Saturday, January 29, 2011

In The Box #2: Jan 29, 2011

In case anyone is wondering why I've been so quiet lately, it's because I met a girl, so I'm a bit preoccupied. I don't expect to disappear entirely, but the frequency and quality of my videos might drop off just a bit for a few days, or maybe a few weeks. Either way, I'm still here, just temporarily distracted.

Before I cover the questions you guys submitted, I'd like to talk about my question #67 to "On The Box." I got a bit of dissent from a few of you. I have to tell you guys, I think it's great that you disagreed with me, because now we can have a conversation. Just to catch everyone up, I told Tony and Chad that it's obvious that they don't believe what they're preaching, that they're in it just for the money. I got two primary objections:
  • One of you guys knows Tony personally, and has observed him being just as deluded in real life as he seems to be in his show.
  • We all hate it when superstitionists tell us that we do after all believe that their god exists, and the reason we make so much noise is that we're actively rebelling because we don't like its preposterous rules. So it seems hypocritical for me to tell them that they don't really believe what they preach.
Let's do what all good scientists do when checking out a hypothesis: think about the implications one might expect if the hypothesis is true, and those that one might expect if it's false. Superstitionists tell us that we do actually believe that their god exists. They tell themselves that someone who believes in but hates that god would do exactly what many of us do: make a bunch of noise in protest. On the surface, that might seem ok, but is that a realistic implication? If I believed that Yahweh actually exists, is omnipotent, and intends to throw into hell everyone who hasn't bought its fire insurance, would I go around trying to convince people that it doesn't exist? I don't think so. I want to have a clear conscience, and I'd love to say that I'm so brave that I'll face eternal punishment rather than lick Yahweh's boots. But seriously, I don't think I'm that brave. I think I'd take the cowardly route; heaven sounds like eternal torture to me, but as bad as it is, it's still not as bad as eternal fire. Further, I hate lies, and it would be a monstrous thing to lie to others knowing that they would also burn in hell. No, if I actually believed what the superstitionists claim I believe, I would probably pray to that god to make me insane so I can convince myself that I love it, and be saved from the flames.

I conclude that the superstitionist hypothesis that we actually do believe that Yahweh exists is insupportable. In order for their hypothesis to hold water, we'd have to be not only stupid, but hideously dishonest. I might be both, but I don't think so.

Now let's consider my hypothesis that Tony, Chad, Ray, and all their pals don't really believe any of the nonsense they promulgate. First, what would we expect to see if my hypothesis is false, i.e., they really do believe all of it: Yahweh really exists and it cares deeply about truth (of course we have to forget about the lying spirit from I Kings 22:23 and the powerful delusions from II Thessalonians 2:11, but that's easy to do, given that Yahwhists seem to forget about those also). In the Gospel of Luke, 12:47, Jesus tells us, "That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows." In the Gospel of Matthew, 24:45-51, Jesus goes further, saying that Yahweh will cut such people to pieces and assign them a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." If these preachers actually believed this, would they go around using deliberate deception in order to spread the Gospel? I am hard-pressed to believe that they would.

What might we expect to see if my hypothesis is true, i.e., that they really don't believe any of it? We might hope to see them behaving like most atheists, being decent people and trying to make the world a better place, or at least trying not to make it worse. But not all atheists are decent, and many, being monumentally selfish, would have no problem duping people for personal gain. Tony and Chad and Company might tell themselves somehow that they're doing a good thing, but it's easy to see how their judgment would easily be clouded by the piles of money that flow into their organizations.

Now let's consider the hypocrisy issue: I hate it when they tell me that I believe in their god, but I have no problem telling them that they don't believe. Is this really hypocrisy on my part? It depends on why I hate their claim, and on what grounds I base my claim. I hate their claim because I'm offended when people think that they know better than I do what's going on in my own mind, and I don't like being called a liar. If they were to make their claim and then support it with plausible arguments concerning my behavior, I'd have to listen. I might be irritated, because no one wants to hear that he's wrong, but I'd still have to consider their points. The only arguments ever given by superstitionists claiming that we actually do believe are (1) we make a lot of noise about their god, and (2) the bible tells them that we actually do believe. These do not constitute plausible support.

My claim that they don't actually believe is based on observing their behavior. They lie all the time, but say that their god cares about truth. I can think of no explanation other than that they don't believe. If you guys have other possible explanations, let's hear them. This is an interesting conversation.

Now I want to challenge you guys. Don't give me any breaks. If I'm way off base, I'm counting on you guys to rein me in. I've presented 67 videos to Tony and Chad, some of them with multiple questions. Consider some of the things I've said to them:
  • In Question #10, I came right out and said that Ray Comfort knows his "crocoduck" and "dead dog" arguments to be straw-men, and went on to say that William Lane Craig and William Dembski are liars.
  • In Question #13, I pointed out that the so-called miracles performed by Jesus could have been nothing more than cool technology, meaning that Jesus deliberately deceived billions of people. I make a similar point about Jesus and/or Yahweh in many of my questions.
  • In Question #64, I referred to these guys as "Creatheists," "Conarttheists," "Roman Casholics," "Crocobuckists," "Cashoduckists," and "Crocodollarists."
My challenge to you guys is this: tell me how the content of my previous scores of questions is fundamentally different from my last claim that these guys don't really believe. I really hope to hear from you guys. In my mind, this is a conversation, not a brawl or some kind of win/lose scenario. If I'm wrong, I don't want to stay wrong. So don't hold back.

