Wednesday, November 01, 2006
One of the shittiest things about religion is the idea that religion is necessary for morality. If God doesn't tell us right from wrong, the argument goes, how are we to set our moral compass? This is, of course, totally asinine. Different gods from different religions largely agree on what is right and wrong. It would make sense that whoever invented the different religions were guided by something in their brains. It was very refreshing to read this article:
An Evolutionary Theory of Right and Wrong
Marc D. Hauser, a Harvard biologist, has built on this idea to propose that people are born with a moral grammar wired into their neural circuits by evolution. In a new book, “Moral Minds” (HarperCollins 2006), he argues that the grammar generates instant moral judgments which, in part because of the quick decisions that must be made in life-or-death situations, are inaccessible to the conscious mind.
People are generally unaware of this process because the mind is adept at coming up with plausible rationalizations for why it arrived at a decision generated subconsciously.
Dr. Hauser presents his argument as a hypothesis to be proved, not as an established fact. But it is an idea that he roots in solid ground, including his own and others’ work with primates and in empirical results derived by moral philosophers.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
It says I'm basically a centrist leaning a little towards personal freedom and a little towards economic freedom. But scored higher on both than 99% of people my age. Weird.
You can take the test here:
You scored 64% Personal Liberty and 53% Economic Liberty!
|A paleo-liberal believes in low to moderate government intervention on personal matters and moderate government intervention on economic matters. They tend to be opposed to war, police powers and victimless crimes. They believe in a social safety net, but to a lesser extent then most leftists. They generally believe in protecting personal liberty. They support self-ownership and privacy. Some Paleo-liberals may lean towards embracing capitalism as an economic system. Paleo-liberals are reminiscent of the attitude of the "new left" of the 60's and 70's. Strong Paleo-Liberals border on Libertarianism.|
|My test tracked 2 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:|
|Link: The Politics Test written by brainpolice on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test|
Saturday, September 30, 2006
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Attempting to revive his moribund church on a visit to Germany, where the Roman congregations are increasingly sparse, Joseph Ratzinger (as I shall always think of him) has managed to do a moderate amount of harm—and absolutely no good—to the very tense and distraught discussion now in progress between Europe and Islam.
After the most perfunctory introduction, Ratzinger goes straight to his choice of quotation, which is taken from 14th-century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II. This potentate supposedly once engaged in debate—the precise time and place is unknown—with an unnamed Persian. The subject was Christianity and Islam. The Byzantine asks the Persian to "show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." (On the face of it, not a very open-ended inquiry.) But, warming to his own theme, the purple-clad monarch of Constantinople allegedly added that "to convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death."
Now, you do not have to be a Muslim to think that for the bishop of Rome to cite this is the most perfect hypocrisy. There would have been no established Byzantine or Roman Christianity if the faith had not been spread and maintained and enforced by every kind of violence and cruelty and coercion. To take Islam's own favorite self-pitying example: It was the Catholic crusaders who sacked and burned Christian Byzantium on their way to Palestine—and that was only after they had methodically set about the Jews, so the Muslim world was actually only the third victim of this barbarity.
Read the whole thing.
Friday, September 08, 2006
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
How fitting that just as I am discussing the lack of difference between Islam and Christianity with a commenter in the post below, I find this preview for the upcoming movie, Jesus Camp:
I'm both excited and scared to see this movie. The trailer makes it pretty clear that there is absolutely no meaningful difference between Christianity and Islam. Crazy is as crazy does.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
"Religion is the one thing that has never let us down," Taheri added over the low rumble of AK-47 fire emanating from the nearby home of a radical Israeli rabbi.
Taheri is not alone. In a time of seemingly unending conflict between Israelis and Arabs, a growing number of Middle Easterners are fervently embracing the unshakeable wisdom of Judaism and Islam.
Palestinian Omar Abdel-Malik, a resident of the Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis, credits his Islamic beliefs for preserving his sanity.
