Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Merry April Fool's Day E'erbody!

Apparently, it's like Christmas for nonbelievers.  Sadly, I don't make a very good fool.   Fool is not the word that comes to mind to describe someone who chews on upholstrey and spends two-thirds of his day screaming obscenities at alley cats for stealing his left eye.  Even in gaudy colors, and with a clown mask on...doesn't help.  Oh, how I long to be a fool.  Maybe then people will start running away from me when I do a little number I call "the machete dance".

Anyway, back to the coma.

Edit:  Oh, but for an interesting spin on April Fool's Day and its relationship to atheism, nothing beats this comment.
"On the other hand, the value of April 1st is that it may make people view what they see on the Web with the kind of scepticism and critical thought that they might not exercise the other 364 days of the year.

So don't think of it as Fool's Day, but Critical Thinking Day."

RAmen.  RAmen...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The gays are destroying society...by being destroyed by society

Why do I do this to myself?
I mean sure, they call this piece "15 Reasons Why Homosexuality Is Wrong and Hurts Society", so maybe the title makes it too enticing to not tear into.
A societal acceptance of same sex relationships gives vulnerable children the impression that same sex relationships are good, moral and healthy. Not only does the Bible condemn such behavior, but medical professionals have affirmed that these kinds of sexual relationships are unhealthy.
Wow.  Homosexuality is bad because children might think that homosexuality is good.  Awesome point there.
As for the medical problems, there are two major kinds of that I am aware of.  Higher incidence of STD's, which is due to their "promiscuity" (exacerbated by their inability to marry, quite possibly).  And higher incidence of certain forms of mental illness, usually depression, due in no small part to the stigma placed on being homosexual to begin with.  The vices that come along with this (alcohol use, drug use, smoking, whatever), as well as similarly high rates of mental illness, also happen to occur in other subjugated minority groups.   
Logically speaking, if everyone's sexuality was expressed heterosexually, then humanity will survive and perpetuate our own kind for generations to come. But simply put, if everyone's sexuality was expressed homosexually, we would go extinct. Therefore homosexuality is counter productive to the survival of the human race.
Interestingly, this argument was the only one I needed to think that homosexuality was bad.  When I was in sixth grade.  But, now I realize that it is asinine, because the fate of humanity if everyone were gay is irrelevant to whether the remote segment of a larger heterosexual population that happens to be gay should be treated fairly.  What you do is akin to claiming that giving birth to a male is immoral, because if every person in the world gave birth to a male, we would die out.  If you want to claim that homosexuality is immoral merely because we cannot breed that way, I really would like to know your view on vows of chastity.  Perhaps Jesus sinned after all, for not being fruitful and multiplying?
Naturally speaking, there is the necessity of each of the male and female contributions to a child's life. (It has already been proven that boys without fathers end up in jail and practice destructive behaviors a great deal more than those who have fathers.) The vast majority of the public knows instinctively that it would be better if both parents are present in a child’s life. Once concealed research shows that a child who is brought up in a homosexual home may be more likely to engage in homosexuality. But is it loving to expose children to the predominantly damaging lifestyle of homosexuality?
So if children need mother and father figures that badly, mandate that every single parent and same sex couple get a guardian of the opposite gender to serve as the missing parental figure.  Problem solved.  Of course, you don't actually care about whether children are getting the best possible home environment to assure that they can be all that can be; you just want to be able to say that gay people are bad because hetero couples are good.  And then, of course, your patented "gay is bad because others can become gay" argument.   Awesome.
Same sex unions may be loving and monogamous from a worldly viewpoint, but if they had “real godly love” they would not subject each other to unnatural sexual activity that leads each other into sin. When we lead others into sin, we are no longer walking in love.  In regards to homosexual monogamy, homosexuals remain faithful to one partner about 25% of the time. This is a much lower fidelity rate, than their heterosexual counterparts, which is 80%. It is not unusual for homosexuals to have hundreds of sexual partners in a life time.
Yep.  Being gay is bad because gay sex is bad.  Being gay isn't loving because who would subject someone they love to something as bad as gay sex?  I am so close to just telling this guy to get off my internet forever.  People should not be exposed to things that make them want to stab their eyes out in a combination of fury and temporary insanity.  There are limits to free speech.

