Friday, April 30, 2010

Visit to the North Pole

Well not the actual north pole but North Pole Alaska. It is just a little town but it is very cook. They have Santas House which is really just a huge gift shop but there are reindeer and a sleigh and all sorts of Christmasy things. I played dorky tourist and took pictures of everything and bought presents for my wife and kids. I also sent post cards from there to my children so they would have the North Pole postmark. Also there is an actual "North Pole" at this park in town. Apparently in the 50's a pole was made to mark the top of the earth. At some point it was lost in route and ended up in a junkyard, to be discovered tears later. Eventually on the bicentenial it was erected in North Pole Alaska. I got this great picture of two of my lady friends pole dancing on it.

Also this week I visited a wildlife conservation park with moose, bears, wolves, buffalo, musk ox, bald eagles and all sorts of other wildlife. I also went for a trip to hike Portage Glacier but it was not accesable due to heavy snow. Stil we took pictures and played in the snow so all in all a good trip.

I can't get over the beauty of this state. I still maintain as I have in earlier posts that my home in Oregon is the prettiest place in the world but still I have fallen in love with Alaska. The mountains are everpresent and gorgeous. The wildlife is abundant, and everything looks and smells wonderful.

Today I am in Fairbanks tommorow I fly back to Anchorage for the weekend then I am off to Kodiak. I will post again soon.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sore Knees and Beauty Queens

I just finished a 5K heart run to benefit the heart association. My company joined the team for the Alaska Childrens Heart Center and we all participated. It was a lot of fun and for a good cause. Our team also took first in the open team category. There were prize drawings, bands, great harvest bakery was giving away bread. It was just a great day all around. Best of all I got my picture taken with Miss Alaska and Miss Teen Alaska. There is a memento to go in a frame. Sadly I don't have my menory card reader with me or I would be posting pictures. When I get home I think I will make a gallery of the trip and post them all at once.

Friday, April 23, 2010

What For Beauty?

One argument that I have heard in favor of believing religion is the "argument from aesthetics". In short it is simply that the universe is beautiful, and random chance could not make beauty. Ignoring for the moment that physics, at least beyond the quantum level, does not propose the possibility of random chance, the argument is still weak. It assumes that beauty is an objective property of things and we simply have the ability to percieve it. This is obviously false. Beauty is purely subjective, personally I see beauty in things like crumbling buildings and wilted flowers that other people find ugly. Beauty is more likely a product of human nature, slightly different for everyone but with enough commonalities that most can agree. An object does not have a property of beauty we simply percieve it as beautiful or not.

The question now is why do we percieve beauty? What evolutionary purpose if any does a conception of beauty hold? In some cases it is obvious. Flowers and green fields are good signs of a rich area and we would naturaly be drawn to them. Symmetrical features are signs of health and potential for good mates. Streams and lakes are appealing because humans need to live near water. All of these make sense but other things less so. Currently I am surrounded by great icy peaks, a few months ago I was in a barren desert like area. I found both places gorgeous. Why?

I think it is due to our intelligence, emotions and love of symbols, all of which are evolutionary traits. An icy mountain range is dangerous and awe inspiring, this activates emotions in us, as symbol lovers those emotions inspire memories and association with symbols and stories. These peaks inspire in us a desire for accomplishment, they challenge us and give us a sense of romance therefore we find them beauitiful. The same can be true of a crumbling old building, the decay associates not only with visions of what the structure would have been like when whole but also a sense of melencholy and grief over it's fallen state. These feelings inspire a perception of beauty.

It seems that beauty is not a property of the world but a property of man. It is our nature to see beauty. There is no created beauty, icy peaks are nothing but rocks and frozen water. It is my aesthetic sensibilities that make them beautiful.

On that note I am surrounded by beauty here on my visit to Alaska. Yesterday, in the middle of the day in April it began snowing madly. I was simply in a parking lot, yet when the snow came it was transformed into a glorious wonderland. Right outside my hotel is a ring of snow covered mountains there are streams and flood plains every time I take a drive. Mighty stands of trees abound. I revel in this beauty, but I need not assign any magical creator to them. In fact the truth that they arise through millions of years of precise and inevitable natural processes enhances the majesty of them. Soil erosion, vulcanism, and evolution strike me as far more awesome and majestic than some magical creator. In truth belief in a creator strikes me as a limited and unimagitive way of looking at the world. Something that tries to encapsulate the majesty of our univers in a small and primitive myth, unworthy of the world assigned to its creation.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

YES! There is snow.

I just landed in Anchorage Alaska, I will be working and playing here for about a week before moving on to Fairbanks, Kodiak and other cities. I will be in Alaska for a little over three weeks. I was so happy that there was snow on the ground when we got off the plane. Not much but some, I had heard that it had all melted off and it would have been sad for my first experience in this state to be snow free.

I am in a lovely suite, It is an extended stay so there is a kitchen and a seperate bedroom. I just got all moved in and it is very comfortable. I work tomorrow night but I have all day to explore and then have the next day off as well before working again.

The flight was a little dissapointing. I love to fly, no matter how many times I do it I get exc ited and filled with wonder just like a little kid. This was my first night flight and I was hoping it would be impressive. I had imagined a great field of stars once we were over the ocean and above the clouds, but the light in the cabin made it hard to see. City lights were very pretty though, leaving Portland and entering Anchorage I could see the lights stretch on seemingly forever.

I had a co=worker who was terribly afraid to fly and we were talking at length about the possibility of crashing. She was somewhat taken aback that I was completely unafraid of dying. I explained to her that death was nothing, why be worried, if you don't exist anymore what is to be afraid of. She is a Christian lady and it struck me as strange once again that Christians fear death. It seems very common among those I know. I would think that if I believed I had a paradise waiting I would be positively eager to die, and certainly not scared. That doesn't seem to be the case however. Fear of death seems to be ingrained into the Christian religion, in many ways it seems to be the entire point of the faith.

As an atheist on the other hand death is literaly nothing. Certainly I regret the prospect of dying, leaving things unfinished, the sadness of my loved ones, but for myself it doesn't bother me at all. As Epicurus said, If you exist then death has not come and for the dead they no longer exist and death can not harm them. So death hurts niether the living nor the dead.

I will be posting regularly while I am here, that should be a change for those of you who have been paying attention. I have been very lazy about blogging for a while. Family and business have been monopolizing my time. Now however I am on a bussmans holiday to a beautiful part of the world and hopefuly will be waxing philosophic for the duration.