Blasphemy: It’s not just for nonbelievers.


One thing has struck me as particularly ironic, that those who most vocally call for blasphemy laws to protect their personal religious claims from criticism often expound on views that seem very close to blasphemy against their own Gods. I’ll give three examples of this that are particularly common:

  • “I know that my God thinks, likes, hates and wants the same things I do.”

Not only does this commit the sin of pride, it commits that of presumption, because the claimant cannot establish how they actually know these things, and how the rest of us somehow miss these insights despite reading from the same scripture.

If you cannot explain how you know something, it’s a good bet that you probably don’t really know it. And yes, we nonbelievers do read scripture — often cover to cover, every verse — it’s one reason many of us no longer believe.

  • “I believe because of what I gain if I’m right and what I won’t lose if I’m wrong. It’s a deal I can’t refuse. Better safe than sorry.”

This makes God out to be a simpleton, who it is assumed won’t catch on to the self-serving motives of those who follow only for calculation of personal gain and avoidance of personal loss. It’s cynical, selfish and manipulative. It’s also dishonest to ourselves, to others, and to the very God we pretend to believe in. It is, I think, VERY insulting to any Deity worth His (or Her, or Its) title and name.

We cannot ‘choose’ to believe what we really do not, merely by acting as though we believe. As our brains ordinarily tend to operate, we either believe or not, arriving at our ‘truths’ by those beliefs we adopt as an act of feeling, according to our needs, wants, and any prior beliefs we already hold.

  • “God is testing our faith.” by (A) deliberately hiding all evidence of His (or Hers or Its) existence (B) faking the fossil record to fool unbelievers (C) inspiring scripture that’s too often interpreted in confusing and contradictory ways.

This would sound incredibly insulting to any Deity, as it portrays God as a liar, a cheat, and a trickster, especially when it is claimed that God is perfect or would never deceive or lie for scripture says so.

Never mind the circularity of reasoning behind that, but even we lowly human beings, small as we are would feel insulted. The claim also contradicts the common idea that God is all-knowing and absolutely so, not the limited omniscience of the fictional character Doctor Manhattan.

How?

Because a truly all-knowing being would by definition not need to ‘test’ anything, since that’s something that’s only done when finding out what’s not already known.

Unless you worship Loki, Nyarlathotep, or Coyote, it’s not a good idea to make claims that portray your god as someone given to deception and trickery.

If you make or have made any of the three claims bulleted above, then at least consider the thoughts of this wicked, unrepentant, and arrogant atheist:

Cut it out.

Stop.

No one respects the views of whiney, thin-skinned hypocrites.

Think about what you yourself say before becoming righteously indignant.

You are not doing your religion any favors in saying things that will discredit it — you make it look bad and risk creating even more atheists from those who otherwise might have been your fellows in faith.

I’d like to close this with a little story I heard some years ago:

A famous writer at a comic-book convention got himself drunk during a party in the consuite, leaned a bit too far back into an open, tenth floor window, and fell to his death, drowning, in the hotel swimming pool below.

He woke up, the smell of sulfur and burning flesh and metal in his nostrils, to see a large being with red skin, horns, and of course, the obligatory pitchfork standing over him.

“Welcome to Hell! I’m your personal demon and I’ll be taking you to your cell where we have interesting things planned for you — for eternity. Please follow me.”

Not seeing any other option, the deceased writer was led by his demonic escort through scenes of horror, pain, and misery, seemingly right out of Dante’s Inferno.

There were people being burned by white-hot fire, only to immediately heal as they continue to burn and scream. “Who are they?” the writer asked. “Oh those would be liars.” responded the demon, amused by the question, “They bore false witness in sermons one too many times.”

There were people encased in ice with only their heads exposed, being savaged by flesh-devouring vermin of the most horrid sort. “What about them?” the writer asked. “Oh, those would be bibliolaters,” said the demon, “They invested too much authority in scripture, even over God Himself. Ah, down this way, please. We’re nearing your cell, and have some very special things planned for you.”

The final scene the writer beheld before arriving at his cell was the most telling. The Damned were all dressed impeccably, in their “Sunday best” you could say, and were suffering from no apparent injury but moaning and wailing loudly, and, predictably, with much gnashing of teeth.

The writer turns to the demon and asks, confused, “Who are those people? What are they here for?” The demon responded with a fangy smile, “Oh, those would be religious fundamentalists, and they are here because God hates being told what to think.”

Update:

Yes, I’m aware that the examples of unintentionally blasphemous statements aren’t phrased in the most charitable way. But the intent is not to create strawmen to easily knock down, but to unpack what is actually being claimed, even if it isn’t stated that way. There are many variations of these statements, far too many to deal with all of them individually, requiring that the phrasing be as representative of all variations together as possible, a sort of ‘one size fits all’ abstraction that preserves the overall meaning of the claim no matter how it’s put.