Now, on to the questions. Someone wanted to know why the related videos associated with my work are often anime and Marvel comics. I have no freaking clue. Does anyone out there have a guess? A lame-ass prize for the most plausible answer, or in the absence of plausibility, the funniest.

radicalbacon

Victim radicalbacon gets the first answer yet again, because she said she wanted to be my fangirl. Yes, thanks a lot. As I mentioned, you're my first, so be gentle. You asked whether there's a Mrs. BigBore. No, there's not, although I have been building one in the basement for the past few months. Unfortunately, the fangirl app is way too expensive, so I was going to settle for a Mrs. BigBore that would refrain from kicking me in the teeth. That app was a bit cheaper. But now, it seems that I can stop construction on her, at least for a little while.

8journey8

Victim 8journey8 gets the second answer, because she suggests that she is a literally hot woman, by virtue of having hot flashes. In a male-dominated forum, we beggars can't really afford to be choosy. She asks, How would you rate the following religions according to how much damage they do to the human race, from worst to least...Catholicism, Muslim, Methodism, Pentecostalism, Buddhism, Jainism, satanism. I mean, are there degrees of dreadfulness when you think of religion and its impact on the world?

I can't claim to know a lot about any of these religions, so don't quote me on any of these. I'd have to say that Catholicism is indeed the worst, primarily because the Pope promotes lies about condoms that have led to untold suffering and death. I don't see much difference between Islam and any form of Christianity; they all lend themselves to totalitarianism, and they're all violent. Currently there seems to be less violence induced by Christianity than by Islam, but that's not because Christianity itself is any less violent. It's just a current coincidence based on religion being held largely in check for the last couple of centuries in nations where Christianity is prevalent. If western Christians got the theocracy they seem to crave, we'd see that Christianity is just as bad.

I know nothing but hearsay about Jainism, and very little hearsay at that. If it's true that they are fanatically opposed to causing death, then I'm happy that their religion seems to promote peace, but I also think it's quite unreasonable and based on an unsound, human-oriented way of thinking. Our bodies cause massive death all the time, fighting off infection. Further, we kill plants all the time, either in eating them or in discarding them when they no longer produce food for us. I can't see any grounds for drawing a line between mosquitoes and viruses.

That's #2. Thanks for watching.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

God's Quality Control 4.0.1

Here I continue my conversation with YouTuber TrustinJC, also known as Lavern. My apologies in advance for the face, but this video seems to call for it.

Lavern, I recommend that you don't watch this video. I am almost certain it will piss you off. You'll probably never believe this, but for the record, pissing you off is not my intention. Let's take a step back from the emotions. Let's look at the facts and think it through. If anyone had ever found a reliable trace for any of this stuff, it would be headline news for years. It would be an exhibit in every museum in the world, or maybe there would be a special museum built to house just this stuff. It would be taught in schools as a windfall moment in biblical and non-biblical archaeology and possibly a singularity moment in world history. One conclusion I infer from the conspicuous absence of such pandemonium is that you believe, perhaps without even realizing that you believe it, that you have found something that has eluded generations of experts, most of whom would give an arm and probably a kidney for a chance to announce such a discovery, or even just to have their names attached to it.

You're just a guy with an Internet connection, not John the Baptist. It sounds harsh, I know, but it's not an attack on you. It's an observation concerning your credibility, which is legitimately in question as long as you're making claims that fly in the face of consensus in a huge community experts who regularly challenge each other, often with no small measure of malice. But there is a second meaning, one rooted in goodwill from one human to another, a human who would reach you rather than convince you. I hope you can understand what I mean by that: if I could just reach you, you would convince yourself without any help from me. Seriously, Lavern, you're just a guy with an Internet connection. No god has chosen you for any special mission. Let that stuff go and start enjoying your life.

That's 4.0.1. Thanks for watching.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

God's Quality Control 5.0.2

Here I continue my discussion of the book Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis. Before I dive in, I'd like to address a point made by a couple of people following this series. It's possible that if he were alive today, C.S. Lewis might form some more reasonable opinions. Perhaps he was held back by nothing more than a forgivable lack of knowledge. I can't completely let him off the hook, because as far as I know, he intended to worship the monster that intends to throw almost all of us into hell. But I can at least temper my contempt somewhat. Contempt toward a human is an unworthy sentiment anyway. Going forward, I'll say for the record that my harangue is directed not toward the man himself, but toward his faulty arguments and misguided opinions, the inexplicable belief that he was a great thinker-philosopher-moralist, and the modern misuse of his ideas. Strange, I could say the same of Jesus.

Chapter III

Continuing in Chapter III, we find Lewis exploring the meaning of words like "ought" and "should". First, he demonstrates that these words apply more to one's intentions than to any unintended effects of one's behavior. He wouldn't blame someone who harms (or inconveniences) him without intent but would blame someone who attempts to harm him, even if the attempt were unsuccessful. Although he brings in the outdated concept of blame, his point is still valid: morality is not about unintended consequences.

Sadly, he comes very close to discovering, but once again missing, the seeds of a morality far superior to the one he promotes. Referring to someone who harms him accidentally, say, a man who trips him unintentionally but causes him to hurt himself, Lewis says, "I am not angry—except perhaps for a moment before I come to my senses." Hidden in this humble statement are the seeds for understanding how human morality began, how it has become something profound, and how it could become something hardly dreamed of. The part about being angry for a moment shows that our morality is rooted in our hard-wired responses to the world. In the wild, it serves social animals to have—judiciously, of course—an unpleasant reaction to another animal that has caused pain. The part about coming to one's senses shows that we have brought our conscious minds and culture to bear on the issue. Our minds and culture have transformed our innate language abilities into something momentous--consider poetry, song, theater, and literacy. Similarly, our minds and culture could transform a rudimentary individual survival mechanism into a revolutionary way of thinking that vastly and progressively improves the quality of life for everyone. We have some way to go still, but we've already made many steps in the right direction.

Second, Lewis examines the other side of the coin, showing that behavior that is materially beneficial to oneself or anyone else also cannot categorically be considered moral. He gives the example of a spy, who benefits one side in a conflict, but might be considered vermin by both sides. I'm reminded of Dick Cheney talking about sometimes having to work with people that you wouldn't want to invite to dinner.

