Class Warfare Blog

September 28, 2020

When it was ’54 …

Republicans are often characterized as wishing our country would be restored to what it was like in 1954.

So do I.

 

September 23, 2020

We Are Oh-So-Kind . . . to Ourselves

I was reading an article about some Native American archaeology and came to this statement “In the 1800’s, European settlers drove ancestral Wichita people from their native lands, leading to the destruction of their villages and communal traditions.”

I have made this point before but am still struck by the terminology.

If someone invaded your community and forcefully ejected you from your homes and farms, killing many of you in the process, would you refer to them as settlers . . . or invaders? Was not this land already “settled?” In this instance they are talking about a “city” of possibly 40,000 Native American inhabitants.

But European “settlers” “drove” the people off. It sounds like they are referring to cattle or buffalo which could be “driven” to another location.

By what right were these things done? Oh, God told them it was okay for the Europeans to make war on the indigenous peoples they encountered, in order to bring Christianity to the natives. Gee, you’d think this was an educational mission instead of a land grab.

At the time, Europe had recovered from the repeated decimation of the population of Europe due to the Black Plague and other plagues and was overpopulated. The “European settlers” were searching for land, land that could be tilled, land that could be mined, land that could make them rich. They came as soldier-farmers. They didn’t work in their fields without their guns nearby, because the people they stole the land from wanted it back.

These were not settlers. They were an army of invaders. And we are descended from them.

And President Trump wants our schools to teach that we did nothing wrong. Sure we took their land, but we gave them the Bible. From Mr. Trump’s perspective, this was a great deal, and American deal, an exceptional deal.

And the winners of the deal get to write and re-write the history any way they want. Mr. Trump’s way is what we will get if he is re-elected.

 

 

September 14, 2020

Black Lives Matter! . . . All Lives Matter! WTF?

Filed under: Culture,History,Politics,Race — Steve Ruis @ 10:19 am
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The Black Lives Matter . . . I guess I will call it a movement . . . is arguing that Black lives should matter more than our current society values them. They should matter at least as much as white lives and, I can argue, that because of centuries at maltreatment, maybe they should matter a little more than white lives, to make up for all of that abuse. Black people should be afforded more respect, more courtesy, and so on for say, maybe the next 100 years as partial compensation for the abhorrent abuses their families suffered from the rest of American society.

And the rejoinder to BLM “All Lives Matter?” What a farce. This isn’t even close to being true. And I will show you why. Stay with me now.

From your personal perspective, does your life matter . . . to you? I would venture to say all would answer “yes” (plus or minus a few percent).

How about the lives of your immediate family, do they matter? Again, I would suggest that most people will answer “yes.”

How about the lives of close social associates: friends, close colleagues, mentors, pastors, etc. Do their lives matter?

How about people outside of that circle: people who live in your community but who you do not know? Do their lives matter?

Do I have to keep going? On to the homeless people in cities far away? Starving children in Africa? Poor people struggling to feed their children in lands far away? I suggest that you make no effort to find out about these people and don’t give a rat’s ass whether they live or die.

I am not dissing you. I am part of the same group you are in. My point is we are a social species and the amount of care each of us has for “others” is closely related to how much we interact with them . . . socially.

So, do all lives matter? No, of course not. The idea is pathetically stupid. So, why was it advanced? It was advanced as a racist response for BLM, which is just a plea from Black people to just be treated like everyone else. Imagine opposing that!

So, every time you hear “All Lives Matter” recognize it for what it is. By using the word “all” you get included, and of course your life matters . . . to you. (It matters not a gnat’s fart to the racist scum trying to keep Black people “in their place.”) And “all” means your spouse, and kids, and . . . they matter, too. And then you stop thinking, you don’t carry your line of thought on out to all of the “deplorables” you don’t give a fig about. So “All Lives Matter” resonates with people, but do not fall for this lie. It . . . is . . . not . . . true . . . and hence cannot counter anything.

Don’t fall for the racist propaganda. And every time you have on opportunity to vote or express your opinion, stick up for your fellow citizens who are Black and being treated as if they are outcasts.

August 27, 2020

Assembling God

Filed under: Culture,History,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:54 am
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The god of Christianity, Yahweh/Jesus/Holy Ghost didn’t show up in scripture fully formed. His powers kind of grew like Topsy, created on the fly by ordinary human beings.

