Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

March 6, 2010

Responses to Lea Anne

Filed under: Education, meta — codesmithy @ 10:23 pm

Lea Anne was a commenter on the “90 Minutes in Heaven: One Atheist’s Perspective” post. I decided to answer in another post because it was getting off-topic and to give it more space.

In my first response, Lea Anne expresses her frustration with me making a big deal out of stuff I say doesn’t happen. In the context of the “90 Minutes in Heaven” post, I told her that I didn’t feel I was making a “big deal” out of it. I had merely read the book, at the prompting of another Christian, and wrote what I thought about it. Lea Anne felt that I had misconstrued the context of her question.

The “Big Deal” that I was talking about was the fact you don’t believe there is a God, not about the book. You’re whole website is devoted to disproving that God is real.

Let’s look at the most popular pages on this website:

Yes, “90 Minutes in Heaven” is top, followed by
Energy Ignorance: Making Saltwater Burn
Marie Antoinette and “Let Them Eat Cake”
Reuters Falls for Water-Powered Car Hoax
Aftermath of Spanish-American War Applied to Iraq
Robert Murray: Sociopath

So, I wouldn’t say the whole website is devoted to “disproving that God is real.” In fact, depending on define God, there are some claims about God I have no quarrel with. For example, pantheists say God is the universe that we are one with. That seems perfectly true to me, but indubitably confusing. So a truer statement would be: a portion of the website is devoted to explaining why claims for the existence of the Christian God are invalid or insufficient. I’ll have to work on making that a bit pithier.

I brought up Jephthah, and Lea Anne asked:

What do you like about Jephthah?

There is nothing I like about Jephthah. It is a cruel story in a book that is filled with cruel stories made all the more tragic by the fact there actually isn’t a celestial dictator pulling the strings, just a father killing his daughter for no good reason. Just like all the “witches” that have been burned to death for giving the “evil eye” or “cursing” people. Superstition kills.

What seems to me to be the best way to prevent future tragedies like these is to diffuse the lunacy before it becomes a dangerous cancer. This can be done by exerting social pressure by expressing incredulity.

You think there are aliens behind the Hale-Bopp comet who will transport you to paradise? Give us your evidence.

This wisdom has been with us for ages and was probably put best in this fable by Aesop.

THE LEAP AT RHODES
A certain man who visited foreign lands could talk of little when he returned to his home except the wonderful adventures he had met with and the great deeds he had done abroad.
One of the feats he told about was a leap he had made in a city Called Rhodes. That leap was so great, he said, that no other man could leap anywhere near the distance. A great many persons in Rhodes had seen him do it and would prove that what he told was true.
“No need of witnesses,” said one of the hearers. “Suppose this city is Rhodes. Now show us how far you can jump.”
Deeds count, not boasting words.

Lea Anne also asked me some questions about my education after I tried to explain that the exact and spontaneous formation of the Y-chromosome was unbelievable as a leap in one generation, but can be explained as a result of a long history of evolutionary change.

How do you know all that you know?

Skeptical and critical inquiry.

Did you read it somewhere? I’m curious to know where all this expertise comes from?

A lot of it comes from books I read, but the books aren’t an end in themselves. Good books are like good teachers, and they take you through a process or a journey.

For example, I’ve been reading “The Great Equations” by Robert P. Crease. The first equation it gives is the Pythagorean theorem: the square of the length of the hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides, or c*c = b*b + a*a. The book explains the profound impact Euclid’s proof of the Pythagorean theorem had on Thomas Hobbes. Unfortunately, it doesn’t actually give the proof. So I looked it up online and went through it until I understood it. Understanding the proof wasn’t just memorizing the steps Euclid took and regurgitating it. In fact, I probably can’t reproduce Euclid’s proof word for word. What I can do is produce a proof based on the same ideas and arguments Euclid used. Instead of having a bunch of disconnected facts, I have a bunch of ideas that take me in the right direction. Finding specifics is as simple as using Google.

But you just can’t read it, you have to apply it also. One could read Terry Eagleton for ages and all you would have at the end of it is a brain full of mush like he does.  This is what I think was the major failing of medieval scholasticism, they never questioned the book.

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December 31, 2008

The Joys of Not Posting

Filed under: meta — codesmithy @ 9:07 am

I apologize for not posting more.  I tore the anterior cruciate ligament in my left knee a while ago, and subsequently had reconstruction surgery.  The surgery and the recovery threw my usual routine out of whack causing the lapse.  (The habit of not doing something is hard to break.)    

I have noticed the deleterious effects of not posting.  So, I am eager to get back in the habit. 

Huzzah.

July 1, 2008

An Apology

Filed under: meta — codesmithy @ 12:59 pm

I’m bad with names.  To my embarrassment, I have misspelled a number of people’s names on this blog at different times that I have since corrected.

Rachel Maddow became Rachael Maddow.

PZ Myers was PZ Meyers.

