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Archive for July, 2007

Nice

July 31, 2007 1 comment

I saw this on a bumper sticker a while back. Those shirts are tempting, but I can’t exactly where one to work. Nor could I bring myself to wear one in public, really.

Still, very funny. Almost makes up for the Tancredo bumper sticker I saw the other day.

Categories: Silliness

Quiz

July 30, 2007 Leave a comment

Q: What happens when a person sees several people, who unbeknownst to him are undercover policemen, dealing drugs on his lawn and comes out of his house with a weapon to scare them away?

If you answered “the police officers identify themselves as the police, show identification, calm the man down, and leave his property” you are some sort of crazy idealist.

The real answer is the policemen shoot the guy four times. Once in the back.

Another perfectly justifiable casualty of the drug war. Fantastic.

Categories: Civil liberties

Brief moment of triviality: television complaints

July 29, 2007 Leave a comment

Since I got a HDTV, I’ve been watching more TNT than normal, through their HD offering. One of the oddities of that channel is their incessant promotion of a show called Saving Grace, which premiered not long ago (I think). The premise is apparently that Holly Hunter gets a guardian angel and life lessons ensue. I don’t know why remaking Joan of Arcadia deserves this kind of hype, but there it is. TNT also apparently believes I want a little pop up of Holly Hunter on the bottom of the screen every so often. I don’t. She’s not in Law & Order, so she shouldn’t be making appearances except during commercial breaks.

Perhaps that would be tolerable if they didn’t crop and stretch most of their content to fit the 16:9 HD resolution. My TV is perfectly capable of that; it’s not, however, capable of un-fucking up movies I might want to watch on that channel.

At least I can watch Firefly in HD on UHD and L4yer Cake on HDNet Movies.

Categories: Culture

Bad bets

July 24, 2007 1 comment

I don’t think I’ve ever discussed Pascal’s Wager on here. Mostly because it’s a silly argument, but it was (rather inappropriately) brought up in a comments thread at Colby’s blog. Here’s a description:

God either exists or He doesn’t. Based on the testimony, both general revelation (nature) and special revelation (Scriptures/Bible), it is safe to assume that God does in fact exist. It is abundantly fair to conceive, that there is at least 50% chance that the Christian Creator God does in fact exist. Therefore, since we stand to gain eternity, and thus infinity, the wise and safe choice is to live as though God does exist. If we are right, we gain everything, and lose nothing. If we are wrong, we lose nothing and gain nothing. Therefore, based on simple mathematics, only the fool would choose to live a Godless life. Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have nothing to lose. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is.

Essentially, believing in God may turn out good or neutral, disbelieving in him will turn out neutral or bad. So, you should believer. There are numerous objections to this, most of them pretty obvious. The first is that this is a fallacious argument. Specifically, it’s an appeal to the consequences of belief. With that out of the way, let’s discuss why it’s a bad bet.

The main problem is that there are far too many unconsidered situations. A god who punishes and rewards disbelievers and believers, respectively, is not the only possibility. Here’s what I can think of:

1. God rewards disbelievers for seeing through mental biases and using logic and reason.
2. God rewards believers for believing.
3. God chooses at random.
4. God rewards those who behave well.
5. God punishes believers with certain dogmas.
6. God punishes disbelievers with certain dogmas.
7. God doesn’t exist

As you can see, there are a few more logically possible options. What I’ve come up with is essentially balanced, as well; whatever you choose to believe, it’s about 50-50 what happens to you.

Now, can we determine which of those options is more probable than the others? Nope, we can’t. You can’t do it by the religions in the world because a) new religions are created all the time and b) there’s no demonstrable link between the existence of a religion and its truth value. Believing that, say, a god who punishes believers is less likely than one who punishes disbelievers because that’s the way it is in the world is a theological assumption that isn’t shared by the other side of the debate. Unless you can make a case for it, you can use it in this argument.

