Monday, September 26, 2005

Oh, It's a Shaila

This past Saturday morning there had been a car accident on my block. An older guy was driving along at a pretty quick pace, passed out from some previous medical condition (maybe stroke, hypoglycemia, seizure, whatever) and plowed into a row of parked cars right into front of a shul.

My sister immediately called 911 having witnessed the accident from her window. I heard the loud crash and go outside to see what's going on. What I see is the driver slumped over the passenger seat and a good couple dozen guys in black suits and regulation black hats gawking at the scene. There's also a woman on the corner talking excitedly on her cell phone.

I make my way over to the car to see if the driver is alright. I'm not making myself out to be some superhero, I am an EMT so I am trained to deal with these types of situations. One of the men from the shul is a doctor and has the passenger side door open and is analyzing the guy. The driver is face down, has a nice gash on his forehead (he wasn't wearing a seatbelt) has spit out his dentures onto the floor, is breathing with difficulty, coughing up some crap and is entirely unresponsive to my talking to him. This type of mechanism has a high likelihood of involved spinal damage so I held his head (not as well as I would have otherwise since I wasn't wearing gloves and I was avoiding places where he was bleeding) and continued monitoring his vitals.

A couple of minutes later, a Hatzoloh car comes driving up. These must've been guys who just heard the BANG like me since they were still wearing their talaisim (why they couldn't take them off before rolling - that I don't know). So I call out to them, "This guy's gonna need a collar." One calls on the radio for an ambulance and the others puts on gloves and futzes around in his bag for a cervical collar.

The guy comes around and I step back to let the Hatzoloh EMT, who's wearing gloves, take hold of the guy's head. But he doesn't take his head, he starts trying to talk to the patient who's obviously unresponsive and is just holding the collar in his hand. A few moments later a Maimonides ambulance comes by with some experienced techs and when they come around the Hatzoloh guy hands them the collar and they slap it on the guy's neck.

The rest of the incident goes as you might expect. Firefighters come by with their pointy toys eager to tear apart the chassis, but they're waved off by the Maimo guys. The patient is clearly in an altered mental status as he's waking up now and fighting the EMTs, but they eventually get him onto a longboard and a stretcher and off he goes to the ambulance and I have a great excuse for why I'm late to shul.

Anyway, so there's also a couple of cops in uniform checking out the accident and writing their reports. So I talk to one of them and I remarked on their quick response time (must've been ~4 minutes) since they usually take longer. And she said that it was a quiet morning, but she said that she was surprised given all the people watching the scene that the 911 system only got a two calls.

Two calls! That means that the only ones who cared enough to call for help were my sister and the goy down the street. Classic. Isn't it embarrassing when religious Jews are unwilling to call for an ambulance because it's a shaila to do so on Shabbos. A shaila?! There should be no question here. A life is in danger - you don't putz around asking questions if calling for help is permissible.

This type of event is hardly unique, I have a half-dozen similar situations which I know from personal experience. It is very fundamental Halacha that a life in danger overrules almost all other laws, that people don't internalize this and still stall in the midst of an emergency isn't a shaila, it's a shanda.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Injustice from the Hereafter

I was struck the other day about the death of the famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal. I was stuck not so much at the surprise that he had died (he was 96) but I wondered for a bit about how a religious belief in the afterlife matches up with pursuing criminal justice on earth.

There's a famous drasha about the story in the Torah when Joseph takes Shimon as hostage and puts him in prison for the duration of the time that it takes the rest of the brother to go back to Cana'an and bring back Benjamin. The reason why such imprisonment was justified was that since Shimon (along with Levi) had done such a wicked deed in annihilating Shechem he was due a big comeuppance by the time he got to the afterlife. The punishment in the afterlife is ten times worse than anything on Earth, so, in effect, Jospeh was doing him a favor by punishing him before then with a comparitively lighter prison stay.

Ok great, but then a question comes to mind. If punishing people during their lifetimes is a lighter sentence then they would get in the afterlife, why should we pursue justice on Earth at all? Is kindness to criminals what's on our mind when going after them? Furthermore, any human justice system must be inferior to the perfect justice system of God, so why do we even make the effort if it'll all be evened out sooner or later.

