Friday, January 1, 2010

"Science" "disproves" death by "disproving" all of observable existence

Now, back to business.
Here is an article from the Huffington Post (i.e. Pseudoscience Central) by one Robert Lanza, MD.  Why did I need so desperately to tear into it?  The title is the hilariously misleading but oh so provocative  "Does Death Exist?  New Theory Says 'No'".  You'll find the title to my post a bit more accurate.
Many of us fear death. We believe in death because we have been told we will die. 
We've been indoctrinated into believing that we are going to die!  We don't actually have any evidence for this absurd belief, obviously.  Not able to figure this out inductively from knowing that virtually every other living thing that isn't currently alive has died (by the very definition of "death").  But, yeah, it's a glorified superstition!  The life of an individual creature never ends, because of...I dunno...quantum physics.  (Let's see if I guessed that one correctly!) 
We associate ourselves with the body, and we know that bodies die. 
Such a foolish idea, associating our selves with our bodies.  Everybody knows that our essential "self" has no connection with our physical bodies whatsoever!  Just ask someone with massive brain damage.
But a new scientific theory suggests that death is not the terminal event we think.
That "new scientific theory" better be "new" and "scientific" in addition to being a "theory" in the scientific sense of the word, or I will blow a gasket.
One well-known aspect of quantum physics is that certain observations cannot be predicted absolutely. 
Holy shit....
"The uncertainty principle therefore ANYTHING GOES!!" theory, as popularized by virtually every New Ager to ever walk the face of the Earth.  Also, I did seriously predict this before reading past the first paragraph.  Oh quantum physics, is there any kind of inanity that you can't be invoked to add credibility to?
Instead, there is a range of possible observations each with a different probability. One mainstream explanation, the "many-worlds" interpretation, states that each of these possible observations corresponds to a different universe (the 'multiverse').
Apparently, many worlds interpretation is rather complicated stuff and is actually accepted at a moderate percentage by most leading physicists.  It's best described on the wikipedia  page  with this statement:
"many-worlds claims to resolve all of the correlation paradoxes of quantum theory, such as the EPR paradox and Schrödinger's cat, since every possible outcome of every event defines or exists in its own "history" or "world". In layman's terms, there is a very large—perhaps infinite[9]—number of universes, and everything that could possibly have happened in our past, but didn't, has occurred in the past of some other universe or universes."

In other words, quantum events split our time line and serve as a junction, and each chain of these events that has a different outcome at any given junction is considered different universe.  Of course, to be honest, this only seems like a nice little metaphor, giving you an ability to refer to an alternate timeline as an entirely different world.  But the idea that these different universes actually exist based entirely on this kind of extrapolation needs a hell of a lot more than "it's possible" to justify it.  On the subject of the unfalsifiable nature of those other worlds, wiki doth declare "MWI is considered by some to be unfalsifiable and hence unscientific because the multiple parallel universes are non-communicating, in the sense that no information can be passed between them. Others claim MWI is directly testable. Everett regarded MWI as falsifiable since any test that falsifies conventional quantum theory would also falsify MWI."  In response, I can only hope that Everett was incorrectly paraphrased, because his rebuttal to the claim that MWI (i.e. his interpretation of quantum theory) is unfalsifiable is that you can falsify it by falsifying quantum theory.  Akin to claiming that gravity is a repulsive force in Tartarus, and that this is falsifiable because you can falsify Newtonian physics.  So, in other words, this defense, much like the interpretation itself, is ever so slightly flawed unless I am gravely misunderstanding either situation.
A new scientific theory - called biocentrism - refines these ideas. There are an infinite number of universes, and everything that could possibly happen occurs in some universe. Death does not exist in any real sense in these scenarios.
This is Lanza's own "scientific theory,"  by the way.  Yes, biocentrism, the "New Theory" that says that death doesn't exist from this article's title is the article author's own creation.  How's that for journalism!

Also, that second sentence is actually still part of many worlds interpretation. 
 Although individual bodies are destined to self-destruct, the alive feeling - the 'Who am I?'- is just a 20-watt fountain of energy operating in the brain.
So, consciousness is energy operating in the brain.  Here's the problem with this:  this is giving the brain far too passive of a role in all of this.  Lanza seems to be suggesting that the brain is just the gathering place for all of this energy, which is the one doing the real work in regards to churning out consciousness (possibly trying to suggest that the energy involved in cognition is consciousness itself).  But it is in fact the brain itself that is the most relevant factor, the thing that is directing this energy (electrical and chemical, as opposed to magical or spiritual) in such a precise manner that altering specific regions of the brain alters behavior, emotion, and thought (though our knowledge about the specifics of the latter is limited).  

