Tuesday, December 29, 2015

CARM Responses, Part 3 (final)

So, I went again today to check that link, and the disingenuous fellow has replaced the simple page with a survey.  This effectively hides the questions from public scrutiny and limits the number of people who can see them.  It's also intellectually dishonest to hide them in this way.  I'm not against the idea of putting up such a survey, but using a browser query to deliberately slow people down is just terrible.  This also makes the jobs of people like myself (and countless others before me) significantly more difficult, as it shows a propensity against it's intended purpose: letting people answer organically in their own way.

The purpose of your questions was never to compile answers on your own. The purpose of your questions was to have people respond to them so that your message and questions would spread beyond the scope of your normal user base.  This is a fine premise, and I fully support it.  However, this also makes it easier for people to just make things up, because most people aren't going to take your quiz and thereby check that the questions are in fact questions you are asking.  I'm not going to alter your questions, and I think the majority of people wouldn't.  However, since there is no simple form to read, most people are just going to take my word for it.

Sure, I could probably use the wayback machine to get my questions, but I'm curious now how he's set this up.  Let's go on a journey, to the mind of someone who simply doesn't understand peer-review, nor how to effectively spread a message.

Again, I'm not against the idea of a survey as he's laying it out, but I am against the idea of removing the questions wholesale from a simple format.  Since I've now got to take the test to get the remaining questions, I suppose that's what I'll do.  Let's see how this new format works, and what the new questions are.  Seeing as I've previously answered 10 of them, I'll be doing what appears to be 21 questions at least here.  Maybe take a moment, make some coffee or tea, and settle in.  It's going to be a trudge.

To keep you folks from being bored, I'll see if I can't add
some neat pictures I've taken in the past.  Everyone loves pictures.
So, these first questions that I've already answered have multiple choices which are just absolute crap.  A few of them have space for short replies, but I can barely fit three sentences.  Question two is not open-ended at all, so let's just pick one at random.  I mean, does a christian really act any different with regard to Vishnu, or a Muslim with regard to Thor?  Does Billy Graham act as though he believes Thor isn't real; or does he act as though he doesn't believe Odin is real?  Is there a fundamental difference?  I think not.

Here's a picture of some birds to take the stress down.

Third question on consistency.  I missed this before, but he has a list of what makes a cult, as well as calling some christian religious groups aberrant.  Can he really ask if it is consistent for people to proselytize against something they don't believe in when he himself is doing it?  Where's the Armoured Skeptic when I need him?  Skeptic, if you're reading, I really need whatever liquor your mom puts in that hot cocoa right now...

Seriously though, you all should read and respond to that link with the survey.  This will be fun times indeed. 

Question 4 has been altered.  It now reads "Why are you an atheist?" when it previously read "How sure are you that your atheism properly represents reality?"  That's a pretty big oversight, man.  That's intellectually dishonest to an extreme.  
Question 5 slightly reworded, so I won't dwell there.

Wow, question six took a turn.  
On a scale from 1 to 5, one is weak, 5 is strong, how sure are you that God does not exist?
 This is considerably different.  I'm sure the numbering must now be thrown off, so for comparison, the old question was "How do you define what truth is."  Maybe it'll come back up later.  The actual question is pretty simple.  I fall right in the middle.  I don't know if a god exists or not (although if he's asking about God of the bible, I'm probably a four or five).

Question 7 actually remains the same.  So he's not, in fact, adding new questions.  He's rather just removing some in favor of others that he perhaps thinks are related?  Maybe he didn't like the responses he was getting.  Maybe he honestly thinks those questions he's replacing them with are just as valid but easier to grade.  We'll never know, so I must presume the former.  He's got text boxes for long answers.  This is unacceptably dishonest.

Question 8 is now the worldview one.  Seriously, CARM.  This wasn't difficult.  Put the questions in order, that way when people fact check you, you don't appear to be a slimy bastard.  "Oh, I'll just frame some questions differently, change some entirely and change the order of others.  Who will notice?"


Again, that's not an ad-hominem.  That's actually how you're acting, like someone who has something to hide.  Like a person confronted with inconvenient truths, backpedaling without so much as a redaction or retraction, trying to hide the mistakes you made previously.  This is the internet, people will find out.  I've made mistakes, but I'm not going to erase them.  They will stand as a part of my body of work, and I'll make the necessary reparations when necessary. That's how intellectually honest people work.  Maybe they skipped that lesson too many times in your Sunday School lessons, the bit about not lying and whatnot.

Question 9 asks about my opinion of the bible.  These answers beg the question that anyone who disagrees with him must be a miserable person who simply doesn't understand the bible.  There isn't one single positive choice.  It's as though, in his mind, by not believing in god I also can't enjoy the narratives in the bible, or the writing style, or learning about the culture represented by it.  This really grinds my gears, I guess.

Here's a picture of a sunset.
Isn't it amazing how the sun glides across the crystal sphere
encasing our terrestrial manifestations, descending as it
does to Sheol every night?  Oh wait, that's one of those
unproven worldviews.  Seriously, read that question.
Question ten also kinda sucks.  It asks my opinion of Jesus, gives me three leading choices, and a text box. I'm really quite glad this fellow isn't writing standardized tests.  Since question 10 is where I left off, I'm just gonna pick up here at question 11.  I don't even care if he changed them anymore, I'm documenting them as he has written them from here on out, from the survey.

11: What is your opinion of the concept of the god of the bible?
Since we're talking about the concept of him, rather than him, this is pretty straightforward.  Asked another way, it's how do I feel about the character of this deity, as presented through the lens of the bible?  He's clearly a masochist.  He nailed himself to a cross.  He made his creations able to hurt his feelings.  That's all I got right now, most of you know how that biblical story goes.  I just want some of those drugs god took when he did Revelations.  Talking lamp stands and Seraphs and Cherubim and magic tables and horsemen and WHY ISN'T THIS A MOVIE YET?  Rob Zombie, I'm looking at you...

12: What is your opinion of the Christian concept of hell?
Well, that's a big one.  I don't really care for it.  Sheol isn't the worst, purgatory is alright I suppose.  Lake of fire and sulfur is cliche. What else is there to say?  Don't forget, the afterlives that followers of Baal, Ashteroth, and lots of other gods of the old testament are also equivocal to hell.  Not to mention that Yahweh only judges his own adherents in the end times.  Followers of other gods are kinda exempt from his hell, it's implied.

13: What is your opinion of evolution?
Opinion.  Doesn't really matter. Kinda like my opinion of gravity.   Here's the majority of my response there.

Let me turn this around for you.  What is your opinion of The Sun?  Do you believe, like the bible says, that it's on a crystal sphere encasing the world?  Do you believe that it's about the same size as the moon, and that the moon radiates light just like the sun?  Do you believe, as it says, that the stars are merely holes in the night sky?  How exactly do the stars shine if they are holes, anyway? Doesn't that mean we don't need the sun to light things?
I hope, hope, hope, that this fellow is actually reading all these responses.  I hope, beyond hope, that he will honestly respond to them.  I hope beyond hope because he has demonstrated thoroughly that he doesn't actually care about honesty.

14: How would you define what truth is?
One of his multiple choice answers is actually "..statement or concept that corresponds to reality."  Maybe he is learning.  Probably not, but one can never be sure.

I think I covered this one already.  Not gonna rehash here.  Read my old blog post again.  It doesn't cost you a dime, and I've got no annoying adverts.  However, if you like my writing, you can check out my Patreon page.  That's enough shameless plugs for today.  I'll make sure the next ones are shameful.  Also, if people start paying me, I can do this more.  Maybe I'll even put my beautiful voice on more youtube videos or something.  I play harmonica, I've got a few sounds on soundcloud.  Maybe you just like my pretty pictures.  Still, I'm doing this for fun either way.  Thanks to all you wonderful readers!