Finally, Lewis addresses the idea that "ought" and "should" apply to conduct that benefits the human race as a whole. Once again coming tantalizingly close to something profound, he points out that being coerced on the grounds of the good of all humans, one could easily respond along the lines of, "Why should I care about humanity more than what benefits me personally?" to which the only response Lewis can think of is, "Because you ought to be unselfish," which shows the benefit-to-humanity argument to be circular. The excellent point that he misses here is that coercive morality itself is the problem. Every argument Lewis has made so far is part of this framework, which uses shame, guilt, blame, punishment, violence, and myriad other unhealthy concepts in order to coerce people to behave a certain way. As long as most of us are stuck in this mode of thinking, we will never be safe.

I've spent far more time reading science than Socrates, but given the snippets I've heard and read, it seems that he had a far better idea concerning morality: suasion and long reflection, as Hitchens put it so succinctly. I've just realized yet another one of the obvious weaknesses of this dilapidated superstition: it has held us enslaved to a toxic way of thinking that we could have outgrown some 25 centuries ago. We are long overdue to begin thinking better of ourselves, to stop believing that coercion is the only path to virtue.

Lewis finishes Chapter III with yet another indefensible leap. He says that "somehow or other" the fact that morality is far larger and often in direct conflict with self-interest leads to the conclusion that his "Law of Human Nature" is "a real thing—a thing that is really there, not made up by ourselves." Again he finds himself approaching the precipice only to walk away from it. Coercive morality is indeed a thing that is not made up by ourselves. Rather, it is a rationalization—a terribly faulty and detrimental rationalization—of our instincts. The kind of morality we desperately need is a morality indeed made up by ourselves, the result of a primitive instinct reshaped and transformed by reason and culture into something astonishing. No god is going to do this for us; we must do it for ourselves.

That's 5.0.2. Thanks for watching.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

In The Box #1: Jan 13, 2011

The honor of having presented the first question ever to be answered in the box goes to radicalbacon, who asked,

Am I a "hot woman" even though I look like jailbait to you?

A wise man once said, "Choose your words carefully when speaking to a woman with a gun. In fact, it's probably best just to keep your mouth shut and hope for a painless death."

Firefly4f4

Firefly4f4 gets the next answer, because of the cool Pink Floyd poster.

On what TV shows or movies are you basing your moral code? I like "Firefly." It's way better than your moral code. Stab me in the back, but do it to my face.

It's been a long time since I watched a TV show, except that my daughter always wants me to watch old episodes of "Gilmore Girls" with her. The moral code in this program is appalling. It's about a woman who had a kid out of wedlock and chose never to be married, so she's raising the poor kid without a father or any kind of proper family. Shocking, the state of the world we live in. The worst part is that although the woman is sort of hot, she spends all her time making inane speeches that require everyone to stop what they're doing and listen. I had a girlfriend like that once.

pumpstations

Was God Jewish before Jesus came to the earth?
She is of mixed Italian and Jamaican descent, and clearly, she is eternally unchanging. I hope she was busy and didn't hear you ask this question.

What is Satan's last name?
Claus, of course.

TheFeltbegone

Aren't you causing division in FSM-dom by having two channels? Are you doing this deliberately in order to make fun of the third who subscribe to neither doctrine?

Yes, I'm doing it deliberately, not in order to make fun, but to make money. On this channel I will attempt to build a large subscriber base and then I'll start e-begging. I'll get a lot more loot from you guys if I can get you to think of the channels as you would two different football teams, allowing me to whip up anti-Bore sentiment, claim that they're attacking the Snore camp, and insist that if you guys don't send me enough money I'll drop dead from a nasty case of syphilis.

mazie100 (went over the time limit, no sock for him)
Parallel Worlds, Kaku. Observing electrons: position not fixed, wavefunction collapses on observation. The process of observation determines the final state of the electron; observation is vital to existence. Before we were here, who or what was observing the universe or collapsing its wave functions?

Well, I can't think of anything funny to say about this, so I'll try to sound smart. The statement, "Observation is vital to existence," is baloney. It assumes, for no good reason, that there is some kind of fundamental difference between a photon striking a retina and setting off a chain of chemical reactions in a brain and a photon colliding with an inanimate object. It's not observation that collapses wavefunctions. It's interaction. Schrödinger's cat is never really in a superposition of two states. As soon as the wavefunction of the particle interacts with the wavefunction of any other particle, the wavefunction of the entire system collapses. Now if all that sounds like BS, then it's because I just now made it up. If it sounds intelligent and plausible, then it's because I've been studying and thinking about this issue for years and this is my reasoned conclusion.

jadedtwin

Goddamn it, how fucking old are you? Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. Shit cock. Also, Star Wars prequels (1-3) or the Original Trilogy (4-6)? Can you answer more than one fucking question, goddamn it?

The old man in the mirror claims that he just recently turned 44. I'm not sure I believe him. After watching the original trilogy a billion times, I like #5 best, then #4. #6 is ruined by the sappy ewok party at the end. I could barely stand to watch the prequels. I was really disappointed when they made a connection between The Force and some kind of particles in the blood. It takes away the mystical fantasy element, which is a huge part of the fun.

Loals

How much wood would a woodchuck have if a woodchuck would fuck Scarlett Johansson?
Easy. None. Anyone who has that privilege would obviously never do anything else.

thekwizatshaderach

Why did god make us shit?
Because that's the only way to get some of us periodically to tear ourselves away from our computers.

lepthymo

if, the universe is an inevedable consequence of some first principle that we dont know yet, and if this is the only universe, would that make some form of design credible?

