Uncommon Sense

March 31, 2020

The Class War is Over

The Class War is over. What we have left are crumbs tossed our way in a system ruled by savage class-rule capitalism.

Let me ask you this—here is a passage from the gospel we call “Luke” (in Chapter 4):”

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and he entered, as his custom was, into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And he opened the book, and found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, Because he anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor: He hath sent me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovering of sight to the blind, To set at liberty them that are bruised, to proclaim the acceptable Year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down: and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, Today hath this scripture been fulfilled in your ears.

Do, you know what the Year of the Lord refers to? Isn’t every year a Year of the Lord? (As a child I saw many, many documents dated as such and such a date “in the year of our Lord XXXX.”)

Do, you know what this was?

It was what is often referred to now as a Jubilee year and Jesus just proclaimed this to be one (along with all of the other succor) promised but Jubilee years were usually only proclaimed by kings, often at the beginning of their reign. In the story, this proclamation supports the argument that Jesus thought of himself as a king, which the Romans preferred to exterminate, rather than work with.

In a Jubilee year, all public debts were canceled. This practice came about, not through any largess by the elites but for a practical reason. If private debt was allowed to continue without limit, compound interest, even ordinary interest would result in many people defaulting on their debts. If that debt were held by a private person, the person defaulting was obligated to pay of the debt with their land, and then their labor. well, and the labor of their wives in the bedroom of the debt holder, you know what I mean. But people in debt bondage didn’t pay taxes and they were available to be drafted for public works projects. The elites recognized that the primary debt holder almost everywhere in the region was the central government and the debt was because of unpaid taxes. A crop failure meant someone couldn’t simultaneously feed their family and pay their taxes, so. . . .

So, rulers would start their rule with a debt jubilee, thus making themselves popular and making their economy viable. It was not unusual to need one of these every so often. The Bible even speaks to debt forgiveness.

Now the Pharisees tended to be from the more prosperous segments of Hebrew society, so if Jesus had his way and a debt jubilee were proclaimed, how do you think they would respond? Hmm?

My main point is what Albert Einstein referred to when he was asked what the most powerful force in the universe was and he answered “compound interest.” Our system, however is no longer an autocracy, but an oligarchy. the debt holders are running the country. Do you think for one minute they would sit still for any kind of debt jubilee, even if just for college education debts? Do, you know understand why Bernie Sanders presidential campaign was deep-sixed by the powers that be in favor of a barely comprehendable Joe Biden? (If they would take it from Jesus, Bernie had no chance.)

These idiot oligarchs are acting out the parable of the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg and are smiling through the entire thing, reflecting on their own cleverness.


If You Needed a Reason Why a For Profit Healthcare System Doesn’t Cut the Mustard, Here’s One

Filed under: Business,Morality,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 1:00 pm
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From The Guardian:

The frontline in the battle against coronavirus has shifted a couple of hundred yards down the main road through the Kansas city of Wellington.

Two weeks ago, as the virus crept closer and people in other parts of the state started dying, the owners of the city’s only hospital thought it a good time to close down with just a few hours’ notice on the grounds the facility was losing money.

“We lost our hospital abruptly and without warning,” said Dr Lacie Gregory, a family practitioner in Wellington. “Even as the healthcare providers here in town, we did not hear that it was closing until it was a done deal. We received a text message from the director of nursing saying as of now there’s no hospital. So really, really unfortunate timing.”

That has left Gregory and a small group of other doctors and nurse practitioners at the city’s Family Care Center at the forefront of preparing for the coming pandemic with little guidance and not much equipment.

The physicians had assumed the 63-bed Sumner community hospital’s emergency department would deal with people contracting coronavirus while they went on treating more routine conditions of cuts, broken bones and high blood pressure, and that the two would remain safely at a distance. But now the Family Care Center is the first line of defence for the city of 8,000 people.