Anyway, lower fidelity rates would be mitigated if they had an ultimate goal to which to head for in their relationships, and a way to make it seem legitimate.  Which is what marriage does for all those good hetero couples.
 One of the reasons that Homosexual couples should not be able to adopt children or take in foster children is that according to many studies, the life span of homosexuals is much lower than that of heterosexuals. These tragic conditions create a much less stable home life for that child.
They have lower average life expectancies due to high incidence of death by AIDS (and possibly suicide).  Unless those couples are HIV positive, they should have relatively normal life expectancies.  Just don't deal out kids to the outliers.
Children should not be exposed to the higher levels of domestic violence of homosexuals. Another reason that same sex couples should not care for foster or adoptive children is that same sex couples experience much higher levels of domestic violence than their heterosexual counterparts. Some studies show that the rate is at least three times higher than that of heterosexual couples.
Wow.  He's just pulling off the sexual preference equivalent of racial profiling at this point.  Just trying to spout out random things that kinda-sorta correlate with teh ghey, see it what sticks, and call homosexuality evil as a result of merely being roughly associated with some other kind of unrelated activity.  I mean, I would love for him to show how homosexuality is "wrong" without having to resort to things that have nothing to do with sexual preference and to show that it "hurts society" without society hurting them first.  But, I guess I'll just have to settle for this.  Anyway, the increased level of domestic violence doesn't occur in a vacuum:  it occurs in an environment where same-sex relationships need to be more covert, and where the partners often need to be more cut off from external support (and potential mediators or people who could intervene) due to the stigma associated with the relationship.  The fact that they need to isolate themselves more, whether to hide the relationship, or due to a falling out with family after revealing their true sexuality, is conducive to an abusive environment.  And the fact that males tend to be more abusive, and gay male relationships have two men could just increase the odds of an abusive relationship on merits of that alone.
As much as 33% of child molestation is committed by homosexuals, and yet they only make up about 3% of our population
And the tacking on of unrelated evils continues.  Do you know how he probably got that percentage?  Because approximately 10% of all males are molested before age 13 and 20% of females are, meaning that molested boys make up 33% of all victims of child molestation.  It makes sense on its face.  Except....
"A random sample of 175 males convicted of sexual assault against children was screened with reference to their adult sexual orientation and the sex of their victims. The sample divided fairly evenly into two groups based on whether they were sexually fixated exclusively on children or had regressed from peer relationships. Female children were victimized nearly twice as often as male children. All regressed offenders, whether their victims were male or female children, were heterosexual in their adult orientation. There were no examples of regression to child victims among peer-oriented, homosexual males. The possibility emerges that homosexuality and homosexual pedophilia may be mutually exclusive and that the adult heterosexual male constitutes a greater risk to the underage child than does the adult homosexual male."
Whooops.   Turns out that the pedophiles don't have to be gay to like prepubescent boys.  Who would've guessed?
There is absolutely no evidence in the 6000 year history of the Holy Bible of the wedding of homosexual couples
LOL.  You knew that "because the Bible says so" had to come in somewhere.  Had no idea that he'd toss in "because it's tradition" at the same time though.
Should it not seem odd that the definition of the institution of marriage, as being between a man and woman, for the past 6000 years is being thrown out for something less than what is natural and stable?
Sigh.  The definition has been changing constantly.  It used to be polygamous.  It used to be that the male had all the control.  It used to require certain bizarre series of payments and exchanges on the parts of the involved families and could symbolize a greater union between those families, rather than just exclusively a union between two people.  It used to be something that you could only get with a member of your own race.  It used to be an exclusively religious ceremony but now is a secular contract that offers state-granted benefits.
If we allow "loving and monogamous" relationships to be the standard by which we measure a legitimate marriage then I suppose that women could marry their horses or men could marry their pet dogs. This opens the door for any number of illegitimate relationships, including 52 year old men marrying 10 year old girls, brothers marrying sisters and mothers marrying sons. 
The slippery slope appears.  Animals can't consent and 10 year olds probably don't have informed consent (but please note that, in regards to your immutable definition of marriage...a 52 year old marrying a 10 year old wouldn't have been a problem a few hundred years ago...).  And, personally, I have no problem with consensual incestuous relationships.  They can start petitioning for their own rights if they want to, but I think that the sex itself isn't considered "immoral" and isn't illegal as long as it also doesn't lack informed consent (i.e. as long as both parties are of sufficient age to make the decision to have sex, and aren't tricked or coerced into doing so...a big "if" in regards to most kinds of incest).  

Also: "Whereas real love in its purest form as defined in 1 Corinthians 13:6,   does not rejoice in unrighteousness.Same sex relationships encourage a lifestyle that will keep one out of the kingdom of God, which puts us at odds with God Himself as sinning against Him and outside of God’s order for the family."
So, "it's wrong because it is wrong" again.  I love this guy.
Keeping same sex couples from marrying is keeping them from discriminating against what is normal. Anymore than I feel discriminated against because I cannot marry my sister. Discrimination based on good judgment is a protection for the stability of society and the upholding of unalterable morals.
Did he just admit that he actually wants to marry his sister?  Because that's the only way there could be any comparison.  Anyway, just because you say that it is "good judgment" and that it is the "upholding of unalterable morals" does not make your judgment good, nor does it make your "unalterable morals" worthy of upholding.  What you are trying to uphold are what I would like to call "immoral morals", arbitrary ones, ones that are preserved dogmatically for the sake of tradition despite the fact that it is clear to any objective eye that the "morals" are unfair, tinged with prejudice and unsuited for a new social climate.  
Same sex relations deny some of the most basic fundamentals of proper mechanical applications of using their genitalia. Anal sex and lesbian sex is a misuse of what sexual relations were primarily intended to produce, children and intimacy solely between a man and a woman.  
"Penis goes in vagina" and obsession with procreation once again.   You see deviation from "basic fundamentals of proper mechanical applications of using their genitalia" and I see "creativity".  We don't all need to procreate.  If we do, I am sure there are quite a few married couples who don't want to have children that you should be out haranguing right now.  And we don't all need to use things for their "intended purpose".  If we did, MacGyver would be a considerably less entertaining show.
Consider this that God being all knowing would have pulled out 2 ribs if he thought that Adam should have the option of having a male mate as well.
"Adam and Eve, not Adam and....uh...Steve!1!!".  Uggh.  This is getting sad.
Studies have shown that identical twins could each have different sexual orientations, thus showing that homosexuality has little if anything to do with genetics. On the average, when one identical twin is homosexual, the other twin is homosexual 38% of the time. This does not give much credence to the popular notion that homosexuality is genetic.
This shows that it is not solely genetic.  But it also shows that it has a genetic factor, unless you mean to tell that the standard odds of any person turning gay is 38%.  Which is means that when you say that "homosexuality has little if anything to do with genetics", you fail.  You fail within the information that you yourself give and you don't even know it.
 Same sex couples should not be rewarded with the benefits of marriage, because immoral behavior should not be rewarded. It is not a matter of rights or fairness, if the act is immoral, why should that be praised or rewarded?  Most do not think that adulterers or fornicators should be rewarded alimony or benefits.  Should any sin be tolerated or promoted with benefits? Those who want the benefits of marriage should comply with the intent of the Creator that intended only marriage, between one man and one woman. Feelings for fairness do not determine what is right or moral or you will have moral anarchy. 
Morality: now without fairness.  And yes, if the act is immoral, it should not praised or rewarded.  It's a damn shame that your merely claiming it to be immoral on the grounds that your religion claims it as such and that it is tangentially related to other bad things doesn't quite convince.  You might have won a convert elsewhere, who knows.  Stranger things have happened.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Abstinence works! (For the fraction of you who can pull it off...)

