Sunday, December 30, 2007

These are awesome!

http://www.iparklikeanidiot.com/

I'd go through that 100-pack in a couple of weeks.

Later,

Wow, PZ's really pushing people's buttons lately

Two posts on torture, and one on the lunacy that is Ron Paul.

As of midnight, there were 228(26 hr old), 337(14 hrs old), and 115(4 hrs old) comments, respectively.

I'm not surprised by the pile-up of Ron Paul supporters. I think his campaign staff consists mainly of volunteers with this very purpose in mind.

But some people showed up to defend the use of torture! Virtually all of them used the same kind of "ticking time bomb" scenario so common in real life on episodes of "24". I recognized at least two that pop up to denounce PZ's evolution or atheism posts.

And yet, as an atheist, I am somehow supposed to be the morally bankrupt jackass.

Who would Jebus torture?

Later,

Thursday, December 27, 2007

I'm so damn clever

It took some doing to work out, but I added a new feature to my random quote generator.

Clicking on the "new quote" button will refresh the random quote. It's a lot faster than having to refresh the entire page.

It actually took almost two hours to work out, to ultimately add less than 5 lines of code.

Now I just need to add more quotes.

Later,

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I deleted that "Philosphy Quiz" post

I deleted that "Philosphy Quiz" post because I couldn't quickly figure out why there was all that extra space. It was bugging me. Once I do figure it out, I'll repost it.

Blog maintenance.

Qalmlea modified the way [blockquote] works on her blog, and I was inspired to make similar changes.

This is how blockquotes will look from now on.
I use nested blockquotes to insert my own comments.
Any questions?
I may add more specialized variations for things like crazy stuff (kind of like PZ does when quoting loony rants).
I also changed the blog dimensions and added a border

Later,

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Jupiter Landing

I was bored, and decided to stream a movie from Netflix. While browsing, I noticed this movie, Jupiter Landing. I read the blurb

When six reclusive tenants of a rundown apartment building called Jupiter Landing receive a 30-day eviction notice, they're forced to buck their antisocial ways and band together. Nicki (Naomi West), the reluctant leader, struggles to organize and motivate her slacker neighbors into taking a stand. Joel Riet, Bryce Wagoner, Connie Young, Monique Lanier and Tod Huntington fill out the cast of this independent dark comedy.
and saw that it had a rating of two and a half stars out of five (it has seven out of ten on imdb).


From that blurb, you'd think this movie follows the old "save the resort/building/school" plot (usually involving some unlikely contest that the main characters have no realistic chance of winning).

You'd be wrong.

The blurb describes one scene near the beginning of the movie. The characters occasionally refer to the impending eviction, but don't really seem to care much.

The problem is, there's no way to say anything more about the movie without spoiling it.

I don't think the term "dark comedy" applies. It isn't dark, just very strange.

I gave it five out of five stars.

Later,

8th grade science quiz

I posted a similar quiz quite a while ago.

JustSayHi - Science Quiz

(it was 100%)

Later,

Monday, December 24, 2007

Another quiz

It's Xmas eve, and I'm at home taking internet quizzes.


My inner child is six years old!

Look what I can do! I can walk, I can run, I can read! I like to do stuff, and there's a whole big world out there to do it in. Just so long as I can take my blankie and my Mommy and my three best friends with me, of course.
Take this quiz


Later,

I'm-a goin' ta Hell!

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Third Level of Hell!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:

LevelScore
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Moderate
Level 2 (Lustful)Low
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Very High
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)High
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very High
Level 7 (Violent)High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)High
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Low

Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test

Later,

Saturday, December 22, 2007

I wish I could draw

I have the artistic skill of a paraplegic howler monkey. But if I could draw, I would totally have made this joke.


Calvin and Hobbes, by spacecoyote

Later,

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Xmas spirit

This is my Xmas post. Enjoy it.






Later,

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Sad news

Terry Pratchett has been diagnosed with a rare form of early onset Alzheimer's Disease

It's mild for now, and he's optomistic about his current book and appearence deals.

via Pharyngula

Later,

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Golden Compass

I know that no movie will have the depth of the book it's based on, but I still can't help being just a little disappointed, although not as much as PZ seemed to be. There are no spoiler's in this post. If you've read the book, you already know what happens; if you haven't, you'll have no idea what the hell I'm talking about.

As movies go, The Golden Compass was okay. It had great effects and plenty of action. If I had not read the book, I probably would have said the plot was a little rushed, and thin in spots, but still pretty good.

Having read the book (the complete trilogy, in fact), I have to say the movie was poorly adapted. It's clear that the writer's attempted to follow the book as closely as they could, given pacing constraints and a clear order to remove anything that might offend the religious (there isn't much in the first book that should do that, but when the Authority is mentioned, it could very well just be the Pope, making the Magisterium simply a fallen organization, disconnected from God). Even so, much of the story was lost.

Some changes made no sense. The reason for Iorek's exile, for example. The reason from the book may have taken a few more minutes to establish, but would have been more satisfying and shown Ragnar much more clearly as a villain. When Iorek names Lyra "Silvertongue", there is no explanation, no apparent reason for it.

The movie was also made SafeForChildrenTM. There is violence, but it's pretty sterile and bloodless. The seriousness of intercision is not emphasized as much as in the book (It is briefly mentioned at the very beginning that a person's daemon is his/her soul, but never again). The kid that Lyra finds merely seems sad about losing his daemon. He also survives and is reunited with his mother. Even when Iorek and Ragnar are fighting, there is no blood. Ragnar gets a solid bite on Iorek's foreleg (and panzerbjorn teeth are impressive), but there's no blood. When the fight ends (the same way as in the book), there's still no blood. I also half expected the bears to toast the winner with bottles of Coke. (Note: Ragnar is named Iofur in the book. Another change that I don't quite get)

It is made clear that Lord Asriel is trying to open a passage to another world. The Church Magisterium is trying to stop him. If he succeeds, however, they will apparently attempt to spread their control to other worlds, so it isn't clear why, exactly, they're trying to stop him. The order of events is changed from the book, with the fight between Iorek and Ragnar coming before the events at Bolvangar. And yes, the last chapter of the book is dropped.

