Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category
What’s wrong with this picture? Yes, this picture is a bigot test. If you agree with the meme expressed, you’re a bigot. It’s that fucking simple. Bigotry isn’t hard to understand, it’s making wild generalizations about people based on things like their race, religion, gender, etc. In the case above, the generalization is so wild it’s almost breathtaking in its stupidity. The meme above comes out and says there is something so hateful and intolerant about Islam that it sets it apart from other religions. And I know damn well many people think that, even the majority of atheists think Islam is the “worst” religion, which shows atheists are just as prone to bigotry as anyone else.
OK, a few facts. It should go without saying that a religion with over a billion adherents is going to be all over the map, just like in any major religion. However, let’s look at specifics. Malaysia. 61% Muslim. Secular constitution, rights of religious minorities are guaranteed. And in fact most Malaysians are proud of their multicultural and multireligious society. Let’s go to Bosnia. Muslims are the majority at 45% of the population. The constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Third one I checked, Indonesia. Muslim majority. Religious minorities rights protected by the constitution. So factually speaking, the meme is already garbage. It’s safe to say that in numerous Muslim countries there will be religious rights for minorities in their constitutions.
Of course the bigots will claim that even though they have these rights on paper, there are still problems with some Muslims wanting to trample the rights of non-Muslims. News flash, all religions have tendency to trample the rights of minorities when they are the majority. In some countries, like the one I live in, a religious majority whines about having their rights trampled. Well, not all of them, just the holy rollers stuck in the Bronze Age. I’ve kind of had it with people who think their religion means they get to decide the law of the land for everyone. Even people who don’t follow their religion! Yes, dear readers, I’ve wandered near another point. And I’m going to make it. Many religions exhibit a nasty tendency to persecute minorities under the right conditions, it kind of comes with the territory. How is Islam different from, say, Christianity in this regard? It isn’t, Christians have a long proud history of suppressing the rights of those that disagree with them. To this day many Christians are working tirelessly to turn the USA into a theocracy and trample the rights of non-Christians. And sadly even Judaism, long a trampled upon minority, has shown a nasty tendency in this persecutory regard now that they are a majority in one country. So singling out Islam in this regard is hypocritical at best, bigoted and hateful at worst.
That’s another point that needs to be made about this image. How, exactly, is making this hateful generalization about Islam helpful? Will this encourage people in America to be more tolerant of their Muslim neighbours? No, the opposite in fact, it encourages fear and loathing. That may not be bigoted, but I sure think it’s evil. We’ve even got such paranoid dogmeat as state legislatures outlawing Sharia Law. The chances of any Muslims enacting Sharia Law anywhere in the USA are zero, so this is ridiculous on the face of it. And if some Muslims wanted to use Sharia Law to adjudicate civil affairs among Muslims, who gives a shit? We don’t care about Orthodox Jews, Quakers, or numerous other religious groups that chose to live by their religious code within the framework of secular criminal law, why the hell would anyone care if some Muslims did this? Hint: The answer starts with b. And no, I’m not suggesting we let Muslims stone each other to death, any more than we would let a Christian cult stone its members to death for blasphemy. (Lev. 24:16)
The sad thing about images like this is how effective they are. If one wants to have a bad view of Muslims (or anyone) in general, it’s easy to find all sorts of stuff on line to reinforce one’s prejudices. And the mainstream media as well as hordes of amateurs are only too happy to generate and spread hateful images. It’s by no means limited to the right or conservatives as well. I know I’ve pilloried some hateful images by atheists and liberals in previous posts, I find propaganda hateful no matter who is targeted. I think this is a terrible failing of the modern media and online world, it’s making people more divided, not less. I’ll expand on this train of thought in a future post.
Hope everyone is having or had a great weekend. I’m having a BBQ.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. Pretty sure that unless the author actually took the trouble to file a copyright, images on Facebook are public domain, correct me if I’m wrong.)
