Class Warfare Blog

May 21, 2019

The Direction of Biological History

Filed under: Reason,Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 10:59 am
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Many simplistic people characterize evolution as having a goal, namely us, as we . . . obviously . . . are the pinnacle of evolution. Ah, to which supposition I offer the Fainting Goats. If you are not familiar with said animals, here is a video showing How They Got Their Name (Fainting Goats Video). Basically, if startled, their muscles tend to lock up and if they were moving when this happens, they fall over, hence it appears that they “faint.”

According to Wikipedia “The fainting was first described in scientific literature in 1904, and described as a ‘congenital myotonia’ in 1939. The mutation in the goat gene that causes this muscle stiffness was discovered in 1996, several years after the equivalent gene had been discovered in humans and mice.[15]

According to the dictates of natural selection, this makes these defective goats “easy prey” and they should all be gone by now, no? So, why are they still around? The answer is simple: humans. We “like” them enough to protect them. For the same reason, the most common bird in the world is the chicken. We “like” them enough to make sure their population has expanded to gigantic proportions.

So, a possible evolutionary strategy, that didn’t exist before, is to “survive by being liked by humans.” You may actually possess many attributes that would make you nonviable if you were merely subjected to nature, but if you are liked by humans, you get to survive and carry on your genes. (As Exhibit A I give you the Westminster Dog Show.)

By this answer alone it should be clear that evolution has no purpose, no divine plan, no pre-conceived end product. If one acquires a mutation that allows one to survive better, one survives better (on average). If one acquires an “easy prey” mutation, one doesn’t survive better in nature. It is that simple.

Nature didn’t forsee that some species would take the route that computer companies took when those companies were designed to be bought out by Microsoft. So, in effect, we have hijacked any “original purpose” of evolution, had one actually existed. Our food plants and animals dominate the biosphere. Period.

 

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April 25, 2019

The Purpose of Religion

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 1:44 pm
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I have written before that I think religions have a purpose. However they came into being, if they survived and thrived it is because they controlled the behavior of the masses. Their purpose came to be coercing the labor of the masses so as to serve the interests of the religious and secular elites. Basically these “elites,” whose jobs involve the production of nothing needed to survive (aka art, governance, music, rituals, etc. all of the “benefits” of civilization), needed ordinary people to gather or grow extra food, wool, building materials, etc. to provide for those not doing such work, aka the elites. This evolved into a class system in which the elites created a status system that elevated those who would not lift a finger to do anything manual, even so far as to getting dressed after a night’s sleep.

The religiously duped claimed that their religion has intrinsic purpose or value and ask “what can you secularists offer in its stead?” To which I offer “a life with no delusions” or as this lovely quote provides, a life not coerced by others.

“It is not the end of the physical body that should worry us. Rather our concern must be to live while we’re alive – to release our inner selves from the spiritual death that comes with living behind a facade designed to conform to external definitions of who and what we are.”
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

The religious often harp on their opinion of who and what we are and what our purpose may be. If you subscribe to that religion, you are judged by how well you shape your life to their prescription. That they can provide no proof of the benefits claimed should give anyone pause.

I hear many blather on about how their religion provides purpose for their lives. I always ask “What is this purpose?” Most answers seem confused or unclear. I can continue on to ask “When will you know this is true?” because it is only after death that most religions have scheduled their pay off . . . another fact that should give anyone pause.

It is also clear that most of the religious don’t want to talk about this topic. They prefer the vague goodness of their feelings to thoughts that lead to embarrassing conclusions, e.g.

Atheist: So what is this “purpose?”
Theist: To live in the presence of God and worship Him.
Atheist: Ah, so He needs worship?
Theist: Uh . . .

or

Atheist: So what happens to those who do not accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior?
Theist: They are denied living in the presence of God for all eternity.
Atheist: So, all of those scriptures describing the Lake of Fire are mistaken?”
Theist: Uh, I don’t know; I just think that being denied an eternity in God’s presence is our definition of Hell.
Atheist: And what will you being doing for this eternity?
Theist: Uh . . . I have an appointment I am late for.