Some of these are logical consequences and some are hidden presumptions. For example, claiming that this god is all-knowing means that in order to “recall” any fact from his memory, he only needs to recall the past or future action. This requires this god to have one hell of a memory, but is not unthinkable. But there are inherent problems associated with claiming this power for this god. Here is a typical question on Quora asking about this consequence. “If God knows my whole life from beginning to end, did he imagine me before he created me? If he imagined all the things I will say and do, is it him being me doing these things? I imagine people doing whatever but it’s not them doing what they do.” Basically this question is asking that if this god knows everything I am going to do, do I have free will? The straightforward answer is an obvious “no” and the consequence is we should not be held accountable for our actions because we were programmed by god to do those things. I will leave it to you to unpack these arguments because they have been around for almost all of human history.

Other consequences are somewhat loaded with creator responsibility. (Not Creator responsibility, but creator responsibility.) We claim that this god hears our prayers and may act upon them right away. We also claim that this god is omnipresent, that he is always observing you and listening to you speak. Is this really necessary? It involves a human foible, that of someone needing to be within “ear shot” to witness what you say . . . and within “line of sight” to see what you do. Is this necessary of this particular god? Absolutely not. If he is all-knowing, he already knows all that you have said and will say and do. He doesn’t need to be “there” to witness your prayer or your actions. He doesn’t even need to show up to perform the miracle you are praying for. He can do anything remotely, plus the fact that he has tens of thousands of angels on the payroll, most of the time sitting around eating his food and drinking his wine, the lazy bastards can be sent to do some work for once. And, since the all-knowing god already knows, he can schedule this angel to do that task, months, years, or millennia ahead of time to avoid any time pressure.

So, being omnipresent is a useless power for such a god. It is only there because of human assumptions about how humans behave, not gods. And this is not the only example of a god’s powers being woven out of thin air, cut from whole cloth, etc.

Consider why Yahweh/Jesus/Holy Ghost has “messengers” or “helpers.” So, why?

Basically this is because they were created in the previous tradition, by the creators ofYahweh, and Jesus was “the Son,” so they had to be kept in Christianity. The baggage, of course, involves devils, demons, and a whole zoo of other supernatural beings in attendance on this god.

But are they needed? You’ve probably heard this argument before. This god has demonstrated the ability to think things into existence (whole galaxies, etc.) and communicate across vast distances. So, does he need “helpers” of any kind? The answer is “no.” In fact assigning a task to an angel (or cherubim, or . . .) takes as much effort or more that doing it himself, just by thinking whatever he wants into existence.

Some claim that these beings are there for purposes of companionship. Companionship is something people need, by does this god? The answer is no. This god is claimed to be perfect, whole, and needing of nothing.

But then . . . this is the god who punished Lucifer for the sin of pride and who created an entire species of sentient beings … to worship him. Remember the speck in your brother’s eye and the beam in yours story. Yeah, like that.

 

August 23, 2020

Have You Been Listening/Reading/Hearing?

Filed under: Culture,History,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:46 am
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One of the core messages of this site is that civilization was built upon the backs of the masses. The elites coerced the labor of the masses and confiscated their “excess labor” (what they could produce minus the bare minium to keep the “slave” alive). The confiscated/taxed labor allowed the religious and secular elites the liberty to do what they did.

Now some claim that all of art, music, and high architecture, even science are the products of the leisure time bought through “civilization.” My point is that people were not asked whether they wanted to contribute to that effort and are still not asked (Has Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos asked you what you would like them to do with all of your money confiscated in excess of what they needed to live bloody well on?). One of the products the elites have created, possibly more than any other, is war. Do we ignore that and just thank the massahs for all of the art in the museums, and the grand buildings (pyramids, etc.), and science and such?

Here are some quotes I think you we see now slightly differently from before:

From “The Mud-sill Theory” speech by South Carolina Senator James Henry Hammond, given before the Senate in 1858:
In all social systems there must be a class to do the menial duties, to perform the drudgery of life. . . a class requiring but a low order of intellect and but little skill. . . . Such a class you must have, or you would not have that other class which leads progress, civilization, and refinement. It constitutes the very mud-sill of society of society and of political government; and you might as well attempt to build a house in the air, as to build either the one or the other, except on this mud-sill. Fortunately for the South, she found a race adapted to that purpose to her hand. A race inferior to her own, but eminently qualified in temper, in vigor, in docility, in capacity to stand the climate, to answer all her purposes. We use them for our purpose, and call them slaves.