Surprise, surprise, a devout Catholic is trying to adamantly oppose the use of condoms for AIDS prevention, and support "abstinence" as a method of confronting the menace.
The Pope has noted, correctly, that giving out condoms is certainly not saving any lives in Africa and is contributing to the problem of AIDS. Think it through properly. What spreads the disease is sexual contact with people who are infected. Distribution of condoms has led to an overall widespread increase in casual sexual contacts, as people have been told that casual sex can now be made "safe". The information that, in a controlled experiment, a condom works as a method of prevention, has to be presented against the actual overall increase in the opportunities for infection to occur. In other words, it's not just "method" that matters but the actual reality. Most sexual encounters with infected people do not occur in the circumstances that the condom-distributors have planned. 

Can you feel the failure!?  No, not yet?  Well, anyway, the fact of the matter is that the effectiveness of condoms in preventing disease is not solely done in a "controlled experiment" that could be said to be irrelevant to the real circumstances in which condoms are used because these studies are done by observing the rate of contraction of a disease for couples that regularly use condoms.  Does she really think that it would be ethical to do an experiment in a laboratory setting to see whether a subject contracts a potentially fatal disease or not?

In short, it doesn't matter whether they use the condoms in circumstances that they haven't planned, because things like that (misuse, for instance) have already been factored in due to the fact that they observing what happens to those who use condoms in the real world, and not in an overly idealized setting.
Remember, only one sexual encounter with an infected person is required to receive this deadly disease. So promotion of any policy that promotes increased sexual encounters is going to increase the overall chances of further AIDS cases day by day. 
Not if, you know, the condoms actually prevent the disease at a rate greater than the increase in sexual encounters.  Unless you are proposing that the idea of safe sex will make these people have sex approximately 10 times as much as before, because the prevention rate is around 90%:  "In studies done on couples where one partner was HIV-positive and the other wasn’t, the infection rate was less than 1% per year for couples who used condoms correctly and consistently; for couples who either used condoms inconsistently or not at all, the infection rates were 10-14% instead. "
Oh, but wait.  Joanna, like many others who try to make this same argument, just simply assumes that the rate of sexual intercourse will increase by the mere mention of condoms.  That they will become promiscuous and have casual sex even though they already do have plenty of casual sex and telling them to "stop it" isn't helping.  My evidence?   None.  How does it feel?
The Church offers a 100 per cent measure that will protect you from AIDS - no sexual contact with an infected person. And this works. In the Philippines, where the first cases of AIDS were reported, the Church's policies were implemented - and it has a miniscule rate of AIDS. In Thailand, condoms were promoted instead, and the death toll from AIDS is high and still rising - and the tragedy of child prostitution has grown to massive proportions.
Your timing is off:  "In Thailand, HIV began with a burst of transmission among injecting drug users, but 90% of transmission soon became heterosexual [23,51]. Public health officials realized that Thailand’s large sex industry was playing a central role and responded with a “100% Condom Program” that mandates brothel owners to enforce condom use in every paid sex act. Uncooperative owners receive sanctions and are identified through STI surveillance among sex workers and clients.
Condom use soon reached over 90% [23], and the proportion of Thai men visiting sex workers fell by about half [52-55]. The government did not directly discourage commercial sex, but mandatory condom use and awareness of risk caused many men to give up the practice. Thai men also reduced their unpaid casual partners [55]. Rates of STIs fell rapidly in Thailand [56], and HIV incidence and prevalence are declining among both young men and pregnant women [56-59]."

As for the Philippines:  "The most frequently cited reason is that commercial sex workers have fewer partners than their counterparts elsewhere. The average is about four per week, according to a new government survey. Other studies suggest that a relatively low proportion of men frequent sex workers.

Experts say other factors may be the small number of intravenous drug users and a low prevalence of ulcerated sexually transmitted diseases -- like syphilis and herpes -- that facilitate transmission of the AIDS virus. Anal sex also appears to be less common"

So, if you propose to fight AIDS by 1. having very few people who are HIV positive and 2. "abstaining" from going to prostitutes, then you might have been right in the Phillipines.  But that sure as hell doesn't help confront the problem in Africa, where they already have a high number of people who are AIDS infected, and where the problem just comes from sex with other people without money changing hands.  The Phillipines just got lucky, and if that ever changes, they will probably get screwed due to the unwillingness to utilize condoms at all. 

On the TV programme we were told that 22 million people had died from AIDS in Africa. The condom policies aren't working. Why not try the alternative which works?
"The condom policies aren't working"?  The condom policies are just getting put into place, and are trying to overcome the "alternative" which was already the default, and wasn't working.

As for the program she was speaking of....for your viewing pleasure.

It's raining logic.

Turns out that I am not dead.  I haven't posted in two weeks, despite being incredibly not busy.  It's odd, but I tend to post more on this blog when I have other things that I really should be doing instead.  It's an excellent procrastination tool, I suppose.