And so on. The proscription on asking such questions in the various religions seems to serve only the purpose I claim above (the interests of the elites). I would think that the clearer people were on the benefits and trade-offs of a religion, the stronger their commitment would be, but understanding is not the goal, faith—which is subscription to the beliefs claimed by the religion without understanding or questioning—is . . . which should give anyone pause.

April 21, 2019

My Easter Message: Anti-Indoctrination Laws

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:02 am
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Currently there are folks who are promoting anti-indoctrination laws in several states. Apparently these are laws to make sure that the theory of evolution is not taught as if it were valid scientific theory (It is.) and it does not concern at all the various efforts of churches to indoctrinate the children of the church’s members.

Every church does this, that is they “teach” their doctrines to kids to young to understand them. No one waits for the age of consent or any point in time at all. It all begins at birth. In church nurseries for kids too young to attend services are kept in a nursery (and so their parents can attend services). These nurseries will have Noah’s Ark toys (stuffed animals, too, none of them being cute ones who got drowned) and age-appropriate children’s books full of Bible stories.

This came to mind as I was in a small shop where the proprietor was listening to a foreign language program (on a cell phone), a language I do not posses, and while I was doing my business a children’s choir broke out in “Jesus Loves Me” . . . in English. I found myself fully capable of mentally singing along with the children’s voices even though I have had a lifelong problem hearing and remembering song lyrics.

Here is a short version of that song’s lyrics (all repetitions left out):

Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak but He is strong

Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes Jesus loves me,
for the Bible tells me so

Jesus loves me still today,
Walking with me on my way
Wanting as a friend to give
Light and love to all who live

Now, if you were to give a devoted Bible reader a Bible and ask them to find where in the Bible this message is delivered, would they be able to find it? If you were to give a non-believer a Bible and asked them to read it, would they come to this conclusion?

This song essentially delivers a message, rather a conclusion, one might get from reading the Bible. These messages serve a number of functions, one of which is that it is not necessary to read the Bible, all of the important messages have been packaged for you and delivered before you have an IQ.

By associating such catchy tunes with the carefree state of childhood, one immediately taps into nostalgia and good feelings every time that message/song is replayed. For the few seconds I was singing along (in my head, I can’t carry a tune in a bucket out loud) I had very positive feelings and I am a confirmed atheist.

Get them young before they start thinking for themselves, then when they do argue against that practice vigorously. If that is not an indoctrination program, I don’t know what is. And, of course, anti-indoctrination laws are needed because . . . evolution. Sheesh!

April 10, 2019

Other Ways of Knowing?

Filed under: Philosophy,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:11 am
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As I read I am often presented with the dichotomy of the material and the spiritual, of the head and the heart.

“There is a wisdom of the head and a wisdom of the heart.”
Charles Dickens

And it appears to me that this is a consequence of some simple physiological facts. The sense through which we extract the most information is our vision. This gives us the impression that “we” (homunculus, whoever is driving this vehicle, whatever) reside inside of our heads. This illusion is very strong and quite understandable. Through our vision we may attend the entire world, from near to far and small to large in quiet contemplation. This ability does not seem to be a source of passion, rather “cold” intellect.

When we experience strong emotion, for whatever reason, it tends to affect our torsos in the form of restricted breathing or the reverse, panting, or a feeling of being punched in the stomach, generally accompanied by rapid heart beats. This creates the illusion that something else resides in our torsos. Since breathing is usually quiet, as is our heartbeat, they go unnoticed until their rates are jacked up to high rates and then we can hear them, internally.

Experience in killing animals and other humans points out the importance of the heart and lungs. Break or have a finger cut off and you will survive. Take a spear thrust in a lung and you will die, slowly. Take a spear thrust in the heart and you will die quickly. A hierarchy is therefore created as to which sources of the sounds of our life are most important: life’s blood, the breath of life, etc.

