Class Warfare Blog

December 22, 2020

Scum of the Earth You Are

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 11:20 am

I still love learning things and, having lived a long time, the things I learn often resonate with many other things already learned. One such tidbit I learned yesterday is the subject of this post.

Teachers, especially chemistry teachers, are somewhat well-known as sources of lame jokes. (Sometimes this is deliberate. A joke very lame can also be hard to forget and so becomes a mnemonic device.)

One of mine was that when the planet Earth first formed, it was almost entirely molten. As a consequence, the elements that were most dense, i.e. iron, nickel, etc. sank and today form the bulk of the Earth’s core, and the less dense elements, i.e. silicates, aluminum, carbon, etc. floated to the top and formed a scum. It is from those elements that people are formed which is why they are referred to as “the scum of the Earth.” <groan>

What I learned just yesterday, that all of the very dense elements, e.g. gold, platinum. etc. also sank due to their density, but also due to being dissolved in the liquid iron. It is a chemical truism that the best solvent for a substance is a liquid version of a similar substance, so liquid metals are excellent solvents for other metals and liquid salts are excellent solvents for other salts (which is how aluminum became cheap, but that is another story).

As a consequence, all of the gold and platinum and other very dense elements we have access to here on the surface of Planet Earth, came as parts of meteorites after the crust of the Earth solidified enough to bear them up.

You learn something new every day . . . or at least it is worth trying for that.

November 4, 2020

Jesus From Outer Space, Richard Carrier, Ph.D.

Filed under: Reason,Religion,Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 12:36 pm
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This is Richard Carrier’s latest book. In it he vents his spleen on the people opposing the Jesus myth hypothesis. And, being Richard Carrier, it is methodical, pointed, and devastating.

His subtitle is “What the Earliest Christians Really Believed about Christ” which tells the tale. The earliest version of the Jewish cult of the risen Christ (Christ meaning “anointed one,” and so there have been many, many of these—often they were kings who were anointed as a matter of course . . . in a theocracy) can be found in the writings of the Apostle Paul and in the Book of Daniel. Jesus was an archangel who descends to the realm of Satan in the lowest realm of Heaven. There he is crucified and killed and then resurrected. By tricking Satan into sacrificing this most favored son of god, he breaks the hold of death on humanity and allows them to live forever.

Now this story is nonsense, of course. Yahweh doesn’t need to trick Satan into anything as he can kick his ass in a fair fight, but myths are myths. The key points here being that Jesus, like so many other gods, is a celestial god, residing only in the Heavens. His normal home was the high heavens but he descended into Satan’s realm, which is the lowest Heaven, being between the Earth and the orbit of the moon, hence Carrier’s title (which I think is unfortunate as he is trying to gain respect for the myth position and the title probably won’t help, even though it is perfectly accurate). These people also believed that everything on Earth was but a poor reflection of the more perfect versions in the Heavens, so the Garden of Eden was up there, as was Jerusalem, etc. i.e. “as in Heaven, so below.”) There were trees to crucify Jesus upon, and graves, and everything else.

Now, before you get to the gospels and Acts, all of the earlier writings of Jesus hewed to this narrative. Paul’s authentic writings never mention Jesus being on Earth. He doesn’t mention a “second coming” only a “coming.” He doesn’t mention Jesus mission on Earth, or any of Jesus’s teachings, or the disciples, or anything covered in the gospels.

This was Christianity pre-gospels.

This was exactly like the vast majority of religions in the wider region. All of the gods start out as celestial beings and later, interestingly enough, all of them get historicized, that is they are claimed to have existed upon Earth. This is the normal progression for celestial gods. Carrier gives example after example of other gods that were so treated.

In my last post, I mentioned Carrier’s argument regarding the letter of Pliny, the Younger, in 112 CE that makes the point that Christianity was almost nonexistent, but was spreading. Converse to “Church histories,” Christianity didn’t grow like wildfire from the get-go because of a basic flaw. The only contact anyone had with Jesus was through revelations (dreams, delusions, imaginings, etc.). And, old Paul wasn’t in any place to declare others were worthy of such revelations as he, himself, was a nobody in the so-called story. This is why virtually every celestial god gets historicized, because while revelations can still occur, there are people who interacted with the real, historical god who can claim special knowledge. And a religion can be built upon this special knowledge. And a religion built solely upon revelations has no control of where it goes. The Catholic Church masterfully built its version of Christianity upon both scripture and “church tradition” which is anything they want it to be, but always trailing back to people who were known associates of the god on Earth.

