Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Movies: When exactly did this happen?

Warning! A somewhat nerdy rant is forth coming.
You have been warned!

I was wondering recently after watching the film Wanted (warning: minor spoilers) when it was exactly that Hollywood decided that the laws of physics no longer had any place whatsoever in movies. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not beyond a little disbelief suspension and Hollywood has always had a somewhat casual relationship with the laws of physics. What I am talking about here is the utter abandonment of them altogether.

I really like the first Matrix film. It was a reasonably interesting story with some really great action and fight scenes. I had no problem at all with the characters leaping about with no regard for gravity because their ability to do so was explained in a reasonably sensible manner. They were in a computer simulation so it was ok. I am happy to not examine the notion any further. Wanted though is an example of where Hollywood has been steadily heading over the last decade or so. People for no good reason can simply choose to ignore the laws of physics. Apart from the odd bit of completely outlandish aerial acrobatics in cars, the most ridiculous notion in the film was the characters utterly unexplained ability to curve bullets round corners. I am don’t just mean putting a really slight deflection on a bullet here, we are talking a full 360 degree circles no less. Why this was even included in the film is quite beyond me. I guess the hacks that vomited up this silliness just felt like they needed something more to make the film different.

On a side note, if you feel like a good laugh, take a look at James F. McGrath's post on the film. It is the perfect example of modern theology. Seeing meaning where there is none.

You might just scoff and think me a nitpicking nerd. Fair enough, I can understand the argument.

I am not suggesting that all films need to be 100% physcially plausible. I just would prefer it if they were not blatantly 100% phyically impossible. I think the reason I object to this sort of thing is that it is so completely unnecessary. Many a good action movie in the past has been made without the need to throw physics completely out the window. Maybe it is just the nerd in me but when something happens on screen that is not just physically dubious but ridiculously physically impossible I can’t help getting a little turned off the movie. I am of course referring to thing that are not supposed to be absurd or ridiculous on purpose. If for example a film about vampires has people bursting into flame when exposed to sunlight or Spiderman has people walking up walls I’m fine with it. It is intended to be fantastical. In a film like Wanted there is nothing about these people which should enable them to make bullets do impossible things. They just….do? I just can’t understand why this is done. Are there lots of people out there that find this kind of thing really enjoyable? Is there someone out there that thinks this film was better than it would have been if this particular talent had just been omitted? When action films employ this sort of impossible to ignore nonsense they reduce the film to the level of a cartoon. Consider the Bourne films. Matt Damon gets up to all kinds of improbable adventures as a super-spy/assassin. The action is intense and the story fast paced and gripping. Really enjoyable. Nowhere in the film do we see Bourne bending bullets around corners or performing impossible feats yet he seemed a far more dangerous and competent character then the bullet-bending super humans of the movie Wanted. I won’t even get started on the colliding bullets bit. I mean why?

I do realise that Wanted and Bourne are different animals but I just can’t fathom what a movie like Wanted is supposed to gain by the inclusion of this sort of thing. Suspension of disbelief is fine but do they have to make it this damn hard for us? There were some things I quite liked about the film. The depiction of the main characters depressing life was very well done and quite entertaining. I think most of can relate on the boring 9-5 front anyway. They took some tips from the likes of fight club in style for that part of the film.

If, unlike me, you have no issue with this kind of thing, you will probably find Wanted to be a reasonably entertaining film. If you share my irritation at this unfortunate trend in films, to place their stories in a different universe to ours, then this one will get on those nerves a bit.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Uncle Sam is packing heat!

This post started off as a response to James Elliot's post In Defense of the Self and the Second Amendment but I rambled so much I decided not to clog up his comments section. I do go a little off topic here but I know you love it (I don't know who you are but I know you love it!!!)