One change that I liked happened right at the beginning. A representative of the Magisterium poisens the wine, not the Master of Jordan College. That makes more sense. The Magisterium people (except Mrs. Coulter) all dress like priests and are concerned with preventing heresy, so the Magisterium is clearly the Church. That much was kept at least.

The ending is left very open, but with just enough closure that a sequel is not absolutely necessary. So I'm not really expecting the rest of the trilogy. In fact, if the studio is going to try removing the "God=Evil, Lying Tyrant" theme, I'd prefer the other two books not ever be made into movies.

Later,

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Making Money

It isn't a get-rich-quick scheme

It's a new Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett.
I saw it in the "New Fiction" section of the library and checked it out. It's about Moist von Lipwig (who became the Postmaster General for Ankh-Morpork in Going Postal).

I'll read it as soon as I finish Forest Mage by Robin Hobb.

Later,

FreeRice

This is a pretty cool site. For every word you correctly define, 20 grains of rice are donated through the UN to help end world hunger.

I stopped once repeats started showing up fairly often
My best level was 47
I ended donating 4480 grains of rice.
"Effulgent" was one of the words to define. I'm not going to explain why that's funny.

Later,

Sunday, December 02, 2007

A bunch of stuff

This post will cover the highlights of my life since Thanksgiving.

I had intended to not cook at all this year, but somehow ended up watching/basting the turkey and making the potatoes, gravy and the shrimp Dad wanted as an appetizer. It was pretty fun, except that I eventually had to leave the room so as to not call one of Dad's guests a "racist, misogynistic bastard".

Shelley used to be solid black, but not anymore.


The newspaper was insolent, but she put it in its place.




Flash + Kitty eyes = spooky



I saw a Celtic group called "the Muses" at the Sweetwater County Library. They were pretty good. I bought a couple CD's. Some songs really need bagpipes, though. ("Danny Boy", "Loch Lomond").

I got the new Futurama DVD, "Bender's Big Score". Funny stuff. One of the included extras is a lecture by Dr. Sarah Greenwald about the various math references in the series. Cool.

Jackal has (yet) another blog. This one is going to present a daily math/science/logic problem and its solution (She tutors math and science). I contributed two simple problems.

That's about it. Isn't my life exciting?

Later,

Friday, November 30, 2007

This is a test - just ignore it

This is a test

This is only a test. As you can see, I've added collapsible posts (Peekaboo view, the link is in my sidebar). I had to upgrade to the new template style to do so. Putting my blog back in order was a bit of a pain, but well worth the trouble. I also made my sidebar wider.

Later,

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Forbidden Kingdom


This movie looks awesome! Jackie Chan and Jet Li! Is it April yet?

Later,

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Warning: Stream-of-conciousness rant. Read at own risk.

I'm bored. There are lots of things that I could do, but none of them appeal to me at the moment. I cleaned my apartment earlier today, so that's something done, anyway.

So I'm going to sit here and type. I have no more clue as to what's coming than you do.

I need a haircut. I usually get one on a regular, semi-annual basis, but I missed the last one. Maybe the last two. It's pretty bad. Now that I think of it, I haven't trimmed the beard in a while, either. That might explain the looks I get in public these days.

A few weeks after I moved here I was visited by a pair of Mormon door-to-door missionaries. Why did I get the ones who obey Matthew 10:14? There's so much I want to talk about, so many questions to ask. "Who is more important: Jesus or Paul?", "How do you explain John 5:31 vs. John 8:14?", "How do you know which parts are literal and which are metaphorical?" That sort of thing. Really, I want to know. I'd ask Mom, but I like being allowed to visit occasionally.

I need to change cleaning supplies. My whole apartment (such as it is) smells like bleach.

A while ago, I finished the Charles de Lint books that I bought, plus I finally read Widdershins. I'll try to focus long enough to say something about them.

Little (Grrl) Lost - I didn't think it was as good as some of de Lint's other stuff, but it was good. I think it was more strongly aimed at a young teenage audience. It is only peripherally related to The Little Country. It takes place in Newford. The term used is 'Little' not 'Small'. There is one reference to Billy Dunthorn, but otherwise no narrative connection.

Promises to Keep - Very good. It's about the difference between what Jilly thinks she wants, and what she really wants. It's set during her time as a student at Butler U, and it also tells how she meets most of her circle of friends. And it has Olaf 'Goon' Goonaskaera in it (briefly). He's only a minor character in a few of de Lint's short stories, but he's a favorite of mine. He's actually king of the goblins, but in a sort of reverse Lucifer, he decided to serve above rather than rule below. This isn't mentioned in Promises to Keep, though.

Widdershins - Also very good. Like much of de Lint's stuff, it's about dealing with: the past, death, vengeance and other people. Plus crow girls.

I also recently read The Golden Compass, mainly because a lot of Xians seem to be all in a twist about the movie (which I also intend to see in the theater). Anyway, the book was pretty good, if a touch predictable. Good characters. When Pullman describes Lee Scoresby he had to have been picturing Sam Elliot. I have read that the movie chops off the last two chapters of the book, supposedly to use as the opening of a sequel. This could be an attempt to appease the fundies. By removing the last two chapters, most of the anti-religious theme is eliminated. From what I've seen on various blogs, it isn't working.

Back to Jesus vs. Paul. I think I've come up with an explanation for Xians tending to follow Paul's writings. Here's how I envision it:

Jesus:[just after the Ascension] "Dad! I'm home!"

Yahweh: "Welcome back, son. Did you do what I told you?"

Jesus: "I sure did. I taught them about tolerance for others, loving their enemies and forgiveness."

Yahweh: "What! You stupid hippie, that's not what I wanted. Now I have to fix your mess. I'll have that guy spread my real message."

Jesus: "But that guy tortures and kills people."

Yahweh: "I know. He's perfect."
That's the only way it makes sense that I can see.

Well, I'm getting hungry. Time to make dinner.

Later,

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Kia and Shelley redux





I saw that Phil has some pictures of Kia and Shelley on his Flickr page, so I decided to post them here. I think that last one is my favorite.