15:  Do you affirm that the physical universe is all there is and that all things can be explained in terms of motion, matter, chemical reaction, etc.?
Do I affirm, in the presence of these witnesses?  Does my affirmation make a difference?  Everything within our universe is all that exists as far as we are concerned.  This question shows a fundamental misunderstanding of physics.  All things can be explained by the four forces and their interactions, but not necessarily by the layperson of science.   However, yes, within our universe is the only place that our universe exists.  It's impossible for anything to exist simultaneously here and not here.  That's a basic law of science.  In the same way that two things can't exist in the same place at the same time (the same time-space), they can't exist in two separate places at the same time.  Even virtual particles don't break this, despite the fact that they can be superimposed and interact instantly with it's pair over distances that seem to violate the speed of light.  Cosmic expansion also has that appearance, but it doesn't actually violate physics.

So, naturally, of course.  The sun does indeed keep us locked in orbit, more or less, the same way as the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy keeps the stars in orbit around it.  Well, almost the same way, to avoid some pedantry.

Here's my simplified response to him.
Show me one thing other than your god that doesn't exist here.  Seriously, see that thing that's not in front of you right now, and has never existed in our universe?  Neither do I.  Anything outside of our universe fundamentally can't be in our universe.  
Think about it this way.  I've got a box.  The box is closed up tight.  Inside it, a small puppy.  Outside of it, some yarn.  The puppy exists in this box (The universe) and cannot, no matter how hard it tries, see the yarn outside the box.  The yarn, similarly, has no bearing on what's going on inside the box.  It will never exist in the box (since this box is the universe and the puppy is a metaphor).  Everything that's real to that puppy is in that box.  If the yarn were in the box, it could never leave, just like the puppy.
Yes, it's a terrible analogy because I've only 1000 characters to work with. Anything outside the universe is, by definition, not in or affecting the universe.
I know, that response is sub-optimal and glazes over tons of facts, but there you have it.  Please don't throw your pedantry at me too hard, I swear it's hard to simplify things like this.
16: If you were at one time a believer in the Christian God, what caused you to deny His existence?
Being an atheist isn't about denying existence in and of itself.  Atheism is a lack of belief in any god.  It's not a denial to say that one doesn't know.  This is a false dichotomy fallacy, and it begs the question that every atheist is denying god.  This mindset is troubling, and it can only foster hatred toward the other.

Think about it this way.  You have a friend, let's call him Jim.  Jim is usually an upstanding guy.  Jim makes a few mistakes one day. You now believe that Jim is capable of making mistakes.  This doesn't mean you deny every single good thing he's ever done.  In exactly the same way, not believing in a god, is not the same as denying there is a god.

Look at that glorious cloud formation.
Nature is amazing.
 17: Do you believe the world would be better off without religion?
What bearing does this have on whether or not your god exists?  Also, which religion?  If you mean all of them, I certainly couldn't complain too much.  Muslims could eat pork freely, opening up another avenue of easy food for countries that need it.  Male circumcision could become a choice for consenting adults (considering the body is a temple in the bible, and not to be defiled; an order from god to defile it seems contradictory).  Lots of things could be made simpler with no religion.  The Amish wouldn't exist, and there'd be many fewer medical malpractices among their populations.  Faith healing families in the Midwestern US would finally understand the value of cold medicine over dead children.  I think the argument could be made, relatively easily, that removing religion could solve many of these problems.  Would that make us better off?  I leave that as an exercise for the reader to determine.

 18: Do you believe the world would be better off without Christianity?
 Probably.  Mother Teresa might have actually advocated for better healthcare in India. The crusades likely wouldn't have happened.  Slavery would have been harder to justify, as well as the repression of women's rights.  The Westboro Baptists wouldn't exist, nor would Jonestown or Branch Davidians.  It's pretty easy to argue that removing Christianity could have prevented some of these problems.  Most religious people are quite reasonable people, and we can generally presume that those people would not act deviant if their god were suddenly removed.  The ones who might were likely not stable to begin.  In the end, it's quite possible that the world would have been better off.

19: If you oppose Christianity, what are your reasons?
I don't exactly oppose Christianity.  I oppose the hateful, harmful things that exist within it, and within the minds of some of its adherents.

20: Do you believe that faith in a God or gods is a mental disorder? 
You see, here's where his intellectual dishonesty is showing again. 'God' is either a proper noun or it isn't.  People hold all manner of belief for all manner of reason.  I believe that a mental disorder could indeed make a person more likely to hold false ideals, however, I don't think that holding false ideals is, in and of itself, a mental disorder.  Some people, when confronted with something that is contrary to belief, will take the data and move on.  Others will leave the data behind in favor of personal biases.  This is a bit like asking if racism/sexism/patriotism/bigotry/bigamy/etc are mental disorders.  Does a person have a mental disorder if they simply believe that women are lesser individuals because the bible tells them women are lesser individuals?  Or is that the Christianity at work, and the sexism wouldn't exist otherwise?  Again, it's a loaded question which begs the question that there must be a dichotomy.  This simply isn't the case.

21: Must we be able to demonstrate God’s existence through the scientific method? Basically, the scientific method is a means of gaining understanding about the physical universe via observation, hypothesis, experimentation, prediction, and theorizing.
Well, at least he got the basics of the Scientific Method correct.  Yes, we make observations.  Let's walk through a simple process here.

I come home one day and I observe a rainbow.  I think to myself, maybe god made the rainbow.  So I look for signs of a god, but none appear.  I revise my hypothesis, and the next time I see a rainbow, I wonder if it has something to do with light.  I know that my eyes can pick up the visible spectrum, and I know that light waves in that range are of the proper size to be affected by small bits of water in the air.  So, I set about making a mist and shining lights on it.  This happens every time I do it, and a god never shows up.  That was my experiment, based upon the prediction that water can bend light.  Several more years of this kind of testing, as well as letting everyone else know how to set up the experiment to repeat it (a key part of the method he missed, but perhaps meant to include in the theory development part), and getting peer input (input from people performing the experiment and tweaking it to rule out other possibilities, etc).

Simply telling someone I did it, and then not being able to replicate the result, is not part of the scientific method.  The results must be attainable by prediction.  I predict that tomorrow, when I wake up, gravity will still be working, based upon my observation of it having always worked.  If gravity doesn't work tomorrow, I'll have to publish some information on that, and see if someone else can reproduce that result.  Coding works a lot like this as well, and troubleshooting maintenance problems, et cetera.  It's all science.

Now back to god.  If you want to prove god in the same way we've proven the existence of chloroplasts, then you've got to follow the same rules.  Think about it in reverse.  If I simply stated that Quetzlcoatl existed yet never once showed anything he's ever done, would you accept that claim in exactly the same way as God of the bible?

22: Is it a category mistake to require material evidence via the scientific method for an immaterial God? A category mistake is an error in logic in which one category of something thing is presented as belonging to another category such as saying “the rock is alive”. Life cannot be properly attributed to a rock since a rock is not within the category of living things. 

This question really demonstrates the amount of science it's author doesn't understand.  Let's have some fun.  We have assertions here that I can definitely dissect.

The assertion of an immaterial god.  This is a baseless assertion.  If your god is immaterial, are you admitting you've never experienced it, and that no one can?  Also, what evidence do you have that your god is immaterial?  I can claim that your god is fairy farts on exactly the same burden of evidence.  Fairy farts are simply immaterial, and therefore can't affect anything, so naturally you can't quantify them.  You are saying, quite directly, that you don't actually have evidence (unless you're inadvertently committing a logical fallacy of ambiguity by switching the meanings of immaterial between 'not existing' and 'not being relevant.'  If you are purposefully doing this, well, I don't think that's possible).  No evidence means no evidence, no matter how you want to present it.

 Also, you got the idea for category mistake slightly wrong.  Here's what google says it is:
The error of assigning to something a quality or action that can properly be assigned to things only of another category, for example, treating abstract concepts as though they had a physical location.
That's simply to clarify and avoid further pedantry.  The Rock is, however, a thing.  If your god is not a thing, then you're again saying a god isn't a thing.  If a god is merely a concept to you, then this question actually makes a lot more sense and I'm sorry I was so harsh on you.  You actually meant immaterial the same way throughout.   If you are saying it is a category mistake to call god real, then you're even more of an anti-theist than most anti-theists I know.
The Rock, not to be confused with a rock.
The Rock is most definitely alive and well.
A rock, on the other hand, well...
Picture from The Nerdist.
Used as satire and therefore fair use!
23: Where does morality come from?
It comes from your self.  Morality is personal.  Everyone has a slightly different one, and sometimes people have what's known colloquially as an orange/blue mentality.   Ethics, however, comes from outside.  Books of laws, social conventions, cultures, and so on, dictate codes of ethics.  This is why there are ethics boards for doctors and stuff, because morality isn't the question.