While I liked the post and indeed would feel fairly comfortable about the presence of large numbers of guns in my environment if all gun owners showed the same consideration as James has; gun control is only sought because large numbers of people don't treat firearms with any kind of respect. Freedom, personal and otherwise can and does exist in the absence of the second amendment. While it is certainly true that an individual can use other weapons of their own construction or even their physical body to attack others, guns allow an immediate and wholly disproportionate increase in one individual’s ability to coerce others. Guns are very simple to use, you can argue about their effective use but I suspect most people would not dismiss even an untrained child holding a loaded gun. It is very easy to kill someone with a gun, or even kill lots of people. I haven’t studied the American constitution or its amendments in great depth so correct me if I am wrong here but the amendment only seems to say that the people have the right to “keep and bear arms“. It doesn’t seem to address what kind of arms so it is open to debate in either direction. Presumably at the time it was referring to firearms then available but times have changed. Is it my constitutionally protected right to own a tank or a fighter jet or a nuclear weapon? I am assuming not. We can and must amend our rights in reasonable response to changes in technology or economic realities. I am guessing there is other legislation that prevents an ordinary citizen from owning a nuke. The common sense reason for preventing a private citizen from owning things like tanks and F-22s is that they are too dangerous. The question then becomes one of degree. What kind of “arms” are too dangerous for private citizens to own? Is a pistol ok; what about an M16 or go a little further to an M60? Is a .50 Barrett sniper rifle too much? What about RPGs and Racket launchers?

We must have some restriction on what arms a person has the right to bear. The second amendment seems fairly broad in those terms. It is certainly not unreasonable to suggest that guns in general (particularly modern guns) are too dangerous for general civilian ownership. The matter is certainly worthy of debate. On the point of self defence, a lot of private citizens in the U.S. own guns but the U.S. has the highest rate of gun death of any first world country. It is not unreasonable to assume that more guns will likely lead to more gun deaths, either as a result of accidents or of people simply making use of the greater availability of guns when settling disputes. Given the fact the many democratic nations have managed to remain free despite great restrictions on individual gun ownership and the fact the more guns just don’t make people individually safer, I am not sure either argument really holds much water. In the colonial times of the birth of the U.S. I’m sure it made perfect sense. I am Irish and in Ireland not even the police have guns. While gun related deaths are on the rise and I’m sure that eventually the police will be armed (I think they already should be) I doubt that arming the general public with a wide variety of firearms from pistols to assault rifles would do anything but raise the level of gun death. Despite the fact that I quite like guns personally and would love to own a few, I don’t really consider it a particular violation of my rights that I am not allowed to have one or at least not an unjustified restriction. The truth is that if I am allowed to have one, everyone around me is, at the very least, potentially much less safe; be it through my incompetence or my malice. That might even be considered an impact on the rights of those around me but that might be taking it too far?

In general Americans make a big fuss about liberty on this issue. I consider Ireland to be as free or freer than the U.S. at this point. I can ridicule our prime minister in public if I want to without being confined to a “free speech zone” or being investigated by any number of secret police like organisations. The police in this country seemingly have a harder time invading my private space than they do in the U.S. and the thing I am most thankful for is the notable absence of the huge number of government organisations that exist in the U.S. like the C.I.A., the F.B.I., the N.S.A., the D.I.A, the D.H.S. and many more; all removed from the already present local police and their own special divisions like S.W.A.T.
For a nation that prides itself on liberty and individual self-reliance there seems to be an almost paranoid quality in its approach to defence, national and personal.
Simply being allowed to own guns will never be a safeguard of freedom. In my opinion, the best safeguard of civil liberties and freedoms in a modern democracy is a free and objective press. Fox news and the slow and continuing slide of American press into that mode of highly partisan news reporting is a far greater threat in terms of your government becoming authoritarian than any restrictions placed on your rights to own guns. The G. “dubya” B. administration alone has demonstrated the means by which a democratic government restricts the freedoms of its citizens. It is not with tanks and bullets but with bills and legislation. A slow shifting of the boundaries of civil liberties heavy with terms like patriotism and freedom. America is no longer a land of patriots and it is well on it’s way to becoming a land of sycophantic nationalists. There is no better way to gain control over people than by getting them to think it is a good idea and of benefit to them and their security. That political objection can be effectively defeated by simply calling it “unpatriotic” or “un-American” is truly frightening. That the majority of votes cast on the patriot act were cast without the voter even having read it is not only frightening; it is dumbfounding.
It is such an obvious abuse of the democratic process but it was done in a reactionary “God bless America” moment so it was ok. Any country willing to abandon it’s democratic principles in the face of a relatively minor crisis (as opposed to say large scale invasion) is not really a true democracy at all. It is a democracy of connivance as much as conviction. It is like a man with a gun not interfering with your freedom only because things happen to be going the way he wants. I find it strange that American labels the invasion of a foreign country as an act of ‘defence’. The most powerful military an economic power on the planet invades a country about as geographically removed from it as possible and with absolutely no hope of mounting any kind of military threat to the U.S. and does to keep America safe and free…….WTF???? There is a pervasive idea amongst American soldiers and the America populace in general that a soldier serving in Iraq or Afghanistan is defending the freedom of the U.S. This is complete horseshit. This is complete and utterly obvious horseshit. GWB and his henchmen have made good use of this culture of paranoia and persecution and have actively sought to exaserbate it for their own ends. But I digress !