A thing of beauty, eh what? Yes, yes it is. This concept roller coaster is the ultimate roller coaster. The top is 510m high, nearly 1/3rd of a mile, and it takes two minutes to haul the 24 passengers up there. Downwards the cars reach 360 kilometres per hour (220 mph), very close to terminal velocity, the fastest they can fall. Then into the loops, each designed to maintain 10g on the passengers as the cars slow down. This would be as if they weighed ten times their normal weight. At the end of this exhilarating ride the passengers are unloaded, and new ones board. Wait, what? Yes, unloaded. The passengers have to be unloaded at the end of the ride because they won’t be exiting under their own power. This is because they will be dead. Yes dear readers, this is the Euthanasia Coaster.
Dear God, why would anyone build such a thing? Fortunately they haven’t, but if people have devised plans to build doomsday devices, this shouldn’t be a surprise. The Euthanasia Coaster was actually designed in 20120 as an art project by one Julijonas Urbonas, the idea being to take lives “with elegance and euphoria.” I’m not sure it really hits either on the nose, but it would take lives. As for its practical use, euthanasia or execution pretty much covers it. It has been suggested that people with no legs or people wearing special high altitude legging might actually survive the ride, so I suppose there might be some who would risk it for the ultimate thrill. I’ll pass thank you.
Seriously though, the chances this would ever get built seem remote. That didn’t stop the anti-euthanasia group “Care not Killing” from being concerned. I’d never heard of “Care Not Killing” before, but as soon as I read the name I knew it was a religious group. Sigh. And it is. I’m getting good at spotting groups with hidden agendas. Hell, probably harder to spot the ones without, there don’t seem to be too many of those. As for executions, there’s probably cheaper ways to execute people.
Meanwhile, in Syria, someone has actually built a euthanasia device:
OK, more of a suicide device I suppose. People are clever. That’s the Sham II, a homemade “tank” built by Syrian rebels. I has a remote control machine gun mounted on top, and is controlled inside by using video cameras and video game components. It’s built around a car chassis of some type. What ever possessed them to do this? Beats me, things are a might confused in Syria right now. I can’t imagine it would last long in battle, it might be impervious to small arms fire, but anything from an RPG up would do the trick, and the Syrian military has plenty of weapons. Hell, even homemade munitions like Molotov cocktails would work. I suspect it’s more for western attention and publicity than anything else. Still, last it was in the news it was on its way to battle in Aleppo. Improvised armoured fighting vehicles have a long history. If I hear how it fares I’ll post it.
I kept waiting for some news on who was behind the Boston Marathon Bombing, but alas nothing yet. Likely a nut or right wing terrorism would be my guess. Media coverage has been ridiculous, but that’s always the case. And as always some in all walks said stupid, hateful, inappropriate, or self-serving things. Modern America, fun place, like Disneyland with guns.
(The above images are claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. They are not being used for profit, in fact I lose money writing this blog. That means they should pay me for using them. Coming soon, a fund raising drive. You have been warned.)
Interesting, nu? I got a lot of guesses on Facebook. A new planet, water going down a drain, a newly discovered galaxy, and my favourite: a cake mix gone horribly wrong. No, it’s not a cake mix gone horribly wrong. Many people did guess it was some sort of astronomy photo, and they were on track. The white things are indeed clouds, this is the surface of a planet photographed from space. Not Earth though, in fact six Earths could fit inside the hexagon. This is one of the gas giant planets, Saturn. It’s the clouds surrounding the North pole of Saturn. Note the hexagon shaped cloud, what’s up with that?
No one knows. It was first observed when Voyager went by Saturn in 1980 and 1981. No one had a clue then. In 2004, more than 20 years later, the hexagon was still there when the Cassini Probe arrived at Saturn. So it’s a persistent feature. And nothing else like it has been observed anywhere else in the Solar System. Scientists think the hexagon cloud formation is created by a jet stream whipping along at over 200 mph. The hexagon formation rotates with the planet, and its latitude doesn’t change either. Yes, a permanent, or at least remarkably stable, hexagon shaped torrent of wind whipping around Saturn’s pole. Cassini recently has been getting much better pictures of the hexagon lately as Saturn’s northern hemisphere has moved into sunlight, so scientists hope to begin to unravel the mystery soon.
