Saturday, September 24, 2011

Atrahasis.

The Babylonian flood myth continued.  Following are a few excerpts:

"Roof it like the Apsu so that the Sun cannot see inside it!  Make upper decks and lower decks.  The tackle must be very strong, the bitumen strong, to give strength.  I shall make rain fall on you here ... He invited his people [ ] to a feast.  [ ] he put his family on board.  They were eating, they were drinking. ...


The flood roared like a bull ...  for seven days and seven nights the torrent, storm and flood came on."

The [] indicate missing or unintelligible text.  The ... is where I dropped out detail to emphasize things.  Apsu is listed as the roof of a particular temple in the glossary.  For comparison, the Biblical account is in Genesis chapters 6-8.

The important thing in doing a comparison is to highlight both the similarities and the differences.  It is invariably the case that the differences are not highlighted when this is presented to the unsuspecting student.  The flood in Atrahasis is the last of seven catastrophes inflicted on mankind.  The reason:

"Ellil organized his assembly, addressed the gods his sons, 'You are not to inflict disease on them again, (Even though) the people have not diminished - they are more than before!  I have become restless at their noise, sleep cannot overtake me because of their racket!  Cut off food from the people ...'"

Each time it seems that some of the lesser gods thwart Ellil's plan, resulting in conflict among the gods.  Note that the "noise" here is due to man working on the canals and the like, and this work is what the Atrahasis story claims that mankind was created to do.  Thus, we find the blame being heaped entirely onto Ellil for the catastrophes, whereas the Bible gives us this reason for the destruction:

"The Lord saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time." - Genesis 6:5

and

"Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence." - Genesis 6:11

Atrahasis has no mention of the rainbow that is mentioned (God speaking) in Genesis 9:13-16 -

" ... Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.  Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth."

It is an irony that the rainbow was chosen as the symbol by certain groups that worship promiscuity and boast that every inclination of the thoughts of the heart are evil all the time.

To summarize, the Bible describes God as good, while man is evil - hence mankind's deserved punishment.  The Babylonian myths portray man as doing what the gods required, yet the gods are nuts and plotted evil against them anyway.  There does seem to be some relationship between the two, yet I will stick with my view that the Biblical account is the original and a new atheist from 4 thousand years ago did some editing to make the Babylonian version.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Atrahasis.

This is a Bablylonian flood myth.  When I was young I heard the argument that the Bible's flood story must be true because such stories are distributed all over the world.  Plato includes one also - I believe in The Republic.  The intellectualoids have a different viewpoint: there was only one flood myth related to the Bible, and this flood myth was much, much, much earlier than Moses, who they claim didn't exist, while the Biblical story - they claim - was written about the 4th century BC.  The implication is that the Biblical account is a cheap plagiarism.  Atrahasis is the Babylonian story discovered on cuneiform tablets.  The intro to this claims it to be from the 17th century BC, although this is unclear.  Is that the oldest stone in the city?  Or what?  Anyway, Atrahasis begins like this:

"When the gods instead of man did the work, bore the loads, the gods' load was too great.  The work too hard, the trouble too much, The great Anunnaki made the Igigi carry the workload sevenfold. ..." - Atrahasis I

This continues for several pages as the gods engage in a revolution.  Then a solution is determined:

"'Belet-ili the womb-goddess is present, let the womb-goddess create offspring and let man bear the load of the gods!'" - Atrahasis I

Thus, man was created specifically to work due to this revolt among the gods.

It would appear there is a relationship to the Biblical story:

"To Adam he said, 'Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, "You must not eat of it," Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.'" - Genesis 3:17

The Bablylonian account claims that man's need to work is due to the perfidy of gods who clearly aren't all powerful.  The Biblical account takes the exact opposite view:  a single, omnipotent God creates everything good, while man is cursed to work due to Adam's willful disobedience.  My general observation is that the account with the serious message predates the spoof, rather than the other way around.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Bishop Berkeley (1685-1753): More on the Red Pill vs. the Blue Pill.

"Hylas -  ... I freely own there is no other substance, in a strict sense, than Spirit.  But I have been so long accustomed to the term Matter that I know not how to part with it.  To say, there is no Matter in the World, is still shocking to me." - 3 Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous

Taking things in order, Descartes argued that each man is his own substance, but the spirit is distinct from the body.  Spinoza argued that the entire universe is one substance, while spirit does not exist, only body which is a part of matter.  Berkeley takes an opposite view that spirit exists, as is plain to all of us, but matter is merely an allusion.

