Sunday, September 11, 2016

A 9/11 Memory

My brother was living there when it happened.


Frantic doesn't begin to describe how we felt. All the phone lines were dead. Cell service was gone. All we had were the news cameras and the flames. And then... then the unthinkable happened. The buildings fell.

Not knowing was the worst part.

Nerve-wracked, we waited by the phone in case somebody called with bad news. Or in case my brother called. To our great relief, my father managed to get through via a land-line. My brother was alright. He was alive.

A huge wave of relief washed over my whole family who were gathered in front of the television that day, but I'll never forget the terror I felt not knowing if my brother had died in NY while I sat helpless, watching it unfold on live television.

We went to visit shortly thereafter, to visit my brother and give him company after experiencing first-hand such a terrible tragedy.

Of course, we did go to ground zero. Going to ground zero was a solemn and hollowing experience.

On the way back to my brother's apartment, we walked by a fire station and there was a dalmatian sitting in the entrance. I bent down to pet it and a firefighter came over to me and talked to me about his brothers he lost in 9/11.

I didn't know what to say, so I just said thanks for sharing his stories with me. And I said thank you for your service. He asked where I was from, and I replied, "Montana." He was impressed by the fact that I'd come from so far away. And I thanked him again before parting ways.

I'll never forget that. It's just one of those memories that sticks with you.






The Colin Kaepernick Controversy: And why the Patriotic Bellyachers are Missing the Point


I rarely get political, but when I do it apparently gets me unfriended by three of my Facebook friends. 

Not that I care. I know that makes me sound callous, but given the context it really does seem that their refusal to let me voice my opinion after they have blathered theirs in a public forum is just a kind of censorship. They don't want to hear from detractors because we might say something that genuinely challenges their position. This would force them into an actual conversation to defend their views. They don't want to defend their views. They just want their views to be accepted as correct, without question.

Look, I'm sick and tired of this totalitarian impulse being exhibited by people who say that the peaceful protests of taking a knee or not holding your hand over your heart for the flag is offensive to them, personally. But here's a newsflash. Nobody cares if it's offensive to you. And besides this, all ya'all Kaepernick bellyachers really are missing the point here.

My three grandfathers, like the millions of others who have served, did not serve so I could live in a totalitarian state where my patriotism is dictated by others and where I'm not allowed to peacefully protest because someone might find it offensive.

They fought so I could live in a free society. 

That came with the tacit knowledge that people might not always hold Old Glory to the same amount of respect or show Old Glory the exact amount of veneration expected. But they didn't fight for a flag. They fought for what it stood for. And when what it stands for seems to be trampled on, abused, and ignore on virtually a daily basis then that's when a protest has that much more meaning. Not less.

But, again, this is missing the point.

Look, if the protesters were taking a knee and kneeling JUST to be disrespectful, then yeah, that would be showing disrespect with the deliberate intent to cause offense.

But that's clearly not what they're doing.

They are peacefully protesting about how an entire segment of the populace (mainly blacks and other colored minorities) gets unfairly treated on a daily basis and, essentially, are saying this doesn't appear to them to be the land of the free. At least, not from their perspective as a minority race. And that was Kaepernick's message. 

Yeah, yeah, I know he personally isn't the disenfranchised or downtrodden minority person in question here, but he used his celebrity and status as a pro football player to stand up for those who had no voice. Are you seriously going to question that man's patriotism here? Seriously?

Anyone who whitewashes what the protest is about to complain about how they personally feel offended by the protests are being self-centered by making it a point that they care more about a show of patriotism toward a symbol than the very rights that symbol protects.

Again, just an observation of the facts.

The question becomes, do you find offense with the protestor's message? If so, by all means, explain why. If you find fault with how they're going about it, well, that's a bit trickier. Because, last time I checked, that wasn't up to you -- how people choose to peacefully protest. And all your inane memes and bellyaching on social media doesn't change the fact that you're still missing the point.