"The Israelis have fired missile upon missile on my neighborhood, but it has only made my trust in Allah that much stronger," Abdel-Malik said. "I cringe to think where the people of the Middle East would be right now if it weren't for our steadfast belief in one true, merciful, and loving Supreme Being."
It's amazing to me how many people don't grasp the obvious point the Onion is making here. I recently found myself in a comment section debate on this very subject. Most of the commenters seemed to be under the impression that Islam was this crazy religion that can't be reasoned with. I think they are largely right on that point. But what's crazy is that they believe almost the same things themselves. How can a person see the irrationality of Islam and not see the same irrationality in Christianity?
Friday, August 11, 2006
First, We're screwed.
A recent survey shows that we are dumber than every country except Turkey. See the graph on the link. Gulp.
In other, more positive news, a Wisconsin family is has thrown it's hat into the ring to fight the good fight.
Nearly 200 bishops were named in a civil lawsuit Tuesday by the family of Dan O'Connell, one of two men shot to death at his family's Hudson funeral home in 2002.
The family filed the unprecedented lawsuit, which asks for the names and locations of some 5,000 clergy accused of molesting children, so they can publicize the list. They say the list is known only to the church.
The litigation is unique because of its scope and because others may join to make it a national class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Jeff Anderson, the attorney for Dan O'Connell's family,
"The bishops and the USCCB have established a policy of harboring and protecting suspected child molesting agents, thereby endangering numerous children throughout the United States," the complaint said.
Maybe the courts and the media will quit giving this organization a pass for once. But it's not likely. "Religion made me do it" is a pretty surefire defense when it comes to conspiracy, child molestation and murder.
Finally, my garrulous old pal Steve has, based on my comments on another of his posts, asked where my morality comes from absent god. I always find this question to be insulting and obvious at the same time. Yet it is often asked. I posted a brief response there, but I haven't had time to fully answer it yet. Steve hasn't answered me, or the other commenters yet. He is completely dodging the question of whether he would still find murder to be morally wrong if god told him it was morally right.
Update: Steve has still not responded. I'd like to think that maybe it's because he's seen the error of his ways and has decided that morality has nothing to do with belief in illogical fairy tales. But I doubt it.
Friday, July 28, 2006
HEAVEN IS HOTTER THAN HELL
A study was conducted to determine the temperature of Hell. The reasoning process used in the study is interesting because itinvolves both the knowledge and the logic with which you should
be equipped. The Bible (Rev. 21:8) tells us that Hell is a lake of fireand brimstone. What is brimstone? Brimstone is sulfur. Sulfurmust be molten (liquid phase) since the Bible says it is a lake.
From this information, we can determine the temperature of Hell. Start by looking up the melting and boiling points ofsulfur. If sulfur is present as a liquid, its temperature mustbe somewhere between sulfur's melting and boiling points. The boiling point of sulfur is 832 degrees Fahrenheit, and themelting point is 246 degrees Fahrenheit. Since Hell is eternal,it could not be at the boiling point for then it would quicklyevaporate. Most likely, Hell is about 246 degrees.
The same study also determined the temperature in Heaven. The Bible (Is. 30:26) tells us that in Heaven the light of the moon is as the light of the sun. Also, the light of the sun isseven times the light of seven days on earth. Heaven receives 50 times more light than the earth. Heavengets 49 times the amount of light from the sun relative to theearth and an additional amount of light from the moon that equalsthe amount of light we on earth receive from the sun. So, all in all, Heaven receives 50 times more light than we do on earth. Assuming that the temperature of Heaven remains constant,Heaven must also lose by radiation 50 times as much heat as doesthe earth. The Stefan-Boltzmann fourth-power radiation law predicts that Heaven must be 977 degrees Fahrenheit if it were toradiate this much heat.
Knowing that Hell could be about 750 degrees cooler thanHeaven may be a comforting thought for some of us.
Adopted from an article written by Ronald DeLorenzo appearing in Problem Solving for General Chemistry, 1993, Wm. C.Brown Publishers.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
In Texas, that depends. I was pointed to this blog post via dispatches from the culture wars. It's pretty scary when you think about it.