A common thread in all this is the stated need to oppose atheism. Spinoza speciously tries to claim he is a theist by twisting the definition of god to fit into atheism - and then denies atheism.  Berkeley argues that matter itself is something that plays into the sophistry of the atheists, thus, the concept of material distinct from God should be dispensed with.  To some extent this seems to be built on top of Descartes' view of  "I think, therefore I am".  Descartes does this as a thought experiment but doesn't try to deny material reality in the end.  Berkeley goes all the way to insist that what we consider material reality is just an illusion.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Downsizing and a sore back.

With the kids having all left home, we periodically go through the house doing a cleaning.  That means unused clothing, school books and other things get sifted through as we search for recycleables.  A scrap metal and electronics pickup was scheduled for the morning, so I pulled out some old rusty bicycles and wheels, along with two large cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors.  The monitors are still good, but the resolution is low, energy usage is high, and we really don't need so many monitors.  A number of computers remain that are unused, but I can't bring myself to dispose of them quite yet.  Dozens of books went out too which were mostly old computer manuals.  It was a good cleaning.

The patterns of empty nesters deserve a little reflection.  Some seem to want to grow the house and furnishings so that it can house all their descendants under one roof.  Others keep things pretty much as is.  A difficult challenge is to reduce the unnecessary belongings to something that is sufficient for two people.  When we were just married everything we had could fit in one room.  It isn't quite like that now, but the feeling of slowly having fewer things cluttering the house and garage is quite pleasant.
Descartes:  The Red Pill or the Blue Pill?

The final chapter of Descartes Principles of Philosophy discusses what is known about the nervous system in the human body.  The machine like characteristics start to become apparent as cutting a nerve in one place removes feeling in another, while disturbing a nerve can sometimes make a sensation of pain somewhere else.  This draws Descartes to the conclusion that the mind is real, but sensation is imposed on the mind by some device.  Thus, his belief that everything in reality must be questioned.  It is only his belief in God that forces him to conclude that perceived reality is actual reality, since God would not deceive us.

One statement at the beginning caught my eye.  For those who find my blog difficult to understand, Descartes has the ready explanation:

"It is useful to know something of the manners of different nations, that we may be enabled to form a more correct judgment regarding our own, and be prevented from thinking that everything contrary to our customs is ridiculous and irrational, - a conclusion usually come to by those whose experience has been limited to their own country.  On the other hand, when too much time is occupied in travelling, we become strangers to our native country; and the over curious in the customs of the past are generally ignorant of those of the present." - Discourse on Method.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Descartes: Falsification

I have heard about Descartes and his memorable statement, "I think, therefore I am".  Having read his work, I now have a completely different view of his intent.  Descartes claims that the most important characteristic of his philosophy is doubt - the question "what if I am wrong?".  Thus, the first proposition of Descartes' The Principles of Philosophy is this:

"1. That in order to seek truth, it is necessary once in the course of our life to doubt, as far as possible, of all things." - The Principles of Philosophy, Human Reason.

This philosophy reminds me very much of Popper's notion of falsification and the standard for science.  In our modern era we have to question whether such a philosophy is feasible.  The incredibly large amount of opinions and technology that are presented to us almost precludes any hope of questioning.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Descartes (1596-1650):  Flat Earth notions.

"Again, since the mind did not observe that the earth moved on its axis, or that its superficies was curved like that of a globe, it was on that account more ready to judge the earth immovable and its surface flat." - The Principle of Philosophy, Book 1, Prop LXXI.

This is a curious statement since Descartes didn't publish some works for fear they might give offense.  The belief is that he refrained from talking about astronomy and the heliocentric solar system due to what happened to Galileo (1564-1642).  Descartes makes statements about the persecution of certain notions, but doesn't elaborate.