Seriously, for a person with a Bachelor's [sic] degree in Social Sciences, he should damned well know the difference.   Now, technically, I suppose you could specify further that Morals are individual senses of right and wrong, whereas ethics are codes of right conduct.  However, the point remains, if one wishes to say it comes from god, it's no longer morals, because god discusses specifically codes of conduct based on actions, regardless of whether they're right or wrong.  Also, since god is external of the person, and is setting out these precepts for everyone as the right way to do things (like ceremonies, laws, etc), it's also ethics.

Come on, Matt.  These things are important in questions like this.  You can't just switch terms all willy-nilly.  It makes for terrible flow, as well as an inability to actually form good logical arguments.  Matt, you have to do better than this.  You're basically running the voice of a non-profit organization.  This is unacceptable for the president and founder of such an organization.  As a secular person, if I thought you were more intellectually honest, I might even donate to you.  However, if you manage funds like you manage words and ideas, I'm not sure it's in my best interest to do so.  I shall let my readers come to their own conclusions.

24: Are there moral absolutes?  A moral absolute is a moral truth that is always true and not dependent on opinions, society, or preferences.
 So basically, are there actions that are absolutely always good and always evil?  I think this is the question.  Probably not.  There aren't many things which are morally one thing or the other.  Everything is a choice with a trade-off.  This reminds me of a discussion I once had with my friend over alignment.

Basically, it went something like this.  He was arguing that there are neutral actions, and I argued that there are certainly not neutral actions.  Something as simple as getting a glass of water, he argued as an example, is neither a good nor a bad action.  It is simply neutral.  I argued that, depending on the context, it could be either.  Getting a glass of water to procrastinate something important, for example, might be viewed as bad.  Thus it is with life.  I'm writing this blog post.  Could I be doing other, 'better' things?  Possibly.  Do I necessarily believe the things I could be doing instead rank better morally?  I don't know.  Is this action unethical?  Absolutely not.  There may be ethical absolutes, and there may well be ethical neutrals, but I don't think there are moral ones.  Using the glass of water again, drinking too much of it would be negative, as it potentially deprives someone else of it.  Maintaining good health, on the other hand, is probably morally justified.  Maintaining that health in the face of people you're not helping, who knows.  On and on it goes.

Short answer: There are not moral absolutes, but perhaps ethical ones.  Also, forgot to mention amoral people.  See also orange-blue morality above.

My cat is also looking for the end of this post.
I warned you, this would be a long one.
However, you get to see my cat.  GO YOU!
25: Is the following statement true or false? “It is always wrong for everyone to torture babies to death merely for one’s personal pleasure.”
This is something I think has probably never happened.  However, let's take it at face value.  Is it wrong for people to eat veal and caviar/roe?  Is it wrong to raise animals simply to slaughter them?  Is it wrong to do the same with plants, which are equally alive?  Most people in the modernized parts of the world eat various foods simply because they taste good, when it's completely possible to live on a diet that's completely bland.  We could eliminate the fattening of duck livers for foiegras for example, a practice which does indeed hurt the ducks.  Routinely, calves are killed for veal anywhere from a few days old to around six months.  Most people consume this product without realizing such a thing.  Is a person who is unaware acting immorally?  What about those who are aware?

I certainly don't advocate torture, and humane methods of animal farming are definitely best.  According to the ethics of most societies in the history of earth, it's ethically incongruous to torture babies (except for things like circumcision/genital mutilation, drowning babies for simply being girls, saving the virgins of conquered peoples while killing everyone they ever knew, making those children believe in hell, and lots of other forms of torture).  You would think with such absolutes that most people would indeed not like torturing babies, as a stance of morality, but oddly enough most societies in which it happens aren't terribly upset about it.  This means that it's probably not a moral absolute, and it's actually condoned in some cultures and moral structures.

Therefore, it's apparently a false statement.  I don't like the fact that it's a false statement, and I certainly think it's wrong, but it's objectively false.  That makes me kinda sad, and I hope it makes you kinda sad too.  I was going to put a picture here to drive a point home, but I think that's too cruel.  My morals won't allow me to put a picture of a cute baby here now.  SEE WHAT YOU'VE DONE MATT SLICK?

26: Should morality be based on reducing unnecessary harm?
I would say to define the terms 'unnecessary' and 'harm.'  A feminist/christian/lots of people actually, might consider critique of his or her actions to be unnecessary and harmful.  This doesn't make critique harmful or unnecessary.

I think that morality should rather be based on trying to do the most good.  The action which brings about the fewest negatives to the greatest number of people is probably sufficient.

An inspiring quote about #generosity from www.values.com #dailyquote #passiton
I think this sums up my morality reasonably well.
It certainly doesn't sum up everyone's though.
Some people base good and bad on how much reward there is.
Some people consider reducing harm to be ultimate good.
Some people simply want to watch the world burn.
Some people simply live and don't worry about good and bad.
Some people have inverse morality compared with you
All of those are moral compasses.
Every one of those people can be 100% ethical.
Think about it this way.  A person can feel that it is immoral for same-sex couples to get married, but can still do their job and uphold the ethics of the system by writing marriage certificates.  A person who follows their morals instead is an unethical person.  Being ethical in this way could make you immoral, but breaking the code of ethics at that point would also likely be immoral to you as well.  The only moral and ethical option at that intersect is to step down from that job, or assign that duty to someone else, both of which are valid options and ways of living.  Breaking codes of ethics, however, tends to be the one thing on which people do actually base immorality.  Any time someone says 'it's wrong because it's illegal' or 'it's illegal because it's wrong,' they are saying that it's immoral because it's unethical.

This is becoming a diatribe.  Let's trudge on.

27: What would it take for you to believe in god?
Evidence.  Again, by his own admission, god is quite possibly immaterial (not material, not real) and therefore the belief would be harder to justify.  If god's there, we need evidence.  Again, remember, these are my opinions.  I'm not proselytizing here for any viewpoint.  He asked for my thoughts on these questions so I'm answering them as best I can.  I'm not calling you out in a way that should make you be defensive.  I'm saying, if you want to convince me, you need evidence.  I'm not saying you're wrong, regardless of how I might feel.  You're allowed to believe what you like, Matt Slick.  I'm telling you, I also may do that.  If you want my opinion swayed in your favor, then you need to give me something that sways it in your favor.  Do this and the entire world will literally follow your god.  If you can demonstrate irrefutably that your god is correct, who would argue with you?  I wouldn't, that's for sure.  Until such a time, however, that's what it will take.

Think about it this way.  I don't need to convince you to believe in gravity.  The fact that it holds you to the earth does a pretty fine job of it.  It's good evidence for the force of gravity, among other things (including those predictions you talked about earlier).  I don't need to present you any further evidence, but I could.  If you told me you didn't believe in gravity, I would show you the various bits of evidence supporting it.  I would not simply tell you to take it on faith that I am correct.  I would not simply show you a book that says it is correct.  I would experiment with you (or for more advanced concepts, show you the papers since I don't have CERN clearance yet, that sort of thing).  I would make a prediction based on that evidence and see if it works.  You do that kind of thing with your god, and I'll be your first convert.

28: Do you think a society run by atheists or Christians would be safer?
Depends, I suppose.  Probably atheists.  Atheists aren't blowing up abortion clinics.  Atheists aren't denying marriage licenses because of their feelings.  Atheists aren't making children believe in Hell just to scare them.  Atheists believe this is the only life we get so we damned well better be good to one another.  When you stop believing in an afterlife, you start to understand how precious the one life you've got is.  I'm not going to be reunited with all these people when I die, you see.  Therefore, I had better do my damnedest to make the most of the time I have with the people I hold dear.  It makes me not want to harm or kill people, because I realize that they too are human, and once their life is over, that's it.  There's no reward waiting for me if I kill enough infidels, or if I convert enough people.  When I'm gone, that's it.  It makes me want to do more good in this world.