Any which way you look at it, it looks a lot like whitewashing. Because that's exactly what it is. More specifically, it's whitewashing because these bellyachers are attempting to make the issue one of patriotism -- specifically matching your patriotism to their patriotism -- then they complain when you point out they've changed the subject. Because, after all is said and done, what have they said in this whole debate on the issue of the disenfranchised or the initial message of blacks being treated unfairly that sparked the controversy?

Nothing.

Well, then. I rest my case.

And that, folks, is called whitewashing the issues away.

All that anyone needed to do or say about Kaepernick's form of protest is that he has the right to do so. Then bite your goddamn tongue, and put your own hand over your damn heart and practice your freedoms however you want to and let others do the same. That's all it deserved. 

Sorry to get political for a moment, but it had to be said. I'm tired of all these bellyachers complaining about being offended. Nobody cares. Fine. Be offended. Now shut up about it and let the rest of us get on with our lives.

And, while you're at it, maybe try not to whitewash important social issues in the future. It really does make you look like a bunch of self-serving, self-centered, culturally insensitive assholes.


Friday, September 9, 2016

10 Condescending Phrases Atheists Hear Spoken by the Religious: And 10 Witty Comebacks


AND SOME WITTY COMEBACKS!

1- Tell them: "If only prayer was enough." Let out a lengthy sigh for dramatic effect.

2- *Yawn* (Place your hand over your mouth for added effect) and then check watch. Even if you're not wearing one, check anyway. The symbolic gesture will be much appreciated.

3- Reply in an overly serious tone: "Takes one to know one."

4-  "What makes you think I don't know the truth now?"


5- As soon as they finish being judgemental, replicate their tone and immediately respond: "You can't have slarom without Dog." If they give you a strange look, act normal. Everything is fine.

6- Ask: "How can something that doesn't exist love me?"

7- Say: "The Devil is in the details." Linger just long enough for them to think about it then slowly back away, without breaking eye contact.

8- Ask: "What fool first said there was?"


9- Tell them: "Puberty was a stage. Endless marathons of masturbating to porn in college was a stage. The thing with the midget and the amputee was a stage. This is nothing."

10- Say: "Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, then shame on the Devil." Eyeball them suspiciously till they become nervous or change the subject.



Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Kalam Cosmological Argument is Sophistry -- And Why I Stopped Debating Theists Online



