Uncommon Sense

September 6, 2021

Without God Everything is Permitted . . . Nope

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

“Is something holy because the gods love it, or do they love it because it is holy?” Socrates’s asked this question in Plato’s Euthyphro (well Plato implied he did anyway). Basically it asks if something moral just because God says so, or does he say so because it is moral? The argument, of course, is that if God declares something to be moral because it just is, then God is not the source of morals, something else is. So, believers have to believe that whatever God says, goes and they cannot believe that morals stem from outside forces, outside of their god anyway.

Defenders of the Old Testament (aka Hebrew Bible—they are not the same by close enough) are often reduced to the opinion that if God did it, it must have been okay for this same reason. But recall the old canard against atheism: “Without God everything is permitted.” (Dostoyevsky) Actually it seems instead that with God everything is permitted.

But it’s worse than that. Not just that God’s every deed is permitted, but therefore in principle everything can be permitted. That destroys any idea that there are universal moral absolutes. This destroys the very moral certainty which believers imagine religion supplies.

Cleavon Little with Gun

If god did this, would it still be funny?

Again With the Sanctity of Life

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 9:41 am

The latest assault on Roe v. Wade coming from Texas and the Supreme Court has caught a few off-guard. (See what happens when you don’t pay attention?) Here’s just one comment that drew my eye:

Few political issues inflame passions so much as abortion. The issues of a woman’s right to bodily autonomy (for abortion-rights advocates) and the sanctity of life (for their opponents) are so elemental that scant room exists for compromise, conciliation, or cool analysis.

In order for these motives to be understood, I think it is important to unpack them. My dictionary defines sanctity as “ultimate importance and inviolability” for example, the sanctity of human life.” So, the abortion opponents are arguing from a position of the sanctity of human life. I think they need to re-examine that motive because they certainly do not believe that live is sacred (the other definition my dictionary supplied for sanctity is “the state or quality of being holy, sacred, or saintly”). If life were sacred then the lesson of “judge not lest you be judged” would stand and the death penalty wouldn’t exist.

By employing a religious argument, they tear at the very fabric of this country, which was designed to be a secular state in which people would be free to practice their religion as they saw fit. The people behind this Texas legislation, and their Supreme Court enablers, are trying to ensure that you will be free to follow the tenants of not your religion, but their religion, as they see fit.

If this stands, this country will crumble as dueling interest groups tear down what took so much blood, sweat, and tears to build.

August 29, 2021

The Corporate Takeover

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 10:40 am

What comes to mind when you read the words “the corporate takeover?” Maybe it is one corporation buying another. Microsoft was so famous for doing this that smaller companies had business models with the goal of being bought by Microsoft. Maybe you think of “private equity” firms taking over healthy corporations and stripping them of assets. Private equity is a euphemism for wealth from wealthy assholes, by the way.

But none of those is the topic of this post; small potatoes they are. I am talking about the corporate takeover of an entire culture, specifically that of the U.S.A.

Allow me to explain.

This country is current a plutocracy; it is run by the rich for the rich. The ranks of millionaires and billionaires has swollen over the past 50 years, and the bulk of these newly rich are . . . corporation executives.

These executives have the temerity to call themselves business leaders. Groups of them are invited to the White House to “advise” the President. Corporate bankers, like Jaime Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, assume they have access to the President on short order. Why is this so? What do they have to offer? They may know a fair amount about running their own companies but the broader issues are largely beyond their ken. (They have predicted exactly zero of the past ten recessions, for example.)

And leaders . . . really? Leaders of what? Certainly not of our communities or regions, or even sectors of the economy. These are the very same people who supported the bogus economic claim that a corporation’s only obligation was to enhance shareholder value. The executives glommed onto this idea because more and more they are paid in shares of their corporation’s stock. So, they used that “principle” (It isn’t a valid principle, but it is a principle.) to wean corporations off of their previous goal sets, which included goals directed at being good members of their community and to line their own pockets.