I find the idea of design compelling. I would not be surprised in the slightest to see a holodeck-style door open in front of me, revealing a team of researchers who've been studying me in a virtual reality experiment. Your idea of this being the only universe, which absolutely could be true, reminds me of philhellenes' latest YouTube video, This Remarkable Thing. Worth watching.

how is this whole thing, youtube i mean, from your side of things? is it fun?

I could turn this answer into a whole episode. Yes, it's fun, but it's a lot more. In the last six months or so, I have learned more than I ever knew about how to interact with people. The whole argument with ThickShades was a huge learning experience for me; it taught me a lot about how my psyche works and helped me to clarify my reasons for making YT videos.

BibleRefuter

if my child ever asks me 'what happens after you die?' how should I answer, and for that matter any question that has religion as an answer. Have you ever had this experiance?

A lot of people would tell you to say that no one knows, that some people believe this, others believe that, and she has to make up her own mind. I consider this an inappropriate answer. It assumes that there is some reason for anyone to believe in the supernatural. There is not. Why confuse her? Tell her that as far as we know, nothing happens, and being dead is just like being unborn: you're just not there.

For any question that has religion as an answer, I suggest that a religious answer is no answer at all. People have been attempting to answer questions with religion for a really long time, and it has never benefited anyone.

Yes, I've had this experience, but from the other direction: I asked what happens when you die, and the answer was, "Most likely, you'll burn in hell for eternity."

Schneboll

Btw what's up with the earrings?

Uhh, nothing. I like to feel pretty? And before you ask, no, it doesn't work.

If you would make up an excuse for god's existence. How would you go about your reasoning?

I'll assume you mean Yahweh in this context. The primary excuse for its existence is that people are easily made to feel shame and guilt, especially about their bodies and the natural functions of their bodies. If we could address this problem, religion would disintegrate.

DaynaGoldstein

Why is it that Christopher Hitchens is so against sadism when it is so much fun?
Because he can never find an S&M outfit that doesn't make his butt look fat.

Philosification

Do you think it's sexist to put women on a pedestal rather than treating them like equals?
Not if they're packing heat.

420messenger

why are you a satanist?
Simple. Worshiping Baal made my skin break out.

evenayr

What role do you see sitars playing in the war against god? Who are your favorite sitarists?
A tough one. Music leads to dancing, which leads to all sorts of immoral behavior. If we get people to sin more often, maybe they'll reject religion. I know of only one sitarist, and I'm not even sure it's really a sitar he's playing: George Harrison. Or whichever Beatle was playing it.

ShaunBonJovi

My 13 year old sister asked me why do people refer to god as a man
Isn't it obvious? Tell her to imagine Marge Simpson's reaction to a blood sacrifice and she'll understand.

I spent hours last night signing all of my old socks. Serious case of writer's cramp now. You guys come on over to my place and I'll give you your gift.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

In The Box with GreatBigBore

Hey folks, I'm starting a new series, just for my GreatBigSnore channel. This new series is called "In The Box with GreatBigBore." I always hope for conversation with you guys on all my videos, but this will be a new level of interaction. Here's how you can be a part of the program: ask questions. Any question at all. It can be about science, philosophy, superstition in all its forms, morality, parenting, anything at all. The best part is that if I can't answer, I'll make something up.

You can post a video response to this video or you can just post a comment. If I select your question and use it for an episode of "In The Box," you'll receive a free gift signed by me, GreatBigBore. I have a drawer full of old socks that I've been trying to get rid of for ages.

I reserve the right to add ridiculous and arbitrary rules at any moment, without notice. So far, the only rules are these: if you post a video response, it has to be under one minute. If you post your question as a comment, it has to fit in one post. Feel free to blaspheme all you like, although the only talk I consider blasphemy is talk against Her Worshipfulness The Flying Spaghetti Monster, and I'm sure that none of you will risk blaspheming her. You don't have to show your face or use your real voice in your video; in fact, for most of you, it would be better if you didn't show your face. Video responses by hot women get priority. The next priority will be questions that contain foul language, inappropriate content, or blasphemy. Questions posted as comments will be considered last, but not ignored, unless I feel like ignoring them.

My decisions about which questions to answer will be based on this very simple and generous rule: I'll answer whatever I feel like answering. Priority will also be given to questions that will result in an answer that makes me appear smart or funny.

This show is open to everyone, even those of you who entertain yourselves with visions of most of humanity burning in hell. If this turns out to be fun, I'll keep doing it. If not, I'll stop.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

God's Quality Control 5.0.1

Here I continue my discussion of the book Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis.

Chapter II

In the latter half of Chapter II, Lewis claims that his "Law of Human Nature" is a truth about reality, independent of human reason, just as mathematics could be said to have existed before humans discovered it, to have an existence independent of humans. In case Lewis uses this "Law of Human Nature" as part of the foundation for his entire argument, I'll restate here what he means by this so-called law. He gives numerous examples of how humans attempt to coerce each other by appealing to conscience: "I scratched your back, now you should scratch mine," "How would you like it if someone treated you that way?" He takes the fact that everyone seems to respond to such appeals to mean that there exists some "Law or Rule of fair play" about which everyone agrees.

Lewis' interpretation of our moral expectations of each other, and our acceptance of others' moral expectations of us, brings to mind the Ptolemaic representation of our solar system: it looked right on the surface, but it was rather unwieldy and was replaced, after science was brought to bear on the problem, by the much more powerful and far simpler Copernican representation. The replacement for Lewis' interpretation, and indeed the interpretation held by almost all superstitionists and by far too many asuperstitionists, is this: we are hard-wired with these concepts of fairness. This is why we generally recognize and respond to appeals to conscience. When we observe a community of eusocial insects such as ants, we don't surmise that there is some external law dictating how they should interact with each other. We know that the instructions for behavior reside in each individual ant's brain. Why would we assume that the emergence of human morality from a collection of like-minded humans is fundamentally different from the emergence of the elaborate machinery of an ant colony from a collection of identically wired ants?