[Also of note is that watt is a unit of power, which would be energy per unit time and is not actually a measurement of energy itself.  In fact, due to this, the wattage of our energy would be irrelevant outside of the confines of the bodily systems which produce this energy change, whereas the amount of joules that this energy represents would be the thing that remains consistent and is the measurement that is of relevance in conservation of energy. ]
 But this energy doesn't go away at death. One of the surest axioms of science is that energy never dies; it can neither be created nor destroyed. But does this energy transcend from one world to the other?
This is how you know when someone is being dishonest. Conservation of energy means that energy is never destroyed (energy doesn't die, nice continuing attempt to suggest that energy=life though) in much the same way that conservation of matter and mass means that those are never destroyed. And we know how matter and mass of organisms are conserved after death, don't we?  Either through decay, or due to being digested by other lifeforms, their molecules are essentially dispersed throughout the environment over time.   Presumably, the energy that was once within the body, aiding the functions of various biological systems, would just gradually be released, probably in the form of heat, over time.  The energy certainly would not be leaving the body in a discrete, intact packet like the organism was some kind of massive particle releasing a super-photon.
Consider an experiment that was recently published in the journal Science showing that scientists could retroactively change something that had happened in the past. Particles had to decide how to behave when they hit a beam splitter. Later on, the experimenter could turn a second switch on or off. It turns out that what the observer decided at that point, determined what the particle did in the past. Regardless of the choice you, the observer, make, it is you who will experience the outcomes that will result.
That's a real mindfuck.  Assuming that it was a blinded experiment (i.e. that the experimenter did not know the particle behavior when deciding which switch to flick).  But, Lanza provides no easy way to find the article he is mentioning (no citation) so I can't really know for sure if they took such an obvious precaution (blinding is rarely relevant, and thus rarely used, in most physics experiments, so it may not have been that obvious).
The linkages between these various histories and universes transcend our ordinary classical ideas of space and time. Think of the 20-watts of energy as simply holo-projecting either this or that result onto a screen. Whether you turn the second beam splitter on or off, it's still the same battery or agent responsible for the projection. he suggesting that a battery (i.e. the energy) being used in one machine and then later in the other is the same as not dying?  I guess that works if you are assuming from the outset that the entirety of your being is defined by the energy (or energy source, as the case may be).  A battery in a remote control or a battery in a talking doll is a battery in either case, so obviously this makes sense.  But when you put a battery from a remote control into a talking doll, does that make the doll now into a remote control?  I ask this because our body affects our consciousness in a way that makes a comparison to a machine and its interchangeable batteries quite dishonest.  Even more so given that we have no reason to believe that consciousness is energy, or that this energy is transferable in any meaningful way (or, in other words, that the energy could leave the body in such the way that its relationship to the original source has any clear relevance).
According to Biocentrism, space and time are not the hard objects we think. Wave your hand through the air - if you take everything away, what's left? Nothing.
In fairness, I don't think that time is a hard object (or any kind of object for that matter).  
Yes, that was an attempt at humor.  And I hope that his profound revelation that "everything minus everything equals nothing" is the same.
The same thing applies for time. You can't see anything through the bone that surrounds your brain. Everything you see and experience right now is a whirl of information occurring in your mind. Space and time are simply the tools for putting everything together.
And now's the part where you say that we're all just brains in vats, right?
Death does not exist in a timeless, spaceless world. 
Very nice.  Time and space are concepts that help to explain the world as we experience it.  It is hardly out of bounds to suggest that our experience of it may be flawed.  But to say that time and space are not merely inaccurate concepts, but that nothing even analogous to them even exist, is to say that everything is an illusion.  Doing that is to deny everything beyond yourself.  To say that death wouldn't exist is trivial, because nothing  exists aside from your own illusory experience itself. It is solipsism, a denial of anything that we could even begin to call reality, and it is something that needs to be dismissed for entirely practical purposes in order to function at all in the world as we experience it.
In the end, even Einstein admitted, "Now Besso" (an old friend) "has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us...know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion."
I assume that it is a testament to the persistence of this particular illusion, and to the limits of the human imagination as well, when I say that I simply cannot understand what exactly a universe with no distinction between past, future, and present would look like.  I can only imagine a single point in time, and thus stasis.  
Immortality doesn't mean a perpetual existence in time without end, but rather resides outside of time altogether.
Residing outside of time is a meaningless statement.  Without time in which to actually go about actually doing things, immortality in that respect would be merely existing and nothing else. 
This was clear with the death of my sister Christine. After viewing her body at the hospital, I went out to speak with family members. Christine's husband - Ed - started to sob uncontrollably. For a few moments I felt like I was transcending the provincialism of time. I thought about the 20-watts of energy, and about experiments that show a single particle can pass through two holes at the same time. I could not dismiss the conclusion: Christine was both alive and dead, outside of time.
Because, clearly, energy is the same thing as a person, and this energy/person now exists in another dimension because everything is uncertain.
Whether it's flipping the switch for the Science experiment, or turning the driving wheel ever so slightly this way or that way on black-ice, it's the 20-watts of energy that will experience the result. In some cases the car will swerve off the road, but in other cases the car will continue on its way to my sister's dream house.
Christine had recently lost 100 pounds, and Ed had bought her a surprise pair of diamond earrings. It's going to be hard to wait, but I know Christine is going to look fabulous in them the next time I see her.
 "The next time I see her"?  Try harder to make this seem like it's more than a bunch of wishful thinking with the science added on after the fact when you make your next self-admitted "theory of everything".