In the above quote, Descartes is almost equating the geocentric model with flat earthers, but he doesn't specifically refer to anyone believing the earth to be flat. My suspicion is that a flat earth belief was no more than a standard insult just as it had been used by Plato in Phaedo.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Calvin:  Adam's Free Will

This is to add a specific link to Calvin's statement that only one man had free will:

"Adam, therefore, might have stood if he chose, since it was only by his own will that he fell; but it was because his will was pliable in either directions and he had not received constancy to persevere, that he so easily fell. Still he had a free choice of good and evil; and not only so, but in the mind and will there was the highest rectitude, and all the organic parts were duly framed to obedience, until man corrupted its good properties, and destroyed himself." - Institute of the Christian Religion, Book I, Chapter 15, Proposition 8.

This is an excerpt from a longer discussion.  The notion here is that once Adam sinned, his will was permanently damaged and passed on to all his offspring so that we do not have a free will - or at least a will that can choose anything good - it being so corrupted from the fall of Adam.
Descartes (1596-1650):  Free Will

"XXXIX.  That the liberty of our will is self-evident." - The Principles of Philosophy, Book 1, Human Knowledge

"XL. That it is likewise certain that God has fore-ordained all things."

I made a new category, Free Will, to collect various comments on this.  Augustine follows Descartes above, while Calvin and Spinoza both are both opposed to free will, but for very different reasons.  Descartes explains the reasons after each proposition. A little later Descartes puts one out that surprises me:

"XLII. How, although we never will to err, it is nevertheless by our will that we do err."

This has me questioning whether this is true or not.  Are there those who deliberately want to believe something that is wrong because it is wrong?  There are certainly those who teach what is wrong purely out of malice.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

 Bay Area Back Roads:  Sonoma

There seems to be no end to little places of interest for a day trip from San Francisco.  Sonoma is one that I hadn't considered until Labor Day.  There is a large town square surrounded by older buildings.  We learned that the most northern of the missions established in California was Mission Sonoma which is in the picture below.  A large number of shops are there to tweak your interest.  My only advice:  Pack a lunch.  There are many restaurants that have $25 entrees to enjoy.  Whether you can afford that or not, if you haven't made a reservation things can be difficult.  We ended up eating at a grill that was part of a market dedicated to cheese and wine.  The two or three cheaper places were way too busy, but this was a popular weekend.  The alternative is to plan eating away from the center of town.


As with every American  local tourist area, someone seems to think that the best way to make it attractive is to highlight somewhere else.


Still, there are some cute little corridors leading from one place to another.  


Another destination I should highlight is downtown Napa.  We have visited Napa Valley many times over the years, but this was the first trip where we visited the city itself.  There has been a lot of effort to make Napa nice and attractive.  As with Sonoma, there are an excessive number of restaurants with $25 entrees that are so small that you need an appetizer and something else with each meal so you won't go away hungry.  

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Spinoza:  Notes on Ethics.

1.  Good vs. Evil:

"By evil, I mean every, kind of pain, especially that which frustrates our longings. For I have shown (III. ix. note) that we in no case desire a thing because we deem it good, but, contrariwise, we deem a thing good because we desire it:  ... " - Ethics, Part III, Prop. XXXIX

Spinoza makes a show of being thorough and employing the mathematical techniques of geometry.  Yet a little reflection will show that this is just a thin veneer over a sea of problems.  Here we find evil defined in terms of desire, yet elsewhere such as Part III, Prop. LIV we see the phrase "evil desires", so that we find Spinoza using an oxymoron per his own definitions.  Good and evil are all in god and have no meaning, yet he will go and lecture on and on regarding good and evil.  It is all self-contradictory.  In fact the ethics portion of Ethics is simply lifted from classical theist philosophy so that little new can be noted in his atheist philosophy in terms of action.

2. Charity:

"Men are also gained over by liberality,  .... Again, an individual man's resources of character are too limited for him to be able to make all men his friends. Hence providing for the poor is a duty, which falls on the State as a whole, and has regard only to the general advantage." - Part IV, Prop. XVII

The logic here is wonderful:  I want to gain the honor of being liberal (i.e. generous per the original meaning), I don't have the resources to gain this reputation, therefore, the government should do charity on behalf of me.  Hence, the logic of the modern welfare state, although Julian beat Spinoza to this by more than 1,000 years To this I will link Pliny the Younger's statement on the subject:

"Other smart characters rob one persons to give to another, hoping their rapacity will bring them a reputation for generous giving.will bring them a reputation for generous giving." - The Letters of the Younger Pliny, IX.30

Anyway, Spinoza does not prescribe a new ethical burden to the atheist, but rather an ethical burden to everyone else.

