Uncommon Sense

March 20, 2023

Hoo Boy!

Filed under: language,Medicine,Reason — Steve Ruis @ 8:41 am
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Hoo boy, did I screw up. I recently posted the top ten drugs advertised on TV and then went on a diatribe about patent drug names. Well, I just found another list for the same year are here it is:

Here’s is my list (I couldn’t expect you’d remember it.):
and tremfya

See any similarities between the two lists? Well, there are quite a few, because this is the same list. The first list, however, listed the drugs by their brand names, rather than their patent drug names. Brand names are copyrighted rather than patented, but the effect is the same. If you look at the two lists you will see names that are almost equally incoherent, so my point still stands. Plus, these patented drug names, which the brand names are riffs upon, are just as unpronounceable. How do you pronounce rzaa, for example, and not sound like a Monty Python-esque impression of an archaic British military officer?

Interestingly, the same medicines are sold under multiple brand names, for example semaglutide is sold under the brand names Ozempic, Wegovy, and Rybelsus. Can I get a side of confusion with that, please?

And, looking at these lists, either one or both, can you tell what the hell they are for? How about dupilumab? According to Wikipedia dupilumab, sold under the brand name Dupixent, is a monoclonal antibody blocking interleukin-4 and interleukin-13, used for allergic diseases such as eczema, asthma and nasal polyps which result in chronic sinusitis. It is also used for the treatment of eosinophilic esophagitis and prurigo nodularis.

Maybe we also need English translations for diseases such as eosinophilic esophagitis and prurigo nodularis. There is much work to be done.

March 16, 2023

Drug Names

Filed under: Business,Culture,language,Science,Technology — Steve Ruis @ 12:34 pm
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Humans are fond of naming things, even when they already have a name. Take for example marijuana, also known as: pot, grass, weed, mary jane, ganja, herb, reefer, Aunt Mary, skunk, broom, and many, many more names. Now some of this can be laid at the feet of that drug being made illegal and so references to it were often made in code, but this is not an isolated case.

I assume you have heard of vitamin C. This chemical also has the chemical name of L-ascorbic acid. But that is just one of its names. It’s name according to the official naming rules for chemicals is (5R)-[(1S)-1,2-dihydroxyethyl]-3,4-dihydroxyfuran-2(5H)-one. With a name like that, you can easily see why nicknames are often employed. (Chemists often refer to substances obliquely, such as “How’s the research going on your compound?” to avoid such problems.)

But if you look up vitamin C you will find it has over 200 names given to it! Most of those names are “patent names” which are names which are patented, not the substance itself, just the name for it. Super Ingredient X-7 is a name which can be patented (and many like it have been), so that businesses can advertise that their products now contain “Super Ingredient X-7! (and no one can use that name).”

The naming practices that I cannot defend are patent drug names. Now that the chains have been taken off, TV and the Internet are awash with ads for drugs, drugs with names like: dupixent, rybelsus, and humira, rinvoq, ozempic, trulicity, jardiance, skyrizi, rexulti, and tremfya. Recognize any of them? Those are the ten most heavily advertised on national TV in 2021 (ranging from 105.7 to 287.6 million dollars annually).

Now, here is the thing. Do you know what any of them do (not those you happen to be taking, but the others)? My point is that those names do not help “customers.”

My suggestion is that all drugs should be named according to the disease they treat. So, all high blood pressure medicines would be named “High Blood Pressure #(insert number here).” Their numbers would be determined by when they were certified by the Food and Drug Administration. For example, recently the drug cialis was certified as helping with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), otherwise known as an enlarged prostate gland, so it would have the names “erectile dysfunction #3” and “benign prostatic hyperplasia #12.” (I made up the 12 as I don’t know where in line it would be.) Same drug, but different names for different uses. (Oh, and the #3? I assumed oysters were #1 and viagra was #2.)

Cialis shows the problem. It also goes by the generic name tadalafil, which sounds like a dish served in a gyro shop. Neither name gives you any idea what they are for, no? (When I hear “cialis” I think of open air bathtubs, hmmm.)