I wish I knew more about the Almighty Quantum to better rebut the idea of parallel universes, and wish I knew enough about time and space to say that it is most likely that time and space actually exist.  But, I know enough about "it's all an illusion!" handwaving and have a rough idea of how the brain works and what energy actually means in science (hint: it's not qi) to know that the rest of what he is saying is a crock of shit.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy end of the decade!

Wow.   Time really does fly.  If I didn't know better, I'd personally swear that it was still 1997 if I didn't vaguely remember celebrating a new millennium popping up at some point in the not so distant past.  So, maybe it's 2002?

Anyway, enough about my inability to keep track of what year it is.  What can we expect to see in the years ahead?  Do we expect Obama to be re-elected?  Do we expect actual progress, whether in regards to the current healthcare bill actually changing things for the better, or in terms of greater acceptance of different sexualities?  Do we expect the economy to finally become stable again?  And do we expect more one-man terrorist attacks like the Fort Hood shooter and this recent failed attempt by a Nigerian man on an airplane?  And do we expect the internet to take an even greater role in our current society, while popular culture at large becomes ever more banal and inane?

I don't know what I personally think about any of that.  Except for popular culture.  I know in my hear tof hearts that popular culture will never become more banal or inane than it is right now.  This is because it is simply not possible, as there is no conceivable way to churn out more prettied-up, unoriginal and essentially meaningless drivel than we are currently being subjected to.  And you better goddamn hope that I am right about that one, because I simply cannot imagine the horrors that will need to be unleashed to make things worse.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The E-mails!: A Global Warming Soap Opera

Sorry.  Been in a coma for a month.  (That's my story and I'm sticking to it...)

Anyway, global warming.  I haven't been keeping track of when this whole hacked e-mail debacle began, but I fairly certain that it happened around the same time that merry hordes across the internet and the media began to huff and puff about how some profound revelation was made by exposing these e-mails.  Oh, how my imagination would churn, trying to imagine what possible thing could have cast doubts on the science of global warming just in e-mails.  Oh, how I tried to entertain the notion that the right-wing chortling and cries of victory were at least slightly appropriate responses and connected to reality in some fashion.  Oh, how I gave them far more credit than they have earned.

Here is a good explanation of why their triumphalism at this point is completely ridiculous:

(Via Pharyngula)

It seems that the two (TWO!) e-mails that these people are whipped up into a frenzy about don't even say what they claim it to say.  Even if it did, these are goddamn e-mails!  The only way it could possibly undermine the actual science of global warming is if you could actually find that the deceptive attempts to "hide the decline" were successful and affected the scientific literature in some substantial way.  Even if you were to take the e-mails at their most conniving, sinister interpretation rather than as playful statistical jargon, you still have to deal with the fact that it is only two (TWO!) e-mails, and that they are goddamn e-mails and not actual scientific papers.  If the results of their actual research were somehow fradulent, other research would be able contradict it with their own data and make it irrelevant.  So, what it comes down to is assuming a vast conspiracy in the scientific community based entirely on an interpretation of two e-mails that sound like they vaguely might be talking about intentionally altering data.  Though I am sure you need a healthy dose of anti-science bias and/or paranoia to sow those particular seeds.

Oh yeah, and in case it wasn't clear from the video why the "decline" in tree ring data needed to be hidden
Penn State scientist Michael Mann "said his trick, or 'trick of the trade,' for the Nature chart was to combine data from tree-ring measurements, which record world temperatures from 1,000 years ago until 1960, with actual temperature readings for 1961 through 1998" because "scientists have discovered that, for temperatures since 1960, tree rings have not been a reliable indicator." Jones has also stated that it is "well known" that tree ring data "does not show a realistic trend of temperature after 1960,"
Also note on that webpage that the mainstream media is actually lending this idiocy some credence, assuming that the euphoria and hysteria over the e-mails actually have enough basis in reality to merit mentioning the completely irrational reasons for said euphoria and hysteria.  Seriously, what is wrong with this country?