Getting back a little on topic, the goals and ideals of the founders of the U.S. were in my opinion noble and worthwhile particularly so in the time they were living. I think their ideas were progressive and well intentioned. Modern laws and rights do not have to continuously replicate or maintain old laws and rights to successfully replicate the intent and the ideals and there might well be situations where maintaining obsolete notions is actually counter to those ideals. Whether or not gun ownership falls into that category is definitely debateable. It is absolutely true that as of this moment American citizens have the constitutional right to bear arms. That says absolutely nothing about whether or not they should have that right.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The origin of values

Eric left a comment on the last post suggesting that I respond to Evanescent here as I have been banned from his blog. For the sake of the readers sanity I will not reproduce the entire last post here but I will extract the arguments from it and respond.

I notice how you say “emotional desires”, instead of just desires. Didn’t you earlier say that desire is an emotion? So what you just said is like saying “emotional happiness” or “emotional sadness”; it makes no sense. But you must qualify the word “desire” with “emotional” because you realise (now) apparently that desires have sources. Desires from emotion can still have a rational source (they usually do), because reason can shape our emotions.

This is probably the main source of our disagreement. I believe that humans are first emotional beings and make use of our enlarged brains and our reason to further our desires.

I’ll try to make a clearer case for what I am getting at.

It was many moons ago when I was considering an artificial intelligence that the primary stumbling block of the effort to produce a fully fledged A.I. occurred to me. Machines can in theory think much like a human. If you had a complex enough neural network with the ability to alter it’s own weightings and maybe even expand the network as it goes along, you could produce a rough electronic simulation of a brain. There is nothing mystical or fantastic about the basic mechanism of the human brain. The brain is a truly amazing organ, no doubt, but the basic mechanism behind its functioning is relatively simple.

Lets do a little thought experiment then. Let us suppose then that we have produced a brain that functions like a human brain in terms of being able to process information in a massive neural network and adjust itself in response to information. The real problem as I see it is motivation. Why would the brain choose to do anything at all? Why would it think? Humans think in response to goals they acquire. If you get hungry, you respond by thinking on the goal of finding food. The biological urge creates the goal. When people go looking for food, they are not at first thinking about blood-sugar levels and specific sustenance requirements of their bodies. They are thinking that they are hungry and a built in drive, purely instinctual, drives them to find food. The reasoning process comes later. A good illustration of how these primal desires override our reason is the unfortunate mariner who finds himself adrift without water. He knows that drinking seawater will not help him and will in fact dehydrate him but when the thirst instinct becomes too great he will eventually drink the seawater. His instinctual drive overpowers his reason. He might even be aware of the statistics which show a drop of about 35% probability of survival for those adrift who drink seawater. In the end the temptation may be just too great. His desire to drink the water is not a rational thing. It is pure emotion. He doesn’t like being thirsty. He wants to drink the water. That’s it.

The same is true of almost any of the survival urges. When they get strong enough, reason takes a back seat. I’m sure the strongly christian Uruguayan rugby team stranded on the mountain top would have proclaimed with confidence that they would never eat a dead person before the events dramatised in the movie “Alive”. The survival instinct is incredibly strong and most people will abandon their reason and their morality when placed in the right (or the wrong) circumstances.

