Monday, December 19, 2011

Christianity Invented?

So I ran across this article and basically it was horrible crap and I told em why. But, put a lot of work into it so I also posted it here.

Christianity existed prior to Constantine significantly so. It's the start of a terrible conspiracy theory to suggest otherwise. Much of the supposed external sources for a historical Jesus are from the second and third centuries and do no claim Jesus was real but expressly do establish that Christians actually existed. There was a push at the time to create one religion for one empire and Christianity did become the state religion afterwards. But there's every reason to suppose that any other religion could have done just as well and would likely have been more Roman than some middle-eastern blood cult.

You suggest that Christianity is a copycat religion, this is largely false and based on the work of Graves. Who was so sloppy as to be effectively worthless. Of the 16 mythical crucifixions most are outright fabrications or huge stretches to suppose that Osiris being cut into pieces is a "crufixition". Which isn't to say there weren't other blood magic crucified saviors, the Thracian God Zalmoxis is actually attested to in the BCE and was crucified and through his magical blood you can live forever in a spiritual realm. However, Graves never cited this. Rather he cited things like Chrishna who was not ever said to be crucified until there was a massive Christian influence in the region. And since these aren't properly attested and when, we have little to go on to suppose this. And saying that Mithra was crucified is downright absurd. Mithra's amazing feat was that he was born of a rock and slew a cosmic bull of some sort. There's little on their actual beliefs but what we know largely comes from a pictograph. In short, the only way anybody could say what you're saying is if they believed terrible scholarship and outright falsehoods. There's absolutely no historical records to indicate Mithra ever died much less died by crucifixion. With so many good arguments for the failures of Christianity or arguments you can draw out by pointing out the religion claims the universe is fundamentally hinged on the oxygen carrying cells of terrestrial animals as to propose that God needed blood to fix the universe, and only his own blood had enough magic to do it, so he gave himself a body and killed it. This is absurd as a genuine cosmology, but is exactly what superstitious people obsessed with blood magic would come up with if invented a religion, and lo and behold exactly such a people existed exactly where Christianity is first practiced.

Such arguments are terrible in a sea of great potential arguments to the point that it undercuts the entire case by even offering them (maybe somebody knows the most basic elements of the story of Horus or Mithra and can so easily scoff at them, that they will feel justified scoffing at all of them. If you give a bad argument along with good arguments, established cognitive biases are such that if they can see through the bad arguments they won't even address the good arguments.

The purpose of the Council of Nicaea was largely to establish the true Christian faith and condemn the heresies of Arianism. Deciding the true Christianity and outlawing all those others. It was the domination of Trinitarianism not the whole sale invention of Christianity.

While it is true that Eusebius argued for lying for Jesus and likely did. It is even the case that every copy of Josephus' work we have today that includes the Testimonium Flavium comes from a specific copy owned by Eusebius and that there's certainly a chance that he was the one who actually made that forgery. It is also the case that most all of the given external sources for a historical Jesus are significantly flawed. Most simply are late first and early second century documents which attest to the existence of Christians. And therein is a significant problem for your proposed thesis. Rather than evidence for it, you're saying that all of these documents can't even attest to the existence of Christians. Nor can there have been pretty much any of the early church fathers. Somehow all of the writings of Origen (AD 184/5–253/4), are actually fraudulent and don't really exist? Seriously? And that's just Origen, there's a dozen others Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Tertuillian, etc. Who defended the faith in the second and third centuries. They must all be fiction as well? Many of the Early church fathers argued for a Christianity much like the one that survived Nicaea.

Christianity existed long before Rome. The claims you are making is so absurd as to be downright shame worthy. With the bounties of proper claims why would anybody make the claims you're offering here? It's so bad and scattershot as to make the entire post worthless because you can't tell the mistakes from the points you got right, so much so that you'd be better off disregarding everything you said and doing all the research yourself. And that's not even considering the minor points like you suppose the library of Alexandria was burned to get rid of other gospels or evidence that Christianity didn't exist, or that the "The Serapeum housed the Great Library of Alexandria." Neither of which is true. They burnt the temple and the Serapeum burnt too. But, it wasn't the library of Alexandria, it was a separate annex across the town from the library that housed some of the books of the library. It was more to do with the civil unrest and general not caring about the books than it was an overt attempt at censorship. There were many other copies of the books the Library housed throughout Europe, they didn't get destroyed by fire or to suppress anything but rather they mostly rotted and nobody ever cared to rewrite them or save them during the dark ages.

Even the minor stuff you get horribly wrong. And you're using it to draw an absurd conclusion. It would be better to not read what you wrote, because it's filled with so many mistakes that it would likely make you wronger after you read the thing, than the small possibility that you rightfully correct somebody's mistaken impression.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Intelligent Design Pre-Darwin, Naturalism, and Evidence.

Prior to the theory of evolution by natural selection, Intelligent Design was the theory supported by all the evidence. Scientists from Galen, Newton, Jefferson, Galileo, even Darwin when he was younger accepted this as the best explanation for how such amazing functional complexity could exist in the human body. The only alternative at the time being chance, and chance was a clear loser.

There wasn't a lack of any evidence, but rather a huge amount of evidence for the propositions. Which weren't as much magical thinking as we would think today as they were simply unknown. They weren't wrong for thinking this way. They honestly were very rational and went where the evidence lead them, and it lead them towards something that had many of the attributes one would ascribe to a God.

It actually was good evidence for God. Which is why when evolution came around and kicked that ideas' teeth in, all the foremost scientists in the world went from largely being deists and theists to being atheists. For this diversity of life to exist without God requires that there be a process like evolution that could create the diversity out of only randomness and time, and lo and behold there is *EXACTLY* such a process.

It isn't proof or certainty, but the fact of the matter is that evolution is good evidence that there is no God. It would be remarkably strange for God to create a universe whereby God need not exist, considering with God every universe would be possible. However, if there were no God, we would have to have a universe like this universe.

The chances that we'd have this universe are much higher if there is no God. And such claims that the only alternative to our current science is nothing at all is absurd. From preformation to Phlogiston and miasma, we've been wrong before, but we were lead there because that's actually what reasonable logical inference and evidence led us to conclude.