I'll end by laughing at a relatively meek excerpt on the issue from the Washington Post (via Media Matters):
The e-mails don't say that: They don't provide proof that human-caused climate change is a lie or a swindle.
But they do raise hard questions. In an effort to control what the public hears, did prominent scientists who link climate change to human behavior try to squelch a back-and-forth that is central to the scientific method? Is the science of global warming messier than they have admitted?

Clue #1:  If the back-and-forth you are talking about is e-mails, then I'm not sure what scientific method you are talking about.  If the back-and-forth you are talking about are some unknown, nameless folks who have evidence contrary to the prominent scientists doing alleged squelching, one would think that it wouldn't matter because the squelched folks still have evidence.  Having a back-and-forth with someone with no evidence to support their opinion is not the scientific method.  Preventing a back-and-forth from occurring with someone who has evidence supporting their opinion is only delaying the inevitable if adhering to the scientific method (because that evidence will just be found by someone else eventually).
Clue #2:  All science is pretty damn messy in general, and by far messier than most people believe.  It's not necessarily the scientists' fault that the general public isn't aware of this; it's more the fault of the public for not being either acquainted first-hand with scientific research, or at least passingly familiar with the basic philosophy of science and how it applies practically.  They simply have an overly idealistic view of how science works.  The question is whether the science behind the idea of global warming is messier than the science behind other established scientific concepts. 
And it's going to take a hell of a lot more than two stolen and misinterpreted e-mails to make such a question a particularly serious one.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

No marriage for you!

Good news everyone!  The tyranny of the majority has ruled against fairness and inequality in the name of their own personal disgust at people different from them yet again!  Everybody celebrate!
Maine voters repealed a state law Tuesday that would have allowed same-sex couples to wed, dealing the gay rights movement a heartbreaking defeat in New England, the corner of the country most supportive of gay marriage.
And here I was almost starting to think that there were islands of rationality in our country.  I was almost getting to the point where I could have faith in humanity again. Really, I should just be embarrassed that I could ever humor such outlandish fantasies!
Gay marriage has now lost in every single state — 31 in all — in which it has been put to a popular vote. Gay-rights activists had hoped to buck that trend in Maine — known for its moderate, independent-minded electorate — and mounted an energetic, well-financed campaign.
Just goes to show that you can't fight bigotry by throwing money at it.  It doesn't matter what you say or how often you say it; the people who voted yes on this had already made their minds and no amount of pleading with them or arguing them will change their gut feeling that being gay is just wrong.
Five other states have legalized gay marriage — starting with Massachusetts in 2004, and followed by Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Iowa — but all did so through legislation or court rulings, not by popular vote. In contrast, constitutional amendments banning gay marriage have been approved in all 30 states where they have been on the ballot.
Well, if there are "activist judges" out there after all, let me just say to you:  thank you.
The defeat left some gay-marriage supporters bitter
At this point, when it comes to gay-marriage supporters in this country, "bitter" is a pre-existing condition.  Any guesses why?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I'm in it for that sweet, sweet coveting

So, on the New Humanist website I took a quiz to figure out what kind of humanist I am (technically not one, that may be the problem here).  The options are Happy, Hedonist, Hounded, or Hardline.  From the options for some of the questions, you can tell which questions would result in you getting a result of "hardline":  ridiculous overreactions to anything the slightest bit religious in nature.  The article is tagged "comedy" so I probably shouldn't read too much into any of it, but in the text for my results (hedonist, bitches!) something peculiar stuck out to me.

You are one of life’s enjoyers, determined to get the most you can out of your brief spell on this glorious planet. What first attracted you to atheism was the prospect of liberation from the Ten Commandments, few of which are compatible with a life of pleasure. You play hard and work quite hard, have a strong sense of loyalty and a relaxed but consistent approach to your philosophy. You can’t see the point of abstract principles and probably wouldn’t lay down your life for a concept, though you might for a friend. Something of a champagne humanist, you admire George Bernard Shaw for his cheerful agnosticism and pursuit of sensual rewards, and your Hollywood hero is Marlon Brando, who was beautiful (for a while), irascible and aimed for goodness in his own tortured way. You adored the humanist London bus slogan (“There’s probably no God, now stop worrying and enjoy your life”) and are delighted that wild young comedians like Stewart Lee, Christina Martin and Ricky Gervais share your full-blooded rejection of religion. Sometimes you might be tempted to allow your own pleasures to take precedence over your ethics. But everyone is striving for that elusive balance between the good and the happy life. You’d probably better open another bottle and agree that for you there’s no contest.
Did you see the bolded statement?  I should hope so, otherwise all my hard work changing its font was for naught.  The rest of the statement makes sense but the bolded statement feeds into a peculiar argument that atheists are often faced with:  that they became atheists for the sake of freeing themselves from strict moral codes.  It is also shows a certain amount of reverence for Ten Commandments that is slightly strange even within the context of Christianity but even moreso when this statement is offered on an atheist site.

