Class Warfare Blog

July 17, 2017

Hulk, No, God Smash!

Filed under: Morality,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:13 am
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I quote Persedeplume (of MyDoorIsAjar):
I’d like to meet the god who isn’t angry, or coming back angry, or about to wreak retribution on some massive scale. I’d like to think we can get along without unnecessary suffering. I’d like to think life is hard enough and the “rite of passage” where we’re all accepted as adults is to have done it with grace, dignity, help from our friends and family, and love.”

We seem to prefer such angry gods, even angry gods with the label “the god of love.” One philosopher points out that we respect power and anytime a god does something massively powerful, we respond to the exhibition of power, even if we bear the brunt of that power.

The dominant religion in this country is basically incoherent … except that the believers believe that their god has immense power to grant boons and to punish. If a boon is granted, then we are supposed to be grateful. If we suffer from some such display of power, then we are being punished for being bad. (Pat Robertson blamed the tsunami in Indonesia on homosexual sinners.) So, no matter what happens to us, it is due to their god’s actions.

This very same religion claims that a son of their god was sacrificed to absolve us of our sins (sins being disobedience of their god’s wishes). Later they claimed that the “son of god” was really their god himself (in disguise?). I have yet to see how this human sacrifice has any effect on anything. Was the suffering of the crucifixion equal to all of the suffering of all of the innocents up to that time? Apparently not. It was merely symbolic. So, how does symbolic suffering of an innocent person wipe away the criminal records of all of us? While the symbology is painted vividly (our sins were “washed away” by the blood of Christ, etc.) it still makes no sense. How did this action pay our fines, or serve our sentences for us?

And, as I have argued before, the god Jesus could not die, only his human wrapper could, and what is one more human sacrifice to the God of Abraham, who once directed King David to take a census of his men and when David did that, his god upbraids him and punishes him for counting what is not his (they were his god’s soldiers, not David’s, don’t you see). So, David is punished by his god slaughtering 70,000 of his soldiers! I suspect David also had to go to bed without supper that night. There seems to be no record of what the 70,000 felt, nor do we know what happened to them in the afterlife. (Are they still burning in the Lake of Fire or shambling around in the dark of Sheol?)

So, if David’s “crime” of following his god’s directives was salved with 70,000 deaths, what could one death do for all of humanity? Especially when you consider that neither the god nor his offspring died, just the human wrapper. Plus, even after this “real death” experience, that wrapper got to live again. What happened to it when the son of god rose to Heaven isn’t explained. Is Heaven air conditioned? Is there food for a human body? Does Jesus have to inhabit the body 24-7 and does it just stand idle when he does not? There are just so many issues not covered by scripture.

July 16, 2017

It Is Put Up or Shut Up Time for the Intelligent Design Movement

Filed under: Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 8:52 am
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As you may know the “Intelligent Design Theory” is just a second (third, fourth, … ?) generation form of Creationism. The people who created “ID” (it is not a theory by the way, at best it is an hypothesis) are folks who believe that God created the entire universe in only six days, about 6000 years ago or so and the science that says otherwise, aka “God’s Creation,” just has to be wrong.

The ID people spend most of their time criticizing the science of evolution (which claims we evolved and were not created magically), paleontology (which claims there is fossil and other evidence dating animals and humans back millions of years), geology (which claims that the Earth is over four billion years old), cosmology (which claims the universe is much older than our solar system), etc. but they do not seem to be motivated to answer questions on their own. These people are like colleagues who criticize your work but don’t do any work themselves.

So, it is put up or shut up time. Here are a few questions I would like to see the ID people answer. All are based upon their beliefs, primarily that God created everything about 6000 years ago. Also, since they argue that we cannot know the mind of God, I choose not to ask “why” so much as “how.”

