Saturday, January 13, 2018

Evolution and Soul

Today I'd like to respond to this person.

 I mean, I already did, but I feel as though I can do a more satisfactory job in a blog post.
"Why are all apes not humans?"
This is a fairly common question.   There's many reasons for this, but it's simplest to think of the various species of ape (including human) when compared with the various species or sub-species (breeds) of dog. Other apes still exist for the same reason that more than one kind of dog exists.  First, there's not a selection pressure against having more than one type of ape.  Hyenas and wolves still exist together, in the same way Dalmatian and fox terrier dog breeds exist together.

There is, for example, no special selection pressures that caused one or the other to die off. As long as both can survive, both will survive.  For a striking modern example of how species diverge, you can look at the horse and donkey.  They are very recently diverged, as we were at one time from Neanderthals, for example.  Horses and donkeys can breed to produce mules or hinnies, or the horses can breed only with other horses and produces horses.  The fact that donkeys exist doesn't stop horses from also existing.  Eventually, horses and donkeys will become isolated enough (through genetic changes) that they will be two completely distinct species.  Humans and the other remaining great apes have already passed this point some 100,000 years ago perhaps.  If there were still neanderthals, we might be able to breed with them, but it would be at least as difficult as a horse/donkey producing a mule.

"Thank You....., you said that the same reason there are different species and subspecies of dog. But the question is, is one species of dog smarter than the other species. Humans clearly surpasses apes, what cause it, if not an evolution of the soul ?. Thank you.........."
 Intellect doesn't really matter in evolution.  Sure, it helps, but so long as a species can keep producing offspring, it will tend to do so.  The question of why humans are smarter can be answered by a few points.  First, humans managed to walk upright by some chance more readily than most other apes. We also seem to have worked together in a different way from the other apes.  This allowed us the opportunity to make chance discoveries (like how alcohol is made) that led us to become a more social species than the other apes in this regard.  We also discovered something the other apes don't seem to have figured out, which is agriculture.  Once we learned that we can reliably produce our own food in this way, we found time to learn things not strictly related to survival.

This general trend happened because smarter individuals had some advantage in regards to producing more offspring.  For example, this also introduced a massive amount of sexual dimorphism which is also mainly only present to this extent in humans.  This is to say, for example, perhaps among early male hominids, the male who could reliably create functional shelter happened to mate more often with more female members, thus passing on his genes that led to better shelters being developed.  Thus, the offspring who did the best of the next generation would amplify this effect a tiny bit, and so on.

This was further amplified when agriculture and education became widespread, as it meant that ever more time could be devoted to things which were not strictly relating to survival.  Perhaps a particularly attractive male would happen to have to work less and would get a longer life and thereby more chances to procreate than some competitors.  All of these things work together, not individually.

I explained in response that not all snowballs move equally fast.  If one species appears later, for example, but happens to have a very distinct advantage over another, it will generally use that advantage to the fullest to ensure progeny.

I then also asked what relevance intelligence has to a soul.  Are people who aren't as smart as another ape, perhaps through mental disability or misfortune of accident, or perhaps just a significantly smart other ape, do they lack a soul also?

 I'm honestly not sure where she's going here, but an individual from a species doesn't tell us much about how it is evolving.  Evolution is generally a slow process which takes many generations to observe.  You don't have to take my word for it, though.  Every time you get sick, it's due to some phage mutating and your body being unable to deal with it to some degree.

Bacteria don't actually appear first.  Simple amino chains appear much earlier.  To the general point, however, humans are comprised entirely of simpler things.  We are 90% things that most people wouldn't call human. 

The simplest organisms appear earliest because it doesn't make any sense for a building to exist before we discover building materials.

Bacteria still exist, after all, even incredibly simple ones, and the things they're made of are in everything that we call living. 

Similarly, humans don't appear last, any more than your cat or dog does.  Every species is transitional, including us.  Our ancestors were not humans, and our descendants some day will not be, either. Some very old species still exist, and every one of them shares a common ancestor with us. All animals and plants have a simpler relative that they shared in common.

Imagine if you will, we send people to space to live forever, and they start a colony.  Eventually, the humans that left, and the humans that didn't, will have ancestors who will not be able to breed together.  It may take a few hundred thousand years, or it could be relatively rapid.

We can see some traces today, even, of how some traits were inherited from those common ancestors a long time ago.  HIV, for example, formed when one of our ancestral ape/monkey forebears ingested two different strains of SIV and then passed on this to its offspring. 

If we want to see a somewhat more modern example of a selection pressure, we can look at something like polio.  Polio prevented a great many humans from producing children.  This is an example of a selection pressure that can give an advantage to non-human species who aren't susceptible to Polio.  Today, it's unlikely that humans would lose dominance to another group of apes, but when we were still diverging from them, if something had affected one of our competing species of apes, we would have filled in that vacuum.

This is part of the reason why so much of the human expansion has happened across the world in the past 10,000 years or so, when the Neanderthals went extinct.  Remember, they were able to breed with us.  However, something happened that cause them to no longer be a selection pressure against us. Maybe we just happened to be more aggressive and wiped them out. Maybe a disease affected them that didn't affect us.  Either way, this vacuum allowed us to gain dominance over them and build up society as we have.  This sort of thing happened many times before as well, for example when the dinosaurs grew to epic proportions because the carbonaceous environment favored them and did not favor mammals.  Dinosaurs and plants grew to be very diverse, while mammals had very few variations. 

