Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Historicity of Steve of Columbus

Hey friends,

Sorry for the delay in not getting this up before Christmas, but here it is.

"Once upon a time there was a man named Steve.  Steve was not an ordinary man.  Steve was a Steve.  If you don't understand that, then watch the 2000 film "The Tao of Steve", or just click here for an excerpt.  

Steve was born to fulfill a prophesy that a great man would be born to lead his people to Salvation, as it was told in the ancient texts.  While some of those prophesies may not have seemed like they were fulfilled exactly as expected, he was indeed the Steve that had been promised.

From humble beginnings, he was the son of an autoworker, raised in a modest home in the City of Columbus, Ohio.  But even from an early age he showed great intellect and prowess with tools.  Such as one day, when just a child, he was lost for some time.  Finally, his father found him in the design lab of his fathers office, critiquing the deign of a vehicle that was on the drawing table.  His father told him to come away from there, but the engineers were enamored with his conclusions, about how the rear end of the vehicle was not sturdy, and in an accident the fuel tank would likely rupture and cause a fire.  The engineers said to themselves, "no child could know our craft like this" and they were wary to believe him.  His father lead him away, asking him how he knew so much about structural engineering, to which he replied "my father knows these things, and so do I".  That car was the eventually released as the Ford Pinto, and it was as Steve said it would be.

Later, Steve grew to be a man, and performed many miracles and feats that no ordinary man could have.  He was very strong, and fought the Nazi's in WWII, bringing down the evil Lord The Red Skull, before being frozen in ice for many years.  But because he was a Steve, and not an ordinary man, he survived to be freed many years later, where he went on to fight for the salvation of humanity against threats both new and old, from this world and beyond.  He was a great man who carried a shield of his own making, because he was a defender of people and not an aggressor, a lover of peace and not war.

He trained for years though, in solitude in a cave underneath his families mansion, where he learned to be like the night. A shadow for justice, seeking vengeance on those that killed his parents.  He lived mostly off his great wealth that his father had earned in business, and modified many of them to serve peaceful purposes, and swore off suing firearms like the ones that killed his mother and father.  He lived in a high tower in the middle of a large metropolis that boldly proclaimed his family name, and let the world know that he was Steve, the actual savior of humanity sent by his father.  He built a suit of advanced materials that could fly, fire beams from it's hands, and protected him from harm (especially from being frozen again so that the world would always be protected.

Years passed though, and he defeated his most challenging foes.  He was later declared President of the United States of America.   He passed many laws that helped humanity, such as freeing the black slaves, feeding the poor, promoting civil rights, and fighting off the insurgent vampire population, knocking it back into hiding and in fear of humans.

Sadly, one day Steve died.  He knew it was coming, and wondered if someone else could take his place.  However, he realized that such a thing would force someone to put themselves in harms way, so he did not.  He said to his TV audience at the State of the Union address to not weep for what must happen, but to know that all people are Steve, and that he was return one day before any of them know he was gone.  With that last word, Steve was shot by a snipers bullet through the head.

A few weeks later, some of his cabinet swore that Steve had returned to them to remind them that they are all Steve's if they want to be, and all they have to do is believe in Steve and they can be saved like him.  Few believed them at the time, but to this day reminding yourself that "I am Steve" is said to make you invulnerable to death or injury, and if  you truly believe, you can live forever in Steve."

Now look at the story of Jesus as told in ANY of the Gospels.  Do you see how this analogy compares.  So at the end of the day, does it really matter if Steve is real or not?  Can we prove that, at the time of the story, that there may have really been a Steve?  A great man or not?  How does any of that honestly relate to the reality of the bible, or to the teaches that are based on biblical texts (because they are not the same thing, in case you haven't read the bible cover to cover).

I've heard some debate going back an forth over the historicity of Jesus lately, and this is kind of what I hear going on.  They are debating points that are likely irrelevant to the conversation of the "great debate".  Whether he was real or not (though most biblical teachings in the New Testament come from Paul's revelations and not from what Jesus actually said "when he was alive" in the Gospels.  So a guy that talks to a donkey is seen as the real source for Christian views on topics in a lot of cases.  Does that make it any better or does that make it worse?

That's it for me though for now.  Later.

-SR

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Coming soon, hopefully....

Good evening,

So things have been a little busy for me lately, and I haven't really had time to blog much (if you haven't noticed).  Be that as it may, I wanted to take a quick few minutes to let you know I am still around and that I am (conceptually) working on a few things.

In the (nearer) future, I am working on a couple of blog posts.  The first one is on the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth (also called the Christ in the Christian faith) through the story of Steve of Columbus.  I will be exploring this topic from a different perspective than I have seen of late, which has basically historians arguing about the validity of sources or each others credentials or level of research.  I'm going to approach the topic from a different angle.  I hope to have that one up before Christmas to keep it timely.

I am also going to do a blog post about an article I came across on Facebook about how the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is actually a conspiracy engineered by nefarious governments (including the US government).  This one if iffy and tentative because I am not sure how much research it will require to do it proper service.  The article I read was easy to dismiss on several grounds, but I don't know if I can or want to be more than just dismissive of that story.

If that one doesn't pan out I might do one on GMO's, particularly with regards to sustainability and factory farming.  I've had some discussions of late with some friends of mine about it, so it's topical (at least to me).

I'm also having an internal debate about making videos for my YouTube channel (yes I have one that I haven't been using) and setting up a Patreon account (not that, as of now, anyone probably even reads this blog).  My issue with YouTube is that I'm trying to remain anonymous as much as I can, but I don't have a lot of time for editing.  So if I was going to do it, it would likely end my anonymity on the internet at some point.  I would not want to just be a talking screen cap or icon if I decided to go that way, but it's nearly impossible to monitize videos without either REALLY going out of your way or letting yourself get out there.  And with as controversial as skepticism can be (why does that sound so illogical...) I would probably get doxxed at some point.  I"m not a troll and I don't think the things I say are that out there, but people have their own priorities.

Oh, and I might change the blog look/layout some.  I think it's fairly readable (and it's got a theme, believe it or not) but I'm not sure I'm sold on it.  It seems too synthetic (even if that's what I was going for).  I'm feeling analytic nowadays, but we'll see if I bother (since I don't really have time for that either).

So for now, that's all.  TTYL.

-SR

Thursday, October 23, 2014

What is atheism? I might as well chime in as well...

Greetings viewer(s),

So I subscribe to quite a few YouTube channels, mostly science, philosophy or atheism based ones.  On the atheist channels there have been a couple that have decided to take up the question of "what is an atheist".  This was likely sparked by two videos by Gary Edwards , one where he stated that 'there were two things that bothered him about YouTube atheists', (one being the claimed definition of atheist) and then a subsequent video where he spells out his idea on the matter.

I want to, before explaining his definition, let you know that I disagree with his position on the matter.  I don't think he's wrong in his logic or reasoning per se, but I think that he misses the point about the term and it's usage.

His position is that, in a nutshell, that something must basically meet three criteria to be an atheist.  First, they must have or be able to have some attitude about the proposition about the existence of a deity.  Second, they must be aware of such claims.  Third, they must believe that the probability of such a claim being true must be below 50%.  

While I agree that someone who meets these criteria would likely be an atheist (even a "strong" atheist), but I don't think that it's entirely correct in it's purpose.

There are probably at least two ways to divide up the word atheist (and atheism).  Either in two parts, such as 'a' (without or not) and 'theist' (belief in god(s)), or three parts like 'a' (not) 'theos' (god(s)) and 'ist' (one who holds the acceptance of a positive action or claim). I make this distinction only because many theists use the second breakdown to claim that atheists think that there is no god(s) as opposed to just not accepting the claim that a god(s) exists. 

[I will use the first breakdown exclusively because it is more accurate in the modern usage, which is a lack of the acceptance of the claim of god(s), and to the fact that it can also include the other distinction as a subset of the first term.]