So getting back to our machine. It has no urges, it has no desires. You can hard code in instructions that tell it to do a certain task, much like conventional computers are programmed. In either case, it will do as it is compelled by it’s instructions but it doesn’t want to do it. Neither does it not want to do it. It just does it. It’s behaviour will never change in terms of it goals. It doesn’t really have any. It might even be able to reason but it will never desire. That’s the rub. Without motivation, without desire, it will only ever be a tool. A very smart tool maybe but it will never be anything more. Suppose the brain is self aware, why would it choose to do anything at all? It wants nothing. In all likelihood, such a brain would probably do nothing. If we found a way to give the brain feelings about things then you would have a personality on your hands. We rationalise and reason about the things we want. We consider how to make things better either for our own immediate ends or in a broader sense. Better means nothing objectively. Better than what? If you asked this brain if it wanted to continue on or be permanently switched off, it would have no preference. Why would it? Life is only valuable to us because we are programmed to feel it is. Consider life and death from a purely objective point of view - that’s objective not objectivist :)

Is it valuable. I don’t think the question even makes sense in a purely logical consideration. It requires emotion to give it value. Just as an unfeeling brain would not value life, neither would we if we were not the emotional creatures we are.
The objectivist here might suggest that this is their point. That life is only valuable to the living, that the notion of values only makes sense to the living. Fair enough. I have no argument with that but it is more a coincidence than anything else. What the objectivist is overlooking here is that living things are all instinctual entities. All life has the in-built motivation to stay alive. Life is not valuable to the living, life is valuable to all things that want to stay alive. The expression of this instinct is more overt in the more complex examples of life. While instincts are not emotions per se, they generate emotions. Instinct generates emotions. An animal, which could hardly be said to be a rational and reasonable entity will still value it’s life. It will feel fear when placed in danger or an unfamiliar circumstance. It values its life it would seem. Consider it this way. Imagine you are in a car crash and you suffer brain damage. Your ability to reason is not effected, only your ability to feel emotions. Now suppose a man walks up to you and points a gun at your head. You feel no fear. You understand quite well that if he pulls the trigger you will be killed but being unfeeling you are the epitome of apathy. So what if you die? Why is that a bad thing? You don’t value anything. You don’t feel any particular way about anything. You are alive, I don’t think most people would dispute that but you don’t value your life because you cannot feel.

Evanescent suggests that humans being primarily emotive entities is necessarily false. The only explanation of this that he gives is

Notice how you equate desire with emotion as if they are one and the same? They aren’t. Emotions are the instantaneous psychological reactions to our values being realised or frustrated. They are the RESULT of our experiences, not the guide to them. Humans, to be rational beings, must primarily act through reason and logic, and therefore attain happiness. It doesn’t work the other way around.
Chimp, if you think humans are “first and foremost emotive beings”, I would like you to PROVE this statement. That should be easy enough, huh? Hang on, you can’t PROVE anything without establishing a rational chain of argument based on logic and a process of reason. Therefore, in order to make ANY statement, you must presuppose that you have the capability of reason and rational thought, which means rationality is a prerequisite to any statement of knowledge. So to say that humans are primary emotive beings is blatantly false, and self-contradictory.
In real life “what if” terms, for the utilitarians out there, imagine you are aroused and want to have sex. An emotive man rapes the first girl he sees. A rational man doesn’t. Why? Which one are you?

I don’t agree with this definition of emotion. instantaneous psychological reactions to our values being realised or frustrated

If this definition were accurate, how does the objectivist explain something like clinical depression or bi-polar disorder. In the case of these disorders a person feels a certain way because of brain chemistry. Their emotional state is entirely divorced from their values being realised or frustrated. What you will notice though is that the individual suffering from these condition will think differently on account of the emotional motivation they are experiencing. They will often act irrationally?. Their reason is clearly slave to their emotions. Emotions can be instantaneous psychological reactions to our values being realised or frustrated but I think the definition is unnecessarily narrow.

To be brutally technical, emotion is a chemical reaction in you brain but that doesn’t really help us solve the chicken and the egg problem we have here. Evanescent argues that our rationality and our reason is where our desires come from, that while we can act on emotion, we learn our values thought he rational interpretation of our experiences. This is more or less backwards. Evanescent seems to be ignoring the fact that our reasoning about our experiences is emotionally directed. What do I mean by that?