Ignoring such things and thinking the other side is a blank slate is actually kissing away an easy win. If you assert nothing, and they only assert bad arguments, when you've torn through their bad arguments you've finally managed to tie, because you never pointed out that what you're saying has always been the case and that the universe actually is particularly good evidence that they're wrong. And that what you're saying isn't an implicit assumption of science but rather the conclusion of science. It isn't that science must assume that the supernatural doesn't exist but rather than science works so damned well without it that that is considerable evidence that it doesn't. Science builds on the shoulders of other science, and the if one treats naturalism as a theory, you will find it has considerable evidence to support it, no evidence that contradicts it, and that it works effectively as a base theory for the rest of science. You need not exclude the supernatural a priori, you can do so a posterori. The supernatural doesn't work, it never has, and has always been wrong. It's not some special bias against supernatural claims but rather the fact that it's always been wrong that rightfully leads one to assume it would be wrong this time as well.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Either it's true or it isn't, 50/50.

I actually had somebody insist that their position was a coin flip because it was either true or not.

I am saying that the universe is natural phenomenon. That the only answer that has ever been right is generally the most likely answer for any new questions. You are saying that God needed blood to fix the universe and some bits of Semitic mythology are true even though they describe a radically alien universe. -- You don't get to slap a 50/50 on that bad boy. It's a horse race. My horse has never ever lost. Your horse has never ever won. My explanation has been the answer to everything we've ever figured out. Your answer has never been the answer to anything ever in the history of the universe!


Friday, December 2, 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011


You'd always think that such things would be such a resounding slam dunk that nobody would believe it. You can make somebody watch this, have them fact check the data, and they'd still just ignore it.

Ask Tat: The Why of Gayness.

"Is being gay a product of choice, preference, environment or is it caused by a mutated sex determining gene?"

None of the above. These are often given as the main guesses but they are notabily wrong and naive. A couple facts of gayness.

1) Twins share sexual preference to a greater degree than siblings share sexual preference.
2) Identical twins share sexual preference to a greater degree than fraternal twins.
3) Identical twins do not share 100% identical sexual preference.
4) The youngest son of a woman who has had several sons has a statistically significant increased chance of being homosexual.
5) This increased chance does not exist if the child is not biologically hers.

These aren't in dispute. And they tell us a lot of what the answer could be. In that it's not choice, and it's not strictly genetics. It is to some degree congenial (being established during gestation), and to some degree genetic. Because twins are more likely to share sexual orientation than siblings and they are genetically just siblings. But, identical twins don't absolutely share sexual identity, which would be a requirement if it were genetic because they would share all of their genes.

So we're likely talking about something that is genetically influenced, that happens during development in a rather complicated cascade of hormones that isn't absolute. The ability to turn off the attraction to one sex during development isn't absolute. In fact, in bonobos it's completely gone leaving the population to be completely bisexual. Attraction to generally one gender more than another isn't an exacting thing, it's actually somewhat vague and sometimes wrong. Just as gender identity is often wrong, and a large degree of inter-sexed people. The fact is, being attracted to men, is perfectly common and typical for women. So it's not as much some kind of freak mutation as a imperfect sexual dimorphism of a somewhat useful but generally unrequired non-attraction to one gender. Both non-attraction to men and non-attraction to women are common but they are generally closely tied with one's gender. Being closely rather than absolutely means that gayness exists.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Richard Carrier on Bayes.

I preblogged this. I'm so sure it's awesome I'm already posting it and saying it's epic. Or at the least we can say that it's more epic than all the alternatives.

I am so smart! Minecraft triangulation.

I'm posting this to be humble.

If I weren't humble, I would post this to Facebook or something where people could see it. So playing Minecraft, there's a newly added end game section to the game. Where you can actually beat the thing rather than an endless sandbox. Well, to get there you can track Eyes of Ender, which are silly things that you throw into the sky that fly up and land towards the Fortress, where you might be able to get to the end part. I realized that you can just triangulate the position. After two throws at P(-32,-198) which ended at P(-22,-198) and P(-250,-1556) which ended at P(-241, -1546) I calculated the position at P(972,-198). We went there, dug around, and found the sucker at P(1070,-101). The important bit being that we found the sucker. Seriously, there's so much space in the game and I found the sucker with math. When used right, Math is like a super-power.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Quotes: Richard Carrier.

"God needs blood to fix the universe, but only his own blood had enough magical power to do it, so he gave himself a body and then killed it." - Richard Carrier.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Don't Talk to the Police

It's seriously one of the best lectures you'll run into.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I often love to cite unicorns as mythological creatures in some rants...

But, I actually pull my punches because years ago I ran into this stupid site:

It's so stupid as to have a special bubbly mouse cursor and anything but it makes a pretty good case that unicorns under some definitions do exist.

Hm. You know, DarkMatter2525 might be on to something.

I admit it's a bit speculative, but really does fit the observed phenomenon well. When a god believer tells you to believe in their God. It's a bit like they are offering this figure in their heads to you, that they have come to know and love. And telling them, no, that doesn't exist, and you're wrong. Really is a kind of rejection of God (of their God in their head) and of that person. Reacting emotionally is the obvious response, whereas I've analogized it to becoming upset because I don't believe in bigfoot, but theists don't have a person relationship with bigfoot.

"Hey, do you want to go steady with my God?" -- No. Your God is fake, stupid, doesn't make any sense. Nobody should go steady with that mythological hogwash.

So ofcourse there's definite rejection going on there.

"Hey, do you want to go steady with my God?" -- No. I'm already going steady with MY God. 

Understandably, far less animosity there.

It puts things like Julia Sweeney's Letting God of God chapter where she "breaks up with God" in a new light.

The margin between science and faith.

There's some margin between what we know and what is possible. For example if you want to think the universe is 13.6 billion years old, you're in luck that's within the margin of error for the last WMAP readings. If your religion says that the universe works by loop quantum gravity, you're in luck it very well might. If your religion says the universe is 6,000 years old, you're just wrong. That's well outside the margin of error.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cutting glass is hard.

Just saying, how pass fail is that. You either cut it correctly or you need another thing of glass. Long story short I changed a very broken window in my house for a slightly broken window, that I cut and kinda glued the bits back on. And only really had the one large enough piece of scrap glass. My mistake was using the glass cutter after I broke it. I fixed it with a pin, a nail, and a screwdriver, but it didn't cut the same (I cut a bunch of smaller bits of scrap glass to practice).

Friday, October 21, 2011

Harold Camping says the world ends today.

Be ready, we may have to fight flying insects with goat heads or something. Yeah, sure he wasn't spot on come May, but he's certainly right this time. He's gotta be right.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

An early review of Darwin. Exactly right.

In the theory with which we have to deal, Absolute Ignorance is the artificer; so that we may enunciate as the fundamental principle of the whole system, that, IN ORDER TO MAKE A PERFECT AND BEAUTIFUL MACHINE, IT IS NOT REQUISITE TO KNOW HOW TO MAKE IT. This proposition will be found, on careful examination, to express, in condensed form, the essential purport of the Theory, and to express in a few words all Mr. Darwin's meaning; who, by a strange inversion of reasoning, seems to think Absolute Ignorance fully qualified to take the place of Absolute Wisdom in all the achievements of creative skill.

