Real Estate

Master satirist DarkMatter2525 has created a wonderful short film contrasting buying a house and choosing a religion: 

The technique is similar to a common strategy used in math and physics. When a problem is too difficult to tackle directly (like this example of trying to evaluate claims about gods and the afterlife) it's useful to begin with a much simpler problem; epistemologically get your feet wet. Most will remember studying motion in high school physics. First you study examples of motion with no acceleration, then motion with acceleration. Or without friction then with friction.

When it comes to questions about god and the afterlife, these are extremely difficult questions which cut across nearly every human discipline including physics, biology, logic, ethics, even history; which makes most of us pathetically under qualified to even approach them, yet we're forced to try anyway. So whatever methodology you choose to adopt, you should give it a test drive in a much simpler environment to make sure it produces acceptable results.

DarkMatter2525 chose to transpose the methodology to real estate (and at this point you need to watch the video if you have not already). My preferred example is rainbow unicorns. When you're presented with an argument dealing with an extraordinary claim (it could be having to do with religious miracles, aliens, bigfoot, crystal healing, alternative medicine) try to imagine how that would play out if the topic were rainbow unicorns.

I'm not claiming that if God exists, rainbow unicorns must exist or that god must be a rainbow unicorn. But it's a productive intellectual exercise to run through the thought experiment and contemplate what forms of evidence, if they did appear on your doorstep tomorrow, you would find convincing or laughable.

Sample unicorn.
Sample unicorn.

So many of the arguments for God, when framed in unicorn terms, instantly lose their power. The popular "but you can't prove that there is no god, so how can you be so sure?" intuitively carries some weight. You'd be tempted to hem and haw and concede that maybe you're not as certain as you were a moment ago. But if you move it over, "but you can't prove that there are no rainbow unicorns, so how can you be so sure?" is equally true, but makes it obvious that the argument is fallacious and was really just a piece of rhetoric used for emotional appeal rather than any kind of rational value.

Another favourite example is Darth Vader. Since even if he existed, he existed in a galaxy far far away, so the evidence of his existence would be unavailable to us here for empirical analysis. So investigating the existence of Sith lords is a bit of a stepping stone towards being comfortable tackling the big theological questions.

Proudly and Pride-fully Canadian

Happy Canada Day! It's been a busy week filled with both rain, rainbows and no shortage of Magic! Distracting me from the (slightly damp) Pride Celebrations downtown we hosted a lecture with Norman Beck who was visiting from Texas for the uber-secret "31 Faces North" (so secret in fact that I'm not even allowed to admit to myself that I know about it.)

But before that, even before I got into the pride festivities, I learned about the United States' Supreme Courts' ruling on marriage equality. It was a fairly emotional morning. I was flipping through my RSS feed at just the right moment, before the blogosphere went nuts and there was just a single post from Joe My God and in the preview without the images it was just one line:


I was alone and it was totally quiet and I just stopped. It's certainly not often, you can read a single line of text and know instantly that the world was not quite the same place it was yesterday.

In hindsight, it wasn't really that much of a surprise. But for a moment it was shocking and beautiful. Then the internet went nuts. Both people sharing the decision with excitement and people eagerly waiting to drink the tears of crushed conservative opponents.

But it's strange to watch the events in the US unfold from up in Canada. For us, when it comes to equality, the writing's been on the wall for a decade or two. I seemed to hit the tail end of it. When I was in high school it was still in vogue to use "gay" as a synonym for "stupid", "idiot" or "moron". But since so much of our culture seeps in from south of the border, it's been unusual to watch both the conservative doom and gloom proclamations and the slowly but steadily changing tide of support. It was clearly on the right track, but it wasn't clear that they were going to get it right. (At least not until a string of federal court decisions started swatting gay marriage bans like flies.) But soon it will feel like it couldn't have been any other way.

But within an hour or two social media became a rainbow explosion and colourful striped pictures what was particularly moving was seeing photos from our show turning up with rainbows. These are the ones I saw, but I'm sure there were a few more.

Of course, for anyone who's been paying attention, we've been celebrating Pride on the show for essentially the whole month. Now that it's July, I can shelve the rainbow duct tape for another year. Although I think the unicorn might stay. Not sure yet.