Is this the source of the idea of spirituality? Does anything qualifying as spirituality even exist? What is it really? As much as I love Joe Campbell’s writing on this topic I am still wondering whether spirituality is just an illusion we have become comfortable with, much as a number of philosophers now argue that conscious thoughts are illusions, possibly even consciousness as a whole being an illusion.

That spirituality is tied to strong emotions is no surprise. Using human passion as a lever to control people’s behavior also seems a workable approach for religions. Much of my religion’s tradition was wrapped in the words and imagery of strong emotion (Jesus loves you, the Passion, Brides of Christ, etc.).

Most religions diminish the role of the “head” and emphasize the role of the “heart” (or chakras, or stomach, or . . .). This war between the head and the heart rumbles on today in discussions between religious apologists and “secularists.”

Can this discussion be resolved? I suspect not soon, but it has clearly taken a modern twist, begun I think by William James (The Varieties of Religious Experience) and continued by the likes of Daniel Dennett (Breaking the Spell, et. al.). These worthies have been applying the tools of science, especially those of biological evolution, to explain the human experience of religion (with much resistance without and within the academic community). Will any of that discussion affect ordinary folks like you and me? That remains to be seen. Possible the rise in the numbers of Americans no longer claiming association with an organized religion (the “Nones”) is a sign, maybe it is not. Please note that an organized religion is not a requirement for having religious experiences. People had these things before organized religions existed and will likely have them after. Understanding their sources is therefore important.

 

 

March 22, 2019

So Smart and Yet … And Still Prone to Simple Mistakes

In the most recent Scientific American issue, there was an interview with a Brazilian physicist.

Atheism Is Inconsistent with the Scientific Method, Prizewinning Physicist Says
In conversation, the 2019 Templeton Prize winner does not pull punches on the limits of science, the value of humility and the irrationality of nonbelief
by Lee Billings (March 20, 2019)

According to that article “Marcelo Gleiser, a 60-year-old Brazil-born theoretical physicist at Dartmouth College and prolific science popularizer, has won this year’s Templeton Prize. Valued at just under $1.5 million, the award from the John Templeton Foundation annually recognizes an individual ‘who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension.’”

“… And by doing that, by understanding how science advances, science really becomes a deeply spiritual conversation with the mysterious, about all the things we don’t know. So that’s one answer to your question. And that has nothing to do with organized religion, obviously, but it does inform my position against atheism. I consider myself an agnostic.

“I honestly think atheism is inconsistent with the scientific method. What I mean by that is, what is atheism? It’s a statement, a categorical statement that expresses belief in nonbelief. ‘I don’t believe even though I have no evidence for or against, simply I don’t believe.’ Period. It’s a declaration. But in science we don’t really do declarations.”

I can’t really tell whether this is willful ignorance or just Lying for Jesus. It is hard to tell, but really “What is atheism? It’s a statement, a categorical statement that expresses belief in nonbelief.”

According to this convoluted definition if you do not accept the “proof” of the existence of the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot, then you really just believe in their nonexistence, for no reasons whatsoever.

So, all of the evidence that Santa isn’t real is not to be considered. If you do not think Santa is real, then you have a belief in the nonbelief in Santa.

What a crock of horse pucky.

Atheism is not a belief. Here is what atheism at its core is:
Theist God exists and loves you!
Atheist I don’t “believe” you.
Theist But the proof is obvious; it is all around you.
Atheist Yeah, like what?
Theist Blah, blah, blah, blah.
Atheist Your proofs make no sense. I am not convinced.

Atheists are not believers, nor are they unbelievers. We are the unconvinced. Being unconvinced is not a state built on a foundation of belief, it is built on a foundation of no evidence, bad arguments, special pleading, logical errors, and a great many facts to the contrary.