Did the Tyrannosaurus Rex have a soul simply because it was the dominant species at that time?  Did it become dominant by being smarter?  WHO KILLED CAPTAIN ALEX?!

Sorry, got carried away.

Thanks for tuning in!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Response to Virginia, Part 1

Today I am responding to this article.  This is a companion article to the following video, which is the first of (possibly many) parts:

This article will focus mainly on the specific questions posed by the author.  Please do take some time to read the original article.  There's also a second, follow-up response that's been written here which I will also address in due time.

Let us begin.

The basic premise of the article, and subsequent exchanges, is as follows:
I would ask you to list one contradiction in Jason Lisle's argument? What evidence proves him wrong?

 I shall do my best.
 How do you know that there was no no six day creation, Adam, Eve, fall, or flood?
 There's plenty of evidence to the contrary for each, however, let's give just a few simple examples, in the interest of brevity.

The six-day creation of Genesis 1 is refuted, first and foremost, by Genesis 2.  Genesis one tells us that god created water, then plants, then animals, then humans.  Genesis 2 tells us god created humans, then created plants, then created water, then put man among them.

I'm only putting this here to demonstrate that the bible contradicts itself in these matters.  Also, Ken Ham blocked me on twitter for asking this, and I have as yet to receive an adequate response from anyone.

We have many ways to determine that the earth was not created in a span of about two days (since the rest of creation was not related to creating earth, but rather the things upon it).  There are various dating methods, we have tree ring records stretching back further, we have a genetic record, and so on.  The stars are further from us than their light could reach in the six to ten millennia since those alleged five days.

We can be certain there was no Adam and Eve for similar reasons we can be sure there was no flood.  If the flood were worldwide, then Noah's family has the same problems for genetics as Adam and Eve. If Adam and Eve were the first humans, then it means that Cain took his wives from the neighboring tribes which god didn't create.  Alternately, it could mean that Cain's wives were Nephilim, but then that would mean that the entire bloodline since is no more divine than those neighboring tribes, including Moses, Noah, Mary, Jesus, and so on.

I could have brought up other things, like human ancestral fossils that are older than Adam and Eve, or the stories that Adam and Eve are copied from.  I could have brought up that there are cave paintings dated to be several times older.  However, as we will see, the bible is a much stronger motivator for their belief.  At every turn, Virginia and her family dismiss any science they don't like.  Dismissing the bible might prove a bit more difficult, for it would mean you would have to call the bible incorrect to call my evidence incorrect.  I would much rather tell you about evolution, cosmology, astrology, physics, chemistry, and so on; but you don't want to hear about evolution just yet.  You want to hear about what your bible has to say, so I'll present you with the same kind of arguments people presented to me when I believed in it.
It is true that Dr. Lisle says that we look at the same evidence. In what way does this distort reality?
You have to accept all of the verifiable evidence. You can't simply dismiss some because it disagrees with the bible.  Let us take here an example.

The bible claims, in Genesis 9:13, that god created the rainbows as a promise he would never flood the earth again.

Science has shown, however, that light is complicated.  Light bends when it travels through different media.  This is called 'refraction' and 'diffraction.'  Things like water cause the light waves to separate. When this happens in the air, where the water is a vapor, we get the rainbow that everyone is familiar with.

I love having an excuse to use my photography.

Rainbows have been around since before the flood.  The flood was not why rainbows were 'created.'  Rainbows are not a covenant.  Rainbows happen whether there was a flood or not.  I can create a rainbow with a prism, or with a spray of water. These are two contradictory things.

The evidence points to the fact that rainbows simply happen as a result of nature.  The bible says that god created the first rainbow as a covenant after the flood that killed all but one small family.  If you don't understand the science behind this, that's fine.  Jason Lisle does understand the science behind this, but he would rather lie to you than try to educate you.  I do not want to lie to you, so I must explain it to you as best I can, in the way you will best understand.  Saying that god created it, rather than saying that it's because light bends, is one way of distorting the evidence.

To be fair, the people who wrote the bible thought that light came from our eyes, and thus would not have known that light actually comes from sources like the sun, or a candle (and it's why genesis calls the moon a light). The idea that light comes from the eye is called the Emission Theory, and was originally framed as the story of the goddess Aphrodite crafting the eye, and then lighting the fire behind it.

A little over one millennium ago, in the year 1012, Ibn Al-Haytham wrote the book of optics, first proving that this Emission Theory was incorrect.
This is Ibn Al-Haytham.
He was a very smart man.
We do look at the same evidence as evolutionists and creationists. We both look at the Grand Canyon for example.

These are the falls at Havasu in the Grand Canyon,
formerly known as the  Bridal Veil Falls.
This photo is about 117 years old.
This will be important.