Hell, taking it one step further, I had heard it said (and have seen this as the moral of quite a few Jewish stories) that any suffering in our time on Earth is actually a positive thing since it either a) takes the place of worse punishment in the afterlife (as mentioned above) and/or b) increases or pleasure in Olam Haba through purifying us in the here and now thus meriting us for greater reward.

So why doesn't it follow from that that our regular lives ought to be as painful and uncomfortable as possible since then our reward in Heaven will be assured? Hell, torture the righteous and pamper the evil because then God's justice equations will really balance 'em out good.

And, to note, this type of thinking is not just rhetorical, but has been put into practice many times in history. Ever heard the phrase "Kill 'em all and let God sort them out?" Religious massacres of many stripes have been indiscriminate in their killings of whole towns, heretics and faithful alike, since in the afterlife all the tallies will be balanced out for each. There's no real crime in murder since the good ones are just going to Heaven, right? How could that be bad?

The moral nature of the afterlife was posited because of the theological need that a just God would have since perfect justice is not found on Earth. Since God exists and He is perfectly just, yet justice is not found on Earth, therefore there must be an afterlife where justice is served. Great. But is seems to me that it is the dream of the afterlife which can often lead to diminished justice and moral considerations in present life.

If everything is eventually evened out, one can never actually do any harm to another. Sure, a crime might hurt you in the afterlife, so you may fear reprisal, but nothing you do to others really hurts them. Stealing a person's car, beating a guy in the street, murdering a hobo, whatever, the victims are only hurt in _this_ life and they'll get it all back plus more when they reach Heaven.

The lack of an afterlife may imply the unfortunate conclusion that oftentimes people do get away with doing wrong, but it also encourages us to enforce our own system of justice as imperfect as it may be. I think it can also encourage us to be _more_ moral since when we hurt others, it is not the case that the others receive proper compensation later on. I'd much rather see a public being moral for the sake of empathetic caring and not due to the carrot and stick methodology of an unwitnessed overlord.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Where are the Aliens?

There are some who say that the universe can bring about life as a common event and that us and our life-serving environment here on Earth is nothing unique. If that's true, then we ought to expect life to develop everywhere and even intelligent life to at least be somewhat common and we ought to expect to see some signs of advanced technological species operating in our galaxy.

But where are they?!

Through calculating an exponential expansion from one star system to the next at a reasonable pace, it is not unreasonable to find that a single species could colonize the entire galaxy in as little time as ten million years. Through such activities we should expect to see obvious signs of artificial interaction with bodies in space. Mined stars, gathered nebulae, building huge constructs, all sorts of high engineering projects with the goal of using the natural resources for a species' own purposes. But we see none of that. The galaxy is virgin. We don't even hear any radio signals, despite SETI being active for decades already.

Surely the galaxy has been around for much longer than ten million years, so there should be little time constraint involved. Then where are the aliens?

This is what is known as the Fermi Paradox.

Some explanations for this apparent incongruity have been proposed. Perhaps the aliens are intentionally hiding themselves. Perhaps none survive to a point where they are capable of interstellar travel. Perhaps the aliens are simply not that aggressive and feel no urge to reach for the stars.

Or perhaps life is not so prevalent in the universe and we are indeed highly unique - and alone.

On the Quality of Evidence

GH has recently been on a kick about the subjectivity of evidence since what one person might consider to be convincing evidence, another person could easily not. Does that mean that no standards exist? Are our considerations about the quality of evidence basically irrational?

I don't think so. We form our conceptions on the quality of types of evidence by our experience in how often certain types of evidence lead to a confirmation of truthfulness and accuracy.

For example, suppose you get hearsay evidence from an emotional witness that is self-serving and harms the opposing side. How likely is this reliable? Well, we can reach back in our memories and remind ourselves how often people lie for their own good and to harm those they don't like. How often has such a quality of evidence been consistent with a confirmed truth? Very rarely, I would say.

Now, suppose we were talking about physical evidence. Fingerprints, DNA, security cameras, etc. If you have that kind of evidence, how often is the claim bourne out as correct? Very often, I think. Probably above 95% of the time.