Why so interesting? (Honestly, any reader thinking that has likely long ago abandoned my blog of scientific and historical weirdness in search of blogs about “The Shove.”) The hexagon is interesting from a number of perspectives. Scientists are interested in it because they can’t yet explain it. That’s kind of the whole point of science. Looking at stuff and figuring out why it is so. This hexagon is one of the big mysteries of the Solar System. It’s an example of no matter how much we know, we are always finding things no one expected or predicted. That’s one of the beauties of the scientific method, knowledge is never complete, and it always has to be modified or expanded in light of new discoveries. Kinda the opposite of most philosophies and religions, that for the most part start with a conclusion and then shoehorn new discoveries into it. That’s getting pretty ridiculous now considering some of these religions started in the Bronze Age. Science put man on the Moon, religion put man on a cross.
Philosophical concerns aside, study of Saturn’s hexagon could prove valuable insights about Earth. This is because the hexagon is a weather and climatic phenomena, and studying how weather and climate works on other planets can prove an interesting comparison to how it works on Earth. And of all the things scientists study, weather and climate are certainly near the top when it comes to practical application. When it comes right down to it, scientific investigation of any topic can yield valuable and practical insights about the world around us. That’s one of the silliest and destructive myths about scientists, that many of them study obscure stuff of no use to anyone. Scientists are studying reality, and everyone is connected to reality. How much more practical can it get?
Personally I just think space exploration is the shiznit. I loved exploring as a kid, and never outgrew it. Go somewhere one hasn’t been, see something one hasn’t seen before. And space exploration is the ultimate place to go and see stuff no one has seen before. “To boldly go where no man has gone before.” Granted that’s questionable grammar and not exactly a feminist way of phrasing it, but fun none the less. And who knew Leonard Nimoy could play the guitar anyhow? OK, it’s been a long hard week and this is devolving into gibberish. Enough.
Have a great weekend everyone!
(The above image is Public Domain under US copyright law. Well, pretty much so, it’s a NASA image and can’t be used in such a way that indicates NASA supports or endorses the party that uses the image. NASA in no way, shape, or form supports or endorses Doug’s Darkworld. Only my miserable day job does that. On the plus side it keeps me in the right downbeat mood to keep blogging.)
I am always changing my opinion of the human race. Usually I’m revising it downwards. Well, that’s not entirely correct. The only humans I am generally familiar with are Americans. That probably has a lot to do with why my opinion of humans keeps going down, and why my foreign friends are often so amazed at American’s attitudes. Let me clarify, I don’t think Americans are bad people or stupid people. It’s just that their ability to think and reason critically seems to be eroding every year. As far as I can tell, the average American, no matter how smart, is more inclined to use their brain to reinforce their opinions than critically examine the evidence. This tendency can be found everywhere though. After much thought, I have developed a theory. I’m sure other people have come up with the same theory, so I certainly don’t claim it to be original. To wit: I think that if people are holding a position on an issue because of religious or ideological reasons, they more or less become immune to logical argument, and instead use various logical fails to reinforce their position if challenged.
Let me give some examples. Gun control. The anti-gun control people are convinced that any gun regulation is an infringement on their rights. And thus they use a vast panoply of false arguments to deflect, ignore, and reject any and all discussion of gun control. In fact I could, and probably will write a post on the amazing array of false arguments anti-gun control proponents use. Suffice it to say, most of them aren’t willing to debate the issue. Health care is another one. People that are anti-Obamacare or in general think the US has the best health care in the world, seem more or less obsessed with the idea that they shouldn’t be forced to help other people through their taxes. They see it as a forced redistribution of wealth, and are against that in principle. Again, suffice it to say, these people argue vociferously (and badly) for the status quo. Lastly, abortion. Anti-abortion people seem to fervently believe that they are “saving babies.” They are categorically against abortion for ideological reasons, and it short circuits any discussion on the topic.