Rational action would seem here to be an action that is consistent with what you value. But if it is by rationality that we learn our values we are entering into a circular reasoning process. I rationally conclude what it is that I value, rationality is acting in accordance with my values. How does an individual first determine what is valuable. In a purely rational sense, as we examined above nothing has value unless it is satisfying a desire. How then does rationality help us to determine our initial values? We need a starting point. We need a motivation or prejudice to inform our reasoning.
Killing is only wrong because we feel like it is. If everyone were to go about killing indiscriminately we would quickly become extinct. So what? Why is that ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’? We decide what is right and wrong. I doubt the objectivist would disagree with that. We decide what is moral and immoral. These things are purely prejudice. There is no objective, free floating moral absolute. It is how we feel about things that determines our morality, not our reason. This is not to say that reasoning or rationality have no place at all in determining our morality. Of course they do, I merely contend that the impetus is provided by how we feel about things. Our reasoning is what allows us to expand our moral prejudice beyond our immediate circumstances and surroundings, to abstract basic urges into more complicated moral action.

you can’t PROVE anything without establishing a rational chain of argument based on logic and a process of reason. Therefore, in order to make ANY statement, you must presuppose that you have the capability of reason and rational thought, which means rationality is a prerequisite to any statement of knowledge. So to say that humans are primary emotive beings is blatantly false, and self-contradictory

The above is one of those statements that doesn’t really pass the ‘so what’ test. I don’t need to prove my emotions in order to feel them. Evanescent is asking me here to prove something using a rational chain of argument. Fair enough. What that has to do with the emotive states of humans is beyond me. Why should the proving of something, i.e. the natural condition of a thing mean that it must be predicated on the same rational thought process that was used to describe it. This is just non-sensical. The logical deduction that Evanescent attempts here is senseless. In order to make a rational statement you must presuppose you are a rational entity, therefore you can’t be primarily emotive. Lets just do a quick word replace here.
In order to make a rational statement you must presuppose you are a rational entity, therefore you can’t be primarily orange. Is there a logical difference I’m not getting. He is saying that in order to use a faculty you must be primarily predicated on the faculty. That is not logical or rational or reasonable.

Lets look at this statement again

NO OTHER PROCESS IS ACCEPTABLE, because only reason can identify the nature of man, the nature of existence, and figure out how the two can harmonise for one’s life to be maintained and flourish

This is apparently why humans must be first and foremost rational entities.

Only reason can identify the nature of man. This again is a highly prejudicial statement. What do we mean when we say the nature of man? His motivations, his desires, his values and his physical parameters? We are right back here it seems to talking about the values that mankind holds. The remainder of the statement is just words strung together. It is at absolute best, trivially true and unimportant to the discussion. It certainly does nothing to advance the claim that humans are primarily reasonable and rational. I stand by my initial assessment.

Animals manage to maintain their lives and flourish without identifying their natures though reason and similarly without reasoning out the nature of existence. They certainly so not devote considerate thought to harmonising the two. Some creatures operate on a purely instinctual basis and do just fine. Instinct generates emotional motivation. Does the sensation of being hungry drive a creature to eat? I don’t think the sensation itself does. It is just a sensation, much like the tactile sensation of heat. If there is too much heat the sensation becomes unpleasant. We don’t like it. It feels ‘bad’. We have immediate placed a value judgement on the sensation. It is bad and not good. We have not reasoned out that it may be harmful to our skin cells, we just didn’t like it. If you leave your hand on a hot radiator, you can reason that it will be detrimental to your hand but it is not this reasoning that makes you pull you hand away. You don’t like the sensation. In a purely rational sense, there is no difference between pleasure and pain. They are both sensations, each one just feels different. We like pleasure we dislike pain. Most people eat not to ingest calories but because they are hungry. We want to make the hunger sensation go away. We derive pleasure from doing so. Dessert has no rational place in our diets. It is purely an emotional addition to eating. We eat our desert, regardless of its nutritional valu,e (usually deserts are not the healthiest foods around) because we desire it. We like it.

“I take it this case is closed now: values should be rationally chosen, not emotionally. In fact, emotion is the physiological RESPONSE to our values. Your original error was to put the cart before the horse. “

A bug will act to protect its life, obviously valuing it. Bugs are not reasonable or rational in any meaningful sense. They are instinct engines. Purely reactionary. They react to stimulus. Consider a purely emotional realm, value most certainly can be present. In a purely rational realm, value has no meaning. Carts and horses are certainly being juxtaposed, no doubt.

