Friday, November 28, 2014

DESTINY: Such Hubris.

So I'm sitting here, watching some youtube videos.  At the beginning of them, an advertisement for the video game 'Destiny.'  There's a band of heroes (I assume), three in total.  One of them is looking down these binoculars (it's the future, we're fighting aliens in space, and we don't have optical implants?) at a fortress in the side of a mountain.  So they deduce it looks pretty quiet.  Might as well blow something up, right?  I mean, it's not like there's just three of them, or that the three of them are standing in front of a huge fortress brimming with probably thousands of enemies.  Enemies possibly much more advanced than the simple 20th century firearms they apparently lugged through space (shipping things to space costs A LOT OF RESOURCES). 

Blast apart the door they do and out pour these myriad enemies.  You know they're enemies because the English-speaking fellows are shooting at them, and they don't speak any civilized language (and they look scary too!  Why do these antagonists never look like cute little bunnies or kittens or something?  Always so humanoid).

As the first enemies pour out, one says 'Looks like the party has started,' to which the other replies something about wanting his floating computer to play Classical music.  Que Led Zeppelin's 'Immigrant Song.'

There's something funny about playing a song about Vikings fighting their way to Valhalla that's probably lost on the average viewer.  I mean, yeah, the protagonists are definitely invading the natives, so that's probably a decent track to pick.  But what I don't get is why they apparently have a floating computer that has the entire history of music on it (mind you, Destiny has to be set sometime a LONG time from now - are you gonna put several-hundred year old music on your future MP3 player?  I doubt you can stream Pandora from servers on Earth to somewhere light-years away almost instantly...)

Also, it's pretty awesome how we Americans all pretty much still have the exact same dialect several hundred years from now, and intergalactic warriors are gonna be listening to English music (of all the possible worlds full of music, ours is still the most awesome, music no one of that time is going to have any real ties to).  I mean, seriously, who wants to listen to a Holophoner (thanks, Futurama!) when you have remastered vinyl from several centuries ago?

Maybe this is why I don't play video games so much anymore...

Monday, November 24, 2014


Alright, it seems that perhaps my last article was not the clearest in terms of defining what an atheist is, and I think I finally agree that perhaps there are no atheists.

Let me break it down real quick.

Last article I needed to discuss a specific issue regarding theology and morality.  I defined atheist and pointed out that most people are.  Let's pause there, add that is the relevant bit.

Theism is holding a belief in a god.  Atheism is holding no such belief. 

So let's say one is Christian.  One is believing, then, that God exists and simultaneously that every other god doesn't exist. 

So let's turn that around.  Let's say one is atheist.  An atheist like myself, let's say, that believes firmly there is no Christian god.  I also hold a belief in this god, I believe exactly the opposite thing as a Christian.  Thus, believing it about all gods makes me Atheist.  But as I hold a belief concerning said god, shouldn't I be a theist? 

Sure, there's middle of the road folks too, but in that case it is also petty clear.  It is rather impossible to believe (belief is active) that two disparate entities made the same universe.

Ergo, I rest my case.  I guess I didn't change my mind.  Everyone is still atheist; this doesn't preclude one from being theist.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Falsehood of Compositional Homogeniety and Dichotomy Falacy

In preface, a link to this excellent article.

The title is a proposal for a new type of categorical, compound fallacy.

To start with, a common fallacy employed by lots of religious folks.
Without god, people would be evil.
 This is the basic point offered by most religious apologists.  As many have said before, if the presence of a god is what's stopping you from committing evil, then perhaps it's not the people without god (who are acting morally, generally) who are evil, but the people of god who would otherwise do all sorts of evil things.  This leads to a direct fallacy in itself.
With god, people are good.
This creates the implication (falsely) that anyone who believes in a god is inherently a good person, somehow.  It's as though, because you claim to be on the side of god, you are ineffable.  Clearly, a godly person and a not-so-godly person can commit crimes, in fact the same crime, and yet somehow it's only the 'godless' person who is evil, for some reason.  When presented with this point, some religious will point out something like the next fallacy.
Lots of atheists have done evil things, therefore atheists can't be moral.
Never mind that most of these 'atheists' are quite religious folks, usually.  And this is where we arrive at the title of the post.  Almost.  Usually at this point, it's simple enough to point out the Crusades, the various Holy Wars of the past, or any number of other things that are just as immoral or amoral. 
 Well, that's not how our religion is now.
Well, that's not what I believe. 
Well, that's in the past and isn't pertinent.
et cetera.
 And thus it comes full circle.  Atheists are, to these religious folks, a homogeneous group, and everyone shares the exact same ideology, regardless of the fact that there's no unifying principles laid out in a book that describes our... lack of belief?