This is a story about two women in Texas who murdered their children.Both women are the same age. Both were deeply religious, stay-at-home moms when they killed their children. Both women confessed.One mother was found insane, and hospitalized in a mental institution to receive treatment. The other was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.
Actually, there was one way the women were different.Deanna Laney heard God tell her to kill her children. Andrea Yates heard Satan tell her to kill her children. Guess which one got the life sentence.
apparently hearing the voice of God alone is not enough to qualify a person as nuts. Under Texas law, to qualify as insane, you must not be able to determine right from wrong. So when God tells you to kill your kids and you do it, you're insane because God's will would never involve killing. But if Satan tells you to kill your kids, you should know it's wrong since it is Satan advocating it. This type of reasoning makes me pretty sick. It's as if these people believe that right and wrong is determined by some crusty old fiction book. If you ask me, Yates and Laney are both nuttier than squirrel turds. But you know what else is crazy? Using biblical ideas to determine right and wrong.
A movie about a Christian football coach's faith in god received a PG rating from the Motion Picture Association allegedly based on it's religious content.
"This incident raises the disquieting possibility that the MPAA considers exposure to Christian themes more dangerous for children than exposure to gratuitous sex and violence," Blunt said in a letter to MPAA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dan Glickman.
First off, this is an outright lie. Gratuitous sex and violence usually draw an R rating. Second of all, PG stands for "parental guidance suggested" not "worse than G movies." Aren't these the same freaks that talk about not having sex ed in school and stuff like that because it's the parents' job? Religion IS a matter that parents should provide some guidance in. And this movie seems to take some rather extreme positions. The movie poster's taglines are "Never give up. Never back down. Never lose faith." and "With God, all things are possible." So right there, it is advancing the position that faith is good and God is real and that all things are possible. All of these are dangerous ideas, not to mention demonstrably, or at lease arguably, false.
I would much rather have my kids see some tits or hear the F-bomb a few times than watch some pro-Christianity movie without me there to explain why some people believe that weird stuff. What if the movie was advancing the idea that, "With Thor, all things are possible"? Or more realistically, I think most Christians would be against having their kids watch this awesome movie without a little "parental guidance." And I'm pretty sure it contains no profanity, sex or violence.
Monday, April 24, 2006
All but four of the forty-three polls listed support the conclusion that native intelligence varies inversely with degree of religious faith; i.e., that, other factors being equal, the more intelligent a person is, the less religious he is.
Conclusions In this essay:
sixteen studies of the correlation between individual measures of student intelligence and religiosity, all but three of which reported an inverse correlation.
five studies reporting that student bodies with high average IQ and/or SAT scores are much less religious than inferior student bodies;
three studies reporting that geniuses (IQ 150+) are much less religious than the general public (Average IQ, 100), and one dubious study;
seven studies reporting that highly successful persons are much less religious in belief than are others; and
eight old and four new Gallup polls revealing that college alumni (average IQ about 115) are much less religious in belief than are grade-school pollees.
Scott Adams asks why this is so?
"it’s fair to wonder whether the low IQ/faith correlation – if real – is based on direct causation or something else. According to your comments, here are some of the top contenders for the “something else.”
1. Smart people tend to have more resources. Therefore, God’s quiet whisper to their soul is drowned out by the sound of their home theaters and BMW engines.
2. College professors are a bunch of atheists who consciously or unconsciously brainwash students to disavow their faith. So the more college you get, the more brainwashing you get.
3. Higher education teaches a rational way of looking at the world that is well suited for worldly decision-making but cripples the student for recognizing the subtlety of the divine.
4. And my favorite: People with high IQs are notoriously stupid when it comes to real world questions."
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
One of the silliest bloggers I've come into contact with is Peter the Hypocrite. I find his hypocrisy so bat-shit crazy that I had to provide him a perma-link on my sidebar. One of my favorite characteristics of Peter the Hypocrite is his hypocrisy. That's why I call him Peter the Hyipocrite. Every so often I comment on his blog and ask him to explain how statements he makes are not hypocritical. He deletes them. Even if I'm nice about it. So I'd just like to point out an example of Peter the Hypocrite's blatant hypocrisy. Check out this post.