We as creationists realize that it is a result of catastrophic events around the time of the global flood, I know you deny that reality but you cannot dismiss evidence simply because you disagree.
By Gonzo fan2007 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Okay, then I shall request that you are as open-minded as you'd like your opponent to be.  Here's what the falls look like today.  They've changed quite a bit in 117 years. In fact, in this time we've been able to see how it changes, and what various conditions caused it.  We can measure how much the rocks have eroded, and so on.
At least some evolutionists believe...
 Does not matter.  Stick to the evidence.  Beliefs are not true just because people have them, just like Aphrodite lighting the fire in the eye for men to see.  A great many people believed that, for a great many thousands of years.
...that the Grand Canyon was formed by the Colorado river flowing through the Grand Canyon over millions of years.
This is what the evidence shows.  We find that the canyon appears to erode at the rates we find, and it appears to do so in consistent, predictable ways.  If the flood were primarily responsible for the changes in the canyon, then we shouldn't expect things like the flood of 1910 to have the kinds of effects it did.  Remember that black-and-white photo up there?  It was taken 10 years or so before that flood.
I know that other evolutionists may have a different theory but I am using this as one example.
See, there's another problem.  You're discussing geology as though it relates to evolution.  It doesn't, but I'm trying to answer your questions as honestly as I can without sidetracking us too much.  Also, 'evolutionist' isn't a thing. "Evolution" is not a religion.  Evolution describes why we have dalmatians and poodles, rather than just wolves.  It describes why we can breed corn for specific traits, like growing taller, or having bigger ears.  It describes why people with red hair tend to have children with red hair, and why people without it tend not to.  It describes why the flu can overcome our body's defenses, and how our bodies can fight the flu in the first place.

The flood story of the bible, or of the Epic of Gilgamesh, or of many other religions, really doesn't have much to do with it.  However, let's stick to the canyon for a moment since we're here already.
We both look at the same evidence yet arrive at two very different conclusions. What evidence is Dr. Lisle ignoring?
 I'm gonna gloss over this point momentarily.  I do not have Jason's arguments in your original post, so I cannot respond to them directly.
You said that " He appears not to have internalized the essence of science – an approach to inquiry that depends on testing explanations against data, not fitting data to predetermined conclusions." What evidence points to evolution?
Awww, no more grand canyon?  One last point on the flood, though. Genesis 8:6 and 8:13 say that the water dries up, which means that in Gen 8:8 and 8:11, the water is receding into the air, not to the ground. Clearly, we can see that the bible does not even support a flood narrative in which the waters can cause the grand canyon to form.  Just wanted to put that there.
Evolution is not proven by data...
Wrong. Again, if evolution were wrong, then we could not diagnose genetic or hereditary diseases, because they couldn't possibly happen.  If evolution were wrong, then sperm and ova would not be necessary for sexual reproduction (as we humans do).  Every piece of testable, repeatable evidence we can find points to the fact that evolution works.  Whether it's a virus injecting it's DNA into a host, or the color of a cat's hair, evolution describes the process by which it happens.

The bible, on the other hand, tells us that breeding cows in front of sticks will change the color of their hair. Genesis 30:39 says that spotted sticks are necessary to have spotted cows.  This is just as silly as saying that chocolate milk only comes from brown cows.  It simply isn't true.  You can even try this experiment if you have some cows, or you can ask your local dairy farmer, if you don't believe me.  None of them keeps spotted sticks for ensuring they get a Geurnsey or a Holstein instead of a Brown Swiss or a Dutch Belted.

You can breed two Dutch Belted cows together all you want in front of spotted sticks. The vast majority of the babies they have will have the belted pattern, not a spotted one.
it is a theory that has not been proven.
Incorrect.  A 'scientific theory' is a very specific thing, and it means something very different to what people usually use it to mean. A theory is the best explanation for something we have, which has yet to be disproved.  If we do find something it doesn't fit, then we figure out the best explanation and it gets appended or amended to the theory.
Everyone has a worldview, a set of your presuppositions, through which we interpret the evidence.
This is correct.  The scientific method helps us eliminate those by removing the need to presuppose anything.  We don't have to presuppose, for example, that the world was flooded just so YHWH could create a rainbow.
This is why we come to two different conclusions when we look at the same evidence.
This is correct.
A creationist comes to the evidence with the worldview of a young earth designed by God ...
 That's correct.  Biblical creationists believe the earth was formed, about six to ten millennia ago, by one of the gods listed in the old testament.  There are other forms of creationism, like those held by the Greeks/Romans in which Chaos (the god) was one of entities that created the void.  The people who believe in the Norse pantheon (Odin is the chief god) hold that Yggdrasil is the world tree, upon which all the universes hang.  There are many beliefs regarding various forms of creationism.  A biblical creationists presupposes that those other ones are false.
and an evolutionist comes to the evidence with a worldview of an old earth
It's not a worldview.  It is what the evidence presents. 
that came about through random chance.
 No, this is wrong.  It's not 'random.'  It's not 'chance.'  I could explain to you in great detail why it isn't either of those things, but I'm trying to write a blog post, not a dissertation.  Perhaps in the next one.
We both have predetermined thoughts of what the evidence should say.
Incorrect.  Let's take the rainbow example again, since it's one of the simplest examples, and one you can try yourself.  Ibn Al-Haytham did not presuppose that emission theory was wrong.  Some of the greatest minds of history, like Euclid (the father of classical mathematics) and Ptolemy. Ptolemy even described how light bends and reflects, but also still believed the light came from the back of our eyes.