How often is circumstantial evidence correlated with truth? Some of the time. Not as much as physical evidence, but still far better than self-serving hearsay.

How about simple witness claims? Anecdotal evidence? More rare than you might think. Eyewitnesses have been found to be much less reliable than was once thought. The mind can do tricks to our memories.

I'd love to see some statistical analysis done to see how often certain types of evidence correlate with the truthfulness of the claims they attempt to support. Might be fascinating and then we could get real numbers as a standard for the quality of evidence.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

An A(fterlife) for Effort

I understand the mentality of the chumra-serving flavor of Judaism. Do they think that the chumras are found in any real sources of Judaism? No. Do they really believe there is a foundational truth by which their actions have metaphysical meaning? Nah.

They follow the idea that God rewards the effort itself and the good intent. They know they go way beyond strict Halachah, but in being so strict they must present more effort for which God will doubtlessly be happier about and will bless them and give them a great portion in Olam Habah.

Does it matter that these chumras hide the simple majesty of a number of valuable mitzvot? Does it matter that they waste time on these chumras that they could use doing more productive projects? Of course not. As long as they keep plodding away at what they believe God would want, how can they lose out in the long term (i.e. the afterlife)?

Real understanding of the Torah, or even the world in general is of tertiary importance. Bugs in the water - that is what ensures them eternal life.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Fakers of other Religions

I was once told by a friend of mine that the reason why she is so religiously inclined to Judaism is because she is sure that it is right and the members of other religions don't actually think their religion is true, they just say it is so that they don't have to shoulder the burden that is Orthodox Judaism. And that it is only in Judaism where members actually study their religious texts, since in other religions they know well enough to not study them too hard or they'll see all the obvious holes.

Having that come to me, a person who has spoken to many people from many religious views and who knows firsthand how seriously they take them, it astounds me that she thinks that her views are grounded in any sort of reality.

But this is after she just got back after spending the summer in the brainwashing institute which is Neve Yerushalaim and was taught by none other but the famous Lawrence Keleman (author of Permission to Believe, etc.), so I'm not totally shocked.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Position of Comfort

House: ...Personally, I choose to believe that the white light people sometimes see visions, this patient saw. They’re all just chemical reactions that take place when the brain shuts down.

Foreman: [Incredulously] You choose to believe that?

House: There’s no conclusive science. My choice has no practical relevance to my life, I choose the outcome I find more comforting.

Cameron: [Fascinated] You find it more comforting to believe that this is it?

House: I find it more comforting to believe that this simply isn’t a test.

If you haven't seen the new show "House" on Fox, you're missing a rare moment of quality programming in modern television. Not only is it a stirring medical mystery show, but the characters have real depth and Dr. Gregory House is the great grumpy genius that you can't help but like. It's daring in its discussions of God and religion and it has a real skeptic, House, and an expressive atheist, Dr. Cameron, as some of its main characters.

I quote the above because I think it's an interesting reverse of expectations. You don't often hear atheists say that they a) _choose_ their beliefs or that they b) did so because it was comforting.

Can one choose their beliefs? Or do beliefs necessarily follow how one is already convinced? There's no way I could just choose to believe that the sky is yellow. Can you? And is atheism more comforting? Maybe House has a peculiar life story. I don't see much particularly comforting about it, but I admit that all of observable reality being just a test does seem rather lame.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

On Isaiah's Suffering Servant

This is a topic for which I have been loathe to write about since it is so complex due to the incredible amount of metaphoric language in the text by how it is written, complexities about when it was written and by whom, the numerous hypothesized philosophical and religious assumptions and assertions found within the text and the mountainous amount of nonsense scripted by Christians, Messianic Jews and even regular Rabbinates for the past thousands of years claiming to clarify the text. If you're at all familiar with the controversy, you may have figured out that I'm talking about the text of Isaiah 53.

The text of interest actually begins at Isaiah 52:13 and continues until the end of chapter 53. I don’t want to include the text here because just about any English translation I provide has their own obvious self-serving interpretations which effect the meanings of words. This is just as true in Christian translations as the one in an Artscroll Tanach. It would be best if you understand the Hebrew directly and translate yourself. Go ahead and read it now or the rest of this post will be not understandable unless you are already familiar with it.