My apologies for spending so much time on this one point, but the idea of "objective morality" seems to exercise the minds of most superstitionists, so it seems important to show just how wrong it is. I expect that Lewis intends to use his so-called law as foundational to everything else he says in the book. If the law does not exist, and if there's little to no reason for us to believe that it exists, then this book is of not much value to anyone.

Lewis provides two reasons for his claim that his law is a truth in the same way as mathematics. First, all over the world, the ideas about morality are largely the same. There are some small differences, but murder and theft, for example, are generally frowned on. I reject this interpretation of the universality of morality, for reasons I explained earlier in this video. Second, people generally agree that some systems of morality are clearly superior to others, which he interprets to mean that there is some external standard to which we compare any system of morality in order to judge its value. I reject this second point for exactly the same reasons that I rejected the first point. In fact, I'm having a hard time telling the difference between his two points. The first point is that we generally agree on what's good and bad, while the second point is that we generally agree on what's better or worse. Once again, I have to say that C.S. Lewis is terribly oversold as a philosopher.

Finishing up Chapter II, Lewis embarrasses himself and all of his co-superstitionists: "the reason we do not execute witches is that we do not believe there are such things...if we really thought that there were people...using [satanic, supernatural] powers to kill their neighbors, surely we would all agree that if anyone deserved the death penalty, these filthy quislings did." If you have to use the word "deserve," then you're going about it all wrong.

Chapter III

In Chapter III Lewis shows more of the weakness in his thinking. He fails to see the metaphorical nature of the phrase "law of gravity," instead attempting to interpret it as though it were literally a law in the same sense as a law made by humans: an invented rule that is to be obeyed. He gets himself into serious trouble when he suggests that to say, "Falling stones obey the law of gravitation" is the same as saying, "Stones do what stones do." This is obviously false, based on his misunderstanding of the meaning of the word "law" in this context. To say, "Falling stones obey the law of gravitation" is a metaphorical way of saying, "Relative to gravity, stones behave in the same way as everything else we've observed so far." The word "law" in the phrase "physical law" is an easily misunderstood, easily misused metaphor. It does not mean that there is a literal decree that all objects must obey. It means that all the objects we observe behave in a uniform way that we can express as a mathematical equation or a scientific theory. Lewis' misunderstanding of the word "law" will surely be the undoing of this whole argument.

That's 5.0.1. Thanks for watching.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Next Deconversion

It seems that many blogs and vlogs have some sort of charter, that their owners have some idea of their own reasons for speaking out in the Internet forum. I've never had a clear idea of what I'm doing here; mostly I'm just putting stuff out there to see what happens, and so far everything seems to have a fascinating life of its own. Still, there are some obvious themes. Perhaps the most important one is conversation. At first I was coming from an entirely selfish position: put my ideas out there, get people to respond, and enrich myself with other opinions, other ways of thinking. This self-centered approach has changed over the months. I'm beginning to see that we need a conversation that can enrich us all. We all need to get together and have a conversation about our future. We need to decide what we're going to be: some lucky components of the universe that briefly participated in the wonders of biochemistry and even intelligence, or the brains of the universe itself, through which the universe could discover, perhaps for the first time ever, what it is.

We need to have a conversation about morality. We need to stop appealing to absolutes such as right, wrong, sin, and to other no-longer-useful concepts such as guilt, shame, punishment. These concepts served us well enough when we were just another species of medium-sized mammal, but we graduated from that role eons ago, and we're long overdue for a massive reworking of our attitudes about how we treat each other.

It is time to move away from our compulsory, punitive, shame- and guilt-based morality and begin making conscious choices about how to behave, based on the awareness that as far as we know, we are something unprecedented, and even if not, it seems safe to say that we're something extremely rare. We need to accept our role as the intelligence of the universe itself, and decide what we're going to do with that role. If it never has been before, the universe is now a living, thinking, self-aware being. What will it do with itself now? Or to be more accurate, what will we do with ourselves now? Or more accurate still, what will I do with myself now, where "I" and "myself" refer to all of reality, including you, including the bag of chips you just devoured, including the exasperated roommate who has vowed to get two bags next time, including the individual saying these words. It could be something really cool. Think about it: we have learned so much, and gained so much skill in controlling our environment in just a few hundred years. What could we do in a few hundred more, a few thousand, if we can just survive our adolescence, if we can just make it through this century without blowing ourselves up or converting the earth into a sterile furnace.

Just think: the sun is due to die in five billion years. We could change that if we wanted to. In a thousand years, or maybe far less time, we could have the technology to replenish the sun's hydrogen supply and remove excess helium in order to keep the sun stable for as long as we wish. We could turn the earth itself into a museum of life, while some of us continue to live here and others go exploring. What if we could learn to control space-time itself? What if we could figure out how to get around the light-speed limit? Cosmologists talk about the universe itself eventually dying, via entropy. What if we could prevent that?

We could be amazing. It's time for us to grow up as a civilization and start looking for new ways of thinking, ways that will bring peace and equality. Of course, people have been saying this for a long time, but now we have a tool that enables us to do something about it: science. Science can tell us how best to cause human physical health to flourish, how best to cause human emotional and psychic health to flourish, and, I think, even if it's impossibly naive, how best to govern ourselves. It's time for us to start using this tool to save ourselves, to stop relying on common sense in areas where it is all but guaranteed to lead us astray: morality, society, education, law, government, economics; there is no aspect of our civilization that we could not improve dramatically if we were simply to take the knowledge we already have and begin applying it. We wouldn't even have to wait around for research; the research is already done in so many areas. All we need to do is start listening to ourselves.