Theism in a Nutshell

Filed under: Reason,Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 12:58 pm

Mark Twain once used an analogy involving the Eiffel Tower to address all of Earth’s history. The Earth’s history is roughly four and a half billion years old. Man’s history (modern man) is roughly 100,000 to 200,000 years old, and agriculture dates back roughly 10,00-12,000 years and we didn’t have civilization without agriculture. Most people put civilization back 5000-6000 years.

Some of these estimates were coming available in Twain’s time. And in response to some divine’s claim that humanity is oh, so special that all of history points to our creation was a little like saying the Eiffel Tower is an immense construction, the part of it that would correspond to human civilization would be the layer of paint at the top of its filial and the divine’s claim was like coming to the conclusion that the Eiffel Tower was clearly created to support that topmost layer of paint. (I mean it is obvious, is it not?)

So, inane comments by people speaking outside of their expertise aside, just how did we get from “there” to “here,” theologically at least? Since there are and have been a multitude of religions and gods over that period, and most have some commonalities, it is likely that there are some common human developments that led to these, no?

Here is my best shot at showing where theism came from . . . in the course of human events.

* * *

The Theory of Mind
As social animals we developed ways of “reading” what is going on in other people’s minds from how they present themselves. For example, there is not a three-year old on the planet that can’t tell that their mother is mad at them, without their mother saying a word or do anything.

Agency Detection
We developed the ability to attach an agent to an occurrence. The classic example is a rustling in tall grass a short distance away. Was that due to the wind or is a predator stalking me? Most animals will stop what they are doing, go into a more vigilant state, and if they sense nothing directly, will go back to what they were doing. Humans will think, “it might be wind or it might be a predator, so to be safe, I am just going to move farther away just in case.” The penalty for a false agency attribution is very small if anything. The penalty for ignoring a real agency can lead to the loss of your life, so we became primed to lean toward the signs of agencies being assumed to be real.

Story Telling
Being social animals, good story tellers were and are popular, especially because there was no cable TV when we were hunter-gatherers. When the tribe or a small group was threatened, by a natural phenomenon (flooding river, volcano, earthquake, eclipse, etc.) the natural storytellers, aka bullshit artists, claimed they knew the agent behind that thing (a lightning god, a river god, a sun god, etc.) and might even make up a bullshit ritual to try to placate that god.

Cause and Effect
Our brains are pattern recognizing machines. There is a logical fallacy referred to as “post hoc, ergo propter hoc” which roughly translates as “after this, therefore resulting from it.” Causes have to come before effects, so anything coming before an event is a possible cause and our little pea brains came up with myriad causes . . . even a few that were real.

Primitive humans saw a lot of deaths. In some cases, these were what we call “of old age” or “of natural causes,” meaning there was no obvious cause of death. If a hunter is killed by a prey animal, then they are obviously dead. But when grandma or mother dies when laying on her bed, there is a point just before when she is living (speaking, breathing, etc.) and then shortly after she is dead (not moving, not breathing, looking waxy in complexion, etc. She is still there after (Ten little fingers and ten little toes. . . , yep all there.) but something is missing. What ever was animating grandma is no longer there, but we couldn’t see it before and we didn’t see it leave.

You just say Grandma die but while you were sleeping, you spoke to her and she talked to you. She fed you your favorite meal. But when you woke up, she was not there.

From all of these things (there is more I think) can you see where jinns, angels, fairies, and leprechauns come from? Can you see where gods came from? Can you see why these things are mostly invisible or have behaviors that equate to being nearly invisible.

Animism came from our over developed agency detection devices. We saw animals living and dead so what was animating them was invisible, no? So, we have wolf gods, coyote gods, snake gods, etc.

Can you see where shamans came from? Being good storytellers who liked the esteem they gathered in that role and why shamans were reined in because otherwise there was no limit to their powers (other than their powers of imagination).

Can you see where supernatural “causes” came from? We didn’t know what caused rain, or snow, or thunder, etc. so storytellers made shit up. There has to be a cause for every effect, no? (No.)

Can you see where spirits and souls came from? Again, we didn’t understand where our mental powers came from so we must have a spirit like the animals do. This gets changed into a soul by power mongers.

