Uncommon Sense

August 27, 2019

The Cosmological and Ontological Arguments Unleashed

Let us start slowly, first with the Cosmological Argument. For those unfamiliar with this argument, here is a common version of it:

The Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God

  1. Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence.
    2. The universe has a beginning of its existence.
    3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.
    4. Therefore, if the universe has a cause of its existence then that cause is God.
    5. Therefore, God exists.

So as to not run afoul of what we know about cosmology, let us say that this “creator god” created the universe in the form of its incredibly dense form prior to the “Big Bang” event (the sudden expansion of the universe). So, this “universe seed” was created and it was unstable and will fly apart shortly . . . Bang! There it goes! A wait of only 14 or so billions years gives us the universe as we perceive it now. There, science and religion are compatible . . . uh, er . . . um . . . not really. The long wait is not an objection in this scenario as a being that can exist outside of space and time, could step outside of time at the Big Bang event and then step back in “now” and voila . . . no wait. There are, however, many actual objections to the injection of a “creator god” into this scenario, the simplest being “none is needed.” The only reason for injecting a creator god into this scenario is to establish that god’s bona fides as the creator of the universe. The physical situation does not need or even allow for such an injection.

In any case, some theistic apologists now claim the Big Bang event as their creator god’s creation of this universe. But, wait . . . there is more!

As is typical in apologetics, the left hand doesn’t tell the right hand what it is doing and thus creates problems . . . over there.

Now we switch over to the Ontological Argument. Again, for those who need a reminder, here is one version of it:

The Ontological Argument for the Existence of God

  1. By definition, God is a being than which none greater can be imagined.
    2. A being that necessarily exists in reality is greater than a being that does not necessarily exist.
    3. Thus, by definition, if God exists as an idea in the mind but does not necessarily exist in reality, then we can imagine something that is greater than God.
    4. But we cannot imagine something that is greater than God.
    5. Thus, if God exists in the mind as an idea, then God necessarily exists in reality.
    6. God exists in the mind as an idea.
    7. Therefore, God necessarily exists in reality.

Now by the logic of the Ontological Argument we can find that the Ontological Argument is bankrupt, basically beginning with “By definition, God is a being than which none greater can be imagined.” That this is a false premise has been pointed out by many. In essence, if you accept this premise as a basic fact, you have just defined a god into existence. (Does that make you a god, if you create one?) But the “god” being discussed isn’t just any old god, it is the Creator God™ whose name has changed a number of times since this argument was first made but is considered to be the god of the Abrahamic religions (if all of those might be lumped together). This is the One True God™ who did indeed create this universe. So, this is the one god who must be considered as “a being than which none greater can be imagined.” Think about this. If this god could create the universe seed which expanded and became “our universe,” He must be very powerful indeed. But if creating a universe seed is a sign of power, I can imagine a god that can create two such seeds at the same time. And if I can imagine that god, it must be greater than a god which can create only one at a time, no? So, that god must exist also, according to the logic of the Ontological Argument. There is no argument that the god who created the one universe seed, ours, is the same god as the one that can create two simultaneously, so a claim that it is the Abrahamic religion’s god that can create two simultaneously is pure speculation. The Abrahamic god may be just a baby god, playing in a creation sand box until he has honed his skills and can be taught by the greater gods how to create two universe seeds at the same time.

And, if there is a god that can create two such seeds, and there must be . . . according to the logic of this argument . . . then I can imagine a god that can create three such universe seeds simultaneously and that god has to be greater than the god who can create two universes and the kid god in the sandbox who can create only one. And can there be a limit here? If I can imagine that a god could create hundreds of universes simultaneously, why not thousands, billions, trillions, etc.? Soon we will be up to our asses in multiverses!

So, the “premise” that “by definition, God is a being than which none greater can be imagined” means, in all likelihood, that the deity that created this universe is not that god. This also means there is not just one god because there is no support of that idea either and we are now all polytheists. We certainly cannot take the word of the deity that created this universe that there is but one True God™, because it is clearly not that “god” by this definition. (His other comments seem more than a little boastful and one would expect a being of that power would show a little humility.)