    Friday, January 7, 2011

    God's Quality Control 5.0.0: Mere Christianity

    Don't worry about the numbering in the title; it will make more sense after I make a couple more videos. In the mean time, use the playlists and the video responses to navigate the series. In this series I'll take a look at the book "Mere Christianity" by C.S. Lewis. The full title of the book seems to be "Mere Christianity: an Anniversary Edition of The Three Books The Case for Christianity, Christian Behavior, and Beyond Personality. In this video we'll begin Book I: Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe.

    Chapter I: The Law of Human Nature

    Lewis makes two basic points in this chapter. First, humans everywhere do seem to have a sense of right and wrong. The specifics of what is right and what is wrong differ from person to person, but it does seem that almost everyone has a sense about how people should behave. Second, we humans do not always obey the rules that we might wish others to obey, and we do not always obey all of the rules that we ourselves would consider ideal.

    Lewis wastes no time jumping to the entirely unwarranted conclusion that this universal sense of morality represents a special kind of natural law (to which he refers variously as the Law of Nature, the Law of Human Nature, Moral Law, and Rule of Decent Behavior), akin to physical laws such as the law of gravitation, the difference being that this law concerning morality is optional. It's impossible to defy the law of gravity, while humans defy Moral Law regularly. He comes tantalizingly close to glimpsing a far better kind of morality, a far more compassionate view of human nature, when he points out that if there is no universal morality, then although we would have had to fight the Nazis, it would not have been proper for us to blame them. Sadly, he doesn't take the next step of realizing that blaming is itself an unhealthy occupation, and in the context of war serves only as yet another excuse to dehumanize one's opponent.

    Lewis makes a gigantic mistake here (actually, he makes several, but this one is rather more glaring than the others, if that were possible). He points out that a man who asserts that there is no real right and wrong will still be upset if you treat him badly. What Lewis completely misses is that the man's assertion is a result of the man's reason (regardless of whether his reason is sound), while the man's reaction to mistreatment is a result of the man's instincts. Lewis wrote this book some 70 years ago; we have learned quite a bit since then, and I don't want to criticize him for not knowing what we know. Perhaps he wrote this before any of the studies showing that even very young children have a sense of fair play. But it's still appropriate to point out his mistakes, even if they're honest mistakes, so we can correct them and move ahead.

    Lewis closes the chapter with an utterly baffling claim: "These two facts [the existence of Moral Law and the fact that adherence to it is rather flexible] are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in." This may be true if there is a god that intends to punish us for being morally less-than-perfect, but if these are Lewis' foundation, then the whole structure is unsound. It may not be clear from a naive reading of the first chapter, but I expect that he will soon insist that the Moral Law comes from his punishing god, and our so-called disobedience to this punisher in some way obligates us to it. As it turns out, the two facts he mentions are not really foundational to the "clear thinking" he'll surely show in this book. Instead, the foundation of his thinking is sure to be his interpretation of these facts. If he were wrong in his assumption that our moral sensibilities come from the supernatural realm, or that the supernatural provider of said sensibilities will punish us for our shortcomings, then his entire argument, or at least the argument he seems to be setting up so far, would collapse.

    Chapter II: Some Objections

    In the first half of this chapter, Lewis makes a concerted effort to convince us that this mysterious Moral Law is not an instinct, but rather something higher that arbitrates between competing instincts. He offers absolutely no support for any of his claims beyond some weak piano metaphors, which he makes no attempt to connect to facts or science.

    It's clear even in the second chapter that Lewis was not the great thinker that some wish him to have been. Back in the first chapter he criticized people who say that there is no right and wrong, pretending that he didn't know what is meant by this shorthand, but then becoming one of these same people by stating, "Strictly speaking, there are no such things as good and bad impulses...Every single note [on a piano] is right at one time and wrong at another."

    About halfway through this chapter, Lewis trips himself up yet again, implying that a "love of humanity in general" would somehow lead us to forget justice. Even ignoring the idea that retributive justice is barbaric, we can see that Lewis is creating a straw-man. He claims that using love of humanity in general as an absolute guide for one's behavior would lead one to break agreements and fake evidence. Once again he simply makes the assertion, with no support or explanation.

    That's 5.0.0. Thanks for watching.

    Thursday, January 6, 2011

    God's Quality Control 4.2: Proof And Evidence

    Here I present an invitation and a request to YouTuber ShockOfGod to put an honorable end to his sputtering, somehow not-yet-dead, "Proof And Evidence" campaign. Shock, I thought that by now everyone would have noticed the dishonesty and/or fallacy in your question, but I still get messages from people saying that no one can provide proof and evidence that atheism is accurate and correct. Since you're the one who started this idea, and since you're a devoted follower of Jesus, the guy who hates dishonesty and disorder, I'm sure that you'll do the honorable thing and publicly put an end to the confusion still being encouraged by your idea.

    Here's my proof and evidence that atheism is accurate and correct. Now, will you please make a video announcing that your question has been answered so people will stop deluding themselves? Oh, wait, you say that you disapprove of my proof and evidence? You're not convinced? Why? It seems obvious to me that I've given you what you've asked for. What more could you want? Ok, it's good to be fair about things, so how about this: if you don't accept my answer, then please describe to me in detail what you would count as proof and evidence that atheism is accurate and correct. Now, if you feel that I should already know, that's fine. If you feel that I'm being idiotic or dishonest, that's fine too. But if that's your only answer, if you don't describe something that would satisfy you, then at least a few people will wonder about your reasons. Some might conclude that you just don't feel like engaging with someone as rude and unspiritual as myself. Others might wonder what you have to lose by spelling out your requirements. They might even begin to wonder whether you even have the ability to identify legitimate proof and evidence. They might conclude that because you can't describe legitimate proof and evidence, your original question was dishonest, a scam, a rhetorical trick, fuel for a propaganda campaign.
     
    What would Jesus do, Shock? Allow misinformation and confusion to continue when just a quick word, a quick public apology, could clear up the whole matter and reinvigorate all the conversation that has been stifled by this misunderstanding? I'll assume that your response to this video is your best guess about what Jesus would do. I imagine that many others will make a similar assumption, so make sure you represent.