While carrier does refer to Bayes’ theorem probabilities, he avoids all of the math so prominent in his previous books. He speaks about probabilities and possibilities in general terms, so if all of the Bayes’ Theorem mathematics put you off then, they will not here as they aren’t presented.

I was going to supply a few quotes but I highlighted so much of the book, I found I could not select out just a few which were representative. (I felt like the dog with too many tennis balls and too small a mouth . . . this one, no this one, no. . . .

If you are a supporter of the Jesus Myth hypothesis and love to see its opponents eviscerated, this is the book for you. Carrier is taking names and kicking asses. I highly recommend this book to all, from the merely curious about this hypothesis on up to people like me who are already sold on it. I give it Two Thumbs Up, wishing I had more thumbs to give.

Currently the book is only available in Kindle and hardcover versions. I assume a paperback is to follow.

October 30, 2020

The NRA Spikes the Ball in the End Zone

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 10:18 am

If you ever wondered why a political party would drum up hatred and violence and, most important, fear, the answer is almost always that it is good for business.

According to an article in The Guardian, “Americans have bought nearly 17m guns so far in 2020, more than in any other single year, according to estimates from a firearms analytics company.” “‘By August, we had exceeded last year’s total. By September, we exceeded the highest total ever,’ said Jurgen Brauer, the chief economist of Small Arms Analytics, which produces widely-cited estimates of US gun sales.”

Imagine Wayne LaPierre, in his rumpled three-piece suit,  doing a little end zone dance and then spiking a football. This is how far the NRA has fallen, from a respected sports and safety advocacy organization to a shill for the firearms manufacturers. And, of course, the NRA supports Donald Trump.

October 27, 2020

Our Rules Apply to You . . . Whether You Want Them or Not

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 9:23 am

According to an article in yesterday’s The Guardian:

“ISLAMABAD (REUTERS) – Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Sunday that French President Emmanuel Macron has “attacked Islam” by encouraging the display of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

“Khan’s comments come days after Macron paid tribute to a French history teacher beheaded by an Islamist radical who wanted to avenge the use of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a class on freedom of expression.”

“‘By attacking Islam, clearly without having any understanding of it, President Macron has attacked & hurt the sentiments of millions of Muslims in Europe & across the world,’ Khan added.”

So, the President of France was supposed to ignore a religion-inspired murder, and salve the feelings of “wounded” Muslims, who were offended by the actions of a schoolroom teacher. Of course, none of those Muslims would have known about this action, had they followed the dictates of their own religion.

The teacher who was beheaded asked any students who might be offended by the display to leave before he displayed the cartoons. The whole purpose of the display was to allow students to discuss the offensiveness or lack thereof and create more understanding of the principle in question.

Clearly the Prime Minister of Pakistan was, in a most Trumpian manner, virtue signaling to his Pakistani audience. Otherwise he was claiming that his religious rules apply to us. If this were at all the case, then we would be free to apply our rules to them, and I do not think they would like that.

There is a reason why there are international treaties and accords that govern how people are to act toward one another internationally. Apparent PM Khan thinks the Qu’ran is such an accord and we all have signed on to it.

October 23, 2020

Yes, I am That Bright!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 1:18 pm

Many people have commented upon how bright I am and I thank them for their perspicacity, for recognizing that. But how brilliant am I? If you will look at the photo below and look at the Earth. Do you notice the very brightest spot down there at the tip of Lake Michigan?

That’s me.

October 16, 2020

They Will Have to Pry the Money Out of My Cold, Dead Hands

Filed under: Economics,History,Politics,Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 1:01 pm
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You may remember when Charlton Heston was president of the National Rifle Association (NRA). He is famous for delivering, quite theatrically, the old saw “They will have to pry my gun out of my cold, dead hands.” Basically he was stating that he would defend, even violently, his right to “bear arms.” But physical violence is on the decline and now it has been replaced by economic violence. The rich have acquired more wealth (as a percentage) than they possessed in the previous greatest episodes of U.S. history. The Robber Barons had less, the Gilded Age tycoons had less.