Can you see where the idea of an afterlife comes from? Grandma’s spirit comes to me in my dreams. Where is she? We cannot see her or where she lives any more, so she must be far away. At first we might have thought she was in a cave or on a mountaintop, but after seeing quite a few of those, then dead grandma ends up living in the sky or “another realm.” (Theologians now often state outright that Heaven and Hell aren’t places, so they can’t be found. I gotta buy some property beyond space and time, it’s getting crowded there.)

And can you see why there are so many common elements to supernatural deity worship practices, created by groups of people isolated from one another? We couldn’t borrow such beliefs, because we were far apart, so we made up our own from the same root normal human functions.

When we came together, competition, and the desire to get along resulted in “modifications” to our deities. First we puffed up our own and later we merged “their god” with “ours.” The Romans, rather brilliantly, allowed conquered peoples to keep their gods . . . but also pointed out that their gods and the Roman gods were often the same gods, just having different names. And if they were the same, a few nips and tucks in both made that more obvious. And, of course, the religious powers and the secular powers realized they were better off together than in competition, and so they joined forces. Everyone in a Western civilization, should read accounts of the wars fought over Christianity in its first few centuries. I can recommend the books The Jesus Wars and When Jesus Became God. Both the Romans and later governments became different due to Christianity and Christianity became different due to Roman and other state power. I can recommend the book Pagan Christianity? Exploring the Roots of Our Practices which shows that many current Christian practices were adopted from the Romans and which mirrored pagan practices at the time. (If you want to be a state religion, you have to act like a state religion! And, boy, did Christian Bishops want state power.)



Wrap Up of “The Nature of Existence Companion Series”

Filed under: Philosophy,Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 12:55 pm

As further evidence that self-isolation is the devil’s plaything, I give you quite a number of posts today. SR

* * *

I have written a couple of times on a video series called “The Nature of Existence Companion Series,” which can be found on Amazon Prime (TV). This should wrap up my comments on that specifically, although there are some topics I will be blogging on stimulated by things in that series.

My main takeaway I have stated a couple of different ways, the latest being “Again, I was impressed by the ability of people to both (a) make shit up, and (b) not understand what they were saying.” Evangelical Christians making claims not supported anywhere in scripture, scientists making claims that are wrong (the universe was created in the Big Bang”), etc. An evangelical Christian saying over and over “The wages of sin are death.” Obviously every sinner and every believer dies (One death per customer, line up right here!). This catch phrase has been around for centuries and is based upon the misreading of the Book of Genesis, thinking that if Adam and Eve had stayed in the Garden of Eden, they would have been immortal. But Genesis clearly states that Adam and Eve were evicted, so they could not eat from the tree of life “and so live forever.” They were not evicted for disobedience, they were evicted for not being trustworthy. (This is another instance of Yahweh being a bad parent. He was willing to put a guard on the entrance to the Garden to keep Adam and Eve from entering and eating from the tree of life but he didn’t have the grace to allow them to stay, learn, and grow, by putting a guard at the tree of life. Or, crazy me, if these two trees were so fricking important, why not put guards on both of them before there was any such trouble, so that Adam and Eve were in no danger of being disobedient.

Another things stated over and over was thinking like people did thousands of years ago, that is when dichotomies reigned supreme. For example, “You can’t have love without suffering.” Really, if suffering didn’t exist no love would be displayed anywhere anytime? really? What is the opposite of love? Is it indifference? Is it hate? I have heard of love-hate relationships, do people suffer through those? The honest religions state that suffering is normal . . . unfortunate, but normal. The religions that have hijacked every damned thing under the sun as being a gift from their god have a problem, though. They have to explain suffering as coming from their god. A Baptist minister wondered what his ancestors did wrong that they were enslaved and brought to America to become, eventually African-Americans. I almost broke my jaw hearing that statement as it hit the floor with a great impact. (It recalls the native American who said (this is from memory, so is probably a little inaccurate) “When the white man came, we had the land and he had the Bible. Now he has the land and we have the Bible.” Not a fair trade, not a fair trade at all.)