This is the “better them than us” attitude later fostered by the elites to get southern whites to put on a uniform and fight those damned Yankees. I generally refer to this as the Law of the Totem Pole: “You can’t be sure you are not on the bottom unless you are standing upon someone else.”

* * *

And there was William Wilberforce, as sincere a philanthropist as Anglicanism ever produced, an ardent supporter of Bible societies and foreign missions, a champion of the anti-slavery movement, and also of the ruthless “Combination Laws,” which denied to British wage-slaves all chance of bettering their lot. Wilberforce published a “Practical View of the System of Christianity,” (published 1897?) in which he told unblushingly what the Anglican establishment is for. In a chapter which he described as “the basis of all politics,” he explained that the purpose of religion is to remind the poor:

That their more lowly path has been allotted to them by the hand of God; that it is their part faithfully to discharge its duties, and contentedly to bear its inconveniences; that the objects about which worldly men conflict so eagerly are not worth the contest; that the peace of mind, which Religion offers indiscriminately to all ranks, affords more true satisfaction than all the expensive pleasures which are beyond the poor man’s reach; that in this view the poor have the advantage; that if their superiors enjoy more abundant comforts, they are also exposed to many temptations from which the inferior classes are happily exempted; that, “having food and raiment, they should be therewith content,” since their situation in life, with all its evils, is better than they have deserved at the hand of God; and finally, that all human distinctions will soon be done away, and the true followers of Christ will all, as children of the same Father, be alike admitted to the possession of the same heavenly inheritance. Such are the blessed effects of Christianity on the temporal well-being of political communities.)

Source: Sinclair, Upton. The Profits of Religion: An Essay in Economic Interpretation (p. 33).

In this same source we hear from another pious person:

Hannah More bade them be happy because God had sent them her pious self. “In suffering by the scarcity, you have but shared in the common lot, with the pleasure of knowing the advantage you have had over many villages in your having suffered no scarcity of religious instruction.” And in another place she explained that the famine was caused by God to teach the poor to be grateful to the rich! “Let me remind you that probably that very scarcity has been permitted by an all-wise and gracious Providence to unite all ranks of people together, to show the poor how immediately they are dependent upon the rich, and to show both rich and poor that they are all dependent upon Himself. It has also enabled you to see more clearly the advantages you derive from the government and constitution of this country—to observe the benefits flowing from the distinction of rank and fortune, which has enabled the high to so liberally assist the low.

And if you do not think the religious elites were acting hand in hand with the secular elites yet, how about (from the same source):

In the year 1819 an act of Parliament was proposed limiting the labor of children nine years of age to fourteen hours a day. This would seem to have been a reasonable provision, likely to have won the approval of Christ; yet the bill was violently opposed by Christian employers, backed by Christian clergymen. It was interfering with freedom of contract, and therefore with the will of Providence; it was anathema to an established Church, whose function was in 1819, as it is in 1918, and was in 1918 B.C., to teach the divine origin and sanction of the prevailing economic order.

And as to labor unions! From the same source:

Let me quote another member of the English ruling classes, Mr. Conrad Noel, who gives “an instance, of the procedure of Church and State about this period (late 19th century)”:

In 1832 six agricultural labourers in South Dorsetshire, led by one of their class, George Loveless, in receipt of 9s. a week each, demanded the 10s. rate of wages usual in the neighbourhood. The result was a reduction to 8s. An appeal was made to the chairman of the local bench, who decided that they must work for whatever their masters chose to pay them. The parson, who had at first promised his help, now turned against them, and the masters promptly reduced the wage to 7s., with a threat of further reduction. Loveless then formed an agricultural union, for which all seven were arrested, treated as convicts, and committed to the assizes. The prison chaplain tried to bully them into submission. The judge determined to convict them, and directed that they should be tried for mutiny under an act of George III, specially passed to deal with the naval mutiny at the Nore. The grand jury were landowners, and the petty jury were farmers; both judge and jury were churchmen of the prevailing type. The judge summed up as follows: “Not for anything that you have done, or that I can prove that you intend to do, but for an example to others I consider it my duty to pass the sentence of seven years’ penal transportation across His Majesty’s high seas upon each and every one of you.”

You want evidence? I got evidence.

August 9, 2020

The Light Bulb Comes On

Filed under: History,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:50 pm
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Note I just responded to a comment on another of my posts on this same topic, so I finished this up and am posting it now. S

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I am reading a rather fantastic book, not that it involves fantasies but rather dispels them. That book is The Evolution of God by Robert Wright. The author placed a number of facts in a row to point out the obvious conclusion. I knew all of the facts already but hadn’t gone where they led.