Aspirin, which also has a plethora of names might become “headache #1,” and so on. At least the name of the drug would contain some information and dissuade people from taking drugs for purposes other than they have been certified. (Ivermectin, otherwise “roundworm infection #z,” anyone?)

Currently it seems that drug names are created to serve hypochondriacs and marketing agents, not the people they are supposed to help. (It seems to me that hypochondriacs thrill in being able to pronounce the names of the diseases and drugs they are attracted to.)

Postscript All of the drug names were assumed to have been misspelled by my spell checker (except viagra) which tells you something.

February 10, 2023

What is the Opposite of Evil?

Filed under: language,Reason — Steve Ruis @ 12:45 pm
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What is the opposite of “evil?” It is not “good,” as good is the opposite of bad. If I do something I think is bad, whether voluntarily of not, I do not think of it as being evil. Evil is a special kind of bad.

Here is a list of “Antonyms and Near Antonyms for “Evil”

Do any of these come at all close to being the opposite of evil? Noncorrosive? Remedial? Secure? I wonder who made this list?

I have written before that if you were to establish a line with a neutral center, with good to the left and bad to the right, how far do you have to go in the direction of bad to reach “evil?” I argue it would be quite a ways and it would have to involve intent. If you ran your car over someone because they jumped into the street in front of your car, that would be really, really bad, but not evil. You did not intend to run that person over. Evil requires intent, as far as I am concerned.

So, is there a reflection on the good side? Is there a line between just good and “the opposite of evil”? Does it require intent?

I have read through several lists of antonyms for evil . . . one included “nice” . . . nice! . . . and have not found anything which comes close to the term I am looking for.

My question is this: “evil is to bad as X is to good” what is X?

Doing something really bad, with intent, gets you to the realm if evil. Doing something good, with intent, makes you? Delightful? No, whose delight? Noble? (I always wanted to be part of the nobility.) The English language supplies an almost inexhaustible supply of possibilities, all of them lame to worse than lame.

We need a word that implies the opposite of evil, the opposite of really, really, really bad with intent, so what is “really, really, really good with intent?”

Help me now . . .

January 28, 2023

Egregious Quote Mining Mistakes

Filed under: Culture,language — Steve Ruis @ 1:29 pm
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Theists and other purveyors of spiritual bushwah commonly quote famous people, always out of context, in such a way that it sounds as if the famous people are in agreement with the spiritual claims being made. Albert Einstein is one of those often quote mined because of his standing as one of humanities greatest intellects. Here is an example:

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.” Albert Einstein

Some in the “spiritual community” claim this is Einstein commenting on the Deity or spirituality, you know the mysterious, that which is impossible to understand.

mysterious, adj.: “difficult or impossible to understand, explain, or identify”
mystery, noun: “something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain”

Now, take note that in science the word impossible never comes up. To be able to claim that some thing or event were impossible, one would have had to exhaust all available efforts to create that thing or event and have failed, and then would have to assume that further attempts in the future would also fail. This is contrary to scientific thinking, for example, all scientific conclusions are provisional because we don’t know what facts may be determined in the future. And so to proclaim that there will be no future facts to contradict one’s “impossible” claim, one is claiming to know the future. If something seems impossible, we don’t go all the way there, we usually use a phrase like “very highly unlikely” or “unlikely in the extreme.”

The key point is that Einstein is just stating that we shouldn’t lose our child-like sense of wonder at things we don’t know or don’t yet understand.

Before swallowing any quote that seems improbable to you, do a little research:
• Did that person actual state that thing . . . that way?
• What is the context that quote was pulled out of? (Often they were talking about something quite different from what is claimed.)
• Is the interpretation of the quote being implied consistent with that persons other stated beliefs?

Every time I don’t follow these suggestions, I usually end up making a mistake.

Another Einstein quote I find problematic and quoted all over the place is “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” This was attributed to something written by Einstein (or about Einstein, we all know what sticklers for accuracy reporters and interviewers are) in The New York Times, June 20, 1932. This is not how Einstein lived his life. Ask his first wife. Einstein sacrificed all of the needs of the “others” in his life to his work. His work came first. It was #1, not “others.”

