Tuesday, January 31, 2006

At Least It's Organic

The time to read the ingredients is before you eat the food.

Dear California, WTF?

There seem to be a lot of Californians who are buying sick and dying puppies in parking lots. That's not weird, right? Plain old Californian dying puppies are not good enough though, so they are shelling out top dollar, up to a thousand bucks for imported Mexican dying puppies.

Well, ya see, if you are going to buy a dying puppy you don't want to be seen buying domestic. That would be gauche. Come one California, where is your patriotic spirit? If you go out to buy a dying puppy today, look for the label that says USA. American puppy mill owners go to a lot of trouble to mistreat animals for you and your family. Don't sell them out to a bunch of Mexicans with barking overcoats.

Is there a new culinary craze that I am unaware of? What exactly are they doing with dying puppies?

Wait, I really don't want to know that do I? Seriously, I am sure that most Californians, when approached in a parking lot and given the option of buying a dying puppy turn down the offer but the fact that there are enough people saying yes and paying up to a thousand bucks to make this profitable makes me think that the rest of you might want to send your kids to private school. Preferably in a different state.

Just a thought.

Monday, January 30, 2006

You're Scaring the Children

Michael Jackson has decided that it would be a good idea to move to the Persian Gulf and dress like a woman. After all, where on earth would a man dressing as a woman be more welcome? Why am I thinking that this plan was not given a lot of consideration?

He was probably recognized because his kids were wearing burlap masks but western tee shirts which is not traditional anywhere, especially for male kids. Or the reporters may have just followed the trail of silicone and body parts.
After an assistant asked photographers to stand back because they were scaring the children, the whole party left in a white sports utility vehicle.
The photographers were scaring the kids. The photographers. Holy crap assistant dude! Check out the trans-gendered Frankensteinian apparition of death getting into the white sports utility vehicle and tell me that the kids are scared of the photographers.
His father has said it is unlikely he will return to the US to live.
I think I speak for the whole continent when I say:
Hip, Hip, Hooray!

And Michael, you might want to keep clear of the justice system over in some of those countries if you get my meaning.

Insurgent Country

Well, Bob Woodruff got injured and the media is going on about how this proves the argument they have been making that Iraq is too dangerous a place to report on in an unbiased manner. I heard one report claim that he was riding in an Iraqi police vehicle but that is not possible because there are no Iraqi police according to what the media tells me. He was also driving into what NBC called "the heart of insurgent country". Man, you rebrand yourself from terrorists to insurgents and the next thing you know you have your own country. I need to get myself a publicist.

But the fact that he was driving into the most dangerous part of Iraq illustrates the "if it bleeds it leads" policy of the media. How this supports the media's contention that they can't report on anything that does not explode is beyond me.

Here is a view on Iraq and the journalism dealing with that nation which has some interesting points to make.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Know Thine Enemy.

I was looking over "normblog" and a couple of posts caught my eye. The first one brings to my attention that The Guardian is referring to people who Hamas terrorists kill (those men, women and children on bus) as Hamas' "enemies". I new The Guardian was low as far as journalistic ethics were concerned and yet I still thought they might at least pretend they has scruples. Also, a new Gallup poll shows that the people of Iraq and Afghanistan are so brainwashed by their American captors that they are actually optimistic about the country and its future. I am chilled by what might happen once the American military brings those newly perfected mind control weapons back to the homeland. As an aside, Palestinians have been in the news because of their election of Hamas. I can understand dumping a political party that has become too corrupt and I can even understand being so desperate for change as to hope against hope that a terrorist organization might suddenly make a good governing body. What I can not understand is the "custom" for firing machine guns in the air as a celebration. This is in a city mind you, not some barren mountain range in Saudi Arabia. Do they not have gravity in the middle east? Sure, most of the bullets will not hit anyone and they do slow down significantly due to air resistance going up and coming down but skyward bullets still can and do kill people on occasion. And these guys are firing clip after clip! Are there not enough bullet holes in the roofs of you neighbors homes? I know it is a poor area and firearm safety courses are few and far between but can they afford common sense at least? (And if they can afford it they should export it to the world at a huge mark up.) While we are embodying our own cultural stereotypes, I think my Irish blood and I will go out and get drunk so I can beat someone up with my shillaly.

Breaking News: Democrats and Republicans are Stupid

Partisans have been shown to not experience "any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning," when confronted with facts they don't like. I have always thought that membership in a political party causes brain defects but now there is evidence.

And since evidence is kind of like proof, no one can ever convince me otherwise. I am not listening.

I wonder if this study could be done with people who have received some actual instruction about reasoning, like what an appeal to emotion is and compare them to those who had not. Is there maybe a glimmer of activity in the reasoning sites? There are some people who are able to see (and are disgusted by) bad reasoning and false facts being used by people who's positions we agree with. It would be interesting to see what is going on when we are exposed to that situation. Well, you would need to find a large group of people who had been instructed in reason so the study will never be done.

Human Budgeting Skills in Question

The most important action of governments (with making new laws coming in a distant second) is deciding how to spend the money which they have plundered in a manner that is most likely to get them reelected. With the need to balance strategic spending (pork) with basic services which they have established monopolies on, it can be tricky. It means that there is a strong emphasis on saving as much money on these services so that sufficient will be available for their own purposes. Ironically, this leads to lots of self defeating behavior like refusing to budget for productivity research and development which would end up saving lots of money in the mid to long term (as I mentioned in my last post, I feel that we are quite weak in our ability to view the world outside of the "present" context).