When I was a Christian, those sort of things weren't nearly as important.  Family died, it's alright, because I'll live with them forever when I'm also dead.  Similarly, now they're not in pain, and they're having a wonderful time in heaven, there's nothing for which to be upset.  It's hard to feel bad about people being gone forever when you believe that no one is gone forever.  It makes it much easier to treat people poorly and let them stay in suffering, when the act of being poor secures them that ticket to heaven.  There's no impetus to help the poor not become poor, because even the least shall be like the greatest.

However, that's simply not true.  I believe I must do as much good as I can because I am part of this thing called humanity.  I may disagree with people, but at the end of the day, I don't want to hurt someone.  That's not god's will, that's my own personal action.  Saying that certain things are god's will, or the devil, really downplays the importance of the people.  If one thinks god will take care of someone, they are much less likely to actually work toward fixing a problem.

Sometimes mistaken for the handiwork of Thor,
these clouds are actually the work of pressure fluctuations.
Also precipitation.
29: Do you believe in free will? (Free will being the ability to make decisions without coercion)
I believe that some form of free will exists.  However, given the overall context, let's have some fun.  God threatens mankind with heaven and hell, and actually supposedly instills his will upon his creatures.  That's beyond coercion, that's a literal lack of free will.  Sure, the Quran talks about it more, but god will turn the hearts of those unbelievers.  That's not free will if god is manipulating you to do something.  God also supposedly was responsible for many of the actions of folks within the bible (including Judas, right?  The kiss was necessary and part of god's plan) are not of their own free will.  God forces them to do thing, and the actions that are supposedly free are still coerced by the threat of hellfire or eternal glory.

Have you even read this book, Matt?  Have you really?

30: If you believe in free will, do you see any problem with defending the idea that the physical brain, which is limited and subject to the neuro-chemical laws of the brain, can still produce free will choices?
Hey Matt, if you believe in free will, does that mean that Romans 2:5 isn't a threat from god, a coercion that we ought to believe in him?  Are you saying that, despite Exodus 10:20, Pharaoh could have been stronger than god and chosen to believe in him?  Is your god not all powerful, or did Pharaoh not have free will?  Is John 12:40 accurate, that he hardened their hearts and blinded them, or was that a choice they simply could have overcome?  In Exodus 8:19, Pharaoh could have easily listened to his court, but god made that choice impossible, hardening his heart as he did in Exodus 7:13.  1 Samuel 6:6 shows us that even though sometimes we think it is our own active choice, it's not, because those people had their hearts hardened in exactly the same way as the Pharaoh.  That means it was god's doing, you see?

Seriously, I'm not sure if he's arguing that free will does or does not exist.  I don't know where else to go with this question.  Yes, we have free will in so much as we can make choices that are able to be made by ourselves.  I can't choose to become an elephant.  I can, however, choose to make tea.  It's a bit complicated and I think it involves set theory, really.  1000 characters simply won't do, Matt Slick.

31: If you affirm evolution and that the universe will continue to expand forever, then that would require an infinite number of evolutionary possibilities. In an infinite number of such possibilities, do you affirm that life forms would then evolve to the point of exceeding mere physical limitations and become free of the physical and temporal, and thereby become "deity" and not be restricted by space and time?

Evolution and cosmic expansion are two completely different subsets of science, but let's ignore that momentarily.  Also, it doesn't require an infinite number of them.  It requires zero evolutionary possibilities, because the universe can happen without creatures happening.  It didn't, but it can.  We might be the only ones here.  It's possible that DNA can only be made with the four base pairs we have, no matter where it starts.  It's also possible that our planet's DNA could evolve an infinite number of other ways than what it currently has.  This question shows a clear lack of understanding something that a guy with a degree in Social Studies and Divinity should logically not be expected to understand.  That part's logical, actually.

The next phrase makes even less sense.  In an infinite number of evolutionary scenarios, there's the possibility that life could get really friggin' advanced.  Not that it would, there's no reason it's required.  However, physical limitations aren't a thing you typically put mere in front of.  Physical limitations are things like how the forces work together.  Have you ever seen a magnet that isn't magnetic?  It's a non sequitur and a non-starter.  However, let's keep going.  It will never happen that a being will exceed the 'mere limitations of physics' because that's impossible.  Any such thing would not be a thing in the first place.  If it became independent of time and space, it could be a black hole, but those actually don't break the laws of physics either, because they're more a part of that fabric rather than something inside of it like us.

But I digress.  The real question is, could god have evolved?  Nope.  For one, the bible is pretty clear that god didn't have a creator, nor something from which he was begotten.  Secondly, that would mean he'd have to have evolved from within the thing he supposedly created.  Also doesn't work in the biblical narrative, but actually might work with various world parent creation myths.  Still, none of those go anything at all like that, so you need not worry.

32: What is the Dillahunty Dodge?
Apparently the Dillahunty Dodge is the equivalent of being so gobsmacked by rhetorical sluice that one simply can't process a good response to a bad question.  Let's rewind a bit.

Apparently the author of this set of question, as well as Matt Dillahunty, were engaged in a debate.  The point of where logic stems from came about.  Slick argued that the laws of logic are conceptual. This much is true, in part.  The way we describe them is most certainly conceptual.

Dillahunty replies that the laws are conceptual, but that they function as real things.  This is fair enough, one should think.  If the laws of logic were merely conceptual, they wouldn't work.  1+1=2 is a concept, but it's also a real thing.  In exactly the same way, a creature leaving a footprint you can discover is a logical thing.  It can be both, and appears to be.

Slick then asks if things are natural simply because their derivations are, and Dillahunty rightly asks for a point of clarification, stating it could be something else.  Slick asks then what else it is, and Dillahunty rightly asks why it has to be a definite, concrete, single thing.  Dillahunty, having not proposed this third thing, has no burden of proof determining it.  Simply saying that something doesn't belong (conceptually, I think - Slick has grave trouble sticking to single definitions of words) in one of two categories is valid, especially if it belongs in both (or perhaps neither, as Slick tried and failed to argue).  Not everything is a dichotomy, Slick.

It's not a dodge if it's valid criticism, but I'm thinking Slick literally just can't tell the difference.

33: What do you think of Matt Slick, Founder of CARM?
As I put there, I'm not sure whether he's simply too ill-educated to understand the rather large fallacies he's made, or if he's genuinely this disingenuous.  Maybe the Drunken Peasants could throw up a segment on Troll or Not a Troll.  Maybe they already have.  However, I presume he believes this, else he wouldn't be engaging in this.

Let's compare with the original questions again, the ones I didn't actually look up at this point.

Oddly, the question about purpose was left out here.  Maybe he is disingenuous and finally realized his mistake in adding such a question when the majority of the world doesn't believe in Christianity.  The question about how the purpose is determined is conspicuously absent there also.  Go figure.

He is no longer asking us to list some examples of moral absolutes.  How strange.  Instead we got the baby question.  That's twisted, Matt Slick.  Tortuous perhaps.  He also removed the question about evil.  Probably because the people who don't believe in evil also don't believe in good, and that would make his survey look bad.  Not that I ever expect him to share his compiled answers unedited, mind you.  Only an intellectually honest person would do that, and... oh, alright.  I can only use the phrase 'intellectually dishonest' so much in a post before I have to start dropping quarters in the swear jar.

Question 23 is an odd one to leave out.  Do I believe the god of the old testament is morally bad, and by what standard do I judge it?  That's actually a really great question, too bad he only asked the one about the concept of god.  This really shows the character of the author, but more than that, it makes all those old testament quotes I used equally valid.  Yeah, just try to get out of the horrible shit that's in the old testament now, Matt Slick.  You acknowledged yourself that it's pertinent.  Either he is Jesus' daddy or he isn't, this god of the old testament.

Matt, your sense of morality and mine may not line up, but I think it's absolutely true that this kind of shady finagling is bad.  This violates several principals of journalistic ethics, not to mention demonstrates that you and I don't have any morals regarding journalism in the same correlations.  It's like you wanted to make sure that certain responses wouldn't appear in your survey.