These people are leaders, sure, leading to the elimination of any competition their companies might face and toward greater and greater profits, no matter who they hurt. But anything else? Not hardly. The President would be better off inviting successful college football coaches to the White House. At least he might get some tips on making his team stronger. I suspect these “titans of industry” are invited only to keep them donating to the various campaigns of the politicians kissing their asses.

It was not that long ago (I was alive) that corporations had goals of providing good jobs, being a good member of their communities, etc. The CEO’s of companies did well economically but they didn’t become members of the plutocrat club. Corporations weren’t allowed to vote and didn’t have free speech rights. Their ability to make campaign donations was quite restricted. All of those aspects of corporations have gone by the wayside. The Powell Memo was the death knell of liberal democracy. It was a roadmap for the corporations to take possession of the American government system.

The first to cave in was the Republican Party, the GOP, or should I say the GQP, the political party that has conspiracy theories for a heart (Q-Anon, etc.). The Democrats, starting in the late 1970’s became the Corporate Democratic Party. The two together managed to pack the courts with distracters and corporate flunkies. If they aren’t supporting corporations over citizens, they are making decisions that rile up many, many people so that whatever the corporations are doing under and over the table is basically invisible.

The big question is: what are we going to do about this state of affairs? So far, we have adopted the stance of receiving a prostate exam. This is not very promising. Are we all so willing to trade in the American Dream for this corporatist nightmare, all for an iPhone 13? Is our price so low?

If you wonder why our lives are so chaotic and seemingly so small compared with the not too distant past, why our children face a future that promises they will be poorer than we were, the answer is corporatism, a plutocracy being run by rich corporation executives whose goal is to become personally richer than Midas, and to Hell with the rest of us. Wake up, people.

August 23, 2021

Capitalism or Socialism?—Show Us

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 10:12 am

“A recent Fox News poll showed that more Democrats favor socialism over capitalism, in a sharp reversal from just a year and a half ago. The poll, taken between Aug. 7-10, showed that 59% of registered Democratic voters who participated had a positive view of socialism, compared to just 49% who felt that way about capitalism. In February 2020, when the question was last asked, 50% of Democrats who participated said they had a favorable view of capitalism, with just 40% saying the same about socialism.” (Source http://www.defendemocracy.press)

I am sure that a lot of conservative news commenters will be wringing their hands over this, along the lines of “Don’t they know socialism is bad?”

Actually I do not think those polled have any idea what “socialism” might be in this country, but one thing they do know: capitalism is not working for them. We were told “work hard, keep your head down, and your children’s lives will be better than yours.” Does anyone believe this tripe any more? People have worked harder and harder and only gotten further behind. If it didn’t have such a bad reputation the current crop of rich, greedy bastards would reintroduce the “company store.”

Over the past half century, the rich have captured the reins of government and have been running it to make themselves vastly richer, and well, the rest of us can go fuck ourselves. It is every man for himself, right?

It will no longer be that unless the current crop of greedy rich bastards show that capitalism can work for all of us. And they had better be damned quick about it. The ship is sinking and rearranging the deck chairs isn’t going to work anymore.

August 19, 2021

Could This Have Actually Happened?

Filed under: Education,Religion,Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 11:14 am

Creationists are desperate to get the Biblical account of the creation of the Earth and universe into school textbooks and to be accepted as a rational thing to believe. So, taking them seriously, is it?

Here is the account from a high quality English translation of Genesis and this is just a snippet because more was not necessary to make my point.

The Creation of the World
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth. The Earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called seas. And God saw that it was good. (Source: Genesis 1 from the English Standard Version)

Okay, got that? Let’s unpack it.

Beginning with “The Earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” there seems to be some confusion here. “The Earth was without form and void.” Hmm, “void” means 1a opening, gap. b: empty space emptiness, vacuum, at least to Merriam-Webster. So, the Earth had no form and it had no vacancies, either. It was without “void.”