Even Ibn Al-Haytham didn't get it all correct, because he had no way of knowing that light wasn't simply rays.  He thought the lens of our eyes was where we collected the image, although we know now that it's the retina (the back of our eyes).  This is why we can use lenses like we find in a pair of glasses to focus the light.  The people 1,000 years ago had no way of knowing that light isn't simply a ray, and yet they still managed to discover all of this while believing it was not correct. This is how science works.  Even the simplest notions you hold must be put to the side while investigating reality.
No one comes to the evidence unbiased.
Again, this is correct.  Science requires you to completely remove your biases. You must ask yourself why you believe that rainbows are created by god, and not by the bending of light.
You challenged Dr. Lisle to put his faith on the line and to test his beliefs. I ask you to do the same.
Okay.  I expect you to do the same.  You are very nearly an adult now.  Pretend for a moment your god doesn't exist.  Pretend that no god exists.  Now, read the part in Genesis 30 again.  The bible says you should get spotted animals if you breed them in front of spotted sticks.  You can test this. If your god is real, this should happen as it is described there.  The problem is, if it doesn't happen, it means that story is very likely wrong, as it doesn't describe the data you collect. 

You can find other experiments in the bible.  For example, the bible says in Jeremiah 10:13 that god creates the clouds, thunder, rain, lightning, and wind.  Science shows us that, for the most part, this is a result of the water cycle, where water evaporates and turns into clouds, which in turn become rain, which feeds the rivers and such that evaporate back into clouds and so on. Lightning is caused when clouds cause electricity to build up from friction, like a giant capacitor.  Thunder happens as a result of air pressure changing rapidly (just like any sound - it's all how air pressure changes the position of your eardrum).

This is what the evidence provides.
Consider how in an random chance evolutionary worldview you can account for uniformity of nature.
Again, it isn't 'random chance.'  For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  This is classical Newtonian physics. Everything from the most basic physics to the most complex chemistry is described by this (quantum stuff is more complicated and described by different interactions, but the basic premise exists).  It's not random, it's not chance.  It may seem too complicated for us to understand, but I bet you also can't explain to me how your phone or computer uses those same laws to show you this response.  It works, you know the electricity works somehow, and it makes a picture on your screen. Just because it is complicated doesn't mean a god had to make it.

It's true that humans do make computers, but we don't make the laws of physics.  We can make computers work because the laws of physics are constant and uniform. If they were not, the hard drive would not keep its states and we couldn't save data on the platters (or I guess microSD drives now?).  Much like a house, we can build things very small and complex.  However, just because we can build the house doesn't mean we created the trees.  It simply means we used things that exist in new ways that are consistent with nature.
In order for science to take place we must assume the uniformity of nature.
Not exactly. We do not assume nature is uniform.  It simply appears to be.  We could even be wrong about that, but it hasn't happened yet.  If it happens in the future, then we'll have to record that observation and adjust the theory to account for it. We can't even assume it's uniform; it just so happens that every time we measure it, it is uniform.
If nature was not uniform how would we know that an experiment that we performed yesterday would have the same results today?
We would test for it.  For example, when you get out of bed every morning, you're doing this test!  Every day that you step out of bed, onto the floor, and your sheet falls on the floor, gravity stays consistent.  You may not think about it consciously, but you would be very aware if you suddenly fell out of your bed at twice the speed, or if you suddenly started floating out of bed! Even these basic notions must be put to the side.  We can't say with absolute certainty that gravity will continue working tomorrow, but it has worked consistently every time we've tested it so far.  Similarly, our predictions about it let us know if we've got it right, by how closely our predictions align with the results we get.

If I go to the top of a tall building every day, and drop an egg every day, I can make two observations.  I can observe how long it takes the egg to fall (timing it with a watch), and I can also see how long it takes for the sound to get back (again, timing it carefully).  I could use a high-speed camera and even get it to the nearest frame, perhaps .00001 second.  I would make an observation, perhaps it takes two seconds for the egg to fall, and somewhere around .1 second for the noise to return to me. I could then take this test several times, and I could start making predictions about how long it would take.  Then, every day, if my predictions are correct, I can start to form a theory.

Now comes the fun part.  Why does the egg take two seconds to fall every time? Why do I see the egg break before I hear it?  I now have a theory for what will happen when I drop the egg. Now I could start forming a theory about why it happens. Maybe I notice that, on days with strong wind, I can't hear the egg.  I wonder why that is, that I can hear the wind and not see it, but I can see the egg and not hear it.  From this, you could probably build a very solid theory.

Then you'd have to ask other people to do the same, because your results have to be repeatable and testable.
For all we know the principles of science could have changed overnight.
Sure.  Then again, if we presume for a moment your god is real, he sometimes does claim to have done that.  In Joshua 10:12, the sun stood still, allegedly.  Jesus walked on water in Matthew 14, so they claim. Even in Genesis, you're asked to believe that the laws of physics changed overnight, when god created something out of nothing (where did god come from, anyway?).  Moses allegedly parted the waters and turned a stick into a snake.

