Thursday, June 30, 2011

Should math be taught in schools?

You've seen this already but in case you haven't.

Friday, June 24, 2011

California becomes even more backwoods as time goes by...

New York just legalized gay marriage. California was a trailblazer for a little while there, now we're less social and advanced than Iowa. But, then it's really hard to be more progressive and equal than Iowa. We'd need to treat people as human.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Mark Shea and various drivel.

So in some distant corner of the internet I am discussion religion with religious people and was offered in part an article by Mark Shea that was dreadful, I did my due dilligence and tore it up but I figured since it hit upon some of the very general important bits of Plantinga's argument against naturalism I should repost it here.
Mark Shea's article is rather terrible. It first parrots the claim that if God doesn't exist that atheists should care less. This is both dismissive and wrong. I care deeply when my fellow human beings fritter their lives away on harmful dangerous nonsense.

And then it notes Haldane's objection which is parroted by C.S. Lewis and rehashed more modernly by the likes of Plantinga with his argument against naturalism. Largely that if minds are naturally evolved that they cannot be dependable. Therefore that belief is (minds are naturally evolved) is undependable. The mistake here is more subtle because it is discounting all of epistemology and science. It's entirely true that our minds are made of atoms and that our minds are evolved and that our minds suffer from massive cognitive biases and mistakes, hallucinations, sensory errors, perception mistakes, etc. The question then becomes how do we get around these problems? How can we, considering the limited nature of our brains, manage to come about to find beliefs which are likely true. Not just give us a feeling of certainty but which are something we should really accept. And the answer is largely by delegating our beliefs the best we can to reality. Testing those beliefs and coming up with the best conclusion we can and be ready to abandon that conclusion the instant it stops being the best. Generally, we need to build a functional epistemology from the ground up.

The conclusion that others offer is that we should just dive into our biases assume that our minds are designed by God and can do no wrong. And that believing otherwise forces one to do the really hard job of living a examined rather than unexamined life. But, that our brains are evolved and cognitive biases exist are manifestly true. The conclusions of Lewis and Plantinga is basically to claim that "maybe your brain is faulty, but my brain is perfect" which is the clearest hobgoblin of a faulty mind one could make manifest.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Science and the application of Relgion.

"Science works for everything else. The reluctance to use it for religion may have to do with the fact that science slices through the tissue paper nonsense of theology like a hot knife through non-existent butter."

Thanks to Regina for noting how awesome this turn of phrase is.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Biases and Epistemology.

The NY Times has a pretty good article on the reason for reason. It's not entirely wrong as there's a lot of cognitive biases and people tend towards defending their own ideas and attacking other people's ideas than about testing their ideas and rejecting them when they are wrong. Reason, used in this sense, is a tool or rather a cudgel for beating people with who disagree with what you believe, rather than taking any time to stop and consider and try to suss out what the truth is, rather than make your Truth win out over others Truths.

The understandings here should convince one that there's a deep and serious need for epistemology. That understanding how we should properly determine what is true and what isn't true is singularly important if you care whether your beliefs are true. If you care only about winning, then your beliefs are irrelevant. You can preach the gospel or fear the coming rapture. You can call Obama a socialist or claim that we should be socialist. The arguments and beliefs are largely pointless and unneeded. What matters is the truth, and to know the truth we need to know how we know we know.

I think that science is the only usable metric in this regard. That without testing our ideas against nature, we can't know anything about nature. The empiricism is a virtue. That if you accept evidence over your own current beliefs. You must have a low evidential inertia. You must find the evidence to be the ultimate arbiter, and everything wrong to be cast out. When Einstein did the calculations on what his theory said about the perihelion of Mercury, he about fainted, because it was right. It was observational evidence. But, if he were wrong, he would have rightly chucked it out the window, just as Kepler had to do with his rather beautiful analogy of the rotation of the planets as being within the perfect geometric shapes. It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory, if it doesn't fit the evidence it's wrong.

Therein is the real difference. That's the core of the issue. Without confronting the idea of epistemology you just get talking heads yelling at each other and argument is going to be nothing more than an attempt to win, and have very little to do with producing the correct result.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bayes Theorem and the Holy Ghost

>>but I also have to come to grips with the reality of my religious experiences. Are they simply neurons or some psychological trick my brain is playing with me, or has a higher being worked within my life and the lives of multitudes?

