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I think there might be some conflation between the questions "Do you believe in a vast, superior, nigh-omniscient form of consciousness beyond the range of our observation" and "Do you believe in the Judeo-Christian god." To the latter question, I have to agree with their vehement and derisive "NO." It's just too ridiculous. But if you consider how little we know about the scope of the universe, as well as the realms beyond what we naively call the universe, there really is no limit to the “weirdness” that can be discovered. After all, weirdness is just the incompatibility of one hypothetical with the observed state of things. But when you’re talking about observations beyond the universe, there’s nothing to compare that to, so nothing can be dismissed as “too weird to exist.” So when I think of this, I am filled with an incredible sense of wonder and hope. Consider how difficult it would be for a phantom observer on some distant moon to discover life on Earth—this utterly amazing and unpredictable derivative phenomenon of the laws of physics. An “observer” who knew nothing about life could never predict it based on his tabletop experiments among the rocks and careful astronomical measurements. So what sort of fantastic, bafflingly rare (by universal standards), unpredictable phenomena are we missing? Some analogue to life? A consciousness as big as the sun? A network of interconnected organisms, like a Great Barrier Reef as wide as a galaxy? These sorts of thoughts aren’t scientific, of course, but what you might call rational dreaming.
It's hard for me to compare the two because I read AFTA a long time ago. The main difference is FWTBT involves a lot of combat (guerilla warfare in the Spanish Civil War) whereas the other if I remember is more about escaping the combat of war. I highly recommend it; it's exciting, reads fast and is very moving.
Have you read Michael Lewis's The Big Short? It's a fascinating read, and makes you feel way smarter by the end.
Here's my five (all fiction):
1. Dubliners by James Joyce; arguably the most masterful short story collection ever written
2. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway; his seminal war book
3. Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey; a really beautiful and out-there novel about Oregon loggers which will always have a special place in my memory
4. A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor; some of the funniest and darkest stories I've ever read
5. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens; just a classic, page-turning book
I'm with you mostly; I don't think it's so hard to defend. The thing is, the question of abortion is one of the most difficult ethical/moral questions we have, because what you're dealing with is a spectrum of life from the single-cell to the fully-formed bawling smiling baby. You're dealing with a process which is mostly beyond human comprehension at this point--a process which takes a form of life which most people obliterate by the trillions on a daily basis (in the form of bacteria) to something which is so complex and mysterious as to be effectively the last true "magic" of the scientific world: the sapient human. The question of where to draw the line and how to formulate logically a policy for barring or permitting the systematic killing of organisms along this spectrum is one of the most ferociously gray areas you can come up with. Saydrah makes an interesting point below, which is that a pregnant mother is protecting herself from intense bodily transformation (and potential damage) by aborting a pregnancy. Another way to think of it is the euthanasia of a human being which has no quality of life by definition. This is analogous to the regular killing of humans who are irreversibly damaged to the point of being unconscious or terminally miserable. The place where this analogy falls down I guess is that while fetuses are completely incapacitated human beings, they are all but destined to "recover" by growing up and becoming (presumably) functional members of society. So aborting a fetus in this sense is no different from unplugging a Terry Schiavo who is almost certain to undergo a full recovery in the coming years, but a recovery which the caretakers are unwilling or unable to finance and supervise. In the end, I think abortion should be legal, but mostly that is a gut feeling. A feeling which is based on a respect for the intimate connection between the fetus and the physical identity of the mother as well as a recognition of the immense problems which unwanted pregnancies can lead to. In a pragmatic sense, I suppose the question should come down to whatever people feel is right in each occasion. Where and when you can say that an abortion should be forbidden is really hard to decide in, say, a conference room. Or, more accurately, our Congressional offices. When it comes down to it, I think people should do what seems the most right, and the least gross, and whatever moral implications there are will be in the interpretations of the people who see it happen.