  1. When God created all of the stars, how did he create the starlight so that it looks like it had been en route for billions of years? (Humans can start light beams and stop light beams, but not create a beam millions of light years long instantly.)
  2. When God created the Earth, He included the fossilized remains of animals that were not described in the Bible or any other historical source. How was this done, also why? (The answer “it was a test of faith” is specious because that would imply a knowledge of the mind of God.)
  3. There are animals on Earth that cannot be domesticated, nor are they good tasting or nutritious. How is it that they serve man’s dominion?
  4. When the Earth was created, radioactive elements were created alongside large quantities of their daughter products, thus creating the illusion that those minerals had been buried for millions if not billions of years. How was this done?
  5. Since all of the Earth’s creatures were created just 6000 years ago, why does all of the evidence in God’s creation point to them having evolved over a very much longer time period (3 billion years).
  6. Why does mitochondrial DNA point to a common modern human ancestor of all current humans (Mitochondrial Eve) who lived somewhere between 100,000 and 300,000 years ago?
  7. If the Earth was created 6000 years ago, why does the Earth exhibit geological layers of sediment that can only have taken place over a very long time. Many of these layers show extreme tilting and folding and contain the remains of plants and animals of bizarre domains (e.g. ferns near mountain tops)?
  8. If all of the Earth’s animals are descendant’s of the animals on Noah’s Ark, why does their DNA point back to common ancestors far farther in the past?
  9. In the Garden of Eden, what did the carnivores eat? If they ate the meat of other animals, then the GOE was a charnel house as all of the lions, tigers, and wolves mowed down all of sheep, cattle, and the rest of their kind. (Death was common in the GOE then.) If they ate grass, how were they converted into carnivores from herbivores in such a short time?

How about we collect a long list of such questions for the ID movement? Help the IDers by asking questions like the above. It seems that they are struggling to come up with a research agenda, let’s create on for them! Now, that’s creationism!

July 13, 2017

Creationists on the Rise!

I have been filling in a few holes in my viewing of late and I decide to give the HBO documentary  “Questioning Darwin (2014?),” another try. I only got a few minutes into the show the first time and this time I must have gotten a whole quarter of the way through. And, truth be told, it seemed fairly even handed. What I was shocked about is the sheer audacity of the cherry-picking of scripture by the Ken Ham crowd (Answers in Genesis, the Creation Museum, et. al.). When faced with the Problem of Evil, Mr. Ham simply shrugs this off because of all of the changes that occurred because of Adam’s “sin.” If it hadn’t been for Adam’s disobedience of God, we would all be living forever in a paradise … according to those given voice in this documentary.

But is this actually what scripture says? And, I do not here from the fact that the creation story in Genesis is actually a fictional tale meant to make spiritual points with Jews. These people believe that Genesis is historical truth, no doubt about it … even though the Jews, who are responsible for the existence of that book, claim otherwise. I am not starting there. I am working from the viewpoint of the people who believe that Genesis is either first- or second-hand knowledge of what really happened.

Let’s start with Adam’s disobedience of God’s instructions. Going against God’s instructions is the definition of Biblical sin. It is the Creationist’s definition of right and wrong, good and evil. But God’s admonition was: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Clearly neither Adam, nor Eve, understood the difference between good and evil, having not yet eaten from the tree, so what was the basis for the punishment?

The Creationists in the documentary essentially claimed it was Original Sin, although the idea of Original Sin doesn’t occur in the Bible, having been first alluded to in the second century by Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon, and expanded in the fourth century by Aurelius Augustinus. But even if it isn’t mentioned, the source of Original Sin is God’s curse. God said that “when you eat from it you will certainly die.” But Adam and Even did not die, instead they were banished and their children were condemned as sinners before they were even born … with no way out from under that sentence for thousands of years. So, who created all of that depravity? Looks like “God did it,” is the answer again.

These Creationists also seem to think that Adam and Eve were immortal and that their sin brought death into the world. That is not backed up by scripture, because unless all of the animals were immortal, too, there had to be death. If they thought that Adam’s and Eve’s sin brought death to immortal humans, then why did God say: “22 … ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.’” and then “23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.”

So, the whole point is that God showed no equanimity here. He could have just waved away Adam and Eve into nonexistence and then grabbed some mud to make a new Adam. He could have turned time back before Eve took her bite and strangled that serpent (it was not a snake; it had legs!). He could not have allowed the a serpent access to the Garden until Adam and Eve had had their shakedown experiences. He could have relented, restored them to their pre-bite status and warned them sternly to “Not do that again!” No, he condemns the entire race to depravity, hopelessness, and a Lake of Fire as a retirement home, for ever and ever, amen.

So, the Creationists are saying that the Book of Genesis is the literal truth but they have made up a whole lot of back story that is not in the Bible to support their worldview. In addition they have made up a whole lot of bullstuff about Darwin that conflicts with the historical record. They correctly, though, fully recognize that if Darwin is right, they are wrong. This is the source of their animosity. One commenter stated baldly that if he were not the subject of special creation, then he wouldn’t be “special,” he would be just another animal. He didn’t go on and say “And we all know that isn’t true …” he just left that hanging. Imagine, an argument that God has to exist because … ego gratification!

I just couldn’t finish the documentary because it is just so much bilge. They can indoctrinate their children and preach anti-Darwinism from their pulpits, but in the end God’s Creation will have the last laugh.