And then there is also the distinction of whether or not something is objective or subjective, such as being atheist (position) or atheistic (being the characteristic of atheism).  So, being "atheist" versus being "an atheist" is, I suppose, another way to explain it.  These terms are sometimes refereed to as "implicit" or "explicit", respectively.

I hold to the objective, two part definition myself.  And the quick and dirty reason for that is that it's cleaner, simpler and less available to a claim of positivity.

I think the point that Gary Edwards makes is valid, but I think it describes more of the process for deciding if someone would be described as an atheist (subjectively) as opposed to what an atheist is (objectively).  And I think it's important to make a distinction in the definition because the term itself is the modification of an existing term that makes a claim that is not accepted.  Much like "non-stamp collector" describes someone or something that does not collect stamps, atheism modifies the term "theist" by defining someone or something that does not hold to or accept "theism". 

So yes, rocks and babies and lamps are atheist, in the objective sense, because they are things that cannot accept the belief in a god(s) (and thus cannot be theistic).  They could not be an atheist however, because they lack agency to reject theistic claims, but they none-the-less do not hold theistic beliefs.  By the same token, someone with agency but who had not heard of theistic claims (maybe from an undocumented tribe in South America with no such concept in their culture) could be an atheist because they would also have not accepted theistic claims.  These people too would be objectively (implicitly) atheist.

Someone like Gary who rejects positive claims about god(s) would be subjectively atheist because he has made a belief based on theistic claims.  He would also be objectively atheist because I think that a subjective atheist is somewhat of a subset of the term atheist because they would be something that likewise does not accept these claims AND has actively participated in evaluating the claims and found them to not be convincing.  The subjective atheist fulfills the broader definition with the additional modifier of also having rejected the positive claim of the existence of god(s). 

Definitions and terms

http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/theism
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theism
http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/atheism
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism
https://ltc.unt.edu/sites/ltc.unt.edu/files/all/UNTOWL_Objective_vs_Subjective.pdf


Friday, September 12, 2014

First "moral" victory, so I say...

Hey there and how are ya?

I had my first run-in with a Christian Apologist this past week, and I think I rattled him a little bit.  I came across this blog in the comments section of a Huffington Post article about the historicity of Jesus.

We were going along having some give and take (though he seemed to be rather aggressive, something I was deliberately avoiding) and we got to my last reply to him (I didn't screen capture it nor did I copy and paste it) which he refused to post to his page and just deleted it.  I suspect it was due to cognitive dissonance on his part.

I will try and recreate my response below.  To really understand the context you will have to check out the blog itself to see what an inane apologist this guy is, though I loathe giving this guy any more page views than he already has.  I can't say that I can even match the tone I had at the time because I was trying to be extra polite, but what I have below is actually a bit snarkier than what I had tried to post before.

http://derengowski.wordpress.com/2012/08/14/atheism-simply-ridiculous/

My last response, to his last post to me:

So you are saying that  I am a liar because I asked questions that weren't answered, and then asked again, and then called a liar a second time BEFORE you actually answered my questions?  How does that work?  I'm a liar for saying you didn't answer me twice before you actually answered?

Do you think that there is any way that people could learn to get along without objective morals?  What about people of other faiths and religions that don't believe in god, in your god, or your objective morals?  Or do you see large scale murder amongst the atheist Buddhists? 

So Cain killing Able wasn't immoral because god hadn't told man not to kill each other yet?

I assume you are referring to 'atheist death tolls' by looking at some apologetic web sites who pull up a bunch of numbers.  These numbers tend to be misleading in several ways.  If we look at one common example used, let's look at the Hitler claim.  I have seen some say that Hitler killed 40 million people.  However, to get that number they include all deaths between 1939 and 1945 in Germany.  They also include all deaths in all countries involved in WWII during their involvement in the European conflict who died during any period that involved any hostility with Germany.  Combat, non-combat, collateral, infants, geriatric, and disease causes of death are all part of that number.  Not to mention that Hitler was a christian (Catholic, none the less) and not an atheist.  When you joined the Nazi party you swore an oath to follow god and fuhrer. The Nazi uniform even included "Got mit uns" on the belt buckle, meaning "god is with us".

I have read the bible.  In fact I have read two different version cover to cover and referenced several others.  Why would you assume I hadn't?  I have seen 2 Cor. 10:3-5, but I was thinking (and suggesting) something more along the lines of 2 Cor. 9 and the rest of 2 Cor. 10.  Here you are cherry picking your holy book for some way to justify your actions when just the chapter before it you are told to be a good person, to lead by example and to be humble in practice.  You just ahead and take two lines and use that to justify going after atheists.  But why just them?  Why not other faiths or 'false beliefs'?  Where is your anti-Hindu, anti-Buddhist, anti-Mormon, anti-Unitarian, anti-Muslim, anti-Zeusian, or anti-Mithraism pages or posts? 

So the bible doesn't say that "lack of belief" or "unbelieving" comes from Satan, but you are somehow sure it does?  I thought the book was all I needed to understand how this all works.  Most translations of 2 Cor. 4:4 do not call the one you are referring to as Satan but "the god of the age".  I suspect that that's because the oldest texts we have do not God himself claims to be responsible for all things, like in Isaiah 45:6-12, so I would assume that he would also be responsible for Satan and his "lying minions", and therefor anyone's unbelief as well. 

I am not sure what kind of chicanery you are referring, I think I'm just asking some questions because I am honestly curious about what you believe.  I don't really understand why you feel the need to be so hostile.

-SR

Communication and "affirmative consent"

Happy day fellows!

(though I am unsure, even after reading the bill, if this is just about teaching students about affirmative consent or if it is making it necessary, so you may see my usage change as I write this)

This past week (OK, a few weeks ago) a bill was passed in the California Senate that would require affirmative consent to engage in sexual activity on college campuses.  "No means no" would become "yes means yes" under this bill, and without consent sexual activity (not clearly defined) could be considered assault or rape. 

Since I started this post, the bill has moved forward.   In California this is now "law" for institutions of higher education that receive public funds. 

I have a few problems with this legislation.  First and foremost is that I think that it's nonsensical.  It basically just makes the program for instructing students on what consent is to make it more explicit in the affirmative.  Followed as it's intended by everyone all the time can make consent far clearer than it can be at times.  There is of course, the real world that we live in, where this doesn't do anything for anyone except muddy the waters about what does and does not constitute sexual assult.

Effective communication is based on the person transmitting the message in such a way that the receiver can clearly understand it.  If a person says "Go through the red door and push the blue button" and in confronted with a room full of doors in varying shades of magenta, the message was not conveyed clearly.  This is the largest problem with communication in general, where the recipient does not necessarily understand the meaning of intent of the message being relayed.  The reason that "no means no" is more effective because it draws a boundary for behavior.  It is unambiguous in it's intent and is a simpler message with less room for confusion.

Affirmative consent is more ambiguous.  Some instruction goes so far as to say that it should be enthusiastic.  Crap.  Very few sexual encounters, even with long term partners are completely free from some emotional distress in some form or another.  That stress or tension is part of what makes the experience more enjoyable.  It's also still boils down to he said/she said as to whether or not consent was given.  This bill includes the "forms of consent" as being non-verbal as well as verbal.  In a rape accusation, how does this help anyone any more?  The accused could still say that they misinterpreted the non-verbal cues that things were OK.  "No" is still clearer and a simpler message. 

I guess when all is said about this legislation it really, at this time, doesn't change a whole lot for anyone.  It's about instruction on campus and not about off campus activities.  Maybe I'm just not seeing the big picture here and this is going to end up being more great or less silly than I think it is.   Who knows.  I disagree with it's premise as a whole and think that over all it will be a non-issue, neither helping or hurting the cause to prevent rapes and assaults on campus, but to some extent I can almost see this increasing false accusations of rape on campus at least in the short term (part of the adjustment period that most rules changes go though before they "settle in" to the more common understanding).