Categories: Religion

Satan's bookstore

July 24, 2007 2 comments

The crazies are not happy:

A spokesman for the Christian Civic League of Maine (CCL) is calling a pre-release event for the latest “Harry Potter” book — Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — a satanically inspired event, an event that was mirrored in bookstores around the globe.

The “Midnight Magic Costume Party” was held last weekend at a Barnes & Noble outlet in Augusta, Maine. CCL spokesman Mike Hein says the event included fortune-telling using a brand of occult tarot cards called “Gypsy Witch.” He also says that the event was held in the “Children’s Department” with several hundred children in attendance.

Hein, who was present at the event, says even he was taken aback by the store’s labeling of that “Children’s Department” activity as divination, which he says should be a clue to any Christian readers and observers that they tie in to the Bible’s warning in Deuteronomy 18 about avoiding such an occult activity.

You heard it here (or, rather, there) first: Barnes & Noble is in the clutches of Satanists. At least that explains their annoyingly high prices.

Categories: Religion, Silliness

Religion and government

July 22, 2007 Leave a comment

11

God on Trial

by Peter Irons

I decided to take a break from my lengthy and slow going journey through Judt’s Postwar and check out God on Trial, a book on recent church-state separation cases that’s getting some good reviews. I was not disappointed; this is a fascinating book that deserves to be read by everyone interested in these cases.

Irons’s book takes a unique approach: rather than just describing these cases, he gets participants on both sides to give us some of their background and explain why they did what they did. It makes for interesting and illuminating reading. Irons discusses six cases: Mt Soledad cross case, the Texas football game prayer case, the two Ten Commandments cases from Kentucky and Texas, the California Pledge of Allegiance case, and the Dover ID case. He gets important participants in each trial to discuss their view of what happened. The one exception to this is the Dover trial, where the pro-ID person was not actually involved with the board until after the ID policy was in place. For each case, people on both sides of the issue run that gamut in terms of their explanations. We mostly get people who just felt the policy in question was wrong and that was the extent of it. There are some people who appear incredibly confused and didn’t appear to have thought about the issue at all. You also get instances of activists on either side, who are confident in their grasp of the history and law of the issue at hand. Predictably, you see two general opinions: the separationist side thinks religion shouldn’t be in government and the other side believes their freedom of religion and expression is being threatened. They aren’t all the fire-breathing atheists and Christian nation zealots that each side characterizes the other as on occasion.

Irons does an excellent job of describing each case, along with some interesting insights about them. The comments of participants in each case make for interesting reading on top of that. If you’re interested in these issues and want to have a good grasp of what actually happened and what the opposing sides believe, in their own words, I highly recommend checking out this book.

Categories: 26 in 52

Beep

July 19, 2007 2 comments

Your Score: Robot

You are 100% Rational, 0% Extroverted, 14% Brutal, and 14% Arrogant.

You are the Robot! You are characterized by your rationality. In fact, this is really ALL you are characterized by. Like a cold, heartless machine, you are so logical and unemotional that you scarcely seem human. For instance, you are very humble and don’t bother thinking of your own interests, you are very gentle and lack emotion, and you are also very introverted and introspective. You may have noticed that these traits are just as applicable to your laptop as they are to a human being. You are not like the robots they show in the movies. Movie robots are make-believe, because they always get all personable and likable after being struck by lightning, or they are cold, cruel killing machines. In all reality, though, you are much more boring than all that. Real robots just sit there, doing their stupid jobs, and doing little else. If you get struck by lightning, you won’t develop a winning personality and heart of gold. (Robots don’t have hearts, silly, and if they did, they would probably be made of steel, not gold.) You also won’t be likely to terrorize humanity by becoming an ultra-violent killing machine sent into the past to kill the mother of a child who will lead a rebellion against machines, because that movie was dumb as hell, and because real robots don’t kill–they horribly maim at best, and they don’t even do that on purpose. Real robots are boringly kind and all too rarely try to kill people. In all my years, my laptop has only attacked me once, and that was only because my brother threw it at me. In short, your personality defect is that you don’t really HAVE a personality. You are one of those annoying, super-logical people that never gets upset or flustered. Unless, of course, you short circuit. Or if someone throws a pie at you. Pies sure are delicious.