 

 

July 10, 2017

The Roswell Cover-up

Filed under: Politics,Technology — Steve Ruis @ 11:51 am
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I watched a UFO documentary the other day and I was impressed by one bit of that issue (into which I do not want to go) and that was the so-called Roswell Incident involved a government cover-up. The actual perpetrators fessed up, often on their death bed, but the government spin of the incident certainly involved the planting of false information and evidence.

If you are unaware of this incident, there was a crash landing near Roswell, NM. People rushing to the scene say what appeared to be a spaceship, at least some kind of aircraft. The Army (this was in 1947 before the creation of the Air Force) rushed in and confiscated the evidence and planted pieces of a broken surveillance balloon which they then photographed and fed the story to the press that the “crash” was just a balloon. (See the pretty pieces!)

There are many other aspects of this story, including accounts of bodies of aliens that do bear scrutiny but the point that drew me was the fact that the UFO experts said they understood and agreed with the government’s position to keep the incident, whatever it was, secret. This I find unfathomable. Maybe the UFO experts were tossing a sop to the government officials, but sheesh.

If this were not anything to fuss over, full disclosure of what actually happened could cause no harm, no? If, if there was an actual alien spacecraft that crashed there, it was insane to keep it secret. Think about it. If there is an alien race so advanced that they had mastered space travel (in 1947!), one can reasonable assume that they are substantially more advanced that we are. Consequently, it would take a total effort on the part of humanity to handle this challenge. This is not something where a single country says “Step back, I can handle this.”

There was also some evidence proffered that the government was reverse engineering the alien technology to advance our ability to deal with the aliens. If this were true, this is again not something where a single country says “Step back, I can handle this.” It would take a collaborative effort of everyone on the planet.

It would not be easy to bring the other countries in on the discovery. This was right on the heels of WW2 and feelings were more than a little raw, but so what? The added benefit is the shared knowledge that “we are not alone” and “we all need to work together.” Any parochial advantage gained is of little value if presented with a vastly superior alien adversary.

So, I do not believe government secrecy was the correct response. The fear that the public would panic, gives little credit to U.S. citizens. And, really, how long can you run around with your hair on fire? Most people are out of shape and will run out of panic energy in short order … and the smell of burning hair, eeew.

The secrecy blanket was deployed over decades and over many, many UFO incidents, some of the spin so ludicrous that the press and public started to scoff. All of the actual evidence could still be released, but once the government gets in the secrecy habit, it is hard to break.

July 9, 2017

The Puzzlement of the Talents

Filed under: Culture,Science,Sports — Steve Ruis @ 6:33 pm
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I have been going back and forth with one of my students, who is in many ways my intellectual superior, over the nature of “talent.” I have argued and continue to argue that their ain’t no such thing. He argues that surely there must be.

I argue that scientists have looked and looked for a biological source of a talent and come up dry. There does not seem to be such a thing. What I am talking about is a specific talent, such as for baseball or poker or the violin, not a general propensity to be good at something. People with “talent” seem to progress rapidly and effortlessly in their chosen endeavor. I argue that in most cases what people are observing is a developed skill. When somebody sees a basketball star execute a slick play, gosh they just have to be talented. Of course, the commenter hasn’t seen the dozens and dozens of hours that move got practiced.

People in my camp argue that a physical skill, e.g. hitting a baseball or playing the flute comes from a considerable amount of practice. We acknowledge that people have built in attributes that make them stand out amongst beginners and allow them to learn faster than the crowd. Tall people have an advantage in basketball, for example. (Coach John Wooden used to say “You can’t teach quickness or height, so I recruit for those.”) Baseball requires good hand-eye coordination, strong wrists, and, etc. But is there a talent for baseball? I do not think so. (As an example, think of the multi-sport star athlete in high school. were they born with talents for all of those sports or are they just a good all-around athlete who practices hard?)

My argument is that high levels of skill are developed through training. Training is only pursued when there is interest, so the people who seem to “have a lot of talent,” tried something and were good enough at it that they liked it and so pursued serious training for a time. For example, Mozart was considered a musical child prodigy. But Mozart’s father was a music teacher and Mozart spent many, many hours in practice because, either he had to or he enjoyed it. Expert analysis of Mozart’s early compositions, those of his youth, indicated that they were rather derivative and ordinary. But how many youths are composing serious classical music at a young age? We tend to compare these “prodigies” with ordinary adults in the same endeavor, not with the greats of that endeavor.