John Kanzius was John Kansas.

Those are the three most notable.  There might be others that I’m currently unaware of.  The third was actually due to sloppiness on my part.  I just heard Kanzius’ name, not thinking that there was a way to track down how it was actually spelled.  The first two, I actually thought I had it right, but realized later that I had inserted a letter.

From now on I’m going to try to copy and paste the name from somewhere instead of typing it in.  At least,  the first couple times I use it to prevent transcription errors.  Hopefully it will correct the problem, and prevent name flubbing in the future.

June 21, 2008

I Get An Interview Request

Filed under: meta — codesmithy @ 9:39 am

I got some spam comments from Ghazala Khan from “The Pakistani Spectator.”  The interview was actually a little bit interesting, so if Ghazala Khan wants my answers, feel free to take them.

Would you please tell us something about you and your site?

See the about page.

Do you feel that you continue to grow in your writing the longer you write? Why is that important to you?

Yes. I think that writing can be good mental exercise. Mental fitness, like physical fitness, is an important aspect of one’s general welfare.

I’m wondering what some of your memorable experiences are with blogging?

Getting linked to from the one of the New York Times blogs for my post on Robert Murray.

What do you do in order to keep up your communication with other bloggers?

Read them, occasionally comment on things they have written.

What do you think is the most exciting or most innovative use of technology in politics right now?

Donation pages/money bombs. We are seeing some remarkable pooling of resources and the ability to raise cash on short notice. Small contributions from lots of donors is markedly better than large contributions from a few donors for the health of a democracy.

Do you think that these new technologies are effective in making people more responsive?

People’s responsiveness to issues is being improved by their use of the technology.

What do you think sets Your site apart from others?

Me.

If you could choose one characteristic you have that brought you success in life, what would it be?

Focus on the task that remains unfinished. Don’t rest on the laurels of what you’ve already accomplished.

What was the happiest and gloomiest moment of your life?

That is for me to know and you to find out.

Do you think [the use of Twitter and other social networking tools by politicians] is bandwagon jumping or what?

Politicians are people with a motivation to get elected. Sometimes what they do is authentic, other times it is public relations. In general, it tends to be more of the latter than the former. But, I don’t think you can single them out as a class.

If you could pick a travel destination, anywhere in the world, with no worries about how it’s paid for – what would your top 3 choices be?

If we could remove the political repercussions from certain countries and some degree of safety, I’d like to visit Iran, Cuba and Vietnam.

What is your favorite book and why?

Catch-22. I feel it captures the inanity and tragedy of being human.

What’s the first thing you notice about a person (whether you know them or not)?

Usually, it is their ability to reflect light, followed by their ability to make a sound or embarrassing, their ability to occupy space.

Is there anyone from your past that once told you you couldn’t write?

No one that I really listened to.

How bloggers can benefit from blogs financially?

How a blogger benefits from a blog financially is by getting someone to pay them more money than it costs the blogger to run the site after taking into account opportunity costs.

Is it true that who has a successful blog has an awful lot of time on their hands?

There does seem to be a correlation between effort and success.

What are your thoughts on corporate blogs and what do you think the biggest advantages and disadvantages are?

Advantage – capital. Disadvantage – driven by a for profit entity.

What role can bloggers of the world play to make this world more friendlier and less hostile?

Bloggers could help promote understanding. When people understand all the ways people of different cultures, religions, race, etc. are like them, instead of focusing on the superficial differences and initial shock, people tend to have more nuanced views and more tolerant generally.

Who are your top five favourite bloggers?

I don’t know. PZ Myers. John Amato. Glenn Greenwald. Jane Hamsher. Phil Plait.

Is there one observation or column or post that has gotten the most powerful reaction from people?

The fact that burning water doesn’t tend to be energy efficient is apparently news to some people.

What is your perception about Pakistan and its people?

I hope Pakistan and India can relieve their tensions, especially surrounding nuclear proliferation and contain the religious extremists that exist in the country. I believe the Pakistani people want peace and democracy, but there are various forms of extremism that exist in their country.

Have you ever become stunned by the uniqueness of any blogger?

I’ve left a blog utterly frightened after chatting with the author a little bit.

What is the most striking difference between a developed country and a developing country?

The capital of developed countries are owned by entities in the country. So called “developing” countries, the means of production tend to be owned by foreign entities.

What is the future of blogging?

Blogging, much like the pamphleteers of the past will evolve. I don’t think any one can say with certainty what the future will look like, except that eventually it will die when the universe goes cold. In the meantime, it will be guided by the same forces that shape all of history.

You have also got a blogging life, how has it directly affected both your personal and professional life?

Can’t say.

What are your future plans?

Sleep.

Any Message you want to give to the readers of The Pakistani Spectator?

The unexamined life is not worth living. – Socrates

December 22, 2007

Away Until December 30th

Filed under: meta — codesmithy @ 3:01 pm

I’ll be away from the site until near the New Year.  So, Merry Christmas to the Christians (particularly Bill O’Reilly), Happy Holidays to the others, and it’s Festivus for the rest of us!