The Kalam Cosmological argument, as presented by William Lane Craig, says that
Whatever begins to exist has a cause;
The universe began to exist;
Therefore:
The universe has a cause.
From the conclusion of the initial syllogism, the universe having a cause, he appends a further premise and conclusion based upon ontological analysis of the properties of the cause:
The universe has a cause;
If the universe has a cause, then an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists, who sans the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless and enormously powerful;
Therefore:
An uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists, who sans the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless and enormously powerful.
Three things are worth noting here, I think.
In quantum physics uncaused-causes actually exist. It’s part of the strange world of quantum physics which do not always abide by Newtonian intuitions about causality. As such, when dealing with the start of the universe which would have been a quantum singularity, saying it has a cause is quite meaningless. Craig has actually been corrected by physicists numerous times on this point from the late Victor J. Stenger to Lawrence Krauss.
Saying meaningless things is not trivial. Theologians thrive on it because they can obfuscate, spin, and reword their arguments to sound more meaningful than they actually are in a deliberate act of sophism.
If you let yourself be distracted, or confused, then the theologian can insert more unsupported premises because there’s really no necessary condition for having to prove nonsense. For example, the KCA takes for granted that the person being presented the syllogism even knows what God is. Assuming everyone knows of God, or what God you might be referring to out of the sea of endless possibilities, is a big assumption. But presuming there are those in which Craig’s definition of God is alien, then any word would suffice.
Really you’d have to ask, what do you mean by God? This would lead us to Ignosticism. Which would defeat the KCA before it could even present its second premise since without any context that premise would prove to be quite meaningless.
The second thing is with respect to how we accept things at face value and who gets to determine / dictate the definitions being used.
Now, imagine if Craig were to debate a Shintoist. And upon presenting his second premise the Shintoist gives WLC a shocked look. This would be understandable. After all, the Shintoist goes by a completely different definition of God. For the Shintoist, for all we know, the *tree in his back yard is his version of God. From the Shintoist’s perspective, Craig has essentially made the claim that the *tree in the Shintoist’s back yard created the universe! Which is nonsensical, I think you’ll agree.
Granted, we’d presume a person debating a theologian like William Lane Craig would familiarize themselves with the Christian concept of God before engaging with a Christian theologian in a debate. But shouldn’t Craig reciprocate by demonstrating the same form of respect in return by familiarizing himself with the Shintoist’s definition(s) of God? Why, then, does Craig’s definition of God become the default?
See, it’s that assumption that takes for granted that everyone believes in Craig’s version of God. It’s a false assumption.
Scientific-minded skeptics tend to be wary of anything that sounds vaguely nonsensical rather than keenly specific regarding something we can observe and measure. One might say that falls into the category of evidentialism and that the logic of the premise of the universe having a first cause is not wrong. That’s true. But it’s not wrong in the same way as saying “love is eternal” is not wrong. It’s not exactly a falsifiable claim. It could be. But it’s not something that we have support of either way. And we wouldn’t know how to measure that even if it were true.
By making their nonsensical claims unfalsifiable, theologians hope to shield their assumptions from criticism thereby safeguarding their God concept from having to meet any kind of burden of proof.
Thirdly, the additional assumptions pretend to be rooted in basic beliefs. Such as God being a Personal being. But these assumptions are based on presumed experiences of God, therefore are not properly basic. Believing God is loving or believing he is a Personal entity requires more information than mere belief that it is so. A properly basic belief is simply a belief that doesn’t break down to prior assumptions.
When we see the color red, for example, our belief that it is the color red we are seeing doesn’t depend on experience. Just the acknowledgment that there are colors detectable to the human eye. And that when we see certain colors, we know them, and we know they are the color we see because we believe that when viewing red it appears redly to us. And that is a properly basic belief.
Saying that God is an uncaused, Personal Creator of the universe, who sans the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless and enormously powerful is still just baseless assumptions predicated on a nonsensical syllogism that thinks it’s being more clever than it really is.
That’s the very definition of sophism, folks.
***

The first time I heard WLC state the Kalam cosmological argument in a live debate, I was flabbergasted that a person of any education could be so fully proud of their own sophistry — so much to the point of declaring themselves the winner of the debate before it was over because nobody could argue against the logic of the syllogism.

Well, that’s true only if you buy into the assumptions that it’s good logic, or that the premise is sound, or that the syllogism makes sense given what we do know about the universe. And upon closer inspection, we find none of these hold up to scrutiny.

Back in the day, when I’d argue with theists, I’d try to explain this to them. They often would say I was invoking sophistry to avoid having to grapple with WLC’s flawless presentation of a logical syllogism for the existence of God. It only ever caused me to roll my eyes. No offense, but buying into someone else’s sophism doesn’t, in fact, make the criticism of that particular sophistry any less prevalent simply because you don’t understand the criticism.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is why I stopped arguing with theists.


Monday, September 5, 2016

Is Theism LESS Rational than Atheism?



A bit of philosophy to chew on.


If upon seeing a white dove you conclude all doves must be white, you have reasoned illogically. 


If upon seeing a white dove you conclude some doves are certainly white, you have reasoned logically.

When seeing the universe exists you conclude the universe must have had a creator, sorry to say, this is illogical reasoning. 

Upon seeing the universe exists and you conclude that the universe could possibly have had a creator, well, this is logical reasoning.

I made a similar argument suggesting that theism is the less rational position when compared to atheism for similar reasoning. Atheism doesn't invoke illogical reasoning to support its premise because it doesn't need to justify a supposition which isn't evidenced like theism clearly has to.

In effect, theism is saying all doves *must* be white whereas atheism is saying that claim doesn't seem likely. And how one arrives at such a claim matters.