Most telling was a segment on sexuality and when pre-marital sex was brought up, the Taoist and Buddhist monks demurred, saying that they cannot comment on things they have no experience in. The Catholic priests and Muslims chimed in immediately stating how evil premarital sex was. Which, of course, makes us wonder why this ruling from these religions had to wait thousands of centuries of human history to be shared with us.

And, the philosophical thinking of mainstream religionists was not the only thing from thousands of years in our past. Casual remarks from casual theists exposed the belief that god must be real, otherwise why would the universe keep ticking along? A thousand years ago in Europe it was common knowledge that angels guided all of the planets along their paths. Christianity had adopted ancient Greek thinking as a worldview and in that world view if you started moving something it moved, but if you didn’t keep pushing it it would stop. Apparently none of the sages had ever seen a rock roll down hill or water flow “down” a river. In that thinking, the universe was alike a clockwork that had to have a mechanism behind it to keep everything moving. This thinking permeates scriptures from those eras and are displayed in the thinking of modern theists, which we would hope that by now would know better.

In any case, a fascinating look at what people “believe” which in itself is somewhat horrifying. We are supposed to solve modern problems brought about, mostly, by overpopulation with that level of thinking? We’re doomed, doomed I tell you.



Even More on GMOs

Filed under: Economics,Politics,Science — Steve Ruis @ 12:51 pm
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I recently read that “Liberals are skeptical of well-established science when findings clash with their political ideologies, such as GMOs, nuclear power, genetic engineering and evolutionary psychology.”

I am a scientist and I am very cautious about GMOs. The existence of GMOs and some of their behaviors are “well-established science.” That is not what I am arguing about. Human beings have been artificially selecting traits of plants to serve us for thousands of years. We started by selecting which seeds to plant and went through a grafting-hybridizing stage and then into gene manipulation.

My quibble with GMOs is that the modifications skip over many, many viability tests that nature used to use to weed out problems (a snappy metaphor, no?). A plant geneticist might have to make dozens of not hundreds of “crosses” to get the outcome she wanted. Each step of the way, nature chimed in. If a cross-fertilization of two strains of plants was non-viable, there would be no seeds or plants to test in a subsequent generation of that approach. That was a dead end, so we had to back up and try a different route.

So, GMOs skip over some of these tests/road blocks, which could be a good thing or even a very good thing, but . . . and you knew a but was coming, didn’t you . . . when something goes wrong with a GMO it has the possibility of going very, very wrong.

And, yes, I said “when” because it is never “if” something goes wrong, because something always goes wrong. Help me count the ways! A virus could insert some of its DNA into a GMO’s DNA and voila, we have something very, very new on hand. The GMO could propagate with other plants in ways unsuspected. GMO animals, when they come around, might take over ecological niches we were unaware of and create situations we are unprepared to respond to.

There is an old saw that says “short cuts are always longer” which is an admonition of a craftsman to take the tried and true way and not some shortcut to a supposed better or just as good ending. Just as there was no Royal Road to geometry, there were no shortcuts to quality. Well, we have discovered that there are such shortcuts, but they are incredible hard to find and don’t always work as expected.

Since our food supply is under considerable pressure and we have created monocultures for much of “big” crops, a disaster will be a big, very big disaster when it happens (again, when, not if).

So, I am not anti-science, quite the contrary, I am pro-prudence. Especially when the primary efforts are made chasing profits and not meeting urgent needs. And as evidence for which I give you: Monsanto Crop System Damages US Farms.

March 30, 2020

Further Muses Upon the Problem of Evil and Free Will

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 12:08 pm

I wrote in “The Problem of Evil and Free Will”:

If you are unfamiliar with the “Problem of Evil” the earliest record we have of it is from the philosopher Epicurus (341–270 BCE) and it goes like this:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence comes evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

Among all of the arguments for the existence of a god or gods, this is the most powerful one against the existence of a god or gods, so this is a favorite of atheists.

