Class Warfare Blog

June 4, 2020

It is Time for Intelligent Design Advocates to Pony Up

Filed under: Reason,Science — Steve Ruis @ 12:58 pm
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Let’s stop fooling around and take the ID advocates seriously. I have a series of questions I want the IDers to answer, so I can fully appreciate their theory.

  1. First, I would love to hear anyone supply a clear outline of ID theory, the complete theory. All I hear is arguments about design and complexity, but there are few other processes needed to make ID Theory complete.
  2. So, let’s say an Intelligent Designer exists and comes up with an intelligent design. That design is still “on the drawing board” as it were. How does this design get implemented?
  3. What are the processes by which the design is put “into production?”
  4. And who the heck is this intelligent designer, inquiring minds want to know? Are vastly superior aliens messing with us?
  5. How often are designs implemented?
  6. When did these design implementations first happen in the past and are they likely to continue into the future?
  7. If the Intelligent Designer just implemented his designs during a tiny window in time in the past, why did he limit himself so? How could he possibly know that other designs might not be needed (maybe advanced human fighters would be needed to fight aliens invading from outer space, for instance)? I mean how could this incredible designer know what will be needed millennia into the future?
  8. Provide a few dozen examples of designs and why they were needed to be the way they are to make the world work as it does. Please include a couple of virulent disease organisms, like the COVID-19 virus, on your list as that would be quite relevant at this time. Surely these are available if you have been studying this for decades as you insist.

C’mon now, fill out your “theory,” otherwise you are just whining about whether this or that was deliberately designed or not and not promoting an actual theory.

Why Science Hasn’t Stamped Out Religion

Filed under: Culture,Reason,Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 8:42 am
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I was reading a piece on the Vridar blog site and Neil Godfrey wrote this (in 2013): “Religion has not gone away since the end of the Europe’s religious wars and the ensuing Age of Enlightenment. Indeed, scientific advances and the rise of secularism may even be largely responsible for religious revivals.”

One part of the reasoning behind this statement jumped out at me. As opposed to science, religion puts no intellectual demands on its proponents. Scientists are asked to explain themselves, and argue, and think . . . really, really hard. Religionists, to the contrary, are given warm “There, theres” and are not asked to think. They are not expected to answer or ask questions. They do not have a final arbiter of what is right and wrong as natural scientists have in nature.

As a college professor, I saw a great many students over the years, almost all of whom had selected a major course of study. Since the science courses I taught were not something that other students took to meet a breadth requirement or “for fun,” I tended to see the same types of students. And didn’t encounter students who were majoring in far flung intellectual pursuits. But I did meet and work with colleagues from all over the college. And one could see clear divides in those folk according to their chosen fields of study.

For one, there is a simple dichotomy between scientists and non-scientists that breaks along the lines of, what should I call it . . . social skills (?). Science types, often referred to as “geeks,” often lacked social skills one could observe elsewhere and it is my opinion that science attracts people with poorer social skills because the topic addresses and studies things and not people. (Things can be pinned down, people are inconsistent, variable, and often cantankerous.) Study science and you have fewer people to deal with and more things/facts/etc. (Yes, I know these are broad characterizations. There are many, many exceptions. I myself am a scientist who is suave as hell and comfortable in the company of a wide strata of society. And I need a tongue-in-cheek emoji here.)

Another fault line between scientists and non-scientists is math. To learn math, you must master, to some extent, abstract thinking. This makes a clear line between those who faired well in math (I wasn’t that good, just persistent.) and those who did not.

So, to make an argument or address a problem scientifically, you have to pull non-science types into a realm in which complex arguments, math, and foundational knowledge all are involved in complicated fashions. (Look at how complex environmental issues are often described with simplistic and, at root, misleading explanations. Global atmospheric warming was attributed to the Greenhouse Effect and greenhouses work primarily by not allowing warm gases to escape the house. This is not the mechanism of climate change as we are experiencing it now.)

On the other side of this divide, the religionists are told “There, there . . . all will be well” and other nonsense like “The blood of Christ will protect you in the pandemic.” (The latter led me to wonder where I can get me some of that shit.) It may be nonsense, but it is simple nonsense, making no intellectual demands and offering many reassurances, albeit vacuous ones.