3. The Unpardonable Sin.

Where Spinoza deviates is in regard to "superstition".  There are many scattered statements that relate to this making it a bit difficult to paint the full picture, but this will give an idea.

"They therefore believe that piety, religion, and, generally, all things attributable to firmness of mind, are burdens, which, after death, they hope to lay aside, and to receive the reward for their bondage, that is, for their piety, and religion; it is not only by this hope, but also, and chiefly, by the fear of being horribly punished after death, that they are induced to live according to the divine commandments, so far as their feeble and infirm spirit will carry them." - Part V, Prop. XLI

The unpardonable sin in Spinoza's system is the belief that doing evil has consequences in the afterlife.  Ditto for good.  Belief in God is perfectly acceptable, as long as it does not entail consequences for sin or rewards for good.  That this is inadequate is something that orthodox Christians would share with Spinoza, yet the difference is clear.  Christianity says that reason itself becomes corrupted so that only through some sort of spiritual/character transformation can virtue become a positive goal, rather than an annoying burden.  (I will note that classical philosophers deemed reason good, and many Christian theologians imbibed this non-Christian doctrine.)  Fear of nasty consequences, however, can have a positive impact as often times people grow to love what they had formerly deemed a burden.  Spinoza tries to assert otherwise:

"Hence, men who are governed by reason--that is, who seek what is useful to them in accordance with reason,--desire for themselves nothing, which they do not also desire for the rest of mankind, and, consequently, are just, faithful, and honourable in their conduct." - Part IV, Prop. XVIII

His arguments boil down to an assertion that only atheists are capable of true virtue.  Or to misquote a Bible verse: "By this shall all men know that you are atheists - that you have love, one for another".

4. Eternity of the soul.

This last bit from Part V is a bit peculiar.  Spinoza argues all his ethics without any regard to the eternal, but then at the very last claims the soul is eternal.  This is not to say that cognizance is eternal, but rather some abstract notion of the mind which is part of the eternal universe, thus, it is "in god" and this makes it eternal in some incomprehensible manner.  Not quite sure what that means.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Yelp!

My son helped me to set this up on my iPhone and gave me a quick tutorial.  Yelp! is a utility that searches for businesses or organizations in the vicinity of your cell phone.  Need a gas station or a book store?  Just punch in what you want to yelp and it will give you anything nearby along with reviews.

I had to give it a try and was a bit surprised at the results.  A search for local Religious Organizations -> Churches turned up Stark's Steakhouse.  Now I do like steak, but seriously, are there people out there who worship steak?  Maybe the sacred cow becomes the sacred steak after proceeding through the slaughter house.  There was also a Religious Organizations -> Hindu Temples search.  Perhaps the Steakhouse reference had simply been misplaced?  Obviously the progress of Artificial Intelligence is going far beyond what I had conceived.

Something else that impresses me is the indication of the cost of the churches with a $$ sign.  This is important.  Then there is the encouraging fact that the church of the steak has so many more reviews - and positive ones - than the Unitarians.  Finally, the more a church asks for the better the reviews.  Marf should note that I didn't see any Pastafarian Churches on the list.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Spinoza (1632-1677):  Ethics is determined by the State.

"In the state of nature, therefore, sin is inconceivable; it can only exist in a state, where good and evil are pronounced on by common consent, and where everyone is bound to obey the State authority. Sin, then, is nothing else but disobedience, which is therefore punished by the right of the State only. Obedience, on the other hand, is set down as merit, inasmuch as a man is thought worthy of merit, if he takes delight in the advantages which a State provides." - Ethics, Part III Proposition XXXVII

I am glad to see a bit of honesty develop.  Spinoza recognizes that, under an atheist world view, there can be no notion of sin from nature.  In fact the notion of sin for an atheist is to herself alone, but Spinoza tries to use social authority as the final arbitrator.  The age that Spinoza lived in was one of kings and authority, but Spinoza tries to slither out of the trap with "common consent" - i.e. democracy.  Reading between the lines, religious authority is excluded, but intellectualloid authority is affirmed - the authority of "reason".  Somehow all this seems quite familiar.
Spinoza (1632-1677):  Virtue = Enlightened self interest.