The apologists have many answers (really many) but the first and foremost was the defense of Free Will, which goes like this:

God gave mankind free will and if one human wants to harm another God can only prevent that by taking a way his free will, something of greater value, so He does not do that.

Basically people doing evil is a tradeoff for free will. Many atheists take the approach to grant that this is a good argument, but then point out that this only addresses evil created by humans, nor by other animals or Nature (earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions, landslides, etc.)

My counter to this argument for this god allowing evil to exist, again still avoiding natural disasters which actually I do not attach good, bad, or worse labels to, is that not allowing evil does not turn us into robots, slaves to Yahweh’s will as it were. All that is needed is to remove the will to do evil, and all of the other aspects (99+% of the rest of free will), can be kept. So, Yahweh is allowing evil so that he doesn’t have to give away the free will to do evil, which makes Yahweh’s case even weaker.

But this doesn’t address how to do this. I assumed that since Yahweh is all powerful, He would know how to do it. But Dr. Richard Carrier, one of my favorite historian/philosophers came up with the exact way to do this and it is perfectly feasible without the use of magic or a deity’s powers. The universe just needs one small tweak and that is if anyone does evil to another animal, human or not, you suffer. And the greater the evil, the greater you suffer. Either doing evil makes you ill or injuries you some how. This can be done today a number of ways, the most prominent might be psychological conditioning. Now if this conditioning were left to human teachings, we would still be in jeopardy because the education system has holes in it that people fall through all of the time. So, this needs to be hard-wired in, maybe with CRISPR editing of our DNA. Or maybe there are other ways, like Antabuse for Evil™.

We would still need to develop robust descriptions of what evil is or isn’t. Soldiers killing soldiers in an army invading his country are not common murders, but we would have a really good head start at avoiding human-on-human evil. Maybe wars just wouldn’t get started.

It is not hard to imagine such a universe and it would have been child’s play for an all-powerful deity to make it this way, or just our small corner of the universe, say.

This is yet another instance on which the concept of such a deity falls short of its description. He loves us but sends plagues to kill and maim. He loves peace by urges genocide. He plays both sides during wars, e.g. the famous Nazi belt buckle “Gott Mit Uns.”

I used to joke that I gave up religion for Lent one year. Actually that would be a good idea for everyone to do.

After Note I used to insist that one should not remove any institution without knowing what to replace it with. I now realize that in some cases, you need to remove the thing to see what we come up with as a replacement. A perfect example of this was the American experiment we call “Prohibition (of Potable Alcohol).” We eliminated the sale and production of alcoholic beverages. What replaced those, in short order, was the illegal sale and production of alcoholic beverages. The offenses of these criminal activities and recognition that people basically did not want Prohibition led to the repeal of the Constitutional amendment creating it. Other solutions to the alcohol problem are still on the table: treatment in clinics, social approbation, criminal penalties for excessive use, etc.

So, lets eliminate religion and see what replaces it. (I fully acknowledge that many thesis can only imagine that a Zombie Apocalypse is the only result of that. But I hope they realize that the poor opinion of mankind behind that was promoted by their very own religion. Most atheists seem to be kind and good citizens, no more likely to commit a crime that theists are. So, there is a natural experiment going on right now about how people will behave without religion. Just study the a-religious atheists. (Some atheists are religious, in case you didn’t know. And some churches don’t require a belief in any god to be a member, so there are “churched” atheists! <gasp>)

March 29, 2020

A Few Additional Thoughts on the Free Will Question

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 8:53 am

The free will question is a question about whether our universe is dominated by cause and effect, such that decisions we make are determined by physical causes and not some mystical internal will that allows us to ignore those. Many religions claim that free will is a gift from their god. Of course, many of the religions claim that everything is a gift from their god, but even so.

Many religions almost require free will because without it their punishments cannot be based upon choices that we make because we do not make them, the universe makes those choices by providing the causes of them. So the free will question is not a simple one because some of the debate participants have not-very-well-hidden agendas.