So, let us go back to CARM, shall we?  (If you don't recall our first visit, it had to do with the "viability of atheism").
The Christian worldview states that God is the author of truth, logic, physical laws, etc.  Atheism maintains that physical laws are properties of matter, and that truth and logic are relative conventions (agreed upon principles).  Is this logically defensible?
What this boils down to is the difference between a "top-down" vs. "bottom-up" conception for how we came about with "logic".   Under the idea that it is a top-down process, logic is based upon principles that lie about in the aether and are tapped into by our minds.  They are revealed to us, more or less, and exist in a platonic realm as their own distinct things.  This contrasts with the bottom-up conception, where logic doesn't exist preformed and isn't just called down to our consciousness en masse, but is rather "agreed upon principles" based on exposure to the way that things behave in our own perception and on conclusions that can be drawn due to that.  In this way, logic as we use it is constructed based upon observation of reality, as compared to being a product of reality itself that is simply made manifest in the mind.  But, let's see what Slick has to say about the matter.
How does a Christian account for the laws of logic?
  1. The Christian worldview states that God is absolute and the standard of truth.
  2. Therefore, the absolute laws of logic exist because they reflect the nature of an absolute God.
    1. God did not create the laws of logic.  They were not brought into existence since they reflect God's thinking.  Since God is eternal, the laws of logic are too. 
The funny thing is that you could make an argument similar to this for virtually anything, abstract or concrete.   God is the ultimate source of everything in the Christian worldview, so they account for anything by attributing it to God and his nature.  It isn't really so much an explanation or an account as much as simply taking all that you observe in the world around you and tacking it onto God because, by the definition that you use for your particular deity, it is necessary to do so.
As for God being the standard for truth; it still makes truth rather arbitrary in nature from the human perspective, given the inability to fully comprehend God.  And that's exactly the problem: no matter how you try to account for the existence of an objective truth, humans will never be able to fully attain knowledge of it, and will always have a subjective quality to the knowledge that they do attain.  The fact that there is a standard does not matter when we have no practical way in which to use that standard, let alone know if it exists.
  • Man, being made in Gods image, is capable of discovering these laws of logic. He does not invent them.
  • Therefore, the Christian can account for the existence of the Laws of logic by acknowledging they originate from God and that Man is only discovering them.
  • Nevertheless, the atheist might say that in his answer is too simplistic and too convenient.  It might be, but at least the Christian worldview can account for the existence of logic itself 
  • I'm not sure how the "being made in Gods image" makes it follow that we can discover these things, but it is a trivial concern.  And, yes this is too convenient, because one could easily say that the "laws of logic" are "discovered" in some manner without positing that it was drawn from a deity.  They are "discovered" because they are not only rules that are consistent with themselves, but consistent with what we observe in the real world as well.  They are rules based off of observation and honed by trial and error as well as, I am sure, some weeding out of versions that were insufficient, inconsistent, or just plain laughable.  It is a healthy middle between discovery of divine truth and "invention":  the evolution of applicable logic by means of critical selection.
    Examples of the laws of logic
    1. Law of Identity:  Something is what it is.  Something that exists has a specific nature.
    2. Law of Non-Contradiction:  Something cannot be its self and not itself at the same time in the same way and in the same sense.
    3. Law of Excluded Middle:  a statement is either true or false.  Thus the statement "A statement is either true or false" is either true or false. 
    I see why divine intervention is necessary in order for people to obtain such ideas.  Clearly, it would be impossible for people to know that A=A and A=/=not A without some form of supernatural meddling.
    How does the atheist account for the laws of logic?
    1. If the Atheist states that the laws of logic are conventions (mutually agreed upon conclusions), then the laws of logic are not absolute because they are subject to "vote."
    2. The laws of logic are not dependent upon different peoples minds since people are different.  Therefore, they cannot be based on human thinking since human thinking is often contradictory. 
    Thing is, not all conventions are arbitrary.  Sometimes the mutually agreed upon conclusions are based in some form of evidence, and isn't nearly as relativistic as you imply it to be.  To some degree "votes" factored in when forming the "laws", but "votes" would need to be backed by evidence and/or other logic in order to have any significant affect on our already established conception of logic, because we need it to be as consistent and relevant to reality as possible.
    If the atheist states that the laws of logic are derived through observing natural principles found in nature, then he is confusing the mind with the universe.
    1. We discover laws of physics by observing and analyzing the behavior of things around us. The laws of logic are not the result of observable behavior of object or actions. 
      1. For example, we do not see in nature that something is both itself and not itself at the same time. 
        1. Why? Because we can only observe a phenomena that exists, not one that does not exist.  If something is not itself, then it doesn't exist.  How then can the property of that non-existent thing be observed?  It cannot.
        2. Therefore, we are not discovering a law of logic by observation, but by thought.
    Given your example, this seems like you are making a trivial distinction.   It is an assertion that the laws of logic can't be based on observation of nature due to the fact that we have a rule of a logic that pertains the impossibility of something that we observe doesn't exist in nature.  That law could be accounted for by induction, but yes, the laws of logic do go a bit beyond the concrete and into abstraction and thought itself.  But, it is a combination of observation and thought, not just one by itself.

    Or, where do we observe in nature that something cannot bring itself into existence if it does not already exist?
    1. You cannot make an observation about how something does not occur if it does not exist.  You would be, in essence, observing nothing at all and how can any laws of logic be applied to or derived from observing nothing at all? 
    The idea of causality being necessary for everything is inductive.  Even more so than the idea of non-contradiction could said to be (which is rather an extrapolation based on other logical rules rather than something concluded based upon the consistent behavior of things in reality).
    The laws of logic are conceptual realities. They only exist in the mind and they do not describe physical behavior of things since behavior is action and laws of logic are not descriptions of action, but of truth.
    1. In other words, laws of logic are not actions. They are statements about conceptual patterns of thought. Though one could say that a law of physics (i.e., the angle of reflection is equal to the angle of incidence) is a statement which is conceptual, it is a statement that describes actual physical and observable behavior.  But, logical absolutes are not observable and do not describe behavior or actions of things since they reside completely in the mind.
    2. We do not observe the laws of logic occurring in matter. You don't watch an object NOT bring itself into existence if it doesn't exist.  Therefore, no law of logic can be observed by watching nothing. 
    "Descriptions of truth"?  Please, be more vague in the future.  Yes, the "laws of logic" are concepts, they are not observable, and they reside inside of the mind.  But, despite not "occurring in matter", or describing "action" for a strict sense of the word (since they tend to focus on describing "being"), it is influenced by observation.  If you dared to bring up mathematical logic it would become readily apparent that this is true, since you could easily illustrate most forms of basic mathematical logic with a few handfuls of pebbles.
  • If the atheist appeals to the scientific method to explain the laws of logic then he is using circular argumentation because the scientific method is dependent upon logic; that is, reasoned thought applied to observations.
  • If logic is not absolute, then no logical arguments for or against the existence of God can be raised and the atheist has nothing to work with.
  • If logic is not absolute, then logic cannot be used to prove or disprove anything
  • Well...sometimes you just have to make a leap of faith.  Heh.