Here is the argument.

The Israeli state story is that the ancient Hebrews, millions of them, fled captivity and slavery in Egypt, then wandered in the desert for 40 years finally being delivered to the Promised Land, only to find out that while it was promised, it was also occupied. So they waged wars of annihilation against the occupants of the land they were given, so they could move in.

That’s the story as laid out in their Bible, they say.

But, we now know that the Hebrews were never in Egypt proper in large numbers and certainly not there as slaves. (Egypt did conquer and rule over the “holy Land” several times and did collect taxes so “being a slave to the Egyptians” is not an unthinkable thought.) The Exodus, however, didn’t happen. The 40 years didn’t happen. If it had their main encampment would have had millions of graves left behind as almost all of the adults leaving Egypt would have died at that camp. Millions of graves? No. Hundreds of thousands of graves? No. Thousands? No. It did not happen.

But in the Bible, Israelites are repeatedly warned away from the beliefs of the pagan cultures that their god had them slaughter and the evil influence of their foreign religions.

What is going on here?

Instead of the Hebrews invading Canaan, they were Canaanites already. They differed hardly at all from the Canaanites that get so lambasted in scripture later.

So why all of the badmouthing of the “foreigners” and their religious practices?” Here is an excerpt from this book that shows why:

“Thus we see ‘the systematic turning of traditional xenophobic rhetoric … against the traditional religion of Israel’ so that in the end Israel’s religion was ‘alienated from itself.’ In this view, biblical authors, in listing the worship of, say, celestial deities among ‘the abominable practices of the nations,’ were just using fear of the foreign to purge the indigenous.”

It wasn’t foreign religions that were being opposed, it was the religion of the indigenous Israelites that was. The indigenous Israelites worshiped a panoply of gods, mostly Canaanite, because they were Canaanites.

This was in the time of King Josiah, who was trying mightily to consolidate his power by reducing the number of gods he had to answer to. (Note Since Josiah took the throne at the age of eight, I assume it was Yahweh’s high priest and Josiah’s advisers, etc. were also involved.) Here’s another quote from the book:

“Josiah had priests take from Yahweh’s temple and burn ‘all the vessels made for Ba’al, for Asherah’ and for ‘all the host of heaven’ (which in this context means deified celestial bodies). He removed horses used in sun worship from the entrance to the temple and ‘burned the chariots of the sun with fire.’ He wiped out shrines built for ‘Astarte the abomination of the Sidonians, for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites’—and, as a kind of exclamation point, covered these sites with human bones. Josiah also banned mediums, sorcerers, household gods, idols, and miscellaneous other ‘abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem.’ As had Hezekiah, King Josiah tore down ‘the high places’—altars across Judah where various gods might be worshiped. But the altars themselves weren’t the only target. According to the Bible, Josiah “deposed” the priests linked to them, emphatically including priests who ‘made offerings to Baal, to the sun, the moon, the constellations.’ And beyond Judah, in the former northern kingdom, Josiah went further: he “slaughtered on the altars all the priests of the high places who were there, and burned human bones on them. Then he returned to Jerusalem.”

Josiah ruled Judah (Israel had been destroyed) from 641/640 BCE to 610/609 BCE so you can see that Judah wasn’t what you might call monotheistic at this point. The Temple in Jerusalem had “vessels made for Ba’al and Asherah and all the host of heaven” in it. (The host of heaven, hmm, were they Yahweh’s offstage audience in the book of Genesis? Seems so.)

The “high places” that were destroyed (along with the priests who officiated there) were outdoor altars on hilltops where gods other than Yahweh were worshiped. (This is all in the books of Kings in the OT (Oneth and Twooth, Doanld.), btw.)

As I mentioned in a previous post, kings preferred monotheism because it increased their leverage over the priests, or priest, they had to relate to (and control).

So, the story of the conquest of Canaan was written as political cover for the effort to make the indigenous religion of the vast majority of Israelites into foreign religions that could be snuffed out in favor of the religion the elites wanted the people to have. (Effing elites!)

The people didn’t want “Yahweh alone,” the people didn’t create the “Yahweh alone movement” and scripture didn’t support it . . . until . . . until Josiah and his gang of Yahweh priests started doing a bit of editing.