Atheism is, more or less, a consequence of theism's failure to justify its premise that God exists. Thus theism cannot be fully justified without further evidence. That is, the theist needs to present all doves and prove beyond a shadow of doubt that they are, indeed, all white.

Failure to do this, only to turn around and say all doves *must* all be white is fallacious reasoning. Proving them all white is part of the burden of making the positive claim that all doves are, indeed, all white all of the time.

Atheism, on the other hand, doesn't need to be justified in the same way because it's a response to the theistic position. It's a counter-position. Whereas the theist claimed, in effect, that all doves are white, the atheist has simply said, that doesn't seem very likely. And have left it at that.

Not likely -- that's the atheist's position in a nutshell.

Theists who turn around and say to the atheist that they cannot prove that all doves are NOT white misses the point of having the burden of proof.

Atheism merely says that the failure of theism to find compelling evidence in support of its claim that all doves are white, or in this case that God exists, is a strong form of evidence for not all doves being white and, for that matter, is evidence for the absence of God's existence.

The question is, which of these claims, the theistic or atheistic, is justified?

Well, theism clearly is not justified, just as the saying "all doves must be white" is not justified, at least not without evidence to support the claim. So atheism, as a counter-claim, is justified simply by the fact that not all the doves have been counted.

God exists is not a claim that is currently true because we haven't any discernible evidence to say either way if God exists. It's an unknown and no viable evidence has been presented. But not having evidence could be a strong clue as to God not existing. 

Now, it could be we simply haven't seen all the evidence yet. We haven't seen all the doves and so cannot say whether they're all white or not. It's possible. But then this is where probabilities come into play. Having never seen a mundane pigeon, only a white dove, what are the odds that there wouldn't be a non-white dove given the one white dove we saw? Well, for determining this you will need additional data. You will need to start counting all of your doves.

Atheism simply says that theism hasn't presented any doves for us to count. In other words, there's no evidence to support the claim -- not about doves, and certainly not about the existence of God. And assuming all doves are white, like assuming God exists, minus any evidence is not a valid conclusion. It's not a valid inference even. What it is, however, is the failure to present any doves. And the skeptic is well within her right to say that short of counting all of the doves, there's simply no way for the claim all doves are white to be proved true. 

Therefore, to assume that all doves are white, or that God exists minus any reliable evidence to prove it -- and saying it's a priori true regardless of one's inability to prove it so, is not rational. One cannot know if it's true or false minus any valid proof of its being true. And the failure to demonstrate the claim coupled with the certainty that the claim must be true (and cannot possibly be false) makes the position irrational.

One might point out that the absence of evidence isn't necessarily evidence of absence. And in certain rare cases, this is certainly true. But in the majority of the cases not having evidence of a thing is usually proof of its non-existence.

Fairies at the bottom of gardens and IPUs being fine examples of the majority cases of non-existent evidence being evidence of non-existence. Therefore, all things being equal, the assumption that another non-evidenced thing might fit the rule rather than the exception to the rule is certainly valid. 

All things being equal, to automatically side with the theistic position and claim it is the correct one -- that it *must be true -- that all doves must be white or that God must exist -- given this lack of evidence is, quite frankly, illogical.

Siding with an illogical position because you like what it implies better than the competing position, is not entirely rational. It boils down to theists not being atheists because they like the sound of theism and cannot possibly entertain any other belief propositions, whereas atheists are not theists because theism is an unsupported position which rests on invalid assumptions. 

Of course, atheism might still be proved wrong. But as the proposition stands, it's not relying on bad or fallacious reasoning, just on what seems to be the most likely case. As such, it's not illogical to assume God doesn't exist given the dearth of evidence. Rather, the burden is still squarely on the shoulders of the theist to prove their claim is the exception to the rule.

It's worth noting here that the atheist doesn't say that theism *must* be false. Atheists do not usually say God certainly doesn't exist. Well, some strong atheists might, but they might have other reasons for saying so outside of their belief proposition that atheism is more likely, given the status of evidence. That is to say, the weak atheists my have good arguments which may go a long way toward validating strong atheism. But that's a discussion for another time.

