NASA Discovers More Earth-Like Planets

hiramcrespo:

“I have no doubt that the doctrine of innumerable worlds is true!” – Diogenes of Oenoanda, writing during the Second Century

Originally posted on Sarvodaya:

After generating a lot of buzz following the announcement of, well, a big announcement, NASA has finally revealed the big news it has apparently been harboring (and no doubt carefully scrutinizing) for some time: more potentially life-bearing planets. As The Washington Postreports:

The latest update from NASA’s Kepler space telescope — designed to spot distant exoplanets — adds more than 500 new possible planets to the fray. That’s in addition to the 4,175 planets already found by Kepler.

And of those 500 new potential planets, scientists say, a dozen could be remarkably Earth-like. That means they’re less than twice as large as Earth, are potentially rocky and are at the right distance from their host stars to harbor liquid water.

Of that dozen, one planet has been confirmed: Kepler 452b, which sits 1,400 light years away from us and orbits a star much like our own…

View original 260 more words

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Dudeism.org’s Jesus Christ entry

Bearded prophet of the meek and early archetype of the 1960s hippie.

Jesus was born Jewish, but then converted to Dudeism after he realized that the Romans and the Pharisees were fucking fascists. Today lots of people think he’s the son of the guy who created the universe and that our life is in his hands. But probably he was just a dude who thought people should mellow out and stop getting so worked up about stuff. Sadly, few of his followers seem to actually realize that. Remember: There’s not a literal connection.

Dudeism.com

Also Read:

Dudeism’s Article on Epicurus’ Four Cures

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An Epicurean Case for Pastafari

Pastafari

Pastafari

We must consider both the ultimate end and all clear sensory evidence, to which we refer our opinions; for otherwise everything will be full of uncertainty and confusion.

If you fight against all your sensations, you will have no standard to which to refer, and thus no means of judging even those sensations which you claim are false.

Epicurus’ Principal Doctrines 22-23

Although the Pastafarian faith is a parody religion, and many even in the atheist community find it (and other parody religions) to be stupid and a complete waste of time, there have been recent attempts to articulate the philosophical problem behind its conception.

The cult of the Flying Spaghetti Monster has its origins in activism by secularists and naturalists against the teaching of creationism in schools. According to this article:

In January 2005, Bobby Henderson, then a 24-year-old Oregon State University physics graduate, sent an open letter regarding the Flying Spaghetti Monster to the Kansas State Board of Education. The letter was sent prior to the Kansas evolution hearings as an argument against the teaching of intelligent design in biology classes. Henderson, describing himself as a “concerned citizen” representing more than ten million others, argued that intelligent design and his belief “the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster” were equally valid. In his letter, he noted:

I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world; one third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence.

—Bobby Henderson

I will not go into the particular controversy that gave birth to the Pastafarian cult, as I am much more concerned here with the serious epistemological problem of reasoning without evidence, and the widespread belief that that’s a good way to reason (or to believe, or to think). The basic Pastafarian argument states that if evidence and science do not matter, then anything is valid, any view is equally valid; or vice-versa, that if all views are equally valid, then science and evidence do not matter.

In other words, the politically correct view of this or that religion as valid in spite of contradicting numerous proven, observable, measurable facts about the nature of things, is in error and leads to error. Nature does not operate as culture does. We can believe in the Ascension of Jesus or the Assumption of Mary doctrines, but gravity will still pull us. These are self-evident, observable truths.

I cited Principal Doctrines 22-23 at the beginning of this article to accentuate how the problems being addressed today by Pastafarians have been confronted before, in fact 23 centuries ago, by the first Epicurean philosophers. They also enjoyed parody and even called the Canon (the foundational book written by Epicurus) “the book that fell from heaven”, as a way of making fun of revealed religions.