    To all of Shock's fans, an invitation: think about Shock's message. Is it true? Is it honest? What is this campaign accomplishing? Is it convincing people to seek righteousness? Is it promoting truth, wisdom, love, compassion? If it is, then just ignore everything I'm saying. If it's not, then perhaps it makes more sense to ignore it entirely, or at least think about it a little more carefully. We need to make sure we keep talking. We make no progress when we shut down conversation with rhetorical tricks.

    That's 4.2. Thanks for watching.

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011

    Eye2EyeIIIV

    A response to YouTuber Eye2EyeIIIV's video.
    • "They continuously fail to provide any evidence that atheism is accurate and correct." Please describe the evidence you would require, and explain what you mean. "Accurate" means "free of errors." Atheism makes no claims, and therefore contains no errors. Please explain what you mean so I (or someone) can give you an answer.
    • "They happen to stick with more of an unscientific attitude of name-calling, rather than just debating creationists nowadays." This is ad-hom, and is therefore irrelevant except in the fact that you seem to be attempting to provoke. It's not working. I'm not interested in your opinion of me. If you wish to have a discussion about truth and facts, do let me know.
    • "They seem as if they want..." I stopped there. Your opinion of me is none of my business.
    • "They're usually confusing the terms..." If you notice during a conversation that someone is confusing his terms, do him the courtesy of explaining his error to him. Since you and I are not having that conversation, your point is moot. You're just griping.
    • "When claiming Dog is 'harsh & evil' they are..." Ok, another gripe about some past conversation. In the future, please feel free to leave me off your mailing list when you make such an empty video.
    • "They claim..." looks like more ad-hom. Really, leave me off this spam list next time.
    • "Degenerated atheists..." Jeez. I'm not watching seven more minutes of this.
    P.S. What does "impaired mistakes" mean? Did you really say "evolutionism"? Did you say it with a straight face? You mention "disrespectfulness" on the part of atheists, but you seem to be fixated on vulgar language. How is it not disrespectful for you to spam me with this video that is nothing but a waste of my time? Why do you say "degenerated atheists"? What do you know about these people's personal lives that would enable you to detect degeneration?

    Monday, January 3, 2011

    God's Quality Control 4.1

    The bible is one of many ancient writings that contain accounts of various unusual phenomena that in any other context are dismissed out of hand as mythical. Many of these phenomena, if they did occur, should have left behind some sign of their passing. It is not surprising at all that some of them have left no trace, but it is rather suspicious that not a single one of them has. Here I'll discuss a few of these accounts.
    • In the first eleven chapters of Genesis, we read of a period of at least 2000 years during which men tended to live for centuries, some of them almost a thousand years. Near the end of that 2000-year period, it seems that men's lifespans began to shorten significantly, but still many of them were living for at least two hundred years. Shouldn't we see some sign of this in all of our studies of human DNA? I'm no expert in this area, but given all the other history we can discover by studying genetics, it seems that something really unusual like this would stand out. Further, if men are living for 900 years and siring children even at age 500, shouldn't there be some indication of explosive population growth during that time? Shouldn't we see signs of population growth slowing significantly as the lifespan decreased? And Adam lived until the time of Lamech; shouldn't we expect to read stories of people hanging out with their great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfathers?
    • Adam: 130 -> Seth; Adam -> d. 930
    • Seth: 105 -> Enosh; Seth -> d. 912
    • Enosh: 90 -> Kenan; Enosh -> d. 905
    • Kenan: 70 -> Mahalalel; Kenan -> 910
    • Mahalalel: 65 -> Jared; Mahalalel -> d.895
    • Jared: 162 -> Enoch; Jared -> d.962
    • Enoch: 65 -> Methuselah; Enoch -> ?.365
    • Methuselah: 187 -> Lamech; Methuselah -> d. 969
    • Lamech: 182 -> Noah; Lamech -> 777
    • Noah: 500 -> SHJ; Noah -> 950
    • Shem: 100 -> Arphaxad; Shem -> d. 600
    • Arphaxad: 35 -> Shelah; Arphaxad: d. 438
    • Shelah: 30 -> Eber; Shelah: d. 433
    • Eber: 34 -> Peleg; Eber: d. 464
    • Peleg: 30 -> Reu; Peleg d. 239
    • Reu: 32 -> Serug; Reu d. 239
    • Serug: 30 -> Nahor; Serug: 230
    • Nahor: 29 -> Terah; Nahor d. 148
    • Terah: 70 -> Abram; Terah d. 205
    • Genesis 7 tells the story of the Great Flood, in which Yahweh tortured to death every air-breathing animal (including all the humans, of course) by drowning. It has been pointed out a million times already that we see none of the signs we might expect from such a flood. It has been pointed out a million times already that we see no signs of animals spreading from the Middle East to the rest of the world. Should we not also see signs of human civilization spreading from there?
    • Genesis 11 tells the story of the Tower of Babel. A naive reading suggests that this story took place some time after the Great Flood, some 1500 years after creation. Shouldn't we see signs that up until about 2500 BCE, everyone in the world spoke the same language?
    • Genesis 17 describes the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning sulfur that rained down from the sky. Why would there be no record of this in any other ancient writings? Were cities destroyed by flaming sulfur so often that no one felt it necessary to record the event?
    • Exodus 12 tells us that Moses led all the Israeli slaves out of Egypt. They had been slaves for over four centuries. I've heard superstitionists estimate the slave population at three million. Even if it weren't that many, surely there would have been a lot, given four centuries. Shouldn't we expect some ancient Egyptian writings to talk of the economic devastation that occurred when Egypt lost all its slaves? I read somewhere that the exchange of gold between King Solomon and some other dignitary caused serious damage to the gold market in one of their nations. If this damage was recorded, why wouldn't someone record the far worse damage presumably caused by the sudden loss of your entire slave labor force? And shouldn't we see some tiny sign of three million people with all their possessions and livestock tramping around in the desert for 40 years, especially considering that only their children survived, meaning that there must be three million human corpses and countless, enormous trash piles out there somewhere? Feel free to shoot me down over the three million thing, but it wouldn't have to be as many as three million people in order for us to expect some trace.
    • II Kings 20 claims that a shadow moved the wrong way, which I interpret to mean that the earth stopped its rotation and reversed direction for a time, then stopped again and resumed its normal rotation. At the very least one would expect signs of massive tidal waves all over the place.
    • All four of the Gospels recount Jesus' miraculous feeding of many thousands of people; Matthew says that it happened twice. I'm guessing that ten thousand people would be a conservative estimate when women and children are taken into account. Was the area so heavily populated and so full of bustle that a crowd of 10,000 people following one guy around was commonplace, a non-event? Why would such an event not be recorded by anyone?
    You could think of science and religion as two different ropes that you might use for climbing a mountain. The science rope is robust, safe to use. There might be a few strands of the rope that are a little weak, such as string theory, or the fact that currently we don't have a good explanation for the faint sun problem, but overall the rope is in excellent condition. It manages the enormous weight we apply to it with no problem at all. The religion rope is just the opposite: very few of the strands are even intact. If you give it even a small tug, it will fail you and you'll fall right off the mountain.