Later,

Friday, November 02, 2007

Meme tag! I'm it.

Qalmlea has tagged me with a meme. PZ Myers started this on Pharyngula a while ago.

Here are the rules:

There are a set of questions below that are all of the form, "The best [subgenre] [medium] in [genre] is...". Copy the questions, and before answering them, you may modify them in a limited way, carrying out no more than two of these operations:

You can leave them exactly as is.
You can delete any one question.
You can mutate either the genre, medium, or subgenre of any one question. For instance, you could change "The best time travel novel in SF/Fantasy is..." to "The best time travel novel in Westerns is...", or "The best time travel movie in SF/Fantasy is...", or "The best romance novel in SF/Fantasy is...".
You can add a completely new question of your choice to the end of the list, as long as it is still in the form "The best [subgenre] [medium] in [genre] is...".

You must have at least one question in your set, or you've gone extinct, and you must be able to answer it yourself, or you're not viable.

Then answer your possibly mutant set of questions. Please do include a link back to the blog you got them from, to simplify tracing the ancestry, and include these instructions. Finally, pass it along to any number of your fellow bloggers. Remember, though, your success as a Darwinian replicator is going to be measured by the propagation of your variants, which is going to be a function of both the interest your well-honed questions generate and the number of successful attempts at reproducing them.

My Ancestors:
My great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparent is Flying Trilobite
My great-great-great-great-great-grandparent is A Blog Around the Clock
My great-great-great-great-grandparent is The Anterior Commissure
My great-great-great-grandparent is Laelaps
My great-great-grandparent is Quintessence of Dust
My great-grandparent is An Evangelical Dialogue On Evolution
My grandparent is Exploring Our Matrix
My parent is Sporadic Maunderings

The Questions (and Answers):
1. The best scary movie in children's movies is:

Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder. Hey, it scared the hell out of me when I was seven. To date I still think it's the creepiest movie I've ever seen. The new version with Johnny Depp is mild by comparison (The modern special effects actually make it less creepy).

2. The best song that moves me inexplicably in 80s pop is:

80s pop is the soundtrack to my teenage years. A lot of people are going to lose any respect they may have had for me when I admit this, but I have always found Hatful of Stars by Cyndi Lauper to be incredibly sad.

3. The best adventure story in Historical Fiction is:

The Walking Drum by Louis L'Amour. Really, there's nothing more to say here.

4. The best book appealing to both children and adults in Fantasy is:

This one was hard. I was racking my brain, and I had just about decided to cop out and ditto Quamlea's answer (an excellent choice, but too advanced for younger children, I think) when I remembered a book Mom read to Marie and I when I was 4 or 5, and that I read again myself several times. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. I also remember, even as a little kid, being disappointed that the Disney cartoon was basically just the chapter "The Battle for Toad Hall".

5. The most fantastic melody of all time is found in:

Superman, the main title. That melody is really versatile. Just by changing the tempo it can be sad, tense or exciting. John Williams is awesome.


So now I tag Phil, Tom and Jackal. Maybe this will get them to update their blogs.

Cool trivia: The stories and screenplays for Superman and Superman II were written by Mario Puzo, the author of (and screenplay writer for) The Godfather

Later,

UPDATE: I just want to say that I think the best melody [full stop] is In the Hall of the Mountain King by Grieg, but I couldn't fit it to the question.

Later,

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Great Yokai War

The Great Yokai War was hilarious. I don't know if it was meant to be serious, but any movie with this many cheesy monsters is going to be comedy gold.

Not to mention the extremely non-linear plot, and the fact that the hero isn't the one who defeats the villain.

The review that I mentioned in a previous post sums this movie up better than I can.

Later,

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Has anyone ever actually fallen for this crap?

Here's an email that somehow got past my spam filter:

"good_lock1@oi.com.br"
to undisclosed-re.

show details
12:29 pm (5 hours ago)
BILL AND EXCHANGE OF THE FOREIGN REMITTANCE DEPARTMENT OF ZENITH BANK PLC, LAGOS.NIGERIA.
contact me at: mr_nzeribe2@yahoo.it

Dear Friend ,

TRANSFER OF US$7.500, 000 MILLION DOLLARS

I'm Mr Ben Nzeribe, Operations Officer, BILL AND EXCHANGE of THE FOREIGN REMITTANCE DEPARTMENT OF ZENITH BANK PLC, In my department we discovered an abandoned sum of US$7.500,000(Seven million five hundred United states dollars) in an account that belongs to one of our foreign customers who died along with his family in Tuesday, November 2, 1999 in air crash.

Since we got information about his death, we have been expecting his next of Kin to come over and claim his money because we cannot release it unless somebody applies for it as next of Kin or relative to the deceased as indicated in our banking and financial policies but unfortunately we learnt that his supposed next of kin or relation died with him in the accident leaving nobody behind to claim the money.

It is therefore upon this discovery that I decided to make this business proposal to you and release the money to you as the next of kin or relation to the deceased for safety and subsequent disbursement since nobody is coming for it and we don't want this money to go into the Bank treasure as unclaimed bills.

The Banking law and guide line here stipulates that if such money remained unclaimed after Six and half years, the money will be transferred into the Bank treasury as unclaimed fund.

The request for a foreigner as next of kin in this business is occasioned by the fact that the customer was a foreigner and an indigence cannot stand as next of kin to the deceased family. We agreed that 30% of this money will be for you as foreign partner, in respect of your assistance in this business, and 70% would be for me and two of my staff in the business.

Thereafter,I and my colleagues will visit your country for disbursement according to the percentages indicated.Therefore, to enhance the immediate transfer of this fund to you as arranged,you must apply first to the Bank as relation or next of kin of the deceased indicating your private, telephone and fax number for easy and effective communication and location where the money will be remitted. Upon receipt of your reply,

I will send to you by fax or e-mail the text of the application.I will not fail to bring to your notice that this transaction is hitch free and that you should not entertain any atom of fear as all required arrangements have been made for the transfer.You should contact me on MY E-MAIL, as soon as you receive this letter. I decided to contact you as you have products of interest in your part of the world where we can invest our own percentage to avoid peoples awareness as we are civil servants.