But then . . . “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Presumably the “face” of the waters was it’s surface. But that is a form, no? If the Spirit of God was in a place, presumably that place could be described, but since the Earth had no form, that place couldn’t be the Earth.

Is great puzzlement.

Also, what is the Spirit of God? To accept this as a factual description, do we have to believe in ghosts? That’s a pretty big ask and we aren’t even out of the first chapter.

Let’s move on to “And God said, ‘Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven.” An “expanse,” again thanks to Merriam-Webster, is “an area of something, typically land or sea, presenting a wide continuous surface” so this sounds like a description in which the waters, presumable upon Earth, but not necessarily so, were cleaved into two, a gap was opened between the “waters above” and the “waters below.” This expanse or gap is where Heaven is, or is Heaven according to the text.

Why all of those waters above Heaven are needed is not explained. Certainly it is not the source of rain and snow and other aqueous forms of precipitation as those waters would have to travel through Heaven to fall out the other side. Plus we have traveled in spacecraft all the way out of the atmosphere and even as far away as the Moon (later on we learn that all of the “heavens” are this side of the Moon’s orbit, or so it is claimed), and no such collection of water molecules has been observed. Did God make this water invisible, or shift it to another dimension for storage? (Even if invisible that amount of water would expose itself from gravity itself.) The text doesn’t say, so this is mysterious and one must ask why it is in this story as it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with, well, anything. Except . . . if you take into account that the story of the Great Flood was written before Genesis was, maybe the authors were trying to provide a source of water for the Great Flood, because the amount of water needed for that description to be true is truly immense, far greater than the amount of surface water we can see and plumb.

Now we come to “And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’” I have to ask “the heavens”? What is this in relation to Heaven? God created the Earth and “the heavens” . . . so I must assume that “the heavens” refers to everything we can see in the night sky, i.e. other stars, planets, etc. So “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place . . .”  would refer to the waters above and the waters below, both? But those waters wouldn’t have been separated only to be brought back together a short time later, would they? So “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place” must only refer to the “waters below.” But then is Heaven plural (the heavens) or singular? If “the ehavens” is “Heaven” then when did all of the stars and whatnot get created? Or is that term, the heavens, being used like one of those housing tract fancy names, e.g. The Mews, The Heights, etc.?

And, the Dutch can explain this better than anyone, you don’t gather water all in one place to create dry land, you actually have to remove the water to another place to make dry land, you know with dikes, windmills, pumps, and levees, etc. So, as engineers go, this creator god isn’t very bright. He should have shooed the water away and raised the dry land before allowing the water back to lap on the shores of the dry land.

Whew!

We haven’t got very far into this process. We have only gotten through a couple of days of this six day process, nor have we gotten to the second description of creation which is different from this one.

The school kids will be allowed to ask questions, right? This will be taught in schools, not churches, right? Questions, anyone?

August 14, 2021

The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 1:12 pm

 

Political cartoonists aren’t known for their discernment or restraint, but there is a bit missing from this viewpoint, namely that the Taliban is part of Afghanistan. This cartoon implies that the Taliban are outsiders, but they are not. They are the GOP of Afghanistan. They promote old-fashioned values, they promote religion as a pillar of strong community, they promote traditional gender roles, no trans anything for them.  They are also the equivalent of the US evangelical/fundamentalist religious gun-toting community. If the Afghanis do not want the Taliban to become the ruling faction of their country they better strap on their boots and get to the front. Waiting for “international allies” which their president is involved in talks with right now, is not going to work. (It didn’t work with the Russians, it didn’t work with the Americans, so why the continued charade that outsiders will help the “good Afghanis” rule instead of the “bad Afghanis,” and isn’t this a bit against the wishes of the people. If the people didn’t want the Taliban to rule, they would fight them, no?

August 2, 2021

Taking a Big Step Back

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 8:10 am

In this delightful post on Medium.com, William House does brilliantly what I like to do and that is to take a step back and look at things religious with fresh eyes. Enjoy!