According to PD 23-24, if we do not heed our senses and our natural faculties, and judge things according to the evidence presented before the tribunal of our senses, there will be “uncertainty and confusion” because we will have no criteria by which to determine the truth. Ultimately, when things are proven to be true or false, it’s thanks to the standard established by nature and by our natural faculties, which are able to apprehend and report the nature of things directly and without bias. Hence, we Epicureans call them the Canon (that is, the ruler or the “measuring stick” for reality). This presupposes that there is a solid reality out there that is observable, and the fact that we all coincide that there are things out there that we can touch, see, and refer to, points to that fact. This is known as realism.

These considerations should be taught in elementary school to children the moment that education begins. It’s quite unfortunate that such basic notions are not ingrained in the mind and in the culture of Westerners in the 21st Century. This speaks volumes about the severe need for philosophical hygiene, and in fact the Sarvodaya blog recently posted an argument in defense of teaching philosophy to children. Perhaps the energy channeled into parody religions should be re-focused, as there needs to be a broader movement around this.

Pastafari may be a parody religion, but it also represents a light and humorous approach to a very real and ancient philosophical problem.

The following Pastafarian meme derives inspiration from Bob Marley’s Redemption Song

Marley

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The Re-discovery of the God of the Underworld

CarontePluto, the Roman god of death, has attracted much media attention in recent days now that the New Horizons mission will pass near this planetary system and take the most detailed photos never seen. New Horizons is on its way to study the band of asteroids and outer planetoids in the solar system known as the Kuyper Belt.

The planet is not alone. In recent years scientists have confirmed that it has five moons: Charon, Nix, Hydra, Cerberus, and Styx. Most are very small and were discovered by the Hubble telescope in the last decade. Charon was discovered in 1978 and is so large that, along with Pluto, it’s considered part of a double-planet system whose center of gravity is in the space between them.

There is much excitement in the scientific world. Today we’re expecting the most detailed pictures of Pluto ever taken, however even in the last few days the pictures that have come have provided astronomers with unforeseen details. For instance, Pluto is no longer a white dot in the sky, a lump of white ice in space. It has some mineral and chemical complexity. This is attested by the colors of the planet, which was just discovered to be red, with several other colors on its surface.

Notice I said planet. Many of the scientists who rebelled against the arrogant demotion of Pluto to the status of dwarf planet by the astronomical bureaucracy the past decade are now emboldened and refusing to call it a dwarf planet. Some are making calls to reinstitute Pluto as a planet.

For the latest images, visit this page from NASA.

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Epicurean Philosophy @ Disqus

A new discussion group has been created at disqus for Epicurean Philosophy. Check it out, share the link and participate!

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Cultivating the Mind of an Epicurus

The flesh receives as unlimited the limits of pleasure; and to provide it requires unlimited time. But the mind, intellectually grasping what the end and limit of the flesh is, and banishing the terrors of the future, procures a complete and perfect life, and we have no longer any need of unlimited time. Nevertheless the mind does not shun pleasure, and even when circumstances make death imminent, the mind does not lack enjoyment of the best life.

He who understands the limits of life knows that it is easy to obtain that which removes the pain of want and makes the whole of life complete and perfect. Thus he has no longer any need of things which involve struggle.

Principal Doctrines 20-21

Epicurean teachings demystify all things, including the mind and consciousness. We understand that the mind is completely natural, that it’s mortal and–like the body–has natural limitations that must be accepted. We understand that it’s made of atoms and empty space, as are all things. However, although there is nothing magical about the mind, it’s still of great importance for a philosopher who is committed to the cultivation of ataraxia because it’s the mind that has the power to “procure a complete and perfect life”.

Philosophy that does not heal the soul is no better than medicine that does not heal the body. – Epicurus

We know from Philodemus’ scrolls that philosophy heals the mind through the use of words, through reasonings and arguments. Therefore, the practice of true philosophy for an Epicurean is therapeutic and involves the cultivation–through cognitive therapy–of a certain healthy quality in the mind, which we can train ourselves to mindfully experience as well-being and as existential pleasure.