I do not claim that all of this plays out consciously through free will. In general I think most of us drift in the currents of our lives (me, especially). But those unable to accept the complexity of real problems set in a real nature are subject to those more than willing to provide fantasy solutions set in a fantastic nature which are less demanding. All you need is faith and there are no real tests of that any more.

June 2, 2020

I Repeat . . .

Filed under: Culture,Morality,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 10:22 am
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A simple rule change is all that is needed to proscribe the actions of police officers. As I have suggested before, the actions of police need to be limited to the penalty were one convicted of the crime alleged. So, if someone is accused of passing counterfeit money, the most that infraction of the law can impose is a short stay in prison. If a police officer uses lethal force, it should be clear to everyone that that is not allowed and must be prosecuted. If someone is being arrested for the crime of passing counterfeit currency and they resist arrest, what is the penalty for resisting arrest? A short stay in jail. Anything imposed by police in excess of the punishment were the person being arrested convicted of the crime, is a violation of the law and must be prosecuted.

Using lethal force to arrest someone for jaywalking, or an equipment violation on a car is ludicrous and needs to be addressed and this way makes the police and prosecutors accountable for their decisions.

That someone is killed because he was selling cigarettes one at a time illegally, is ludicrous and no prosecutor should be given the option to “file charges against the officers involved or not.”

This is simple, easy to learn. If an officer is ignorant of the law, a quick call to dispatch can inform them of the amount of force that can be applied. (Come on, they do not have to memorize all of the penalties of all of the crimes, they just need to know which qualify for the death penalty. Any other infractions are covered by excessive force regulations.) When someone is arrested for selling single cigarettes, a scratch on the wrist from when handcuffs were applied is an acceptable amount of force. Remember these are the people who protect a detainee’s head when getting into a patrol car to be taken in to be booked. When they show extreme neglect of such care must be prosecuted.

Okay, if someone holds up a gun and seems to be going to shoot, can cops shoot back? Considering the police’s track records at shooting kids with BB guns, even an adult in a store shopping for Christmas and holding a BB gun, I think the police need to be trained to take cover and be authorized to return fire, not shoot “because I was afraid.” Being afraid and doing a good job is part of the qualifications for the job. It should not include the current “if you feel fear, open fire” dictates so often employed.

Interestingly police in other countries, some of whom are not armed with firearms, seem to do a better job at this than our police, so we know it can be done.

And, yes, all of the other recommendations about psychological testing, more training, and a national registry of police officers fired for cause being kept are all good, but I think the limits of the behavior of our police are good ones. And hiring police departments should be required to search that database before hiring.

May 29, 2020

The Values of the Western Cultural Tradition . . . Biblically Inspired?

I was reading a book last night and read this: “The implication is that this crisis should be of concern not only to theologians and clerics, but also to intelligent lay folk, and indeed to all who cherish the Western cultural tradition, which in large part derives from values enshrined in the Bible (emphasis mine).”

So, the nature of the crisis aside, have you read something like the italicizes part before? I have many, many times. But right now it seems a sop thrown to the Christians who often form the majority of citizens in Western countries.

So, our cherished “Western cultural tradition” is. . . ? We favor democracies as our governing models. Would a democracy be supported by anything in the Bible? Not at all. In the Bible it is Yahweh or the highway. The only allowed form of government supported by the Bible is a theocracy and a Christian (or Jewish) theocracy at that.

How about . . .
The separation of church and state in the U.S. and elsewhere? Nope.
No religion tests allowed in elections? Nope.
The elimination of blasphemy laws? Nope.
The elimination of anti-abortion laws (on going)? Nope.
The government refusing to support Christian schools? Nope.
Allowing people to get a divorce on their own recognizance? Nope.
Legal same sex marriage? Nope.
Anti-discrimination laws base upon gender? Nope.
Allowing people of different faiths to marry? Nope.
Anti-discrimination laws base upon race? Nope.
Trial by a jury of one’s peers? Nope
Local control of various government functions? Nope
Anti-slavery laws? Nope.

So, what are these “cherished” values “enshrined” in the Bible that are still part of our Western traditions? It seems that we have, step-by-step, weeded out all of those influences as being unenlightened. (Pun intended.)

 

You Might Want to Wear Asbestos Gloves While Holding This Article

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 8:24 am
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Regardless, the author is spot on about the “New GOP” having almost nothing to do with the “Old GOP” and now merely a subsidiary political arm of the filthy rich.

