A scientist has a visitor and shows him around. He shows him a large table with dozens of little black boxes: “each of these boxes is hosting an artificial intelligence. They are living in a virtual world and I study their interactions, their believes and their culture.” The visitor asks: “This is very exciting! But what is with the one black box on the workbench over there?” “Oh that one is defective. I had to remove it from the experiment. It has the firm believe that it is nothing but a black box on the desk of a scientist.”
There’s a comic strip where a man hands his wife a sheet of paper and tells her it’s a 3-d autostereogram of a teapot. She turns it, squints, holds it at arm’s length and finally says “Wait… I think… Yes! Yes, I see it!”
Then the husband says, completely deadpan: “It’s wrapping paper.”
Reality is like that. If you’re convinced that God is there, you can turn and tilt and squint at every event until you see him, and every time you tell yourself you see him, you’re more convinced that everybody would if they only took the time.
But it’s not wrapping paper, it’s a beautiful and awe-inspiring piece of abstract art, a Jackson Pollock canvas 28 billion parsecs across and brimming with countless infinitesimal exquisite details, all painted by natural processes over a span of 13.8 billion years.
How fortunate we are to be alive and intelligent in the midst of such wonder. Isn’t it a shame that most of us spend our lives trying to see the teapot?
This is the great story of our time. For the rest of our lives, and the lives of our children, we are going to be confronted by people who don’t want to live peacefully in a secular, pluralistic world, because they are desperate to get to Paradise, and they are willing to destroy the very possibility of human happiness along the way. The truth is, we are all living in Israel. It’s just that some of us haven’t realized it yet.
"A choice isn’t really a choice when you can’t find another job, or when it’s the end of the month and the checking account is empty and the morning-after pill costs $50 without insurance, or when the only approved birth control methods won’t work for you. For decades, activists have invoked a woman’s “right to choose” — choose when it’s the right time for her to have children and when it’s not, and to choose which contraceptive method to use in the meantime. In theory, women are still allowed to make these choices in America. In practice, though, to choose you must have options. Health insurance is one of the things that guarantees options and access. Freedom, as the conservatives say, isn’t free. For a choice to be a true choice and not a default, sometimes we have to subsidize it.”