So, after reading it, you probably understand now why Christians would be so interested in the text, right? In the right light, it sounds an awful lot like the basic story of Jesus. Suffice it to say that Christians have been using this very text to convert Jews since the very beginning of Christianity itself. The main issue is about the identity of the "Suffering Servant" at the beginning of this section of text. There are some Jewish responses that completely deny the messianic nature of the text, like Rashi, who interprets the Suffering Servant as referring to the nation of Israel, but that does seem rather forced if you take the chapter literally. There are many other famous rabbis who do accept a messianic interpretation, but never say that the Suffering Servant messiah is Jesus. There are others who say that the Servant is Moses, or David, or Isaiah, or some other historical personality. Then there are also the modern Lubavitch groups who do take a messianic approach and say that the chapter proves the qualifications of none other but the famous Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

Now after you have read this small portion of Isaiah, I would also suggest you read through the rest of Second Isaiah (chapters 40 - 55) to get a further and better comprehension of the context of this chapter and the series of deep metaphors by which the author sets his stories. My interpretation, as limited as it may be, depends on this larger comprehension.

Is Isaiah 53 about Jesus? No, of course not. Second Isaiah, which includes Isaiah 53, was written 500 years before Jesus was born. You have to believe in fairy tales to support the belief in prophecy.

If you read straight through Second Isaiah which is from chapters 40-55, you'll see that the "servant" is constantly and repeatedly referring to Jacob/Israel. See 41:8, 44:1, 44:21, 45:4, 48:20, 49:3..I may have missed a few, but that's a whole bunch.

But 42:1-4 seems to indicate the servant as an individual, perhaps a prophet, perhaps the Messiah. And 49:1-6 is very confusing because it appears to be an individual, but the individual says, 49:3 - "He said to me: 'You are my servant, Israel, in whom I take glory.'" So, what the heck is going on? There is some equivocation here between Israel, the nation and this individual who may very well be some sort of personification for the nation.

Then in 50:4-9, it appears to be the prophet speaking of himself as submitting himself to punishment which was not deserved but was God's will. Sound familiar?

So what is 52:13 - 53:12 about? Maybe the servant is Israel, that would be consistent. Maybe it's Isaiah talking about himself that also makes sense. Maybe it is supposed to be a messianic proclamation, possible. Maybe it is some sort of equivocation between the nation and the prophet, also possible. Or maybe it is intentionally ambiguous for some poetic reason. Or perhaps through copying error or intentional changes, the true meaning is completely lost to us.

Reading the whole Second Isaiah in context supports the idea of the servant either being the prophet Isaiah (or Second Isaiah) and it also supports the idea that the servant is the nation of Israel itself - though that seems to make less sense overall. We don't need to postulate Jesus (or Rabbi Schneerson) to explain the chapter. There are better and more sensible explanations which fit and are found within the text.

Ok, great, so I’m writing one of those rare posts which ostensibly supports the rabbis’ contentions, though not any one in particular. Since I don’t have any dogma to protect, I really am just trying to make sense of a complicated and unclear text and what the author was most likely referring to.

Anyway, a question one might ask is why I decided to write about this all now and not any other time? This isn’t a new topic to me and I’ve been debating it with Christians and Messianic Jews for a few years. Well, if you paid any attention in shul this week and took note of where the Haftorah comes from, you would have seen that it begins at Isaiah 51:12 and ends at 52:12. Amazingly the exact verse before the famous Suffering Servant text begins. And what is the Haftorah for next week, Parshat Ki Setzei? Mamash! It starts at Isaiah 54:1! Exactly the verse following the end of the famous Suffering Servant text. It would certainly appear as if this controversial text was intentionally left out of public readings in Jewish synagogues.

Some might say that it must be a coincidence because the order of the Haftorot was set up in the time of Antiochus way before Christianity, so there’s no way for the Jews to decide not to include it because of Christian influence. Maybe, but the evidence for that claim is very weak. Maybe the Jews did begin reading from the Neviim at that time, but we have no reason to think that the order of Haftorot we have today was set then as well. More likely the order was compiled at a later date. See here.