Also, the way you've structured your questions, it's almost impossible for anyone to give any decent, positive responses.  Maybe you formulated this survey explicitly to make atheists look bad by saying 'AHA!  They all confirmed my biases by answering my multiple-choice questions negatively even though negative answers were all I provided!  This will let me feel smug and make them all look like assholes out to get me.'  If you play that victim card, you really are the lowlife asshole I thought you were.  That's how self-fulfilling prophecies go, I guess...

Sunday, November 29, 2015

CARM Responses part 2

Again, here is a link to the questions.  Part 1 contains responses to questions through number 5.

6. How do you define what truth is?
This is a bit of a non-sequitur, but let's humor the idea.  Things that are true are, in general, dealing with matters of factual significance.  For example, it is common knowledge that grass is generally green.  This is true regardless of belief.  Beliefs are not necessarily true, in this way.  A simple example of contrast is that some people believe that coffee stunts growth.  Regardless of how one feels about coffee, there is no evidence to suggest this as factual.  This is therefore not a truth.  Similarly, such effects (the greenness of grass or the average height of coffee drinkers) can be observed and quantified.  In this sense, truth is a very real thing.

This definition is inclusive of things only which can be tested and verified.  If the average color of grass were to become red, the truth of the green grass statement would no longer hold.  If a god is true, therefore, it must be verifiable.  Simply holding a belief that something is true doesn't make it so, even if the entirety of humanity believes it.  Faeries do not push flowers out of the ground, and storks do not deliver babies, regardless of how true someone might believe those statements to be.

7. Why do you believe your atheism is a justifiable position to hold?
This is the first intellectually dishonest question on the list.  The preceding questions could have been written off as misunderstandings, but this question demonstrates the full dishonesty apparent in this string.  This begs the question that any belief which isn't in accordance with the author's own is somehow unjustifiable.  It further begs the question that all beliefs must be justified, which directly incriminates its author to do the same.

However, I shall ignore even this grievous level of ignorance, and try to rephrase the question thus:

What makes a belief justifiable?

Beliefs are justifiable when they fall in accordance with evidence.  Here, too, the question is still imperfect, because it's conflating the two definitions of belief.  On the average, these definitions are as follows:

1: To accept something regardless of its merits.
2: To accept something based on previous experience and observation.

The first kind of belief is the kind of belief that makes one believe that the world will end tomorrow, regardless of the fact that it hasn't happened before, and regardless of the fact that everyone to predict it so far has been wrong.

The second kind of belief regards things one does because it has worked before.  Turning the key in the car to start the car, for example. If a person did not have prior experience of this working, one would likely not rely on it to work.  The fact that it has worked almost flawlessly in the past causes you to believe that, when you wake up tomorrow, your car will start when you turn the key.

In this way, a belief can be said to be justifiable if it is founded in a reasonable truth.  One generally tries walking across a room, rather than pushing off a wall to cross that room, because generally gravity works.  This is a justifiable belief, that taking a step will in fact propel you.  Residents of space vehicles will indeed tell you that, in exceptional circumstances, walking is ineffectual.  In this case, it would be an unjustifiable belief.

So to the original question, do I think that not believing in any god is a justifiable position, I would have to say yes.  I tend not to believe in things which are not evident, like flying saucers.  I would offer as a rebuttal, does the author of the list think that his lack of belief in alien abductions (leprechauns, satan, bigfoot, unicorns, brownie monsters...) is justifiable?  Is it justifiable for the same reasons as my atheism?  Similarly, is his own belief in a god less justifiable simply because people believe in other gods?  Is his lack of belief in Mohammed as a prophet justifiable?  So on and so on.

8: Are you a materialist or physicalist or what?
Apart from being a terribly worded question, this also demonstrates the author's inability to understand that these are not religious views.  Many Christians are most definitely materialists or physicalists because they believe that god is literally a real being.  Although he is claimed to exist outside of time (whatever that might mean), the soul and spirit are most definitely real things to them.

However, this is a veiled tu quoque on my part, so let's sort it out.  Both definitions on his website are incorrect.  A materialist, much like a physicalist (in fact the terms are quite interchangeable more often than not) believes that things within our own universe are comprised solely of things that can exist within our universe.  This is based largely on the fact that most things one interacts with are indeed physical.  More recent scientific evidence supports this claim.  This claim does not speak to any facets of religiousity or theism and therefore are outside the purvey of atheism.  This includes other philosophies like nihilism, humanism, secularism, and so forth.  None of these is religious, let alone theistic, and therefore are separate issues to be addressed.  Some atheists are deist, even.  It's not a dichotomy.

I don't personally hold a belief on what exists outside the confines of our timespace.  Whatever may be there, it can not ever interact with us here, regardless of whether it is or is not material.  If a god is claimed to be there, then such a god can have no bearing on what happens within our own universe and timeline.  Such a thing would certainly not be a god.  Any number of infinite beings can exist outside of our timespace.  Any thing that can affect things within our timespace, however, must ultimately reside here.  Anything that happened before the big bang could not affect what happened after. Similarly, 'before' the big bang is the same as 'outside the universe.' Before and after lose meaning outside of our dimension as we currently understand them. Other places will have their own timelines.  There might literally be an infinite void, or an infinite number of them, between our timespace and the adjacent one.  These things are irrelevant to atheism.

9: Do you affirm or deny that atheism is a world view?  Why or why not?
Well, that's technically two questions, but I can see why he threw them together.  Also, he's not exactly got a good set of questions for what defines a world view (because it begs too many questions, for one).  A world view is basically the philosophy by which people tend to live their lives, or at least explain some of the phenomena therein.  Worldviews do not necessarily include topics such as purpose, or why suffering exists, or if morals exist.  These are a few of the preconceptions that have been thrown in by the author of the list, not ones that are necessary to form a worldview.

In the sense that atheism only deals with belief in a god (and not knowledge, but I'm certain we'll come back to that, so I'll leave it here for now), I suppose it's possible to say that every world view is atheist to some degree.  Again, this is where definition two of the atheism comes into play.  At no point is he asking if other religions are worldviews.  This is a subtle duality, whereby if atheism isn't a worldview, then fundamentally religions are not either.  This question is no different from asking if Islam or Judaism are worldviews.

With that logical conundrum aside, I think I understand the purpose of the question.  It seems that the question should have been phrased as follows:

Can you explain natural processes without a god?

Yes.  I can understand how thunder works without Thor.  I can understand how lightning works without Zeus.  I can understand how rainbows are made of light and water molecules, and that the first one wasn't made by god after a flood.  I can use these observations to fuel my understanding of the natural world.  In this way alone, atheism can be a world view, in that it doesn't use god to explain things I don't understand.  In any other sense, no, atheism isn't a world view.

10: Not all atheists are antagonistic to Christianity, but for those of you who are, why this antagonism?
Again, this is a conflation on the author's part, I think.  However, I'm going to address this question as it stands this time, because it's not my job to make sure he's got his things right.

I'm not being antagonistic, is what you need to understand.  I'm showing you some of the very real concerns I have with the religion you are supposedly promoting.  If I'm using your belief as an example of something, that doesn't mean I'm attacking you.  I'm showing you legitimately why I don't believe what you do.  If you're going to take every single criticism as a personal antagonism, then you're not understanding my responses.  It's not my job to explain your religion to you; it's your job to defend your religion to those who don't agree with it.

Let me phrase this another way:

Not all Christians are antagonistic to people who don't agree with them, but for those of you who are Westboro Baptists, Spanish Inquisitors, witch hunters and so on, why are you?

We aren't asking you to explain why some Christians burned witches, led inquisitions, or are the main reason the Lords Resistance Army is in operation.  You know that this is an intellectually dishonest question.  If we're antagonizing you at all, it's because organizations that are working in the name of your religion are attempting to limit basic human rights.  It's not antagonism to have an opinion different from yours.  It is, however, antagonism to protest military funerals, deny LGBT individuals marriage certificates, or to burn 'witches' who you simply disagree with.  It's your religion, therefore it's your onus to explain it.