    Atheists will use logic to try and disprove Gods existence, but in so doing they are assuming absolute laws of logic and borrowing from the Christian worldview.
    1. The Christian worldview maintains that the laws of logic are absolute because they come from God who is Himself absolute.
    2. But the atheist worldview does not have an absolute God.
      1. So, we ask, "How can absolute, conceptual, abstract laws be derived from a universe of matter, energy and motion?"
      2. In other words, "How can an atheist with a naturalistic presupposition account for the existence of logical absolutes when logical absolutes are conceptual by nature and not physical, energy, or motion?"
    For the first question, we can get absolute, conceptual, abstract laws from a universe of matter, energy, and motion from those with the consciousness to observe the matter, energy, and motion and develop absolutes, concepts, and abstractions to explain them.  Or through magic.
    For the second question....consciousness "exists" too. 
    1. The Christian theistic worldview can account for the laws of logic by stating that they come from God.
      1. God is transcendent; that is, He is beyond the material universe being its creator.
      2. God has originated the laws of logic because they are a reflection of His nature.
      3. Therefore, the laws of logic are absolute.
      4. The are absolute because there is an absolute God.
    2. The atheistic worldview cannot account for the laws of logic/absolutes, and must borrow from the Christian worldview in order to rationally argue. 
    Yes.  Christians can account for logic by claiming that it trickles down from God, and you dismiss any other method of accounting for the creation of conventions for logical argument, so therefore you are right and we are stealing logic from you.  Whatever.  It just makes it more hilarious when your own God-precipitant logic tears apart the arguments for the existence of God elsewhere on your site.  And, with that, I conclude with a "to be continued(?)...."

    Thursday, March 5, 2009

    Correlation = Obama is destroying America.

    The stock market is falling.  Why you may ask?  In response to Obama's policies, clearly.

    What?  That didn't convince you that the economic shortfalls we have been experiencing for about a year (or, at least most noticeably, around September) aren't part of a larger trend and are, in fact, entirely due to a reaction to upcoming Democratic policies on the docket?  Well, maybe this genius will convince you otherwise.  On November 6th, he did prophetically declare that:
    The Obama recession is in full swing, ladies and gentlemen.  Stocks are dying, which is a precursor of things to come.  This is an Obama recession.  Might turn into a depression.  He hasn't done anything yet but his ideas are killing the economy.  His ideas are killing Wall Street.  They need some certainty, and now everybody in the Drive-By, "We don't know who Obama is."
    The Obama recession:  he is such a terrible president that he tanked the economy a full eleven months before even getting into office.  The very idea of him running as a candidate has destroyed us all.   On an unrelated note:  I wish that I could kill with my ideas.  I am not sure if Rush would enjoy it as much though....

    Wednesday, March 4, 2009

    It's not a crapsack world...it's a halfway house.

    More from Ricky D at Godandscience.   And this time....it's Biblical.  (Sort of).
    What I have found is that atheists like to say that their arguments against God's existence specifically exclude the God of the Bible as a God who could exist. However, in reality, atheists produce generic arguments against a generic God whose characteristics and creation do not match those that are described in the Bible.
    ....Go on.

    If the atheist states that the God of the Bible is logically impossible, he cannot pick and choose which arguments from the Bible to accept in order to "prove" his point. Let's formalize the atheist's arguments:

    1. God is all-powerful, loving, and perfect.
    2. A perfect, loving God would create a universe that was perfect (e.g., no evil and suffering).
    3. The universe is not perfect but contains evil and suffering.
      Therefore, God does not exist
    All-powerful, loving, and perfect. Which of those characteristics is generic and not applicable to Bible God?
    The Bible does state that God is "all powerful." In the Old Testament, one of God's titles is "El Shadday," which is translated "God Almighty.
    So...he is all-powerful.
    The Bible also states that God is loving.3 In fact, the Bible indicates that God is love.
    So...he is loving too. So, God isn't perfect?
    The Bible also indicates that God is perfect.  So, we can agree that the first statement is a correct interpretation of what the Bible says about the characteristics of God.
    WTF!?   The only statement about God's characteristics is right about God's characteristics.  So what the hell is up in that first statement of yours?  
    The next statement indicates that a perfect, loving God must create a universe that is perfect. This is the statement that is false and invalidates the argument.
    It doesn't need to be perfect.  But it should, at very least, be one that is just and at least approximating perfection.  This is because, if a creator is perfect and wants to be kind, you would think he would want to make the best product possible, and be able to make it as well, due to the aforementioned perfection.  I mean, really, if his perfection does not allow him to be a paragon of craftsmanship, and his love for mankind is insufficient to allow him to even try to perform at even close to his best....there must be something very bizarre behind the scenes making it so that his hands are tied (which his omnipotence should conveniently prevent from happening...).

    Anyway...why is it invalidated?
    "Nowhere does the Bible state that the universe was created to be perfect."
    Ahahahahahaha, get off the damn stage.  The second step in the argument is supposed to be a logical procession from the first dogma-supported proposition, and not itself another statement of "The Bible says....". 
    The Bible states that the current universe is not perfect,9 but was designed to be temporary10 and will be replaced with a perfect universe11 that will be permanent.12 Science also tells us that the universe was designed to be temporary.
    A billion years of a "temporary world" isn't too temporary for God's favored species with the average life span of 70-ish years.   And don't you find it the slightest bit odd that a perfect God would need a prototype universe to act as placeholder before utopia?  He clearly can create a perfect universe, so we need to ask ourselves why he would be compelled to make ours, the one that we actually live in and know about, imperfect.

    Why would God create an imperfect, temporary universe only to replace it later with a perfect one? Why wouldn't God have created a perfect universe in the first place? This is a good question, but shows a lack of understanding of the biblical reason of why God created the universe. 

