Thursday, February 25, 2016

Time A or Time B?

J.M.E. McTaggart, who in 1908 coined
the terms "A and B-theories of time."
Human beings seem to have an innate tendency to think that what we do not like or cannot explain does not exist. Thus in Hinduism and Buddhism, reality itself is considered an illusion (maya), something that must be discarded to achieve liberation. According to this philosophy, since it is an inseparable part of physical reality, time should also be considered as an illusion. In the Hindu Brahman and the Buddhist Nirvana, time does not exist.
In Western philosophy and science, the idea of ​​time has traditionally been quite different. Until the eighteenth century, nobody put in question the reality of reality. As an inseparable part of reality, time was absolute. In Newtonian mechanics, time plays that role. According to his theory of gravitation, the course of time is independent of the motion of the observer. Hence one can deduce the principle of relativity of classical mechanics: when several bodies are subjected to uniform rectilinear motion (at constant speed) it is impossible to distinguish which one is at rest and which is moving.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Determinism versus freedom (2nd part)

Claude Elwood Shannon
Among the arguments used by deterministic neuroscientists to prove that human freedom does not exist, I’ll mention two:
  • Brain injuries and mental disorders affect the mind and self-consciousness in various ways, depending on which part of the brain is affected. In the worst case, self-consciousness can be completely lost. Hence they deduce that self-consciousness is an epiphenomenon that can provide some evolutionary advantages, but at bottom is an illusion without objective reality.
  • Moreover, mental states of all kinds (even mystical experiences) can be caused by applying electromagnetic stimuli to different parts of the brain. Hence they deduce that mental states depend only on the electrical state of our neurons, while mystical experiences, whatever their origin, are all hallucinatory. I have discussed this in another article.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The dilemma determinism versus freedom

In one of my mystery novels (El Zahir de Quetzalcoatl) the protagonist must solve three riddles, as in the classic fairy tales. The third puzzle consists of three statements that cannot all be true or false. This enigma is what you might call a trilemma.
A famous trilemma (usually called the 3-L) was formulated by C.S.Lewis to justify the divinity of Christ. Assuming that Christ affirmed his own divinity, Lewis posed the following alternatives: either Christ was a Lunatic, or a Liar, or he was the Lord. Of these three statements, only one can be true, as each one excludes the other two.
On the question of human freedom, whose reality is denied by deterministic philosophy, Brigitte Falkenburg proposes another trilemma, a little different, because in this case any two of the three alternatives can be true, but then the third must be false. This is her trilemma:

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Dating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ

Christ crucified, wood carving
by Manuel Alfonseca Santana
During their deportation in Babylon, the Jewish people adopted a lunar Babylonian calendar and took it with them at their return to Palestine. Ordinarily their year consisted of twelve lunar months, but as this made them lose on average eleven days every year against the solar cycle, occasionally it was necessary to introduce an intercalary month, thus some of their years had thirteen months.
At the beginning of our era there was no rigid rule for the proclamation of the intercalated months. Every year the Sanhedrin (the Jewish Supreme Court) decreed whether or not an extra month would be intercalated. For this they used several criteria, first of all that the Passover celebration had to take place after the spring equinox, but if the crop had been very bad and the first fruits, to be offered in that festivity, were not mature, or if the sacrificial lambs had not grown enough, the council could decide to insert a new month, delaying a full cycle the celebration of the Passover.