 Follow up article:
 Affirmative consent article via CNN


Original articles:
Washington Post article
Real Clear Politics article
Think Progress article
California Senate Bill


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Anthropogenic climate change and skepticism

Good day fellow humans,

Sorry I haven't posted anything lately.  About six weeks ago I started a post about "a few things", namely a Pew Research poll showing how atheists are less trusted than any other group in the survey (even below child molesters, if I recall).  OK, it was actually a story about the poll and not the poll itself, if truth be told.  I had some other things to cover too, but I just couldn't get behind it enough to spend the time addressing the topics, so I kind of put it on hold and never went back to it.  However, I do have something I want to talk about and it's a topic I've been flip-flopping on a bit over the past couple of years for good reasons.

So, there has been a lot of content I've seen lately (on YouTube and the internet) about climate change (a.k.a. global warming) and the level of skepticism that is has received from a few outspoken critics and their supporters.  This has brought me to further consider what I think about the models of climate change and how or if they actually show good data on humans impact on the climate overall.

My position has been for many years that climate change is happening.  However, I haven't been completely sold on the human component of the changes that have been occurring.  I think that the climate change deniers have made some valid points to explain that any changes that might be occurring are mostly due to other factors outside of human involvement, even though most climate researchers dismiss their arguments (often out of hand).

Be that as it may, I think that my position has changed due to my pragmatism.  While I will not dismiss assertions out of hand, I cannot deny the science behind some of the climate change deniers claims (changes in solar activity, seismic/volcanic activities, or just the plain old notion that the last couple of centuries have had relatively mild climate worldwide).  Not to mention the vast number of climate models (while often given as extremes of what we might experience) that have failed to accurately model change from 20 years ago.   I would add that our primary claim for the historic level of atmospheric CO2 levels come from Antarctic ice cores, those years where CO2 levels were higher than the current levels (like now) there would likely exist similar loss of ice (like we are experiencing now) and would not, therefor, have a layer of ice to measure for that year.

Now, I know that sounds contradictory to the position I am now taking, but here is where the pragmatism takes over.  It doesn't matter.  I needed to come up with (for my own use) an analogy about how or why this might be important to the humans living on the planet now.  Sure, we can mitigate most of the human impact of the effects of climate change, build sea walls to keep out rising coastal waters, move farms to more manageable areas and/or improve irrigation techniques.  But that wouldn't really solve the problem, per se.  See, the earth is a closed system to some extent.  Well, it's closed in the sense that to an extent doesn't have high levels of energy or material cast off into space at such a pace that it threatens to kill us all off in a short period of time.  It also has it's own biodiversity which supports life as it exists now.  So taking these two factors into account I tried to create a workable scenario that would analogize the situation with some degree of accuracy, even if it's not a perfect model.

Imagine that you (the reader) lives in a greenhouse.  Now, no pun or correlation intended to global warming and greenhouse gases, as you may see.  In the greenhouse there is enough food to support you and your food sources (think more small Bioshpere2 than the plastic shed in your grandma's back yard).  Let's place the building in a location such as the desert south-west in the US, since the location has fairly consistent sun exposure all year round and the outside conditions will do little to assist in supporting life outside the greenhouse, not to mention that there is a significant difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures.  Now, let's make the time of year sometime in early to mid spring, maybe some time in April.  At night, it can still get pretty chilly, so to support our comfort and the growth of the plant life and animals (if there are any) there is also installed a heating unit in the building.

Right now, everything is OK.  Sure, some days are hotter than others but overall it's fairly comfortable for you in the greenhouse.  But you've noticed on those warmer days that the heating unit in the place won't shut off automatically so you have to manually turn it off and on again.  It's annoying but it's not so bad that most days you just can't be bothered because the controls are hard to reach and use.

Summer is coming however, and you know that with daytime temps reaching into the hundreds.  When that happens, there will be more than enough trouble managing the temperatures in the place without that heater running all the time. 

The heater represents the part that we can control with climate change.  We have the ability to do something about that.  It's the part of the environment that we can turn off or adjust so that the place doesn't get too hot, burn out all of our plants and kill us (or any animals living there) off or at least make life far harder than it already is.  It's going to be real pain to fix it, but it is the part that is under our control.

Thus it is like the anthropogenic climate model.  We have the ability to manage our impact on the environment.  EVEN if it's just to make it easier on us and even if it's only in the margins.  I don't know if volcanoes release more CO2 than all humans do in a year, but we can't control that part of it. As the likely most intelligent species on the planet we can have the most impact.  We can control what we do and what impact we have on our environment, and if we want to succeed as a species then we need to do what we can to have the impact that WE want on the world (even if it's to have as little impact as possible).

For a good site on the skepticism of the skepticism of climate change, see below.  The link takes you to one of my sources on Antarctic ice melt.

http://www.skepticalscience.com/antarctica-gaining-ice.htm

Thursday, May 8, 2014

A well worded clarification of MY feelings on Atheism+


Greetings my few and scattered readers,

So my last post was this long, relatively disjointed, tirade on the principals of Atheism+ and why I wouldn't feel the need to join such a group even while I agree with most of thier core ideas and principals.

I would like to make one clarification that may not have been clear in the last post, which is that I feel the same way about men's right groups and other secular organizations.  I can and do support the core principals of what they espouse, but they are also more well known by their fringe ideology than by their core values.

So the YouTube-r C0nc0rdance has a good video on his issues with the Atheism+ movement which I completely agree with.  You can find the video below.

-SR


Friday, April 25, 2014

Why I'm not a "joiner", and maybe why "we" shouldn't be.

Happy evening all,

So I have been learning all kinds of things lately.  A lot of stuff I've come across in the "atheist community", especially stuff dated from mid 2012 to the end (roughly) of 2013 on YouTube, blogs and websites have been a schism that seems to have developed between "atheists" and what they refer to as "plussers" or people who are part of the atheism+ (plus) movement.  But before I get into the specifics about that and my take on it, I think I'll need to define a few things.

Atheism, for the sake of definitions, is the lack of an acceptance of the claim that "god" or "gods" exist.  I don't want to hear anyone complain about language here, but specifically, that's all that the word means.  Yes there is some baggage with the idea and yes, there is some commonalities with people in certain regions (or philosophies) who share common ideas along with this idea that "god" is an unproven argument.  That does not mean that that's ACTUALLY part of the word/label itself.

Atheism+ is a sociopolitical movement that believes in it's version of social justice amongst people who also do not accept the positive arguments for a god(s). You can find out more about the movement here - atheismplus.com.  From that site, their claimed goal is "Atheism+ is a safe space for people to discuss how religion affects everyone and to apply skepticism and critical thinking to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, GLBT issues, politics, poverty, and crime."  You can also reference them here on http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Atheism_Plus.

Now, I have had a strong tendency to agree that these are rational, logical, and beneficial goals.  I would have to, from my current understanding of the ideas, is that I would classify myself as a secular egalitarian or a humanist, or a rationalist, or an empiricist, or ...  Anyway, there is value in the idea of treating everyone equal, and it seems that in the broadest sense of the terms, Atheism+ seems to support those ideals.  But something seems wrong to me about it.  From rationalwiki above, if you look at the original post of Jen McCreight, she lays out the following idea "
We are...
  • Atheists plus we care about social justice,
  • Atheists plus we support women’s rights,
  • Atheists plus we protest racism,
  • Atheists plus we fight homophobia and transphobia,
  • Atheists plus we use critical thinking and skepticism"
What is wrong here, if you will allow me the latitude, is that three of the five points (the first and last excluded) are, in practice, sided arguments or positions in reality.   Women's rights are important, and there is likely a need to continue to fight that good fight.  However, that should come as equal opportunity and not as a trade off for some other thing.  Yes, there are  times when men are given better opportunities (particularly in areas like the military or small business hiring), but that is often traded for women being treated more leniently in the courts (especially in domestic cases).  We need a more honest and clear means to treat all people more equally.  And I have to agree with one point (at least) that some feminism critics point out, and that is that equal opportunity will not breed equal outcomes. 