You may be aware of Josiah as the king who “found” a lost book of the Torah. The story goes, according to Wikipedia: “While (High Priest) Hilkiah was clearing the treasure room of the Temple he discovered a scroll described in 2 Kings as ‘the book of the Law,’ and in 2 Chronicles as “the book of the Law of the LORD given by Moses.” The phrase sefer ha-torah (ספר התורה) in 2 Kings 22:8 is identical to the phrase used in Joshua 1:8 and 8:34 to describe the sacred writings that Joshua had received from Moses. The book is not identified in the text as the Torah and many scholars believe this was either a copy of the Book of Deuteronomy or a text that became a part of Deuteronomy.”

The book of Deuteronomy stresses the uniqueness of God and the need for drastic centralization of worship . . . surprise, surprise. If Jews could only sacrifice at the Jerusalem temple, then the “high places” altars became less and less of an option.

Ah, as they say, hah.

Monotheism was Inevitable, Right? Wrong.

Filed under: Culture,History,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:07 am
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I wrote a rather long answer to a question on Quora and I decided to share that argument here in a post. The question was asking about the numbers of gods in the existing religions. Plus, it is Sunday and this is usually time for a religious post.

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That the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity) have only one god is a political outcome, not a theological one. The theology was created to support the political outcome.

Historically, religions threw in their lot with kings to acquire state power. I know more of Christianity, so I draw my examples from it. Christianity sucked up mightily to the Roman Empire early in the first millennium to acquire the power of that state. (It worked, the Romans spread Christianity widely.) But, weren’t the Romans the ones that crucified their god? Apparently that little fact didn’t deter the lust for state power. Rome had the most state power, so suck up to Rome was the plan.

At the same time, secular rulers realized that religion was a more effective tool in getting people to obey than soldiers were. Plus. if they got in a contest with religion, there would be winners and losers, but if they formed a coalition, instead, they would both be winners.

Now consider a king with many gods, many priests, and many visionaries/prophets/etc. When a decision had to be made, which would the king rather do: negotiate with many god’s representatives as to what to do or negotiate with just one such representative, a representative the king could treat well (bribe) and with suitable arguments (bribes) get the recommendation the king desired. (God is on our side in the coming conflict—quick, send this message to the troops.)

We ended up with large monotheistic religions primarily because of politics.

Think about it! If there really were only one god, would that god have allowed his creation, mankind, to create such a large number of imaginary gods (thousands of them!). No, the one and only True God™ would have nipped that in the bud and everyone would have acknowledged that there was but one god from the beginning.

In the Bible the evidence therein shows that it took over a thousand years for the Hebrews to go from polytheism, to monolatry (the worship of one god without denial of the existence of other gods), to monotheism. Mostly monotheism was forced on the people by the priests and kings (Hint: the elites!). There was no public support for such a concept and scripture didn’t demand it . . . until it became secular policy and then scripture was “adjusted.” (Look up King Josiah if you are dubious.)

 

Have “The People” Ever Started a War?

If you have read this blog for any length of time, you have probably read me banging on about the core element of civilization, namely that the labor of the masses is coerced to serve the interests of the religious and secular elites. Civilization didn’t happen until agriculture became substantial. By coercing agricultural labor, the produce of that labor could be taxed by confiscating the crops. This scheme didn’t work until there was a crop that could be stored, so until grain was grown, harvested, and dried and stored, civilization didn’t exist as there was little to confiscate if it needed to be harvested by the tax collectors.

Throughout my life I have heard and read many people hold forth on the “benefits of civilization,” which are many . . . but if you take a step back, you can also see the costs.

The scheme of civilization is simple. The masses do a lot of work and their “excess labor” is confiscated to supply leisure to the elites. Now, by leisure, I do not mean just indolence, I mean time that is not taken up by creating food, shelter, etc. to support one’s life and one’s family’s lives. What was done with that time included some indolence, but much of that time was spent creating the “benefits of civilization.” Time was spent on religion, politics, public works, art, science, etc.

Much of those efforts has no benefit to the people providing the labor. In fact, I would say that only a tiny amount did. Consider the building of the pyramids by the god-kings of Egypt. We now know that these were built by paid labor, not by slaves, so at least the workers had jobs. But, there was little in the way of desirability in such jobs. Would you rather push heavy stones up a ramp or go fishing to feed your family? Once built, what benefit did those buildings have? Tangibly . . . none. Maybe a little of “Gee, look what we can do if we work together” feelings, but mostly the rewards are few and far between, especially if you consider the opportunity costs. If that amount of material and labor were spent on projects that directly benefited the people themselves, which result do you think the workers would choose?