So, clearly, monotheism is also bankrupt as are all of the religions worshiping a clearly inferior deity.

And, hey, I didn’t make the arguments. Blame the apologists.


August 22, 2019

What’s the difference between science and the supernatural?

Filed under: Reason,Science — Steve Ruis @ 9:06 am
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The title of this post was a question asked on the Quora website which had, at the time of my viewing, 52 answers. I was shocked at how many of them implied that science was incapable of studying the “supernatural,” whatever the heck that is. Here is but one example:

“Take a look at the word supernatural. It means above or beyond the natural order. Science by its very nature deals only with the natural order, and cannot even directly detect or deal with the supernatural order. Science can only deal with the natural order, which is why scientists tend to be naturalists in their approach and worldview and treat the supernatural order as nonexistent, because science doesn’t have the tools to measure and test the supernatural order. Only recently with the advent of the field of quantum mechanics, some theoretical physicists have reason to believe there are higher dimensions in addition to the three dimensions we tend to think is the sum total of reality. These theorists being naturalists shy away from terms like supernatural because of its association with the ideas of the spooky or religion, but use similar and other terms to articulate their work.”

Since there were so many such comments, I have to accept that there are many who support claims that “the supernatural” exists. Some of the comments refer to the miracles of Jesus, others with just unexplained phenomena. (One was batshit crazy.)

I was expecting most of the responses to be similar to this one:

“Science explains the ways in which the things we see around us in nature work and behave.

It does this by examining closely the actual data in as much detail as is available, proposing some experiments and some theories and then testing those theories to see if they fit and explain and predict the phenomenon.

The theories are then reviewed by your colleagues around the world rigorously, who test the theory to see if there are holes, or better explanations – and to ensure that they too get the same results. It then becomes accepted scientific understanding which we then build on.

Science deals with what is actually happening.

The supernatural – is a what happens when people don’t do science. People instead ‘make up’ explanations for things that they can’t immediately explain.

The larva coming out of the ground becomes the gateway to hell, until science explains it and then it doesn’t. Old women who live on their own and who provide herbal remedies become witches to burn at the stake whenever something unusual happens in the village that can’t be explained. An old house which will naturally be creaky and have lots of drafty spaces, will become haunted at night, when people see and hear things move.

The supernatural is not real and it is how humans existed before we discovered how to do science right.”

But responses like these were not the majority.

The Supernatural—Real or Not?
So, are supernatural phenomena real or not? Seems a simple question, but of which I have more questions. For example: If someone claims that something is a supernatural phenomenon, how do they know this? Apparently something that cannot easily be explained is observed. The first thing I would challenge is my ability to explain, but. . . . We can rule out the common mis-identifications of old women collecting herbs being witches (would that they had not suffered from that label) and old ramshackle houses creaking in the wind at night being haunted (what else can a loose house do but creak, rot, and eventually fall down?). So, there seem to be many such phenomena that are clearly not supernatural, yet were claimed to be. Let us set those aside for now.

If someone says: “it was clearly a supernatural phenomenon” we have to ask “why do you think this?” If this phenomenon is “beyond nature” then how can we even perceive it as we are “in nature.” How does the supernatural impinge upon the natural? Some dodge this question by stating that supernatural phenomena are just those that do not obey the normal rules of nature. How they know this is also subject to question, but let’s ride with this for a minute, treating it as we would any other hypothesis. So, something is observed and that observation shows a violation of natural laws (the laws of physics, chemistry, etc.). How does the observer know this to be such a violation? Doesn’t one need to know what those laws are to claim the event violated them? How many advocates of supernaturalism know the laws of say, physics, for example.

It seems that people, like Deepak Chopra, are only too willing to claim support for their worldviews by plucking quantum mechanical events out of current theory and use them as justification for their beliefs. For example, the multiverse shows that there are “higher dimensions of existence.” No, it doesn’t. The existence of a multiverse is entirely hypothetical at the moment and thus cannot be used to prove anything. Another example is “quantum leaps.” These are leaps in energy (not space per se) which are incredibly tiny in size. They are grabbed by these folks to explain jumps of large scale objects through space and time. Cherry picking concepts out of a field of science, then misunderstanding and misrepresenting those concepts, seems to be rife in the “supernatural community.” But I diverge from my main point.