So to the first point, the primary point, it's as though (for example) Christians are allowed multitudes of sectarian groups, all believing different things to different extents, are somehow still all 'Christians.'  If Atheists show such separation on issues, however, it's completely ignored for some reason I can't fathom.

If we reversed it, took the corollary, it would be saying that The Pope is a Christian and therefore every single Christian is Catholic and shares exactly the same morals as every pope who existed before.  I mean, if Hitler was an atheist (he was a christian, actually, but let's put that aside a moment), then atheists have no morality, goes the argument.  Ergo, the corollary is that various Popes were in power during the crusades, therefore Christians share that morality, or lack thereof.

In a roundabout way, this brings me to my next point: everyone is an atheist.  Let's break it down a bit.

(A)theism, regardless of your technical description of it, deals with belief in a divine being, usually a creator of the universe or the pantheon to which such beings exist.  So let's present an exercise for the reader.

Please check all of the gods you believe in:

  • Marduk / Gilgamesh
  • Ahura Mazda / Zoroaster
  • Allah
  • Jesus
  • Gaia
  • Zeus
  • Apollo
  • Odin
  • Raijin
Now, review those results.  Did you check all of them?  If not, congratulations!  You are an atheist!  You believe in all the ones you didn't check as much as I do.  In fact, most atheists are not thinking about the ones you didn't check any more than you are.  See, you've got something in common with those 'atheists' already.  
Be good, my friends!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Global Warming!

Global Warming: Emerging Science and Distortions of it.

The other day, I was in my local Goodwill thrift store, wherein I chanced upon a video. 

 Understanding?  That's one way to spell 'misinterpretation.'

  As you can see, it's got simple graphics, a graph that's not very useful out of context, a picture of the sun.  In their defense, lots of people like the sun.  I can see why they'd make it a selling point.  Giant ball of gas that keeps us alive.  So let's flip this box over, shall we?

Dozens?  I think I counted six in the first segment.

 So, more words, and a lady.  Apparently Al Gore's film was too political, so let's take up some text to argue against it.  Not from a standpoint of having better science, mind you, but from the standpoint of politics says it's wrong in some countries.  Politicking to complain that someone is too political seems a bit less than scientific.  Sensationalist?  I'll let you decide.

Getting right down to business, I popped in this DVD.  I mean, who doesn't want some balance and perspective in their daily dose of morning message?  Starting with lesson 1, I have a nifty menu.  
Hockey Stick Error.  What else will it take to convince you?

Now, let's click that menu and watch some science happen!  The first thing that is quickly pointed out (within the first minute or so) is that the data must be wrong because some of it is collected in cities.  The argument here is that the data itself is wrong because cities are hotter than other places.  This sounds like a fair thing.  So they give us data without cities included, and it shows that the hottest years were in the 1930s instead of today, the further argument being that humans couldn't have caused the CO2 increase because we weren't burning fossil fuels yet like we are today.  The Industrial Revolution is somehow overlooked.  Also, it's important to note, the EPA isn't hiding this information.  Search it yourself and see.

A simple rebuttal would point out that the Heat Island effect is a known thing, and is factored into this.  A simpler argument would be that the Heat Island effect doesn't explain away all the data.  I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to determine other, more complex (or even simpler) arguments.

"Ironically, scientists believe..." says the narrator.  This is a common fallacy.  Scientists don't believe things.  Scientists see something, ask why it is happening, perform experiments, collect data, and see where those data fall.  Let's take gravity as an example for a moment.  Every day, ten times a day on average (sometimes more, sometimes less) I drop a ball a known distance.  I measure the distance, as well as the duration of fall.  From this I plot the information.  I see that, as I drop the ball over greater distances, the amount of time it takes to reach the ground increases.  This has nothing to do with what I believe.  This has everything to do with what I observe.  I can believe until the day I die that the ball should take equally long regardless of the distance, but the belief doesn't matter.  Science shows it, through observable, testable facts, to be what it is.