In fact this is not good advice at all. One of my teachers told me that if I wanted to live a good life, I had to be ruthless about who I allowed into it. Many “others” suck your energy and effort and do not return anything, even in the form of a feeling that you have done well by them.

And as to whether the quote attributed to Einstein is in agreement with his other utterances, how about this one: “Work is the only thing that gives substance to life.”—quote attributed to son Hans Albert, January 4, 1937.

Or these . . .

“I am happy because I want nothing from anyone. I do not care about money. Decorations, titles, or distinctions mean nothing to me. I do not crave praise. The only thing that gives me pleasure, apart from my work, my violin, and my sailboat, is the appreciation of my fellow workers.”

“Be a loner. That gives you time to wonder, to search for the truth. Have holy curiosity. Make your life worth living.”

“Although I am a typical loner in daily life, my consciousness of belonging to the invisible community of those who strive for truth, beauty, and justice has preserved me from feeling isolated.”

Somehow these quotes don’t go together with “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” Maybe Einstein fell into the trap of others asking him to say something “profound.”

October 7, 2022

I Am So Tired of the Confusion of Gender and Sex

The Latin roots of confusion are basically to “melt together.” And its meaning of “to mix things that should be kept separate” dates back 500 years or so. Sex and gender are quite different and should be kept separate.

I got interested in this topic when investigating competitive categories in my sport, archery. I would read things like “the competitive categories are separated by gender,” and I would think, surely that is not right. It isn’t, they are separated by sex, but our prudish society avoids the word sex, especially around youths, as it evokes thoughts of coitus.

The word sex refers to biological sex of which there are two. People arguing that there are more than two are blowing smoke. Where it gets confusing is in the messiness of nature. Human beings are usually born as female with XX sex chromosomes or males with XY sex chromosomes, but there is a tiny fraction (0.018%, maybe, not counting those created via diseases) of births where there is a mix-up. People are born with three sex chromosomes, XXY, for example. I remember one case in which a person had two distinctly different DNAs depending on where the sample was drawn from. Apparently, she had starting out to be twins, but the two zygotes fused together early on. Strange things can happen when the occurrence of something like births is very frequent and ongoing.

None of this information was available to use culturally when we made up the terms for our language to refer to men and women, boys and girls, etc. We only had simple observations. We are 95+% a species of two sexes, which we call male and female. People who want different pronouns to be used because they do not “identify” with either sex are confused. They are confused by what we call gender.

If you compare any physical, mental, or social parameter of men and women, you will get two Bell curves which overlap substantially. Let’s take height as an example. In the U.S. the average heights are 5 feet 4 inches (163 centimeters) for women and 5 feet 9 inches (175 centimeters) for men. But if you have ever seen a WNBA basketball game, you are aware that many of the players are women who are taller than the average man. The Bell curve distributions for height of the two sexes overlap substantially. There are men shorter than the average height of a women and women taller than the average height of the men. But, on average, men are taller than women. Too many people equate this to “men are taller than women” which isn’t true and can cause social problems.

Now, the two sexes, men and women, also display what we call genders. Gender refers to the characteristics of women, men, girls and boys that are socially constructed. For example, we train little boys to not cry and that pink is not pretty. We teach little girls that wearing dresses is important and the color of pink is pretty. (Pink was not always a “girlie” color. Gainsborough was famous for a painting called “Blue Boy,” showing a boy dressed in blue finery, but also painted a similar boy in pink finery (called, of course, “Pink Boy”).

So, in the two sex categories, we have always had effeminate men, that is men who displayed the social characteristics of women, e.g. comedian Eddie Izzard (a favorite of mine) and women who displayed the social characteristics of men, e.g. actress Katherine Hepburn (also a personal favorite).

At the other end of those two spectra we have “macho men,” men addicted to excessive displays of “manliness,” and “wilting flowers” women who display outsized gender characteristics. We tend not to notice these two categories much as they are conforming to society’s gender characteristics. The people who stand out are men who act like women and women who act like men.