To put it less negatively:

1. You are more RATIONAL than intuitive.

2. You are more INTROVERTED than extroverted.

3. You are more GENTLE than brutal.

4. You are more HUMBLE than arrogant.

Compatibility:

Your exact opposite is the Class Clown.

Link: The Personality Defect Test written by saint_gasoline on OkCupid, home of the The Dating Persona Test

(via Pharyngula)

Categories: Silliness

Blogging in Montana

July 18, 2007 Leave a comment

So you might have noticed other people mentioning the Association of Montana Bloggers group that is starting up. It’s part of Colby’s grand vision of world domina…I mean, it’s a good idea that I think has a lot of promise.

There’s not much of a defined mission yet, but the general idea is to promote Montana blogs and help readers find their way into the Montana blogosphere. I think we’ve all noticed that there are now a ton of Montana blogs out there and it can be daunting if you don’t know where to start. That’s assuming there’s a good starting point, though there are actually many, depending on your interests.

That’s my short pitch. I think we could really do some cool things with this and everyone is invited to share their ideas and get involved. Check it out.

Categories: Blogging, Montana

Amazing

July 17, 2007 1 comment

So, you know those caricatures of modern conservatives liberals have? Do you ever wonder what would happen if they all got on a boat together? You don’t have to wonder anymore.

Categories: The Right

Why do people think this makes sense?

July 14, 2007 6 comments

Michael Gerson pontificates in the WaPo about atheists:

So the dilemma is this: How do we choose between good and bad instincts? Theism, for several millennia, has given one answer: We should cultivate the better angels of our nature because the God we love and respect requires it. While many of us fall tragically short, the ideal remains.

Atheism provides no answer to this dilemma. It cannot reply: “Obey your evolutionary instincts” because those instincts are conflicted. “Respect your brain chemistry” or “follow your mental wiring” don’t seem very compelling either. It would be perfectly rational for someone to respond: “To hell with my wiring and your socialization, I’m going to do whatever I please.” C.S. Lewis put the argument this way: “When all that says ‘it is good’ has been debunked, what says ‘I want’ remains.”

It is a little amusing to see people longing for the comfort of cosmic totalitarianism, but that’s not really what I think is funny.

Some argue that a careful determination of our long-term interests — a fear of bad consequences — will constrain our selfishness. But this is particularly absurd. Some people are very good at the self-centered exploitation of others. Many get away with it their whole lives. By exercising the will to power, they are maximizing one element of their human nature. In a purely material universe, what possible moral basis could exist to condemn them? Atheists can be good people; they just have no objective way to judge the conduct of those who are not.

This bugs the crap out of me. What objective basis does Gerson have? In his opinion, there’s a god who will punish those who disobey certain laws. What are these laws? Gerson again has an opinion about where they come from, which has almost no objective evidence behind it. How does Gerson know a god exists? At best, philosophical arguments with gaping holes in them. In fact, both opinions are probably based on faith, which is a particularly ungrounded and subjective opinion. This is an objective way to judge other people? It’s a completely absurd way to judge other people.

Plus, why is this god worthy of having his standard be the one by which we must judge other people? Because he created us and can punish us? My parents created me and I’m not required to live by their moral standards. The government can punish me, but I am not required to accept their laws as moral. If you obey a god because you think he wants you to, how can you judge anyone who thinks differently? You only have your subjective opinions to ground your beliefs. This is better than atheism? It’s an absurd lie.

We all have the exact same method of judging other people: our opinions. The best we can do is ground them in the most objective and practical manner possible. It’s not going to be perfect and it’s not going to be like proving a mathematical theorem. We can and will be wrong, so we must have a little humility about the process. Anyone thinking they have more is living in a dream world.

Categories: Religion
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