Racism, is not really "real" in that humans are all one species, and race is more a designation of ancestral origin, with the explicit purpose of comparing these assumed characteristics in terms of "better" or "worse" to other "races".  We should be fighting racism by stopping the use of the assumption of race by anyone, and not by using it to define ourselves as part of one in-group and not one  or other out-group.  Thus, fighting race as the source of racism.  Racism is, actually, applied to people and how we treat each other, but it's based on a fallacious notion that we need some special designation to differentiate ourselves from others.  It's similar to nationalism in it's scope, but lacks the formal boundaries of statehood and focuses more on arbitrary regions of ancestry.  We are no better, nor should we be, more proud that someone from our home town, state, region, etc has done something good.  I get the idea that this is somehow important to us, but what I'm saying is that it doesn't serve the greater community.  This is more based on physical resource management where is was more beneficial to have more people in your group living near you than away from you, but in modern society it has far less benefit.

Homophobia and Trans-phobia are not so much "real" as they are illustrations of in-group vs out-group thinking in my opinion.  I guess I can include race as a manifestation of this idea as well.  Are these people like "us" and do they conform to our ideas about who "we" are, or are they "different" from what "we" identify as our common identity?  We find whatever justification we need for this us versus them mentality in whatever sources we can identify with, typically some ideological framework (like religion or other group membership) and we try to normalize what we feel is our shared ideology/experience.  I'm not saying that homosexuals and trans-gendered people are not victims (frequent, at that) of discrimination (or worse) by any means.  I am saying that these differences SHOULD not be as divisive as they are.  Were it not for indoctrination by many Abrahamic faiths in the world, homosexuals would fare much better in western societies.  I think trans-gendered people make other people uncomfortable because cis-gendered people often don't know how to treat them.  People want to treat trans-people like other people, but we are a sexually dimorphic species and that only "allows" for two options for gender, male and female.  This is a simple, "no need to work it out and I've known this since I was 3 years old" which is held at the core of most humans.  It is though the hard work of reason and understanding that we often learn that it sometimes isn't that simple.  A lot of people don't want to do that work.

The simplest way to combat this would be though group inclusion.  Though frankly, that would almost certainly be true for women as well.  Heck, any discriminatory behavior is likely do to this in-group/out-group idea.  We typically want what is best for ourselves (or our group) because we want what will be most advantageous to us (primary biological imperative) to increase our chances of survival.  We do this in competition for resources against all other out-groups.  By limiting our in-group (by whatever standards we choose) we grant ourselves a type of conservation or resources by allowing sharing of tasks without needing to address what could be seen as small group free-rider problems, but we also conserve thinking about a too complex social group and allow that thinking to occur for more resource generative ideas. 

This is likely the result of an evolutionary process that allowed groups to survive successfully and pass on the social training to their offspring, and the more that survived led to the more evidence that existed that their way was good and useful.  We see strong "cultural" ties like these in smaller communities and as these groups grow larger we see more differences arise within the group and (consequently) either a weaker bond between individuals or a breaking off into sub-groups or into out-groups as the culture becomes more complex. 

But I digress.  Atheism+ may or may not be all in favor of these ideas in practice.  I'd like to assume they are for arguments sake.  However, while I agree with their premise as social advocates, they have developed some reputation for their more radical members.  Even to the point of having leaders of their movement make statements to the effect of "if you aren't with us, then you are the enemy".

Now this is in complete contrast to what should be the first (bust listed as the last) point in Jen McCreight's original calling for a "new wave" of atheism.  You cannot make dogmatic statements about, well, anything almost, and still be skeptical about what you are arguing for.  You then end up being "known for" sharing the opinion of more radical members of your group and that degrades your ability to sway opinions of people who can make a difference in what you are arguing against because you are just a group of dogmatic zealots who think that white, straight (cis-gendered) men are horrible people who are so endowed with privilege that they can't possible understand what someone else might be going though because they have never had to deal with such injustice as any person that might not be one or more of those things. 

No person should EVER have to "check their privilege" before being able to engage in dialogue about such issues.  The only purpose to doing such a thing would be to either demean someones position (like saying "I know I'm just an idiot, but I have this idea) before they can even make a statement, much like you would ask forgiveness of another person for being so bold as to trouble their exaltedness  with such trivialities.  It serves as a means to push someone outward, almost as a supplicant to be admitted to a group that they might desire to join.  Which would mean that the person who needs to "check their privilege" is already a member of an out-group and not part of the greater community working to combat "social injustice".  I don't think that that is an honest or productive position to take.

While I would be willing to do what I can to further these goals, I'm not about to subjugate myself to a group (any group) that would expect me to act this way, nor would I want to be associated with an organization (of any kind) that is represented by it's fringe membership. 

TL;DR: 

I don't want to be known as a member of any group that wants me to subjugate myself to it, nor one that is best known by it's fringe membership. And it's counter-productive for anyone to be part of such a group if they want to maximize their effectiveness in social change.

Not sure if I got all of that in there, but I could either go on for a few more pages like this or cut myself off now.  This should have been a couple of different posts.  Crap.  Oh well.

-SR

Monday, April 7, 2014

One biblical contradiction and prophesy from Revelations

Hey y'all,

So this week I had (or almost had) an issue with a Christian that I happen to like (a friends mother) who, had I pushed the discussion like I wanted to in my head, I would likely not be talking to her again.  Not that she's that intolerant, but she is a "true" believer and is married to an on-again/off-again preacher.  She would feel like she needed to choose between my reasoning and her beliefs, and since I don't live with her, I don't think reason would win (her beliefs do live with her, both literally and figuratively).

The issue was that my friend posted a link to a conspiracy story about how, by 2017, everyone will be implanted with an RFID chip to track them, to be used to pay for things, and to be able to freely move about (etc.).  My reaction was a bit winded, but started with a "STOP!  This is insane" or something like that.  I then laid out a sound argument with sources that debunked the conclusion of the story.

Well, the mother of my friend (let's call her Nancy) had commented something like "a prophesy comes true".  She saw my comment afterwards and thought I was addressing her with my STOP comment.  While it was appropriate for comment as well, I explained that I was referring to the story and not to her comment.  This lead to a discussion about whether or not I was an atheist (a subject I avoided due to wanting to stick to her comment and NOT rip into her faith - there are plenty of times when her beliefs have served her well - and would not have served me at all) and tried to bring her back to the "prophesy to which she was referring.  Namely, Revelations 13:16, where all would have to take the mark of the beast.

Diverging into the discussion with Nancy, she was mistaken in her reply that the revelation was about the emergence of the wolf (it's actually the second beast, with horns like a ram and the voice of a dragon), but that she still believed that this could be a sign of the coming of the return of the Christ.

Now, I have several issues with this recurring (not from her, but from many vocal Christians) fear of the return of Jesus.  Now, if they believe then why are they worried?  Ignoring that, why are they afraid that this thing (this one thing) could be a prophesy confirmed?  I mean, Revelations is an ENTIRE BOOK about the end of times.  I can only suppose that it is supposed to be an more detailed explanation of what Jesus talked about in both Mark 13 and Matthew 24, I would suppose.  But if that were the case, then the entire book of revelations is in contradiction to both of these Gospels.  Namely, Mark 13:32 and Matthew 24:36 both say "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only."  

However, Revelations is an entire book dedicated to the "end of times" and the return of the Christ, including signs, events, timelines and actions by parties that will happen.  How is this the same as no one will know the date or time but the father since if we see these signs we will know that he (God/Jesus) is coming?