This disagreement about the origin and nature of what we value is my first disagreement with what I take to be objectivist though on the topic. If I have it wrong I would be glad of an explanation. I should stress though that I would like an explanation not an assertion.

Eric says/asks:

I'd be interested in knowing why you think the dictionary definition is better/more accurate than the one Evanescent provided. Whether you accept Objectivism or not, the notion that anything is intrinsically valuable is difficult to defend.

The reason I consider the dictionary definition more accurate is because this is what I believe most people mean by the term value. The fact that it is the dictionary definition is fairly strong support for that notion. You cannot start redefining terms to suit your philosophy and expect not to be called on it. Objectivists will be right about everything if they define every term to suit themselves. Anyone will be. I am not an objectivist, why should I adopt their esoteric definition of a commonly understood term?

I am not suggesting that anything is intrinsically valuable in some totally objective sense. I am suggesting that our primary values are built-in. A derivative of the evolutionary process. Much like our higher thoughts are an emergent property of billions of highly simplistic neurons interacting, so too are our higher values and our morality emergent from baser instinct. Nothing can be reasoned to be valuable without an emotional bias.

Evanescent is at best unlcear on this point.

Me: If I were offered the choice between being kept alive but never being able to do anything, not only would my life lose all its value to me, it would be a burden I would seek to get rid off.

Evanescent: Well, there you go then! All the things you enjoy are a value to your life. You don’t live in order to value, you value in order to live!

Me: As I have already stated, many people believe there are concepts that are more worthy of pursuit than life. There are many things that people would accept death sooner than living with.

Evanescent: Yes, many people believe that. So what? I didn’t dispute that. People who pursue immoral irrational goals like slavery, religion, socialism, communism etc are not pursuing life.

…but I thought people valued in order to live. Am I missing something? This looks like he is contradicting himself.

When someone acts against the objectivist idea that values are rationally derived, indeed can only be derived by rational means. Remember: NO OTHER PROCESS IS ACCEPTABLE they are being irrational Isn't irrational the opposite of rational?

So when someone acts in a way that is clearly contrary to this notion they are acting irrationally……but I thought they couldn’t derive values by anything but rational means.

Life is apparently the end to which all values are directed but above, slavery, religion etc. are not pursuing life. Clearly then by his own statement not all values are directed at life. This is only a problem if you start with the presupposition that values are derived from rationality as opposed to emotion and that life is the end to which all other means are ultimately directed. What does irrational even mean here? Contrary to what Evanescent feels is rational? Can it be logically determined that slavery is irrational? I doubt it.
What does the objectivist suppose is the reason for people being irrational? Do these irrational people consider themselves irrational or is the 'irrational' we are using here subjectively defined in accordance with our values and our prejudices about what rational is?

I don’t think Evenescent has answered these questions or stated a particularly good case for his view. I would like to hear from more objectivists on the topic. I am not opposed to the notion, I just don’t think that the evidence leads to that conclusion. I am open to persuasion though.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Evanescent and objectivism.

Well, I had been told by db0 that I would eventually be blocked from commenting on Evanescent’s site and indeed I have been. I think db0 had a similar experience. It was in part terrible use of bad language that eventually got me banned (yeah right). Poor ole evanescent and his unassailable logic where not able to handle certain collections of letters.

Ole Evan has swallowed Randianism so completely that he is no longer able to think in a non-randian way. Everything he thinks and writes is drawn directly from Randianism to the point where it is the dictionary and presumably everyone else that is wrong and Rand who is right. A few fringe lunatics following a novelist is not quite a majority last I looked. Still, if redefining the terms to suit yourself is what it takes to try to pretend you can think, Evenscent is more than happy to leap in and start messing with meanings.

I don’t mind that he is bad at thinking or that he is unbelievably pompous about it (sure it is irritating but each to their own) but Evanescent has done the most cowardly thing you can do on a blog. He has banned me from comment even though he goes right ahead and responds to my last post. By the way, for anyone interested the foul mouth language I used amounts to two words bullshit and holy shit. So essentially I said the word shit twice. I had been under the impression I was debating an adult by I suppose all the “I’m better than you, nananana” stuff should have given away that I was in fact arguing with a child. A brainwashed one at that.