God and the Universe
What’s been going on for all this time?

June 23, 2021

Just Stop with the Christian Nation BS

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 9:05 am

I noticed an “American Heritage” documentary series on one of the streaming services, with the focus of showing how this is a “Christian nation.” I do not link to it because I just roughly perused the episodes.

It seems as if a small cottage industry has formed around the desire to show that this is a “Christian nation.” Whereas it is correct to say that this was a nation of Christians when it was founded, it was not founded as a Christian nation. In fact, it was founded as a secular nation.

The whole idea of secular anythings was dreamt up by the church. Yep, it is a religious concept. One of its greatest proponents in its modern sense was . . . wait for it . . . Martin Luther. Now Luther was as close as you can get to being a religious extremist/fanatic. He had no intention of creating the Protestant religion(s), he merely wanted to root out the corruption he saw in the Catholic church. And he saw secular government was a way to do just that. Why have church officials dirty their hands dealing with criminals, road construction, and sewage disposal. That’s what Caesars are for. (Plenty of New Testament support for this, no?)

So, let a secular group handle daily government and the prelates handle Jesus and their “flock’s” spiritual lives. Again, this is part of the unholy bargain made between secular and religious elites in almost every version of civilization we have ever created.

On top of all that: there is no democracy in the Bible! None! Zero! Zip! Zilch!

The only form of government mentioned in the Bible is monarchies. The preferred form of government is a religious monarchy in which the king/emperor/queen is also an instrument of the culture’s god. There is no voting in the Bible. There are no surveys as to the wants of the people. There are no people’s representatives, chosen by the people.

In the Bible it is Yahweh or the highway. Jesus’s followers/disciples were promised the position of being the lord/king of one of the “nations,” aka the political entities surrounding  Israel, and they lusted after those positions. (Boy, things will sure be different when I am in charge!)

So, I won’t be watching the “documentary” series on how this is a Christian nation because all of the evidence is to the contrary and whatever “Biblical support” for their position they come up with cannot counter the overwhelming rejection of democracy/self-rule the Bible proposes.

Calling this country a Christian nation because it began as a nation of mostly Christians is simply another part of the power grab. While the secular and religious elites share their power, each wants it all to themselves and acts accordingly every time they get an opportunity.

By flooding the media with video and print materials making their false claim, they can achieve the point in which there are volumes of “information” on both sides and soon, calls to “teach the controversy” in our schools will surely be made. Casual observers will look at the small ocean of “information” supporting their preferred outcome and believe that their side has the right of it. And we become even more polarized than ever before.

This seems, sadly, to be the pattern of our political discourse for the foreseeable future.

This is a consequence of allowing so much wealth to be accumulated in few hands. Every quack idea under the sun will be supported by great wealth, diluting out good information with bad. We learned this lesson regarding currency (bad money, as in counterfeit currency, drives out good) and we need to learn it regarding “information” if we mean to survive.

Postscript
Here is one blurb for the series:
Discover the forgotten and astonishing story of our nation’s founding in the American Heritage Series. For centuries, we were taught a providential view of American history that presented our godly heroes and the mortal foundation upon which our nation was built. However, in recent years, a new version of history has assaulted the fiber of our nation, censoring the core values of our past – until today! From separation of church and state to the civil rights movement, from the heroism of our founding fathers to the building of our nation’s monuments this series will inspire every American to reclaim the godly, true story of our nation. Experience the untold story of our nation’s history in the American Heritage series. America: This is your heritage!

Notice the ploy. The story of our nation’s founding has been “forgotten.” (WTF? Every school child is taught oodles of American history, most of it distorted by an overly positive view of the rightness of all of our actions.

Note that they whine about how “For centuries, we were taught a providential view of American history that presented our godly heroes and the mortal foundation upon which our nation was built.” basically bemoaning the loss of their fairy tales having been replaced by real history. They want the role of churchmen in opposing slavery taught, but not the role of other churchmen supporting slavery mentioned at all, for instance.