Note that we can conclude tis operation within ten banking days.Please keep this very confidential for obvious security reasons. Contact me for more information, all confirmable before you apply if you want.

Trusting to hear from you sortly for a detailed information which are confirmable before you can make up your mind to apply.If however, you are not interested,do let me know by return mail too as I will not contact anybody else until I hear from you.

Please reply me immediately only through this my private email address at: mr_nzeribe2@yahoo.it

For more informations about the crash you can visit this site: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/502503.stm

Regards,
Mr Ben Nzeribe
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Aqui na Oi Internet você ganha ou ganha. Além de acesso grátis com qualidade, ganha contas ilimitadas de email com 1 giga cada uma. Ganha espaço ilimitado para hospedar sua página pessoal. Ganha flog, suporte grátis e muito mais. Baixe grátis o Discador em http://www.oi.com.br/discador e comece a ganhar.

Agora, se o seu negócio é voar na internet sem pagar uma fortuna, assine Oi Internet banda larga e ganhe modem grátis. Clique em http://www.oi.com.br/bandalarga e aproveite essa moleza!

Really, does anyone fall for this anymore? Did anyone ever?

Later,

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Jackal has a kitten blog

My cousin started a blog about the kittens she is taking care of.

She told me that she'll start posting pics tomorrow.

Later,

The fig tree incident explained



I found this webcomic via Pharyngula
I've added it to my sidebar.

Later,

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Moonlight

So I just finished watching the second episode of this new vampire show, Moonlight.

I've only seen two episodes so far, but it's pretty good. It seems less broody than Angel. I never got into Forever Knight, so I can't compare it.

I have one gripe, but I have the same gripe with almost every show/movie/book with a superhuman hero.

They become idiots when the plot requires it.

They have superhuman strength, speed and senses, and yet the villain always manages to blind-side them.

An example from Moonlight episode two.

Mick (the vampire hero) jumps into a warehouse, kills two thugs, frees the kidnapped woman, and then gets shot by the main villain (with silver buckshot). It has been established that Mick has a super-keen sense of smell, and is familiar with this guy's scent. He should have known the guy was there. Nick, like Angel, also makes a lot of amateurish mistakes, despite being 90 years old (Angel was 230, I think, but had no real experience as a PI, whereas Nick has been a PI for at least 30 years, so I figure it balances out).

This is common to villains, too. A villain will be kicking the hero all over the set (sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively), but when the time comes to wrap up the story, the villain regresses back to kindergarten.

As for the silver, well, the writer's get to set the rules, so I'm okay with that.
My Classic Mythology professor back at Penn State used to say that stories can vary widely in details and still be the same at the root, but "you can't give Helen back"1. I was not happy with the way Angel dealt with sun exposure, but the wayMoonlight does it, it almost seems to be trying to give Helen back.

Still, I'm enjoying it, so I'll keep watching.

Later,

1 "Giving Helen back" refers to the story of the Trojan war, and is something that would destroy the plot.

Monday, October 08, 2007

I may have found the holy grail

If you read my complete profile, you will see that I like "Cheezy B-movies with hilarious titles".

"Sgt. Kabukiman, NYPD", "Hell Comes to Frogtown", "Killer Clowns from Outer Space", "Chopper Chicks in Zombietown", "Cemetery Man" , "Blood and Donuts", ... you get the picture.

There is similar genre that also appeals to me. Chinese/Japanese fantasy movies. "The Heroic Trio", "Green Snake", "Ultraman", "Zeiram", that sort of thing.

I won't go into the rather convoluted series of links that brought me to this movie, but upon reading the review, my first thought was, "I must see it".

Seriously, if I was into that sort of thing, I would sacrifice a goat to Netflix in order to get this movie. Since I'm not, I just went to their website and did a search. They do have it, and it is now at the top of my queue.

On a side note, I have actually seen/read about 2/3 of the other items reviewed. And now that I am aware of the rest, I will be seeing them.

Later,

New Charles de Lint Books!

I was looking on Amazon.com today for a birthday present for my nephew, Jonas.

(I got a couple of Jazz CD's - pretty good selection of artists, but I'd have preferred something with more Louis Armstrong. Also, since I missed Maggie's birthday, I specified on the card that the CD's are for both of them.)

In my "Recommendations" were three new books by Charles de Lint (one of which is not published yet, but I pre-ordered it.)

Little (Grrl) Lost looks like it has the same setting as Little Country. Not surprising, given the title. Little Country is one of my favorites, so I'm really looking forward to it.

Promises to Keep is a Newford story about Jilly Coppercorn. It's a retrospective and takes place during her time at Butler U.

Dingo is not listed on Charles de Lint's website. It's the book I pre-ordered. From the blurb on Amazon, it's set near Newford, but not actually in the city. This book is scheduled to be released March 13, 2008.

There's also a new chapbook (Old Man Crow) available, but I'll wait for it to be included in a collection. I can't see paying 18 dollars for a 32 page book.

If you don't recognize the above titles, characters or places, you're really missing out.

Later,

Sunday, October 07, 2007

For me, this counts as social interaction.

If you read the comment thread here, you'll see a kind of lengthy exchange between another commenter and myself.

It boils down to this.

He claims (vehemently) that Dennett is wrong in Darwin's Dangerous Idea. The word "crap" is used.

I ask him to support his statement.(please notice that I don't defend Dennett. I just want some backup to this claim)

He points me to a book called Lifelines by Stephen Rose.

I've never heard of it, but a book that effectively refutes Dennett must have some reviews online. I find (just) one. It's pretty grim. (Still, if the Green River Library has it, I'll read it when I have time)

He makes the claim of following Dennett's arguments, "If A then B, if B then C, if C then D, etc." and suddenly finding the book in "la-la land." He says he went back and found the fallacious argument, "if H then G," says that, what with Dennett's smooth writing and all, a layperson probably would not see it.

I ask him to point this argument out to me, since I am a layperson.

He says that it's been a long time since he read the book, he isn't going to go back and read it again, and anyway, a blog comment is not enough space for a detailed analysis.