Mainly what we are contending with here is, when discovering a complete dearth of evidence, we can assume that, in all probability, the belief that God exists, like the belief all doves must be white, is false -- contrary to popular opinion.

As such, atheism is a more logical position. Theism, although rationally argued, is not itself a rational position given the nature of the reality we observe and the surprising lack of evidence, evidence we would expect to find in abundance if the theist proposition was true. 

As I said, atheists could still be wrong. I've never denied the possibility, yet it seems the odds are slim to none of it actually being false. But what are those odds exactly? That depends on the probability of any given amount of evidence being counted in favor of the theisti vs. atheist position and wehther that evidence is enough to counter the atheist's skepticism. 

In nearly every case it does not otherwise there wouldn't be so many atheists. And that is a strong indicator that theism has failed to support its claim. For if theism had a relatively well-supported claim, atheism would appear foolish on the basis that atheism could be easily falsified. The theist could simply point out the window and say, "Behold! God!" And the atheist, at the risk of making himself into a nitwit, would correct his mistake.

On the other hand, in our natural world in which we actually live, we ask where is God? And the theist points out the window at nothing and we atheists give them blank stares. 

Now you know what I mean by my claim that atheism is the more rational position. But the fact remains, instead of quieting the atheists skepticism by presenting evidence, theism has merely pointed out the window at nothing and said, "See, God exists!"

That's not rational. That's akin more to a delusion than a substantiated belief -- much in the same way that believing IPUs exist is akin more to a delusion than a substantiated belief. Please, don't get me wrong. Theists are allowed such opinions, sure, but it doesn't mean it's a valid opinion or make it any less delusional simply because they believe it with an unprecedented certitude. 

But who knows? Maybe atheism is wrong. Maybe the delusional belief in God turns out to be correct. Maybe miracles are real? It's possible. 

But a possibility is not a certainty in the same way that saying some doves are white isn't the same as saying that all doves must be white. The truth of the matter lies in the *proving. 

This is why, for me, a person claiming they've "experienced" God or having had a "personal relationship" with God and claiming they see him working wonders in their lives is NOT a form of valid evidence. It's not a proof for anything. It's anecdotal accounts of subjective experiences which are, in most cases, completely unsubstantiated. It's nice that they believe that. But that's all it is, a nice sounding belief. It doesn't make the belief true.

At best, such anecdotal accounts still need proving -- not so unlike the belief in God itself.

Atheism doesn't require any additional proving. If it did, it would mean evidence for God was so abundant as to be a certainty. If theism was true, the atheist would say, show me God and the theist would say, sure, and point out the window, and low and behold!, we'd see God and say, "Damn." And we'd feel like fools. But luckily, that's not the case. I look out my window and see a parking lot. And that's about as good of evidence as any theist has for God, which is to say, none at all.

The easiest way to falsify atheism is simply to have God manifest himself. Failure to do this little trivial thing of making an appearance validates the atheist's skepticism while, at the same time, confounds the theist's certainty.

Besides, if you could say that God exists with the utmost certainty, then, by all means, present your evidence. A Nobel Prize awaits you. However, I'm quite confident that the opposite is the case. I could be wrong, but then the question becomes, have you counted all the doves? No? Well, I rest my case.

Naturally, I welcome any responses to my reasoning here. Am I way off base? Or is there a case to be made that theism is less rational a position than atheism? Of course, this doesn't mean theists cannot rationalize well. I think we all, whether believer or nonbeliever, all rationalize about the same. But when it comes to the above, am I wrong here? Let me know what you think.


On Being Charitable (And when to call a Troll a Troll)

In a discussion I'm having with a theist elsewhere, I stated that when it comes to the Great Debate we usually take people at their word about what they say they believe.

This can extend to other areas of belief as well. Generally, I feel people believe what they believe to be true, whether or not those beliefs can be easily confirmed or not. Being charitable isn't about whether their beliefs are ultimately true, but whether we accept that they genuinely believe what they say they do.