First off, the Ten Commandments (as they are commonly rendered) aren't that restrictive.  Especially if you are an atheist, thus making the first four of the commandments moot.  Don't kill/murder, don't steal/kidnap, respect your parents, don't bear false witness, don't covet, and don't commit adultery.  Only if you assume "bear false witness" to include any form of lying (rather than a false accusation) are they particularly strict.  Don't get me wrong, I think that "thou shalt not covet" may in fact be impossible to keep, depending on what one means by "covet".  Is it "I would like me some of that" kind of desire, or does it have to involve actively plotting and obsessing over how you could obtain the coveted object/person for yourself for a significant period of time?  Aside from those potential issues, and the fact that the "honor thy father and mother" commandment does not provide for the possibility that the father and mother and undeserving of even faint, mumbled "thanks," I find it really hard to see how a hedonist, as described in the text and as conceived in our culture at large, breaks those commandments.  A hedonist is someone tries to satisfy their urges, true, but if they did so by stealing, killing, or getting some jollies by accusing their neighbor of being a witch, "hedonist" is an insufficient label.  The label "sociopath" would be more appropriate at that point.  Granted, coveting and adultery do fall firmly within the hedonism tent.  Yet so does sleeping around when unmarried, masturbating, drinking and eating to satiation and beyond, sleeping in 'til noon, and slacking off during the rest of the day when there is work to be done.  And yet there is nothing in those commandments rebuking such behavior.  Sure, it runs afoul of the seven deadly sins, but that's something else entirely.  The fact is that the ten commandments are either ridiculous nuisance rules that everyone violates, rules against the most profound and obvious infractions, or other rules pertaining to worship (that believers may or may not accidentally violate).  Breaking all of them would make you a monster, breaking a few of them makes you human, and yet you could still be a horrible human being without violating one, since it is hardly a comprehensive moral code.

On the topic of atheists becoming atheists for the freedom to do as they please, let me once again state that is most assuredly not the reason that I became an atheist personally, that I know absolutely who claims that this was their reason for becoming an atheist, and that the prospect does not actually make sense.  No theist is told that they chose their particular brand of religion due to trying to avoid certain restrictions placed on behavior by other possible choices for a religion to adhere to.  And no person should be foolish enough to both believe that another religion may be correct but to refuse to believe in it just so that they can act in a way that that religion would forbid and that is predicted to be punished by the particular supernatural arrangement that you partially believe in.  Not believing that the religion is correct in the first place needs to precede the decision to not follow that religion's behavioral requirements for anyone who isn't seriously deranged.

So, having said all this, I am now left to simply ponder why such a sentiment, rife with misconceptions about atheists in general, ex-Christians in particular, would be used on a humanist website.  I am hoping that it is just some aspect of a "comedy" I don't quite understand.  Wouldn't be the first time.

[Edit:  I suppose I should note that aside from the bolded phrase being crazy, and the fact that I do not being labeled a "hedonist" due to negative connotations of the word, that the description is pretty accurate for me.  I do like the slogan "There is probably no God, now stop worrying and enjoy your life," though I refuse to obey the latter part of the sentence.  And I do like the fact that there are a several openly anti-religion voices in the media, especially comedy.  They got me on those points.  Do share your own opinions on such matters to see whether the description in the results is more or less a glorified horoscope.]

Friday, October 9, 2009

So "conservative Christian" was an oxymoron afterall...

[Why else would they feel compelled to construct an explicitly conservative Bible?]
I first heard about this at (where else?) Pharyngula.  That bastion of all that is sane and rational about modern day American conservative known only as "Conservapedia" has decided to make a conservative translation of the Bible.  If that sounds ridiculous to you, good.  It's about to get outright hilarious.

Liberal bias has become the single biggest distortion in modern Bible translations. There are three sources of errors in conveying biblical meaning are, in increasing amount:

  • lack of precision in the original language, such as terms underdeveloped to convey new concepts introduced by Christ

  • lack of precision in modern language

  • translation bias in converting the original language to the modern one. 