(from an anonymous review of a work on evolution, Atheneum, 2102, 8 February, 1867, p. 217.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Red Line on Monitor, who's your friend?

So if I tweak my monitor the red line going down it will sometimes go away. I did this a couple times with fantasies that if I keep it that way it would stay that way. Now, there's a red line and a green line!


Friday, October 7, 2011

Memristors are coming. Yay.

First properly developed a few years ago, Memristors have a really interesting property that as you send a current through them it changes the resistance as a lingering effect. And since it's pretty much just a special type of wire, and requires no transistors to work or capacitors like DRAM, it ends up being really really really tiny and taking very very little power. They are set now to replace SSD, and hopefully end up replacing a lot of computer memory including the memory on CPUs. With this technology it, you could significantly reduce the amount of electricity a computer needs. And, actually stop the computer without losing the computer's current state. You could turn it off, and all the data would stay where it currently is and turning it back on wouldn't change anything.

But, even without utilizing those properties yet, you still have faster and cheaper and better. Even if you don't yet need the non-volatile abilities for things which have traditionally been volatile. Also interesting technology in the pipeline (not at HP that I know of), non-volatile displays. It turns out there's more than a few ways to replace the current LCD displays which use refreshing liquid crystals with backlighting to technology that simply reflects different colors. Like a paper that changes what is printed on it. Then what is displayed on the screen stays on the screen, and if you take your device into the sunlight, it gets even more clear rather than bleaching out.

There's a lot of interesting technology out there, that's coming to fruition.

Skeuomorphs vestiges in human objects.

A skeuomorph is a derivative object that retains ornamental design cues to a structure that was necessary in the original. Skeuomorphs may be deliberately employed to make the new look comfortably old and familiar, such as copper cladding on zinc pennies or computer printed postage with circular town name and cancellation lines. An alternative definition is "an element of design or structure that serves little or no purpose in the artifact fashioned from the new material but was essential to the object made from the original material"

Monday, October 3, 2011

Quote: Ernestine Rose

Do you tell me that the Bible is against our rights? Then I say that our claims do not rest upon a book written no one knows when, or by whom. Do you tell me what Paul or Peter says on the subject? Then again I reply that our claims do not rest on the opinions of any one, not even on those of Paul and Peter, . . . Books and opinions, no matter from whom they came, if they are in opposition to human rights, are nothing but dead letters. -- Ernestine Rose, Feminist, Suffragette, Atheist, Abolitionist

Sunday, September 25, 2011

My take on faster than light neutrinos.

Clearly what's happening is that EM travels through some medium we never accounted for even in a vacuum (what's a real vacuum in this universe anyway?). Neutrinos are so weakly interacting that they can completely ignore all everything and go at c. It's not that c is wrong but rather that we've been wrongly measuring it by measuring photons in a pseudo-vacuum. Whereas neutrinos are so largely unaffected by things that they come much closer to the actual value of c, because vacuum-spacuum you can send them through the Earth and they'd never hit a damned thing. My guess is that our typical measurements of the speed of light do not take into account the index of refraction of spacetime due to zero point energy. Which would be experienced by photons but not by neutrinos.

That or they're just wrong.

But, heck any medium does slow down light and less interacting bits of even the EM spectrum get slowed down at different rates. This is dispersion and it's the reason we get rainbows. Because different parts of white light are slowed down by different amounts. So in air you will find that radio waves can travel faster than the speed of light in air. Really a few scientists managed to stop light completely, and before that slow it down to a crawl. Heck, I can run faster than light in such cases. But, I certainly don't run at c.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Comments: Species Demarcation.

Kay asks:
Explain this for me if you will. The other day I saw a post from a creationist stating that the Theory of Evolution has to have some fault in it because there is no interbreeding of species. How in layman's terms did the first humans evolve from apes and then proceed to separate themselves from the apes? At what point did breeding with apes stop by humans?

That's not the theory of evolution. That's a question of taxonomy and demarcation. It's a real problem, but mostly with the way we typically think about such things, as oppose to the reality of evolution. Evolution doesn't directly deal with speciation, or how far is far enough to say that one species stops and another species starts. That's like asking where childhood ends and adulthood begins. There's just not a clear point.

Evolution says that the struggle for existence and nature selecting such that the most advantaged individuals have the most children who are similarly advantaged. This ensures that species tend to adapt better to whatever niche (way of living, food etc) they occupy. Evolution says that species adapt to changing conditions of life, and can result in amazing adaptations and solutions to environmental problems. This is all evolution says. Things go forward. But since they go forward in different ways, they also tend to drift apart.

Where the species fork, and part irrevocably is a matter of happenstance and saying how far is far enough, and what a species is, turns out to be a harder problem than one would suppose because gene pools in populations do not adhere to the sort of Platonic ideals. There is no perfect human. There's no absolute ape. There's no abstract rabbit to which all rabbitness is to be compared. That's just not the way it works.

If you go child, to mother, to grandmother, to great grandmother, and so forth and go back 350,000 generations, you'll never hit a point where a child was a different species than it's mother. It just doesn't happen. However, if you do this, with me and you do this with Oliver the Chimpanzee you'll end up at the same critter. My 350,000th grandmother is likely the same as his 350,000th grandmother. And at no point were any of my ancestors a different species than their direct offspring. And at no point were any of his ancestors a different species than their direct offspring. But, at some point, at some time, you could draw a line and say that these distant cousins are now two different species. But, that line would always be arbitrary.

We think there's some absolute human, that somehow adheres to a Platonic ideal of humanness. But, really that's not how things work. I mean, would one consider Neandertals a different species than human beings? They broke off the main human lines some 600,000 years ago. But, it turns out that modern humans interbred with them, and anybody with European ancestry is like 3% Neandertal. So are they really human? Were they always human? The Denisova hominims broke off of the Neandertal stock, and share a common ancestry with homo sapiens some 600,000 years ago too. But, they too interbred with humans in modern Melanesians (people in Oceania, like Vanatu where you get black-skinned kids with blond hair likely due to such influence). And apparently Denisova also from time to time (if a newly found toe bone is to be believed) bred with their closer cousins the Neandertals. So were any of these really different species? Under different definitions there are different answers, because the term species is absolute and evolution is gradual and progressive.