Has Jewish liturgical customs been affected by Christian influences so much so that Jewish communities were fearful of including such an apparently strong argument for Christianity in public readings? It is still the Hebrew Tanach right? Hard to imagine, but that does seem to be what has happened.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Ordinary and Extraordinary Claims

"In daily life, we don't demand logical certainly. We believe certain things, and act accordingly, based on a combination of logic, observation, and intuition.

For example, I just sat down on a chair. I assumed, justifiably, that the chair was secure enough to hold my weight. Although I would openly admit that from a purely logical perspective I had no good reason to believe that the chair would support, I maintain it was a perfectly reasonable assumption. It is unfair (and intellectually dishonest) to demand a higher level of evidence than the one we rely on so casually everyday."

Extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence.

"On what ground do you make that distinction?"

You see chairs every day. You sit in them all the time. They almost always support you. It doesn't conflict with anything you regularly know about the world to assume this one will support you as well. It looks like it will and that's all the ordinary evidence you need for such an ordinary belief.

For claims that we know are possible, you need less evidence because all you need to prove is that it happened at a certain time and place. Claim: "There's an Asian elephant in the Bronx Zoo." Very possible, very believable. Show me a recent advertisement of that and I have no real reason to doubt it.

Other claims we may know to be possible, but highly unlikely. Claim: "Man was hit with lightning seven times in life." Pretty amazing. But I'm skeptical of his story since the odds of it are so low, though I admit it possible. Some paperwork, either reliable newspaper clippings, or maybe medical notes, or whatever documenting most of those hits would be enough for me.

And then still there are other claims which we don't think are possible, but hey, you never know. Claim: "The mansion down the block is haunted." Wow, haunted, that's incredible. I've never even seen a ghost or seen any reliable documentation of ghost sightings ever. Are ghosts even real? For this one claim, they claimant not only needs to prove that it is possible but that it did indeed happen.

And still there are claims for which sound completely absurd and for which we'd need a ton of evidence to support. Claim: "George Washington jumps over the Moon." I would need overwhelming evidence to support belief in that because the statement contradicts so much of what I already know about the world.

The claim of the theistic God fits somewhere along the lines of the haunted mansion claim and is far removed from the "this chair will support my weight" claim. Do you see the differences?

Monday, September 05, 2005

Believing Between the Lines

When people say they believe in God but acknowledge that God is incomprehensible and unknowable, what are they really saying they believe in?

They believe that the world was created intentionally.
They believe there is a purpose in things that happen.
They believe that there is an objective right and wrong.
They believe that there is absolute justice.
They believe in life after death (by necessity of the above belief).

Not all theists will agree to all of the above, though I think you would be hard pressed to find one that didn’t agree to most of them and downright impossible to find one that agreed with none of them. "God" is just the object they point to centralize where all these beliefs come together. It is theology which comes to explain how and why these believed truths about the world came to be. Many religions form to specify or fortify such beliefs.

So I wonder, if one believed in each of these independently outside of a typical theological structure, would he believe in God? I don’t think he would. "God" itself is not necessarily a beloved belief, it is all these other things which theists are really saying when they say they believe in God.


Einstein and God

For those who are really interested and want to understand the way that Einstein thought of God and what that meant to him, see here. Fascinating stuff. Compelling too.

"Although I am a typical loner in daily life, my consciousness of belonging to the invisible community of those who strive for truth, beauty, and justice has preserved me from feeling isolated. The most beautiful and deepest experience a man can have is the sense of the mysterious. It is the underlying principle of religion as well as all serious endeavour in art and science. He who never had this experience seems to me, if not dead, then at least blind. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection, this is religiousness. In this sense I am religious. To me it suffices to wonder at these secrets and to attempt humbly to grasp with my mind a mere image of the lofty structure of all that is there."

"By way of the understanding he [the scientist] achieves a far-reaching emancipation from the shackles of personal hopes and desires, and thereby attains that humble attitude of mind towards the grandeur of reason incarnate in existence, and which, in its profoundest depths, is inaccessible to man. This attitude, however, appears to me to be religious, in the highest sense of the word. And so it seems to me that science not only purifies the religious impulse of the dross of its anthropomorphism but also contributes to a religious spiritualization of our understanding of life.