Objectivism is Evanescent’s religion. I say this because he accepts everything Rand writes even the redefining of commonly well understood words. He is literally incapable of thinking outside of Randianisms. This is evidenced by the nearly incessant asserting he does without justifying the thinking. He claims I don't know enough about objectivism to comment. He is overlooking the fact that I was commenting on what he wrote, not objectivism. I should say at this point that from what I have read from Rand was also full of baseless assertion. Objectivism is not a philosophy, it is a dogma.

If anyone wants to take a gander at our little spat you can find it here in the comments section.
According to Evanescent I embarras myself while he gives me the spanking of a lifetime. I am not worthy of even sharing blog space with the great and mighty intellect that is EVANESCENT. I was out of my depth.....well according to him anyway. It seems it is a habit of his to ban people who don't just accept what he is saying is right. It is sad thing.

Perhaps he should have some kind of proviso on his web site banner warning people that questioning the almighty Rand will not be tolerated and any dissenting voice will be silenced. Would save some time.

Shame on you Evanescent. Having to have the last word and then banning. Shameful and cowardly.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Playing with Ray

I posted a vary brief comment over on Ray Comfort's site on his latest horrible and pathetic attempt to explain away bible contradiction.

The comment was as follows:

That was the entirety of it. Ray did not allow it through, apparently the partial spelling of the word bullshit was too vulgar for his readers.

Because I don't like my job and spend most of my day not working, I decided I was going to try to sneak the entire word bullshit onto his site.....I know, I I said I was bored and at work.

I managed it by posting the following poem (although without the bold):

Bible stories are all a mess
unless you to your God confess
let not my senses find the cracks
let not my reason see the lacks.
so evident in bible tales
holes and gaps and epic fails.
it's so obvious and downright plain
that Christian simply can't explain

It got through :), even better, it might function on a subliminal level and a Christian or two might utter that horrible, offensive and downright disturbing word somewhere without even knowing why......I really need a new job.....

Almighty 101

Let us for humour sake consider a possible God of the twenty-second century. “101 the almighty”, the software engineer and technological God who laid the foundations of quantum mechanical law, biology and UML and who created on a mountaintop somewhere a computer circuit that reveals the new rules by which humans were always supposed to live. What might 101’s "1010 Commandments" be and will there be updates available free online. Will he be an electronic God who distributes his “1010 Commandments 2.0” from a magical server some people say exists even though no one knows the IP address or has ever recived a message from it?
Electronic temples with free wifi might spring up all over the world where the prime-geek will declare in his fancy costume (baring religious symbols such as the binary ‘01’) in a loud voice (CAPS LOCK)
To which the drone like congregation respond in unison
“101 is trans-format an will plug into any port”
He might then recount the tale of how 101’s chief designer was send to earth to upgrade our telecommunications infrastructure and how he managed by 101’s magical compression algorithms to cram the entirety of wikipedia onto a 2gig USB memory stick.

101’s Commandments

0001: Don’t worship any other magical programmer/biologist/engineer (every other God uses this rule so there must be something to it - right?)

0010: Be careful with my name because that’s really important…I think, ok maybe not. Knock yourselves out.

0011: Remember to celebrate Bob’s day, which is Monday. It is the day that Bob was compiling the universe and he put his feet up and had a double mocha latte. It someone wants to go off and be a wet blanket though, let them, their loss!

0100: Your folks may not understand facebook but if not for them using their ZX spectrums, you would not have X-BOXs. So be nice to them.

0101: Don’t make computer viruses. It is not cool, it just makes you look like a bitter nerd.

0110: Don’t log on to someone else account. Doesn’t matter what kind of account or even if they are using it anymore. It’s not yours, leave it alone.

0111: Don’t pirate software…well not too often anyway and definitely not if it is being offered at a reasonable price. Same goes for music and movies.

1000: Don’t flame people just because you disagree with them.

1001: Don’t feed the trolls.

1010: Exercise common sense when it comes to everything else. You don’t need me to tell you that killing people isn’t nice. In short. Don’t be an asshole.

If the world lived by 101’s commandments rather than Yahweh’s, would it be much different?