As things about our nature become known, the question pops up again and again. For example, when subliminal stimuli became known, these brought about another round in this debate. For example, say you are in an ice cream shop and two cups of ice cream are placed before you: one vanilla flavored, the other chocolate. You have no particular preference, so can you choose one or the other freely? But, unbeknownst to you, an agent of an evil government has been releasing chocolate scents into the ventilation system at a subliminal level so that you do not notice the odors, but your body still detects them, and you choose . . . the chocolate ice cream! The determinists say, “See, you do not have free will!” Your choice was determined by physical stimuli not in your control. Okay, rewind the story, and again, you are faced with the two cups of ice cream. The same dastardly agent is at work behind the scene creating a subliminal odor favoring the choice of chocolate. But this time, you have a cold and cannot smell that chocolate and you choose . . . vanilla. So, was your choice free or determined?

Who the Hell knows? What we do know is that we are not free from manipulation. Psychologists have discovered we all can be primed to make certain decision or take certain actions by all manner of things, so it is not just subliminal factors that bias our choices. The free will question though, asks if all of our choices made because of just such factors.

I think the question is premature, but I am leaning to the opinion that we do have free will  to some extent. This is based partly upon the fact that the physical basis of reality is probabilistic, not deterministic, so rigid determinism is not physically possible. We also have wiggle room in the definitions and you can see people taking advantage of this like cockroaches scurrying for cover when the lights are turned on in a flop house. My favorite is that we insist that free will be conscious free will when we are large beings operating sub- or un-consciously.

I think I have used this example before but I once saw (on TV) one of the world’s best poker players throw away a winning hand for no good reason. Later, he was interviewed about that hand to elucidate his thinking and he replied simply, I didn’t see that I had a flush; I missed it . . . with a sheepish grin on his face. As was once famously said, mistakes were made. Not only that but random variations show up in all kinds of things. For example, identical twins form because a fertilized egg fissions into two fertilized ova, each necessarily having the exact same genetic profile, the same environment, same mother, same father, same, same, same. And yet, soon after birth the mother has no difficulty telling them apart; in other words they are not quite identical. The manifesting of the babies from their identical genetic information involves some random variations. Identical twins enjoy dressing alike and taking each others places, but people who know both well usually can tell them apart.

These random events are woven into the universe. Many people are aware, for example, that atom bombs were first made from uranium-235 and that it is a minority isotope that had to be separated from the vastly more common uranium-238 isotope. What a lot of people do not know is that U-238 is also radioactive. It is speculated that when the Earth formed, the numbers of the two isotopes were about equal. In all of this time, however half of the U-238 has decomposed whereas almost all of the U-235 has decomposed, leaving the amount of U-235 at less than 1% of uranium atoms and U-238 being over 99% of all uranium atoms.

Now, think of the U-238. Imagine a speck of this substance at about the time the earth formed. Two atoms of U-238, side by side, one of which popped off right at the beginning of that period and the other waited 4.5 billion years before it popped off. The two atoms were identical. There is no difference between atoms of isotopes of any of the elements that we can detect. There are also very, very few external conditions that have any effect whatsoever upon the rate at which atoms decay radioactively. A third atom of U-238, right next to the first two, might decay tomorrow or might not for 10 billion years. There is no way to tell. The kinetic theory of gases is another example and, of course, the weirdnesses of quantum mechanics.

The fundamental behaviors at the root of physical reality all seem to be probabilistic and this doesn’t somehow combine to form a deterministic universe. So, if there is no free will, what the heck is there behind any choices we have to make?

On the Religious Experience and More

On Amazon Prime (TV) there is a video series called “The Nature of Existence Companion Series,” volume one of which was on the topic of Existence and Purpose which I blogged about a day or so ago. The series continues and last night I watch a segment that touched upon religion.