CARM Breakdown part 1

A popular list that's been making the rounds appears here.  It's a collection of 31 questions for atheists.  Lots of people have been giving their answers, and so I think perhaps I will throw my responses into the fray.  However, I'm not going to stop there.  One of the following parts will have a list of my own 31 rebuttal questions, which I would like to see just as genuinely taken under consideration as the original.  I think this is a decent way to get a conversation started, if nothing else.

Questions will be indented quotes, my answers following.

1: How would you define atheism?
Atheism is a two-part thing, and I find it useful to demonstrate it this way.  In a general context, Atheism (with a capital) is the lack of belief in all gods. Note that this definition doesn't discuss ability to know.  Faith, in the sense of theism, doesn't deal with knowledge, it deals with beliefs.  We'll come back to that later.

The second definition for atheism is not holding a belief toward any specific god.  This is different and also reasonably important.  Most theistic people are, at least in part, atheist.  Chances are good that if one believes in Jesus, one does not believe in Odin, Ra, or Shiva.  There are various illustrations of this sort of thinking even in sources like the bible, where 'unbelievers' applies simply to anyone who doesn't believe in Yahweh or follow his edicts.  In this sense, everyone is an atheist, however, I'm not discussing this meaning unless it's specifically relevant to the question, and it is for some of these.

2. Do you act according to what you believe (there is no God) in or what you don't believe in (lack belief in God)?
This is a loaded question, but let's discuss it as objectively as we can.  Let us start with breaking down this particular thing.  Let's start with god, as they define it here. The link they provide, to define god, clearly defines god in the biblical sense.  This is where that definition two from the first question comes into play.  Let's rewrite the question a bit, and see if we can clarify.  Pretend that it reads as such, and it's asked to a Christian:

Do you act according to what you believe (there is no Odin) or what you don't believe (lack of belief in Odin)?

A Christian is not going to consider himself atheist just because he doesn't believe in Odin.  However, the christian who wrote this most certainly means that anyone who doesn't believe in Christ is an atheist.

Now let's move on to the next part of that question which must be addressed.  In this specific context, it doesn't matter which god is being believed in.  Hindus are not atheist simply because they don't believe in your version of god; although, if an atheist is definition two, then both Christians and Hindus are atheists from the other's perspective.

On to the third point for this question specifically. Both of those kinds of beliefs are the same.  Whether you believe there is no Quetzalcoatl, or you don't believe there is (you lack a belief regarding him), it's the same thing.  Tell me this, in which of those two ways do you act, as though you believe there is no Thoth, or as though you hold no belief there is a Thoth?  I think the difference is merely semantic, and doesn't add anything here.

I would offer a simpler rebuttal, however.  Do you follow a belief as though your god actually exists? Are you following every prescribed notion between the covers of your holy book?  I'm not saying you should, lots of those actions are bad.  We shall cover this later.

3.  Do you think it is inconsistent for someone who lacks a belief in God to work against God's existence by attempting to show that God doesn't exist?

Let's start with the simplest bit here.  Definition two applies again, because you've capitalized 'God.'  Again, you're saying any who don't believe in God as prescribed by the bible are atheist.  Let's ignore that fact momentarily, and rephrase the question:

Do you think it is inconsistent for someone who lacks a belief in The Flying Spaghetti Monster to work against The FSM's existence by attempting to show that The FSM doesn't exist?

Let's address the actual fruit of this question, though.  Science (which I think is what you're edging toward) doesn't actively seek to show whether or not a god exists.  If evidence there points toward such a conclusion, then we'll test it further and see if it's correct.  This is how we treat every hypothesis.  However, this is distinct from the lack of evidence on your part being an attack on your god by my part.

Think about it this way.  Let's say I told you that I know leprechauns exist.  Would you consider it inconsistent to tell me that they don't, and work against my belief?  I want to preach that babies come from the stork, and that Krampus will take bad children away.  Do you think it inconsistent to tell me I'm wrong since you don't believe (lack a belief) concerning the mystical nature of storks or Krampus monsters?  By your own admission, if you don't believe Satanists are correct, you have no reason to work against them, right?

4. How sure are you that your atheism properly represents reality? 
5. How sure are you that your atheism is correct? 
I would like to know how sure yours is, since you keep using definition two.  You, on your very own website, call Abortions a secular movement.   If your God properly represents reality, why on earth would you actively work to show his words aren't real?  If your theism properly represents reality, then shouldn't you be working (as per question three) to show how it is all correct?

I think, however, that you know these actions are morally reprehensible regardless of whether a god exists or not, and whether that god is your God or not.  Much like you, I think that immoral actions are bad.  Much like you, I'm not basing that judgement on the script in the bible. The part you and I seem to disagree on is, where you think it's a dichotomy, I think it's a spectrum.  Philosophers have shown for a long time that morality is definitely the latter, and even your bible prescribes varying punishments on some arbitrary scale. Even your god, in effect, thinks this is a spectrum.

So again, I ask, do you or do you not think that your theism properly represents reality, and if so, why are you actively working to discredit it?  You are the believer here, by your own admission.

I am not advocating bad things, I'm merely pointing out that those words exist and you claim to believe them.  Is your morality and worldview based on the bible or not?  I am at least as sure my atheism is correct as you are that yours is correct.  In full defiance of your god, you and I both agree that killing for any reason is bad.  In this regard, you actually agree with me that my atheism is correct and properly represents reality.  Congratulations!  This has been a most interesting set of questions.

To be continued.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Cessation of Social Media

Tonight, I decided it would be best for me to stop using social media.  I think it's having a detrimental effect on my mind, among other things.  Maybe I'll go back to it one of these days, but I'm not sure.  Twitter and Facebook, I no longer wish to engage with.  It will be odd at first, but I think it's for the best.  There's simply too much for me to think about anymore, and my opinions are my own.

It will be kinda nice not worrying about how many new notifications I have though.  I won't feel compelled to debate people when I know full well I shouldn't.  It should mean wasting less time being unproductive.  It should mean I'm less prone to over-reacting, something I've noticed myself doing more and more.

Please don't miss me while I'm gone from there.  I'll still be here, writing posts and whatnot.  Maybe it'll motivate me to get more words on my NaNoWriMo.  Here's hoping I'll be more successful in other areas if I'm not so obsessed with likes and favorites.

I'll try to get more stuff on here more often, or maybe not.  Maybe it's best if I'm not so confrontational here.  I don't seem to have many readers yet, so I suppose it wouldn't be a huge loss if I finished the rest of the month with no blog posts like I mentioned.  Let me know your thoughts in the comments.  My life has seemed incredibly busy for all the more I've been doing.  My levels of stress have been really high lately, and my life could be going better.  It's nothing specific or terminal, I think this is just how getting old is.

I'll be 29 years old soon.  Here's hoping my next 29 go just as swell.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 and other things.

I've been rather inactive here for a bit since I've been participating in National Novel Writing Month.  That's nanowrimo for short.  Here's my profile if you want to follow along.

acce245's profile for NaNoWriMo

I've also been submitting more entries to the Literative website, and a few have been winners.  Links to the right.

I've got a few other novel ideas lined up, including one that perhaps I'll write about my father, as a biographical work.

I hit goodwill yesterday and I found a book I think I'll have a lot of fun tearing apart one of these days, too.  My local Goodwill has a pretty neat selection of books and records and stuff.  Be sure to support your local thrift stores as well.  There are several around where I live, and they can be veritable treasure troves of information.

Speaking of writing novels, I'm going to try out tablo.io for my novel writing.  It's a free service that has paid tiers as well, depending on your needs.  It seems to be a neat tool for novel writing.  I'll report either way, whether I'm successful or not, and whether that site is.

My Tablo Page

Going to keep it short this week.  Peace!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Marriage equality

Recently, on Twitter, I happened to come across this.
 So, it appears we have a few things to address here.  Warning, this might be a bit more intimate and touch a subject than perhaps others.

Marriage and Pedophilia

The first image there attempts to claim (unsuccessfully) that allowing same-sex couples to marry will cause homosexuals to rape children.  Let that sink in for a moment.  It's basically saying that, by allowing people to marry, those people will engage in sexual impropriety with minors.