This is where Bayes theorem would come in handy. Do we know of any psychological tricks that brains do? Well, for one there is the supposition that the brain is playing tricks with you, rather than the reality that the brain IS you, among a great number of other clear biases. And how many supernatural superbeings do we know of that alter mental states? Well, none. So we'll have to assume one ad hoc, without any motivation or plausible physics by which it could exist. So which theory is more likely? Something we know can and does exist, exists or that with no evidence in support of it, a being with superpowers in an invisible realm is fiddling with your brain to tell you to do things you want to do?

Keep in mind this superbeing is also telling other humans radically different and contradictory things also directly in line with their personal wants too.

The explanations that former religious people give that they realized that they were telling themselves these things the whole time explains everything. The explanation you are leaning towards supposes superbeings in invisible realms telepathically communicating with everybody and telling different people contradictory things, but perfectly in line with their wants.

The methodology of miracles, the failures of science.

Miracles are often established by exclusion. For example Lourdes has an established protocol of miracles that it must be shown to have no proper medical explanation before being accepted as an official miracle. This is much like calling a light in the sky an alien spacecraft because you ruled out everything you could think of. It's absurd and contradictory. It's saying, quite blatantly, I have no explanation therefore I have an explanation. While this prologue is interesting in it's own right, I want to say something else.

I think science should take it as a huge complement, that such a flawed methodology is even supposed. It is saying quite literally: "Science couldn't explain it. It's a miracle!" How many volumes does that speak for the efficacy of science?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Bronies and the Patriarchy.

So I went to Fark as I tend to do from time to time. I'm not an active person there, but I do check the place. Heck my Fark ID number is 4 digits, and very low four digits. And there was an article on Adult Men who Like My Little Pony. Expecting the worst I checked the comments, fully expecting to find manboobz (a blog that points out misogynist bigotry) level fail. I was amazed to not find that.

I came to the thread expected to find patriarchal hate for those deemed to not live up to the standards of manliness. I found a bunch of people who generally agree that the show is good and liking it, isn't that weird.

Apparently Bronies (Bro-Ponies) are neither weird nor uncommon, and apparently for all my pessimism the new My Little Pony show gets pretty rave reviews for being for preteen girls. And while there are a few people claiming that they would like to murder Bronies, they were astoundingly a small minority.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Alexander Hamilton Hiphop.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Christianity by prophetic evidence.

>>I say Christianity is true, by the prophetic fulfillment (various empires arising, wars coming to pass, Messianic prophetic fulfillments, eschatological fulfillments like Israels' rebirth, etc.),

I don't think any of these count. Not just because I'm a doubter but because I think any of them could be considered prophetic in reality. And it ignores all the failed prophecies in the Bible. I mean the end of the world was going to be in Jesus' generation, over and over we hear this. It was downright soon, and yet nothing.

Compare some of these to the prophecies of Nostradamus. I'm not saying Nostradamus was magical, but he was fairly secular. And the comparisons are clear. You can get these prophecies from pretty much anywhere. Wars typically happen, especially in the first millennium. If somebody predicted there would be no more wars, that would be amazing. If true, that would be miraculous. That wars happen and countries arising, etc, are facts of life. Not magical predictions. Muhammad predicted Islam would splinter into many different factions. It has! OMG!

Next the Messianic prophecies, are written into the Bible. If you look at the scholarship and the proper understanding of the Bible, we can see that the major edits between Mark->Luke and Mark->Matthew are edits to establish prophecies as true. If this means adding in a hamfisted genealogy that contradicts the other hamfisted genealogy so be it. If it means writing a bizarre narrative where everybody has to go back to their father's birth-town when *NOBODY* would ever do that, so be it. And what's more you can see them making it fit prophecies that didn't even exist. Matthew 2:15 says it's a prophecy that "Out of Egypt, I have called my Son" but that's from Hosea 11:1 and says "11:1 When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt." -- It's talking about Exodus. The author of that part of Matthew made them go to Egypt just to get out of Egypt, in an origin story directly in conflict to the added stuff Luke adds. Or going to Bethlehem (Matthew 2:5) to fulfill Micah 5:2 that's about a military leader who according to Micah 5:6 will lay waste to Assyria by sword, and Bethlehem Ephratah is a clan. It's a group of people and says as much! How much credit should I give prophecies like this? What about demonstrations of power? Muhammad pointed at the moon and broke it into two pieces. Isn't that amazing? It says so in the Koran, which was magically dictated to to Muhammad (who couldn't even write). How are these that amazing.