None of those things can happen today, for some reason.  You are the one claiming the rules have changed, not us.
Without God you cannot account for uniformity.
I believe that I did, actually, about 3-7 paragraphs ago.
How do you justify uniformity in your worldview?
Again, see above.
I would love to be able to have a conversation with you about this issue and Dr. Lisle will not delete this post. You posted on our page so we are able to keep it up. And if you know Dr. Lisle at all you will know that he is not afraid of someone posing a challenge to his beliefs he has nothing to hide from.
Please, direct him to our video, and this blog post.  Since he's not afraid of anything, let me link this here:

He stands by his beliefs as do I and I am happy to have a conversation where we challenge one another's views. 
I'm glad to hear that.  I realize you're young, but I've treated you just the same as I'd treat any adult. Shall we have a conversation?
Jason Lisle, you can do a lot better than I can with this. Do you have anything to add? ~Virginia, age 14
Tune in next time, when we respond to the next paragraph or two! 

Saturday, September 23, 2017


My newest youtube video can be found here:

Fall is quickly approaching, and the leaves are starting to change.

I'm going to head to the park now to get some photos.  In the mean time, here's a few neat photos I've taken over the past couple weeks.

Thanks for tuning in!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Labor Day Weekend!

It's time for a holiday weekend!

I've been busily making videos.  If you haven't been paying attention, I also have a account now

Work has been keeping me busy, as well as making all these videos.

Go have a watch and don't forget to follow me on!  If youtube happens to fall apart, I'll still be there.

Also, on November 5, I'll be releasing a video which will ONLY be there.  Here's why:

Be sure to keep an eye out for all the neat things I'm working on!  I'm also hoping to start blogging about things more often again.  If the weather's nice tomorrow I'll probably get back to the forest again and take more pictures.  It's cold and rainy today, so it's not optimal for doing much outside.

Thanks for hanging in there and being some great followers!

Also if there's something you'd like me to address you can tweet at me, message or tag me on minds (link to be updated in the sidebar soon), or leave a comment on this blog!  Feel free to contact me and I'll get in touch with you as soon as I can!

Also I'm working on the second part of My View on the Universe, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Grand Theft Auto and Modders

I was listening to a report on NPR this morning concerning the modding of GTA V / Online.  The modding was presented as an issue concerning intellectual property (IP) but I disagree.  I reached out to the segment's reporter,
and I decided to write this.

I think the IP argument is fair to make, though I personally disagree with it, and we'll probably get to why that is in a bit.

This is going to be a stream of consciousness kind of post, so it'll differ slightly in style from my usual.

Basically, my thoughts on modding in GTA (and gaming in general) is that it's fine if someone mods their own experience, but the experiences of others (especially in an online, public setting) should be consensual.

Let's compare Rust with GTA Online.

Rust is more like the traditional online gaming experience.  Similar to StarCraft or Deus Ex, you know beforehand if you are playing in a vanilla session, or if the session is custom or modded.  Rust has dedicated servers for modders, as well as dedicated servers for those who wish to only play with the standard settings.  Similarly, rust has an anti-cheat program that is required to be used to play the game.

GTA online is fundamentally different in these regards.  Every public session is commensurate with every other public session.  So, instead of modding the scenario itself and allowing official support (Deus Ex, for example, was a single player game which the community decided should have multiplayer and then ion storm added it in).  GTA Online has a persistent character, so that if your character attains or loses something in one session, that information persists onto the next server you visit.  For example, if you play several hours worth of missions and buy a new car, all the RP/XP, money, possessions, etc follow to wherever your character goes.  This also means that if someone mods those things out and Rockstar (take2?) doesn't catch it, then you potentially lose all those things.

Another fundamental difference between the sort of modding between these is that GTA online does not support modding, and it is against the TOS to mod.  The problem is, with the unauthorized mods like those of the openIV, are that they inject the code using a particular form of data manipulation between the clients and the server.  So someone can literally act as though they are someone else, or mod anyone's stats who happens to be on the session, etc.  This can also result in persistent client side artifacts causing a mod to follow a person who isn't modding (in the form of glitching local data that the individual clients should not be able to normally interact with remotely).

The difference between this kind of modding and the modding one sees in most other online interactions is that, for example, someone can give you GTA$ they've modded onto themselves, drop it onto the world (or transfer it as though you're their associate helping with a mission when you're not, etc) and you can pick it up and the server treats it as though the server gave it to you.

Another interesting and annoying exploit is that anyone modding can simply execute a command to kill/blow up a player.  So if you've been doing a warehouse mission for 20 minutes, they can just kill your character remotely at the last second and you get nothing.  They can grief you repeatedly this way.  Another interesting mod I ran across the other day was someone making controls not function properly to win a world event.

Another stupid thing is that rockstar can't seem to verify who is actually modding, as evidence by the 'Rockstar has noticed that your stats were adjusted by something outside your control, and we've adjusted it for you.'  It's common knowledge right now that, if someone mods money to you, you can just buy expensive cars and stuff to sell later, and Rockstar won't touch any of that stuff you bought because its' not a stat they adjust.  Get modded money, buy a car, switch session and sell the car, and your money is good.  It's supremely frustrating, and it leads to another problem with the overall economy.

If people can just mod money in, no one will buy shark cards.  Now, while I think the business of selling money to people is bad (IGN got in trouble for selling gold on WoW servers back in the day, if memory serves), it's not a bad way to support the game and the costs associated with running such a massive server-heavy operation.

However, there's absolutely no way I'm buying a Shark Card if I know that other people are just modding themselves millions of in-game currency for free, and that those people can effectively waste off any money I might buy.