This is a terrible argument, and to illustrate this, let's take it's polar corollary first.  Prohibition (or lack of, in this case both are the same argument) of marriage is therefore the answer to elimination of child rape.  Think for a moment now.  Does one really, honestly believe that the simple act of marriage is what causes people to become pedophiles?

If your answer is yes, then this illustrates the second point.  Straight people engaged in marriage should be at least as likely to be pedophiles, should they not?  If the simple act of obtaining a marriage license is the key factor here, then the logical conclusion is that we should simply stop all forms of marriage.  

Of course, we know that this is not the case.  Pedophilia is a mental disorder that can be caused by a variety of causes.  Marrying someone is not one of them.


The second image for some reason still has children in it.  However, having discussed it above, let's move on.  Basically, the argument here is that, somehow, sodomy should never be normalized.  I think, however, that the acts of two consenting adults with regards to sexual things should perhaps not be dictated by people outside of that relationship.

But let's even gloss over that point for at least one other that's related.  The implication here is that people only ever get married for reasons relating to sex.  This makes it an especially difficult argument.  Essentially, the person must fundamentally believe that the only reason for entering into marriage is to contractually obligate one person to fulfill the other's sexual desires.  Apparently, this means it has nothing to do with tax benefits, feelings of non-sexual love and attraction, romance, or any of the other reasons people typically claim to get married.

As this argument clearly illustrates, eliminating marriage in general (from the law, at least - treat it like a birthday, or other social function) is the fundamental purpose.  If sexual relations are the absolute only reason these sorts of people are entering into these marriage contracts, then we have no further need of providing tax incentives, property rights, and other legal benefits to people who engage in these relationships.  It's really hard to argue, as the picture does, that the children should really be of any concern regarding marriage, because they have little to do with the sex.  Custody laws could be enacted just as easily without the marriage clauses by recognizing parents legally in some other fashion.

This brings us to another point.

Real Parents

This tweet is from the same thread, so I'm including it here, because it definitely relates to the first two pictures.

We're going to deal with the first part, about children deserving real parents.  I may come back to the part about what constitutes sex and gender in another post, though lots of other people have already addressed it.

This relates directly to at least two factors.


Clearly, if a child deserves its real parents, we can't allow adoption to continue.  Obviously, I think this is an idiotic stance, and that's why I'm going to tear it a new sphincter here.  If we accept the idea that parents must be real and genuine, then simply put we must preclude anyone who doesn't have children from being parents.  In another way, this means that infertile people, single people, and anyone who is not the biological parent of a child should never have any say in whatever counts as parenting.

Let's take this a step further.  This also means that no one, regardless of whether or not they have children, should be allowed to adopt any children who aren't theirs.  Childrens' services goes right out the door, because this means that we should never have foster parents.  Similarly, this means that the government should never have control over anyone's children, because every child deserves whatever parents it was born to.

This line of thinking infuriates me, and I hope it at least makes you think about this argument.

Single Parents and Related

Basically, this point also drives home another point.  Sometimes, women die in childbirth.  Sometimes, one parent is unavailable due to any number of circumstances (military service, employment obligations, et cetera).  It is in the best interest of the child, certainly, to have competent caregivers.  However, if we're going to take this route, those children don't deserve any parents that aren't theirs.  I'm not going to linger on this point.  Suffice to say again, however, that this is another clear argument for elimination of marriage from the legal system.

Sexual Immorality

This one is going to be the most fun.

So here we have a poster arguing that marriage causes sexual immorality.  I think I can agree with this, in part.  I mean, married people do indeed cheat on one another with some frequency.  However, this clearly is not limited to homosexuals.  Similarly, depending on what you consider sexual immorality to be, the elimination of marriage could easily remedy at least part of it.  

Divorce is clearly the largest indicator that there is at least some problem that could be solved.  Without marriage, we need not worry about divorces, because divorce doesn't happen without it.  

Although, that's a terribly fallacious argument, because cheating happens in all sorts of relationships, not just marriages.  I think I just felt my brain snap a tiny little bit.  Do people honestly believe that no form of sexual immorality (whatever that means) happens outside of being married?  Or do they honestly believe marriage causes much higher instance of sexual immorality?  I think the implication is pretty clear.  Eliminate marriage and fix some problems.

True Marriage Equality

It is hereby my proposition that, to fix the ails of at least these arguments, we eliminate marriage as a legal contract.  Marriages within society I think are fine.  If two religious people want to have a civil ceremony, that's excellent!  Birthdays, bar mitzfah, baptisms, anniversaries, pinky promises, sharing of friendship lockets, matching tattoos and jewelry and clothing, and a number of other types of civil ceremony and social conventions already happen outside the jurisdiction of the law.  Placing marriage into exactly the same sort of category does, I think, make sense from this perspective.

Another reason to eliminate marriage is to create a truer equality.  As a single person, I can't just declare my roommate to be my tax benefit and file jointly, even if we're splitting rent and other bills.  As a single person with no kids, I get no benefits on taxes that other people are sending to schools that I also pay for.  I could continue this list, but I digress.

Just to clarify, I'm not arguing for that position, but it is a logical argument of the positions preceding it.  I don't mind paying taxes so people who have children can send them to school, for example.

So, elimination of marriage would truly be the equalitarian way to deal with this.  However, the most equitable argument is to simply allow a pair of people to get married, regardless of gender.  It shouldn't matter that it's two men who want to sign that contract, or two women, or one of each.  Within the scope of law, it's perfectly logical.  I'd even go so far as to say that any people living together should be allowed similar benefits, like joint filing of taxes, regardless of marriage status.  

Sex is supposedly not the only reason people get married, right?

Friday, October 23, 2015

Nature of transitional species

Alright, we have a lovely post for you this evening.  Sit down, get comfy, and prepare to be amazed.

Let's put some context in here, shall we?

So, let's address this in two parts.


Part one is pretty direct.  Evolution has tons of evidence (read:proof) available for anyone willing to spend the time to learn about it.  This is true of most subjects, actually.  One cannot simply claim something is unproven just because someone doesn't like it.  Since this is a factual inaccuracy (I won't call it a lie yet), we shall move on.  I think you will find that part two actually gives some fairly compelling evidence for transitional species.


Alright, let's get down to science.  Transitional species are a thing, and I'm going to provide two examples here.

Ring Species

Ring species are a group of animals (for our purposes) who exhibit a very interesting trait.  This trait is that there are a given set of species who can interbreed, but not fully.  Let's examine this a bit closer. 

The most common example, and the one we'll use here, is that of the various salamanders that inhabit the greater California area.  There are approximately seven distinct species.  Each lives in a given area, and typically not outside of it.  Species one and two, for example, have habitats which overlap.  Species two and three have the same, but species three is never found in species one's habitat.  Species three and four follow the same pattern, and so forth, for all seven species.

This gives us our first example of a ring species.  Species one and two can interbreed very easily, and do so quite frequently.  Species two and three can do the same.  Same with three and four, and each consecutive pair down the line.  However, we have an interesting observation.  Species one and seven never interact.  When scientists tried to mate them, it was impossible.  We can show a large trail of interbreeding between these very similar species of salamanders, but the salamanders at either end cannot breed together.  Species that are closer together can have success sometimes, and species that are directly in contact can breed nearly as successfully as a species with itself.  

This is one of the simplest ways to explain transitional species.  In another few thousand (perhaps million) years, these will all eventually be distinct species.  Most certainly, one or two of the 'links' in this chain will die off, or eventually two near species will become so distinct that they will be like far links in the chain.  This brings us to our second example, an example that's a bit further down that evolutionary line.

Equine Evolution

This one is a bit more interesting, from a short-term observation.  Horses and Donkeys present us their story here.  

Horses and Donkeys are approximately as unique from one another as perhaps neighboring (or perhaps a link or two separate) salamander species.  Horses and donkeys can produce offspring, which we typically call mules or hinnys, depending on if the male or female parent was a horse.  Occasionally, a female bred this way will be able to have offspring, but this is a rather rare occurrence.  