Finally eschatological predictions are a fickle thing. Perhaps you should read the book "88 reasons why the world will end in 1988", which is filled with escatological predictions. Further, have you read the Israel prophecy? It doesn't say that. Further, the prophecy was purposely fulfilled. So the Bible doesn't really say that but part of the reasons Israel was brought about was because people said it was prophesied! It would be as amazing as saying that somebody will post to this thread the words "Rosebud, pickle, vicecounte." -- It's an amazing prophecy. I mean, those are randomish words, "vicecounte" is even misspelled! What are the odds? Well really they are quite good.

"I have my faith, and others have faith in only the certainty of death" - No. That's obvious and dishonest. They have faith in the same sorts of nonsense. The 2012 apocalypse with Nibiru, Camping's new end of the world is in October. There's people with faith in Nostradamus, and even a group that thinks that the song American Pie is a prophecy of a coming apocalypse. And they all have faith, and as good of evidence as you do. So really, what makes your religion special? Shouldn't they rightly have as much faith in the 12th Imam because of the known miracles of Muhammad and the holiest of Miracles of the Koran itself? They seem exactly as reliable and if your religion is the true religion, shouldn't it seem better than all those, as we agree, fake religions? Shouldn't God's real chosen religion, be awesome enough to overcome the general human biases that keeps them believing what they were taught as children?

I'm trying out OTF as an argument. That it doesn't matter because a religion should be better than others if it's true. That if God chose your religion or made your religion that it should be important, or right. It should be good enough to exceed the natural human cognitive biases that are all around us.  It seems remarkably good, but generally most anti-theist arguments are pretty good.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The dangers of phantom Bible quotes?

In the midst of a rather fru-fru article on not-really-in-the-Bible Bible Quotes it makes a rather odd claims that they are dangerous! *GASP*

Getting biblical scriptures and stories wrong may not seem significant, but it can become dangerous, one scholar says.

Most people have heard this one: “God helps those that help themselves.” It’s another phantom scripture that appears nowhere in the Bible, but many people think it does. It's actually attributed to Benjamin Franklin, one of the nation's founding fathers.

"Danger Will Robinson! Danger!" - 4 Corinthians  5:6

Where's the danger? Somebody might think American values are Biblical? That self reliance and personal individuality are Biblical notions? Well compared to slavery, genocide, and treating women like chattel which actually *ARE* Biblical notions, how dangerous does this read?

Some of the guilty parties are anonymous, lost to history. They are artists and storytellers who over the years embellished biblical stories and passages with their own twists.
Yeah, and prior to the 4th century they'd get added in here and there. So silly Journalist, let he who is without sin cast the first stone!

And if you’re a preacher telling a story about Jonah, doesn’t it just sound better to say that Jonah was swallowed by a whale, not a “great fish”?

For the life of me, I don't get it. You can't live inside either. It's not like whales have air in them, the oxygen is stored in their blood. You drown both ways. It's a stupid story either way, right up there with talking donkeys and talking snakes (oh! I mean serpent, goodness forbid we miss that distinction that makes no difference) because talking critters are totally real and not strongly indicative of fairy tales.

Still waiting for some dangers. Or are the dangers much more mild than reading what's actually in the Bible.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Objectivity to Christianity.