One of the counter arguments offered against my position is so many people used the word talent in describing their situation, surely it can’t be just made up. Actually I think it was just made up. I offer, but cannot prove, the following scenario as justification. A youth shows behavior beyond his years. His parents fear demon possession, but a passing clergyman, eager to claim all good happenings for his god, counters that the child has “a gift from god.” These “gifts” became “God-given talents” over time, again to claim their god as the source of all good things (but not the bad things—interestingly, the bad things come from the Devil, or Satan … nobody asks where they came from).

So the idea of a talent was spin. It was an explanation of something that was borderline uncanny that was acceptable to most all people. The existence of talents/gifts was not questioned because they were so common (most people tend to be good at something) but when finally some scientists set out to find the basis for talents, they came and continue to come up with nothing.

If you are familiar with the Bell curve, aka a Gaussian distribution, it is obvious that our attributes and abilities are spread over quite a range. My height, for example, puts me in the top 2.5% of Americans. My IQ puts me in the top 0.5% of Americans. People that are way out on the tails (both high and low) are considered “different.” So, somebody who shows abilities far exceeding the expectations set up for his/her age can be singled out. But I do not see humans who are “off the charts” in their abilities. I see many kids who have opportunities and a few who embrace them seriously and a very few who excel at that activity. We do not sit around and discuss the child who quits right away. (This is a stupid sport; I am going home!) We sit around and ooh and ahh about those whose performances exceed our expectations. We say “They have talent.” What that means, in my thinking, is “They have developed a great deal of skill.” They stand out because they developed that skill faster than others, so at a younger age. Studies of “whiz kids” and “Wunderkinder” do not show a common continuation of their rate of progress into adulthood, many plateau off or “burn out” (not literally). How many stellar performers are you aware of who were child prodigies when young? Not many is my guess.

So, talent? Meh, not so much.

What do you think?

July 6, 2017

One Used to Be Able to Assume at Least as Good of a Life than One’s Parents …

Science has the unenviable position of coming along and proving what everyone already knows. I remember reading newspaper stories stating amazement that scientists would even bother proving what everyone already knows. Silly creatures.

But “what everybody knows” doesn’t turn out to be correct all of the time. This is why one constantly checks one’s assumptions, as they can turn up to bite you where it hurts.

So, a new study firmly nails down that the lifetime earnings of Americans are in decline. We are producing new generations that will not do as well as prior one’s. And those results stem not from not working hard, but from the usual culprits, largely wage suppression by the plutocrats.

Read it and weep (Lifetime Incomes in the United States over Six Decades)! (The abstract is free, the article $5.)

And regarding the various claims as to who is waging class war, let it be known far and wide: it is those with the most money.

July 5, 2017

Why Don’t Atheists Just Run Amok?

Filed under: Culture,Morality,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:38 pm
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One of the claims of god-fearers is that atheists are dangerous because they have no basis for their morals. Without a god to dictate what “being moral” is, and enforcing that moral code, there is just nothing stopping atheists from raping, looting, and killing, now, is there? I propose to explain why this is not the case, so that the god-fearers can understand.

This is just one point of many that can be made, like “It isn’t any fun,” but the primary reason that atheists don’t just run amok is that is just isn’t safe. Has anyone ever seen atheists run amok, specifically because their is no divine retribution, anyway? I have never heard of such a thing. I have read about numerous cases of bad treatment of people because they weren’t considered real people by the appropriate religious experts, but no amok running, per se.

Getting back to my main point: running amok ain’t safe. Let’s start with a hypothetical situation: a beautiful woman lives on an atheist’s block. If he were to go rape her, I mean, what could go wrong? For one, she may be a martial arts or MMA expert and she may beat the shit out of him. Or she may have a brother, father, uncle or other relative who owns a baseball bat and they may beat the shit out of him. (We have made this an element of society in the form of law enforcement. In Chicago, cops regularly beat the shit out of people, and shoot them, and then drag what’s left in for a trial.)

Obviously there is a great deal of downside to this running amok. When word got around, you could lose your job. Other people would shun you for being an asshole, etc. So, let’s say you embrace the badass nature of amok running, plus you are not a dumb atheist, but a smart one. You realize that to be able to run amok without negative consequences, you need a gang of atheists. There is safety in numbers, it takes a village, etc. So, you gather a gang, all ravening atheists, who form a mutual protection society. You go rape some woman and a male relative of hers takes offense and a baseball bat and comes looking for you and … Bob’s your uncle, you have a dozen guys there to greet him when he shows up. Easy peasey. But the problem with this approach is there is nothing stopping the aggrieved members of society from forming an even bigger gang and beating the shit out of your gang and you, of course.