An effective and tragic example is when a government institutes a user fee for something like an AIDS test. These tests, by and large, help prevent spreading of the infection; most people are who test positive are not psychopaths and do not wish to spend their final years in prison. In an effort to save a few dollars on a test, they are dissuading people from getting tested and adding new patients to the more expensive social programs. There are two tasks for which machines need to be invented because humans are completely incompetent at: Driving and setting priorities.

Ethanol is Not Such a Bad Bet After All

Making ethanol from corn would only be a transition step since making it from cellulose is becoming feasible and would allow large amounts of farm waste, yard waste and all those damn leaves that fall every autumn to be turned into fuel. But it is still encouraging to find out that it is actually more energy efficient and less environmentally damaging to use gasoline to farm corn for ethanol when the opposite has been thought recently.

In 2004, ethanol blended into gasoline comprised only 2 percent of all fuel sold in the United States. But auto manufacturers are able to make cars that run on 85 percent ethanol, and nearly 5 million such "flex-fuel" vehicles are now on the road. Kammen noted that almost all light trucks now sold have flex-fuel capability, though frequently unadvertised. Converting a car into a flex-fuel vehicle able to burn E85, as the 85/15 ethanol/gas mix is called, costs about $100. More flex-fuel vehicles than diesel vehicles are on the road today in California.
I suppose that the reason that the fuel-flex quality is not advertised is so that they don't discourage the segment of the market that feels that alternative fuels are for effeminate types. As the price of gas rises this quality may start to get noticed, just as hybrids are becoming popular. That brings up the question: Are the hybrid vehicles, fuel-flex.

It is fascinating to see how many different methods of capturing and storing energy are being developed now that people are getting nervous about the price of fossil fuels and the reliability of the electricity grid. I never saw the Mad Max scenario of society collapsing as the oil runs out as being credible but some people did interestingly, it is the people who do not see the worst as inevitable that end up developing these technologies just as it was not the Y2K hermits who fixed the Y2K problem but those who felt the effort was achievable. Being able to see trouble comings is worthless if you make no attempt to use the ability to prevent it. The fact that the original studies overestimated the energy cost of farming ethanol because they were using out dated assumptions illustrates one of the most important lessons for living in a technologically developing world. Just because something is not possible or unaffordable now does not mean it is intrinsically impossible or unaffordable.

Most of the most limited world views as well as negative forecasts for the future ignore fundamental properties like time and change. News articles, political speeches and what generally passes for thought in the world seem obsessed with how things are now and ignore how they got that way and whether there is a longer term trend. Unemployment in some region is high but if no one tells you if it is rising or dropping then you have no information about employment in that region. If one is told that crime is up this month but not told that it is up slightly from a 38 year low than what we have been told is factual but anti-informative. This may sound obvious but the information we are given from most general media sources is snap-shot data which sounds like it is informative but actually is not.

In conclusion, um... I like corn.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Canada's New PM Learns Who is the "Bottom" and Who is the "Top"

Well, Stephen Harper has not been sworn in yet and he already has been informed by the American Ambassador that in every friendly relationship (like the traditional definition of marriage and the prophet Ezekiel's view of the relationship between God and Israel) there is a "bottom" and a "top".

The Republicans have long been disgusted at the fact that we do not fund our military to the degree that they feel we should. Well, Canada finally elected someone who wants to change that and part of that plan involves exerting Canadian sovereignty over arctic waters both in terms of military presence and with regards to listening posts to see just how many navies are sneaking around up there and how close they are coming to the shore. Strangely enough, David Wilkins, the American ambassador suddenly decided that we should not be increasing our defense spending, at least in this manner.
"We don't recognize Canada's claims to those waters...(of the high arctic) Most other countries do not recognize their claim."
None of those waters? Even the ones that are lapping on the shore? So if a nation wants to set up God knows what on Canadian soil, they just need to keep one toe in the sea? No, he later clarified what is Canada's and what is not:
"I simply restated our position on the 12-mile territory limit. Period," said Wilkins.
Uh... David, I suppose the fact that these waters are surrounded on all sides by Canadian land and that America has created a precedent by unilaterally claiming sovereignty over all resources extending out to the edge of its continental shelf are irrelevant, right?
Wilkins refused to comment further on the issue, stating that "military decisions regarding the Canadian military are internal decisions for the Canadian government. Period."
Thanks for the clarification. Period. Uh, David? Question mark. What is with the verbal punctuation? Question mark. Let it be noticed that while he says that our military is our business, America reserves the right to decide (by whatever means is most fun) whether we observe a 200 mile limit or a 12 mile limit. Just so we are all clear.

Wait, "most" nations do not recognize this claim (that the arctic waters are internal rather than international waters)? While I don't doubt this, I would be interested in asking: Was there a poll? Who sided with Canada on this? Wikipedia mentions that the US does not accept the claim that they are internal waters (Canadians having inconvenient environmental laws) but no other countries are mentioned. My guess is that other nations which feel it is a free for all up there include China, Russia, France and any nation with subs in their navy. The arctic is a great place to practice submarine warfare and having to get permission would take all the fun out of it.

Frankly I don't care whether the arctic is polluted by American ships and invaded by the American navy legally or illegally. As far as I am concerned, we should just put up solar, wind and tidal power stations on all those little islands and use the power to run
robot-staffed Tim Horton's coffee shops and sell donuts to all the submarine interlopers. Might as well make some money while we are being... lets call it "visited". Of course we will need to translate the menus into Chinese, Russian and whatever language the speak in Indiana. Plus, there will be the need to develop biodegradable cups so that the arctic does not end up looking like the rest of Canada with millions of Tim's cups as far as the eye can see; though the three meter thick floating layer of plastic-coated cups might give the polar bears something to walk on now that the ice is retreating. Evolution suggests that in a million years the bears might adapt the Tim's logo as camouflage. Now that would be cool. I think I have digressed.