Something I wrote elsewhere about using the Outsider Test of Faith:

Mostly I'm pointing it out because it of the Outsider Test of Faith. I'm currently reading the Christian Delusion which is everything critics claimed the God delusion should be. A scholarly work that deals with the nuances of Christian faith by experts in their fields. It's the best thing I've read. (yes the sentence ended there). -- But, it is a really good set of points that certainty is an emotion and that humans are well primed toward biases. We emotionally react to threatened beliefs, when we should let them rise or fall on their merits. And as children we believe whatever we're told. So simply telling children there is a God suffices to make them believers who defend the faith. But, it holds equally true for any faith. Especially in light of this we must, necessarily, strive to examine religion objectively. Because if you are a God who is intent on burning people forever in hell for failing to believe, you really should make your chosen religion able to be believed objectively. Such that you don't already have to be that religion, to believe that religion. That you could be compelled away from your current faith to the correct faith reliably by something. But, if we honestly look at the evidence and we can't find one religion that consistently wins (except perhaps Secular Humanism or Scientific/Naturalist Pantheism). If we try to use any metric objectively, we consistently find that every religion is true (which means the metric doesn't work) or we find that none of them are. This ultimately is a very serious problem for religion.

If what you use to believe your religion can be used to believe any religion, then you are necessarily treating your religion differently than you treat other people's religions, and since we can all agree other religions are false religions. Then what you are using to believe your religion can be used to believe false religions. -- It's a pretty critical problem for religion, but it's also a fairly new set of arguments so I might as well give them a whirl. After all, the logic is pretty inescapable, your religion should be different if it's right, so we should determine a way to figure this out. We have reliable methods for determining truth, and they determine your religion is false. We can use unreliable methods for determining truth, but they determine that all religions are true. -- And it's not really gotcha logic. Maybe there is a method of consistently determining truth, and only Christianity passes. As such, we would then be right to convert to Christianity. But, at a minimum we must look at religions the same way those not of that religion view them, and doing so reveals the same obvious flaws that are so apparent to everybody else. Asking one to accept talking reptiles, and talking donkeys, magical trees and worldwide floods is bad enough when you have your personal feelings of certainty to rely on, but when you need to do so objectively? It's laughable. If somebody-else's religion had those, Christians would point and laugh on a daily basis. -- So asking for objectivity, is actually rather damning to the faith.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

So I'm doing research for a simple facebook post and...

Having looked up zoonotic diseases of birds I'm subjected to the following topic point:


Um, wtf. Where else would they come from. You want human specialized diseases? Or do you count those against too. Is HIV started with animals because it jumped over from chimps in like 1900? And humans are animals. What the hell? Most diseases started with rocks? And what do you mean started? I mean a lot of them are bacteria and they started some couple billion years ago along with all the rest of the life around.

That's just stupid. I'll get better rage on other topics later.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ego-Surfing, finds...

So I went ego-surfing (basically google Tatarize) as it's only going to link to me and I found something cool I wrote back in 2006:

[A]m I rational in thinking that there is  a desk before me when I seem to see it?
Yes. That is rational. Firstly, desks are known to exist. People have jobs making desks. People buy desks.  People use desks. It is true that you could be completely insane and think there is a desk where there is not. However, then one needs to explain what keeps your stuff from falling and why everybody else similarly believes that such a desk exists. It becomes much less rational to disbelieve in the desk than to believe in the desk.

If so, what grounds are there to suppose that mystic experiences are not also legitimate ways of knowing?
The same grounds which existed for concluding that the desk existed. Do people have jobs making mystic experiences (outside of drug dealers)? Do people buy mystic experience? Do other people share an exact same mystic experience (do they also see the walls melting)? Can we test these things and find the results consistent with other things in existence? Does the absence of mystic experience leave a number of hard lingering questions? It does not become less rational to disbelieve. In such a situation, belief becomes clearly the irrational path.

Why assume that empirical investigation is the only way reality can be grasped?
Because 'empirical' deals with reality. Should we attempt to grasp reality by what exists in reality or things which do not exist in reality? Asking why we should use empirical investigation to discern reality is like asking why we should aim for the hoop when we want to make a basket.

Secondly, there are certain fruits of these labors. For example, the internet functions with the aid of a number physical properties and quantum phenomenon. We didn't learn about these by investigating how ghosts manage to push light through fine strands of glass? How long should we have spend testing for goblins within transistors?

Investigations into the supernatural, into gods and ghosts, horoscopes and rabbit feet have produced nothing. They have *never* given us a greater understanding of reality. We have never used ufology to make a better mousetrap or speed up a computer, only empirical investigations do that.

In short, we should look to reality when we intend to grasp reality. Because, it's the only thing that has ever worked and produced repeatable results; results which have given us all the technology we use everyday and all the understanding about the world we have today.

Damn I was good.