The wide variety of respondents to the questions of the videographer resulted, again, in a wide variety of responses. Interestingly, speaking to the “why religion?” question, almost everybody spoke about the need for a religion coming from inside the people involved. No mention was made, well little mention was made, of the fact that the vast majority of people are born into a pre-packaged religion, one they didn’t create for themselves. Only a very few comments mentioned the role of religion existing as a control from without. This I think is a manifestation of this con, everyone seems to think that it came about from some need of their own, when that idea was inculcated through the con.

One of the most interesting and cogent responses came from a high priest of a Satanist sect. That’s right, they found a good speaker for the Satanist religion. This gentleman, and he seemed quite gentlemanly, clarified that Satanists were not devil worshipers, that there were few actual devil worshipers, mostly rebelling teens seeking to get attention and he hoped they would get help dealing with their issues, but Satanists were not them. (Well!)

This speaker made a very nice argument that religions classified some ordinary human behaviors as being sinful, specifically because people could be counted upon to not give them up. (One of the questions was did sin have to be deeds or could it be just thoughts . . . the responses were mixed.) Because people would not give up these quite ordinary behaviors, they were always left seeking absolution for those sins (“Forgive me Father, for I have sinned . . .”) and then, our Satanist concludes, “they own you.” Indeed.

Again, I was impressed by the ability of people to both (a) make shit up, and (b) not understand what they were saying. One “confrontational evangelist” brought out the old saw that “the wages of sin were death,” which is based upon the mistaken idea that Adam and Eve’s “sin,” aka disobedience, cost them their immortality. This is not what scripture states. Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden so that they would not eat from the tree of life, and thus live forever. But, gosh, that is such a great line it would be a shame to stop using it just because it is wrong. Plus, the error is compounded by the thinking that “Jesus” offers eternal life. Scripture states that we all live forever because we really are just meat wrappers for immortal souls. When we die (and we all get a death, not just sinners), the faithful take the up escalator to spend the rest of eternity, while the rest of us take the down escalator to spend the rest of eternity. What Jesus is offering is a Golden Ticket to “the Show” in Heaven.

That apologists err is not surprising. To err is human . . . (Alexander Pope) so that is to be expected, but the criterion used by apologists (apparently) is just whether a statement is effective, rather than is it correct and effect. This shows a certain laziness in the collective effort (there are college courses in apologetics) and also a commitment to truth that is malleable.

* * *

Other episodes addressed similar topics, all of which I responded to similarly. The range of responses was always there and always interesting. For example, when asked what the greatest threat to mankind was, most people said something along the lines of overpopulation or ecological collapse or people with evil in their hearts, but one quick response from a Catholic priest was “atheism.” I never knew I had such power as to threaten the existence of all humanity. <sigh>

I will expand a little on the question regarding whether sins need to be actions or can they be just thoughts. The thought police representatives were not what I would call the usual suspects, but many said “yes, thoughts alone can be sins.” But, we do not control our own thoughts, that is we do not create thoughts consciously, they seem to just pop into our heads. (An aside—when we read, another’s thoughts pop into our heads as we read them, and those thoughts differ from “our own” exactly how?) A number of respondents acknowledged this issue and addressed what happens to the thoughts that come to us and distinguished “sinful” versus “non-sinful” responses to those thoughts.

Another of the questions addressed free will and I was appalled at the lack of understanding shown. Quite a few of the respondents addressed the fact that our will is limited and we are not free to do impossible things. One respondent said we were not free to jump 250 feet up into the air. WTF? Most people understand free will as the ability to make choices that are available to you. Is this ability, to act from our own intentions freely or is it determined by physical stimuli. A number of the science types point out that determinism isn’t even possible because the physical foundation of reality is probabilistic, not deterministic, so to some extent our will must be free as there is no real alternative. (And folks, this should not always be laid at the lap of quantum mechanics even though it is the poster boy for non-deterministic behavior. Back in the nineteenth century there was huge resistance to the kinetic theory of gases because of the application of probabilistic math. This is because the religious educations of all western scientists were deterministic at the time.) A few actually addressed the question as one which shouldn’t be asked as answering it is a giant waste of time. (I tend to think that the question is premature and is therefore a giant waste of time, but it also might be a question we use to torment ourselves, amuse ourselves, whatever.