Species in some sense are a sort of hind sight thing. It is certain that at one time all of the rodents and all of the lagomorphs (rabbits, hares, pikas) had a last common ancestor (which DNA analysis suggests lived ~90.1 million years ago). This last common ancestor had at least two offspring. One of which gave rise to all the mice, rats, capybara, beavers, squirrels, porcupines, etc, and the other which gave rise to every rabbit, hare, and pika. Somewhere along the line, you can draw a line, but it would an arbitrary line. And is somewhat irrelevant to the actual history that actually happened with regard to their populations. And more and more this is what we're finding. Taxonomy is largely what we tend to call things, we give populations names. But they aren't that exact thing, there is no exact thing. They gradually change all the time.

This is largely why more and more we're trying to move away from such things. Replacing the typical system of taxonomy with a nested hierarchy so we can say that this last common ancestor of rodents and lagomorphs was a glires and so are all of its offspring. But, this ancestor doesn't necessarily fit into any of the subgroups of it's progeny.

So if for example in the distant future, many animals have died off, and bats have diversified to take over their now open niches. Let's say there are bats that swarm during the day, bats that swim under the ocean, bats the size of mosquitoes that suck blood from bats that that graze in the fields. All of these bats would be different species, but they would never stop being bats. There would be more groups inside the old groups, but the old groups, which would be the species we currently know, wouldn't stop being real. Perhaps the bats under the ocean and the bats that graze in the fields, and the ones that burrow into trees to hunt for insects, would all be fruit bats. So fruit bats wouldn't be a species but rather a group of distinct species (to some extent they are as there's many species of fruit bats), just as the glires are a group that gave rise to every rabbit and rodent on the planet.

Which is a long way around to the question you initially asked. Largely this creationist is confused as to what evolution says and what problems are really problems for the theory. The problem here is with our old ideas of taxonomy and what species are. This isn't a problem for evolution. Reality is what reality is. Our taxonomy needs to fit with reality rather than our general beliefs about names and putting things in boxes (Platonic ideals). It's all gradual, and there are no absolute lines, and we know this because we know evolution. It isn't that there's flaws in evolution, it's that there are flaws in the way we think about biology and evolution lays these errors out for us.

How in layman's terms did the first humans evolve from apes and then proceed to separate themselves from the apes?
It doesn't work like that. We didn't separate ourselves from the apes.  At some point some of our ancestors took different paths than their siblings. One brother went one way, and the other brother went the other way, and they never got back together. And these ancestors of ours were apes, so we are apes. We don't ever stop being apes. Populations split and divide. The group that gave rise to the orangutans went one way and the group that gave rise to the gorillas/humans/chimps/bonobos went another and didn't get back together. Then the group that gave rise to the mountain and lowland gorillas went one way and the group that gave rise to the humans/chimps/bonobos went the other, and didn't get back together. And the group that gave rise to humans went one way and chimps/bonobos went the other. And then the chimps went one way and the bonobos went the other. There isn't some set in stone principle that says this is X and it perfectly exemplifies Xness. There are populations and they divide. Sometimes they get back together and sometimes they don't. When things started, they were no different than one brother is from another brother, in fact, necessarily you could find a set of siblings that gave rise to every divided group. You could find a pair of siblings where one gave rise to all the reptiles, dinosaurs, and birds, and the other to all the mammals.

At what point did breeding with apes stop by humans?
 There's no absolute lines there. Humans are apes. And humans breed with humans. So in a very real sense humans still breed with apes (namely humans). But, looking back to our last common ancestor with chimpanzees (our closest relatives), and it may well be that humans might still be able to breed with them! It's not impossible for lions and tigers to breed or horses and donkeys. They produce offspring, and it might well be possible to have human-chimp hybrids. We just don't try it. So at one point did the ancestors of all humans and the ancestors of all chimpanzees stop breeding? -- They stopped breeding when they stopped. Seemingly about 7.8 million years ago or so.

There are some humans in some distant parts of the rain forest who do not know civilization. The large interbreeding population of humans haven't bred with them since we stopped breeding with them. If for some reason we never started back up, eventually we couldn't and we may well end up with two species of humans, such as the Morlocks and the Eloy (from H.G. Well's the Time Machine). It all depends on when the populations stop and happen to stay stopped.

So how did we separate from the other groups of apes. We went one way, and the other group went another. At what point did we stop breeding with them? We didn't breed with them anymore, when we didn't breed with them anymore.

The actual answers seem sort of anticlimactic, and they are. But, mostly because the problems are with our understanding and not evolutionary theory. We tend to see species as these distinct things which fit into these specific boxes. But, that's not what they are. They are siblings and a few million years of isolation. If you want to draw a line, at some point and say your 30,000th cousin is no longer the same species, you can, but realize that it's an arbitrary line, and our 30,000ths cousins the Neandertals bred with us just fine.
You could go further back, but it's still all just where you draw the line and that has nothing to do with evolution, that has to do with you and your line.

" The other day I saw a post from a creationist stating that the Theory of Evolution has to have some fault in it because there is no interbreeding of species."
No. There's a problem there but it's our idea of species that has the fault, not the theory of evolution.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The invisible hand of the market and God.

Apparently every third-order emergent property is God at work. There's apparently a belief gaining some steam that the invisible hand of the market is God at work.We see this same thing in various other places too, in Evolution by natural selection we see that it's God at work, and within the human brain we see that that too is mysteriously God.
a third-order emergent structure is a consequence of shape, time, and heritable instructions. For example, an organism's genetic code sets boundary conditions on the interaction of biological systems in space and time.
Well, sometimes things like markets, intelligence, science, and evolution which all rely on evolutionary algorithms are easy to confuse. Early on we develop a theory of minds, and are often keen to assign minds where they don't belong and end up painting with a broad brush to catch all human minds and any other third-order emergent structures, so we see the products of nature as the products of minds. And the invisible hand of the market as God's hand. And the amazingness of our own minds. We see minds in every third order emergent structure, because realizing something is/has too much design to be the result of first or second order emergent structures typically in our lives means it's the result of a mind. Though, it could similarly be the result of anything implementing the evolutionary algorithm, which basically is just the non-random selection of randomly occurring differences.

Friday, September 16, 2011

I don't know which is sadder.

I'm not sure which is sadder, the fact that in instantly recognized that collection of dots as the Mona Lisa or that I instantly knew what it was and that I could do significantly better.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The case against Corbett was finally thrown out.

Apparently as a teacher, you can say creationism is superstitious nonsense, not because it's absolutely true but because teachers have qualified immunity and should get a bit of leeway rather than the hard boot.

Also the court finally reversed their decision on some math teacher who was hanging up religious posters. When the initially decision came down I thought it was amazingly stupid. It's not about the teacher's freedom of speech but rather about the teacher in his role as an agent of the government. He doesn't get first amendment protected because the first amendment is specific to restrict what he can do.