Anyway, back to Stephen Harper. The Bush administration gave him crap sometime back for not being loud enough in support of the US missile shield program. This was funny because he had not been elected at the time and since many Canadians were skeptical about the missile defense program, it was not something Harper was looking to put up as a campaign issue. What is also funny is that the Bush administration wanted support for the program but refused to address any of the reasons for Canadian skepticism of the scheme (scientists were telling us it was nowhere near implementation so alienating the world and encouraging other nations to develop larger missile arsenals in retaliation seemed - oh, lets say, premature) on the principle that they should not have to discuss anything with anyone, least of all Canada. Who needs reason when you can just tell people what must happen.

Now, however, Harper (a cultural conservative) has been elected and there is great hope that the US relationship with Canada will improve.
"Wilkins also said he expects less anti-American sentiment from Harper's minority government, and added that he called Harper to offer congratulations on his election victory."
I am sure that 'We expect less crap from you guys' was meant in the most diplomatic of tones.

Harper reassured Canadians that he didn't give a fornicating fig what the ambassador thinks. He was then hospitalized for an asthma attack but I am sure it was not related. (Harper: "Hol-didley-oly mackerel. [GASP!]. What have I done?!?! I just stood up to my sweet baboo!") And I am sure that David Wilkins more conciliatory tone (such as it was) is not a result of him having given the new Prime Minister-designate a trip to the hospital. (Wilkins: "Holy Crap! I nearly killed the new Canuckistani tribal leader! Bush is gonna have nuts in a soup dish.")

Relax David, Harper is okay. You can go back to treating him like a Canadian head of state.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

NBC Nightly News and Variety Show.

Brian Williams was in fine form last night. NBC nightly news aired a story (story in the sense of a fictitious narrative) about the training of Iraqis by the US military. They did a very good job of creating the impression that there were about 9 Iraqi soldiers and police who have been trained so far and that they all run off from their posts for cigarettes quite often, combined with thousands of terrorist infiltrators (sorry brave insurgent infiltrators). I am not saying that there have not been some infiltration and that there are not significant problems when training a civilian and military force from the ground up but this was a complete hatchet job.

While they were doing a story on Iraq security they might have mentioned the exact numbers of police and soldiers trained to date, the instances of red on red conflict (the media has hardly mentioned this term which applies to enemies turning on each other - in Iraq's case it is nationalists turning on al-Qaida people) or they might have even mentioned the number of tips from civilians against terrorists activities or... well they might have mentioned anything. But they chose not to.

Brian Williams came back on and eventually ended the evening with a commentary in which he took some of his viewers to task for having expressed the opinion that NBC was obsessing about Katrina. I suspect that they were sick of how they and other media organizations have been exploiting people's suffering. But to hear Williams tell it, these people were just sick of hearing about other people's suffering. I don't trust Williams to represent the views of anyone, least of all people who are criticizing his coverage.

As an aside, is it just me or did the recent bombing strike on that dwelling in Pakistan drop off the media radar at about the time that it was discovered that some high level terrorists had died. Instead of the nice comforting story about the US aiming at a terrorist who was not even there and killing innocent civilians became a story about at least four valuable al-Qaida targets being killed. The TV network news seem to have lost interest.

Just a Short Forced March With Jesus.

Matthew 6, verses 5-6 were never real crowd pleasers and since the Indiana Legislature is probably going to have them edited from newer translations of the Bible, I feel I should post them here so that they will be archived in the various internet archives and cashes.

"And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are, for they love
to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they
may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.

"But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut they
door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in
secret shall reward thee openly."

But then, Indiana is the State where judges feel that only parents in "mainstream" religions have the right to expose their own children to their own religion. What with legislators bringing in an auto-parts worker to deliver a surprise sermon and to sing "an energetic rendition of 'Just a Little Talk With Jesus.'" and the fact that there are judges in Indiana who do not know the law, I am beginning to get an impression of how the state is run. I suspect that the legislators sit on hay bales and chew on long pieces of grass and say things like "Golly!" and "Shucks". Am I right? If not, they seem to be going out of their way to give that impression. Must be part of a strategy to attract businesses from... um... God knows where.

I suppose that forcing people watch and listen to you worship makes sense in a way. I mean what would make people more receptive to one's message of love than seeing one abusing their power and prestige to annoy, intimidate, alienate and generally piss off everyone who is not part of one's denomination. Sign me up.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Look at the Wee Gaper

A wee gaper.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

We Have a New Prime Minister

I should mention that we have a new Prime Minister up here in the Soviet Republic of Canuckistan. He is a social conservative with little of intelligence to say on the economy but he is starting off with clean hands. Plus he has a paltry minority in parliament so he will have to behave for the next few months until his government is brought down and we do this all over again.

Also, the copyright call girl of the Liberal party was thrown out but she still had a significant portion of the vote which makes one wonder how big a crack problem they have in
the riding of Parkdale-High Park. Now she can concentrate on her planned law suit against someone who dared say something true about her.

Nightly News To Me.

Let it never be said that the NBC Nightly News is not educational. I learned something from it tonight. They had a story based on a New York Times report on the reconstruction in Iraq. In fairness, they did mention that there were 1300 projects completed (by who and how big they were and what they were doing was left up to the imagination because this piece of info went by so fast that I am not even sure about the accuracy of the 1300 number). This bit of news was buried in a story that effectively claimed that the entire reconstruction was a cross between a fraud and a boondoggle. A froondoggle.