‘Here’s a bedsheet, make a parachute!’ Republicans say, pushing us out of a plane by Hamilton Nolan

May 28, 2020

Climate Change . . . Have We Been Too Optimistic or Too Pessimistic?

Some enterprising climate scientist went back to the early days of climate modeling and put the actual data involved into the models instead of the hypothesized data we used back then (we didn’t have all the data needed so we made up “reasonable” estimates). What they found was that those models were very close to being spot on. Their deviation from actual values of climate change parameters was mostly due to the faulty inputs, not the models themselves. Climate change opponents at the time were scathing in their “reviews” of the climate change model predictions as being premature, not capable of being done, being pie in the sky wishful thinking on the part of the scientists. Of course, the critics that were most prominent could barely spell climate change, let alone had mastered any of the intricacies.

As time went on the models were revised and we found a data consensus (based upon data from different sources indicating the same things). But for the critics, the predictions were “overblown,” “too pessimistic,” and neglected advances in technology that would mitigate much of the changes. Again, most of these objections were not science-backed, just economics-backed, aka they said “we are making too much money to change for you airy-fairy science types.”

Now we are finding out that the dire predictions we have been hearing for the past couple of decades have been far too optimistic, that is not pessimistic enough. More than a few effects of climate change that were predicted for years or decades in the future are happening now.

In short order, I expect the climate change deniers to start saying “How could we have known?” and “Who would have predicted this?” Assholes . . . greedy assholes.

If Reality Were a Simulation, Could It Be Possible to Alter the Past of the Simulation?

Filed under: Philosophy,Science — Steve Ruis @ 8:47 am
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I answered the question in the title of this post on Quora and I wanted to share it with you to see how you might respond to my final question (If you were an all-powerful deity, what would you do first?).

Here’s my answer to the question (slightly edited).

* * *

Sure, the simulation is stored as files and those files can be edited or overwritten. You could even retroactively change the rules involved.

Basically, if you believe in an all-powerful deity, what we have is the equivalent of a simulation. Such a deity could have created our reality 15 minutes ago, providing each of us with false memories leading us to believe what we believe now. Would we know any better?

If I were such a deity in our current reality, here are the first things I would do. First I would uncreate Satan, the Devil, Lucifer, etc and wipe the memories of these entities and their domains from human memory. Then I would adjust human free will, leaving 99+% of it intact but removing the Will to do Evil. Nobody would be inclined to do anything evil from that point onward but we would be free to prefer vanilla over chocolate, choose Toyota over Chevy, even so far as to freely choose to put pineapple on a pizza.

There are many, many things such an all-powerful deity could do … but hasn’t, at least to our knowledge.

If you had such power, what would you do first?

May 27, 2020

Evidence and Interpretation

Filed under: Reason,Science — Steve Ruis @ 11:42 am
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In the ongoing dialogue between young theists and atheists on sites like Quora, hordes of young theists seem to being educated by atheists about atheism. (Trust me, you don’t want them to be ask church officials such questions, as there is no upside, nor any good information to be had.)

Regarding the existence of god(s) questions, atheists are often asking for “evidence” for their existence and then having to explain what evidence is. I guess I only hope that the questioners are young, otherwise our education system has done a lousy job of establishing what objective evidence is.

In any case, I am reading a book by a respected archeologist of early Palestine and he is trying to make an argument for wider spread literacy than is usually assumed, for early in the first millennium BCE.

At one point he uses as evidence of widespread literacy, the labeling of storage jars with the name of the owner, and possibly use of the contents. So, labels like “Property of XYZ” in the form of “Belonging to Zadoc” were found. One such showing name and use comes from the 8th century and is “Belonging to Matanyāhū; wine for libation; one fourth.” Since archeological finds are more trustworthy than written stories, one is inclined to follow the clay shards, rather than follow the texts, but all archeological finds have to be interpreted.

Consider some far off future archeologist who is excavating places in Texas and finds a buried but well preserved mansion. In it he finds a room that looks much like a library with piles and piles of decayed books in it. From this the archeologist interprets the find as representing a mansion of a “learned, well-read man.” Apparently the archeologist hadn’t heard of rich assholes who build mansions with libraries, full of expensive and rare books as a sign of their wealth, yet hadn’t read a book in their life.