How to MacGyver a knife sharpener.

I tried it. It actually works.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The typical Weighted Euclidean color distance values are wrong.

There's a rather common set of weights for Euclidean Color Distance, to better approximate the human eye.

(30*(r1-r2))**2 + (59*(g1-g2))**2 + (11*(b1-b2))**2

30, 59, and 11 for RGB weights.

Well, they seemed rather pulled out of one's ass. And I'm not the first to notice. But, I did bother to code up a routine to compare CIELab to color distance weights and find out, by brute forcing each and every color distance to find out where the weights there should be.

22.216091748149788, 42.88860259783791, 34.895305654012304

Or 22, 43, 35 since we're very likely going with integer math. This is just brute force average best approximation of weighted Euclidean to CIELab.

From the cited Color metric article:

  • Several individuals suggested a weighted Euclidean distance in R'G'B', according to the formula:
    This function has practically the same result as YUV. Its simplicity and speed of calculation make it a better choice than YUV.
  • As explained in the section "gamma correction" below, the perception of brightness by the human eye is non-linear. From the experiments it appears that the curve for this non-linearity is not the same for each colour. The weighted Euclidean distance presented works quite well for the subset of colours where the "red" signal is 128 or more (on a scale of 0-255). For the other half of the full R'G'B' cube, this different weighting produced better results:

 2, 4, 3, are pretty close to my values (they are weights and thus need to be proportional to each other not similar in absolute magnitude). 2/9, 4/9, 3/9 or 22.22, 44.44, 33.33 when you bring the weights up to how many parts I have. So 22.22 vs 22.21...  44.4 vs 42.8 ... 33.3 vs 34.9.

I also ran the colors for CIELuv.

R G B weights:
0.2753667361197665, 0.3846815980739518, 0.3399516658062818

28, 38, 34

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Evangelist says things in response to atheist.

So part of Google+'s features is something called sparks. It's actually pretty cool for finding relevant bits of fun things. Like this interesting article which vaguely consists of an Evangelist saying things in response to an unlinked Atheist in some state somewhere.

There is a lot of really pathethic bits, once again highlighting the difference between answering or countering something and simply responding.

“The greatest leap of faith is assuming that order evolves out of complete chaos,” -- This statement particularly stuck in my maw. That's not a leap of faith, that's actually demonstratively true. From Benard Cells, to hexagon's on Saturn, snowflakes, round planets, orderly solar systems. The fact is you can mix a crap ton of whatever in a blender, and leave it for a few days on a table and it will get very orderly. It turns out that chaos is actually rather unstable and things tend to get orderly. While it is true that the second law of thermodynamics insures that higher energy and greater entropic points will necessarily equalize out, that's actually making things more uniform over time. There was a lot of chaos in the early solar system with rocks and debris flying every which direction, but over time, order evolved and the Earth is the only big rock in this very close to perfect circle we orbit in. This is especially true for higher degree emergent phenomenon like evolution, which as a natural consequence of heredity and natural selection creates organisms which bias towards the preservation of better genes and better adapted bodies coded by those genes.

And as for the balanced ecosystems and perfect design of nature, he's just wrong. Everything in nature is poised on a knife's edge, being eaten by parasites and killed by predators, and often starving to death. Most animals suffer through most of their lives with the smallest amount of bad luck separating one from suffering through another week or dying what must be a very painful death. If a loving God designed such a system, that God's only love is for suffering and pain, because nature is red in tooth and claw. And the life of animals is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. The only thing such a system manages is to make the smallest genetic advantage thrive within that population's gene pool and thereby selectively bias the future generations towards having rather than lacking that advantage.
And then there's his other really terrible bit of claiming:

“Nothing in life is free. The more valuable the object, the higher the price. Nothing is more valuable to God than the human race, which is why such a high price had to be paid, and in this case with a divine human life.” --- Paid to whom?

Really, to whom?

While it's certainly the case that propitiation by blood is a common theme throughout religion and religious views, it's not something that actually would be fundamentally important in our 13.75 billion year old universe. The idea that that the oxygen carry molecules of some species, on this tiny little planet, around this tiny star, in this large galaxy, which is simply one of billions, is obviously absurd to anybody who really questions the core bit of Christian dogma, that Blood Sacrifice of God to God makes any real sense.

And the thing is, it does make sense. This is exactly what we should expect to find if a culture obsessed with primitive blood magic were to make a religion. Because if we give blood for blood for criminal offenses, it's rather quick to give blood for sin in religious ones. And then the better the blood, the more it will atone for, so how great and powerful must be the blood of God? This argument is found wholecloth here by Jason Frenn as well as in Hebrews 9. Christianity is exactly what we should expect to find coming out of a culture rife in belief in blood magic, but not what we should expect to find being true. And lo and behold, we find Christianity first coming out of exactly a place and region and people obsessed with exactly that. So it really does make sense, as long as Christianity is false.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The evolution of lines. That's clever.

I'm a huge fan of evolutionary algorithms and some general crowd sourcing stuff.

There's stuff we haven't seen! Save the world.

So if there's a bunch of critters that we know everything about is it okay to kill them all?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

It likely is about time to explain basic climate science to people.

Hopefully in the simplest terms possible.

CO2 works like a blanket. It traps heat. We're making it thicker. That'll have consequences.

Friday, August 26, 2011

On design, of birds and beaches.

My response to a person who acted hostile after I told him that there really is design in nature. I think denying such is bizarre and wrong, and really just a terrible line of argument. The truth is a far better argument for reality anyhow.


Let a beach exist for a billion years. It will stay a beach. It will change a bit and the shore will move. But, there's nothing really designing it. Let some reproducing creatures exist for a billion years and they will develop new designs and adaptations and forms that one could never imagine.

Evolution is a process of self-design, and beaches do not evolve in that sense. They are not designed. They are not improved.

There really is a difference which calls an explanation and evolution is that explanation. There is a very real difference between beaches and birds.

It's certainly true that evolution is the answer, but the question is why is there so much design in nature. Birds have insanely adapted well adapted form, hollow bones, light feathers, amazing lungs, huge pectoral muscles, and that can't have just happened or happened by chance. And it didn't they evolved. The design is the result of the system of reproduction and death.

Some of the oldest rocks in the world have some of the oldest signs of life.

Oldest fossils of life going back 3.5 billion years ago. It's cool and all but I was thinking and went off on a tangent. I think it's really cool that we have 3.5 billion year old rocks. Australia is about the only place with them because it's been a pretty consistent land mass over the history of Earth. With the amount of shifting and moving and subduction zones, it seems like sitting there unchanged for 3.5 billion years ~ 3,500,000,000 years is quite a feat. If anybody could do it, rocks could do it. Go rocks! Way to exist.