He then poo-poos the review and the journal it was written in. Strangely, he had previously pointed me to this journal (very vaguely, as he "couldn't remember" which journal it was)

He also provides a list of further reading. Again, if the library has them and as time allows.

Later commenters also seem to feel that he is being more than disingenuous.

Was I wrong to ask why he felt Dennett was crap?
Was I wrong to want actual evidence for this?
Am I wrong to think that all I got was BS and evasion? (pending perusal of the books he mentioned)

Later,

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Vs.

A week or so ago, some people showed up at Dad's clinic with a half-frozen kitten that they had found on the side of the road in Shell. It was at most a bit over a week old. So now, my parent's have a little black kitten named Shelley.

She wanders around the house in her kitten-y way, attacking and subduing all she encounters, until something else distracts her, a few seconds later. Curtains, yarn, dust motes, ankles and a Chesapeake Bay Retriever ten or twenty times her size (Their other dog, a nervous and high-strung greyhound mix, avoids Shelley entirely)

Kia (the retriever, don't ask, I don't know) has always been fascinated with baby animals, and she lets Shelley attack her paws, tail and sometimes her face. For a while. Eventually she gets up and runs away. If you have never seen an 8 oz kitten chasing an 80 lb dog, you have missed the pinnacle of humor.

Later,

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Idle Rambling

I was thinking about that paper referenced in my "Where did the Universe come from? Part 3" post yesterday.

Particularly the quote:

The implication of such a description, as we have suggested in Section (1), is that Poincare recurrences are inevitable. Starting in a high entropy, “dead” configuration, if we wait long enough, a fluctuation will eventually occur in which the inflaton will wander up to the top of its potential, thus starting a cycle of inflation, re–heating, conventional cosmology and heat death.


Before I go on, I have to say that this is all idle speculation. I am not an expert on this. I may have completely misunderstood the paper. I do not believe this is the absolute, final truth. It's just idle speculation.

What this seems to be saying is that given a long enough time, the universe will naturally fluctuate from a high entropy state to a low entropy state. If this happens to the entire universe, or even just locally, say a few hundred trillion light-years in diameter (a microscopic dot compared to an infinite space), it would appear to violate 2LoT. I don't know what a Poincare recurrence is, nor do I have the time or ambition to work through the math. Maybe it doesn't.

But anyway, I like the idea of local fluctuations. Each separate fluctuation could be considered its own universe, which nicely incorporates multiple universes hypotheses. A fluctuation would be like the Big Bang, with matter and energy suddenly emerging from nothing. The physics of each universe could be randomly set at the moment of fluctuation. As a universe wound down, it would tend to spread out (expanding universe). Which could lead to interesting consequences if two (or more) of these universes were to intersect. A universe would expand until it was gone, rejoining the background nothingness. No need for expansion/contraction cycles.


This sounds like a rough basis for a science fiction setting. I may try my hand at writing again.

Later,

Where Did the Universe Come From? Part 5

Where Did the Universe Come From? Part 5

John,

Today I introduce to you one of the most powerful science presentations I have ever heard.

I listened to Hugh Ross give this presentation on a tape while I was driving down Interstate 88 in Chicago one night. As I listened, light bulbs were firing off in my head all over the place.

Hugh Ross? Really, Hugh Ross? Another "I'm-right-and-anyone-who-argues-with- me-is-the-Devil" creationist. I'm sure he's completely honest and unbiased. All of his points have been answered elsewhere. (the links are good places to start if you want to look)


So what's the big deal about this? Here's what you'll discover as you listen:

-The delicate balance of vast forces in the universe, necessary for life to exist

-Why planet earth is so extremely special in its ability to support life

-The very measurement of the entire universe in all its magnificence, made possible only within the last 15 years

-A fascinating place where science and theology come together in perfect agreement

Now there's one more thing I want to tell you about this talk: It was recorded in 1994.

Now why would I give you something called "New Scientific Evidence" if it's 11 years old?

Here's why: Because unlike most things 11 years old -- with only a couple of exceptions, the information Hugh Ross shares here has been shown to be even *more* accurate today than it was back then.

I call bullshit.


One of the hallmarks of a successful scientific model is that it holds up for years and even decades, even while scholars debate it. I've been following Dr. Ross and his work, and virtually every fact he discusses here has been further strengthened and validated by all the physics and astronomy discoveries in the years since.

More bullshit.


On this link you'll find both the audio recording and the printed transcript. You can read it online, print it out, listen on your computer, burn it to a CD, or download this to your MP3 player. Go here now:

http://www.CosmicFingerprints.com/audio/newevidence.htm

Enjoy.

Don't bother. It's even more bullshit. I didn't enjoy it. Neither will you


Perry Marshall


This was not fun. Five emails of almost pure bullplop. Just the thought that anyone could believe this crap depresses me. I did not make the URLs Mr Marshall supplies (in this post and the last one) into hyperlinks. If you really want to torture yourself, copy-and-paste them into your navigation bar.

Later,

UPDATE: If anyone wonders why I went from fisking Mr Marshall's points (previous posts) to just calling bullshit (this post), it's because the above links to Hugh Ross answer all of it

Later,

Where did the Universe Come From? Part 4

Where did the Universe Come From? Part 4:
"If you can read this sentence, I can prove to you that God exists"

John,

See this email I just sent you, that you're reading right now? This email is proof of the existence of God.

Yeah, I know, that sounds crazy. But I'm not asking you to believe anything just yet, until you see the evidence for yourself. All I ask is that you refrain from disbelieving
while I show you my proof. It only takes a minute to convey, but it speaks to one of the most important questions of all time.

Yes, it does.
Sure you're not.
Evidence? Proof? Yeah, right.
Whatever.

So how is this email proof of the existence of God?:

This email you're reading contains letters, words and sentences. It contains a message that means something. As long as you can read English, you can understand what I'm saying.

You can do all kinds of things with this email. You can read it on your computer screen. You can print it out on your printer. You can read it out loud to a friend who's in the same room as you are. You can call your friend and read it to her over the telephone. You can save it as a Microsoft WORD document. You can forward it to someone via email, or you can post it on a website.