As a codicil to this, when people’s thinking is channeled by ideology/religion, it leads them to adapt extreme positions that are often so off-the-rails it’s scary. Republicans have introduced several bills now that give rapists parental rights or worse. One recent bill makes it a crime for a woman to abort a pregnancy from rape, the rationalization being that the baby is “evidence” of the crime. Right, anyone who can’t understand the insanity of a law making it a crime for a women to abort when she has been forcibly impregnated has lost touch with reality. Or the NRA’s call to arm teachers. Let’s see, putting tens of thousands of guns into schools every single day to prevent a crime that takes place maybe once a year is going to prevent gun crimes? This is one of those ideas that people proposing it didn’t think through. Which is sort of the gist of what I am saying here, if one tailors their ideas about social policy to conform to ideological limits, no real thought is required.
The worst aspect of this tendency is that it is exploited by institutions with an agenda. And while this has always been the case, the modern sciences of propaganda and advertising combined with the ubiquity of modern mass media has made this problem far worse. The NRA doesn’t discuss how to prevent gun violence for example, they spend most of their efforts convincing gun owners that the Feds are plotting to take away their guns. Thus short circuiting any discussion before it can begin. The health care industry does the same, by keeping people focused on the idea that there is something ideologically wrong with any attempt to rein in America’s out-of-control health care industry, any discussion of the basic problem … what’s the cheapest and best way to provide Americans with effective health coverage … never takes place. Basically exploiting this tendency in people short circuits any real discussion of the problem and how to resolve it. The pro-life people for example never actually want to discuss how to make every pregnancy a wanted pregnancy, they just want to ban it and insist that
people women should only be having sex if they want to have children.
Why would people be so inclined to swear allegiance to an abstraction than deal with reality? Damned if I know. I suspect there’s some survival benefit to identifying with one’s “tribe” and acting to defend it physically and intellectually. It’s also a lot easier to do than to critically examine an issue or one’s attitude towards an issue. Is this exclusively an aspect of right wing groups? No, but right wing groups are on the ascendency in the US. Republicans, the mainstream media, the energy industry, evangelical Christianity are the big players now. The biggest “leftist” player currently in the USA is the Democratic party, and while their false arguments are different, they use the ideas of pro-labor and pro-choice in a similar fashion to ensure the loyalty of their base. All of which fills me with gloom. On the one hand this is preventing any serious debate on the issues facing the USA. Worse, some of the ideological “solutions” to our nation’s problems are actually counter-productive. And scariest of all, there is the possibility that this will lead to something really really bad.
That’s for a future post though. I hope everyone is having a great weekend.
(The above image is so ubiquitous on Facebook that it might as well be public domain. I’m claiming it as Fair Use under US copyright law. I have no clue who holds the copyright, but I commend them for their creativity. So many “debates” on line are farcical these days. This is not what the communication revolution promised. Not that any revolution has ever led to something people expected.)
Welcome new readers! Apparently one of my old posts made the front page of Reddit on 6 January, and I received over 200,000 hits in the days that followed. Typically I only get about a thousand hits a day, so for Doug’s Darkworld this was pretty crazy. The good kind of crazy. And of course I’d like to thank whoever posted on Reddit for me in the first place, I probably could figure it out if I looked, but I’m a writer, not an Internet geek. Hell, I didn’t even know what Reddit was until a few days ago and I looked it up on Wikipedia. In any event it’s a good way to start the year, and this is a good time to set course in 2013. What’s in store for Doug’s Darkworld?
For one thing, it’s not going to be quite so dark this year. I’m going to be posting less about politics and current events, and more about science and history. I enjoy writing the later more, but am more compelled to rant about the former. Still, being a grown-up (“There are no adults.”) means controlling one’s impulses. I plan on more movie reviews too, again, because it gives me pleasure to both watch a movie, and to deconstruct it afterwards. Granted my movie reviews tend to be dated, as I usually wait for the CD to watch a movie, but the good things in life are worth waiting for. I may blog more on current cultural events. I was tickled pink by the Gangnam Style phenomena last year, and also amazed by the negative reaction to it in some quarters. Lastly I will also try to add a bit more levity this year. Try likely being the operative word, my humor tends to go over a lot of people’s heads. Or under or around. Like the image above, it still makes me smile.