June 13, 2007

Politics and Programming

Filed under: meta, politics — codesmithy @ 6:43 am

It might seem strange to provide programming examples with political discussion, but I consider it essential.  Programming is a deeply analytical and detail oriented task.  It is true that the problems that are solved via programming are exercises.  But, the exercises help break down tasks in pieces that can be individually solved.  It is unlikely we will ever meet up with problems as well-formed in the real world.  However, applying logic and reason leads to better answers in that space if you apply it conservatively and humbly.

I don’t consider much of what I write about political, although it has political implications.  It is an attempt to apply reason to our most pressing problems.  The most pressing problems, in order, are nuclear catastrophe and ecocide.  These are unique because they threaten the survival of the species, and also profound because they are wholly preventable.

Nuclear catastrophe is the most likely end.  The proliferation of nuclear weapons increases the likelihood they will be used.  Proliferation happens because the underlying “realpolitik” motive for building more.

Climate-change, as disastrous as it might be, is less likely to annihilate the species because the effects will take place over time.  It certainly will not be desirable.  But, the human species will probably survive it by making some concessions and adjustments.

However, these two problems intersect.  Climate-change will effect socio-economic conditions in a number of countries, this combined with nuclear proliferation will increase the likelihood of radical elements getting these weapons to the point of their use.

Therefore, a global warming followed by a nuclear winter is not such a far-fetched scenario.  These are the convictions of reason based on observation of objective reality, but unfortunately there are a few things that one must be willing to believe 1) our leaders are fallible 2) government actions are better predicted by applying “realpolitik” principles rather than stated moral and 3) on the present course, these are the inevitable consequences.

I believe in fate.  Not in a fate of an individual, but the fate of society.  That there are problems that we as a species must rise and meet because their discovery is inevitable.  Nuclear weapons, human genetic engineering, ecocide, and artificial intelligence are epochs in human history.  I cannot predict how mankind will meet these challenges, although it is clear that global warming is the easiest of the four.

We have the moral principles to guide us through these problems, however that is weighed against rational and often not so rational self-interest.  The hope to overcoming these problems lies with the people, not the elites.  However,  it requires such a change from the current course, it boggles the mind on how it might be accomplished.

June 4, 2007

Comment Policy

Filed under: meta, random — codesmithy @ 7:20 am

Since, the first comment came into today, I thought it would be as good a time as any to discuss my attitude towards them.

Simply put, I don’t have the time or the energy to moderate a debate. I put the time and effort I wish to expend on this blog simply by writing posts. I believe that you can never truly appreciate a product of labor or feat unless you try to do it yourself. For example, you can’t not truly appreciate a work of art without at least trying to draw. You can’t appreciate music unless you try to play a musical instrument. You can’t appreciate a good book unless you are willing to write.

This blog is an attempt to bring into balance the consumption and production of thought; to try to explain aspects of the world that I find interesting with the rational intellect to which I was endowed. In the course of my thinking about the world, I have rejected some cultural norms. I have become an Atheist, despite being raised a Christian. I refrain from eating meat that comes from agricultural food chains. I have no problem with homosexual couples enjoying some of the same rights and privileges as heterosexual couples. Do these aspects make me a liberal, or conservative? A patriot or a traitor? It depends on your perspective. I hate the categories, and from my perspective: I am me. It would be more accurate to call it neo-objectivism (if that isn’t already taken) or farflarism than any existing label. Any creed according to any particular expressed view is impossible, because they are subject to change as new evidence is uncovered.

Therefore, the standard that I hold the comments on this blog to is the following: they must be products of rational thought. If they reject some premise or conclusion, it is not simply enough to state your rejection. It must be shown that the premise is superior by some rational standard or conclusion more consistent with the premises. I’m not here to debate how many angels can dance on the head of a pin or any metaphysical, mystical, gobbledygook that people choose to believe.

If you wish to claim that most minimum wage earners are teenagers, then you have to explain why “60% of Americans on minimum wage are 20 and above” is inaccurate and it must be proved through rational means.

In short, I’m not doing this to make anyone believe anything in particular that I believe. I want people to think and draw their own conclusions, because a rational conviction is the only one that I will respect.  So, leave a comment if you wish, but it must add something meaningful as judged by me.  If you want to argue politics through rhetoric and talking points, I suggest that you go somewhere else.

The mode of discourse that I would like to take is more like letters than the typical sniping (or trolling) that happens back and forth on the Internet.  This discourse isn’t facilitated very well through comments, so feel free to just insert a link elsewhere, possibly to a blog with your thoughts on the given matter.

The goal is to give you some food for thought.  So, in conclusion, I hope you enjoy reading the posts and I hope they give you something to think about or enlighten you in some way.  If you leave a comment, I expect it to do the same for me.

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