While really old fossils are cool, my suddenly being impressed by the feats of rocks warranted a blog post.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Rape and Pillage

I so love David Michell. He's always awesome.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A tale of two Michelles.

I so totally wish that more things on television were this good.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The worst part of Kalam

I think the worst part of the Kalam Cosmological Argument is the presumptive nature of the whole thing. While the Bible answers the question of cosmology with "God did it", the cosmology in the Bible that "God did" isn't starting the inflationary expansion of the universe or causing the big bang. But rather painstakingly and skillfully (Psalms 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.) created a large metal-like dome held up by strong pillars to keep the cosmic ocean divided and the waters above the heavens and below the Earth apart.

In the Bible, we live under a large metal like dome of heaven, with little twinkly lights stuck into it and above the heavens there's the waters and below the earth the other waters which God so helpfully divided up in Genesis. The Bible's answer to this is "God did it".

-- That's fine, but you don't get to copypasta that answer onto a modern cosmological framework and suppose that the authors of the Bible had any freaking clue what the universe was like.  "God did it" is the answer the Bible gives to the metal-like dome protecting us from the cosmic ocean, you don't get just re-appropriate that answer to new cosmologies that are less horribly wrong. It's like saying Jesus cured diseases. No, he shooed out demons that caused diseases. You don't get to use the modern understanding and the answer "God did it", because the "God did it" was to answer in the context of the primitive understanding. The Bible says God is the reason the sun revolves around the Earth, sorry Bitches, no backsies!

The fluxuations of science.

Science use to say the universe was infinitely old, then 2 billion years, 3 billion years, 10 billion years, 8 billion years, 9.5 billion years, 10 billion years, 8-12 billion years, 12 billion years, 13-14 billion years, 12.5 billion years, 14.8 billion years, 13 billion years,  13.7 billion years, 13.72 billion years, 13.73 billion years, 13.75 billion years.! Science can't make up it's mind. It could be anything tomorrow, and then something different the next day! -- Anybody who supposes things along this line of reasoning, really didn't pay enough attention to that sequence of numbers to notice the underlying pattern.

Genesis 1:2 and the Christian Delusion.

I read the Christian Delusion a while back, having gotten a copy in Riverside signed by Richard Carrier. The chapters are all pretty fantastic and it's hugely informative, and I'm already rather encyclopedic so learning new things is rarer than it should be on such subjects. But, Babinski's chapter on Biblical Cosmology has been hugely influential on me. My views were pretty shattershot.

I understood that parts of the Bible talked about the vault of heaven and that the sky was a hardened dome. But, I never really understood the entire picture. I figured that people thought the sky was water because it was blue. It turns out that within Semitic cosmology that's just the color of the bottom of heaven of the firmament which is held up by the mountains. But, I never understood why the dome was spread-out like hard metal or resting on firm foundations, or the other bits that relate to cosmology. And it has a lot to do with how the world was created in the myth and what existed before and the picture people had of the universe.

Genesis starts out with basically a preamble, in the beginning, the gods created the heavens and the Earth. And then describes how they came to be. What's interesting is how the second line of the creation myth is just glossed over, and largely ignored. The first line we get, the third line is understandable, but what the hell is that second line saying?

1:2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

Sure, formless earth, nothing there, darkness are all understandable. But, what is the "face of the deep"? And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters? What waters? When did waters get created? If you read through the genesis account, water is never created. There's a lot of sections about dividing the waters by making the firmament and keeping  it apart from the waters of the Earth. And allowing land to be exist, and gathering waters into seas, but never actually making the water. The reason for this is that at the core of the cosmology it isn't a creation ex nilho.

The universe was created out of a cosmic ocean. The firmament and the Earth divide the waters because its all waters. And cosmic ocean underlay all the cosmologies of the Semitic regions. The universe according to the Bible wasn't made out of nothing, it was made out of a formless ocean that was divided up. The reason for professing repeatedly in the Bible as to how strong and secure the firmament, how it's made of strong metal, and upon solid foundations and expertly crafted, is because it was a very real fear that the ocean might crush you. That Noah's Flood might very well happen and the waters will flow out of the vault of heaven and out from under the Earth, and our precarious little bubble might not exist.

7:11 In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.

8:2 The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained;

And given the myth of the flood it was absolutely vital to assure people that such a thing would never ever happen again, with God's regrets, and pinky-promises and rainbows.

9:11 And I will establish my covenant with you, neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.
9:12 And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:
9:13 I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.

It was a very real worry that the cosmic ocean would kill everybody., and much of the Bible goes to dissuade our fears of this. And in fact, because the sky is hard and metal and protects us, it's clear evidence for God.

Psalms 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

And really, understanding this is rather devastating  to Biblical cosmology and a lot of apologetics. There's a lot of stuff with like the Kalam Cosmological Argument that largely says that the universe was created ex nilho and science can't explain this, but God fully explains how this happened. But, the Bible never actually said that, it starts out with a cosmic ocean and a sky made of hard material on solid foundations, which attest to the handiwork of God. Far be it for Christianity to explain the Big Bang with a divine fallacy, they need to explain rather where that original cosmic ocean came from. The gods created the heavens and the Earth to divide up the waters, but that's doesn't explain the origins of the cosmic ocean.

The Bible doesn't actually fit that paradigm at all, it not even trying to answer to the question of what caused the initial expansion/existence of spacetime. It's answering very specifically  how did the strong firmament of heaven and dry land get formed out of a cosmic ocean. The answer is "God did it", in fact God spent a solid 1/6th of the time he spent making stuff to make that firmament, that majestic roof fretted with golden fire (as Shakespeare put it). Spending the entire second day on it. Dry land was part of the third day. Then in day four God spends a lot of time adding bling to the firmament. Putting stars in it, and really big balls of light to travel across the firmament. The little tiny spots of light (which according to Revelations will fall to the ground during the end times) and the giant greater and lesser lights of the sun and moon, just to deck it out and give us signs for seasons and such. A lot of the OT is depended on this view of the universe, and really by coming to understand that, you really see how hollow various claims about how God explains the universe actually are. If you read the Bible, the authors have no clue what the universe is really like and spend a considerable amount of time explaining how why the cosmic ocean doesn't kill us, how the sky is hard as metal, and how awesome God is for making said firmament.

So the general theist argument that atheists can't explain the origins of the universe but God does, is even hollower, not just because the answers we have are really good and anything is better than the always wrong answer theists try to shove into every gap, but because the Christian God explains the origins of the metal dome protecting us from the cosmic ocean..