How, you might ask?  Well, it goes back to the adjustments that Rockstar makes.  If they think your RP or GTA$ have been modded, they will take away whatever they believe to be modded.  You could be completely unaware that someone modded a small GTA$ sum to you, and if Rockstar believes you got more than that, they will just adjust it.  Same with RP.  I think I hit level 96 or 99 five times in a row because I was constantly in modded sessions and the RP didn't persist.

Which brings us to the other very big issue.  As we've pointed out before, because of the nature of the code being injected (CSS hijack perhaps?), Rockstar cannot tell with certainty who is actually modding whom.  It is not so common knowledge (see the link) that they have an algorithm to place players they believe to be involved with modding into a 'cheaters pool.'

Now, I've never modded, but I've been the victim of modding on probably half the sessions I've joined at this point.  It appears that I'm in the cheater's pool at least some of the time, and I have no recourse against it.  Speaking of which.

CEO and other missions can only be completed in public sessions.  One cannot do MC/VIP/CEO work etc in a private (invite only, crew, solo, or other) session.  The session has to be public and populated by rockstar's algorithms.  This means that I cannot avoid the modders at all if I want to do any of the online-only stuff.  Rockstar doesn't give the option for having an offline (private session?) character.  I can't play the online features of the game, effectively, in a private session where I do not have to worry about modders.  I would love to be able to just jump on a private session, play with the new toys, etc, and not have to worry about some idiot griefing me to death.  There's also no session balancing to speak of, so a person with a max level (likely modded) can get thrown into a session with people who are double digits and just screw around with them to no end.  I don't even care if this functions as an alternate character that I can't use publicly.

While we're discussing the online multiplayer experience, it's not limited to just open sessions.  I've been in multiplayer missions (tiny racers, deadline, death matches, etc - all the 'games' portion stuff with lobbies and matches etc) where people have modded themselves to be impervious to damage or whatever.  It doesn't help that I've got a 60Mbps connection and half the time the server lags to no end, or it takes 10 minutes just to connect sometimes (cheater pool algorithm might be part of that).

Again, to sum it up, I think the IP argument is fair, I just do not think it is valid here.  Rockstar is clearly more concerned about modders flubbing up the online space than they are about creators or offline/private session players modifying the game to create new intellectual property.  Modding can be handled in creative ways, but I think Rockstar simply doesn't have the manpower to deal with this level of the illegitimate stuff.

I've even tweeted to them before, how do I report someone if I don't know which person is modding, and they've told me to report the person who is modding.  They seem a tad out of touch on how grand this issue is.

Also, to be clear, I do not mod, and I do not condone this kind of modding.  I do not care what people do in their own environment on their own private copy of the game.  I only care when that infringes upon others' ability to enjoy the online experience as Rockstar intended, with people following the TOS and being kicked if they don't.  However, again, Rockstar has no way of definitively determining who is perpetrating the exploits based upon my understanding of how their code works (which is cursory, to be fair), and as such has a very long uphill battle in this regard.  I wish them the best, because I really enjoy playing the game online, and I really hate when people mod in the session I'm in.

Those are my thoughts for tonight.

As always, thanks for tuning in!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Skeptical Chopra

Let's take a look at this article from Deepak Chopra, the title of which encourages skeptics to go radical.
Anyone who has had the audacity to question mainstream science soon runs afoul, particularly in the blogosphere, of hard-line skeptics.
Whatever that means. 'Mainstream' science is just science.
Whether they are simply insistent or outright aggressive, the skeptical viewpoint has long been founded on a simple principle.
Question everything, even this article. That's the principle.
Reality is what lies before us, in the three-dimensional world "out there" that's verified by the five senses.
So, things like dark matter aren't real because it doesn't exist in those three dimensions, and you can't taste it.  Same thing with microwaves or IR light.
If you can see it, feel it, touch, taste, and smell it, the thing in question is real (making provisions for scientific instruments like telescopes and microscopes that extend the naked eye).
Well, which is it?  Must I be able to experience them with my senses, or can I experience them by proxy?
No amount of argument shakes the skeptic's credo,
That's correct. We question things until we have solid evidence.  I'm sure that won't come up again.
and so it's refreshing that they are being upended,
So you do not question things?  Or you don't want us to require evidence for claims?
not only by metaphysics
HAHAHA.... oh no, you can't experience metaphysics with any sense, or instruments, but somehow it's real!

Excuse me while I catch my breath, I laughed too hard.
or deeper investigation into consciousness--all of which gets dismissed as woo-woo,
So you don't have even those instrument readings you just said were required, but we should just accept your claims as true?  Well, I think you just admitted it isn't real, Deepak.
but by science itself.
That's the point, sir.
With the discovery of so-called dark matter and dark energy, which either obeys none of the laws of nature that apply to ordinary matter and energy or else conforms to those laws in a hidden way, the primacy of the visible universe has shrunk alarmingly.
Those things are real and we can detect them with instruments, which you just said were fine.