So, if a man had his name inscribed upon his wine jars (a process which turned out to be by using a chisel after the jar was fired, so a very delicate process), what can we hypothesize?
• the owner was worried about local theft
• the owner was vain and wanted everyone to know how much wine he owned
• it was a thing he heard other wealthy people did and he was a wannabe.
I am sure you can come up with more. But can we assume that the owner of said jug was literate? How about the carver of the jugs? I don’t think you can assume either was literate. The wealthy jug owner may have been shown what his name looked like when written, maybe he could even write his name. The carver may have been given the text on an ostracon for him to duplicate, much as he might carve a hand into a relief carving.

Can we assume all of the traders and merchants who might receive or buy these containers are literate? I can imagine many scenarios in which a merchant receiving a shipment of such wines, making a chalk mark on them identifying them in his mind without being able to read any labels.

The libation wine container . . . , well libations are performed by religious officials or people empowered to make them. Technically one could pour some wine on a home altar all by oneself, but this is a rather larger jug. So, would rural religious officials be readers and writers? Their training may have included this, so it is more likely. It is likely that a village prelate could be called upon to read and write for the people in his village. But that doesn’t equate to widespread literacy.

In this country, you were considered literate at one point of you could “make your mark.” So, if you were asked to sign a contract or sign a voters roll and you scrawl an “X” on the dotted line, you were considered literate. (And this is one of the reasons why we then and now have witnesses of such signings.) So, people who could not even write their own name were considered literate at one point. The definition of who was literate changed as the populace became better and better educated. The definition in the context of the book was roughly “could people read and/or write a simple letter.” There are enough of these letters that have been found to indicate a rather wider spread literacy than is often assumed, but still all of the evidence needs to be interpreted. A letter written by a soldier, is that evidence of widespread literacy, or was the writer the “company clerk” for his military unit? What about the elites? Were they literate or did they hire scribes to read and write for them.

We have enough stories from the business computer revolution in the 1980’s and 1990’s of company executives who were functionally illiterate. They couldn’t type. They couldn’t spell. They certainly couldn’t use computers. And some couldn’t read.. One exec who could barely read but who showed well-developed coping skills always asked a subordinate at meetings to “summarize” the issue for all of the people at the table. That memos and summaries had been circulated prior to the meeting were irrelevant and the boss was lauded for having a human touch. (Nice summary, Bill. Does everyone agree? Okay, what do we do now . . .”)

This doesn’t mean that there weren’t people who could read and write in many, many places but it also doesn’t establish that there was widespread literacy.

One such clue as to there being widespread literacy would be the discovery of schools that children or adults attended to learn how to read and write. Ostracons and tablets with what appear to be lessons performed upon them have been discovered but in most cases they were thought to represent the work of students in scribal schools, not widespread evidence of homework being done by the bulk of the population. (Would scribes be needed in places with widespread literacy? Probably as scribes did more than just “take dictation.”)

This is not the only evidence of wider spread literacy at that time and in that place, so I am not talking about his conclusion, but the mere fact that evidence has to be interpreted and that is a dicey thing. I think of some future archeologist excavating our “landfills,” aka dumps, to learn more about the people who lived in Chicago. He is puzzled to find millions upon millions of plastic bags with dog poop in them and speculated as to what sort of bizarre religion those Chicagoans must have had. Were they dog worshipers, preserving even the feces of their gods? Hmmm . . . is great puzzlement!

 

May 26, 2020

Open the Churches, Open the Churches!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 11:04 am

. . . says the Ranter in Chief. Easy for him to say, he doesn’t attend church services. I am an atheist and have seen the inside of more churches than Donald Trump.

But that is not the point I am trying to make right now.

The point I am trying to make is this . . . American theist’s faith must be weak indeed. It seems as if they do not get recharged at a Church Faith Charging Station, then they are likely to just drift away.

These girly-man theists can’t seem to hold it together without being portrayed as sheep by an officiant of some church. Hey, if you want to be degraded in your faith, call me! I will do it for nothing.

The ministers of their flocks, I can see, want to reopen services to keep their cash flow up, but why any Christian cannot go two months without church services is beyond me . . . and they claim their god is everywhere and accessible everywhere.

There are vulnerable people in any community and if there are these folks in your church community, how about supporting them by dropping by and having a conversation on their lawn or bringing a casserole (the Christians I grew up with were very big on casseroles . . . and Jell-O but I am not recommending you take that as I don’t want to be divisive). Check in with those in your congregation and find out what their needs are and see if you can help.