I Am Disappoint


Right now I’m in one of my unfortunate evil, snarkitundinous and thoroughly bastitchy moods, and I have my doubts right now that anyone is as upset about this as I am, even those of you who might care:

A perfect storm of situations and events this month, when I had planned to sign up for the summer semester of online courses at a local college, will keep me from doing so at least until the Fall enrollment schedule is open.

Three months.

A whole semester to delay things.

Far too long.

But worse, I feel like I’ve let down those who’ve offered encouragement for my continuing education efforts.

But until the next semester opens, I’ll continue my education at home, online with the best academic sources I can find, and a series of Teaching Company courses I’ve yet to take and also those I’m taking now and have yet to complete.

Three months.

I said far too long, but perhaps just enough to finish what I have with me and what I can find online. I do have an account on the website of the college, so once the hounds of academia are released during the Fall, I’ll have everything prepared.

In the meantime, I’m going to post reviews of those courses I have on digital media, adding that to the other content on this blog, which should help brighten my mood a bit.

Perhaps this isn’t so bad, but I’m far from happy about it right now.

It is with heavy heart…


English: Grainy B&W image of supposed UFO, Pas...

English: Grainy B&W image of supposed UFO, Passaic, New Jersey Edited version of Image:PurportedUFO NewJersey 1952 07 31.gif. By Bach01. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

G’day. You all know me by my pseudo-pseudonymous handle, and for over four years now I’ve been posting on this blog on various matters, some skeptical, some personal, and sometimes atheistic, posts on these and other topics punctuated by my frequent, and to some, annoying, fractal posts.

But the drama that has shaken the Skeptical Community™ to its knees has shattered my resolve, nay, my Faith™ in Science, and sent me looking to more fertile ground for mental and spiritual sustenance that a cold, sterile, mechanistic, reductionistic, materialistic, and yes, Physicalist™ worldview cannot supply. I have sought a new paradigm to feed my hungry soul, that even the Great Old Ones could not besiege, and lo, the paradigm has shifted…The stars are right!

So, I have discovered my potential, tasted the forbidden fruit of the paranormal, and decided to renounce science, skepticism, ethics and intellectual honesty forever. No more being mean to psychics, no more Dogmatic Scientistic Closed-Mindedness™ about UFO’s™ and cryptozoological creatures, no more roundly mocking popular gurus about their lucrative book sales and seminars…I want in on the action too!

So, it is with heavy heart that I rededicate and retool this blog, saying goodbye to those I’ve met in the Skeptical Community™ and opening my mind so far as to step over that fine line I’ve drawn on the floor and embrace total, complete and utter madness!

MuaHaHaHaHa!

Yes, the stars art right, and henceforth, I shall blog on paranormal topics from a believer’s point of view and begin, without any journalistic training or professional writing ability whatsoever, and no real or relevant credentials (after all, having no qualifications on a topic means I can think outside the box and speak on it with authority, because I wasn’t conventionalized by the Establishment!), a series of books on Alternative Science™ and the start of my own religion based on my own feverish ravings of revelations from insane alien beings.

And finally, for those of you convinced I’ve finally gone over the edge and completely lost my mind…

May you all have a terrific 1st of April. ;-) G’day.

I Don’t Call People Stupid…


facebook engancha

facebook engancha (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

…and I don’t, not because I’m a nice guy — there are times where my darker nature frightens even me — but because it diminishes me and demeans the one I’d otherwise call stupid. Believe me, there are times I’ve been sorely tempted, and each day I plan out arguments, but not those I will use — those I won’t, or those arguments I hope never to have to use — so scathing do they seem to me in the unvoiced rehearsal of my internal monologue.

But scathing is not something I do well, nor do I hope to. All too often, there’s the temptation to, as Carl Sagan put it, “…wax contemptuous and superior” and the temptation disgusts me.

This is a good thing, I suppose, for snark is a skill set I don’t like to exercise, as I’m forced daily to recognize boundaries for civil relations with people that should not be crossed if effective communication is to be achieved. I suspect that there’s a lot of native intelligence even in the willfully ignorant, and that its not so much people who are stupid, but dogmatic ideologies, erroneous doctrines, and fallacious arguments, failed promises, and exaggerated claims meant to snare the unwary.

I know paranormal believers and people of religious faith, many of them friends and family, and I have no intention of considering them idiots.

I don’t call people stupid — not because of some noble impulse or silly sense of high-mindedness — but because I just don’t feel comfortable doing it. It doesn’t sit well with me but I also don’t judge those who do it, for that would say nothing of them and speak volumes about me. Let others use the methods that work for them.

But calling people stupid leaves an ugly feeling in my gut.