As always, I am open to suggestions about topics to write about. Sometimes I get to them promptly. Sometimes not. I still plan a post about the battle of Pegasus Bridge for example, and that was suggested years ago. Comments are always welcome as well, as long as they are reasonably polite. Granted I have had very few comments over the years that fell into “We’re you raised in a barn?” category. I think that speaks highly of my readers. (The spam-catcher isn’t perfect, if someone’s highly crafted comment doesn’t post, it was misidentified as spam. Fire me an email firstname.lastname@example.org and I will rectify the situation.) Also I suspect that I piss off the type of people who would make such comments, they rarely seem to follow my blog for long. I’m not complaining.
Fortunately, aside from the ongoing collapse of the US Empire, we still live in a Golden Age of science and space exploration. Endless fodder for blog posts. And new discoveries in archeology and paleontology give new insight into our past all the time. It’s safe to say that there has never been an era where humans were discovering so such about the universe around us, and our own past and place in it. Even as a child it filled me with wonder, and as I have grown older, the wonder at same has increased. For me I’m perpetually a ten year on Christmas, science puts new presents under the tree every day. It’s a dream come true, how could I not write about it?
Have a great 2013 all, old readers and new!
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, its use here in no conceivable way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image, and arguably Tardar Sauce is a historically significant figure. Yes, that was a joke. See what I mean about my sense of humor? Credit and copyright: Tardar Sauce. Did I mention I will post more cat posts?)
Many people of faith make the claim that atheism is a religion. Ask any atheist if this is true and the answer will be a resounding no. For the longest time I thought the comparison was absurd, as evidenced by my repeated quote: “Atheism is a religion the same way not collecting stamps is a hobby.” Alas, I am cursed with a tendency to think about things, especially a tendency to think about things from different perspectives, and as a result, I have concluded that the “atheism is a religion” argument is not entirely without merit. Here then, in no particular order, are some reasons why. (Note that I am not claiming that atheism and religion are identical, just that the theistic argument has some merit.)
The fact that atheists generally get annoyed to angry at the comparison is the first indication. Even worse, most of them don’t even want to discuss the issue, and dismiss it out of hand with truisms like my quote in the preceding paragraph. Um, getting angry at an accusation and responding to it irrationally and emotionally is a hallmark of religion, not a neutral secular belief. Just in general I’ve noticed that people get angriest when an accusation contains an element of truth, atheists are just as capable of denial as anyone else. And I think that this is an area where many atheist exhibit strong indications of denial.
Moving right along, atheists have formed organizations to both defend and promote their beliefs. Granted lots of different organizations do such, but the beliefs of atheists tend to revolve around religion to a large degree. They have meetings, they form groups, they often tend to associate with other atheists. And a lot of them have issues with people who aren’t atheists. Frankly I’ve had atheist trolls berate me for not being atheist enough. Again, I certainly see common ground here between atheism and religion.
Then there’s the definition. If there were no religious people, there would be no atheists. Granted some will say that everyone would be an atheist then. Still, the word atheist wouldn’t exist, and there would be no people that called themselves atheists. It’s certainly safe to say that atheism as we know it wouldn’t exist without religion. That to me indicates, again, that atheism has some things in common with religion.
It should also be pointed out that atheists are not above using false, malicious, or misleading arguments in their attacks on religion. Granted this is human nature, hell, I sometimes I think there must be a straw man argument gene, right next to the slippery slope argument gene, they seems so hard wired into some people. It’s hard for me not to notice when both sides of a debate are stooping to irrational lows. And boy, want to make an atheist mad, point this out when they post such on Facebook.
Speaking of anger and emotional responses, there is one final point in this argument that isn’t debatable. If one asks atheists, American atheists at least, which is the “worst” religion, the vast overwhelming majority of them will answer that it is Islam. Let’s think about that. Atheists in a Christian country, a religion that demonizes Islam and has been waging war on it more or less continuously since the seventh century … mostly agree that Islam is the worst religion. Since Islam and Christianity are essentially the same religion, and both have a history drenched in blood, it’s impossible for me to not notice the similarity between Islam hating Christians and Islam hating atheists.