I have no doubt that there are a lot of screw ups in this project. After all, there has been a lot of government involvement (and terrorism which may be even worse than government involvement). But NBC and others have been creating a portrait of a complete lack of progress. Now it is up to people like me to explain why we have been deceived by the claims that there are many successful reconstruction projects going on in Iraq. How could I have been so naive?

Well, and I mean this as an explanation, not as an excuse because I should have been more skeptical on my own, I made an unwarranted assumption. I felt that if organizations like USAID and the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the United Nations and other respectable and semi-respectable groups and charities were going to put out information about their work in Iraq that was false, media organizations would have bothered to seek out the heads of these organizations and ask them why they were lying. At the very least they would air the reports and mention that the chairmen, commanders and so forth of these organizations refused to comment when given the opportunity.

You see I thought the media was not doing its job by not reporting on any reconstruction but I guess the reconstruction really was fiction and they were really not doing their job by not reporting on this huge and strangely ineffective campaign to distribute false information about projects that they were not really getting done. I should thank NBC for helping me clear that up.
On a side note, several days ago Brian Williams had an ventriloquist dummy expert pundit on the show to verify the continued media assertion that it is too dangerous to report from Iraq (except when there is a bomb going off). Interestingly enough, the report on the reconstruction hoax had quite a bit of video footage from inside Iraq including someone building a wall (likely for Americans to hide looted reconstruction funds behind). They were able to get this footage quite quickly after the New York Times story. I wonder what the pundit has to say about that.

Monday, January 23, 2006

News Flash! Kevin Trudeau is Still Slime.

Mr Natural is selling his customers' personal info to fellow hucksters as an "easy marks" list. Plus he is billing them "unexpectedly" for a newsletter.

A nice convicted con-man like him? Who would have thought?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Nocturnal Emissions From the Other Side.

Batzri said that evil demons from "the other side" use nocturnal emissions to create more demons.

"Most of our troubles are caused by these demons," said Batzri. "They hurt us, they hurt our children, they cause poverty." Batzri said that the special prayer, which includes the reading of portions of the Zohar, fasting and repentance can destroy these demons.
When I went to summer camp on "the other side" we made demons out of dry macaroni, construction paper and glitter. I guess there were budget cuts and now the evil demon kids need to provide their own art supplies. I would have recommended Elmer's glue instead of nocturnal emissions but then I don't run demon camp so who am I to second guess.

Friday, January 20, 2006

What? Atheism is Irrational?

Robert Bell of Libertopia posted an interesting article entitled Why Atheism is Irrational. Since I am a part time atheist (I could never get the funding to go pro) I thought I might respond but as I drafted it I quickly exceeded what could, in good conscience be plonked down in a comment section so I thought I would respond on my own space and leave a link for whoever might care what little old me reckons.

Robert and I have discussed some issues in the past and while I don't think either of us has convinced the other on anything specific, I can say that I have enjoyed the discussions.

I should also say to all the kids out there that I am completely unqualified to be considered a source of information about the physics I will discuss and I only speak of what I know and my best understanding of the material. Please consult the actual physics community before using any of the information I provide to create a blackhole in your basement. They can be located every 3rd Sunday in March at the old Tim Hortons coffee shop in Yellowknife.

Hi and hello Robert.

I might be nit-picking (whether accurately or not one can judge for themselves) but there are some points I might like to make.
"theism is the proposition that God (or some supernatural being) exists"
So are deism and pantheism but they differ as to whether this being interacts with the physical universe and what its relationship is to it. A small point but one that often gets overlooked in the atheism/theism discussion.

You said:
"Indeed, generally speaking, atheism would appear to be the natural result of education"
Strangely enough, I find myself disagreeing with this statement nearly as much as you probably do (at least when I am not talking with fundamentalists). Education seems to enable people to consider alternatives to their culturally endowed views; alternatives like atheism, agnosticism, deism, pantheism and even the religions and philosophies of other cultures, which is why you do see higher levels of all of these views among the educated, but I do not see the appearance that education specifically leads to atheism in a logical or practical sense (even if I might wish it to ;-) but since some people see feel that it does, I can see why you would wish to refute that. Also, while ignorance is as rampant in religious realms as it is in every realm of human endeavor, I don't currently see religion as being any more guilty of trafficking in ignorance or being sourced in it than many other realms though given the state of human affairs that is not saying much.

Now to address the meat of your post.

"Regardless, I can, and will, demonstrate that atheism is, in fact, misguided and irrational; and conversely, that theism is inherently rational."

Talk about an ambitious goal, given that people have been arguing about this for millennia. Seriously though, as I see it, atheism is a belief and like all beliefs it is not rational or irrational - only the argument in favor of it can be rational or irrational, as with theism, deism and whatnot. If one holds a belief, whether it is wrong or right, their belief can not fairly be called irrational, only unsupported. If one is not trying to convince anyone of the belief and has no interest in the criticisms of that belief, one has no obligation to support one's beliefs to anyone just as theists have no "obligation" to provide any evidence of God to anyone (see below). It is when we are arguing in favor of a belief, as many atheists and theists do, that these arguments become subject to the charge of irrationality. This might seem like a minor point but I think it is important.

"The so-called Atheist Manifesto certainly tries to make that case:"

'Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make when in the presence of religious dogma. The atheist is merely a person who believes that the 260 million Americans (87% of the population) who claim to never doubt the existence of God should be obliged to present evidence for his existence…'

It is obviously not possible to "present evidence", i.e. empirical evidence, so that "obligation" is really no obligation at all."
I agree (the Atheist Manifesto never asked for my opinion - can you imagine?) but this draws attention to the fact that the question of atheism verses theism depends not on logic but on how your premises are chosen and evaluated (epistemology).