How does the observer of a “supernatural event” know this to be a violation of natural laws? Seeing, for example, a disembodied human head floating in front of you is a violation of the principles of gravity and wouldn’t need a theoretical understanding to recognize that fact. But how does one rule out other interpretations? We humans have become adept at showing all kinds of violations of physical laws in movies. These images, being entertaining and graphic, may just get stored away in our heads. Anyone who has ever seen the first Alien movie cannot get the image of the little beastie bursting out of the crewman’s chest. Can you? Could you erase that memory? (If you can, I want to know how you did it. I have a couple of ex-wives I wish to expunge.)

How do you know that you haven’t had a hallucination or a waking dream or even a sleeping dream that you had forgot but for some reason got triggered and you just recalled it (along with all of the associated emotions it evokes)?

It is interesting that these experiences are rarely shared (except, for obvious reasons, by crowds of the religious gathered at, say, a religious shrine, expecting a miraculous event and then after standing out in the hot sun getting dehydrated, someone shouts “I see it, do you?”). Since these experiences are rarely shared and, obviously, not repeatable, we end up discussing personal events which cannot be studied further, which supernaturalists turn around and claim is a weakness of science.

Scientists have studied supernatural claims scientifically many, many times. And nothing comes out of those studies, just <cricket, cricket, cricket>. Telekinesis studies, ESP studies, past life regression studies, on and on.

This is why supernaturalists are now claiming that science “cannot” study these events science is only suitable for studying nature. This is akin to the game of hide and seek played by god believers. Their gods start out walking around being sighted by people and interacting with them. (Consider how many times both Yahweh and Jesus are quoted (Quoted!) in the Bible. You can’t quote someone unless you have “heard” them. But these gods invariably end up in a locale such as “beyond all time and space” whatever that means. (Without space, nothing can move. Without time, nothing can change. Without space and time <cricket, cricket, cricket>.)

If supernatural events can affect people inside of nature, they aren’t supernatural. They could be evidence of advanced aliens invoking Clarke’s Third Law (Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.), and, gosh, don’t you know, that is being claimed right now, right here in River City, as I write this!

Supernatural claims are easy to make. One just opens one’s mouth and poof, out one comes. “I have a theory . . .” No, you don’t, you have an opinion.

The supernatural began in human history as explanations for things not understood. Brooks, rivers, oceans, mountains, you name it, all had gods in them, controlling them. Later gods became more human-like, appearing as human figures (often modified to make sure those gods wouldn’t be mis-recognized as actually being human). We no longer have brook gods, river gods, tree gods, and angels who push the planets along on their heavenly paths. Why? Because we found out what really was happening and we gave up our fantasies. But thousands of years living with fantasies has made us adept . . . at living with fantasies. (Religions, of course, are teaching each new generation that fantasies are believable!) The fantasy of the supernatural is another zombie idea that won’t die, partly because of people wanting to believe that they understand what really is going on. (I do. You do. We all do.) But, at some point, if we want to mature intellectually, we have to ask questions like “How do we know that. . . ?”

What Motivates Trump’s Supporters?

Like many of you, I felt that the primary motivation of Trump voters was the economic stagnation of the middle class and middle America. The elites were getting richer, hand over fist, while we were getting squeezed by employers and creditors, and that left us with the only option of getting mad. That may not have been the primary motivation, however. This a “must read” article from The Guardian.

A New Poll Shows What Really Interests ‘Pro-Lifers’: Controlling Women by Jill Filipovic.

The subtitle is “According to their own survey responses, anti-abortion voters are hostile to gender equality in practically every aspect” (I assume they meant “every respect” at the end there.)

And, of course, at the source of all of this misogyny? Well, you figure it out.

August 19, 2019

I Have A Theory . . . No, You Don’t

Filed under: Culture — Steve Ruis @ 11:36 am
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It has become commonplace for people to use the phrase “I have a theory . . .” in casual discussions over drinks or blog posts on topics from child rearing to politics.