We cannot, however, seem to find a telescope, microscope, radio receiver, or anemometer that can pick up on metaphysical constructs that you've described elsewhere.
Every solid object in the cosmos,
Those made of matter, you mean.  There are solid things not constructed of matter, like for example things made of dark matter.
including interstellar dust,
Why wouldn't it include that, again?
is barely the cherry on the top of an ice cream sundae,
A dark-matter sundae, no less.  You really don't understand dark matter, do you?
because only a fraction of 1% of creation
 No, it's not created.  It simply is the universe.  The cosmos.  Don't use the word creation until you demonstrate a satellite dish that can receive information from a metaphysical creator.  Remember, you need that for it to be real.  Are you even paying attention to your own article?
is constituted by ordinary matter and energy.
Actually, you're off by an order of magnitude, because it's probably closer to 4% right now.
This common-sense objection to the physicalists,
You only think it common because you don't understand what that word means.
as materialists now prefer to be called,
Who cares?
doesn't shake their faith utterly,
Faith doesn't require evidence. Metaphysics has no evidence, by your admission.  Therefore, you're the one with that kind of faith (since you're conflating terms here like the disingenuous person you are).
because it might be possible to redefine matter and energy in such a way that the old model of "if you can see it, it's real" won't collapse.
You're the one claiming that things have to be able to be sensed to be real, after all.  Just because we can measure something doesn't mean we can sense it.  Not in the meaning you're using, anyway.  Again, conflation of terms.
But other challenges to physicalism are more radical,
...of which you've presented none here...
which is why skeptics need to follow their credo
...except when it comes to your claims, right?
to the nth degree and apply it to themselves.
Right back at you.  Are you not skeptical of your own claims?  Why do you not hold them to the same rigor?

Oh right.  Can't hear us over your special pleading, can you?  Also, I can't be skeptical of claims you aren't supporting with evidence.  You need evidence for skepticism to play out.  Otherwise you're just a modern-type cynic with a baseless assertion.
There is almost universal agreement among physicists that the universe emerged from a pre-created state that is a void,
No, there isn't, and you're an intellectually dishonest lout. If I were to correct your statement:

"There are mathematical observations upon which physicists rely, that describe the state of the early universe as expanding from nothing, the kind of nothing that Krauss and others have described at length.  This is a fact that liars intellectually dishonest charlatans like Deepak Chopra will cherry-pick out to make himself look more credible, because he doesn't have a shred of scruples when it comes to honest discussion."
known as the quantum vacuum state.
Also known as "just one more thing Deepak doesn't understand."
This void offers no empirical data.
Virtual particles, for one.  Dark matter, for another. We can observe them mathematically, predict them, and see their effects on the expansion of space.
The world's most powerful high-speed particle accelerators can barely budge any data from the quantum vacuum state,
Yeah, we didn't learn nothing from the silly higgs-boson experiments, right?

If you insult my intelligence this severely again, I may become thoroughly unpleasant.

You have been warned.
whose existence is so abstract
It's not abstract.  It explains how the world works.  The quantum world.
that one might as well call it totally mathematical, i.e., mental.
You are the only mental one here.  You do not understand the math, so you think people just make it up.  You are a disgrace to the institution of philosophy that you claim to represent.  You do not understand this and so you claim that no one can, because it would hurt your ego too severely if someone actually understands something you don't, that you have to act like you're the ultimate authority on sciences you probably couldn't comprehend if Feynman gave you a personal tour of his mind for the next several centuries.  You couldn't grasp these concepts if you had until the end of time, and Carl Sagan himself explained it in painful detail.  You would not understand the basics if Mr. Rogers held your hand and walked you through QED on the Magic Schoolbus.
If your foundation of reality is mental,
...says the twit who claims that metaphysical stuff isn't entirely mental...
it's obvious that the five senses have long ago ceased to be reliable
It's a good thing math isn't based on feels, then, isn't it?  See how you're reading this blog entry?  If math didn't work, neither would your computer.

Checkmate motherfucker.
(skeptics tend to overlook that among the greatest quantum pioneers a century ago, everyday matter and energy had already been thoroughly dismantled).
Well, when you don't define your terms, I guess you can have verbal diarrhea anywhere.
The notion has long existed, as first evidenced by Heisenberg, that elementary particles have no set qualities;
Yeah, he didn't really say that, but I reckon a strawman argument is the only argument you've ever engaged in, so try not to burn your brain on the actual science.
instead, nature delivers measurements tailored to the expectations, experimental setup, and observational bias of human beings.
Which is totally why the red shift is something only humans can observe.  Yup.  It's not an intrinsic part of the universe, nope.
There are no fixed qualities of space, time, matter, and energy that exist "out there" without being extrapolated from human experience.
Wrong. You're just simply wrong.  You are so incredibly wrong that I'm not even going to go into detail here.  Here's a video on the alpha constant though.