Horses and donkeys were at one time a much more similar species, and even farther back in time would have been literally the same species.  This is shown quite clearly by the fact that they can still mate.  This is almost as easy to produce as a either a horse or donkey, but the offspring are typical not able to increase progeny (have offspring).  In this way, we can see a species transitioning right now.  There was a time when their offspring would have been equally valid, and equally as likely to produce offspring.  This time is slowly passing, as it typically does for most species that slowly split. 

Humans and other primates shared this fate, although a considerably longer time ago.  Even the split between mammals and marsupials, for example, would have started in a fashion like this.  It's entirely possible that a viable strain of mules could arise naturally, but at this point it's very unlikely indeed.  Selection pressures against it are too great at this point.  Eventually, there will come a time when horses and donkeys will not be able to breed for mules.  This is still quite a way off, perhaps several tens of thousands of years, much as it's taken tens of thousands of years of domestication to create the two distinct species, for example.


That brings us to the fun part.  Remember, evolution is real, whether you like it or not.  Although, why wouldn't you like evolution?  Without it, you wouldn't have adorable cats, mules, or, well, any species.  

This isn't imgur, but enjoy these pictures, cat tax and all!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Dissection of an argument.

Yesterday, I came across this particular picture on Twitter.  It was brought to my attention when @ShawnTheAtheist retweeted it as a means of discussing a particular point contained therein.

Now, like anyone, I want to put an end to as much gun violence as possible.  However, there are several problems with this scenario, and I'd like to address a few of them in this post.

Let's start with some facts.  Sources: NCES 2014-2015 for public schools information, The United States Veterans Administration for all veteran-related data.  CAPE for private schools information.  Also, here is a quick NCES index including mixed statistics.

There were approximately 98,217 public schools in operation for year 2014-2015.  There were approximately 50 Million students enrolled in those public schools.  We must add in an additional 30,861 private schools (with approximately 5.27 million students, 2011-2012 school years).  We must then add in all Post-Secondary Title IV institutions, around 7,234 (which involves another 20.6 million students).

According to the VA, there was approximately a 6.9% poverty rate among veterans, totaling 1.47 million veterans.

Raw numbers crunch

This gives us a total of 136,312 schools (the graphic says 'every school,' and indeed mass shooting happen at every type of school) with a total population around 62.5 million students.  On average (and we can use averages here), that means that there are 458.5 students in each school.  However, some of those institutions have far more than that number, and several will have perhaps only a few dozen.  On average, that's about 115 students per person protecting them.  Now, in some schools, those four people will be protecting perhaps 28 people (as in Mackinac Island, Michigan).  Virginia Tech has a modest 31,000 students, compared with Ohio State University's 64,000 for example.

But ignoring the burden some of them would have, let's assign four per school.  That gives us approximately 545,250 veterans we would need to enlist for this job.  That's approximately 1/3 (37%) of the impoverished veterans. Using information from the Census and crossed with the information from the VA, we can see that 9.3 Million veterans are aged 65 or older.  4.8% of that number is 446,000.  That is 30% of our total candidates.  Roughly half that number are disabled.  Of the ideal age group, approximately 18-34, there are only around 1.6 million total veterans, and with a poverty rate of only 11.9%.  This means that, at maximum, 190,000 potential candidates, of whom 14% or so are disabled.  So, this means, that of our approximately 545,000 veterans necessary to serve in this role, a maximum of around 170,000 can possibly come from veterans under 35 years old.  

Hours and Wages

Citing this page specifically for some facts.  The maximum average school day for primary and secondary education falls right around 7 hours.  We can safely presume that at least an additional hour or two would be necessary for the average day, as students would be arriving and leaving before and after this time.  We need also to remember that students gather at times outside of this normal schedule, for any number of extra-curricular activities.  Luckily, the school year is only around 180 days.  Unfortunately, this doesn't include weekends.  We can presume that the majority of schools are going to have activities from approximately 7am to perhaps later than midnight (sporting events, dances, social events, band practice, FFA, library access, debate club, teachers and faculty preparation, and so forth).

Let us then presume that we need to cover perhaps 16 hours a day, 9 months per year.  We can presume that the average person over 65 years old is not going to be able to withstand 16 hour days for very long, so we'll need to have shifts set up.  If we presume a four-hour shift per person (remember, four people per school, not per shift), we get 1,248 hours per year.  That's 1,080 hours per year per person.  If we presume a simple $10 per hour with absolutely no benefits (although, working in a public school, that number's likely to be much higher with full benefits), the cost of a single employee would be around 10,800 per year.  Extrapolated to 545,250 is approximately 5.9 billion dollars per year, not including administrative costs.  To put that in perspective, the entire department of education only had a budget of 71.2 billion last year.  

Training and Certification

We will need to institute a system of qualifying what kind of people should and should not be included in the roster of potential candidates for these positions.  First and foremost, there would most certainly need to be psych evals for anyone interested, in exactly the same way as typical law enforcement would have to perform.  If we were not careful and stringent here, it would be no better than simply arming anyone and letting them roam the schools freely.

Apart from the massive cost this would add, there would also be a significant waiting period.  Evaluating and certifying 545,000 people would not be a fast task.  This could potentially take years.  

Large vs Small government

The typical argument for this sort of action is that laws simply aren't enough.  Essentially, expanding the influence of government via legislation is seen as the antithesis to this idea.  However, this would be one of the most disruptive things to the idea of minimizing government regulations.  It's terribly hard to argue that the government is ineffective and should be limited (because, as they argue, new laws are ineffective or something, even though we've not really had new laws in a long time), while attempting to force that same government on every individual, increasing the oversight of that government.

The other side of this argument is that criminals are simply going to be criminals, so new laws will be ineffectual.  The counter to this argument is as above, stating that somehow having guards (a police presence, etc) will deter criminals.  This has simply proven to be wrong in the past as well.  Laws, much like the presence of guards, will deter only the people it will deter.  Also, this standpoint is actually a beautiful argument for why removing gun laws and not posting guards is a great idea.  If the simple presence of guns is enough, then simply let everyone carry a gun.  It's not a great argument, per se, but it's at least logically consistent.

Average School Size

The average school is a pretty big place.  There are typically more than just a couple entrances to any given school.  It's going to be nearly impossible for four people to cover a school of most any size.  This is compounded by the fact that at any given time, there will likely be only one person on patrol at any given time.  A single person cannot effectively patrol and respond to situations in a timely fashion in a building that spans potentially a square mile or more in some cases.  This is just an exercise in futility.

Alternative Viewpoint

As anyone with a cursory knowledge of history of our country can attest, the simple fact that someone is a veteran does not automatically endear them to this cause.  The Fort Hood incident brings this to the forefront for this specific argument.  This also brings us back to the evaluation part.

Most veterans, like most people in general, are wonderful people.  Within every group there are going to be deviants, and we typically can't hold a given facet of a person as a reason they commit crimes like this.  The main problem we have is mental health initiatives.  The people who commit these crimes are not representative of the groups others might try to label them as.  We need to recognize that it's time to invest in making this country as healthy as possible.  Each person who has committed a crime like this has been shown, in hindsight, to be suffering from some sort of debilitating mental illness.  PTSD, depression, and other severe disorders can cause people to act violently.  Often times these behaviors will be ignored.  I argue that this is the essential root cause.

So, instead of spending upwards of perhaps 10 billion dollars on putting guards in schools (that's not the only place shootings happen, for example), perhaps we could spend that money on mental (and physical) healthcare.  Part of fixing mental health is getting people into better situations.  

I urge everyone to take a step back, and not rush to such quick judgement.  We need to discuss this like the civil country we are.  We need to help fix this ailment as best we can, as a group.  Divisive language every time these incidents happen is not helping the issue.  Staunch opposition to anyone who disagrees with oneself is not helping.  It may be that we need more than one thing.  More regulations doesn't mean stripping every gun from America.  Arming every public school in America doesn't mean we can't think about working on mental health initiatives, or maybe introducing regulations in other areas.  This sort of false dichotomy is ruining our ability to think as rational people.

Can we now start working toward a better America?  I hope so, for the sake of us all.  Remember most of all, the people you're shouting at online are real people.  We can do this, America.  I believe in us.