There seems to be an effort ongoing now to characterize a number of gender categories, to which I say “Why?” I think this stems from people who have been ostracized for their lack of fidelity to how society says it wants men and women to act wanting to belong and not feel that they are alone. So, having such a gender category says two things: these folks are not unique and are recognized.

But having dozens of different genders makes a Holy Ned of a mess of our society. For example, back when I was a classroom teacher I typically had three or four lab sections of 20-25 students joined together for a single lecture section, which meant I could have 70-100 students sitting in each lecture class session. I struggled mightily in learning their names (the first sign of respect in a student-teacher relationship). If each of those students were to have their own set of pronouns that they preferred, I would have been overwhelmed. There was no way I could remember those. (Realize that every four and a half months, the group was replaced by another group of different students and the process would start over.)

I think a better solution would be to just accept people for who they are. If Butch wants to wear dresses to class, it shouldn’t be worth even a comment.

If Butch wants be referred to as “she,” however, well Butch is confusing me with someone who cares. Butch should maybe try his friends. They might agree to do that. I prefer to spend my efforts on things that really matter.

Postscript BTW, you cannot get an operation to change your gender. Sports categories are determined by sex, not gender, and the critical factor is whether you had your trans-sex operation before or after puberty. If the operation was after puberty, you would still have the frame and musculature of your original sex and should not be allowed to compete against athletes in your new sex, as it is largely cosmetic.

I suspect that the fireworks will begin now, but then not that many people read this blog, so maybe I am thinking to much of myself.

September 5, 2022

Some Thoughts on the Consciousness Debates

My primary point is we know way too little at this point in time to make any conclusions. Having said that some points seem obvious.

One of the major lines in the debates between philosophers, scientists, and interested onlookers involve whether consciousness is an illusion or not. I think this claim is a red herring, here’s why.

Let’s assume consciousness is an illusion. One of the “facts” we do know is that consciousness is local. I have mine and you have yours and we can’t seem to share them. So, if my consciousness is an illusion, what is responsible for generating that illusion? In the absence of the Matrix universe, I have to conclude that the illusion is made by my brain. But what does that mean “an illusion made by my brain.” For example, the colors we perceive are illusions made by our brains. The colors we see aren’t “real” per se, they are based upon a color mapping code created by evolution. Other animals have other codes. Dragonflies, for example, are able to see millions of different colors, apparently. Other animals see only in black and white. Our brains also take vibrations in the air around us, aka noises, and words, and music, and interpret those as having particular meanings. People who do not speak our language do not have the brain code to decipher our sounds, but they can be taught to do so.

And, if consciousness is such an “illusion,” then it is a physical phenomenon.

The problem is that we associate the word illusion with trickery. If you are told that what you see is an illusion, you feel tricked, no? And there needs be a perpetrator of that illusion, an Illusionist, no? (“God gave you consciousness” is a basic claim that Yahweh is a Trickster God.)

The physical link between brains and consciousness is very strongly supported. Those who are claiming the Earth is conscious, or the galaxy, or even the universe . . . well, I wonder what they are smoking.

Consciousness seems like an adaption, an adaption made by big brained animals, and if so, it is subject to evolution and is, a physical phenomenon.

I think the “gift from god people” have been given way too much free rein.

August 26, 2022

So, You Have These Beliefs . . . BFD

Beliefs are in the news. Can we believe anything Donald Trump says, for example.

And our Supreme Court Justices (current set) are focused upon historical beliefs as if they meant anything or actually applied to anything.

And, of course, sincerely held religious beliefs are being elevated in court rooms to the status of legal trump cards.

So, you have beliefs; we all do. So what? Beliefs have existed for all of history, at least that’s what the written record shows.

So what?

In English, belief did not originally really mean belief, but something more related to beloved and people do love them some beliefs.

Again, so what?

If one were to make a list of all of the things people have believed over our history (just our history), the list would be so long no one would live long enough to be able to read it. And, well, they would probably fracture a rib laughing before they got very far.

If these things were just aspects of parlor games, we would be okay, but people seem to be hell-bent on imposing their beliefs upon others. “I believe this and so should you . . . or else!”