If you want to be radically skeptical,
Deepak "THE EDGELORD" Chopra
look with doubt upon a basic fact like the big bang,
It's not as basic as you think, in this regard.
which we say in human time took place 13.8 billion years ago.
Roughly, yes. We also have ways to demonstrate how long that is independently of our own methodology.  It's just handier for humans to speak to one another in human-friendly units.  We could measure it in Planck times, but this wouldn't be useful to most people.
With so much agreement on this fact, how could anyone be skeptical?
Well, for a start, 'the big bang' wasn't really the thing, it's just common popular vernacular for describing the very earliest parts of the inflation.  'Big Bang' doesn't really explain it, because 'big bang' refers to a specific event hypothesized half a century or more ago.  We've updated the models with new evidence.
The reason lies deeper than the clock ticking away on the shelf.
Not really, but I digress.
The big bang has no known origin
Correct, because it doesn't require one.
when you get to the finest level of time and space, known as the Planck scale.
Holy crap, I called that one.  I actually hadn't read this far.
At this level, which is measured in trillionths of a second,
Close enough.
the emergent universe is about to be born.
Well, not exactly. The inflation was when time began.  Don't look at it like the beginning of a timeline, though.  Think of it more like a sphere. The beginning of time is the center of that sphere.  You can't go beyond the center, obviously, because you'd just start going the other way.
Its birth wasn't a bang, for obvious reasons.
Mainly because it wasn't a 'bang.'  It was an inflation.  At the beginning (which you would do best to think of as the center of the universe in time) it was literally a point a planck-length across, probably less even, and it 'inflated' from there.
One, there was no sound,
This is mainly because matter wouldn't annihilate with antimatter for a bit, and create space as we commonly think of it for quite a while after.
and two, explosions require a place and a time.
Close enough I guess.
The Planck scale precedes time and space
No. Can't have measurements where space doesn't exist.  No dimensions yet, remember?  You can't have the smallest space and the shortest time before space and time existed.
(granting that "precede" makes no sense without time already existing).
See, you don't get it.
In this pre-reality,
Wrong again.  You've defined your terms poorly, again. It's every bit as real as the center of the earth or sun.
if we can call it that,
Nope.  We can't.  You can, because you're dishonest, but I can't, because I'm not.  So we cannot.
the universe originated everywhere at once,
Not really.  You aren't following me, are you?
and contemporary theorists speculate over whether the same is true today as well.
[citation needed]
You can argue,
You, however, cannot.
from various viewpoints
Something else you lack.
like eternal inflation,
What, prithee tell, is 'eternal inflation?'  Did you mean expansion?  The inflation was a specific thing. Before it happened, time and space were infinitely dense, so to speak.  They existed at null states in symmetry with dark matter etc.
that the existence of matter and energy, whether at the subatomic scale or on the massive scale of galaxies, is a process that never ceases.
Well, again, you seem to be referring to the expansion, but even then not really, because the expansion largely has nothing to do with galactic formations anymore.  It's a thing that happens far from galaxies, in fact, because matter-heavy areas don't tend to expand as much for some reason.
Besides being timeless, it is also dimensionless.
The inflation? No.  You are wrong.  The various phases of the inflation did happen for specific periods of time, give or take, but you simply don't understand how time works.  Maybe we'll discuss it in a future episode.
The whole notion of the quantum vacuum state, which is ground zero for reality,
Not really, no.  What does this waffle even mean?
can be mathematically tinkered with so that the void has no dimensions,
No.  That's so dumb...  I think I just pulled an axon.
infinite dimensions,
Not based on observation, it can't.
or a specific number in between.
See, this is why you don't understand dimensions.  I'm working on a hypothesis to describe reality, actually, and maybe even tie all the forces together neatly.  I'm probably wrong.  Either way, I'm still attempting to figure out if the stuff I'm thinking about can be tested.  You are not.  You haven't made any predictions we can test, apart from claiming the evidence is wrong.  That's the only thing you've claimed which we have an ability to test for, and you come up wrong every time.  Quit acting like that's the fault of someone else.
In a word, reality at its core is inconceivable,
Again, what does that mean?
and trying to model it with mathematical formulas may serve a certain purpose abstractly,
It serves a fine purpose practically, too. It predicts the force of gravity based on the mass of an object.  It predicts the flow of electrons through a system. It predicts the rates of decay of radioactive atoms. Things we can test to see if our math is correct, and then how to correct our math for further predictions.
but even diehards like Stephen Hawking concede that current theory may be far removed from reality.
But unlike die-hard folks like Chopra, Hawking is open to his claims being wrong if new evidence presents itself.  Which Chopra has yet to provide.
Skeptics should be chewing on the current imperfect and very malleable state of cosmology before they point accusations at anyone else.
Do you even read, bro? There's not a unified theory yet, and do you know why?  It's because they ARE chewing on those problems, then going out and testing those hypotheses and reforming them based on observation. Something you seem quite content not to do.
The defense of common-sense physicalism is not only outmoded by about a hundred years,
You act like metaphysics is any different...
but it amounts to an article of faith and a superstition,
No, it doesn't.  Science makes observations and then tests predictions based on those observations.

Metaphysics makes stuff up and then doesn't care what the observations are, because it'll just make up new stuff regardless of the observations.

Can you see the difference?
the very things the skeptic movements is dedicated to oppose.
You are not a skeptic.  You don't question your own beliefs. You don't attempt to embrace evidence that could show you wrong, but that's what skepticism does. If I'm wrong, show me, and I'll have to change my opinion.  If I don't think you are correct, but you can show that you are, then I must concede your point.  Unfortunately, for you, you haven't done that.
In an era of radical skepticism,
should it ever arrive,
Passive-aggressive tripe.
a post-physicalist perspective could be of tremendous benefit to everyone.
Or it could be complete horseshit.  Good thing we have empiricism to sort it out, if it ever arrives, right Deepak?

Monday, April 17, 2017

Child Abuse

I'm just gonna let this one speak for itself.  This behavior is disgusting. Please share it.