There was an incident on Facebook last evening. Someone I know had private messaged me and went on a tirade about my calling her husband stupid, and I’m pretty sure that no such thing happened — it is simply not done — and confused, I pressed her to explain, but she would give me no specifics. Finally I grew tired of the game being played and asked her to name one instance, just one, where and when I called her husband stupid.

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

Her only reply: “Never mind.”

She gave no answer to my question, leaving me to conclude that she didn’t have one.

I thanked her in annoyance and broke off the chat at that point. I’d had my fill of vacuous nonsense and was quite angry with her, and at no time had she ever shown any specific knowledge of what she claimed. I’ll say this much: If ever that night I had been tempted to call anyone stupid, it wouldn’t have been her husband, who is more intelligent than me in a number of ways.

She owes me an apology, by the way, for my anger at her cost me several valuable hours of restful sleep which would have been useful before my kitten, Mr Eccles, got me up later that morning to be fed. How rude. Not Eccles — her — for ruining a potential good night’s sleep over trumped-up churlish foolishness.

But I’m not that nice, I’m just not that good at putting people down with skill and finesse — I’d make a poor standup comic — So I use what works, naughty or nice.

“In Your Opinion…”


Knowledge will make you free

Knowledge will make you free (Photo credit: tellatic)

Before I begin, let me say that this post is in no way directed at anyone in particular, it’s a long-time pet peeve of mine, and a problem that has existed in my country since its founding…

Onward then…

There’s a species of relativism that sometimes tries my patience, and that’s because as one who values knowledge over belief, fact over fantasy, I consider it arrogant, condescending, and dismissive to equate objective knowledge painstakingly gained through much effort and thought with mere subjective opinion or personal preference, as though all claims to knowledge and assertions of belief were on the same footing.

And if all are on equal footing, none are on any footing whatsoever.

Especially when that knowledge conflicts with personal convictions or strongly held, if misinformed, opinions.

This view stems from a naive understanding of what knowledge, facts, beliefs & opinion actually are.

Beliefs are our expectations of experiencing something or its implication if and when we would conceivably be able to. When we believe, we hold as true or false some statement about reality, but belief is not knowledge. It is only a halfway point.

So believing there to be a massive alien space fleet in orbit around the Earth amounts to expecting to see it, or otherwise detect it if and when the means and opportunity were ever available to the believer, whether its actually there or not.

If a belief happens to be true, to reflect actual states of affairs, it is still not knowledge unless we have some way of informing ourselves that it’s true. Even if true, such a belief is still only a fortunate guess.

So unless you have some way of getting information that confirms or disconfirms the presence of the alien fleet, you have no way of actually knowing it in any real sense, and so no actual knowledge either way.

Despite the claims of mystics on “other ways of knowing” through notoriously unreliable methods as revelation, faith or sudden insight, etc, we actually get most of our information about the world through firsthand and secondhand sensory experience, and as potentially misleading and limited as that is, it’s the most reliable, frequently employed and useful means we have of getting information about the world…

…especially when the range, accuracy and power of our sensory experience are boosted ginormously by the instruments we create, and our inherent flaws can be mitigated using the methods and conceptual tools of science.

So we reach knowledge when:

  • we have information on something that may be turn out to be true or false, something that could be believed if known of…
  • we anticipate in some way, through some sensory modality, observing that something, or an implication of it were the means and occasion to arise…
  • this anticipation is correct and and it may possibly be fulfilled by acquiring confirmatory information about it…

There’s one final step to make before we get there…when…

  • we obtain this information through some form of input, usually sensory, possibly others, when this input passes the tests necessary to establish its accuracy, relevance, public accessibility, etc.

So knowledge includes belief as one of its components, but does not equate to belief, and opinions are essentially a form of belief, or at least just as valid or invalid and whether informed, misinformed or uninformed, they CAN be true or false if expressed as well-formed descriptive statements about reality, even the reality of politics, art, sports, or any other human endeavor.

Because knowledge subsumes belief, belief that must further be both true and justified, to truly know something on an emotional as well as intellectual level, to understand and grasp its nuances and subtle points, that thing must be accepted as true. Also, because of this aspect of knowledge, you cannot know something that is false, and you cannot truly know something that you think false when it is true, no matter what your personal intuitions are telling you to the contrary…

…and a classic example of this is Albert Einstein’s failure to grasp the full implications of quantum mechanics through failure to accept them, despite his own genius, to paraphrase Michio Kaku, a field of science “…so strange and bizarre, even Einstein couldn’t get his head around it.”

Finally, there is no such thing as a “true fact,” and a “real fact” is simply redundant showing a day-glow red flag that the one using the words in that way is clueless or full of sh*t.

A fact cannot be true, nor false, nor anything in between — it either exists or it doesn’t — and the existence of a fact is independent of anyone actually accepting or being aware of it. Facts are those events, properties and collections of things that through their existence or lack of it make beliefs and descriptive statements made about them true or false.