Compatabilist scientists notwithstanding, trying to turn atheism into a belief system to imbue it with all of the flaws of religious belief systems and put it on an equal footing with them is an old, old strategy … that still does not work. Why? Because we are not convinced that atheism is a belief.

Did the Gods Create Us or We Them?

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:55 am
Tags:

Big gods came after the rise of civilisations, not before, finds study using huge historical database

Enjoy!

(Of course, I would add that their creation came based upon need and it wasn’t just social control of everyday behavior. I would argue that religion was the big hammer used to coerce the labor of ordinary people to do the work that supported the idle elites.)

 

 

January 8, 2019

Other Ways of Knowing, Part 2

Filed under: Reason,Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 12:46 pm
Tags: , , ,

In the ongoing war between faith and science a common claim is that science is not the only way to acquire knowledge, that there are “other ways of knowing.” Along with this I see question after question on the Quora website asking atheists about what “evidence” would convince them to believe in God/Jesus (like we tell them and then they produce it … strange question). The number of these latter questions is smaller than the usual ones asking atheists to prove there is no god or asking for evidence that there is no god, but they are numerous enough.

So, many of these arguments center on “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” arguments which are too nonsensical to take seriously but the “other ways of knowing” response is intriguing. Usually they are referring to “revealed” truth or some such thing through “personal experience” (as if there were any other kind). Interestingly enough, in the vast majority of times in which revealed truths have some up against scientific truths, the revealed truths have come out poorly. This lead me to the following line of thinking.

In legal contests, if one side makes an argument that there is only one interpretation of the evidence and that interpretation circumstantially leads to the guilt of a defendant, the only requirement of the refutation of such an argument is that another equally plausible interpretation be made … not proved, just made. So, if the argument is “god did it,” then in spite of the evidence, all that is needed is an equally plausible interpretation of the “evidence.” Well, that has been provided and, obviously, it didn’t work.

So, consider the following hypothetical scenario. A favorite meme of the ancient alien speculators (they are not theorists) is that an alien race came to this planet and “adjusted” our genetic material to make us who we are now. What if that were true?

So, a flying saucer (or any other equivalent space craft) lands on the White House lawn and after a small diplomatic interlude, their representatives claim that they came back to check on how we were doing, because X numbers of thousands of years ago, they “adjusted the DNA of a hominid ancestor of ours to result in … us. They provide more than credible evidence of this deed (videos, tissue samples, explanations of the DNA “adjustments,” etc.

What happens to the “other ways of knowing” at that point? I suggest that all of them are blown out of the water as the hooey they are. The claim that there are “other ways of knowing” is simple a ruse to protect their “knowledge” from critical inspection.

I suggest that this is not the only scenario that results in all of those “other ways” of folding up like a cheap cardboard suitcase left in the rain. (Cheap cardboard suitcases were the ancestors of cheap plastic suitcases.) Another would be the discovery of significant life on another planet, which could come about through contact or communication remotely. If we found that their set of “beliefs” about nature were different from scientific truths and ascribed to “other ways of knowing,” we would know we were talking to their bullshit artists who were part and parcel with our bullshit artists.

Can you think of other such scenarios? Wouldn’t a benign one of these be lovely? Traumatic for some but lovely collectively. (One can empathize with the traumatized (and I would), but you can’t put your balls on an anvil, pass out hammers, and then complain of the pain you suffer.)

December 5, 2018

The Rich, They Are Not Like Us

The Republicans like to frame the rich as “job creators.” Well, one of the very rich, Alice Walton, reclaimed the crown as the richest woman in the world, as her fortune leapt from $33.8 billion to $46 billion over the past year. In September 2016, she was reported to own over US $11 billion in WalMart shares alone.

So, did she earn that money? Did she make that money? What did she contribute to society that so much money came to her? Is she creating jobs?