A major book by Walter Scheidel, The Great Leveler, claims that there are but four causes of reversals of this trend: mass-mobilization warfare, transformative revolutions, state collapse, and catastrophic plagues. These are the only thing that have reversed the “normal” trend of wealth accumulation by the wealthy, by the simple expedient of repeatedly destroyed the fortunes of the rich and, well, the rich themselves.

The 20th century, with two World Wars, the Great Depression, and the immense communist revolution created the greatest redistribution of wealth (and power) ever seen. Unfortunately, all of the wealth redistribution that occurred after WW2 has been reversed at this point and the “normal” state of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer has been reinstated.

What is at work here is greed, pure and simple.

Before you start to believe that there is some “invisible hand” at work here, there is not. What is at work here is greed, pure and simple. The dynamics at play here are these: the rich are few and the rest of us are many. This gives the rich a large advantage in organization. The power of the rich’s money is leveraged by buying politicians. I am sure that you have seen the studies that show that the rich get the attention of politicians to a very large degree, despite they being few and the poor get zero attention from politicians despite they being many. Apparently votes do not matter and money does. This is because money buys votes and the system is biased toward the elites. The two party, winner take all, system requires that the rich only need to influence, aka bribe, the two leading candidates for any office. Both current candidates for President, for example, are both acceptable to the rich as they have been vetted and supplied with suitable leashes. (Those of you who think that Mr. Trump’s wealth insulates him from their greed need to examine his tax returns. Mr. Trump only appears to be wealthy. There are lots of people, as Chris Rock says, who are rich, but few who are wealthy. Basically, star athletes and star performers, are rich . . . the people who sign their paychecks are wealthy.

The only way to solve this problem is for the many to tax the few: that is tax the rich so that they do not accumulate distorting amounts of wealth. The problem, of course, is this is a political solution, and they are few and we are many. Of the four actual forces that affect the wealthy the only that is even mildly attractive is “transformative revolutions.” Maybe we can learn from South Africa and do this bloodlessly, with a “forgive them they know not what they have done” attitude. But I suspect they know full well what they are doing, certainly the Koch Brothers did, so this will be a hard sell at best. Maybe lynching the uber-wealthy is the way to go, but that isn’t exactly non-violent.

October 11, 2020

Homo Sapiens Slackers

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 12:15 pm

As most of you know “Homo sapiens” means “wise man.” Our particular species, that of modern humans, is Homo sapiens sapiens (we are “wise, wise men”?). But maybe it should be Homo sapiens slacker.

Most people now argue that the modern human species, aka “us,” dates back at least 200,000 years and maybe 300,000 years. But the “cognitive explosion” didn’t happen until 50-100,000 years ago . . . some say 80,000 years but I don’t know how specific one can be here.

This “event” was a rapid expansion of cognitive skills in human beings.

So, if we were first on earth 300,000 years ago and we started acting like modern humans 80,000 years ago, what were we doing for that first 220,000 years or so? Slacking, that’s what.

It seems probable that there was a mutation that led to our brains being able to share information better between regions of specialized function and this, in turn, led to a great leap in cognition.

Prior to the point we were more animalistic. After that point we really started showing unique mental properties. These properties involved the development of a suite of mental inferences that supported enhanced communication and enhanced societies. In my humble opinion, it also allowed religion.

Prior to this cognitive transformation, people were limited to what was real, what one could point at and touch and taste, that is “sense.” Once we developed more imaginative functions, we could predict farther into the future and also we could live with imagined causes that today make no sense to us: trees and brooks that we sentient, mountains that watched over us. Ancestral spirits that guided us or punished us.

Many of these inference systems, e.g. agency detection, have no fact-checking function built in to them. So religious ideas tapped into these functions and “felt” right to many and so were acceptable, at least memorable. Then if those concepts were reinforced, they became more and more real.

So, “religion (it is not a monolithic block) developed along with these cognitive abilities. Scientific thinking, using different inference systems, with quite different motivations, is not at all as natural as the religious thinking. It is a little easier to see this as the difference between learning a playground game and learning math. The one is easy, the other hard . . . for everybody.

I still wonder about that roughly 220,000 year period in which our ancestors, having a lifespan of 25-30 years at best, were hunting and gathering and . . . slacking evolutionarily. It was like Waiting for Godot but waiting for a mutation instead.

As a long ago commercial meme had it “you don’t mess with Mother Nature,” but Mother Nature does mess with us. It is interesting that one of our major political parties yearns for the good old days, say 80,000 years ago when religion reigned unchallenged.