In almost every case, they do not. What they have is an opinion . . . not an hypothesis, not a theory, not a conjecture, an opinion.

Unfortunately, English language reference books are based upon frequency of usage and soon the word theory will be synonymous with “wild ass guess.” Currently definitions of “theory” start at something like “a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, especially one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained” but often as not have included things like “an idea used to account for a situation or justify a course of action” which includes, I believe, wild-ass guesses.

Maybe we need a new phrase like “I have a totally unsupported idea that I would like were it to prove true.” Or “I have a non-evidenced reason that ideologically suits me to use.” But really, the word opinion (“a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge”) suits quite, quite well.

Book Report—Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From?

Filed under: History,Science — Steve Ruis @ 11:10 am

This book, Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? by William G. Dever addresses the actual archaeological evidence for the existence and behaviors of the early Israelites. I was drawn to this book by a couple of things that have troubled me regarding the “history” of that region. First, is the escape from bondage in Egypt. The story has been dramatized a great many times, even in movies, and so we are all familiar with the story. In the later 1800’s and early 1900’s “biblical archeologists” swarmed all over the Holy Land to discover all of the evidence for these “historical” events. What they actually found were two things: wish fulfillments and <cricket, cricket, . . .>. There is basically little to no evidence to back up the biblical story of the “escape from Egypt” or the “conquest of Canaan.” But then, over and over again, Yahweh states that he was the deliverer of the people from Egypt. So, does Yahweh lie? Actually there is linguistic evidence that indicates that the words used could mean “delivered from Egyptian (or just foreign) rule.”

You can see where this is going: the Israelites were never in Egypt in the numbers claimed, nor did Moses lead them to the Promised Land, nor did they spend 40 years in the desert, etc. But a god claim to have delivered the ancient Israelites from Egyptian rule, could easily be attached any time Egypt weakened their grip on their surrounding provinces. (Religions are well known for taking credit for things they did not do.)

But, then, this means that the Israelites were there all of the time and, in effect, they were Canaanites (people who lived in Canaan). Which creates a whole storm of other questions, beginning with “is there any evidence for this claim?”

The answer provided by Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? isn’t definitive but of all of the possible scenarios hypothesized so far, this is the one most supported by the evidence. So, way back when the Israelites were basically indistinguishable from what are called Canaanites (even in the Bible). The Canaanites worshiped many gods (as did the Israelites), the foremost of whom was El (Sound familiar?) whose consort/wife was Asherah. Some claim that they had 70 god-children, one of whom was named Yahweh. Over a period of time, a subculture of Israelites grew up as Yahweh worshipers. Over a considerable amount of time, these people were pushed into the hill country where the “first Israelites” were evident. The proximate causes for this migration seem to have been wars along the coast that caused the coastal cities to descend into anarchy and a number of other causes. The dwellings built by those early Israelites in the hills used Canaanite designs, as did the pottery, etc., etc.

When monotheism was being promoted, the Yahwists had to get rid of all of the other gods who they and many of their neighbors worshiped. Yahweh replaces El as the god most high. Asherah becomes Yahweh’s consort for a short period, and then even she had to go. There are references in the Hebrew Bible to these processes. The “old worshipping ways” were condemned over and over. The old gods were condemned over and over. This has all been supported (not confirmed per se, but supported by more evidence that the other “scenarios”).

Then the biblical narrative process began. People remember lessons better when they are attached to a story, e.g. Aesop’s fables, Nursery Rhymes, other examples ad nauseum. So, all of the Yahwists’ spiritual conquests (they drove out the other religions from their regions) were transformed into quasi-historical stories. The subjugation by Egypt became being enslaved there. Their freedom from Egyptian rule became the escape and journey to the Promised Land. the triumph of Yahweh worship over the old Canaanite religion became Joshua and the mighty Israelite host which conquered all of those other cities and slaughtered and enslaved their occupants. (See what you get if you don’t worship the right god! They got what they deserved.)