One respondent came up with what I will characterize as Pascal’s Wager for Free Will. This is fascinating. He argued this: it would be a real tragedy if we had free will to act as if we did not. (Think about it and you will agree.) Conversely, if we do not have it and act as if we did, there is no harm, so we should act as if we did have free will. QED This seems to be a Gordian Knot question being answered in an Alexandrian fashion.

Again, if you are a philosophy nerd, this is a fascinating collection. (I stop watching and switch to watching something else and then find myself back watching this. I wonder if there is a 12-step program for philosophy addicts.)

March 27, 2020

Existence and Purpose

Filed under: Philosophy — Steve Ruis @ 10:00 am

On Amazon Prime (TV) last night I found a video series called “The Nature of Existence Companion Series,” volume one of which was on the topic of Existence and Purpose. The series claims to address the fundamental problems of philosophy, so I clicked on it and . . . wow! I was expecting the usual talking heads and they had quite a number of those, you know, academic philosophers, cosmologist and subatomic physicist, and what not, but they managed to include everybody . . . and I do mean everybody! They interviewed taxi drivers, pizza chefs, Buddhists in Japan and China, and a pair of seventh graders! The seventh grade girl was a breath of fresh air, very smart, and a shot across the bow of “professional” philosophers. Philosophy was always something entertained by the general population, not just a small category of eggheads, and anyone challenging the credentials of anyone wanting to participate in the dialogue better watch their backside.

So, they interviewed hippies, Druids, personal fitness coaches, gays and straights, people claiming to channel aliens, people in every mainstream of religious faith, including Jains and Hindus, and a large number of the lesser faiths. They interviewed scientists of many stripes, waitresses, I guess you get the idea.

Some of the questions addressed were: why are we here? What is the source of happiness? What is the purpose of life . . . of us? Why does the universe exist? What is love?, How do we stop conflict? and more.

People, listen up!
The universe was not created in the Big Bang!

There was more than a little wisdom involved and it didn’t just come from the usual sources. One priest claimed that we are “here” to learn about and to love god, and went on to admit he hadn’t the faintest idea why a god would want to do that.

The Buddhists pointed out that the Buddha thought the question “why are we here” to be silly and that it should not be asked. An Urdu poet pointed out that the question “why does the universe exist” is very premature in that we do not know all that much about what the universe is to explore such a question.

Of course, there were the expected “because God” answers to all of these questions and those responses were dutifully recorded and then moved on from.

From watching the first hour of the first video I came to an answer to the question: why do we exist? It seems we exist to generate as much bullshit as possible. When you hear dozens and dozens of answers to these questions, that conclusion is unavoidable.

Of course, one of the religious-leaning types compared the Big Bang, in which he claimed the universe was created out of nothing with a god creating the universe out of nothing. People, listen up! The universe was not created in the Big Bang! We do not know when or even if the universe was created. For all we know it has existed forever. The Big Bang was a transition point from a very small (Very!), very hot (Very!), and very dense (Very!) universe to the much larger, colder, and less dense universe we see today. We would all be better off if the event were known as the Big Expansion as that is what it was.

This video is recommended to all philosophy geeks. (My people, my people, I weep for my people.)


Well, Now That’s a Reason!

Filed under: Morality,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:50 am
Tags: ,

According to The Morning Heresy newsletter “The guy who leads Bible study for Trump’s cabinet, Ralph Drollinger, blames the Coronavirus on those who have ‘a proclivity toward lesbianism and homosexuality,’ those with ‘depraved minds,’ environmentalists, and atheists (elbow-bump!) for igniting ‘God’s wrath.’”

So, God is responsible for sending COVID-19 our way. Now that’s a reason to worship that god. I am working on my first prayer, which I have entitled “Prayer to a Genocidal God.”

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