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Kalam and Cosmology

There were some bits towards the beginning that irked me a bit, but after understanding there was no advocacy here but rather a presentation of the possible with the arguments of the apologists I got into the groove.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Evolution Is Intelligence: Paley, Design, Hume, Darwin and Conclusions

I do accept that there is merit to the bits of Paley's argument that survive Darwin's explanation. Because the Argument from Design, if we remove the ad hoc conclusion that 'God did it', still says something. While Darwin explained how nature can design itself through a rather amazing emergent phenomenon, he didn't explain why these things look "intelligently" designed.

The conclusion Hume draws is still, I believe, acceptably true. "Since, therefore, the effects resemble each other, we are led to infer, by all the rules of analogy, that the causes also resemble; and that the Author of Nature is somewhat similar to the mind of man..." -- The equivalency fundamentally holds. Darwin simply showed us that the Author of Nature was a bottom up process of self-design by evolution. He in no way showed that therefore it's nothing like "the mind of man." This is generally and wrongly ignored, and often thought to be a complete rebuttal. That because we know how design occurs in nature, that it can't be intelligence. But, really we don't know how intelligence fundamentally works, so Darwin pinning down the "Author of Nature" side of the equation does nothing to negate the equivalency and we should, I believe rightly, conclude that the mind of man works very similarly to evolution by natural selection.

In fact, if one considered a robust evolutionary algorithm surviving on, accurate predictions about some external environment, rather than energy, one would find that such a system would account easily for the senses, how they work, how they adapt to shortfalls and gaps, how they cooperate, and a great deal of the robust bits of intelligence which current theories completely fail to explain, much less predict. As well as giving a rather interesting paradigm for how the brain would necessarily have to work. Namely as a virtual black box, which could be as isolated as DNA is from the ongoings of nature, but still able to contain a great deal of very important and accurate information about that environment. DNA, afterall, knows a lot about the world, and the only sense it possesses is death. Is it therefore much wonder that a skullful of neurons testing theory after theory against confirming or rejecting senses could create a remarkably accurate view of the world, without those senses in anyway necessarily causing that view or needing to be fundamentally accurate?

I think that Intelligent Design in Paley's time had merit, and was right about a lot of things. But, like Einstein expanding Newton. Darwin actually built on Paley and Intelligent Design, by finding the underlying process for bottom-up self-organizing design, and explaining not only the design but ultimately intelligence. The best metric for intelligence is the Turing Test which explains nothing but comes off as a version of Justice Potter's pornography test: "I don't know what intelligence is, but I know it when I see it."  -- And yet, for thousands of years people have been looking at trees and saying: "That's so clearly made by intelligence!", and thus, in a very general sense, passing the Turing Test with evolution. And I think that with such an proper understanding creationism and intelligent design is hollower than anybody ever dreamed. When they offer that the intelligence behind nature is God, they are really deifying evolution, an apotheosis of a simple bottom up mechanism for producing additional order by ruling out what doesn't work, very much akin to the accusation of "worshiping evolution" that atheists are occasionally pilloried with; frankly I don't blame them.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What would prove to you that there is a God?

>>I think the strength of evidence required to falsify a claim depends on the amount of evidence extant.

Actually and somewhat interestingly, I think it's a bit more nuanced than that. The old axiom that "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" is true but what is meant by "extraordinary" isn't simply "a lot" but a quality difference as well. There is some arcane debate out there as to what would convince an ardent atheist there is a God. And some folks claim "well if God came down and talked to me", but others have rightfully noted that somethings like left-temporal lobe epilepsy can cause that exact heterophenomenon and it might well be a better conclusion that you are simply having an exceptionally vivid hallucination (as many are),  rather than God is really talking to you. So then where does that leave the proposition?

The problem here is that a lot of evidence is different than extraordinary. You really need an explanation that explains everything. And to the above question I think a satisfactory answer is that if I woke up from a matrix like game designed and executed by God, upon waking I quickly regain my real memories and understand the physics of the real universe are nothing like the massive multiplayer networked video game that is all of this universe and that real physics were completely different than the physics of Earth. Such evidence would be substantially more extraordinary than something claiming to be God coming around and showing off what could be super-advanced alien technology on Earth. Extraordinary doesn't mean a lot of additional evidence to the contrary but something that could actually overthrow everything we think we know about the universe.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

On De-Evolution and the Fall of Man

 Though it is not very common, there is an argument that stupid design is explained by the fall of man in Genesis. I tend to go to the trouble of showing how silly such ideas are by refuting them. It seems like a lot of work to refute a rather laughable claim, but why not? It's just a few thousand words and maybe you'll free a mind. As I bothered to write up a pretty good explanation elsewhere I'll repost it here, because it's awesome and I tend to look back here to find awesome things. Even if nobody read this blog, except for you (warning nobody might read this, but if that's true then its a safe statement because nobody read it), it still works as a great resource to save things.

While one could attempt to make that argument. The problem is that Pareto efficiency of the designs observed combined with an understanding of the evolutionary ancestry requirements producing better and specific assumptions, don't fit at all.

Allow me an example. There is a nerve in humans and in all mammals called the recurrent laryngeal nerve which travels from the brain to the larynx, via the heart. It travels down from the head, loops around the aortal arch and back up to the larynx. In the giraffe this is like twenty feet of unneeded nerve to travel a few inches. This is a largely inefficient design, but under your theory it would have had to have developed since the Fall of Man. That somehow the deterioration of the perfect design made all the recurrent laryngeal nerves of all mammals and all the four legged land critters (and a good number of the ocean critters, just not arthropods) suddenly lengthened and looped around the heart.for no reason.

Moving from one design to another would likely cause the larynx to fail. Basically what we have is a Pareto efficiency, it's not the best design, but it is one that any alteration would cause serious errors and thus cannot be changed (save gradually), and no set of gradual changes could get you to the more efficient design. But, the reverse is also true. You can't go from the efficient design to the inefficient one without also likely breaking the system completely.

However the evolutionary explanation is really straight forward. We are In fish the path the nerve takes is a straight line. It goes right through the heart there because that's the best and most efficient design. The problem is that through our evolution the heart has moved down in the torso the head has become more isolated and the larynx is not located much closer to the brain than to the heart. So once it developed in our evolutionary ancestor (and the ancestor of a all the rejiggered fish, read all four legged land animals and any of the water dwelling descendents thereof)  it couldn't be changed. In fact, it can't be changed. You can't get from the efficient design to the inefficient one or the efficient design to the inefficient one. Evolutionary the design was quite efficient  in our distant ancestors but doesn't work well for us, and as such, it is not only explained by evolutionary theory but such things are predicted by evolution and are only explained by evolution. You could say that that our eyes are so fantastic that they need an intelligence to explain how wonderful and intricate they are, however, you can't use that explanation to explain why all the blood vessels and nerves in the mammalian eyes (including ours) go forward towards light and not back towards the brain which is their final destination. Which requires that they be narrowed and made rather clear and that a large hole causing a blind spot exists in our vision.