Possibly the first audiences for these “narratives” understood they were fictional, but over time and space that feeling was lost, so now we have millions upon millions of people who believe those stories are true. (I would love to see a Pew Religion Survey question, regarding the flight from Egypt (True or False or MC).)

Now, these archaeological efforts (once the biased Biblical Archaeologists were gotten out of the way) finally provide a coherent picture of what might have happened. But the really scary part is that the priests or scribes, whoever, who crafted these stories with all of their horrific details, who believed that those atrocities were a good way to introduce the True Nature™ of the One True God™ to one and all. (“I know Shechem, let’s have the soldiers kill all of the babies and rape all of the women!” “Good idea, let’s go with that!”)

Now, for those of you who say “Oh, that can’t have happened,” consider that the whole process was replicated in the formation of the New Testament. Prior to the writing of the gospels (at least 40+ to 100+ years after the events claimed to be being described), all of the epistles never mention an earthly or historical Jesus, not . . . one . . . mention. The Jesus of the epistles is a spiritual being who resides in Heaven (and their concept of Heaven wasn’t clouds and harp music, but a world just like this one, but perfected). So, the gospels are fictional “wisdom literature” crafted to teach the lessons needed by the flock. And, once again, non-historical events are front and center of these writings . . .. but millions upon billions of Christians accept them as being historical, if not every word being holy truth.

Postscript For any who feel that “once the biased Biblical Archaeologists were gotten out of the way” was too strong of a statement, it is clear now that the vast majority of these “scientists” went to their research sites knowing that the events in the Bible were true (had to be true) and they were just looking for confirmation. Do you know what a scientist who assumes a thing to be true and then goes looking for confirmation is called? An abomination, that’s what they are called.

Preaching … uh, Throwing Sops to the Choir

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:06 am
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In various discussions of religion, I think that a bit too much deference is paid to the “teachings” of religious figures. Since I know more about Christianity that I do any other religion, I will confine myself to commenting on its teachings.

Atheists seem to cede profundity to Jesus’ teachings where I find them banal and somewhat lacking. At one point the character Jesus is asked to summarize, distill down the Law to its essence (“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”) and Jesus replies: that there are only two things that are needed: to love god (himself?) and to love one’s neighbors as you would yourself.

Taking these one at a time. First “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.”(Mark 12, Matthew 22, Like 10, Deuteronomy 6, and the well-known Shema Prayer). If you are addressing a religious people on religious topics, you have to preach a little to the choir. If you are more cynical, Jesus is behaving as any salesman would do. But we are told, often enough, that this god is complete in and of himself and needs nothing. Apparently “nothing” includes your love, your belief, and your faith, without which Christians believe their god (God is love.) will introduce you to Hell where you will roast in flames forever and ever, amen. Why does this god need our love? If you read the Hebrew Bible closely, his #1 requirement and his #1 “ask” is for obedience, not love. This god wants obedience above all of his other wants and desires.

Second we have “The second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.” It may be important, but it is impossible. There is a common trope used by some Christians of “God first, others second, me third.” Right. Good luck with that. Is it possible to love another as much as you love yourself? I think it is possible. People sacrificing their lives to save family members is evidence of this, as is soldiers dying to save their fellows, but the circumstances when this happens are extraordinary, not something you see in day to day living. The vast majority of people who attempt to “Love your neighbor . . .” fail miserably. And if there are really only two important criteria at the top of Jesus’ list, and you fail at one repeatedly, it puts more pressure on you to obey the other. Interesting leverage.

It has been pointed out that “your neighbor” does not just mean any Tom, Dick, or Harry, it meant “other Hebrew.” Just as “thou shall not kill” meant “thou shall not kill other Hebrews.” It was fine if you wanted to off some Samarians or Amalekites. But why love? Consider some possible alternatives:

Respect your neighbor as yourself.
Cherish your neighbor as yourself.
Honor your neighbor as yourself.
Support your neighbor as yourself.
Help your neighbor as yourself.
Why “love” which is an unachievable goal? And why limit it to “neighbors” meaning people in your religious in-group? Why not. . .
Respect all others as yourself.
Cherish all others as yourself.
etc.? Are these supposed to be essential teachings for all of humanity or ways to make your in-group more cohesive?