As such, I said:
"Usually, we take people at their word about what they purport to believe since it is charitable to do so."

In response to my statement a theist, who continually engages me over at my other blog, came back with this doozie of a response:
"If we have to take everyone at their word, then why are you an Atheist? After all, plenty of people have said they have personally experienced God in various ways and forms, and if we have to take people at thier word, then we also have to accept that God exists since he is interacting with people.

If you disagree and say this is somehow all in their heads, then you aren’t taking them at their word, which is rude.

So, God exists and your Atheist argument is wrong."


I think you can spot his mistaken reasoning. Believing someone believes something is clearly not the same as believing exactly as they believe. 

But in the attempt to be charitable, I will admit that he's likely just trying to make a point. Assuming his point is that believing someone is the same as believing what they believe, which it's certainly not, I decided to elucidate by relaying to him that 

We take people at their word about what they purport to believe with respect to some belief proposition or another. We don’t necessarily take their word about *what* the nature of reality really is according to *whatever* it is they purport to believe.


See, what you’re doing is saying what a person says is an absolute truth about the nature of reality — so if we believe them about what they purport to believe then we must also believe their reality as well. This is just plainly, demonstrably wrong.


But to answer your accusation: No, and no I don’t. I typically will take people at their word that they believe God exists. That’s just called being polite.


Now, I won't go out of my way belittle anyone who is genuinely giving it their honest best. Over the years I've found that I learn a lot from discussing with others what it is they believe. Even if we agree to disagree, there's still a lot about the individual we can learn.

That said, this is not one of those times, I'm afraid. You can't very well learn anything new if the person you're debating simply repeats the same points over and over again, like a broken record.


Frankly, I have way more important things to do than satisfy the egos of those who don't care to hear the opinions of those they disagree with yet insists on bothering them to get a rise out of them. That's just trolling.

So being charitable can only go so far.

After all, patience isn't unlimited, as is my time. Giving people the benefit of the doubt ends when they choose to abuse your patience by talking in a roundabout fashion, keep coming back to previous topics you left behind long ago, and dismiss your rebuttal of their accusations of you because they'd rather be right than concede even an inch -- even if that implies they must pretend to know more than you about your own beliefs.

All of which my interlocutor did. Repeatedly. And, eventually, you have to call a troll a troll, hit the block button, and move on.

Now, I don't like censoring people. I believe everyone has the right to express their opinion. But I do prefer to only listen to educated opinions over inane blather. Yet, then again, who wouldn't?

The point is, if someone is making an effort, and showing that they want to learn and want to be part of the discussion, in the spirit of being charitable, I'll engage with them. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt that they truly do want to get to the bottom of certain questions that are pressing upon their conscience, and I'll be happy to answer any questions they might have.

The moment they begin to abuse their privileges, however, that charity ends. I have better things to do than argue the same old argument again and again, ad nauseam.

On Sophistry & Sophism

When a person is hell-bent on arguing with you simply because they want to be right, and you keep slapping them down with atomic-powered fact checking and yet they still continue to ignore you... it's flabbergasting.

Here's my interlocutor trying to correct my citation of the terms sophism and sophistry claiming that I misrepresented their meanings when I DENIED his accusations of me being a sophist by *correctly quoting what sophist meant.

"By the way, Sophistry is actually defined as a clever but ultimately fallacious argument, not necessarily one that is intentionally meant to deceive. I know, I’ve just checked the very same sources you used.


Here is what Merriam Websters said.


Simple Definition of sophistry: the use of reasoning or arguments that sound correct but are actually false: a reason or argument that sounds correct but is actually false

There is nothing about deceit here."


I responded by taking screen-caps of the cited pages. Talk about your epic smack-down. 

If you want to get on my bad side, it's to insinuate I'm a liar, distort my words, and not be charitable in your representation of my position. That brings out the DESTROYER. 

As my friend found out, to his great embarrassment, like the Incredible Hulk, you wouldn't like me when I'm angry.







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Advocatus Atheist

Advocatus Atheist