Back to the topic at hand.  Section 4 is about the lag of CO2 rise in relation to temperature.  The video does a wonderful job of presenting correct information here, but does so out of context.  I'll keep this short, as other people have done wonderful jobs of explaining it.  Basically, the earth's axis shifts a few degrees one way and wobbles in a reasonably large circle the other.  This happens over 20,000 to 40,000 years.  This precedes the CO2 shift, because it partially causes it.  However, it's also important to note that once the CO2 catches up, it is indeed a major contributor to further greenhouse gas buildup.

This segment is also somewhat hung up on the idea that we aren't educating people well enough that water is a greenhouse gas.  In one section of speech, I'm told that humans add less than 1% of the CO2 to the atmosphere (well, we add about 1% extra as non-natural processes, so this point is fine).  The part they leave out is that natural processes can't reabsorb the extra 1% we are making, not all of it anyway.  We are indeed adding more CO2 than the world can readily reabsorb, and this is kind of a big deal.

The face of skepticism.  Kinda.

Also there's a bit in here about Al Gore's movie, basically so they can say they disagree with it but pull the same information he uses and cherry-pick their 'arguments' by ignoring other evidence.  This is not how science works.  Oddly enough, in Lesson 3, the video claims it will tell me about the true nature of science, but there is no subsection/chapter dedicated to it.  I think that really spells out the whole brunt of this video.

The true nature of science?  Not important, apparently.

As you can see by this slide of the menu for lesson 3, I've got some serious learning to do.  I mean, they've got a fair point: there would be no global warming without the sun!

Let's get a bit more in-depth.  I saw section 5 there and just had to have a watch.

"Is rising CO2 as harmful as we've been lead to believe..." she asks.  "Is CO2 even a pollutant?" she continues.  That's a loaded question.  No one said it was a pollutant at this point, but rather a greenhouse gas.  Subtlety, folks!  The Professor Emeritus of Horticulture of Michigan State points out that CO2 is an important nutrient.  This is correct, although it's not as simple as just increasing CO2. We went over this a few paragraphs back, so I'll move on.  Next a fellow points out something I learned in or around 2nd grade, that humans and animals make CO2, and plants use CO2.  Also a correct fact.  Following that, a fellow points out that plants evolved when there were staggeringly high levels of CO2, greater than we could ever make today if we tried.  This is also correct to a point - we'd be dead long before we ever hit those levels, but those levels also existed at a time before 'plants' and 'animals' were two distinct categories of thing, or when mammals weren't really developed to the point we are today, et cetera.  That's not an argument suitable for this conversation, and I think the producers of the DVD are well aware of it (I could be wrong - science doesn't seem to be their strong point, after all).  

But then the best point.  They keep arguing for increased CO2 as though it is a miracle gas (their words, in fact), pointing out somehow that CO2 can miraculously make crops grow where they hadn't before.  Not only does this blatantly disregard the advances of science in the past 100 years, they go so far as to say increased CO2 could solve famines in parts of the world where it's a very real thing.  Going so far as to say increased CO2 (a level that won't kill us, mind you - CO2 is repeatedly pointed out not to be a pollutant, implying it's perfectly safe to humans somehow) could allow farms in the desert.  They even show a TIME magazine cover photo of someone from an east-African country and her child with the word FAMINE on the cover, and then show an impoverished little boy, just to drive home the point.  These people honestly think that increasing CO2 will fix global hunger, ignoring the fact that it's taken the likes of Bill Gates, various seed crop companies, tons of GM sciences, and tens of thousands of years of evolution to get us to this point with our food supply.  This is terrible ethics, using scare tactics to proselytize their position, being more political than the things they complain are too political.  It seems they think increasing CO2 to unhealthy levels is the best panacea for everything, and has no negative implications whatsoever.

But as I've rambled on long enough here for today, I'll end on that point.  Think skeptically, check your sources, and be like water, my friends.  The kind of water that holds CO2.