Yes, apparently the Bible has been gravely affected by the liberal media conspiracy.  So what about all of those other conservatives who do not dwell in the intertubes, who believe that this liberally biased tome is the Word of God and yet are still conservative?  Were they tricked?  Or did they just secretly know that those passages that subtly try to contradict their very belief system aren't real and can be ignored safely?
And all of those three things do seem like reasonable things to consider sources of error.  But....
But the third -- and largest -- source of translation error requires conservative principles to reduce and eliminate.[1]
[Yes, the original was bolded].
Problem:  THAT TRANSLATION IS BIASED!  Solution: bias it in a way that you are happier with!
Please note that if you replace the word "translation" with the word "news coverage" above, then the solution is Fox News.  Just to give you a concrete example.

As of 2009, there is no fully conservative translation of the Bible which satisfies the following ten guidelines:[2]
  1. Framework against Liberal Bias: providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias
  2. Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, "gender inclusive" language, and other modern emasculation of Christianity
  3. Not Dumbed Down: not dumbing down the reading level, or diluting the intellectual force and logic of Christianity; the NIV is written at only the 7th grade level[3]
  4. Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms: using powerful new conservative terms as they develop;[4] defective translations use the word "comrade" three times as often as "volunteer"; similarly, updating words which have a change in meaning, such as "word", "peace", and "miracle".
  5. Combat Harmful Addiction: combating addiction by using modern terms for it, such as "gamble" rather than "cast lots";[5] using modern political terms, such as "register" rather than "enroll" for the census
  6. Accept the Logic of Hell: applying logic with its full force and effect, as in not denying or downplaying the very real existence of Hell or the Devil.
  7. Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning
  8. Exclude Later-Inserted Liberal Passages: excluding the later-inserted liberal passages that are not authentic, such as the adulteress story
  9. Credit Open-Mindedness of Disciples: crediting open-mindedness, often found in youngsters like the eyewitnesses Mark and John, the authors of two of the Gospel
  10. Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness: preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities; prefer concise, consistent use of the word "Lord" rather than "Jehovah" or "Yahweh" or "Lord God."

1.  That's a sufficiently vague way of phrasing what sounds effectively like "No liberals in the translational area, please".
2.  Yeah.  We don't want to be girly-men.  As for women, they can just go fuck themselves.  In a lady-like fashion, of course.
3.  I love the phrase "intellectual force".  I don't know why, but it tickles me.  And I think the way to go about not dumbing down the Bible is this:  make it as vague and incomprehensible as possible.  If every verse doesn't sound like a Zen riddle, then you are failing it, and must start all over.  I believe I am more than qualified on this matter, having recently received my PhD in incoherence (and a Master's in pseudo intellectualism).
4.  Apparently, all those people who are trying to understand the "intellectual force" of Christianity cannot possibly be trusted to understand that words have multiple definitions.  (Granted, it's not always clear which definition is the relevant one...)  Also, the idea of conservative words is hilarious.  They link to an article of "best new conservative words" and basically just take credit for a bunch of words they like and that they think relates to/describes conservatism or could be used to insult liberals.  At the bottom of the page, they claim "accountability" as a conservative word/concept.  Why?  Who knows.  Especially since the word itself first appeared in the 15-fucking-30's.  The only way it makes sense is if they simply claiming these things as their own because it is the things they support (and therefore things that liberals do not and are concepts that are exclusively theirs, obviously).
5. WTF does the census have to do with anything?  And...can people really not understand that "cast[ing] lots" would be a form of gambling? This really does not bode well for number all.
6.  The very real existence of the Devil and Hell...(?)  You do realize that, just because you say it, doesn't make it so...right?  But I really do hope that the conservative Bible makes the "logic" of Hell as explicit as they can.  It seems to be a point of much focus for them, so it would be real nice to clear that up as much as possible.
7.  "FULL FREE MARKET MEANING".  Presumably, they will need to disappear the following verses:
Matthew 19:21-24.  Mark 10:21-25.  Luke 18:22-25.(Same basic passage, which will be important a little later).
8.  Here is what a honest people would have for a goal: " excluding the later-inserted passages that are not authentic".
What conservapedia has for a goal:  " excluding the later-inserted liberal passages that are not authentic".  Obviously, the passages that were added later, not authentic, but aren't liberal are perfectly acceptable.
9.  What the hell is the point of that, and how do they intend to pull it off?  Start off a few of the books with the disclaimer that Mark and John were awesome and nice and would believe anything "open-minded"?
10.  Liberals wordy?  News to me (...)
(This too runs afoul of #3.)
a Conservative Bible could become a text for public school courses
I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Maybe I should just compromise and scream.
liberals will oppose this effort, but they will have to read the Bible to criticize this, and that will open their minds
'Libruls haven't read the Bible lolololololol'  Because obviously there aren't any Christians or former Christians   among the liberal.  The Bible had liberal bias translated into it by people who couldn't be bothered to read the Bible or care about it, because a Bible that was tailored to cater to liberal sensibilities is obviously something that only conservatives could be expected to read and care about.