In the post, Peter the Hypocrite is taking issue with some conservative referring to a particular brand of conservatives--those from south-eastern Wisconsin-- as "Charlie Sykes' Stormtroopers." He also referred to them as "nutso."
So Peter the Hypocrite notes that this is just another example of "Liberals of any stripe Â Republicans or Democrats Â referring to conservatives using Nazi terminology."
Got it? Liberals often refer to conservatives using Nazi terminology. This is bad.
So than Peter the Hypocrite asserts that his accuser is no more conservative than "Sgt. Dale "I Know Nussing" Schultz." Now Dale Schultz is a Republican Wisconsin senator. But "I know nussing" is obviously a referencece to Sgt. Schultz on Hogan's Heroes, who was in fact, a Nazi. A bumbling one at that. So a few paragraphs after chastising liberals for referring to conservatives as Nazis, Peter the Hypocrite refers to a conservative as a Nazi.
This is not the end of it. Peter goes on to claim his accuser is not a conservative:
"Why do I say that I don't believe he is a conservative? Because the ad hominem personal attacks he launched were right out of the leftist playbook."
Ahhh, the leftist playbook and its reliance on ad hominem attacks. Peter the Hypocrite is so far above ad hominem attacks that in the same post he says this in the very next paragraph:
"This guy is most likely one of these blue-blood country-club Republicans that are the ruination of the GOP every time they are in control of the agenda. These blue-blood, country-clubbers lose at the ballot boxes unless their district is gerrymandered to ensure their election."
So this type of Republican is different and weak and wrong because they belong to country clubs or have "blue blood." I got news for you Peter the Hypocrite; calling someone a blue-blooded country clubber is arguing against the person. It is an ad hominem.
Hypocrisy? I think so.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
I got myself into a little exchange with a few right-wingers on the topic of immigration over at the Badger Blog Alliance. Whenever I comment over there or on Bible-Brian's blog or Jenna's blog, I always seem to get accused of being a liberal. Gee-wiz, do I hate party politics. We live in a politically ridiculous world where conservative means Republican and liberal means Democrat. People have so many totally inconsistent ideas that have been lumped together by one stupid party or the other for so long that they don't see the inconsistencies. The immigration debate is a prime example. Free immigration IS free trade. Yet the Democrats are typically for immigration and against free trade, while the Republicans are typically for free trade and are against immigration. The war is another example. If you are against big spending, why be so eager to go to war? The Patriot Act is another example. Republicans are supposed to be the party in favor of liberty over order. The Patriot act almost explicitly places order over liberty.
So where do I stand?
-I am in favor of small government. Laws that tell me (or anyone else) what I can and can't do for my own protection are bad laws. This includes smoking bans (with respect to tavern owners more than smokers), drug laws, laws telling people who they can and can't marry, and tariffs meant to tell me who I can and can't buy stuff from. In the same vein, I think that welfare programs should be reduced significantly. I think that nationalized health care would lead to shitty health care (see e.g. Canada).
-I am in favor of freedom and equality. For this reason I think our borders should basically be open. We should have some limits based on prior criminal acts perhaps. And there should be some formalities. But it should take a few days or weeks to become a US citizen, not a year or more. People shouldn't be doomed to a shitty life just because of where they were born. Also in the category of freedom and equality: I'm against affirmative action. Although I think it was necessary for a time, that time has passed. I think it's doing more harm to minorities than good these days. My stance on gay rights fits into this category too.
-I believe in the harm principle. If an act hurts nobody but the actor, the actor should be free to do it. This is one of the many things that separates gay marriage from pedophilia etc. Despite what the right-wingers argue. This also applies to drug laws. Smoking pot doesn't hurt anyone really. You can't even argue that it hurts anyone besides the user.