But don’t have every one pile into your Church asking Jesus to protect them because he won’t. There are roughly 100,000 dead because of COVID-19 (and another roughly 100,000 dead as collateral damage (that statistics indicate as “excessive deaths”) and the majority of the American dead are Christians. Don’t you think if Jesus were going to protect you, he would have started already?

Don’t be a Girl-man Theist! Show everyone how strong your faith is by staying home and when you finally are re-admitted to your church you can show them that your faith is undiminished. Get a ball cap that says Make Christianity Great Again and wear it!

Postscript I just read that in Germany they are re-opening their churches, having done a better job than us “crushing the curve.” From one such church there were 40 congregants who ended up ill with COVID-19, a few of which need hospitalization. But, we don’t use other societies experience to inform our own, even when they are acting as guinea pigs.

Who Suffers?

We all tend to think of what is normal for us economically is the way it has always been, but today the economic deck is stacked, possibly more so than in any previous time. And it is not stacked in your favor. It is stacked in favor of those who lend capital.

For someone to lend you money, there has to be an almost iron clad guarantee that the lender will be paid back. You almost always have to put up collateral for your loan. Fail to pay the loan back and the lender takes the collateral. So, if you buy a house, the house becomes the collateral. If you fail to pay the mortgage payment for a few months and Wham! The lender forecloses on the loan and repossesses the collateral, aka your house. All of the payments you made now count as nothing. It does not have to be this way. The “collateral” could be held by a court and put up for sale and the proceeds of the sale be split  between the two actors: the lender and buyer with the split determined by how much money had been put up so far.

But that is not the way it is. In our culture, the lender has all of the cards with almost no risk.

Consider the “Great Recession” ca. 2008. The housing market collapsed due to bad behavior on the part of realtors and lenders and suddenly mortgages that could not be paid resulted in repossessions of collateral worth far, far less that the amounts owed. So lenders bore some risk, then . . . except they used a powerful Washington, D.C. lobby to get bailed out so that they did not lose any money (or at least not so much). Were the people buying the homes also bailed out? Silly person, of course, they were not.

Lenders are so used to not having any risk associated with lending that corporations are currently awash in bad debt. They know they are okay because if anything goes wrong their “friends” in Congress and the White House, Democrat or Republican, will bail them out again. This is why economists invented the term “moral hazard,” but they do not apply it to those who line their pockets.

I have been slowly working my way through Michael Hudson’s book on how debt was handled in days long gone. I will give a larger book review (I have offered tidbits before) when I finish it.

To hold you over, here are some tidbits of Michael Hudson’s research and thinking:

“The pedigree for “act-of-God” rules specifying what obligations need not be paid when serious disruptions occur goes back to the laws of Hammurabi c. 1750 BC. Their aim was to restore economic normalcy after major disruptions. §48 of Hammurabi’s laws proclaim a debt and tax amnesty for cultivators if Adad the Storm God has flooded their fields, or if their crops fail as a result of pests or drought. Crops owed as rent or fiscal payments were freed from having to be paid. So were consumer debts run up during the crop year, including tabs at the local ale house and advances or loans from individual creditors. The ale woman likewise was freed from having to pay for the ale she had received from palace or temples for sale during the crop year.

“Whoever leased an animal that died by an act of God was freed from liability to its owner (§266). A typical such amnesty occurred if the lamb, ox or ass was eaten by a lion, or if an epidemic broke out. Likewise, traveling merchants who were robbed while on commercial business were cleared of liability if they swore an oath that they were not responsible for the loss (§103).

“It was realized that hardship was so inevitable that debts tended to accrue even under normal conditions. Every ruler of Hammurabi’s dynasty proclaimed a Clean Slate cancelling personal agrarian debts (but not normal commercial business loans) upon taking the throne, and when military or other disruptions occurred during their reign. Hammurabi did this on four occasions.

“In an epoch when labor was the scarcest resource, a precondition for survival was to prevent rising indebtedness from enabling creditors to use debt leverage to obtain the labor of debtors and appropriate their land. Early communities could not afford to let bondage become chronic, or creditors to become a wealthy class rivaling the power of palace rulers and seeking gains by impoverishing their debtors.

“Yet that is precisely what is occurring as today’s economy polarizes between creditors and debtors.”

I think you will find that some of this applies to our current situation, no?

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