According to PD20, the body is not able to discern the limits of pain, of pleasure, of time, and so on: only the mind has this rational capacity, and without having deep insight into these things, it is impossible to experience pure pleasure and ataraxia. The mind also has the power to dismiss fears about the future and to abide in confident expectation that the natural and necessary things are easy to acquire.

Because only the mind has the power to carry out these rational and computational tasks, it is therefore responsible for procuring “a complete and perfect life”. Epicurus always treats it as a self-evident truth that it is in our nature to want this kind of life. He refuses to rationalize why this is so, and simply observes that we shun pain, and that when we lack happiness, we do whatever is in our power to regain it.

Notice that, although these teachings may require some commitment with our own ataraxia and some compassion for oneself, they are really born of insight and do not require strict discipline. They naturally emanate from an understanding of our own nature. They qualify, therefore, as grassroots virtue as defined in a previous blog.

Before we move forward with these reasonings, let’s consider parallel doctrines from the Dhammapada, the Gospel of the Buddha, as he is one of the other great thinkers who proposed the study of the science of mind and the cultivation of a healthy mind as necessary to the practice of therapeutic philosophy.

Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with an impure mind a person speaks or acts suffering follows him like the wheel that follows the foot of the ox.

Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with a pure mind a person speaks or acts happiness follows him like his never-departing shadow.

Dhammapada 1:1-2

We know, from our acquaintance with Buddhists, that there are countless techniques that have been put in practice and slowly perfected for centuries, which result from these Buddhist doctrines. Might it not have been the same for Principal Doctrines 20-21, if the Epicureans had been allowed to flourish up to this day?

These teachings were quintessential enough to be included in the Principal Doctrines, which indicates that they must have been meant as important starting points that needed to be elaborated in depth through study and practice so that our equanimity and pleasure would be so imperturbable, that even when death is immiment “the mind does not shun pleasure; the mind does not lack enjoyment of the best life”.

This is exemplified in Epicurus’ own painful manner of death, which was yet pleasant and tranquil because he had cultivated a certain quality of pleasant abiding in his mind. The technique that he specifically used, according to sources, consisted in frequently reminiscing about past pleasures enjoyed with his friends: conversations, meals, affection, etc. We may call this technique the recollection of pleasant pasttimes. There are many other methods that can be used to experience nearly-constant pleasure.

In Epicurean discourse, we usually do not see the mind presented in juxtaposition to the body, as we see in PD20, almost as an enemy in a battlefield, or at the very least as a disciplinary superior. In its fiat to “procure a complete a perfect life”, the mind must grasp the natural limits of pain, of pleasure, of desires, and the limits of time, and it can then abide in contentness and gratitude. Because the things that are natural and necessary are few and limited, the mind can then confidently expect to meet its needs without “any need of things which involve struggle”.

This mind does not need immortality. It understands that pain and pleasure in the body have their limits in time and intensity, and avoids the trap of endlessly fearing the pains or endlessly catering to vain desires, which lead to addiction and anxiety. It understands that needful things are few and easy to acquire and that therefore we only need a limited amount of effort and struggle to attain them–in this way, the mind “banishes the terrors of the future”.

The mind procures a complete and perfect life,
and we have no longer any need of unlimited time.

The mind does not shun pleasure.

The mind does not lack enjoyment of the best life, 
even when circumstances make death imminent.

Notice that the key here is not necessarily to sit and quietly meditate, although there is nothing wrong with that, if it adds to ataraxia: in fact, some level of contemplation and introspection are absolute necessities of therapeutic philosophy, and neuroplasticity research demonstrates that meditation changes the brain and has the power to sculpt it into the healthiest, happiest version of itself. In Epicurus, the key is cognitive therapy in order to recognize our natural limits and to have deep insight about them and about our nature. This is what empowers the mind to procure “a complete and perfect life”.

 

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Cosma Raimondi and Educational Videos

 

A piece on Cosma Raimondi, who wrote in 1429 a treatise in defense of Epicurus and of pleasure, and a page with educational videos from various sources, have been posted at Society of Epicurus.

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