Regardless of how you copy it or where you send it, the information remains the same. My email contains a message. It contains information in the form of language. The message is independent of the medium it is sent in.

Messages are not matter, even though they can be carried by matter (like printing this email on a piece of paper).

Messages are not energy even though they can be carried by energy (like the sound of my voice.)

Messages are immaterial. Information is itself a unique kind of entity. It can be stored and transmitted and copied in many forms, but the meaning still stays the same.

Messages can be in English, French or Chinese. Or Morse Code. Or mating calls of birds. Or the Internet. Or radio or television. Or computer programs or architect blueprints or stone carvings. Every cell in your body contains a message encoded in DNA, representing a complete
plan for you.

OK, so what does this have to do with God?

It's very simple. Messages, languages, and coded information ONLY come from a mind. A mind that agrees on an alphabet and a meaning of words and sentences. A mind that expresses both desire and intent.

It has been shown that random mutation and natural selection *can and do* produce information. Here's a place to start


Whether I use the simplest possible explanation, such as the one I'm giving you here, or if we analyze language with advanced mathematics and engineering communication theory, we can say this with total confidence:

"Messages, languages and coded information never, ever come from anything else besides a mind. No one has ever produced a single example of a message that did not come from a mind."

DNA doesn't have language. That is an analogy!


Nature can create fascinating patterns - snowflakes, sand dunes, crystals, stalagmites and stalactites. Tornados and turbulence and cloud formations.

I'm with you so far


But non-living things cannot create language. They *cannot* create codes. Rocks cannot think and they cannot talk. And they cannot create information.

argument from incredulity fallacy


It is believed by some that life on planet earth arose accidentally from the "primordial soup," the early ocean which produced enzymes and eventually RNA, DNA, and primitive cells.

But there is still a problem with this theory: It fails to answer the question, 'Where did the information come from?'

"I don't know" does not equal "Goddidit"


DNA is not merely a molecule. Nor is it simply a "pattern." Yes, it contains chemicals and proteins, but those chemicals are arranged to form an intricate language, in the exact same way that English and Chinese and HTML are languages.

Unsupported assertion.
Unsupported assertion.
Unsupported assertion.
Gene sequences are not a language. That's just an analogy!


DNA has a four-letter alphabet, and structures very similar to words, sentences and paragraphs. With very precise instructions and systems that check for errors and correct them.

To the person who says that life arose naturally, you need only ask: "Where did the information come from? Show me just ONE example of a language that didn't come from a mind."

argument from incredulity fallacy again


As simple as this question is, I've personally presented it in public presentations and Internet discussion forums for more than two years. I've addressed more than fifty thousand people, including hostile, skeptical audiences who insist that life arose without the assistance of God.

But to a person, none of them have ever been able to explain where the information came from. This riddle is "So simple any child can understand; so complex, no atheist can solve."

Once more for the cheap seats: " "I don't know" does not equal "Goddidit"


You can hear or read my full presentation on this topic at http://www.cosmicfingerprints.com/ifyoucanreadthis.htm

For a high-school level, layman's version, go here:
http://www.cosmicfingerprints.com/information.htm

Matter and energy have to come from somewhere. Everyone can agree on that. But information has to come from somewhere, too! Information is separate entity, fully on par with matter and energy. And information can only come from a mind. If books and poems and TV shows come from human intelligence, then all living things inevitably came from a superintelligence.

unsupported assertion. the last sentence is bad logic.


Every word you hear, every sentence you speak, every dog that barks, every song you sing, every email you read, every packet of information that zings across the Internet, is proof of the existence of God. Because information and language always originate in a mind.

more unsupported assertion.


In the beginning were words and language.

In the Beginning was Information.

When we consider the mystery of life - where it came from and how this miracle is possible - do we not at the same time ask the question where it is going, and what its purpose is?

Respectfully Submitted,

Perry Marshall

Further reading:

-"If you can read this, I can prove God exists" - listen to my full presentation or read the Executive Summary here:

http://cosmicfingerprints.com/ifyoucanreadthis.htm

-The Atheist's Riddle: Members of Infidels, the world's largest atheist discussion board attempt to solve it (for well over a year now!), without success:

-http://cosmicfingerprints.com/iidb.htm

-"OK, so then who made God?" and other questions about information and origins:

http://cosmicfingerprints.com/infotheoryqa.htm

P.S.: Preview of tomorrow: You get to listen in on one of the most fascinating science lectures I've ever had the privilege of hearing. A presentation in which hard science and faith fuse together in a fascinating tour of this magnificently engineered universe that is our home.


No evidence, no proof. Just worthless argument from incredulity.

Later,

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Where did the Universe come from? Part 3

Where did the Universe come from?
Part 3: Why the Big Bang was the most precisely planned event in all of history

In your kitchen cabinet, you've probably got a spray bottle with an adjustable nozzle. If you twist the nozzle one way, it sprays a fine mist into the air. You twist the nozzle the other way, it squirts a jet of water
in a straight line. You turn that nozzle to the exact position you want so you can wash a mirror, clean up a spill, or whatever.

If the universe had expanded a little faster, the matter would have sprayed out into space like fine mist from a water bottle - so fast that a gazillion particles of dust would speed into infinity and never even form a single star.

If the universe had expanded just a little slower, the material would have dribbled out like big drops of water, then collapsed back where it came from by the force of gravity.

A little too fast, and you get a meaningless spray of fine dust. A little too slow, and the whole universe collapses back into one big black hole.

Bullshit analogy for the win. I'm convinced. [/sarcasm]

The surprising thing is just how narrow the difference is. To strike the perfect balance between too fast and too slow, the force, something that physicists call
"the Dark Energy Term" had to be accurate to one part in ten with 120 zeros.

If you wrote this as a decimal, the number would look like this:

0.00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000
0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000
00000000000000000000000000000000001

In case you were sleeping in math class

In their paper "Disturbing Implications of a Cosmological Constant" two atheist scientists from Stanford University stated that the existence of this dark energy term "Would have required a miracle... An external agent, external to space and time, intervened in cosmic history for reasons of its own."