An atheist might argue:
Premise 1) Believing in something without sufficient evidence most often leads to believing in things which are, on further examination, false.

Premise 2) The negative consequences of believing in falsehoods are far greater than the negative consequences of not believing things which are true but are not evident.

Conclusion: Fewer negative consequences result if we do not adopt beliefs for which evidence is insufficient or completely lacking.
While the premises may be wrong, the decision to adopt them is an epistemological issue and does not make the argument irrational.

As for the premise which would make this an argument for atheism (or at least agnosticism):
Premise 3) There is a complete lack of evidence of, or insufficient evidence for, the existence of a creator of the universe.

your post provides a good example of the debate about the origin of the universe and whether its existence constitutes sufficient evidence of a creator. I would, however, like to make a couple of points here too.

Firstly, the debate is dancing around a big gaping hole in our understanding of physics and no discussion of the early moments of the universe can be considered to be the last word on the subject until our knowledge of the physics of this era is more complete. Even the existence of the singularity that you mention is contested among physicists.

There are also some statements and concepts in your discussion that are problematic given our lack of knowledge:

"there seems to be some reluctance to determine what, if anything, caused that event" (the initial cosmic expansion) "to occur" This is because of the meaning of time in a context where time is being created. I have read that it is possible to create a model of existence with two or more dimensions of time and that in such a situation, time behaves in a much more space-like manner. In this model, causation is no limitation since effects and objects can result in their own causation just as there is no beginning to a circle. Am I in a position to evaluate this model or the claims based on it? No. If they are mathematically sound, does that mean they describe what "caused" the universe? No. It does mean that a belief that either God or the universe "came in to being" to use temporally tainted speech, without a cause has not been ruled out and neither can be seen as more or less rational.

"Since space is a function of matter,..." While this has been suggested by some inside and out of the physics community, it is by no means a certainty. The revelation of the exact relationship between matter/energy and space time awaits further physical understanding.

"To be sure, the laws of physics dictate that matter can be neither created nor destroyed" Energy can not be created or destroyed. Matter (one type of energy) can be created along with anti-matter (with a seemingly slight asymmetry towards matter) from energy and is done so in particle accelerators when the energy of collision is converted into mass-containing particles. Energy can also be created if an equal amount of negative energy is created in the same system at the roughly the same time as discussed below.

"Now, some hold to the notion of spontaneous generation (with respect to the origin of the universe). This, in essence, is the idea that the universe spontaneously came into existence all by itself (note: there is no entry for this at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). This concept is manifestly absurd, as the universe would necessarily have had to exist in order to create itself." It is only manifestly absurd from the point of view of the same linear time which we inhabit, and which is suspected to have only come into existence at or around what we call time zero. Just as God can't be ruled out due the the "transcendent" adjective, neither can auto causation (for lack of a better word) of the universe be ruled out because of the nature of existence at t=0. One could hypothesize that existence at t=0 is a "natural" or unintelligent phenomenon which, since it exists in a different spacial/temporal context, is itself transcendent and self-initializing (see below where multi-dimensional time is discussed) and that it buds off an infinite number of universes with linear time like the fruit from a tree. We can not say anything about the probability of such a thing happening because "probability" and "happening" have little or no meaning outside of our current concept of time.

Your quote from the Stanford website said:
"If no scientific explanation (in terms of physical laws) can provide a causal account of the origin of the universe, the explanation must be personal, i.e., in terms of the intentional action of a rational, supernatural agent." A) How does one know if the scientific explanation does not exist or is not yet discovered? B) Lack of a scientific explanation does not necessitate any other specific explanation especially if multiple non scientific explanations are possible. Putting aside the possibility of a natural phenomenon that is outside of our universe and so inexplicable to any scientific theory of our reality, what about an irrational supernatural entity? Or a supernatural entity with great power and knowledge but who is not omniscient and capable of accidents like accidentally creating a universe? (I seem to remember that Gnostic Christians hypothesized that the God who created the universe is a lesser God than the higher, truly omnipotent God).

In the comment section you responded to Ricardo by saying:
"Moreover, the absence of matter and energy does not necessarily imply "nothingness". For if the material universe is all there is, then one of two things must be true:

(i.) matter is infinite, i.e. without a beginning

(ii.) matter spontaneously sprang into existence

"Now, (i.) is implausible, since matter has no intelligence or will, not to mention the problems of inertia and entropy; and (ii.) is absurd because ?"from nothing, nothing can come?". In light of the absurdity of (ii), and in order to account for the existence of the universe, something must necessarily be infinite. Why should we suppose that matter is latter perceived to be less rational than the former?"

While (i) may be implausible, I do not see that as being demonstrated because matter has no intelligence or will. It has existed for a long time without these traits so why it could not have forever... But that point is moot because there is the hypothesis, based on fairly unremarkable physics, that the expansion of the universe during inflation (a time when regions of space expanded away from each other faster than light (as distinct from traveling through space faster than light which is not possible) would have represented a huge source of negative energy. Since energy must be conserved in a system, the negative energy would have been countered by a huge discharge of positive energy resulting in the matter and energy (via e=mc^2) we see today.

Also, inertia is not a problem because all of the matter in the new universe is moving in different directions which means that all the inetial vectors can cancel out and entropy is a function of probability and requires time to have meaning. It describes how a system changes in time so it breaks down with the rest of our physical theories in the context of near singularities.