    Well, as long as you say that it shows a lack of understanding, I believe you.  No further questions.
    One can find the reason for the creation of the universe in the first few chapters of the Bible. God created humans in order to have a personal relationship with them, which He had with Adam and Eve before they sinned (Genesis 2)

    I don't recall them ever expounding upon God's motives in the early books of Genesis about....well, anything really.  But for creating humans specifically, I found it strangely silent on God's psychological urge to chatter with tiny clones of himself.  It's probably for the best seeing as how pathetic it sounds.
    Jesus said that the first and foremost commandment was to "Love the Lord your God..." A personal relationship, characterized by the possibility of love, is only possible if created beings are given free will. If God had created the universe with no possibility of evil or sin, then the created beings would have had no free will, and, as such, would essentially be programmed computers.
    Interesting.  Especially considering that God's omniscience really fucks up the whole free will thing.  But, since that isn't one of the characteristics of God that you sanctioned as accurate, I guess I will just have to simply say that free will is seldom free, since there are always influences.  I have the "free will" to starve myself, but considering the wide variety of consequences that would incur, including the growing biological drive to eat that would undermine my freedom and the fact that others wouldn't sit idly by and let me do so when food is readily available....

    Anyway, what I am trying to say is that "free will" vs. "robots" is a false dichotomy.
    I can program my computer to say "I love you" when it starts up. Does this mean that the computer really loves me?
    I program my computer to experience a subjective experience of joy and loyalty whenever it is nearby, and then step inside and outside of the room where it is in to see whether it continues to do what I say or not.  The "love" remains regardless, but that is not sufficient, because I am really testing for unquestioning obedience.
    Likewise, God could have programmed humans to say that they loved Him, without the possibility of rejecting Him or performing evil deeds. However, these programmed beings would exhibit about as much true love as my computer - not a very satisfying relationship.
    I am not sure if the requiring the ability to "perform evil deeds" follows when you are just talking about the sole purpose of humans being love for God.   All he needs is a "love" and "not love" option, not a "worship" and "set fire to an orphanage" set of options.  Unless you define "evil" as "not love", or "love" as "good deeds"; in which case you've got yourself a deity that arbitrarily defines certain actions is indicative of his children not loving him, or a deity who is appeased by good works respectively.   I think you'll go with the former, correct?
    This parable tells that God wants not only a relationship with humans in this universe, but a relationship with billions15 of these creatures in His future, perfect creation. If God's purpose is to have relationships with free will beings in a future creation, then there must be a means by which these beings can make a choice to enter or not enter into this relationship.
    It's too bad your God is a little too transparent with that operation.  He is an invisible target among thousands, asking us silently to aim with our hearts. He is the king of the carnies, running a rigged cosmic game (and apparently pretending that is our fault if we lose).
    Evolution does not explain the vast amount of evil done by mankind.
    Please, pllleeeeaaaaasssseee tell that to a creationist!  ("B-but...if we're all just animals...")
    (Baboons can also accidentally kill one another in the plethora of physical fights for increased status within their little societies.  Granted, there is no baboon Hitler that I am aware of.  But, then again, what other species has the means and population enough to be one?)
    The Bible says that the presence of evil is due to the spiritual component of our nature - something that animals do not possess
    That is some hardcore fail right there, Jesus.  The presence of a spirtual nature actually make us worse than animals?  You would've thought that God would have set up some buffers against that kind of crap.  I mean, let your babies have the freedom to roam around and go astray, but at very least, block the knife draw and keep the front door closed.
    The atheist also makes the assumption that all pain, suffering, and death are bad or evil. In fact, physical pain is absolutely vital to our survival. If we felt no pain, we would do things to ourselves that could be very destructive.....Pain tells us we need to react to a situation before serious damage occurs.
    And yet there is such a thing as excessive pain, and, you know what?  Feeling pain may be vital to our survival, but itdidn't have to be that way.  You could sense pain without having the negative response we feel prompting us to be aware of the pain-causing agent be so...well...painful.  But I assume that wouldn't be as fun for God, know would it?
    The trials these people have experienced have made them sensitive to the needs of others in similar situations, in ways that only they can understand.
    Pain makes people feel more sensitive to those who are in pain.  Consider me sold.  Someone smash in my toes with a hammer.  Quickly!  I need some spiritual growth here!
    During the "easy" times, we become complacent. For the non-Christian, he sees the trials as mere annoyance or pointless suffering, often resulting in bitterness.
    First off, we may become complacent when things are easy, but, (shockawe) that's how God made us [according to you].  Once again, this could be different if God so wanted it to be.  As for non-Christians seeing suffering as annoyances and becoming bitter about it:  not everyone is fortunate to have their suffering come to a happy ending like you did (he had Crohn's disease and then it miraculously healed within three months).  Not everyone can as easily justify the misfortunes in life.  Even your fellow Christians don't have it so lucky.  This idea that suffering builds character is partially true, but only when it can actually be overcome.  Because the process of overcoming the suffering itself necessitates the growth that you experience.  For those who aren't as lucky, it ain't necessarily so.  As the late, great Heath Ledger once said "Whatever doesn't kill makes you... stranger".
    God did not design this universe to be perfect, but as a temporary creation where free will beings make choices about where they want to spend eternity (in the new creation, which will be perfect).
    Which makes him a bit of a prick.
    The new creation will be perfect, but will not have absolute free will for its inhabitants. We must agree in this life to give up some of our free will in the next life. Those who are unwilling to give up their own free will choices will not be forced to do so in the next life. However, they will have to be separated from the new creation, since God is unwilling to compromise His character.
    Which is all well and good if his standards for entry weren't completely arbitrary or impossible to meet otherwise.
    All people will suffer at least somewhat because of bad choices that others make. In addition, because of the temporary nature of the universe, some bad things will happen to us due to "bad luck" or chance. However, these things will teach us to be more sensitive to the needs of others, and will prepare us to show God's love to others when they suffer through similar things.
     So, more or less, the universe looks exactly as we might expect if the kind of God described in the original argument didn't exist afterall, and our only solace is in one another?  Fantastic.

    Tuesday, March 3, 2009

    Harry Potter and the Crown of Thorns

    Apparently, there were some people who maintained their bitter opposition to the Harry Potter series until the bitter end.
    Rowling created a hero with many noble characteristics, and in this last book, Harry willingly gives his life. Responding to a message he magically received from Hogwarts' former Headmaster Dumbledore through Professor Snape's memories, the young wizard walks unarmed up to the evil wizard Voldemort, who points his wand at him and projects a killing curse. Harry falls down, apparently dead. 
    So far so good.  Noble characteristics, martyrdom.  Standard fare.