I am saying is that American atheists have internalized some core Christian values and thought forms, and not the pretty ones. It makes it hard for me to understand how they can claim they are in no way religious. If one share’s a religion’s prejudices, there is common ground. Granted, I’m not an atheist, so I can’t speak for them. The only point I am trying to make in all this is that the religious contention that “atheism is a religion” is at least debatable. From some perspectives, there are a lot of similarities between atheism and religion. Whether atheists like it or not.
PS. After I published this I discovered I had written a previous post on “Is atheism a religion?” I knew this would happen sooner or later. :)
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, etc. It’s all over Facebook so I have no clue who the author is. Granted it’s not exactly germane to the topic, but close enough. It’s also funny, since it’s true. The American Christians agitating for prayer in school aren’t doing so out of some concern for freedom of religion, they are doing so because they want to promote Christianity among America’s youth. They are also off the mark since the Supreme Court not only didn’t prohibit prayer in school, they specifically said they weren’t prohibiting prayer in school. They prohibited organized religious services in school, big difference.)
The Simulation Argument goes as follows, one of the following three statements has to be true:
1. For whatever reason intelligent species such as ourselves never progress to the point where they could run computer simulations of the human brain.
2. For whatever reason if such species do acquire the ability, they don’t exercise it.
3. We are more than likely living in a computer simulation.
That, in a nutshell, is the simulation argument. Discuss?
There’s a couple of codicils of course. By computer simulation of the human brain or computer simulation I mean having a computer powerful enough to create a simulated brain and its environment so detailed that the brain in question thinks it is a real brain living in the real world. And the scientific consensus at this point that such is possible with a powerful enough computer. Yes, gentle reader, it’s entirely possible that you and everything you know are simply historical simulation software running on a far-in-the-future’s High School Student’s desktop computer.
Let’s look at the statements in their turn. Can we assume that humans have no technological future and are inevitably going to wipe themselves out or revert back to the Stone Age? No one really knows, and there are statistical arguments saying that the odds aren’t good. Still statistics and reality are two different things. I for one am going to assume humans have a future unless there is proof otherwise. So for the purposes of argument, I am assuming statement one is false.
OK, statement too. Future humans won’t have any desire to run realistic simulations of human beings? That would assume that humans who develop such capable computers lose their scientific curiosity and their desire to play computer games. Neither seem likely. Or for some reason such simulations are insanely dangerous or otherwise unlikely to be widely pursued. Basically for this statement to be true, we have to assume that the nature of the human race will change in the future, or there is some unforeseeable practical objection to such simulations. I think it’s safe to say that logically then this statement is unlikely to be true.
Lastly, if the first two statements are false, why is the third statement likely to be true? Because once humans start making such simulations, more than likely eventually countless simulations would be made. Even just looking at the Civilization game series, the number of “people” simulated on millions of computers has to be billions times millions. And that’s just one game. The odds are simply overwhelming that we are living in such a simulation, like it or not.
Fascinating, but aside from the intellectual heebie-jeebies, this is all moot, there’s no way we could tell whether or not we are living in a simulation, so there’s no way to actually prove the Simulation Argument true or false right? Well, turns out there is. There are some ways that in theory we could today look at certain Cosmic Ray measurements and see evidence that we are in a simulated world. I don’t fully understand it, particle physics not being my strong suit, but the gentle reader can read about it here.There are also some other implications of the Simulation Argument that I didn’t cover in the brief analysis, the actual argument in all its glory can be perused here.
I for one hope they make these measurements, science may not be able to prove God doesn’t exist, but let’s at least try to find out if we are living in the Matrix. Have a great simulated weekend everyone!
(The above image is taken from a promotional poster for the movie The Thirteenth Floor. It’s claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, and its a low resolution partial copy of the original poster. I also highly recommend the movie to my readers. Credit and copyright: Centropolis Entertainment. Vanilla Sky is another movie along those lines, and also recommended.)