Item (ii) is not as absurd as it sounds since real objects (virtual particles) spontaneously spring into existence all the time. If, however, matter/energy and space time are unified as many physicists think they will be in a more complete theory of physics, lets lump the whole universe in as "matter" and examine your question:

"Why should we suppose that matter is infinite, as opposed to a transcendent, personal agent? Why is the latter perceived to be less rational than the former?" While this would be a good argument in defense of seeing atheism and theism as equally rational given the sum of our current knowledge, it does not seem to me to aid the goal of demonstrating atheism to be irrational and theism to be inherently rational.

I admit that much of this might sound irrational but this is because of the difficulty of thinking about a system that is different from our familiar universe.

While it is possible that I did not fully absorb your argument, I don't think I am yet convinced of your conclusion that atheism (rather the argument for it) is irrational and while I will concede that given the right starting premises, the argument for theism can be considered rational, that neither makes it true nor (to me at least) persuasive. But since proving that conclusion to those better able tappreciatete the argument would be a major event in the history of human thought and might result in a Nobel Prize for you, I will wish you luck ;-)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Don't Let the Parasites Know You are Reading This.

Carl Zimmer asks: "Are brain parasites altering the personalities of three billion people?"

Yes, they are.

And now the brain parasites want to know what we are all looking for on the Internet.

Maybe they can communicate via radio waves! Protect yourself! or maybe not.

Are they controlling you?!?!?! Bwahhaha!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Nothing New.

I was reading the January issue of National Geographic and there was an interesting article on the use of forensic science in Iraq and its importance for the issue of genocide in general. There are three things that stand out in my memory of this article.

The first was a diagram of the incidents of mass murder in the twentieth century given on a timeline for each nation with the size of the event marked by the radius of a circle. Many people on the right have noticed this but in the west we tend to equate terms like genocide and mass murder firstly and foremostly with the Holocaust. Not to take away from the Holocaust but it is interesting to see the size of the mass murders for the Soviet Union and China, which only come to mind after the Holocaust if at all when we consider these terms. It is fascinating that so many of us have this blind spot to these crimes. Even when we know the information consciously it takes something visual like a diagram to make the fact understood.

The other thing that stood out is the question that often gets asked when the topic of mass murder is discussed. Why was the twentieth century so bloody? Why have we become so much more vicious in modern times? The answer of course is that the change is an illusion. The only things that have changed are the modus operandi . Putting people to the sword took a lot more man hours than lining them up in a pit and shooting them. This, combined with the fact that tyrants in the past felt no need to hide what they were doing and probably did not live near the village being slaughtered meant that there were far fewer mass graves. Genghis Khan left the streets of Beijing slippery with human fat and left a mountain of bones outside the city. The Bible describes the destruction of cities where the only controversy was whether the virgin girls could be taken as wives or had to fall by the sword too. Many leaders have historically been very proud of their kills and have used them to send political messages, hence the huge numbers of crucifixions one would view on the roads to Rome.

In a simple total of deaths, the twentieth century may have been remarkable but it was also the first time in history that such huge numbers of people have been available both for killing and for doing the deed. But there are changes in the way humans interact that have their roots in the twentieth century. Wars have been declining since the end of the cold war and they have been getting less deadly. The 1990s and this decades have seen a shift towards weaponry that avoid civilians in favor of high value military targets from the carpet bombing the Germans and Allies used.

It is interesting how people see an increase in violence in the twentieth century when it was not so, yet they are blind to a decrease in war when it is real.

The third thing that stands out in my memory from this article was the descriptions of the colourful clothing of the Kurdish women in one of the graves and the hand knit baby hat with a bullet hole through it. That stands out.

Sudan's circle on that map is still growing, North Korean data is not available and I would bet that Burma's data is in need of an update. Internal affairs though - mustn't meddle.

Iran Can Build Submarines Better Than Canada Can Buy Them

I am sure that Iran wants subs and nukes for completely self-defensive purposes, not wiping Israel off the map or anything. Kofi Annan trusts them so that should be good enough for us. (Does Kofi have any other children? Or financial dealings with Iran? Not to be cheeky mind you.)

Maybe Canada should consider using their own shipyards to make similar small subs instead of buying dangerous mothballed subs from Britain. We don't need "state of the art" full size subs to patrol the arctic, we need small fast and maneuverable ones that don't burn and kill our soldiers.

I'll Be Sober in the Morning

I want to say that by linking to this post I am in no way condoning the proposition that Churchill and Bush have anything in common. Churchill was able to sober up but continued to drink. Bush took the opposite path of quitting drinking without sobering up. It is an interesting historical parallel though.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Members of SA Gay Rights Group Out of Their Minds.

A South African Gay rights group feels that screening blood donations for risk behaviors is discrimination. They feel all blood should be treated equally. I'm sorry... body fluids have human rights now? I suppose that if you are going to confer civil rights to individual human cells you might as well include the 4 humours. Homosexuality is not sufficient to ban a donation but they are asking people if they have had guy on guy sex in the last 5 years. (I seem to remember that I get asked if I have since 1977.)

The is a simple fact in this world that HIV rates are higher in the homosexual community due to historical (a certain promiscuous Canadian flight attendant) and sociological factors, combined with the fact that anal sex is a much higher risk behavior than vaginal sex. The highest risk for transmission though is getting a blood transfusion from and infected donor and while the HIV test is good, it is not perfect and human errors do occur. This is why screening out the blood of people who engage in behaviors with the highest risk of transmission is imperative to preventing needless transmission.

Gay and Lesbian Alliance is throwing away their credibility and damaging the reputation of homosexuals in a traditionally homophobic part of the world by encouraging well meaning homosexual, a portion of whom are most certainly infected without knowing it, to end the lives of people for political reasons.