    Harry chooses to return to his lifeless body at Voldemort's feet. After some torturous tests to verify the absence of life, Voldemort declares that Harry is dead. He will soon realize his error, for Harry has still another battle to fight and win.

    Oh my!  Back from the dead!  Truly amazing (but also standard fare).

    But Harry's final victory is less significant than the above near-death encounter. By presenting a counterfeit version of Biblical salvation, Rowling gives her readers an image of a counterfeit Christianity that embraces the occult. Most people accept it as true, for such dialectical lies (union of opposites) -- taught through occult systems such as the Kabbalah, Gnosticism, Rosicrucianism, and Unity -- have now become an accepted way of thinking around the world. Indeed, what God calls evil, now seems deceptively good!

    "A counterfeit version of Biblical salvation"?  How about just a rough analog?   You know...the kind that might arguably be called....standard fare?  (Interesting article about this kind of thing in sci-fi).   It is hilarious, because I am sure that the only reason why Berit has deemed this to be a "counterfeit" is because of her well-established hangups, due to a compulsive need to view fictional wizardry through the prism of a strict Biblical worldview.   Even in a fictional world, with principles different from our own, and magic readily available to be tapped into, and the resemblance to real world "occultism" is either tangential or just window-dressing, it doesn't matter:  that practice has to be Satan worship, because that's the Bible's stance on anything resembling magic usage.  Oh, and if they exist in a world where Satan and/or God don't exist, or where they work under different rules, even if it is only for the sake of allegory, that itself is blasphemy worthy of a firm scolding.  Most people tend to be able to take a fantasy world as a fantasy world, magic tropes as magic tropes, and a pretty typical literary Christ figure as just that.  But, others are just completely perturbed at the idea of fiction not adhering to how they think reality works.  And that's just sad.

    Monday, March 2, 2009

    Reminds me of some of my old teachers...

    Today, in the news:  "Arguing that students should return to the fundamentals taught in the Pnakotic Manuscripts and the Necronomicon in order to develop the skills they need to be driven to the very edge of sanity, Arkham school board member Charles West continued to advance his pro-madness agenda at the district's monthly meeting Tuesday...."

    Evangelical Lovecraftianism.  I should really give that a try...

    Sunday, March 1, 2009

    The curious case of the covert strawman...plus graphs!

    Now for something more up my usual alley:  an article at godandscience.org attempting to rebut 
    Richard Dawkins' claim that religious indoctrination is comparable to child abuse.  Please note, for hilarity's sake, that the second link is the article linked to as citation for the godandscience article.

    Let's begin with good ol' Dickie D:
    Being fondled by the Latin master in the Squash Court was a disagreeable sensation for a nine-year-old, a mixture of embarrassment and skin-crawling revulsion, but it was certainly not in the same league as being led to believe that I, or someone I knew, might go to everlasting fire.
    Now, I can imagine that people could take exception to this.  They could surely note that the psychological harm caused by both teaching of Hell and molestation are subjective (with the latter normally doing more than the former), and that it doesn't seem that many children suffer unduly for learning about Hell , enough to make it so that this comparison is merely reflective of Dawkins having a unique disposition towards both matters.  But, I think that he makes much less debatable point later on:
    (and this is the point with which I began) the mental abuse constituted by an unsubstantiated threat of violence and terrible pain, if sincerely believed by the child, could easily be more damaging than the physical actuality of sexual abuse. An extreme threat of violence and pain is precisely what the doctrine of hell is. And there is no doubt at all that many children sincerely believe it, often continuing right through adulthood and old age until death finally releases them.
    And that's the crux of the issue.  He is not saying that it is certainly always the case, but that, under the right situations, frightening children with threats of hellfire and damnation may be more damaging than (most likely non-violent) sexual abuse might be.  It makes sense, in a way.

    So, what is the relevance here?  Not a whole lot, unfortunately.   The article attempting to address it continues a long tradition of people with different opinions talking past one another.  
    In The God Delusion and other writings,1 Richard Dawkins claims that teaching children about religion (specifically, the doctrine of hell) is a form of child abuse that scars children for life. Accordingly, Dawkins states, "Priestly groping of child bodies is disgusting. But it may be less harmful in the long run than priestly subversion of child minds."1Conspicuously absent in his writings are any published studies documenting that teaching children religious principles might adversely affect them.
    Do you see that paragraph?  The one that more or less accurately renders Dawkins argument, and makes the salient point that Dawkins opinion is just that, and does not have a clear evidentiary basis?  Perfect.   If this was the entire article, there would be no problems.  And yet....
    Published studies show that physical abuse negatively impacts their mental health,2 providing additional risks for psychopathology,3 increased suicidal behaviors,4 eating disorders,5 depression,6delinquency and criminal behaviors,7 and alcohol abuse.8
    So, let it be noted that "physical abuse=bad".  He is working with an interesting idea, summarized in the sidebar with his claim that: "Richard Dawkins claims that teaching children about religion amounts to a form of child abuse. If this is true, shouldn't the data show that religious youth are more prone to having more problems with parents, their peers, and authorities (like those who experience physical child abuse) than those who are non-religious?" Notice the shift:  Richard Dawkins isn't claiming that religion is a form of intensive mental abuse that is comparable to physical abuse in certain instances, or claiming that religion is akin to physical abuse but with different negative effects.  No.  Richard Dawkins is most assuredly claiming that religious indoctrination has the exact same negative effects as physical abuse.  I am not sure why Ricky D (yes...that's this article's author) thought we wouldn't notice the sleight of hand, but he did.
    In one of the largest studies of its kind, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill examined the role of religion in the lives of nearly 2500 adolescents.9 The adolescents indicated the level of their indoctrination (i.e., frequency of church attendance) and importance of religion, along with a number of activities that they have or have not participated in.
    It truly is an awesome study.  (It's from 1996 though, so I wonder how things have changed, since, 13 years later, we have a whole new set of adolescents).  But, let's address Ricky D's manipulation of it, shall we?
    Listed below are graphs of behaviors that would generally be considered to be unfavorable. To see larger versions of the graphs, just hover your cursor over the thumbnail image.
    This ought to be fun! 
    Special note:  about 50% of the sample of students have a high "indoctrination" (go weekly, or 1-2 times a month), with the other half having low indoctrination (go rarely, or never).  However, only 30% of the overall sample are in the "1-2 times a month" or "never" groups, divided fairly evenly, meaning that we have fairly lopsided groupings, but probably not too much of a problem.  In regards to "importance of religion" scores, about 30% say it is very important, another 30% for "pretty important", 25% for a little, and 15% for not important.  The percentages given in the graphs are the percentage of responses from within these unevenly sized groups.
    When you look at the original data, searching wildly for where Deem could have possibly found the data to make this table himself, you know something has gone awry.  Interestingly, he doesn't bother dealing with the data pertaining to the age in which adolescents had their first drink in which they got drunk (with 50% of weekly church goers claiming to have never done so, and the rest all pretty close to having 30% of saying that they have never had a drink).  Or the percentages going to bars (with 54% never going to one for weekly, 41%  for 1 to 2 months, 39% for rarely, and 45% for never).  But, he chose to focus on the question "on the occasions that you drink an alcoholic beverage, how often to do you drink enough to feel pretty high?".  (Seriously, "high"!?).  His graph reflects the percentage who said that they do so "nearly all" of the time.  But wait!  Include those that do it "mostly all" of the time and your total data is 33%, 31%, 28%, and 35%.  Not that marked of a difference.  But wait!  Go up to "half" of the time (only excluding data from those that said "few", "none", or "never had a drink"), and you've got 44%, 42%,  44%, and 47%.  One category only looks worse or better depending on where you are willing to draw the line.