It also has been pointed out that Jesus taught exactly nothing that had not been taught before. This supports the opinion that the first gospel, from which the others borrowed heavily, was fiction written in support of “Old Testament” theology. There is nothing new about the “New Testament.”

So, when you see people giving away sops like “Yes, Jesus was a profound teacher” ask yourself “Really?” He was not. Nothing he said or did was new, so how can that be profound? I have stopped conceding the Jesus was a real person. The evidence points to Jesus being a fictional character, like all of the other “heavenly” gods.

Consider this one: “As an atheist, I consider many religious scriptures to have many essential teachings. From the peaceful practices of Buddhism to the teachings of Jesus to love one another.” Essential teachings? Really? If you remove the spiritual claptrap, are the teachings to be found in religions any more essential than in, say, philosophy? If you consider that all of the spiritual mumbo-jumbo dilutes the message of those “essential” teachings, I wonder how these are considered “essential” to any other than the religious subscribing to those faiths. The spiritual teachings are always listed first, of course, and the pragmatic teachings that could better lives and really help people survive physically and mentally are usually lacking or missing entirely. Also, when I am taught I always consider the source. I honor my teachers greatly and always look for ways to repay their kindness in sharing their hard-earned knowledge with me. There are, however, bullshit artists galore who sell their “knowledge” to one and all shamelessly and when you ask them how they acquired their knowledge, you get vapor at best. Most of my favorite teachers acquired their profundity through failure and striving to overcome their own faults. Most of them failed far more often that they succeeded at anything. The BS artists will tell you how easy it is to amass a fortune investing in the stock market, or flipping houses, or being saved from a Terrifying Afterlife™. . . , just send a check to PO Box 1693, . . .

Watch out for this tendency to throw sops to the theists, your audience doesn’t need it and you don’t need to prove how “fair” you are.

August 17, 2019

Can You Pronounce Counterproductive, Boys and Girls?

Filed under: Culture,Politics,Reason — Steve Ruis @ 10:43 am
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Ole Steve King (R, Iowa) is in the news again, this time endorsing rape and incest as part of an anti-abortion crusade. This is yet another example of the incredibly counterproductive efforts of conservative politicians.

The gauze has been removed from our eyes, if indeed there were any left, to now clearly see the racist and misogynist roots of the American conservatives in general, and the GOP in particular. Possibly because they have become experts in getting voters to vote against their own interests, they have been working very, very hard against their own interests, too. Here are a couple of examples.

These knuckledraggers have been working feverishly to make abortion as impossible as they can make it. They have put restrictions on abortion clinics, thereby driving so many out of existence that in some states one cannot be found. They have been pushing more and more anti-abortion laws in the states and are angling to get the Roe v. Wade decision of the Supreme Court expunged or severely amended. These efforts run counter to their racist roots, however. Anti-abortion efforts means that more black and brown babies will be born than white babies as black and brown people have higher birth rates. (I looked them up; I did not just assume this fact.) More black and brown people will mean more black and brown potential voters and eventually the end of white supremacist politicians. These idiots, were they true to their racist roots, should be falling all over themselves to provide government paid abortions for all black and brown citizens as their racism trumps their abortion objections (pun intended).

Conservatives were appalled when college age youths were running amok opposing the Vietnam War. How dare they! They were still wet behind their ears and were not paying deference to their elders. Abominable. Consequently, conservatives, using bogus arguments (nobody even fact checked them!), got federal bankruptcy law amended to disallow student debt to be discharged under bankruptcy. This combined with federal funding guarantees of student loans has led to an immense amount of student dept piling up . . . more than credit card debt in this country. In this manner college students and college graduates are chained to the status quo by their debt. They can’t afford to “stick it to the man” if that would mean losing their job. So, that settled their hash!

But, the student debt crisis has produced a decline in homeownership, marriage, and childbearing rates among the young. The mostly white college-educated young are having fewer children (because of economic insecurity) and avoiding homeownership as an unaffordable excess, and therefore don’t see marriage as having any advantage over shacking up. So much for encouraging “positive family values” that the GOP is so enamored with.