So yes, facts can and often do trump our opinions, at least when we know about them, except perhaps in our own minds of course. No belief or opinion whose truth is not borne out by facts we can be made aware of will never amount to knowledge in itself.

As for internal, subjective things, there exist objective facts about those as well…

Were I to experience anger in any situation, or a belief or lack of belief about something, my anger, belief or its lacking are objective facts about the state of my brain at that time. The facts can, of course, change over time with changes in mood or understanding, but these facts reflect actual physical conditions in my brain consistent with these states, conditions that can at least in principle be objectively measured while they exist.

So, as long as my introspective abilities are reliable in informing me of my mental state in any instance, I’m actually in a particular state, and I’m being up-front in any report I may make about what goes on inside my own mind — which, by the way, I have exclusive and privileged access to, just as you do yours — there is no legitimate way for anyone to claim, “It’s only true for you that you think X (or whatever), not a fact (subtext: I know more than you do about what you really think — bow to my superior magical insight, puny mortal!).”

We’re all ignorant, just about different things.

I’d like to close this with a quote by the late great Isaac Asimov:

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

A Rant: Politics & Science


Politics and the natural sciences have nothing in common in their purpose and processes; politics is all about who gets to be in power and what policies they enact – it’s thinking works often on the basis of motive and vested interest; science is about the facts of the world and how it works – its thinking involves a search for the objective truth which those facts bear out, with the facts winning out in the end.

This is why people whose only real critiques of science are based on motive and vested interest show rather plainly that they really don’t understand science. You cannot carry over the thinking process of one domain of human activity to one where it does not apply – the result is nonsense, and shows your ignorance of both by confusing the thinking of one for that of the other.

This is why scientists are scientists for their day-jobs; if they did politics, they’d be politicians, and a lot wealthier for it, not scientists working in a lab or in the field on measly 5-figure grants.

Aliens in Fiction, Stereotypes, & the Hasty Generalization


A logical fallacy. Statement 1: Most of the gr...

Image via Wikipedia

Long before I got my skeptismo on in late 2006, I wasted time as a relativist on a number of topics before getting out of that nonsense, but I’m a non-relativist, not an absolutist — Non-relativists and Relativists are complements, not polar opposites.

Non-relativists = Everything else in the universe other than relativists, of which absolutists are a mere puny fraction.

Anyhoo…

I used to do a lot more gaming than I do now, especially science fiction RPGs, like Traveller, originally published by a now defunct company called Game Designers Workshop, and at the time, I would sometimes silently object, sometimes not so silently, about what I naively saw as the unfair and unrealistic stereotyping of the aliens in the games as having certain psychological inclinations, when my view, as limited as it was then, did not see the important distinctions between the factors involved in the psychologies of individuals of a species, and those of entire intelligent alien species’ mindset.

We humans have the psychologies we do because of both individual diversity and species, and we get these as emergent mental properties from interactions between our environments and genetics, and these last from our evolutionary history as social primates over millions of years.

It follows that the same should apply to aliens evolving on a different planet with a different history than us. They might be more diverse mentally than us, they may be less, but in any case, they will almost certainly be different.

Why should other intelligent species, evolving on other worlds with unique histories and equally unique selective pressures, and likely different biochemstries as well, not be?

Of course aliens will likely have to us distinctive psychologies, distinctive to us, and on the basis of scarce data, easy to stereotype for that very reason.

Ironically, my rather futile objection to the perceived speciesist stereotyping was derived from just that: scarce data, and the very same logical fallacy stereotyping itself is based on — The Hasty Generalization, often confused with the Fallacy of Composition — the drawing of a faulty generalization on the basis of an insufficient amount of evidence, in this case, not enough published alien source material for the games featuring them with more in-depth information on the aliens’ evolutionary history and thus the reasons for them having certain inclinations, and greater detail and nuances on those inclinations.

Of course, if you’ve had only enough time to develop the concept of a species for the amount of data absolutely needed to play it properly in an RPG, you probably haven’t had the time to develop it to the satisfaction of sticklers like me.

‘Nuff said on that.

Yes, I know: It’s silly to whine about beings that don’t exist (because we have good evidence that the ones in question were made up for a game, not covered up by a conspiracy — alien dog-people being hidden by the government? Get real!) being pigeonholed and discriminated against, but that was something I’d seen done all too often in the real world.

Well, I still object to it when the ones stereotyped are actual groups of people, and not just letters, pictures, and numbers in a book, and it’s still just as wrong when it’s done, since for one thing, it’s specious reasoning, and the fact the far too many (on any side of a controversy) engage in it to support their prejudices against one group or another different from themselves in some perceived way.

No, for the confused: Bigotry is not just disagreeing with someone for using faulty logic; it’s using faulty logic to discriminate in some way against any group you don’t happen to like, and denial is more than just a river in Egypt.