You also cannot use some sort of de-evolution from the Genesis Fall of Man as an explanation. The designs are good, they are just wrong. They are well designed to cope with things like flawed design at the most basic level, but also it's impossible to go from the most basic design principles to the inferior ones without breaking the entire system. And even if you could,  you'd need an explanation for how good the system is at coping with the most basic errors.

The explanation you are offering fails to account for such designs.
The explanation you are offering could not allow a transition from a perfect design to the inferior but well coped designs.
The alternative explanation explains such specific mistakes.
The alternative explanation predicts these specific mistakes.
The alternative explanation gives the specific reasons why those mistakes should be very common.
The alternative explanation makes a wide swath of specific explanations which perfectly mesh with what we know. We know for example that evolutionarily fish are the first vertebrates and some of the systems would work fantastically for them.

So the explanation accepted by the science is one that explains all the data at hand, predicting a great deal of it, fits with known facts, and requires no unknown assumptions. Your explanation cannot account for the data at hand, does nothing to predict how things should turn out or if they are consistent with the assumptions, requires a great deal of unknown assumptions and is primarily based on iron age interpretation of Semitic mythology from late bronze age principly accepted by some of the nomadic goatherders of the time, and varied throughout the region.

I think when things are this clear you should seriously consider if you could be wrong. Taking into account things like the modern understanding that certainty is an emotion rather than reliable metric by which to judge the quality of the evidence, and that being wrong feels exactly like being right while it's happening.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Home again...

Traveled up north. I have returned. Not that anybody could notice or care much.

*watches tumbleweed roll passed*.

Friday, July 15, 2011

On eternal rewards and punishment and meaning.

The more you think about it, if there were an afterlife that is eternal there's no finite crime that could warrant any infinite punishment. Who cares if you get to have your finite life before your infinite life last 15 or 90 years, or how brutal and horrific the transition. Clubbing a person to death, no more or less warrants any party to any infinite reward or punishment, than any other action.

If you really weigh such things you realize that the very prospect offered means that this life is largely pointless and minutia compared to the infinite. Such claims are often is offered by the religious to say that it's super important what we do here because it governs our path in the next infinite life. But, really that makes no sense. It's dictating an illogical system which demands that this life is infinitely important while finitely experienced. There is no good reason to do this. The only reason to suggest a system like this is because the proposition that there is some infinite reward or punishment somewhere is false. If there actually were an infinite punishment or reward the impact of some brief 80-90 years would be 0. As such, any reasonable system would accept this and never dictate the infinite by way of the finite. Whereas if the proposition is false, and this is the only life. Then attempting to give it more value by giving it infinite weight would be a reasonable if poorly executed thing to attempt. Moreso if you tied the rewards and punishments to generally moral comeuppance within this life.

Upon the prospect of eternity, life would be meaningless and as such the sins committed within it would be equally meaningless. If we grant the prospect of heaven and/or hell we must conclude that all people go to the same place regardless of any petty finite crimes or sins. For if everybody went to heaven except for Adolph Hitler who burns in hell, then after a few thousand, million, or billion years all of those people who had a brief nothing of a pre-eternal-life shortened by his actions must agree of the unjust nature of an eternal punishment. Such a system, where Hitler was sentenced to hell, would be hugely unjust and would require the intervention of any slightly compassionate humans.

The only crime in such a universe, would be a crime that causes an infinite punishment. The failure to save a soul, the killing of an unsaved person who might have eventually be saved, or anything that would alter the fate of any soul to hell rather than heaven. But, then this too would collapse. Because this would never happen if this never happened. The Nash Equilibrium of such a system is that everybody should go to heaven, anyway. Because only such a crime as to damn a soul would perhaps warrant such a punishment, and the only way to do that is with an infinite chain of damnation that could never have begun. And in such a case, the only real criminal would be God. -- Where theologically one attempts to place an infinite finger on the scale of importance of life, they only succeed in making the entire system a farce. And the infinite the only thing worthy of measure. If there were such infinite rewards and punishments the only coherent system is a uniform system. But, if there were no such set of rewards and punishments, then making the claim that such a system exists would be logical, reasonable, and likely. For what better to attempt to keep people in line than a stick and carrot. And what better stick or carrot than an infinite stick and infinite carrot. But, if we have infinite carrots laying around, whatever we're trying to achieve is meaningless because some fraction of that infinite would outweigh any finite goals we might have. Heaven and hell make the most sense when they are false propositions. For as a real system, they render the earth largely a pointless pitstop that serves no function and engenders no rewards and punishments regardless of anybody's actions. As a fake system, they make sense to try to solidify religious power and bring people in line with whatever religious or moral behavior you want.

The problem here is that such a system is rife for abuse, it's rife for failure and for primitive notions of morality. Morality gets better all the time, secular ethics which focus on what the best way to live should be and how we can get the best results given an acceptable range of behavior has long outstripped the moral notions within various holy books. The Bible describes what kinds of slaves you should have and how they should be treated, how best to buy women from their fathers, how to sell your children, how to commit genocide, take sex slaves, and when it's acceptable to rape them. The Koran is a small nudge from justifying flying planes into buildings. The Bible easily justifies walking around with signs informing people of God's Hate for various things. The idea of heaven and hell doesn't work as truth, and as a lie to compel adherence it gives a loaded gun to pointless nonsense. While I admit that in a system where there is no form of government outside of the hollow threats of religious comeuppance, it might be preferable to a completely failed state. It's not however the best system or even a coherent system in the end. The likelihood that the system described by beliefs of heaven and hell actually exists, is low because the system places considerable emphasis on our Earthly life, while paradoxically rendering it meaningless. Whereas the likelihood that the system should be presented as true when it's really false, is exactly what we should expect from goat-herding nomads grasping at straws to try and macgyver a system that function as a government without any real government authority. When all you have is hollow threats, go big, or go home.

If heaven and hell are real, the universe is a bizarre paradoxical place that doesn't make sense and is perversely unfair.
If heaven and hell are fake, the universe is exactly what it appears to be. People try to control other people and use threats to do it. And when cooperation is generally useful, such threats can be used cohesively and effectively.

As is often the case, religion makes sense, but only if the things it says aren't true. Because generally there are not only answers to the questions posed, but there are good underlying reasons for the claims. And those claims ultimately make no sense unless those claims are also false.