And when whining isn’t enough, there is hyperbole” “a new version of history has assaulted the fiber of our nation,  censoring the core values of our past.” I wonder if that is the same fiber we are supposed to have in our diets. Imagine . . . “History to the left of me, history to the right of me, into the valley of. . . .” It is war, I tell you!

“Experience the untold story” . . . yeah, there is a reason their version is untold—fictional accounts are now considered inappropriate to study in American history classes.

Oh, and if you think this bilge will be ignored, the average rating for this series on this site, a reputable movie rating site, is 4.5/5 stars. You can make a lot of money serving confirmation bias.

June 11, 2021

Betcha Didn’t Know

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 12:59 pm

It seems that Asian-Americans are getting some time in the spotlight and it also seems as if people still don’t know how to handle that. The biggest problem is thinking of them as a monolithic block of people when they can trace their ancestry back to myriad countries and cultures.

One misconception repeated ad nauseum I can clear up. It is that “Asian students” are like the best, ever. Like many an academic meme, this one has reasons that are not what people think. In a study about why Black students at US Berkeley were doing so poorly in Calculus I classes, a survey was taken of the faculty as to why.

Go ahead and see what you come up with for reasons why UCB Black calculus students did so poorly.

<insert Jeopardy theme music here>

Every faculty member surveyed was wrong.

The reason was actually that almost all of the Black students were trying to succeed on their own. A project that taught those students how to form groups and study in groups resulted in the GPA of Black and Asian students in third semester calculus being identical.

So, back to the original question: why are Asian students such great students?

Whatever you answer, you are probably wrong.

An extensive study of high school students in Wisconsin and Northern California finally winkled out the reason. Are you ready? The reason Asian students are so good is cultural, is not that they are smarter, is not . . . etc., it is: time on task. In other words, they outwork the competition. When a white high school student gets an after-school job, for every hour at work, there is exactly one hour of study that is lost. Not so for Asian students, who often are required to work in family businesses.

So, the reason students of Asian background outcompete others (White, Black, Brown, etc.) is that they espouse that good, old fashioned Anglo-Saxon work ethic. Which, I suspect is why they are despised so. (WTF?)

Interestingly enough, after several generations of being American, the Asian Student Effect wears off. Third and fourth generation Asian-Americans are fully acculturated and behave just like all of the other Americans. Shows you the power of American culture.

There is a cultural effect. When White kids whine to their parents that they are “no good at math” or whatever, they often get sympathy in the form of “Oh, Sweetie, I wasn’t either.” Recent Asian-American students don’t get that, they get that they are now expected to work harder. But this is not the major contributor to student success; good old-fashioned hard work is.

June 4, 2021

Ever Wonder What Proofreading a 550 Page Book is Like?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 1:38 pm

If you have, you probably are stranger than I thought you were.

The photo shows what a printout of the layout on this book looks like. The stack is twice as high as the book will be thick because there is one page printed per sheet of paper where the book will have two pages printed on each sheet. But still. . . .

The painful thing is this is my book and it is a collection of posts from my archery coaching blog. So, I wrote those posts once before (or twice, if they were adapted from a magazine article), then I had to read them to see if they were fit to go into this compilation, then I had to edit each one (350+ of them), then I had to lay out the book, adding photos, captions, photo references, etc. And now I have to proofread the layout.

You know the saying that a lawyer who represents himself in court has a fool for a client? Similarly in writing: a writer, shouldn’t edit his own work, certainly not copy edit it, and well, proofreading is something we do do. All publishers want authors to proofread the final galleys so that is there are any mistakes they can blame the author (no, not really, but it is a quality control measure).

The problem is that our publishing company, Watching Arrows Fly, has a staff of two. And the other one don’t wanna do no stinkin’ proofreadin’.

Mind you, I have always been a “do-it-yourselfer,” but . . . I am tired.

“Call it a day, you should.” Shut up, Yoda!

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