Again, it should be noted that Spinoza is at some level a patron saint of modern theistic-atheism, thus, his ideas are being studied, re-phrased, and taught to the children of Christians in colleges.  Following seems to me to be the core of Volume IV of Spinoza's Ethics:

"Again, as virtue is nothing else but action in accordance with the laws of one's own nature (IV. Def. viii.), and as no one endeavours to preserve his own being, except in accordance with the laws of his own nature, it follows, first, that the foundation of virtue is the endeavour to preserve one's own being, and that happiness consists in man's power of preserving his own being; secondly, that virtue is to be desired for its own sake, and that there is nothing more excellent or more useful to us, for the sake of which we should desire it; thirdly and lastly, that suicides are weak-minded, and are overcome by external causes repugnant to their nature." - Ethics, Proposition XVIII.

Things are clearly degenerating here as Spinoza tries to formulate his atheist version of ethics.  Would a man work to provide for his family if the job was clearly detrimental to his health and he had no other opportunity that would provide both for himself and his loved ones?  Would anyone gives his life to save his country from invading barbarians bent on total destruction?  Or to use the quote from the Bible:

"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." - John 15:13

Or to put it another way, if virtue is self interest, then we should never love beyond the degree to which repayment is possible.  Repayment might be returned by the one to whom we did charity, but it might also be in the form of public praise and honor for the deed that was performed.  A corollary is that as we get older our chances of being repaid diminish so that there is no point in being generous. A similar corollary is that the old who are a drain on our resources should be executed.  No doubt Spinoza will attempt to argue that his ideas don't lead to their obvious conclusions.
Dear Mrs. Looney:  Happy Anniversary!

The Lord has granted us a wonderful 30 years.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Still on the road.  This is lake Hennessy near Napa Valley.


A lovely critter.


The hotel set me up in the room next to this one.  Clearly they made a mistake?


Spinoza:  Part III - Emotions

Here is the summary so far.

Part I - Assertion that God and the universe are one, and that men are part of that universe in an inseparable mode.
Part II - Assertion that man is a thinking being, but all are thoughts are predetermined by the universe, hence there is no such thing as freewill.
Part III - Assertion that man has emotions, thus, it is deduced that there will be a brotherhood of all mankind.

My interest here is to try painting an overall picture of the argument.  To some extent, this is like being given a list of the colors and positions of tiles and then describing the overall picture in a mosaic.

Part I is basically a confession of atheism, although Spinoza wants to take ownership of the concept of 'god' for atheism.
Part II asserts that man has no free will.  Why this is important is not stated, but it is that atheist morality always results in a formulation of something similar to the Prisoner's Dilemma.  If our world view permits individual choice, then it is clear that atheist morality descends at a minimum to social anarchy.  Note that Descartes philosophy is entirely centered on the first person:  "I think, therefore I am".  Personal action is the beginning of philosophy.  Spinoza has effectively ruled personal action out, so that it can't be the beginning of philosophy.
Part III claims that man's emotions are bound together with utilitarian thinking.  (Note that Sandel's lectures on this subject are a good reference on this subject.)  The problem here is that the derivation of emotions isn't necessarily with reference to humans.  It could as well apply to beings with limited thought like cats, dogs, elephants, and dolphins.  Even Spinoza notes that different types of people have different character, thus, making a general statement would seem to me to be problematic.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Spiniza: Truth is the standard of truth.

There is a group at my company that gets together for lectures once a week at lunch time and discusses various philosophies and philosophical/religious systems.  Most of the recent philosophers I have read, but the upcoming ones included Baruch Spinoza (1623-1677) and John Mills (1806-1873), both of whom I had not read.  Thus, the need to read Spinoza, who is the most difficult writer I have come across since Aristotle's Metaphysics.  Nothing like a little utterly pointless self imposed pressure!