All Politics is Local . . . All Religion is Local

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 12:05 pm

You are probably aware of the saying “all politics is local.” While people may blah, blah, blah about this or that national policy, all political positions are shaped by the locality of the person who creates it. States rights seems to be localized in the American South, for example.

Similarly, I contend that all religion is local and I am not referring to the fact that one’s religion is determined by where one was born more than any other factor, although that is a consequence of my claim.

Whenever atheists and theists converse, which seems to happen only on the Internet, atheists are constantly bewildered by how the religious can believe such claptrap. (I am far from immune from this disease.) But, in actuality, the religious almost never think about the philosophical or historical fine points of their religion. Most Christians haven’t even read their scriptures carefully, even those who believe that the Bible is the literal word of their god. (This is stunning to me, even though I know why they haven’t done so.)

What the religious do think about are local things. (This is why church politics is so vicious.) They think about praying for sick friends who are in hospital. They think about their stint in the church’s thrift shop or food bank. They think about preparing to lead a session of Sunday School or filling in for an ill song leader or . . . or . . . .

The illogic of their beliefs are rarely brought up and almost never dwelt upon. Things that provide a “feel good” feeling are what draws attention and effort.

I, and I think this is also true for the vast majority of atheists, have no problem with ordinary Christians. Most are good people doing the best they can. (I don’t know enough about ordinary Muslims or Buddhists to claim the same for them.) It is the proselytizers, the apologists, and the Christian nationalists who are pushing their beliefs onto others who I have a bone to pick with. Those who want Biblical Creationism taught in public schools, those who want so-called “Christian morality” in the form of the ten commandments incorporated into our laws, those who want the USA to be declared a Christian nation, these are who I oppose and most strongly.

The locally religious  are usually harmless, except when they support the efforts of the people mentioned above. (Surveys of “ordinary” Muslims show they support Sharia law and the death penalty for blasphemy. Those taking the law into their own hands to perform executions of blasphemers and killing women in “Honor Killings,” receive much support from ordinary Muslims for their actions. Would not things be different if ordinary believers felt differently? The same is true for ordinary Christians.)

Oh, and in addition to the “All . . . is local” rules, there is also the dictum of “Follow the money” which applies both to politics and religion.

October 6, 2020

Everchanging Evangelicals

Filed under: History,Politics,Religion,Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 11:53 am

If you were to inform American Evangelicals from the past about what their brethren are doing now, they would be appalled.

During the debate over the adoption of the new Constitution, guess who supported church-state separation? Evangelicals.

During the abolistion period prior to and after the civil war, who was anti-racism, and anti-slavery . . . vigorously? Evangelicals.

What’s that rumbling sound, you ask? That stems from those evangelicals rolling over in their graves at the Chrsitian nationalist, racist Evangelicals of our age.

August 23, 2020

Quoting the Amazing Barry Goldberg

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 12:11 pm

I find the inestimable Barry Goldberg most often on the Quora website. Here is yet another question he has answered (in part):

Q: Have you ever considered that atheism is as certain-minded as theism is and that the more reasonable logical and scientifically minded outlook is agnosticism?

As the saying goes, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. And it really doesn’t get much more extraordinary than the claim that there exists some sort of intelligent being composed of “pure spirit” (whatever the heck that means) which exists “outside of time and space” (whatever the heck that means) while somehow still being capable of interacting with the material world and which purportedly cares deeply about every individual member of one particular species living on one particular world orbiting one particular star among billions in one particular galaxy among countless trillions of similar galaxies in this entire vast universe.

I mean, this claim is so extraordinary that it’s hard to imagine what sort of evidence could ever possibly back it up. Even if a 100-foot tall glowing figure appeared in the middle of Times Square and caused the entire city to disappear and reappear with the blink of an eye, that would just be evidence that there existed a very powerful being who can do amazing things. It still wouldn’t be evidence that this being created the universe or that it somehow exists “outside of time and space” or is completely omnipotent and omniscient, etc. In fact, given just how extraordinary the claim is regarding any sort of god actually worshiped by anybody, the only logical and science minded approach is to reject it outright as completely ridiculous and obviously just one more in a very long line of supernatural creatures that humans have invented over the years.

Barry Goldberg is author of Common Sense Atheism, which is a collection of his writings and well worth the read, if for nothing else, his incredible Maude and Eugene posters (examples below).

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