Also, since the bible is supposed to be true and correct (and worthy of trust), then why would signs need to be interpreted in order to be understood?  If the "mark of the beast" is to be on the hands or forehead of everyone, then how is an EMBEDDED RFID chip a mark?  No one can see it.  Can it be detected?  Sure, but we need technology for that, and it's still not a mark.  It also isn't necessarily the number of the beast either (666 or 616) and I can't figure out how it possibly could be.  And it ignores the idea that there are TONS of things that would proceed the rise of the second beast (including the rise of the first, the defeat of all the saints, the death of  2/3 of the population and people living in caves trying to hide from Gods' judgement).  Not to mention that

If it's that open to interpretation then we are (conceivably) already in the midst of or past the return.  I'm sure there are enough historical events that could be interpreted as being the majority of events already laid out in Revelations (depending on the scale of the events in question).  

Lastly, the whole thing is silly of course because it's irrelevant to reality.  Is there a God?  Who knows.  I certainly think that a strong case can be made against the Abrahamic God (complete with logical contradictions).  I also feel that as humans we are only capable of interacting with physical reality and that if there is a being that superceeds the boundaries of reality then we have no more use for them in their existence than they can possibly have in ours.  There is no evidence (measureable, testable or repeatable) of the existence of anything supernatural, nor can there be.  If we are able to measure and test for something it then is, by it's very nature, natural (and thus not "godlike").

Sorry if this seems a bit disjointed.  I feel like I haven't had enough sleep and I'm writing this over two days (without post-editing, except for spelling).






Monday, March 31, 2014

Presuppositional apologetics nuclear bomb.

Hey all,

So last week I was thinking about presuppositional apologetics a bit.  If you are unfamiliar then check out the wiki on it here - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presuppositional_apologetics 

In essence, it is a class of arguments (typically from the Abrahamic traditions like Christianity and Islam) that want to suppose some "facts" as a basis for argument.  The great failing of this method of thinking is that it is founded in circular reasoning (the "answer" supposes itself in the argument).

One YouTube video that I watched (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGM5JM5A0E0) basically called out how it's become almost silly to debate or argue with presuppositionalists with any experience because things seem to quickly break down into a race to be the first one to invoke solipsism, thus rendering both arguments null (since we can't seem to be sure of anything).

I agree with the principal of the topic.  As soon as someone invokes solipsism we are all "caught" in a solipsistic loop of no one being able to get out of.  If I can't know anything for sure, then how can you.  I think that (as the speaker in the video points out) it results in a zero sum game that no one is really supposed to win.

I, however, think that there is a way out of the solipsistic hole.  I think that the arguments can move back to what is functional over what is possible, then this doesn't have to be a true impasse.  Solipsism doesn't have functional value beyond possibility.  In fact it rarely reaches into probability, and never seems to work itself into observation.

Solipsism, from wiki - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solipsism, is the idea that we can't prove anything outside of ourselves.  While this may or may not be true, it lack function in the real world.  If I truly believe that the only thing I can prove is my own mind, then why stop at red light?   Why not try flying unaided?  Why not spend every last cent you have on decorative bakeware and velvet cat paintings?  The answer is rather silly seeming to all of these questions and that is the point.  All of those actions will have consequences that are not beneficial.  Our combined experience in the "world", as much as it is subject to falsification, trickery, illusion and phenomena, is still reliable enough be useful in predicting outcomes of events as we experience them.  AND that experience, by comparison to others, seems to be shared and equally relevant to them.  Thus our senses and experiences with those senses have been shown to be trustworthy, as well as the quantitative experiences of others (such as we can both use a ruler to measure one foot, for example, and it would end up being (with a relatively small margin of error) the same thing.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Smartphones for early 2014

Good evening, people.

So I think I missed my two a week post last month.  I wanted to do something big, but I just never got around to doing any of it.

So in the mean time there was some news on the smartphone front last month, mainly the introduction of the Samsung Galaxy S5.  And I'll have to say, like most of the blog/tech news sites, I was a bit underwhelmed by it.  HTC jumped right on that sentiment with ads for their new hero phone, the HTC M8 (or the new One, whatever they call it on release).

Before I go into the top phones for the Spring/Summer of 2014, I want to get out of they way that there won't be an iPhone 6 until at least the fall/Q3 2014 at the earliest.  There will likely be a format change with likely a larger display (though I doubt it will exceed 4.3 to 4.7 inches) and likely have a "bezel-less" design to try and keep the width as small as possible for "easier" reach via you thumb.  It will likely have a synthetic sapphire screen, and it may end up with a slightly different shape to the home button, with an updated fingerprint scanner.  But that's a ways off still.

So anyway, I have to say that while I was disappointed by the S5 announcement.  It missed on all of the big specs that were rumored to be true about it, from screen size and resolution, RAM, processor, camera, build materials, and user experience.  It did, however, come with a fingerprint scanner.  But I have to say that while the specs were far less than expected, it still seems to exceed the other major releases that are coming out this Spring, in the HTC One/M8 and the Sony Experia Z2.

But it's not just this factor that is important to remember.  This is the Samsung Flagship phone.  It will sell in the tens of million units.  It's still an impressive phone and it's on par with the "expected" level of processor, RAM, memory and materials that we should expect at this point in time. I would even say that rumors of the "prime" and "premium" versions are nothing more than speculative.  I would be more likely to believe that either the Galaxy S6 or the Note 4 are more likely to sport the rumored features of the devices.

So check out here a speculative post on IDT for a spec rundown.  They seem to believe that a superior version of the S5 is likely (though I disagree) and  they throw in the LG G3 with some rumored specs that I don't suspect we will see in time for that release (the Qualcom 805 being the only one I'm willing to grant it, thought a 2k screen that's larger would be easier and cheaper to manufacture) but I'd push the G3 off till well after the supposed June release, not till at least late August or early September to be more in line with the fall releases of the Optimus/G line of phones as well as the uptick cycle of phone sales.  But the longer they hold off on that the more likely they will be to have some of those spec actually on the device.

And while gadget spam is rampant on the S line of Galaxy phones form Samsung, they are all specialized version of the basic device.  They are not technically superior in more than a single aspect.  So the idea of a "high end" S5 coming out later in the year is almost silly, unless it pops on the scene in less than 6 weeks of the main S5 release (though every week after means a smaller and smaller chance), unless the device is only offered off contract to limit sales because there is little reason to think that Samsung could maintain production of such a high end phone for the masses.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

-SR

Edit:  I changed my estimate on the next iPhone to 4.7 inches after hearing that the saphire screens that Apple ordered are all spec'd for "5 inches" diagonal.  Max size would be no more than 5 inches provided the screens did not need to be altered during production.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

GMO and "science" paranoia

Hello, hello!

The other day I was at work and had a rather heated (but unemotional) argument with a co-worker of mine who was reading an article that called non-GMO (genetically modified organism) food that is grown "traditionally"  the 'frenimy" of organically grown foods.  The arguement they were making is that people see GMO as the "bad guy" so food that is non-GMO (but grown traditionally) is thought of as better/safer than GMO but cheaper than organic (which costs more to grow/raise often due to lower yields). 

My take on it was that people need to stop complaining about GMO's, as genetic modification is not the problem  There has yet to be any peer-reviewed and replicated science that shows any harm or even indication of harm based the the gene modifications of the (in particular) plants, they have been around for 30-40 years, and there is substantially no difference between GMO and more traditional hybridization/controlled selection.

The problem is not the organisms themselves, it's the process by which those (in particular) plants are grown where ANY sense of problem arise.  We should not be be talking about GMO's per se, but the process by which any and all foods are brought to the table.  Making GMO the "bad guy" mistakes the plant for the process and unjustly vilifies it.  We should be talking about overuse of glysophate herbicides and neonicotinoid insecticides and (insert other agent here) instead of what is done in labs to create plants (or animals) that make them more or less susceptible to insects/weed/disease/temperatures, etc.  But frankly, even this evidence is weak that any of it is problematic at this point.