Why I think evolution theory is trouble for religion.

Throughout history there have been many scientific discoveries that have cast a long shadow on religious belief. From discovering the water cycle to heliocentricity. Of course, some people do still pray for rain. Undoubtedly these people would sneer at a tribal rain dance but think their own version is a serious and worthwhile undertaking. Some people just refuse to learn!

The one theory in modern science that really seems to make the religious uncomfortable is evolution. Evolution is an almost universally accepted theory amongst people who know anything about it. There are of course some dissenting voices in the scientific community but almost every theory has a few detractors. It is a reasonable statement to make that evolution is a proven theory is so far as any theory can be proven. There are libraries of evidence to support the idea. Infact, there is so much evidence that a lot of religious groups and organisations have been forced to accept it. They usually do so with some made up new idea that God started it off or something to that effect. In the modern world, educated people laugh at creationists. We laugh because they continue to believe something that has been shown to be false. They are sticking to their guns (and/or bibles as the case may be). The more reasonable theists out there are not quite so stubborn as to simply deny evolution. They know it happened so they instead try to go around it and pretend it doesn’t really matter to their faith. They decide that their reading of the bible as metaphor is more sophisticated that those silly creationists. This strikes me as one of the most intellectually dishonest things any large movement has ever done. They are claiming that the countless generations of people who came before them who were almost all creationist were wrong to read the bible literally. Silly creationists. The reasonable and honest conclusion would be that the bible is wrong and has been clearly shown to be. They can’t do that though. To acknowledge such massive errors in the bible would reduce its value to roughly what most atheists take it be already; for all but historical/mythological purposes: worthless. It would become much the same as a statue of Zeus. It may have some value as a cultural artefact but it has nothing to say about our reality. The standard tactic employed is to simply overlook the old testament. That is the part of the bible with all the really nasty bits where God acts like a complete asshole. If we can just overlook that half of the bible we can still hold on to the good stuff. Well, we will still pretend that the old testament stuff is still valuable but that it is written in a metaphorical way and you have to be really clever to understand it properly Lets pretend that instead of some ignorant babble written by a couple of ancient goat herders, it is actually really amazing and important insights into human behaviour! Cool.

So what about the New testament? That is surely immune to evolutionary attack. After all, it was only about 2000 years ago and evolution doesn’t have much to say about a time span that short. Right?…..well no, not quite.
We are apparently made in God’s image. People once thought that meant he looked human but the more modern evolution-friendly interpretation is that we are made in his image spiritually. Ah, right. We have souls you see, they are what make us like god and what elevate us above animals in the grand scheme of things. Uh-oh. Doesn’t evolution posit that we were once animals. Even worse, it suggests that we are still because evolution is a continuous process. We are still evolving. Maybe we are animal-like now in comparison to what we will become? If were animals in the past, did we still have souls back then? Could we commit crimes like murder? When a lion kills another males cubs in order to mate with the female, is he committing infanticide. Will God be angry with them? Was there some point in our evolution when God popped in and decided it was time for us to start having souls? That would have been an uncomfortable generation.
“Hey God, will I see my mommy in heaven when I die?”
“Nope sorry, your mother is an animal”

Evolutionary theory should and to the critical and unclogged mind does remove the notion of a soul and with it washes away most if not all religious belief.
Clinging to a concept long after it has been rendered obsolete is not the act of a rational mind. Neither for that matter is the belief in invisible people. We once believed in all manner fantastical creatures and happenings and powers, but all of these, every last one that has met the scrutiny of scientific investigation has fallen away. Most of the core doctrines of modern religions have also been shown to be false; the religious just refuse to notice. One day, Jesus Christ as the son of God will take his place along with Yahweh amongst the dead Gods who all lament those two powers they could not overcome. Reason and Science.

It is sad but I think almost inevitable that new religions will rise to replace those who that have fallen, making grand claims about the universe and all powerful entities who created and command it until the next wave of scientific progress washes away those fantasies with a torrent of fact and evidence. What form will these gods take? What will their miracles be in a technological society? Would you doubt for a second that the adherents of those religions will look back on the followers and Yahweh and Allah and shake their heads, wondering why people believed they were communicating with God? They might even ask their God about it.