he's not someone you would ever want to get to know... view post


kellhus == good guy?? posted 09 August 2005 in The Darkness That Comes Beforekellhus == good guy?? by Randal, Auditor

There are ways...

I would never go up against the guy personally, of course. But if I were a noble of some kind, or otherwise in the position to hire assassins, there are ways.

Dunyain training avails not when your food is poisoned... as far as I know. Or an assassin could simply wait until he's in the middle of a crowd (and hence suffers from an information overflow, and won't be able to notice everything) and shoot him with a poisoned crossbowbolt. Or stick a poisoned knife in him whilst his back is turned. view post


Battleground God posted 09 August 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionBattleground God by Randal, Auditor

That's not what they mean by that assertion. Of course (a hypothetical, omnipotent) God could change earthly language so that 4 means 5 and 5 means 4.

What they mean by that question is, would a God be able to change the laws of logic, not of language. So, could he state that 2 and 2 make 4, but 4 minus 2 makes 1? (no matter how you change the definition of numbers, that remains illogical.) view post


Battleground God posted 10 August 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionBattleground God by Randal, Auditor

Yes, the test is a bit annoying with that question.

Basically, if you answer that a god ought to be able to do anything, you're screwed when this question comes along, iirc. If you answer he can't change the laws of logic, you take a hit, because then he can't do everything. But if you say he can change the laws of logic, you bite a bullet, because that means logical, rational discussion about this god is basically impossible. view post


Feast for Crows due this Summer posted 12 August 2005 in Literature DiscussionFeast for Crows due this Summer by Randal, Auditor

No, FFC does not take place 5 years after SoS..

Martin originally planned to use this "five year gap" to allow the younger characters to mature a bit, but it didn't work. Half of Dance of Dragons would have been flashbacks showing what happened in the intervening time. This would have felt both boring and contrived, or so he apparently judged, and the idea was abandoned. This is part of the reason whilst it took him so long to write this book... halfway through, he started from scratch, more or less. view post


What happens when your soul leaves your body? posted 07 September 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionWhat happens when your soul leaves your body? by Randal, Auditor


i'm under the impression that energy can't be destroyed, only converted to another kind of energy...is that correct?

if that's correct, where does my "energy" go? or does the body just stop "making" the energy?



What is your "energy"?

Your body, of course, contains lots of energy in it's mass. But it's quite obvious what happens to it. It decays, and is re-used in the world. Your worm-birdies-whatever scheme. As well as nutrition for the soil, of course.

However, I probably wouldn't define mind and personality as energy. Rather, as the way your energy is ordered and stored. Information contained in matter. And that information, your knowledge and personality, can be lost if the system that sustains it fails.

So, your body's "energy" remains, in different forms. But that's just the bits and pieces we're made of. What we see as the "self"; memory, personality, talents, desires... that just ceases to have meaning as soon as the body dies. Nothing remains to show it ever existed, save the memories of others and the things we wrought in life.

Anyway, that's how I see things.

If you start adding "souls" and other more esoteric terms to the discussion, things become a lot more complicated, and one can do little more than speculate, pure and simple. Suffice to say, the world makes more sense to me without them. view post


What kind of flame warrior are you? posted 09 September 2005 in Off-Topic DiscussionWhat kind of flame warrior are you? by Randal, Auditor

Atheism is not a belief... but for some people it does become an article of faith.

And it's fair to say the type here described does "hold fervent beliefs about religion." Such as "All religion is evil" and "religion ought to be banned." view post


What kind of flame warrior are you? posted 11 September 2005 in Off-Topic DiscussionWhat kind of flame warrior are you? by Randal, Auditor

Quibbling about the semantics aside, the observation from the website is astute. (although not new) Some atheists are as fanatical about propagating their worldview as any fervent believer. view post


What kind of flame warrior are you? posted 12 September 2005 in Off-Topic DiscussionWhat kind of flame warrior are you? by Randal, Auditor

We're not talking world politics here, c'mon. <!-- s:roll: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_rolleyes.gif" alt=":roll:" title="Rolling Eyes" /><!-- s:roll: --> We're talking about people having flamewars on internet messageboards. Do you claim only believers flame?

In the grander scheme of things, you're right. Atheists as a group generally have not tried to violently convert others to their worldview.

Several reasons for this spring to mind. Firstly, there's less of them. Secondly, they haven't been around for nearly as long a time as the religious peeps. (at least not in sufficient numbers) And thirdly, they just don't care enough.

Which I suppose is your point, and which I'll be happy to grant. Most atheists, myself included, deem it ultimately unimportant what others believe, because it's just all fairy tales anyway. Hence even the most fanatical do not go around condemning and killing people for having different beliefs. And even if they do, this is not motivated by atheism, but by some other ideal they uphold. (communism comes to mind. RAF, anyone?)

All of which doesn't change my position a bit in the smaller scheme of things. The description on the flamewarriors website was correct and not prejudiced, for or against atheists. view post


What kind of flame warrior are you? posted 13 September 2005 in Off-Topic DiscussionWhat kind of flame warrior are you? by Randal, Auditor

Apathy isn't a requirement.

In fact, I believe several definitions of atheism are used. There's strong atheism (the existence of god is logically impossible) and weak atheism (I don't believe in a god.) You could of course claim only the second of these is "proper" atheism and the first in actuality is a religious belief.

I'd disagree, providing the "strong" atheism isn't posed as a general philosophy but rather turned against one or more specific examples of religions. ("The existence of the christian god as defined by denomination X is logically impossible")

Even if I accept your definition, it's perfectly possible to have fanatical atheists. I only need claim they're not fanatical about their atheism, they're fanatically opposed to others' religion. They don't feel compelled to spread their doctrines. They feel compelled to denounce what they see as false doctrines.

Semantics, true. But I like semantics. view post


A Game of Thrones posted 10 October 2005 in Literature DiscussionA Game of Thrones by Randal, Auditor

I wholeheartedly agree. I know of no series that I've reread more often and with more pleasure. I like Ned's story arc, for example, far more knowing the tragic end approaching.

I think it's even safe to say that whilst I liked the series a lot on my first read, I only came to truly love it once I re-read it and started to pay real attention to all the manifold intricacies of plot and character. view post


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