    That's 4.1. Thanks for watching.

      Sunday, January 2, 2011

      God's Quality Control 4.0

      Here I address the science/evolution video shared with me by YouTuber TrustinJC, aka LaVern. LaVern and I have had a couple of video conversations and a few comment/PM conversations on these matters. Of late, LaVern has adopted ad hominem and the straw man as part of his arsenal, causing me to be less inclined to talk to him. However, this video he has sent me leaves out the cheating, and brings up some good points that seem to be good material for discussion.

      "Science, including evolution, is not in conflict with God and Scripture."

      Let's just make sure that no one is confused by your use of the word "scripture." You are talking about documents that were written thousands of years ago. These documents are full of stories depicting various phenomena that, according to well understood scientific principles, should have left behind some kind of sign of their occurrence. A worldwide flood that lasted months and killed everything except the passengers of a single wooden ship. A massive exodus of Israelites from ancient Egypt. The sun and moon stopping dead in their tracks for a whole day. Numerous dead people simultaneously walking out of their graves alive and presenting themselves to the living. There are many such events described in these ancient writings, and there is no reason for us to believe that any of them really happened. No sign at all. Not any reliable written record, not any reliable archaeological traces.

      Your argument is that because some very small fraction, some carefully picked passages, in these ancient writings can be interpreted in such a way as to suggest a humanly impossible prescience, we should study these writings in detail and apply all kinds of scholarship to the idea that they still have something to say to us, even after all these centuries. Please help me to understand why you don't apply the same reasoning to the writings of Nostradamus, which have been similarly stretched to appear prophetic. Please help me to understand why you don't charge a-Nostradamus-ists with failing to recognize the significance of his writings?

      As I explained in "God's Quality Control" 3.9, science and miracles are fundamentally incompatible. You cannot allow for both to exist in the same reality. Briefly, the reason is that if miracles are possible, you can never eliminate certain unknown factors that might influence the outcome of any experiment, in particular the possibility that Jesus has interfered without your knowledge.

      One question that always comes to mind when I hear you guys presenting these fringe ideas is this: how have you convinced yourself that you, of all people, have discovered a secret that has gone right over the heads of thousands of well educated, highly trained, engaged experts? Why are there no serious students of the Book of Enoch becoming famous for showing definitively that there are good reasons to consider its wild claims more valid than those in any other ancient writing? What are your qualifications for doing this sort of study? Which experts have peer-reviewed your work? In what scientific journals have you published? Why should we listen to you?

      "The earth was able to support life when there wasn't enough energy being created from the sun to do it."

      Let's say that we ignore an entire community of trained experts who spend a lot of time double-checking each others' ideas. Let's say that we do have some reason to listen to you instead of to them. Let's accept your wild claim: the sun wasn't producing enough energy to enable life on Earth. You might not know it, but there are indeed life forms on Earth that don't need the sun. There are entire ecosystems surrounding hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor, where no sunlight ever reaches. You say that the earth was encased in ice, but you seem to think that this means that there would be no liquid water. It sort of looks like there's liquid water on Europa, the ice-encased moon of Jupiter. Why is it that even when a layperson can think of obvious plausible possibilities off the cuff, you ignore all the science and assume that the answers lie buried in an ancient manuscript that you must assume to be written in code because when taken at face value it makes absolutely no sense?

      You say that in the early days of the earth, there was a light source other than the sun, by which you seem to mean that because the universe was smaller in those days, we must have been close to another star. What scientific research have you read that suggests any such thing? Or, let's assume that you have some secret knowledge, unavailable to anyone in the scientific community, and accept your hypothesis. Does it fit with observation? Can you show any evidence in support of your idea? Evidence that would stand up to peer-review? And do you not realize that the expansion of the universe in the last three billion years would have a negligible expansive effect (if any!) on our galaxy? The fact that the universe is less crowded now in no way implies that the Milky Way itself is less crowded.

      Finally, even if we were to assume that you of all people have found the truth: that these ancient writings are all correct, and you somehow know how to decode the parts that correspond to legitimate science. There is still the problem of Yahweh being a bloodthirsty, backward, ignorant, homophobic, misguided, baby-murdering, baby-torturing monster.

      Oh, one last thing, some sad news: I just discovered that my cat is a creationist. He tells me that if evolution were true, humans would be able to lick their own privates.

      That's 4.0. Thanks for watching.