I think he means this paper. Notice that there are actually three authors (Lisa Dyson, Matthew Kleban, Leonard Susskind) all three of whom are from Stanford (although Dyson seems to be associated with MIT, also). Nowhere in the paper do they mention their personal beliefs, so how does Mr. Marshal come to the conclusion that they are atheists?

As for that alleged quote, I did a text search of the paper:

occurrences of "would have required a miracle" : 0

the word "miracles" does occur once in the paper, as shorthand for extremely unlikely events

occurrences of "external agent" : 1

The question then is whether the origin of the universe can be a naturally occurring fluctuation, or must it be due to an external agent which starts the system out in a specific low entropy state?

However I did find the quote Mr Marshal is mining.

Another possibility is an unknown agent intervened in the evolution, and for reasons of its own restarted the universe in the state of low entropy characterizing inflation. However, even this does not rid the theory of the pesky recurrences.

Notice the difference in meaning. The authors are saying that even allowing for God won't solve the problem they are discussing.

Mr Marshall's 'quote' is bullplop. The quoted text before the ellipses doesn't exist, and the rest is a partial sentence taken (way) out of context. And he doesn't even get that right. Maybe he was home-schooled and never had an English teacher to tell him that what he puts between quotation marks is supposed to be exactly what is written in the original.

Here's the last quote in the paper that I was able to follow (the rest of the paper is a lot of physics/maths that require a more thorough reading than I have time for):
The implication of such a description, as we have suggested in Section (1), is that Poincare recurrences are inevitable. Starting in a high entropy, “dead” configuration, if we wait long enough, a fluctuation will eventually occur in which the inflaton will wander up to the top of its potential, thus starting a cycle of inflation, re–heating, conventional cosmology and heat death.

As best I understand, this is saying that the universe as it is may just be a hiccup in the vast nothingness

Just for comparison, the best human engineering example is the Gravity Wave Telescope, which was built with a precision of 23 zeros. The Designer, the 'external agent' that caused our universe must possess an intellect, knowledge, creativity and power trillions and trillions of times greater than we humans have.

Absolutely amazing.

Not really. We already know that humans didn't create the universe. The leap to God the Designer is still completely unfounded. This is just argument from incredulity.

Now a person who doesn't believe in God has to find some way to explain this. One of the more common explanations seems to be "There was an infinite number of universes, so it was inevitable that things would have turned out right in at least one of them."

The "infinite universes" theory is truly an amazing theory. Just think about it, if there is an infinite number of universes, then absolutely everything is not only possible...It's actually happened!

It means that somewhere, in some dimension, there is a universe where the Chicago Cubs won the World Series last year. There's a universe where Jimmy Hoffa doesn't get
cement shoes; instead he marries Joan Rivers and becomes President of the United States. There's even a universe where Elvis kicks his drug habit and still resides at Graceland and sings at concerts. Imagine the possiblities!

Non-sequitur, the paper he quotemines has nothing to do with multiple universes. I don't know much about multiple universe hypotheses, but I do know that the real ones aren't like the Marvel Comics version Mr Marshall describes. And even if his implications are true, we don't have Reed Richards to build a device to let us go vist.

I might sound like I'm joking, but actually I'm dead serious. To believe an infinite number of universes made life possible by random chance is to believe everything else I just said, too.

Some people believe in God with a capital G.

And some folks believe in Chance with a Capital C.

Whatever. But if you don't believe the multiple universe theory (which I pretty much don't), "I don't know" is still a better answer than "Goddidit". I call false dichotomy.

Tomorrow's installment: "If you can read this email,
I can prove to you that God exists." Sound a little bold?
Tune in tomorrow - same time, same station.

Respectfully Submitted,

Perry Marshall

This is starting to get boring. Weak analogies, blatant quote mining, incredulity and false dichotomies. What, no argument from authority today? Oh, wait! That must be why he claimed the authors were atheists.

Later,

Friday, August 17, 2007

Liō

I just picked up the collection Happiness is a Squishy Cephalopod.

I'll add this to my sidebar this weekend.

More on this later.

Later,

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Just this lime

The other day I finished American Gods by Neil Gaiman.
Just now, I finished Anansi Boys, also by Neil Gaiman.

Gaiman writes modern fantasy, and if you have never read anything by him, I highly recommend that you do so.

His books aren't comedy (like Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett are), but they do contain elements of humor.

Anansi Boys had one of the funniest lines I have read in a long time:

"As long as you're not just doing it to get the lime back."

It's one of those "you had to be there" jokes, but take my word for it: it's hilarious. Or better still, read the book.

Later,

Wow. Just....Wow.

I have been out of touch with the news media for a couple of years. I had pretty much given up. FauxNews and its cadre of bullshitters had managed to drive me off.

Tonight I stumbled across some YouTube videos that did a lot to restore my faith.

I was searching for confirmation of Bush's "Stop throwing the Constitution in my face. It's just a goddamned piece of paper!" statement. (How has this guy not been impeached?)

So, Keith Olbermann. This is the kind of ranting I can get behind.

Later,

Friday, August 03, 2007

Where did the Universe Come From? Part 2

Part 2: "Bird Droppings on my Telescope"

The Big Bang theory was totally rejected at first. But those who supported it had predicted that the ignition of the Big Bang would have left behind a sort of 'hot flash' of radiation.
So far, so good

If a big black wood stove produces heat that you can feel, then in a similar manner, the Big Bang should produce its own kind of heat that would echo throughout the universe.
Not a terrible analogy

In 1965, without looking for it, two physicists at Bell Labs in New Jersey found it. At first, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson were bothered because, while trying to refine the world's most sensitive radio antenna, they couldn't eliminate a bothersome source of noise. They picked up this noise everywhere they pointed the antenna.
This skips a lot, but is essentially correct

At first they thought it was bird droppings. The antenna was so sensitive it could pick up the heat of bird droppings (which certainly are warm when they're brand new) but even after cleaning it off, they still picked up this noise.
Again, essentially correct

This noise had actually been predicted in detail by other astronomers, and after a year of checking and re-checking the data, they arrived at a conclusion: This crazy Big Bang theory really was correct.
Okay, they provided enough evidence for the big bang theory to be taken seriously

In an interview, Penzias was asked why there was so much resistance to the Big Bang theory.