Owning stocks and investing in stocks has been shown to be the sham it really is. We are taught in school that selling stock is a way for businesses to finance their growth. This is clearly poppycock. Stocks are purely speculative instruments. The Apple corporation acquired $95 million in its initial stock offering. It hasn’t issued stock or gotten money from a new sale since. It has paid out billions to its stock holders in dividends. Imagine a bank load for $95 million that required billions of dollars to be paid back and the loan is still out!

Alice’s father, Sam Walton (founder of WalMart) made the money, she has simply played money games to expand the quantity.

The Founding Fathers comment often and long, as have many other prominent Americans since, that allowing accumulated wealth to accumulate by inheritance is un-American and counter to democratic principles. Yet, our inheritance taxes have been reduced to pure vapor under the guidance of bribes from rich people to Republican and Democrat politicians. This is what the rich like to call a “good investment.” They offer bribes of a few hundred thousand dollars here and there and they benefit by the many millions, if not billions.

Did you notice that Alice Walton’s net worth went up $12.2 billion in just one year? The Republican tax cuts played a big part in that. And, in case you are wondering, to spend that additional $12,200,000,000 in one year, she would have to spend $6,500,000 every hour of every work day of the year! How much money is enough? Apparently in a capitalist system there is no upper limit.

November 14, 2018

Marks and Con Men in the Religion Con

I just started reading The Evolution of God by Robert Wright and, as is common with accommodationists, he is very kind in his interpretations. For example:

However diverse the forces that shape religion, its early impetus indeed seems to have come largely from people who, like us, were trying to make sense of the world. … But they didn’t have the heritage of modern science to give them a head start, so they reached prescientific conclusions. Then, as understanding of the world grew—especially as it grew via science—religion evolved in reaction.

With regard to “religion evolved in reaction,” I do not think it evolved so much as changed so as to not be subject to ridicule. But that aside, I want to address this part: “… religion, its early impetus indeed seems to have come largely from people who, like us, were trying to make sense of the world.” This seems like quite a benign motivation. And it brings those ancient people and “us” into the same room, but is this a valid supposition? I do not think so.

Allow me to finish quoting from the book, specifically, a couple of descriptions of the relations hunter-gather people have been documented to have with their “gods.”

By Klamath reckoning, the west wind was emitted by a flatulent dwarf woman, about thirty inches tall, who wore a buckskin dress and a basket hat (and who could be seen in the form of a rock on a nearby mountain). The Klamath sometimes asked her to blow mosquitoes away from Pelican Bay.

For example, Karei, thunder god of the Semang hunter-gatherers of Southeast Asia, would get irate if he saw people combing their hair during a storm or watching dogs mate.”

Think about this: what person trying to make “sense of the world” would come up with such bullshit? These sound more like the work of a bullshitter than a contemplative proto-philosopher.

I think a more likely scenario is that these stories were crafted by sly members of a tribe in an effort to acquire status they could not otherwise acquire. Imagine a gamma or even delta male who has been getting the leavings of the stronger males: poorer food, less access to the tribe’s women, what our President would regard as a “loser.” If he tried to grab a women by the pussy, he would find himself roundly cuffed into better manners by a higher status male.

But one day, a solar eclipse occurs (or any other natural phenomenon that you think they would think was rare and threatening). It gets darker and darker and it seems that the sun is being eaten. The tribe is terrified, cowering on the ground. In a moment of inspiration, our delta male jumps up and starts to belittle the spirit that was eating the sun (they were animists, remember) and sure enough, he scares away the eater and the sun comes back. Our bullshit artist becomes a hero, becomes a valued member of the tribe, earns a new title (shaman) and gets better selections of the tribe’s resources from then on.

But the shaman needs more answers. When queried after that point, he can’t just shrug his shoulders, so he has to come up with more stories, and when you read the stories that hunter-gatherer peoples have (the book has quite a few examples) see if they don’t sound to you like they were made up by a drunken frat boy.