Spinoza attempts to develop his "philosophy" in a robust system of propositions, theorems, corollaries and proofs.  My impression is that this is primarily to intimidate those who might dispute, since they must then trace through the spaghetti to find the error.  I will highlight one gem:

"He, who has a true idea, simultaneously knows that he has a true idea, and cannot doubt of the truth of the thing perceived" - Ethics, Proposition XI.III

This being the post-modern era, we get to look at this from our vantage point.  A key part of modernism is the enumerating of true ideas, followed by the endless argumentation of why they are false.  In fact, intelligence is honored in our era to the degree that it can persuade the unwary that true is false and false is true.  According to this proposition, however, the authors of these errors should be in full knowledge of their malice.  Is their any greater guilt?

In this matter I am more generous that Spinoza, because I believe someone can know the truth and make war on the truth, yet do this due to ignorantly believing the truth to be false.  This is far less blameworthy than believing the truth to be true, yet persecuting it anyway.  As the Apostle Paul says:

"For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it.  ...  But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles ..." - Galatians 1:13-17

Thus, I deem that Paul had a true idea (the church), albeit incomplete, and proceeded to persecute the idea for some time until the truth of the truth was made plain to him.  Romans 1 has more to say on this subject.

Spinoza's discussion of his proposition concludes with this:

"From what is there stated, the difference between a man who has true ideas, and a man who has only false ideas, is made apparent. As for the last question--as to how a man can be sure that he has ideas that agree with their objects, I have just pointed out, with abundant clearness, that his knowledge arises from the simple fact, that he has an idea which corresponds with its object--in other words, that truth is its own standard."

It is this part which really jumps out.  In Spinoza's system, truth is a knowledge of the exact condition of reality, whereas falsehood is the degree to which we deviate from this knowledge through the confusion of images.  But who, exactly, determines true and false?  Spinoza's answer is simple:  truth is its own standard.  In Spinoza's system, however, truth is merely exact information, and no matter how much we would like it to be otherwise, truth is inanimate.  It is also infinite, so that as an infinite hand cannot slap a single finite face in a crowd, thus, an infinite truth has little means of enforcing itself against any other false opinion delivered up by a finite being.  To twist Al Gore's usage, there is no controlling legal authority for truth in Spinoza's Ethics.  Truth has no legal standing to bring a case in court against falsehood.

But getting back to a simpler philosophical reasoning, "truth is its own standard" is clearly a circular definition. It is true because it is true, which is true because it is true .... off to infinity.  The complaint against Spinoza is that he is really an atheist who has defined god as merely being the universe.  Atheism, however, has no inherent notion of ethics, or even of truth.  Ethics and truth must be grafted onto an atheist system from purely external sources.  Spinoza has made no progress.  Since this post is about truth, I will leave the Christian notion, and it should be clear why this avoids the complaint that atheist truth comes with no controlling legal authority:

"Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.'" - John 14:6

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Solyndra:  RIP

This company is near my house, so I am certainly sympathetic to the 1,100 employees who lost their job.  President Obama gave us a visit awhile back as the US gave $535 million in loan guarantees to Solyndra to build solar panels and create green jobs.  It seems like just a few months ago that the welding torches finally stopped glowing as the beautiful new factory was being built.

Still, this was a venture that common sense said was doomed from the time it was conceived.  You can't start this kind of a business in America's highest cost market for labor and land, along with America's most over regulated state, and expect it to compete with China - when China is fully up to speed on production already.  The article mentions government pressure on private investment firms to stick with the deal just a few months ago.  One wonders how much government involvement there was over the entire course of the venture.
Pascal: Man as a medium between the big and small.

"For, in fact, what is man in nature? A Nothing in comparison with the Infinite, an All in comparison with the Nothing, a mean between nothing and everything." - Pensees, Section II.72

This observation strikes me as quite a curious one for the 1600'.  Pascal asserts that man is nothing compared to the size of the universe, and yet our body consists of such fantastic complexity if we are to look from the vantage point of an atom.  The universe as a whole is speculated to be on the order of 1024 meters compared to a man at 2 meters, while a subatomic particle is closer to 10-15 meters.  This would make the earth closer to the mean rather than man, but I believe the universe is many orders of magnitude smaller due to astrospeculators refusing to account for the transverse red shift in their calculations.  Anyway, with dark mass, dark energy and dark physics being the dominate part of astrophysics, it is pretty much "whatever".  Still, it seems to me that Pascal is correct in a sense that whether we consider length or mass, the universe is to man as man is to the smallest particle.  Roughly.