One of these beliefs going around is that human life begins at a conception. This nonscientific scientific pronouncement was dreamt up to support a political position based upon a religious belief that has very, very little religious support. I have posted on this recently so will not belabor the point.

You have what you think are very profound beliefs, some of which you believe are sacred. (Beliefs piled upon beliefs, oh my!) So what? People believe all kinds of things. For example:

Well, I believe in the soul … the cock …the pussy … the small of a woman’s back … the hangin’ curveball … high fiber … good scotch … that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent overrated crap…. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a Constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve, and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days.” (The Immortal Crash Davis)

Currently there are millions of people who believe Donald Trump was a good president. There are other millions who believe that Donald Trump was a disaster of a president. So what?

Beliefs are a dime a dozen and that is overpaying.

If you have sincere religious beliefs . . . I don’t care. Actions speak louder than words. If you want to lead a Biblically-centered or Christ-centered life . . . I am watching what you do, but not listening to what you say you believe.

August 7, 2022

Evil, Part XYZ

Filed under: Culture,language,Morality,Philosophy,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:24 am
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There is an article on Medium.com entitled The Problem of Evil and Suffering, with the subtitle of “Is There a Solution?” These things usually drift into theological realms but here I want to address language instead. I have used the metaphor of a number line to describe various states of good and bad. Of course, I start from the beginning with “the opposite of good is not evil; it is bad. Since evil is at the extreme, its opposite must also be at the extreme, and “good” just doesn’t hack it as an extreme.

Okay, let us lay out our number line. In the middle is 0, which is neutral, that is neither bad nor good. Running off to the right are the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. representing various states of increasing good, and running off to the left are negative numbers, -1, -2, -3, -4, etc. representing various states of being increasingly bad. Here . . .

Just off center, we have states which we might describe as “fortunate” (to the right) and “unfortunate” to the left, maybe a 1 or a 2 in those directions. We don’t hear a story about how someone got wet on the way to work because they forgot their umbrella and scream “Oh, how evil!” or “So joyous!” We would be looked at very oddly were we to do so. Such responses are not appropriate, but “Oh, how unfortunate.” is just about right, no?

A little further out are things like, “I stubbed my toe and I have to go to the doctor” and “I think I am in line for a promotion at work!” Even further out are “I fell and broke my ankle” and “My company has had a huge windfall and is sharing it with us!”

I assume you can see where this is going. Concentrating on the bad side we go further and further out, getting to natural disasters, like floods, sinkholes in your back yard, forest fires threatening your home, etc. And even further out, you get things like “The police mistakenly thought I was some kind of major criminal and actually fired bullets at us!” And farther out than that are accidental deaths or wars that happen in your neighborhood, a la Ukraine.

So, where does the line establishing a demarcation between a really, really bad happenstance and a truly evil occasion get drawn?

Here is where I think there needs to be an additional element. I don’t think hurricanes are ever evil. Horrible, terrible, awful, yes, but evil, no. Evil requires human intent, in my opinion. Something has to be perpetrated with intent and be really bad to be evil. A baby is snatched to replace one that died. Someone deliberately kills a guard while robbing a store, for the thrill of it. Gangs having a requirement that an aspiring member must kill someone randomly on the streets to gain entrance. Now we are talking evils.

As humans, we are for whatever reason attracted to extremes. It is like fish stories, every time they are told, the fish gets bigger and bigger. We exaggerate everything. We use phrases like “I could have died!” when we were merely embarrassed, or “I wanted to die” when in a merely uncomfortable meeting.

Evil events are really quite rare, but not if you were to take people’s claims at face value. A boss, denying a workforce’s request for a raise might be called evil, or a judge putting your spouse in jail for a crime, the same. We push things to extremes, we think there are things like absolute truths and objective morals when all of human experience says otherwise. We live in a grey world insisting that things are black and white.

So, the problem of evil could begin by using more accurate language. When you don’t get that hoped for raise, you are “disappointed” not “Someone should kill that motherfucker!” When a car splashed water on your leg, it is unfortunate but not an act of evil.

It is hard to have discussions like “The problem of evil and suffering: is there a solution?” when our language is hyperbolic and far from accurate.