Here you see a case where people have not been taught basic reasoning skills and so think that blood is endowed with human rights that equal or superior to those of real human beings. Is it a surprise that some people (myself at least) feel that the refusal to teach logic and reason in schools is a life and death issue? Do I need to write this on the moon with a giant laser or what?

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Marital Nudity and Big Swords.

Some Islamic scholars feel that nudity during sex will annul a marriage. I wonder if the annulment occurs before, during or after the event. If before or during then the woman would be committing adultery and in some countries face stoning.

Other Islamic scholars (I love that phrase) say that marital nudity is okay as long as neither party actually looks at the genitals of the other.

If Islam and nudity are not your cup of tea, why not buy a big-ass Jesus sword. I could have sworn this was a parody but it seems to be for real (in the weakest possible sense of the word real). Yes, Pastor Rod Parsley (!) will give only the most stable people who possess $41.10 a sword (for display purposes only - unless God tells you different then it's all-bets-off) just like the one King Arthur used when he killed his enemies.

My new "to do" list:
  1. Start wearing a suit of armor.
  2. Find a woman willing to wear a cast-iron burka.
  3. Build extra large can-opener.
  4. Kill dragons.

Friday, January 13, 2006

A Venomous Primate - Cool

For some animals, being cute is not enough to get by in life. That is why the Slow Loris has toxic sweat glands. Not only can it take the toxin into its mouth to cause its bite to become venomous, it can coat its young with the stuff to dissuade predators. Who wants to eat a stinky baby Slow Loris and get a swollen mouth full of elbow poison. You don't make that mistake twice let me tell you.

Technically I think the toxin qualifies as both a venom (injected into live animals - though in this case passively via the bite unlike the hypodermic mechanism of snakes) and a poison (needs to be consumed) which will make things difficult for people who like to insist on the right word for everything.

I don't know what the big deal is though. I've been producing toxic sweat for years and no one ever made a fuss about me.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Wazoo, I Tells Ya!

I do not want to give the impression that I don't like chemistry but I have tertiary carbo-cations coming out the wazoo!

Speaking of too much information, I was reading the directions on a package of Indian food pre-mixed spices and it said not to use if bloated or leaking. Isn't that getting kind of personal?

And speaking of bloated leaking wazoos, the election is coming to a close and soon we will have a horrid new government or a horrid old government. Gawd elp us.
What is really ironic is that if the Liberal Party looses government there will probably be a leadership conference so that they can judge the leader, Paul Martin and his performance, even though it is the Liberal Party that is the source of the corruption and incompetence. If I were big Paulie I would use any such leadership review to go down swinging at the low-brow, scheming low-life, thieving sneering party members who lost the election even after bringing unemployment to a thirty year low and actually started making sizable payments on the country's bloated debt. I hope our former Prime Minister, Laughing-Jean Chretien, is enjoying this while he contemptuously fingers his custom labeled golf ball collection and giggles.

Monday, January 09, 2006

42 Minutes

I watched tonight's political debate for 42 Minutes. It went on past that but who can stand it? Promises, palaver and preening. Followed by puking.

The only interesting point was when Paul Martin (Liberal party) claimed he would remove the federal government's ability to use the "notwithstanding clause" which gives the government the ability to piss all over the charter of rights and freedoms as long as they renew the obscenity every five years. It is funny that he saved this for an election campaign. He then asked Stephen Harper (Conservative) if he would join in supporting such a constitutional change. Now since the conservatives want to use it to keep homosexuals from buying wedding cakes and probably to keep "activist judges" from upholding the charter of rights by overturning unconstitutional laws, Harper basically gave a very polite version of "no way in hell".

The Hugo Chavez party leader, Jack Layton (New Democratic Party) promised repeatedly to make things fair for working people (big labour working people if history is any guide). I am a student so I guess I can get bent. No wait, he mentioned post secondary education so I guess I should be jumping for joy. The fact that the NDP has long been against cutting the debt and before that they were against cutting the deficit just on principle, means that we can suspect him to create a huge department full of government employees to administer any assistance to post secondary schools so that we can return to the days when people could afford a university education just in time to leave the country for work.

All parties are telling us what great things can be done by government if we just elect their party. I am going to vote this election (probably for Mr. Spoiled Ballot) but I do want to say the following to all those people who say that if you don't vote, you are not allowed to complain about the government you get:

Who would stop me? You and you little tree house army? Bring it on! The truth is that you do not forfeit your freedom of speech, freedom of expression or freedom of choice because you refused to participate in a process that has thrown away its legitimacy. Representative democracy is a step towards freedom. It is not freedom itself.

We need to spend more time in the four or five years between elections, trying to remove the reins of the economy and society from these people and their special interests, corporate backers and labour lobbyists. We need to develop technologies and systems to get the services we need for ourselves and our communities without the "help" of bureaucracies. Democracy means that the people are in power. The only way people can gain power is through emancipation from government not by transferring power to representatives. First you replace murderous kings and dictators with corrupt politicians, then you neuter the politicians. That is the proper way of things.

But I tell you this: I will immediately change my vote from spoiled ballot to the first party which is willing to stand up in parliament in the first week back and read a list of all provinces and territories who make the teaching of logic and critical thinking a mandatory requirement for all students and invite all other provinces and territories to make such requirements mandatory. Just because the federal government does not run the education system does not mean federal parties can't show leadership in this area. But then leadership will be the last service we ever get from federal government.

Any bets on whether someone will change my vote?

Ted Kennedy - Children's Author

Ted Kennedy has written a children's book that is told through the eyes of his dog Splash.

He named his dog Splash?!?! I guess Drive-drunk-and-leave-the-scene-and-forget-to-call-police-but remember-to-call-lawyer
was too long for the dog license.