One of the things that the elites could do, because they were organized and “the people” were not, is to start wars. This began simply because agricultural labor was mind-numbingly harsh, boring, and provided less in the way of reward than the hunting and gathering that people did before. Because of that many of “the people” forced into agricultural labor disappeared into the bush (they voted with their feet, as we say now). This created an even greater need of labor, to maintain and expand the fields, and led to slave raids on nearby villages, which required a new cadre of elites: soldiers/guards. (Anyone who wasn’t busy finding food or making shelter for themselves was an elite, as far as I am concerned.) They were needed to acquire the slaves and then needed to keep them in the fields. Yes, slavery existed prior to civilization but not large scale slavery, which was only possible with agriculture which required large scale slave raiding.

When civilizations became into being in large enough numbers, their interests clashed (the interests of their elites, in any case) and skirmishes evolved, and finally war was made, war of conquest.

Of all of the “benefits” of civilizations, war has to be considered #1. I guess benefit is the wrong word, maybe consequence or outcome would be better. The elites made war better than anything else they did.

How many people were killed or made into slaves via this “civilization?” Please realize that in the year 1800, estimates are that half of all human beings were in some form of slavery (chattel slavery, serfdom, etc.). Our ability to kill was mechanized in modernity and the slaughter counts increased, but the ancients did a fair job themselves. Many people point out that the Aztecs didn’t kill their opponents when they made war, they only captured them. So benign, such a civilization! And what did they do with their captives? Oh, they cut their hearts out while they were still alive in religious rituals. Oh. One such ritual involved, apparently, tens of thousands of such “sacrifices.” So, the killing ability of the ancients wasn’t so small.

So, our “excess labor” (I love such euphemisms, so nice to the elites they are.) allows the elites to make wars, wars that devastate whole continents and now could possibly destroy most of the human species.

Have “the people” ever started a war? I have wracked my brain and cannot think of one instance. I can think of feuds, local skirmishes (the Whiskey Rebellion in the U.S.?), and such but an out and out war? Nope. Can you?

So, if you pile all of the “benefits” of civilization (many of which are dubious, such as the “beautiful architecture of a cathedral”) on one pan of a balance and you place all of the wars and implements of destruction invented for them, plus I guess we can throw in environmental pollution and its consequences (climate change, et. al.) do we come up with a net positive outcome for “the people,” the 99+% of us who do not “run things?”

July 31, 2020

Astrology Has an Interesting History

Filed under: Culture,History,Reason — Steve Ruis @ 10:09 am
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Astrology goes way back so I assume it has a pre-history (going back 6000+ years or so) but there is little we can learn about such beliefs before there were written records of what they were. In any case we can learn two things from this long-standing belief. For one, people looked up and studied the points of light in the night sky and the other is that they knew fuck all about what was really happening.

In our western tradition it seems that astrology took off with the ancient Greeks, four to five centuries BCE. It seems to be founded on a belief that the gods or a god set “the heavens” in motion and that those same gods mapped out human destinies onto those motions and positions.

Okay, time for a little science. The vast majority of the planetary bodies formed from an accretion disk that was rotating around our star. Consequently, all of the planets formed in that manner exist in the same plane (roughly) and orbit the Sun in the same direction. Consequently mapping the positions of the planets against the circular horizon (circular in appearance any way) gives a reasonable structure as to the positions of the planets in the night sky.

Also, all of the other stars are so far away that their motions are imperceptible from here, they are the “fixed starts,” meaning fixed into positions. They rotate about an axis viewed from where we are, many videos show this phenomenon and these appear frequently on our TVs. This rotation of the “fixed starts” is an illusion, of course, based upon the fact that the Earth rotates once per day on its axis. (And for those looking for deity designs in that one day per rotation fact, that is just where we got the time term of a “day.” Light to dark and back to light seemed to repeat and it did . . . because of the Earth’s rotation. (Which is slowing down, by the way, by 1.78 milliseconds per century!).

So, the positions of the fixed starts didn’t change in relation to one another. The only things that changed positions were the planets and moons of the planets. And back in the Greeks hey day, there were five known planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) and the Moon and the Sun. The Babylonians, apparently, invented the zodiac, being sets of fixed stars wrapping around the skies equator, to provide locations in the night sky that (a) could be referred to, and (b) found. The planetary bodies were then mapped as they made their way around this circle.