Addendum I think lumping evil and suffering together (as in the article mentioned) is somewhat disingenuous, as one can suffer from a cold and it is not an existential thing. It also pulls evil back away from the extremes when you have to lump it together with mere suffering, which stretches over the entire negative arm of the number line, while evil does not.

April 15, 2022

What American Conservatives See

Filed under: Culture,language,Politics,Race,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:18 am
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American conservatives are flocking to demagogues because of what they see happening to their country. They say:

  • Their religion is under attack! Atheists and secularists taking away their religion.
    • Politicians taking their tax monies and giving it away to the unworthy.
    • The American (aka Christian) family is under attack! What if you have a transgender kid and they can’t carry on the family name, etc.
    • Schools curricula emphasize the theory of evolution over the Bible, and CRT, slavery years over patriotic education.
    • The American (aka Christian) family is under attack! Gay marriages, etc.
    • Cancel culture is attacking the core institutions of our lives.
  • Liberals/Democrats stole the last presidential election!

And, well, they aren’t exactly wrong . . . but they are being played. Let’s unpack a few of these, shall we?

  • Their religion is under attack! Atheists and secularists taking away their religion. Unfortunately they are mistaking shooting themselves in the foot for unfriendly fire. The reasons they are losing meat in the seats is their corruption and unwelcoming nature which offends the young they so desperately are trying to attract.
  • Politicians taking their tax monies and giving it away to the unworthy. Welfare is destroying this country! Actually, the shrunken “welfare state” is still but a tiny fraction of the governmental expenditures on corporate welfare. Plus, when people use the phrase “the unworthy” in this context they usually mean Black and Brown people. The majority of welfare moneys in this country are spent upon white people (the bulk of SSA payments go to old white ladies, for example).
  • The American (aka Christian) family is under attack! What if you have a transgender kid and they can’t carry on the family name, etc. This is a classic fear born reaction to any social outcaste coming out of the closet. Predictions about the dire consequences if Black men were allowed to vote, women were allowed to vote, women to be members of the armed forces, gay people to be married, women to run marathons, etc. were numerous and . . . unfounded.
  • School curricula emphasize the theory of evolution over the Bible, and CRT, slavery years over patriotic education. As a matter of fact CRT is only taught in some law schools, so it is not being taught in “their schools,” but the theory of evolution is being taught in Biology classes, where it belongs. The Bible is taught in comparative religion classes, which many schools don’t have because parents haven’t asked for them. (Classes on strictly the Bible violate the First Amendment to the Constitution, so schools cannot offer those, unless they are a private, non tax-supported religious schools, then they are perfectly legal.)
  • The American (aka Christian) family is under attack! It is claimed that same sex marriage, pre-marital sex, and contraception are weapons being deployed against the American family. Actually, none of these are being forced upon families and most families are completely unaffected by such things. And one cannot help but notice that the Bible Belt states have the highest unwed mother birth rates in the country.

And, well, they aren’t exactly wrong . . . but they are being played.

  • Cancel culture is attacking the core institutions of our lives. (Unfortunately cancel culture was enshrined in the Bible and is one of the favorite weapons of the religious, They are objecting to it being used against them instead of by them. They are perfectly happy when their opponents get canceled and outraged when their supporters get canceled.
  • Liberals/Democrats stole the last presidential election! Some many dead people in Georgia voted for Biden to swing the state. And all of those phony votes change our congressional elections, too. Wait, they didn’t? So, they voted for Biden, but no other Democrats? Strange.

* * *

I remember, back when I was still watching TV news, a story about a bus accident in India in which some number of students were killed. I don’t remember the number. And then I was struck with the thought “Why is this news . . . here?” I could understand that it would be news, probably local news in India, but why here? The odds that any listener would have a relative or a friend on the bus had to be close to zero (very close). And I don’t think there was a school bus safety standards issue, since I can’t imagine their school bus standards and ours are aligned. The only thing I could figure was the propensity for “news organizations” to follow the rule “if it bleeds, it leads” when it comes to news. And if there isn’t any bleeding closer, then faraway bleeding will have to do.