It's like talking about guns being banned in the US, instead of regulating their use or ownership we would just ban them altogether for everyone including the military and police (because then no one can steal them from the police/military and if no one has guns then why do the police/military need them).  It's irrational to try and completely ban guns (aside form the 2nd amendment to the US Constitution - which I'll post my thoughts on someday) because there are scenarios where people would use them lawfully (hunting, law enforcement, the military, "feeling" safer, self defence and the like). 

My co-workers response to me was 'If you don't want people to blame GMO's or use the term then you know what, go start a blog and talk about it there.  Try and get people to use the terms you want them too and stop arguing with me about it.  It's the term people use to talk about it.'.   So... 

Now, if I'm wrong, can someone point me to some "good" science that supports GMO's as a problem where it's not a problem with the "process" of growing them?  Send me links in the comments and I'll take a look so we can discuss it. 

-SR

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Faith vs. trust and morals vs. ethics



Hey people,

I was recently listening to a debate between the YouTube skeptic AronRa and Ray Comfort. At one point in the talk Ray Comfort asked AronRa if had had a wife (which he does) and Ray went off on this tangent about both AronRa having to have faith in his wife AS WELL as not being able to prove that she existed (I think they were separate arguments, but they kind of ran together in Ray's ramblings). If you'd like, you can here the whole thing here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZ9OyxAiehk

It stuck me as odd. In the intervening periods since I saw that I have become more acutely aware of theists making two points which bother me. First, that being an atheist requires faith, and second that atheists can't be moral without god. The part about both of these topics that bothers me is what seems like a (what "seems to me" like a) deliberate misinterpretation of the terms faith and morals. So I want to try and make it clear how I use the terms in contrast with their similar counterpoints (faith/trust and morals/ethics) and hopefully generate some conversation about them. If my reasoning is sound I think I'd also like the skeptical community (if they'd care to) to use the terms as I will outline them here. It can perhaps shut down some of the rhetorical flip flopping that theists do in trying to justify their reasoning. I think it's especially important to clarify these terms when they arise, just like we would want other claims (such as the definition of a god(s)) in order to form, support or deny arguments about them.

In a lot of discussions I see people take for granted how these words are used. Skeptics will often force theists (or people talking any position) to define terms as they are presented. "Define god" or "define better" and the like, but take other words for granted. Sometimes they even use more focused definitions of words (like belief or knowledge or faith) in ways that the dictionaries don't directly specify. But language is defined by useage, not by dictionaries, and I propose the following changes to how words are used:

Definitions from the Miriam Webster Dictionary, online.

Faith - Current definition: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/faith
noun \ˈfāth\
: strong belief or trust in someone or something
: belief in the existence of God : strong religious feelings or beliefs
: a system of religious beliefs

Suggested definition - much like many skeptics and atheists are using it now, I would specify in the first definition the change to :strong belief in something without clear reasoning or evidence.

I think this definition puts it more inline with the other definitions given and will help to make it more clear as to the difference between faith and trust.

Trust
- Current definition: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/trust
noun \ˈtrəst\
: belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc.
: an arrangement in which someone's property or money is legally held or managed by someone else or by an organization (such as a bank) for usually a set period of time
: an organization that results from the creation of a trust

Suggested definition - changes to the first definition to clarify that belief is placed with someone or something with and/or do to having good reasons or evidence that the position is acceptable.

I think the specification is necessary because I think there can be belief in some supernatural things in personal experience in the current definition, but without being able to rationally verify or show this then it has to fall back to faith as to whether or not it's "real". This allows for specification between what is backed by evidence and what is not. And additional to stop theists form saying that atheists/skeptics have to have faith to not believe.

Moral
- current definition - http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/moral
adjective \ˈmȯr-əl, ˈmär-\
: concerning or relating to what is right and wrong in human behavior
: based on what you think is right and good
: considered right and good by most people : agreeing with a standard of right behavior

Suggested definition - Again with the first definition (though the noun and not the adjective), specifying that morals are models for individual behavior. This could mean more of the treating yourself correctly and/or thinking a certain way about things. This definition wouyld put it more in line with what I see as it's typical usage about personal responsibility as taught by religions.

Ethic - current definition - http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ethic
noun \ˈe-thik\
: rules of behavior based on ideas about what is morally good and bad
ethics : an area of study that deals with ideas about what is good and bad behavior : a branch of philosophy dealing with what is morally right or wrong
: a belief that something is very important

Suggested definition - of the more common usage, I think ethics should differ from morals by specifying that ethics are behaviors for groups and not individuals. By this, I mean that it specifies individuals behaviors within a group and not the specific behaviors related solely to an individual.
To be more specific about ethics and morals and their common usages, I would say that a man cheating on his wife could be moral, immoral, unethical and ethical at the same time, depending on factors involved (assuming general stereotypes of this scenario). For himself, if he doesn't have a problem with the behavior, he may not have gone against his own morals. If he does, then, well, he did (even providing his morals are not relative). If his wife was OK with the behavior, then it wasn't necessarily unethical either, and as far as his job as an accountant or a Senator, the behavior was not unethical (per se, unless his wife is a voter in the one case).

So what do you think?  Do you see any flaws in my reasoning or have better suggestions?  I'm open to ideas.

-SR

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Skeptic Presents: What is a Skeptic?


OK, so I'm working on another (longer) post now, but I kind of feel like I've been away from here for too long.  This is going to be a somewhat challenging week for me as well (work has a big project coming to completion in the next 7-10 days), so I want to make sure I get something up.  I came across this video which I think does an extremely good job of explaining skepticism in a clear and humorous way.  If you hop over to YouTube to watch, you can find more content by MrDeity, who puts a humorous spin on aspects of Christian theology.  And no, I don't think he's a theist.

-SR

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Water cures cancer - you're doing it wrong.



Ah, Facebook...

So my wife has this thing where she will either like or share a post that she doesn't have time to read "now" but doesn't want to miss and not read later (or so she says).

I don't like this particular tactic because it makes her look like she likes some pretty far out stuff sometimes. Something that she did this to yesterday really got my blood boiling today and I thought I'd take a second to share. I'm not going to reference the original post, but I will say some things about it. The content of it can be found here - http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/w/water-cures.htm#.Uwax-vldXTc

The post on Facebook has over 4400 comments since September 2013. The company that posted it is a "naturopathic" company that touts juicing and eating your veggies. The post itself has over 57,000 likes and 223,000 shares. I am not going to name the company or link to the post for the sole reason that they do not have the article on their site, just the Facebook page. But the info-graphic says things like "scientifically proven" on it, and that's part of the reason that it really pissed me off.

To summarize, the "method" is "popular in Japan", and drinking four glasses of water first thing in the morning will cure a host of diseases, including "Headache, body ache, heart system, arthritis, fast heart beat, epilepsy, excess fatness, bronchitis asthma, TB, meningitis, kidney and urine diseases, vomiting, gastritis, diarrhea, piles, diabetes, constipation, all eye diseases, womb, cancer and menstrual disorders, ear nose and throat diseases." It will also, apparently, cure Tuberculosis in three months and cancer is six months...

WHAT!?!?! Of course, there is no evidence to back this up. There are no peer reviewed studies or experiments that show even ANY connection to drinking water as a CURE FOR CANCER!

The hardest part for me is when someone with cancer sees this and is afraid. Here is this "story" with hundreds of thousands of people sharing it, offering a "cure" for cancer that is so simple. Just drink water in the morning. It will fix everything!