Kennedy states:
"I am very excited about the opportunity to create a book for young readers and their families that will deepen their understanding of how our American government works," (emphasis mine)
This means that if it is going to be suitable for children it will have to be a complete work of fiction. I don't think many parents are going to want their kids to read stories about politicians selling their asses to lobbyists. (I bet it was text like the foregoing that kept me from accessing my own blog from the hotel kiosk over Christmas. That and all the F-words sometime back. Oh well.)

Has Kennedy really been bringing his dog to work? Between the anointing of oil and the dog hair that place must be disgusting.

The Coot Who Sprays the Golden Egg

I like learning about other cultures; including the con-men of other cultures. Apparently coughing up a golden lingam (this lingam looked more like a golden egg to me - the thing that comes out of the cloacae of magical geese on Disney cartoons so that the characters have something to fight over) is a sign of divinity in some branches of Hinduism. Wikipedea seems to think that a lingam is some kind of phallic symbol. This makes it all the more strange that this Hindu holy dude is claiming to have spat one up.

It is pretty obvious from the video that this guy is doing bad slight of hand but I also recently saw ordinary people, some of whom claimed to be skeptical of paranormal things claim to have seen a nail bend in front of them simply because of some background build up and the combined suggestion of the magician (billed to them as a psychic) and the volunteer (plant). If suggestion can make people see things that didn't happen it might not be fair to be too hard on the followers of this guy. The guru himself, however, aught to be horse-whipped though you really need good arm muscles to whip someone with a horse.

I just hope that we don't see Pat Robertson coughing up spit covered phallic symbols anytime soon.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Magic Charms for Oily Alito

So, some "Christian" ministers snuck into the Senate hearing room so that they could anoint the chairs for luck???? I can't wait to see everyone slipping and sliding off their chairs like drunken bumpkins (they might as well look the part if they are going to play the part).

Wouldn't this be the kind of behavior that would be regarded as primitive or pagan by Christians if they saw Africans and Asians doing it? Is God really more interested in our doings and dealings if we are somewhat oily? If so, I kind of know a place where he might be hanging out...

I had better hurry though because the city is trying to rezone the place.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Don't Quote the Watchtower.

The Jehovah's Witnesses have managed to negotiate (if that is the best word) a settlement that removes a Canadian website which quoted the literature they have been giving out for years.

Fortunately, this is the real world and you can not make facts disappear via litigation.

Jim Bakker Back in the Saddle

After being sentenced to 45 years in prison, Jim Bakker was released 5 years later. Apparently the parole board was not the type to take things literally.

Bakker is now convicted of fraud. But luckily for him, being convicted of fraud is not the same blow to a con-man's career as it once was (just ask Kevin Trudeau). It might be cynical of me to think that the reason con-men can maintain their reputations after being caught red-handed has something to do with the fact that schools across North America flat-out refuse to teach students the basic tools to evaluate information and critically examine arguments but I don't mind being called cynical. I suppose that to really earn the label of cynical, I should note that if you scratch beneath the surface you will find connections between the people who decide on school curricula and the people who campaign for political parties using sound bites, vacuous slogans, sophistries and other verbal pollution.

But lets get back to Jim Bakker. After his humiliation and exposure, if he were to return to the "ministry" he would certainly be a changed man; a humble servant of God. Right?

"At one point in the sermon, Bakker said he predicted the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. At another point, he claimed to have predicted that New Orleans would be devastated by a hurricane. He said he would reveal other revelations during the second part of his sermon Saturday, but only if there was no media present."
If the media are present they might report the news for free while Bakker is probably charging an entrance fee for it. While they were there, they might have ask him for some kind of evidence that he predicted September 11th and Hurricane Katrina. Hey Jim, I predicted them too. Can I get a speaking engagement now?
"He said six years ago God revealed to him 31 things that would happen during the biblical last days."
My favorite line of this Article is when Jim is quoted as saying "I don't profess to be a prophet".
Yes he does! He just gets done saying that God talks to him and he predicts the future. What exactly is he professing to be? If you say that God talks to you and you can predict the future you are claiming to be one of two things: a prophet or a big fat liar. Since he then claims not to be a prophet, I guess we are to come to the only other conclusion available. At least he is coming closer to being honest about it than ever before. For Jim, telling a lie that is so bold-faced that it can not possibly be believed is as close to the truth as he can get. His audience still gave him a standing ovation though. Mind boggling!

I am not a big fan of organized religion but if one is going shopping for one, should one not be expected to use some common sense? Is God really likely to send important updates on his future plans for the planet through a convicted con-man? Surely there are a couple of clean clerics left in the world for God to call on. At least with Pat Robertson you get to buy diet drinks while you get your spiritual instruction. Hell, Scientology will zap all the space ghosts out of you while you worship (oh wait, Scientologists don't worship anything - except maybe Hubbard's ass [I CALL "NO LAWSUITS"!! Humor... satire... all in good fun]). All Jim offers is 31 pieces of God's gossip. It is aught-six now Jimmy. You need promotional gimmicks.

I think I will try to help Jim out with an idea for marketing his comeback. Prayer oil, prayer cloths, prepackaged vials of holy water and sacred underwear have all been taken. What about offering stained glass prescription eye wear? Correct your vision miraculously while the colors of Saint Barnabas inspire your mind.

You know, I really should get into this industry. The freedom of religion concept is the best liability insurance going as long as you keep your finances clean and there is no tax on the prophets/profits. Of course, I will need to stop griping about schools not teaching critical thinking skills. Something to think about.


Day By Day© by Chris Muir.