Shortly thereafter, I stopped watching TV news. (I still watched TV political commentary, but MSNBC’s coverage of the 2016 presidential election cured me of that.) My point was “Why am I importing misery, negativity, etc? When I stopped watching TV news shows, I noticed, almost immediately, that I wasn’t seeing anything like the events they had been feeding me. For example, I now live in Chicago and while the news was raving on and on about the murder outbreak in my city, I hadn’t seen a single dead body, nor heard a single gun shot. (Oh, I did see one dead body, but it was washed up on our adjacent beach, it was someone who fell off of a boat and drowned.) Yes, I understand such things are concentrated in “certain neighborhoods,” neighborhoods in which gang activity is rampant, and I do know that there are such neighborhoods close by and I appreciate the fact that my partner volunteered in one of those, but the level of concern generated by the “news” programs was much greater than that generated by newspapers and neighborhood gossip.

The creators of the Fox News channel recognized this effect: that if properly staged, the news can be a powerful tool for generating fear and that fear can be turned into a political weapon.

And, as another example, would die hard Christians even notice that “atheists” were undermining American’s belief in God? How many of them actually have spoken with an acknowledged atheist? If you look at online sites, you can find sites devoted to atheism, but you have to look for them, they aren’t being pushed to the fore, that is they aren’t being promoted greatly. On one site, Quora, a question and answer site, I see a great many atheists responding to questions. Virtually all of those questions come from theists (in the U.S. that means mostly Christians) and they come in great numbers. If those Christians weren’t asking those questions (mostly “gotcha-type” questions, that have been answered decades if not centuries ago) there would be hundreds of thousands fewer atheist statements on that site. The zeal of those “Christians” is producing exactly the effect they do not want.

What Christians are actually noticing is that the number of people in the pews is diminishing. In many churches the “oldsters” and “youngsters” are so at odds that they are given separate Sunday services. The oldsters cannot stand that modern church music (Electric guitars, for Pete’s sake!) and the youngsters cannot stand the old folk’s boring services with droning music. One would think that this real, noticeable effect would generate some introspection and an attempt to bolster the desirability of church attendance. But the churches don’t stand a chance because the political hate machine which is Fox News was declared at top volume that there is a War on Christianity. They even took images from the Near East where there is actual religious warfare and used them to illustrate that here in the U.S. Christianity is under attack, from atheists! Right here in River City!

We need what used to be called a “voice of reason” right now to lower the temperature of our political and religious discourse, but Fox News and right-wing extremist organizations have waged a war upon reason. So, apparently what we need now is a “Voice of Sanity.” Any suggestions as to who could fill this void?

March 31, 2022

The Holy Bible Is the Word of God . . . Not

In my last post I argued that Jesus was not part of any godhead, if he was real or not. And I am prepared for all of the counter-arguments that might be offered, e.g. we cannot understand God’s will, our minds are too feeble. Answer: Why would an all-powerful entity create an entire species of sentient creatures which couldn’t understand it, at least on some fundamental level. What they would be worshiping would be a distortion of the actual god. Making a sentient species that could not understand the creator god or its plans is not the behavior of an all-knowing, all-powerful god. This is simply human excuse making.

In this post, I wish to also discredit the dogma that the holy Bible is the explicit word of this god. Let’s unpack that claim.

Since this god is capable of, should it desire to do so, placing the exact words it wants written into the mind of a scribe and then have that scribe write exactly what it wished, meat puppet style? Clearly the capability exists and clearly this did not happen. We know this did not happen because the Bible was written over centuries of time. Since this god is all-knowing, it would know what needed to be written instantly and would have had that done, so when those scriptures were needed by the puny humans, they would be at hand. In addition, we know the Bible had many authors. No, not because we have examined the original manuscripts and noticed all of the different handwritings. (This would be irrelevant if Yahweh were using the meat-puppet technique as I am sure he would use up quite a few scribes in the process. Plus you do know, do you not, that none of the original manuscripts have ever been found, yes? None.) We know that the Bible had many authors because of the styles of writing, the words employed, the sentence structures, etc. Just as you may have favorite authors, because you like their style, story telling techniques, etc. so these authors become fairly easily recognized, should you study them deeply enough.