Most of the stuff I can find on the site that shared this is good, normal (if slightly pseudo-scientific) stuff about why you should (and how to) consume healthy plant materials. Looking it over, it's somewhat backed by research) they recommend a lot of foods rich in a variety of anti-oxidants and what not. On their site I did run into some wackiness (using onion juice to regrow hair), but most it's mostly harmless stuff.



-SR




Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Quality over quantity

Hey all,

So I've decided that I need to shoot (for now) for two good posts a week as a base.  I'm not really using the blog to talk about my day to day stuff (that's what twitter and Facebook statuses seemed to be used for) so I think I need to look at a different strategy for this.  Right now I have no idea (I do see some page views of my posts) but I half think those are incidental or accidental (and the page views have been going down some each day (give or take).

Something got under my skin a couple of days ago and I'm trying to decide two things.  First, do I really care enough.  Second, what do I do about it if I do.  It's not a huge issue but it has some potential to make things irritating at work.

So in the last month or so, on at least two separate occasion, I've walked past a fax machine/copier in the office that appeared to be jammed. (big red light flashing on it indicating there was a problem).  Both times no one was around so I have no idea who was doing what to it, but I know that that machine has some problems sometimes but we still get a lot of inbound faxes on it (don't get me started on paper faxing in 2014...).  Being conscientious I decide to see if I can clear the jam to let the job finish a prevent stuff from backing up in the storage on the machine. 

I remove the pages that are stuck and close up the unit.  As it starts working again I see that there is a copy job (with stapling) that still has about 20 copies left.  What, do you imagine, is the copy job?  It's a list of biblical quotes on a (what seems like) a bunch of random topics (love, salvation, grief, faith, etc.). 

#1.  Do I care.  Here is my problem.  I don't think someone should be using company property to run off a bunch of personal copies (which are probably for some church group that they belong to).  Had it been one time I can see it if you can't run to the copy store, but twice in a month, with at least 20 copies of a 4-5 page packet) seems excessive.  I suspect I might know who it is (BTW).  I also don't like the fact that the machine was just left like that and no one called on IT (or anyone as far as I can tell) to fix it.  It seems like they "know better".

#2.  If I do care, what do I do about it?  Go to the person I suspect and make them aware that I believe it was them and they shouldn't (at least) leave the machine like that?  Go to my boss and let them deal with it?  Go to the person's boss?  Tell out IT department about it?

I don't want to create a situation where no one can run copies of their missing cat flier, or print off their bill payment confirmations, and what-not, but I also don't want to keep clearing out paper jams that other people leave behind.  I suspect that confronting the person I believe to be responsible would result in denials, but they then may just send them to a different machine or something. 

At then end of the day (at least this one) I'm thinking that I really don't care that much, but I've been a little irritated about it for a couple of days now...

-SR

Monday, February 17, 2014

Quicky post

In the event that someone decides to check out what I say (though this posting every night thing is a pain) I don't really have anything for tonight.  I'm working on a project that is getting closer to finally being done and I'm trying to check it off the list tonight.  It's taking longer than I wanted, but there you have it.

So more tomorrow, but I need to maybe work on some more thought out posts.  I kind of feel like I'm just making noise and not really saying a lot.

-SR

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Tracking and a little about me.

Hey,

So I think I've had a total of two "real" views so far.  I just figured out the whole "don't track my page views" thing on blogger.  So maybe now we will see if I actually have anyone lurking in blogosphere that might be reading the drivel that I'm spouting here.

Anyway, so I thought I'd do a little intro of myself instead of ranting about anything today.

My description seems to be vague, and that's not just to be a jerk or anything.  I made a conscious decision to separate my blogging life from my real life.  I have some advantages over some people who are in the skeptical/atheist camp, in that I don't hide it, and to almost everyone I know now I am and have always been a skeptic.  Sure, I've got some people who have elected to ignore that fact about me in my life as well, or those that haven't every asked about it.  And I'm happy to leave that level of philosophical discourse out of my "real" life.

Be that as it may, I work for an organization that (in itself) would not care about my POV, but our company works with a lot of religious organizations (Christian, mostly) that may not be so understanding.  Now I don't feel that there might be any real issues with my position, but at the same time a little subterfuge is a small price to pay to keep things copacetic on that front.  So my name, occupation, family details, etc., are going to be vague at best for so long as I decide to be that way.

I grew up in a typical American christian household.  We went to church most Sundays, did the holidays and what-not.  My maternal grandmother was (for all intents and purposes) a near "ideal" christian.  She did not evangelize, though she led a good life, had lots of kids, went to church, helped to poor, sick and needy, and even challenged the local bishops when she thought they were not being good or reasonable people.  We went to see her often as a kid.  But my parents were more liberal minded.  My mother was a feminist (and the reason I stopped going to church in 6th grade) and my father was (at one time) a guy who went though the motions but never talked about god or pushed or preached any of it.

My sister is a (I believe literally) a hard atheist.  She has been "out" since she was probably 14 or 15.  She is very intelligent and multi-degreed.  She is passionate about her atheism and has had to face some discrimination because of those beliefs in her life.  Now, she can be more confrontational than I am as well, and I will, generally speaking, take things as they come.  I won't take someone apart unless they threaten me with hell or eternal damnation (in a malicious way).  I don't mind people praying (though I usually wish they would do more - I see praying as a kind of slactivism) for me, but I won't join them (though I will be respectful). 

I am into tech and I've been messing with computer and technology for over 30 years.  My dad was in sales and believed in early adoption, so we had our first computer at our house when I was about 8 years old.  I do what I need to to stay on top of trends and what's out an available (lately I've been doing more with phones and tablets - but that's the direction things are moving).  But generally speaking there are very few things that I'll be the first to get.  But if you want to know about what's the best of something (or should I wait for XXX product [almost always yes]) then I can usually give you an informed opinion of the device or service.

I am into health and nutrition (and skeptical of a lot of the junk that gets repeated in that field).  I am also into...  OK, I don't need to make some laundry list of stuff I'm into today.  This is already my longest post and I feel like I'm going to start rambling if I go on.

One last thing.  If you are reading this, feel free to comment, even if it's just to say "hi".  I'm even open to sharing my ideas on anything you can come up with.  I don't think I have any need to do a whole lot of monitoring of comments.  I'll limit that to "real" spam if I see it.  I (for now) am trying to make this blog polite.  I don't care if you curse or swear, but I'd ask if you'd only use it when it's necessary (and not just for emphasis when another word will do).  But do what you want.  I'm not your mom.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Debates about beliefs

Greetings,

So I have listened to a couple of debates (about religious beliefs), and in fact I'm listening to the radio "debate" between Matt Dillahunty and Ray Comfort right now (on YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=le_QbsH_wpg) via darkviper8888.  It occurred sometime at the beginning of this month (February 2014). 

I have to say that I can understand why Matt now says that he won't debate Ray ever again.  Matt keeps asking direct questions and Ray keeps not answering them.  In fact, Ray keeps making statements like 'atheists know god exists and just choose to not trust him' and 'atheists are not trustworthy, but I love you and want you to know that you are going to hell'. 

And then there is the flat out lie by Ray.  I've been watching the Atheist Experience show archive on blip.tv (http://blip.tv/the-atheist-experience-tv-show) and recently heard the episode where Ray Comfort called in and debated Russel Glasser and Matt Dillahunty.  Towards the end of the debate, Matt asked Ray if he thought that slavery was acceptable and moral because Exodus 21-23 not only say that you can own other people as property but how you can make other Jews your slaves forever.  Ray then said that he didn't believe everything in the bible and that some of it was metaphorical (sic).  Since I"m on YouTube here is a link to the page on there - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyzF8SMQOxU  In this debate, Ray states that the bible is entirely true and right and all things in it are of God.

So I guess here is another "atheist" post from me.  Maybe tomorrow I'll talk about something else. 