First Example - Liberal Falsehood

The earliest, most authentic manuscripts lack this verse set forth at Luke 23:34:[7]
Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
Is this a liberal corruption of the original? This does not appear in any other Gospel, and the simple fact is that some of the persecutors of Jesus did know what they were doing. This quotation is a favorite of liberals but should not appear in a conservative Bible.

"This does not appear in other Gospels" is a fantastic reason to exclude a verse.  Just fantastic.  Applying this principle across the board will definitely result in a "concise" Conservative Bible.  Though it may be a little redundant. With regards to the claim about "authentic manuscripts lack[ing] the verse", all I could find was this, which claims (also without much evidence, honestly) that the original manuscripts in Greek contain the verse but several translations omitted portions of it, the assumed motivation was unwillingness to forgive the Jews.  Fight conspiracy with conspiracy.

At Luke 16:8, the NIV describes an enigmatic parable in which the "master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly." But is "shrewdly", which has connotations of dishonesty, the best term here? Being dishonestly shrewd is not an admirable trait.
The better conservative term, which became available only in 1851, is "resourceful". The manager was praised for being "resourceful", which is very different from dishonesty. Yet not even the ESV, which was published in 2001, contains a single use of the term "resourceful" in its entire translation of the Bible.

Way to bitch about them not using your synonym of choice (even though a positive but direct synonym to "shrewd" would be "clever", but whatever).  Also, shouldn't the word "dishonest" in the quote itself be a good indication that "shrewd" having "connotations of dishonesty" is actually the fucking point?

Socialistic terminology permeates English translations of the Bible, without justification. This improperly encourages the "social justice" movement among Christians.
For example, the conservative word "volunteer" is mentioned only once in the ESV, yet the socialistic word "comrade" is used three times, "laborer(s)" is used 13 times, "labored" 15 times, and "fellow" (as in "fellow worker") is used 55 times.

Those words are only "socialist" in the paranoid fever dreams of rabid anti-communist hystericists.  And, also considering the verses I mentioned up above, the teachings of Jesus himself give more traction to the "social justice movement among Christians" [scare quotes removed] than some words that are vaguely "connected" to socialism being in the text could possibly do alone.

And now Colbert has picked up on the nonsense and alerted his merry mob across the nation about the project.

[I will link to the video instead of embedding it because the embedding for the video won't f#@$%$!ucking work].

He's not going to get his wish anytime soon. I doubt Conservapedia is going to allow any new users to join or
allow any edits at all for at least a week or so with the potential flood of Colbert-directed e-vandals headed their way.  Assuming that one of them would have seen the Colbert Report that is...

Best part?  The guy making sure all of this happens is Big Man Andy Schafly himself!  I would have assumed it was an elaborate hoax in any other situation.  With Andy calling the shots on this, the only way that this isn't completely hilarious is if Conservapedia itself has been a hoax all along.  Admittedly, not too far-fetched.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Liability to your own side

Ahhhh, politics.  Things have been getting crazy ever since Obama got into office.  Collective political discourse is becoming more hysterical, irrational, and...whatever you would call Joe Wilson (surlier?).  Most of the blame, I place firmly on the shoulders of the Republicans.  Well, actually, it's not really blame.  All of the things described before are a clear sign of desperation; a clear and disturbing attempt to regain attention and credibility in the eyes of the credulous by any means necessary.  If it involves convincing a bunch of people that Obama is going to turn America into a totalitarian regime by next Tuesday, so be it.

Here's one of many problems however:  you need to address ridiculous claims only with ridicule or serious rebuttals that are actually pertinent to the claims.  Trying to divine something about the person's character that isn't obviously linked to the talking points being dealt with is only a practice in shooting yourself in the foot.

The following quote is from a comment left on the Media Matters website (which is excellent, by the way).  Sadly, I do not know the exact thread or the commenter so I cannot give it proper attribution.
Can't a person disagree with Obama without being called a racist
Sure people can freely disagree with Obama without being called a racist. But if you:
Don't believe Obama is a US citizen.
Believe Obama is the anti-Christ.
Belive Obama is a fascist/socialist/marxist/communist
Don't want your children to view a speech by the black man encouraging staying in school and setting goals.
Cry at a town hall that you want your country back or say that this isn't the country you remember due to the black man being in the White House.
Then, you're a racist.
For those of you who have read posts on this site in the past, you know that I am an atheist, and that I am a liberal.  But there is something else that I am that doesn't quite have a proper name:  I am a crusader on behalf of using simple, easily understood logic.  If you overstate your case for something, I will find myself either slightly uncomfortable (if the reason for the overstatement is understandable, or if it is not clearly in error) to outright outraged (if I am one of my moods).  What was written above has a slight problem:  none of the things described could logically lead you to conclude that the person who believes them is actually racist.