So, these racist idiots are encouraging more births of black and brown babies and discouraging the births of white babies, diminishing their own political futures thereby.

Is there no one in charge of the American conservatives? Oh, Trump. I guess that explains a great deal. The lunatics are in charge of the asylum.

Postscript For the younger generation, the title is a hearkening back to Mr. Rogers, a television personality focused on teaching children.



He’s Right, You Know, If Only By Accident

Filed under: History,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:37 am
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From an article in The Guardian:

“The party of “family values” is at it again. On Wednesday, Republican congressman Steve King, tried to justify banning abortions even in cases of incest and rape by arguing that rape and incest are good, actually. Without them humans would go extinct!

“’What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape and incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?’ he opined at a breakfast meeting in Iowa. ‘Considering all the wars and all the rape and pillage that has taken place … I know I can’t certify that I was not a part of a product of that.’”

He’s right, you know.

If we were actually to go back in time and prune everybody’s family trees to exclude all those born of rape and incest, we might just eliminate the human species.

This is a statement of the widespread nature of sexual rape and incest throughout our history. But, it is not and should not be an endorsement of those activities, except possibly in the fevered mind of Representative King. We also have had innumerable sufferers from a wide variety of diseases. Does that make those diseases good? I mean where would we be if it had not been for smallpox or the bubonic plague? Shouldn’t we be trying to eliminate these poxes?

Representative King is known for making incredibly stupid statements. I can only hope that, in this case, he was using this one as a coded signal to his “support base” of rapists and incestuous men.

And, btw, he is being, you know, counterproductive (see my next post).

August 16, 2019

A New Slant on the Second Amendment Debate

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,
the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
(Second Amendment, U.S. Constitution)

Quite a few people are unaware that until quite recently most people and most Supreme Court Justices viewed the Second Amendment as addressing other than an individual right. Since its ratification, Americans have been arguing over the amendment’s meaning and interpretation. One side interprets the amendment to mean it provides for collective rights (of militia members), while the opposing view is that it provides individual rights.

Until quite recently, this was considered mostly a collective right, not an individual one, with few Supreme Court cases addressing that matter (in effect, they were hiding from an definitive decision). That all changed with District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008. (Yes, 2008, eleven years ago, peeps! Pay attention!) The case centered on Dick Heller, a licensed special police office in Washington, D.C., who challenged the nation’s capital’s handgun ban. For the first time, the Supreme Court ruled that despite state laws, individuals who were not part of a state militia did have the right to bear arms. As part of its ruling, the court wrote, “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home” (Empahsis mine. SR).

So now the Second Amendment addresses the government’s ability (inability, actually) to control an individual right. And that will be the case until a reversal of this opinion is had, so basically forever.

But, consider this. If you strip out all of the militia verbiage (which creates the collective vs. individual brouhaha) and just look at the rest of it, it says:

“. . . the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Keep and bear. “Keep” refers to people who already have an “arm” and that they are to be allowed to keep (store, house, etc.) those arms and “bear” means to carry and, in this case, use the arms involved. But it says nothing about the government infringing upon the right to acquire firearms. (None other than Antonin Scalia stated in that 2008 decision the opinion that for him, “to bear” was simple enough, meaning “to carry.” And “arms” were just weapons. He conceded that there was an idiom, “to bear arms,” which meant to belong to an organized military force. But this was only a possible import of the phrase, not its core meaning. So, while establishing this new individual right, he also established with the terms “keep” and “bear” were in this amendment.)

So, while the government cannot infringe the right to keep and bear arms, it is free to legislate who can acquire arms and for what purposes. We can limit what arms can be acquired, how many, how much ammunition, etc. and the conditions that need to be met to be able to acquire them, which includes having a license, passing a training program, being sane, providing insurance against criminal use, etc.

Well, what do you think?