My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior Spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. The deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning Power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God."

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Quick Overview of Parshat Re'eh

"26 See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse- 27 the blessing if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today; 28 the curse if you disobey the commands of the LORD your God..."

Wow, if that doesn't sound like the Godfather giving you an offer you can't refuse, I don't know what does. But that really is how following the Law is sold here. Do it or else I'll mess you up real bad. Lofty motivations, indeed.

"6 If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, "Let us go and worship other gods" (gods that neither you nor your fathers have known, 7 gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), 8 do not yield to him or listen to him. Show him no pity. Do not spare him or shield him. 9 You must certainly put him to death. Your hand must be the first in putting him to death, and then the hands of all the people. 10 Stone him to death, because he tried to turn you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 11 Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and no one among you will do such an evil thing again."

Oh boy. Free speech? Nah, of course not. And here you can't even trust your closest family and friends to talk to. This reminds me of those child informers of Nazi times. If sure gives me Orwellian shivers, how about you?

"12 If you hear it said about one of the towns the LORD your God is giving you to live in 13 that wicked men have arisen among you and have led the people of their town astray, saying, "Let us go and worship other gods" (gods you have not known), 14 then you must inquire, probe and investigate it thoroughly. And if it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done among you, 15 you must certainly put to the sword all who live in that town. Destroy it completely, both its people and its livestock."

And there goes freedom of religion and the freedom of assembly too. If the media was around in those times, I'm the sure the Bible would have said similar things about it too. See, what religious fundamentalists must be saying when they wish for a Jewish theocracy (even if they don't realize it) is for all these laws to take effect. What a scary place to live. It's rather shocking at first when you read these texts and put them in modern contexts. But there it is.

Katrina and Speaking for God

So the Rabbi of my shul this past Shabbos makes a speech saying how Katrina is God's punishment on America for Bush urging Sharon for Israel to disengage from Gaza.

Sure. But as my dad said, it really makes you wonder what the folks of New Orleans did to deserve such a punishment.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

A Few Questions

Some huge (metaphysical?) questions I've been thinking about but which science has no answer to yet:

Why does matter exist? This is a different question from "Why does anything exist?" but it asks how is it in the universe that the original energy of the universe "congealed" into matter at all? What kept it from simply staying in energy form?

We know that much (most?) of the stuff in the universe is already in energy form, why didn't all of it stay that way? Or is it that all or most of the universe's energy did indeed become matter, but since it formed matter and anti-matter they came together and reformed the energy (or a new form of energy?) we see today?

Why do positive charges attract negative charges? Why do like charges repel? What does it even mean to be positively or negatively charged?

Relativity tells us that matter changes space-time to create the force of gravity we experience all the time. But how does this happen? How does matter alter space-time? What does that even mean?

These questions don't have any answers at this time. We are all so amazed at the progress we have made so far since the start of our Greek intellectual forebearers, but really it's just been a drop in the bucket for fundamental understanding of our universe.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Kant Reason with Metaphysics

HUMAN reason has this peculiar fate that in one species of its knowledge it is burdened by questions which, as prescribed by the very nature of reason itself, it is not able to ignore, but which, as transcending all its powers, it is also not able to answer.

The perplexity into which it thus falls is not due to any fault of its own. It begins with principles which it has no option save to employ in the course of experience, and which this experience at the same time abundantly justifies it in using. Rising with their aid (since it is determined to this also by its own nature) to ever higher, ever more remote, conditions, it soon becomes aware that in this way -- the questions never ceasing -- its work must always remain incomplete; and it therefore finds itself compelled to resort to principles which overstep all possible empirical employment, and which yet seem so unobjectionable that even ordinary consciousness readily accepts them. But by this procedure human reason precipitates itself into darkness and contradictions; and while it may indeed conjecture that these must be in some way due to concealed errors, it is not in a position to be able to detect them. For since the principles of which it is making use transcend the limits of experience, they are no longer subject to any empirical test. The battle-field of these endless controversies is called metaphysics.

-Immanuel Kant

It is human reason which drives us to ask the big questions, but it is also those big questions for which reason cannot supply answers. Henceforth be the endless paradox of metaphysics and the human condition.