The people who believe that Obama wasn't born in the U.S. are incredibly ignorant and want to hold onto the idea because they don't want to accept the legitimacy of a President from the opposite party.

The belief that Obama is the anti-Christ is actually not that odd.  Almost any world leader has had their groups of people who didn't care for them speculating wildly about how they may be the anti-Christ.  Because, really, if you are going to speculate wildly, why not go the whole 9 yards?

The claim that Obama is a fascocommusocialist is more of a slur (against liberalism) and an attempt to basically call him a big fat meanie without getting laughed at (as much).  It's been noted that fascist/Nazi comparisons to Bush weren't uncommon.  Granted, I don't think they were nearly as, well, "mainstream"...nor present before his first year of office was even completed.  So I do not dare draw a false equivalence here.  But, as ridiculous, petty, and paranoid as it is, racist it is not, since they are supposed to basically describe their deluded perception of his politics.

Again, the opposition to Obama's speech to students was ridiculous, but it was rooted in fear of "fascism" and somehow indoctrinating school children. I realize how it seems difficult muster such an overblown reaction without Obama's blackness (blackitude?) being a point of relevance, or their having some sort of ulterior motive.  But we have already established in the previous administration that these aren't the most rational people in the world.  Is it really too much to simply take all of this as a reaction to their sudden loss of political influence (and thus their natural fear becoming panic since they feel like they've lost control)?  Isn't that probably more of an issue, rather than the race of the man in the Oval Office?

And the town hall craziness is related to other forms of craziness.

In other words, partisanship is the most parsimonious explanation and is the one that needs to be assumed unless given evidence to assume otherwise (mostly on an individual basis).  To do otherwise, to impose more complex, sinister motives onto people you disagree with is to make dialog devolve further.  And therein lies the problem.

At the risk of sounding incredibly arrogant (moreso than usual?), people who make statements like the above, biting off more than they can chew in order to score political points, damage the cause for other people on their "side".  By impugning their character in an irrational manner, such people give fodder to the "other side", allowing them to play the victim card as well as supplying them with an argument to easily eviscerate and sneer about.  And, above all, it lends credibility to the idea that we are just as good or bad as that other side is.  Every misstep like this makes the idea that the major two political groupings are equivalent in terms of ability to reason, factual basis for their claims, and willingness to actually address the issues fairly.  Things like this, especially if they become too commonly repeated, damage our credibility very quickly, and it is something we cannot let happen.  Although the idea of simply relaxing and letting the Republicans desperately whine due to losing power sounds appealing, we ignore them at our peril.  If we let them continue to whip Americans into a frenzy of fear without rebuttal, they will be right back from their current weakened position.  And if we sink to their level, depending on how far the process goes...I am just not sure that their victory is a bad thing at that point.

When it comes to politeness, that's more arbitrary.  Politeness can go fuck itself for all I care.  It is important in politicians, but everyone is aware that political discourse can be heated.  Being factually correct is more important than being nice about it. Fairness and honesty cannot be manhandled or discarded as essentially unnecessary in such a fashion.  And, above, we simply cannot afford to make leaps in logic and paint the "other side" as evil, when it is much easier, and much more easy to support, to simply call them stupid instead.  And, hopefully, to show them why.

In so many words:  please keep Hanlon's Razor in mind.  Never impugn another person's moral character when the only thing that you can actual argue for is that they are obviously and egregiously wrong. *

*Except for me.  If I make a mistake, you can feel free to assume that it's because I am absolutely evil and it was a deliberate attempt to mislead and bring about the end of Western civilization.

[A note:  I realize that I have used a lot of "us-them" terminology in this post.  I don't apologize for this because that's the nature of the "culture wars".  In the realm of political debate, you put on your Red, Blue, or, God forbid, your Green hat and then grab a battleax before charging into the arena.  At the end of the day, when the hats come off, and you're back in church, at work, at a restaurant, or loitering at a playground for undisclosed reasons, then no-one really gives a fuck anymore about the color of that hat (well, hopefully).  Redhat#03694 who rants about the evils of welfare is now Jim, the always-smiling guy who lets everyone in the office use his stapler.  Bluehat#41251 who lectures about why we should allow gay marriage is now Tabitha, the bookish girl who volunteers at that soup kitchen.   Greenhat#016 is Ralph Nader.  Anyway, the point is that even though I do very much think it is an "us vs. them" situation, the "us" and "them" apply exclusively to the political beliefs, and not as much to the actual people holding them.  But, the distinction is hard to make, I admit.]