-I can't stand the notion of God. It has held back progress since some primitive man first put a skull on a pike and threw some red dirt on it. But today it's at a very dangerous level. We're too smart to believe such nonsense in this day and age. It should be kept out of politics as much as possible. Sam Harris said this:
We can no longer ignore the fact that billions of our neighbors believe in the metaphysics of martyrdom, or in the literal truth of the Book of Revelation, or any of the other fantastical notions that have lurked in the minds of the faithful for millenniaÂbecause our neighbors are now armed with chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons.
And I agree. By the way, check out this Sam Harris interview. I know Samdisappointedd some with the last chapter of The End of Faith but he is still a damn smart guy and everyone should hear what he has to say.
-That's my politics in a nutshell. My Democrat friends would laugh at anyone who characterizes me as liberal. My Republican friends would laugh at anyone who characterizes me as Conservative. I'm neither. But the chances are, either are you.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
So I thought I'd post something.
Lance Burri of the Badger Blog Alliance (Making Wisconsin Scary in '08) thinks he is smarter than one of America's greatest literary geniuses. He criticizes the logic of the quote at the top of this here blog after he read it on a bumper sticker. He's right to some degree. The quote would be more accurate if it said "Faith is believing what you ought to know aint so."
This expensive study proves the something that all of us ought to already know.
And here's a disheartening study indicating that atheists are the most distrusted group in America.
Asked whether they would disapprove of a child's wish to marry an atheist, 47.6 percent of those interviewed said yes. Asked the same question about Muslims and African-Americans, the yes responses fell to 33.5 percent and 27.2 percent, respectively. The yes responses for Asian-Americans, Hispanics, Jews and conservative Christians were 18.5 percent, 18.5 percent, 11.8 percent and 6.9 percent, respectively.
When asked which groups did not share their vision of American society, 39.5 percent of those interviewed mentioned atheists. Asked the same question about Muslims and homosexuals, the figures dropped to a slightly less depressing 26.3 percent and 22.6 percent, respectively. For Hispanics, Jews, Asian-Americans and African-Americans, they fell further to 7.6 percent, 7.4 percent, 7.0 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively.
How sad. These are the same people that will watch the Larry the Cable Guy Movie.
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
This is disturbing:
Their Own Version of a Big Bang
Those who believe in creationism -- children and adults -- are being taught to challenge evolution's tenets in an in-your-face way.
WAYNE, N.J. — Evangelist Ken Ham smiled at the 2,300 elementary students packed into pews, their faces rapt. With dinosaur puppets and silly cartoons, he was training them to reject much of geology, paleontology and evolutionary biology as a sinister tangle of lies."
Boys and girls," Ham said. If a teacher so much as mentions evolution, or the Big Bang, or an era when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, "you put your hand up and you say, 'Excuse me, were you there?' Can you remember that?"
The children roared their assent."
Sometimes people will answer, 'No, but you weren't there either,' " Ham told them. "Then you say, 'No, I wasn't, but I know someone who was, and I have his book about the history of the world.' " He waved his Bible in the air.
"Who's the only one who's always been there?" Ham asked.
"God!" the boys and girls shouted.
"Who's the only one who knows everything?"
"So who should you always trust, God or the scientists?"
The children answered with a thundering: "God!"
I'm speechless. God's been around forever. We know this because the Bible says so. And we know the Bible is true because why? Because god wrote it? And we know he wrote it why? Because it says so? Is this guy dryhumping me? What a bunch of shit. I weep for these poor children.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
-Robert A. Heinlein
Sunday, January 22, 2006
If there is anyone out there who thinks a Penn Jillette (of Penn and Teller) as a mere stage magician, that person needs to listen to him speak on religion, pseudoscience, hucksterism and the like.
You can't prove that there isn't an elephant inside the trunk of my car. You sure? How about now? Maybe he was just hiding before. Check again. Did I mention that my personal heartfelt definition of the word "elephant" includes mystery, order, goodness, love and a spare tire?
You should also read his books and watch Bullsh!t. I think Penn has just about the most posative worldview of anyone.