The Family: A Start

Filed under: Culture,Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 7:00 am
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I watched the first episode of The Family, a Netflix documentary on a shadowy group called “The Family” or “The Fellowship.” This group is a quasi-religious cult with the stated purpose of, well let one character explain it as he explained why the central character was been proselytized: “You are here to learn how to rule the world.” The first episode is set in a stately mansion near Washington, D.C. and power brokers from there and around the world “stop by” for discussions with the leaders of The Family.

The documentary assumes a pattern that I assume will be carried through. Stitched between statements made by real players in this organization and its investigation are enacted scenes of events as described by an insider who lived through them. I can’t say how much research is behind verifying the claims of the main character, who wrote a book about it, etc.

Ever wonder where is came from in a “separation of church and state” country?

I did get a frisson of anxiety when a leader in the group hands out to our man a copy of their guidebook. It is entitled “Jesus” and consists of the four New Testament gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, that’s it. (To quote Astro, the dog, “Ruh roh.”) Later a female character (all females are quite subservient so far) says “Jesus is a real person, a real person, not some abstract idea and He wants you to know Him.” (Of course the only books of the New Testament which speak of Jesus being a real character and not an abstract idea are the four New Testament gospels and the Acts of the Apostles.)

We are then introduced to Doug Coe, the leader of the Family, whose main contribution (at this early point) is to establish his main point, that of “The more invisible you can make your organization, the more influence you will have.”

In a “dorm room” discussion between the young men (the women are housed elsewhere) the discussion comes around to King David and how he had more than a few character deficits. The point to the Family group, however, was that “God chooses people and whatever you do, God will stick by you.” (Ooh, ooh, ooh, can I be the one to tell them what God wants? Can I, can I?)

I was about to write a piece on the Book of Daniel when this viewing happened. That book is very “prophetic,” but that may be because it was written 400+ years after when it claims to have been written. Events that have already happened are really easy to prophesy. (Try it, you’ll like it.) But the key element of that book and one that is glossed over (and over and over) is that Yahweh’s promise to the Chosen People is that they will have dominion over all of the other peoples of the Earth. That is the end game, that the Hebrews, and now the Christians by inheritance, will be rulers of the world including you, me . . . everybody. This is the core message of Christianity. Christians too often stop short at the coming of Jesus and the creation of the New Paradise on Earth and in Heaven, but the narrative goes on with the entire Earth under Yahweh’s thumb, in the form of a global theocracy. (Power to the Chosen People!) If you haven’t yet found a reason to oppose Christianity, maybe the Family’s clearly stated purpose is that thing. And there are good reasons that Christians don’t emphasize that purpose which, of course, they criticize Islam for. (Only in the movies does the villain take the time to explain that global domination is his goal, bwah, hah, ha! This is because it scares the shit out of the rest of us.)

It seems as if “the Family” is an organization dedicated to that end. And there are clearly no democratic principles behind this organization. It is a “Christian” organization, therefore totalitarian through and through.

To see just how different this theocratic vision of the future is from, say, Greek philosophy, consider Aristotle’s idea of the driving force behind societies. According to him, virtue is the prime focus of a well-lived life (seems Aristotle was a bit of a Stoic). To him, “ethical virtue was a habit disposed toward action by deliberate choice, being at the mean relative to us, and defined by reason as a prudent man would define it.” Virtue is not simply an isolated action but a habit of acting well. For an action to be virtuous a person must do it deliberately, knowing what he is doing, and doing it because it is a noble action. In each specific situation, the virtuous action is a mean between two extremes. Finally, prudence is necessary for ethical virtue because it is the intellectual virtue by which a person is able to determine the mean specific to each situation (from a summary of Nicomachean Ethics, the emphases are mine).

I don’t thin civic virtue is mentioned in the Bible; just submission to the will of Yahweh/Jesus; conform, don’t rebel, etc.

The American Constitutional founders were highly focused upon building a secular government that evoked civic virtue from its citizens, so that they (We the people . . .) were constantly balancing their individual welfare with the welfare of the common good.

I do not know whether I can stomach viewing more episodes of this documentary . . . I probably will . . . in small doses, because, well, know your enemy! These people are clearly not supporters of a democratic future for this country. They are accruing power for a reason. It can’t be good, no matter how much Jesus they slather upon themselves.



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