To believe in astrology, and let me be clear, almost everyone did back then and possibly many, many still do, one has to believe in predestination, that is a destiny for each of us has been ordained (usually by the gods or a god), and you have to believe that your destiny has been mapped by the gods onto the positions of those planetary bodies around the zodiac. (Those “bodies” positions, btw, are perfectly predictable using the laws of science, so changing someones destiny would require a god to shift the position of a planet or two and then change everyone’s memories and all records of that change. (Whew!)

While there has been much written about and claimed for astrology, no mechanism has been given for the direct influence of the planets on our lives, so the gods have to be behind this, ordaining what will happen and then expecting us to seek security through secret decoder rings or whatever.

Knowing what was going to happen to one in a time in which life was far from predictable was very much to be desired, so people consulted astrologers frequently, especially when large undertakings were in the offing. If such an undertaking were fraught with danger and loss, well, destinies were in the control of gods and there were rituals and sacrifices to gain a change in fate. These practices fit hand in glove with the thinking of those people at that time.

The astronomers of the time, who also believed in astrology, didn’t see a connection between their mathematics-based exploration of the skies with astrology, but if they had, there is one thing they could have discovered.

If one plots the positions of the planets on the horizon, as is apparently done in serious German schools of astrology to this day, you can get certain arrangements of the “planets” around that circle and various interpretations can be made.

But, how many unique “prognostications” can be made from these arrangements for any particular day? Hundreds, thousands, maybe. But circa 500 BCE there were roughly 90-100 million people alive on Earth. If they were all to ask for a horoscope to be cast on a particular day, would they each get a forecast unique to them as an individual? I doubt it. There are not enough “heavenly bodies” being tracked and positions they could be in to cover that many people.

Now there are 7+ billion people on Earth. We are not limited to the five observable with the naked eye planets as were the ancient Greeks, but even if we include all of the planets and many of their moons, are we going to come up with 7+ billion unique horoscopes? (Inquiring minds want to know. Note For those not of a certain age, this phrase was used to market a supermarket tabloid, called the National Enquirer. They were famous for defending themselves, in court, during a libel suit by saying “Everybody knows we make this stuff up.”)

So, in order for one to continue to believe in astrology, one has to believe in: determinism, our destinies are created by a god or gods which have the power to change those destinies, and that somehow, some way, 7 billion different horoscopes can be created on any day of the year.

This is why astrology qualifies as a religious belief, a belief in the absence of evidence, not because of the evidence.

 

 

 

 

July 15, 2020

How Long Does It Take Life to Develop Complex Forms?

Life on Earth began sometime around four billion years ago but then things were rather boring for a long time and then . . . Kaboom! The Big (Life) Bang occurred.

Just half of a billion years ago, life was composed of individual cells occasionally organized into colonies, aka monocellular life forms. No plants, no animals, no much of anything. But then quickly, over roughly 10-50 million years (realize that 10 million years is just 1% of a billion years) we got what we now call the Cambrian explosion. From that came . . . everything else that has ever lived.

Acknowledging that the majority of all species evolving over the last half billion years went extinct, it basically shows that complex life only needs about a half billion years to evolve from simple lifeforms.

So, for those (and I was one) who used the span of all life on earth (~4 billion years) as the time scale need for life to develop elsewhere, we were wrong. It took very little time for single-celled organisms to develop but then they evolved very little for ~3 billion years . . . and then all Hell broke loose.

What were the causes of the Cambrian explosion? Answer: we don’t know. Was it aliens seeding the planet with complex lifeforms to evolve further? Answer: we do not know. Did God do it? Answer: Define God, then “no.”

But if the causes were all natural, there is now a considerable range of possibilities for the planets we are now observing orbiting other stars. If all the conditions are available for single cell organisms to live and for a Cambrian Explosion-type event to occur, the amount of time could be as little as half of a billion years or even less. If the conditions for a Cambrian Explosion-type event aren’t available, single cell life could continue, as has been proven, for many billions of years with little evolution. (Evolution as we know it requires that various traits be able to be passed on and with asexual reproductions there is only one process and that is making identical copies of oneself.) And, of course if neither set of conditions exist, lifeless planets may abound.

The fascinating thing, in my mind, is that many of these questions may get definitive answers in short order. Unfortunately I will not be around to hear them, but I suspect that knowing these answers will be “a good thing.”

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