Stories are good. They educate and they entertain, and obviously just from the couple of examples provided, they do not have to make much sense (Watch dogs fornicating and the thunder god becomes angry!).

So, while the author of this book addresses the foundations of religion (the hunter-gatherers did not have religions, they had spirits and ghosts as part of their environment) as an intellectual effort to “make sense of the world,” “as we do,” I think that is a sop thrown to the religious. It is far more likely that religion began as part of a con, in instances as described above. My argument is based upon the motivation of the bullshit creators. I think that the sly members of a tribe were far more likely to come up with such stories than any one else.

A con game is short for “confidence game” and is a effort on the part of a con man (or con men) to acquire the confidence of his marks. That confidence enables them to extract wealth from the marks willingly. As far as I am concerned, religion is a Big Con still. The con artists are still spinning stories (I can’t wait for the big Vatican conclave on the sexual predation of its priests; I expect to see big stories created.) and the marks are still believing those stories.

I note that religious apologists pull stories out of their asses in great quantities (e.g. Ever notice how a banana seems designed to fit our hands?), that is they just make things up, often with no support in doctrine or scripture or even reality. They didn’t start the Big Con, but they are going to benefit mightily by keeping it running.

 

 

November 13, 2018

#10 of the 10 Reasons to Believe God Exists

A week and a half or so back I covered #1 on this list, so if you need to see where this list was posted and by whom, please consult that post. Here is #10!

  1. Purpose and Meaning. For anything to have purpose and meaning, God must exist. If Hawking is right in that the universe is all there is and there is nothing else, nothing, including his research, has any meaning or value. Meaning, value, and purpose are found only because God exists.

Now this is an argument! Step 1: Include your conclusion in your first premise. Ta da! “For anything to have purpose and meaning, God must exist.” I suggest that these people are making the fundamental error in their belief that purpose and meaning for their lives comes from without. If that is true then when someone dies, their purpose and meaning live on! How that happens is beyond me. Purpose and meaning are things that are created by humans. My argument? If humans were to disappear instantaneously, what would happen to all of our meaning and purpose? Would alien archeologists coming to investigate the remains of our civilization be able to determine what they were? (Basically I think they would conclude that city dwellers would have been obsessed with collecting dog shit in little plastic bags that they preserved in large plastic, wheeled tubs for some religious purpose as there seems to be no practical purpose for that.)

As a counter argument I offer the following from Jonathan Gamer:

The Existential Argument Against God’s Existence
(Jonathan Garner)

  1. It is a known fact that many people find their life and journey to be meaningless, purposeless, and many humans/animals find life not worth living/continuing.
    2. Premise 1 is very surprising on the hypothesis of classical theism, but not surprising on the hypothesis of indifference.
    3. The intrinsic probability of indifference is much greater than that of classical theism.
    4. Therefore, other evidence held equal, classical theism is very probably false.
    Clarification
    It is important to notice that Premise 1 isn’t so much concerned with objective values. In other words, perhaps every life really does have intrinsic value and purpose. Nevertheless, some people don’t see this.

And To Conclude …
The list’s author makes the truly astounding comment that:

“I could certainly list other reasons to believe in God’s existence. But these will suffice for now. (Stephen) Hawking was a man of great intellect. Yet, despite his great mental prowess, it is quite odd that he could never quite see the evidence for God. While he could see, he was quite blind. Hawking said that ‘religion is a fairy tale for those afraid of the dark.’ I believe John Lennox provided a stronger claim by noting that ‘atheism is a fairy tale for those afraid of the light.’”

These are not serious claims, of course, but opinions. And the comment “Yet, despite his great mental prowess (Hawking’s), it is quite odd that he could never quite see the evidence for God.” is just priceless considering the offering of the wimpy intellectual arguments of this list. The arguments were almost juvenile and certainly lacking in development even compared to the arguments available from the current crop of apologists. That a genius couldn’t see what a simpleton could, doesn’t bring the genius’s comments into dispute.

 

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