-SR

Friday, February 14, 2014

Good reads and views

Hola and Happy Valentines day to all!

So as I said last night I thought I'd share some of my recent atheist/counter-apologetics sites that I've been checking out lately. 

Web sites/Wiki's:

http://www.talkorigins.org/
http://wiki.ironchariots.org/
http://freethoughtblogs.com/

These are all good sources that seem to have thought out answers/responses to apologists arguments.  

Now, what I've really been enjoying a bit lately have been YouTube channels.  All of the ones I'll list below are ones that I've been watching in the past month.  They are not really in any particular order, but the first two are currently my favorites.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaFNs3ETMvkmy0JahAS6WJA - logicked
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCprs0DXUS-refN1i8FkQkdg - The Atheist Experience
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCH_zYYXkJpULueOVZTkY4Bw - Richard Dawkins Foundation
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRHK7x9H5GuXwDi8gOM0hDw - Martymer 81
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLhtZqdkjshgq8TqwIjMdCQ - DarkMatter2525
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCry4eIS1_98ZxFO0geP7xJw - Matt Dillahunty
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCravYcv6C0CopL2ukVzhzNw - JaclynGlenn
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCp8YwJpk7OALmnuJ8d9SUlQ - Theoretical Bullshit

A good deal of these will have links to other good pages that I am still wading through as I go.  It's pretty amazing that there are so many people out there that are so open about their (non) beliefs. 

I say that as an "out" atheist myself.   On a regular basis I see people being discriminated against because of the fact that they don't take things on "faith".  I think at some point I'm going to end up going on a tirade about why I think faith is actually both dangerous and unnecessary. 

But not tonight.  I need to get really worked up over it and I haven't had a good reason to in a while.  I also think I may need to start stepping up my game a little on here to see if I can draw in a few more views or comments.  Frankly I've kind of put myself in a small bind by electing to separate this blog from my "normal" life, so I'm not out fishing for views or directing too many (OK, any, yet) to this blog.  I may have to bend that rule a bit in the near future, but for now I'll see how well I can do on content alone (ha).

Night all. 

-SR

Thursday, February 13, 2014

I'm torn about a topic for today...

Greetings!

So I am torn about what to talk about today. 

The crux of the dilemma is really more about what I want to talk about versus what it more timely.  I don't necessarily want this blog to dissolve into a counter apologetics page (per-se, in that I think the real motivation for starting this was wanting to more openly talk about skeptical reasoning and there is a lot of theist stuff that irritates me on that front), but my topic from last night had me thinking about this some more.

So I think instead of talking about my brief comparisons of the rumors of the Galaxy S5 and iPhone 6 compared in how they are aimed at the spec mongers who are itching for every last bit of info, I think I'm going to put that aside for now (since, for no other reason the iPhone 6 is really a bit far off at this point).

So yesterday's footnote (about domestic camels in Israel) seems to not be "new", in that the theory has been around for a while (some people have, I have heard, been arguing that for around 100 years now) but that more recent findings seem to support that idea.  Radio-carbon dating of the oldest bones that have been discovered in Israel date to about 930 BCE.  

I don't really think this is some kind of deal breaker for Old Testament/Torah (OT) believers, but it certainly puts a wrench in the literalists ideologies. If you take the biblical text to be more metaphorical then there is little issue with a re-write that puts a domestic animal in a place they didn't live and when they didn't live there.

Awe screw it.  I think I'm just tired.  As it stands now I'm pecking this out when I should really be in bed.  I had a point in there somewhere that I'm just not in the mood to make tonight.  Though to get it out of my system sometime tomorrow, I think I'll post some counter apologetics sites that I've been checking out lately and share some of the YouTube channels I've been watching.  Then maybe at some point I'll start talking about more stuff. 

But then maybe I just can't get behind this camel story either...  It seems rather footnote-y

'night.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

"Devils advocate", sort of... Bill Nye and Ken Ham

Good evening readers,

So you know that when something is new we tend to play with things more than when we get used to them.  This blog is currently my shiny new toy, so I will hopefully make frequent updates.  The plan is for the blog to be like my new smart phone.  Something that I use rather freqently, and sometimes even using it for something important.

Recently I finished watching the Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate at the creation museum in KY.  As a skeptic, as you might imagine, I think Bill Nye did a good job of combating the irrational "creation" mythos perpetrated by the Young Earth Creationists (aka the YEC).  The most surprising thing about the debate was not so much the claims made by Ham, but how completely he agrees with creation story told in Genesis. 

I think that Nye went pretty easy on Ham though.  I think he could have been more assertive in some of his points, and at no time did he ever actually challenge Ham on the logic of believing just a book (I mean, pick a book, any book).  He challenged Ham where appropriate (such as the trees older than the age of the earth for YEC's), but I think he was afraid of alienating what was mostly a hostile audience.

I do have some advice for Ken Ham.  My only real criticism of his "performance" was just how damn long winded he was, and how (like in his 30 minute presentation period) he really ran out of stuff to say after about 18 minutes (including his testimonials from other YEC's that actually work in a scientific field [can we say compartmentalization]) and then just went into re-emphasizing his points that he had already made.  After he re-summarized his original ideas for the second time, I really started to drift off.  I really had to fight all of my mental eye rolling listening to the same stuff I had just heard, now at lest twice before.

And as the evening wore on, I realized that, with the exception of a few details, that was really all he had.  Be that as it may, Ken can be a jovial and entertaining speaker.  He is charismatic in a way that didn't have me minding that nearly everything he said was based on a book written over the course of several thousand years.  And I would point out (to any bible literalists out there) that even if Moses wrote the old testament, he wasn't there for most of it.  And he wasn't there for the end of it either.

In a bit of ironic serendipity, I had just briefly flipped over to my regular home page and noticed a little tidbit that fits in right with the last paragraph in an odd way.  According to recent archeological evidence, domesticated camels did not arrive in the middle east until about 930(ish) BCE, anywhere from 500 to 1000 years after they are supposedly written about in the Old Testament, which is believed to have it's origins between 2000 and 1500 BCE.

Here are some links to the story.  Feel free to choose your source.

Fox News -Camel bones suggest error in Bible, archaeologists say

 New York Times - Camels Had No Business in Genesis

National Geographic - Domesticated Camels Came to Israel in 930 B.C., Centuries Later Than Bible Says

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

In the begining...

Hey everyone (or anyone),

So this is my first blog as SkepticalRoot. Let me give you a rundown of what this is and why I'm here.

First, this is a blog to spare my wife some of my rantings about some pretty dumb crap that I see on a daily basis.  It's not all in person, mind you.  The people in my "normal" life are fairly "regular", so there isn't a lot of drama in my day to day.  However, that doesn't mean that the world of the interwebs doesn't provide enough sources of frustration.  That doesn't mean that "life" doesn't provide enough on it's own, but if nothing else I've learned some patience for my fellow 'man (at least in front of them).

I am a skeptical person who is working on being a "real skeptic" (i.e. disabusing myself of things I believe without good evidence).  And, as a footnote, that is in the soft solipsistic sense (not the nihilistic/hard solipsism sense).  I am also an atheist, as I feel is necessitated by being skeptical of any claim of the existence of god(s) (yes, that means yours too).  But this isn't going to ALL be about theistic claims.  I'm interested in technology, science, pop-culture and the media, political science, gardening, health and nutrition, friends, family, etc.  I like to learn and feel that at this point in my life I can discuss (relatively) a variety of topics.

I"m sure I'll take more time to expand and expound on these ideas in the future.  For now, its bedtime, so I'll talk at you later.

SR (SkepticalRoot)

P.S. I'm also a "two spacer".  And sorry for all the "quotes".  I use them less than I use parentheses at least...  I use them to define terms when I'm using words in a specific context that isn't always the expected one, though not always.  It might be something I get sick of after too long and quit doing and just assume that my readers understand context.