     (Please note that there seems to be a high enough of a correlation between "importance of religion" and "church attendance" as to make distinguishing betweent the two irrelevant.)
    The numbers, for all drug related questions, seem to be universally higher as you go along a gradient from "religion important" to "not important", and the same trend exists for indoctrination levels as well.  But, even more interesting, is the fact that "very important" and "weekly attendance" people report being offered drugs at school half as often as the "not important" and "no attendance" folks.  I assume that this may have to do with social circles, rather than being indicative of drug-magnetism and/or lying. 
    Considering the high percentage of any number of problem behaviors across the board, I am beginning to wonder if they didn't have an exceptionally fucked up sample of kids.  I would like to think so...because they have a decent overall percentage of kids shoplifting (30%), carjacking (4.5%), vandalizing property (14%), committing arson (2%), and committing armed robbery (3%).  I mean, seriously...doesn't it seem to be a little bit screwy to be saying that only 3.5% of highly religious adolescents are stealing cars is a good thing?  Sure, it may be less than the average, but it is a really fucked up average.  But might I add, if it even needs mentioning, that comparatively lower rates of car theft, drug usage, and deliquency aren't really a good counterpoint to the argument that religious indoctrination can cause subjective, emotional pain.  Albeit, it doesn't produce psychological problems akin to those that physical abuse can create, but, really, I don't think that Dawkins said that it would.

    But, before we end this little exploration (there are lots more graphs where this came from if you are so inclined to look at them), I end with one undeniable fact:  we non-religious folks sure hate teachers.  Enjoy.

    These data show that religiously indoctrinated youth are much less involved with illegal substances, alcohol abuse, criminal and violent activities, and have fewer problems in school. Dawkins's hypothesis that religious indoctrination is bad for children has been soundly falsified. In fact, those who never attend church or feel that religion is not important display far more symptoms of real child abuse than those who are subject to frequent religious indoctrination.
    If you decide to determine whether something is "bad for [some] children" entirely by the exhibited behavior of adolescents, then yes, you might have a point.  As for displaying the "symptoms of real child abuse"....aside from the deliquency, pretty much all of the symptoms that you are associating with it also correlate with depression often.  Depression which can be staved off by having more social support, which, surprise surprise, the kids that go to church do!  But, here's an interesting thought of my own, pertinent to little:  what if there is healing effect?  In other words, what if the original message (hellfire, etc.) is psychological damaging to the young child originally exposed to a degree comparable to abuse but it is alieviated gradually in later visits?  As the details filter in, they provide some sort of effect to lessen the blows of other factors, calm them, and let them accept the idea more readily through whatever means.  However, those who are not sufficiently indoctrinated, but only partially, will still be dealing with the pain of the relevant ideas, as well as whatever additional aspects that motivate them to discontinue attendance.  In that respect, it might be good to differentiate between those who never once went to a church service, compared to those who are not going at all presently.  This is still simplistic, and I incidentally don't actually think it to be the case.  But it is a possibility, among others, that I can only assume Rich intentionally ignored when deciding his method of rebuttal.
    These graphs show that those whose minds have been "subverted" by the "evils" of religion exercise more frequently and volunteer more to help in their communities. 
    Of course, it is helpful to mention that the church provides many opportunities for volunteering, many of which would not be available (or at least as noticeable) outside of that community.
    Molesters will go where their targets are easily accessible - it has nothing to do with religion. I used to be an atheist. Now that I am a Christian, I don't suddenly feel drawn to molest boys!
    Agreed with the first sentence.  As for the points he makes after that....I think  that he doth protest too much.  The fact that he is on an obscure place called "The Internet", a well known meeting grounds for pedophiles and neonazis, speaks for itself.  
     Scientific data shows that teaching children the moral principles of religion has a positive impact on their behavior, as would be expected intuitively.
    Yes, and that's how he ends it:  assuming that the positive difference in these results is due to "moral principles" (which, if those outclassed the effects of abuse, means that he has not successfully ruled out any form of abuse by simply mentioning this as a possibility).  I know that they want to jump to that conclusion so desperately, and I know that I am a complete and utter dick for never, ever, wanting to concede that point when I can find an alternate explanation.  But, seriously, I have no idea how he has come to this conclusion, when the social factors are right there, glaring people in the face, and yet still remain unacknowledged.  Oh well, I was never one for "intuition" anyway.