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Saturday, May 29, 2021

Free Will vs. Maya as the Reason for Suffering

By Charles Feldman (Prana)

Most monotheists believe in free will. They think that Adam and Eve knew that they were doing something bad, and that they were deceived into thinking that they could get away with it. Correspondingly, fundamentalists think that people who do not adhere to their particular brand of religion know that they are doing something bad. 

My contention is that in all religions and ideologies, people who sincerely believe in them believe that they are doing the right thing. So, if they are being deceived, they are being deceived into believing that they are doing the right thing. If that is the case, they do not have free will, because if someone is deceived into doing something that they sincerely believe is right, and they are actually doing something bad, they are not doing bad of their own free will, because as far as they know, they are doing the right thing. This defeats the argument that the reason for suffering is that God loves people so much that He gives them free will. Even if you were to say that the devil is deceiving people, the fact that they are being deceived means that they do not have free will, unless they are knowingly doing something bad, which, from my experience, is not the case for sincere believers in all faiths. I know intellectually that fundamentalists do not have the free will to see this, even though it feels like they should be able to. It seems so simple.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Life of a Virus

By Juhi Wagle

Blog editor's note:  This post is a reflection on and an elaboration of Swami Yogatmananda's talk, "Life of a Virus":  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NyMTX7XFxGU&t=463s

The recent epidemic has brought viruses back into the public spotlight, along with the age-old question, “are viruses alive?” Even with all the advancements in biology and virology, biologists remain divided on this point. Some deny viruses are alive, because viruses do not have a metabolic system and are incapable of independent replication. Others refute this argument by showing that viruses, much like seeds, have life “latent” in them. In the right environment, they grow and replicate. Furthermore, they evolve – which is one of NASA’s main criteria to classify as “living.” Some others say that the answer depends on how one defines life.

So, the first issue is to agree upon a definition for “life.” What can be considered “living”? Observing life around us, biologists have identified 7 properties of life. While non-living objects may satisfy some of these, only living beings satisfy them all. While this is a good starting point, it is handicapping. Firstly, it has been proven that all life on earth can be traced back to a single ancestor. We are drawing our defining properties from a sample set of 1. This is potentially unrepresentative of life in the universe. Because we are limiting “life” to “life found on Earth,” there might be life on some other planet that we wouldn’t even recognize as such, as it is so different from our own.