Such behaviors: bullying, running amok, etc. only “succeed” in the short turn. Eventually you get the shit beaten out of you, or dead. (Ask Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi.)

So, the real reason why atheists just don’t run amok is that running amok is a lot of work and it just isn’t safe. Get along with people, treat them well, and you will lead a better life. This running amok idea may sound good to you, but it sounds miserable to us. It just isn’t any fun, you see.

Christian Think Tank Opposes Scripture?

The Guardian (U.K.) had a piece on an alarming (to them?) new trend in Christian goings on (‘Spiritual abuse’: Christian think tank warns of sharp rise in UK exorcisms). In that article they stated:

“Exorcisms are a booming industry in the UK, partly driven by immigrant communities and Pentecostal churches, according to a report from a Christian think tank, Theos.

“However, the vast majority of people being exorcised have mental health problems that require psychiatric assistance, says the report, published on Wednesday by Theos.

The report calls for an analysis of “the burgeoning exorcism scene in the UK in the light of concerns over how it is being used and its possible negative consequences”.

“It says the “astonishing increase in demand” has arisen “in defiance of any actual rules or procedures put in place by any church”. In 2012, the Church of England reissued guidelines on “good practice in the deliverance ministry”.

“The Theos report – Christianity and mental health: theology, activities, potential(PDF) – does not reject the possibility of demonic possession. It says: “Certainly there is a biblical warrant for the dangers of demonic forces, and Jesus’ great commission to the disciples includes the explicit command to ‘cast out demons’. However, there is also need for serious caution.”

“One danger was “Christian over-spiritualising” – a “tendency to ascribe anything and everything to spiritual causes when other medical ones may exist”. Another was a possible overlap between “demonic possession” and mental health issues.

“One chaplain who described themselves as a “Bible-believing evangelical” told Ben Ryan, the report’s author, that “in all their experience with a mental health trust they had ‘never seen anything I would say that looked like demonic possession, but I’ve seen plenty of people who have been told that’s what they’re experiencing by other Christians’.”

“The report says: “One of the frustrations of medical professionals with Christians comes from accounts and anecdotes of people with medical health issues going off their medication because they’ve been told that prayer is enough, and relapsing as a result.

“This is a classic example of well-meaning initiative with the potential for serious harm. It runs the risk of becoming a sort of spiritual abuse – which can be understood as psychological abuse inflicted upon the victim by members of their own religious group.”

As much as the article’s author’s words speak for themselves, we have an interesting clash here. “Real Christians,” who understand the Bible and act accordingly, should acknowledge only two sources of disease: sin and demon possession. There are no other sources of disease mentioned in the New Testament. Consequently, Real Christians shouldn’t be going to medical doctors and psychologists to treat their physical and mental diseases, they should be going to church to get proper treatment. But the author of the article claims that “the Church” hasn’t established proper protocols for demon outings and whatnot, so what’s a fellow to do?

As a side note I think we should just stop acknowledging all these different varieties of Christians: Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals, Pentacostals, whatever, I say they are all Christians and should be painted with the same brush. By dividing themselves up based upon miniscule differences, each of these “denominations” claims innocence whenever Christians get caught acting badly. “That’s not us, that’s them other people. They aren’t ‘True Christians,’ like us.” Bollocks. I say a Christian is a Christian and when one errs, they all need to be called to account.

Now about these Christians claiming people should be going to medical doctors and psychologists … really! What is to be done with them? And to be alarmed by proper Christian behavior, what is up with that?

 

July 3, 2017

NRA Changing Spots?

Filed under: Culture,Morality — Steve Ruis @ 8:01 am
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In a recent and controversial ad, the National Rifle Association’s spokesman, Dana Loesch accuses “their” ex-president of endorsing “the resistance,” a movement of demonstrators who “smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports — bully and terrorize the law-abiding.”

I never thought the NRA would turn against the Bundys (Cliven, et. al.) like that. Is there no steadfastness in that organization?

June 27, 2017

The Teenification of Us

Filed under: The News — Steve Ruis @ 8:43 am
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I am reading “news stories” in which the writer states that President Trump tweeted this and then his son in law tweeted that and…. This sounds like two young teenagers in a conversation “He went … and then I said … and then he said, and I went…”

Can we stop with the reports on who tweeted what. These are not official communications, nor are they particularly interesting. They sure as Hell aren’t “breaking news.”

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