Well, Yahweh didn’t use the meat-puppet technique then, you claim. Okay, let us say that that was not done, that the exact words were not dictated to the scribes doing the writing. So, those writers must have been “inspired” to write their bits. The word “inspire” means to “breathe in.” So, just as a fiction writer mulls over a story their head and then just starts writing, not quite sure how it will go (often enough the characters guide us, believe it or not). But what about quality control? What if the dividing lines between inspired story lines and scribal/priestly imagination are not all that sharp? That means that some of the words were inspired by Yahweh and some were inspired by the author’s imagination. How are we to tell the difference between scriptures that are truly inspired and scriptures that are merely invented? The simple answer is that we would not be able to.

And then, consequently when copies of documents were made and people, as is their want, forged some new documents, how could we tell? The answer is we cannot. But there is a simple test. Find a list of the 600+ commandments of Yahweh to his chosen people (You really didn’t think there were just ten, did you no?), pick one and ask yourself this question: “Is this something an all-knowing, all-powerful god would be interested in?” For example, there is a commandment to not create clothing in which two different kinds of material were woven together (e.g. linen and wool, Leviticus 19:19). This is obviously not a moral law, but more likely it “protects” the sacredness of the ephod of the high priest which was made of linen and dyed thread (Exodus 28:6–839:4–5). The dyed thread would have been made of wool. The ephod of the high priest was the only garment that could be woven of linen and wool. No one else was allowed to have such a garment. Now, does this sound like something an all-knowing, all-powerful god would be interested in legislating or is this something you think some priest made up? In many, many cases it is clear to see that some priest made up some rule and, to make sure it got followed, it was slipped into “holy scripture.” It is possible that the priests, who saw themselves as political leaders as well as religious leaders made up their stupid rules because that’s what leaders do and later on they became scriptures, which is kind of innocent on their part . . . or they may have inserted their rules into scripture just because they had the power to do so, which is not all that innocent. (I am reminded of the finding of the “document”–probably the book of Leviticus–after the “Return” by the high priest. This was “identified by the High Priest as a very holy book and it was read out loud to the populace of Jerusalem. Seems a bit suspicious to me, especially as it laid out priestly powers and responsibilities.)

How about “You are not to boil a young animal in its mother’s milk” (Exodus 23:19)? Is this something an all-knowing, all-powerful god would be interested in? No? One suggestion for this prohibition was that the local gentiles in the area considered that a delicacy. By prohibiting that, the scribes/priests were trying to create laws to stop Jewish assimilation into those other cultures. It is not that these “commandments” do not have reasons, even some very good reasons, behind them, but are those reasons god sourced? Many, many people say they are. The brains god supposedly gave you say many aren’t.

The Bible is scripture for myriad religions and sects (even Mormons!) but the word of god? No one would come to that conclusion other than by taking someone else’s word for it. And, really, what do they know?

Addendum So, what would be the behavior of such an entity (all-powerful, all-knowing, all-etc.) at that time? Well, from scripture we know that Yahweh could create stone tablets with writing on them. (Because we know that Moses didn’t create them—Pop Quiz What was Moses’ occupation?) So, let’s say there is a fundamental message that Yahweh wanted to get to all people, maybe “The End is nigh.” In a prominent place (some voted for the Moon, but I think not), say a side of a mountain, a beam of immense power comes from “the Heavens” and slices off a mountainside creating a smooth surface. Then the beam plays back and forth over that surface, spelling out “I am the Lord God, and the End is nigh! Repent!” in immense letters readable from miles away. The beam then winks out. This takes some time, it doesn’t just pop up overnight and its creation is in plain view of many people, who see the words being formed. Miraculously the people reading the message say it is in Hebrew, others say, “No, it is Greek,” and still others say, “But it is Aramaic.” To get full coverage (the news is slower than gossip at this point in time), this action is repeated near every major population center world wide. Now that would be an action unmistakably attributable to an all-powerful, all-knowing god. There would still be skeptics (we are talking about human beings here) but they would be few in number.

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