He said, "Most physicists would rather attempt to describe the universe in ways which require no explanation. And since science can't *explain* anything - it can only *describe* things - that's perfectly sensible. If you have a universe which has always been there, you don't explain it, right?

"Somebody asks you, 'How come all the secretaries in your company are women?' You can say, 'Well, it's always been that way.' That's a way of not having to explain it. So in the same way, theories which don't require explanation tend to be the ones accepted by science, which is perfectly acceptable and the best way to make science work."

But on the older theory that the universe was eternal, he explains: "It turned out to be so ugly that people dismissed it. What we find - the simplest theory - is a creation out of nothing, the appearance out of nothing of the universe."
I can't find a reference for this quote anywhere. However, I did find this, which mentions, in the "Science and Philosophy" section that Penzias equates the big bang with the moment of Biblical creation.

So what. Penzias managed to reconcile his faith with his science. A lot of scientists do. It seems we're back to argument from authority

Also, that bit about explanation vs. description smells extremely fishy

Penzias and his partner, Robert Wilson, won the Nobel Prize for their discovery of this radiation. The Big Bang theory is now one of the most thoroughly validated theories in all of science.

Robert Wilson was asked by journalist Fred Heeren if the Big Bang indicated a creator.

Wilson said, "Certainly there was something that set it all off. Certainly, if you are religious, I can't think of a better theory of the origin of the universe to match with Genesis."
I found this quote here. This site is dedicated to argument from authority, and all of the quotes can be attributed to poetic metaphor, Deist beliefs or quote mining. When I have time, I may research a few quotes listed there for evidence of said quote mining.

Also notice that Wilson said "if you are religious..."
This looks to me to be an attempt to forestall any conflicts, rather than an admission that the Bible is really true after all

Stay tuned for tomorrow's installment: "Why the Big Bang was the most precisely planned event in all of history."
Again, I look forward to it

Sincerely,

Perry Marshall


Again, all argument from authority. So far I don't see any compelling reason to attribute the creation/existence of the universe to any kind of supernatural being.

This little snippet was also included:
For further reading:
"A Day Without Yesterday" - Albert Einstein, Georges Lemaitre and the Big Bang
http://clicks.aweber.com/z/ct/?u8j4uIOt8a4Gqa3imVYn_w


Check it out. I wonder, did Mr. Marshall put Einstein's name in the title by mistake?

Lemaitre was a mathematician who happened to be a Catholic priest. So what? Unless the implication is more argument from authority.

Later

Monday, July 30, 2007

Where did the Universe Come From? Part 1

As I was checking my email today, I noticed an ad on the sidebar asking "Where did the Universe Come From?"

I just had to see this, so, since subscription is free, I subscribed.

Here is the first part, and my reactions to it. Please note that I'm posting this without the author's permission. But it was freely distributed. It isn't personal. And hey, fair usage.

Part 1: Einstein's Big Blunder

100 years ago this year, Albert Einstein published three papers that rocked the world. These papers proved the existence of the atom, introduced the theory of relativity, and described quantum mechanics.
I'll assume that this was written in 2005.

A quick look on Wikipedia shows that the above passage is not so much a lie as deceptive hyperbole.

“proved the existence of the atom” - Einstein published a paper on Brownian motion that explained "random movement of very small objects as direct evidence of molecular action, thus supporting [not proving] the atomic theory”

“introduced the theory of relativity” - yes, he published a paper proposing the theory of special relativity.

“described quantum mechanics” - he published a paper on the photoelectric effect, and suggested that the experimental results were best explained using
Max Planck’s idea of light as discrete quanta of energy. This "description" barely scratches the surface of quantum mechanics.

Oh look, Einstein published a fourth paper that year. Conservation (equivalence) of matter and energy. E=mc2 ? Sound familiar? I guess this one isn’t important.

reference

Pretty good debut for a 26 year old scientist, huh?
We already know he was a genius, get on with it

His equations for relativity indicated that the universe was expanding. This bothered him, because if it was expanding, it must have had a beginning and a beginner. Since neither of these appealed to him, Einstein introduced a 'fudge factor' that ensured a 'steady state' universe, one that had no beginning or end.
Bullplop. In 1917 Einstein used his new theory of general relativity to describe the universe. By his calculations, the universe would collapse due to the gravitational effects of its own mass. He added an anti-gravity term (the fudge factor, lambda) to make his description fit the (then) observed reality (the current view was that the universe was static)

reference

But in 1929, Edwin Hubble showed that the furthest galaxies were fleeing away from each other, just as the Big Bang model predicted. So in 1931, Einstein embraced what would later be known as the Big Bang theory, saying, "This is the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation
of creation to which I have ever listened." He referred to the 'fudge factor' to achieve a steady-state universe as the biggest blunder of his career.
Closer examination of Einstein's equations showed that they worked for collapse or expansion. Einstein, like any honest scientist presented with contradictory evidence, admitted that he had been wrong (to add the lambda term)

reference

As I'll explain during the next couple of days, Einstein's theories have been thoroughly proved and verified by experiments and measurements. But there's an even more important implication of Einstein's discovery. Not only does the universe have a beginning, but time itself, our own dimension of cause and effect, began with the Big Bang.
Verified? Yes. Proven? No. Contradiction is becoming vanishingly unlikely, but still possible.

Yes, using general relativity alone, the universe would seem to have a beginning (t=0). However, theoretical physics cannot really get any further back than about t=5.39121x10-44s (one Planck time) before quantum effects make the calculations intractible, and so cannot say anything about t=0. However, the theory of loop quantum gravity may change that, and seems to support the idea of continual cycles of expansion and contraction (no beginning)

reference 1

reference 2

That's right -- time itself does not exist before then. The very line of time begins with that creation event. Matter, energy, time and space were created in an instant by an intelligence outside of space and time.
see the above refences. Also, this leap to an intelligence outside space and time is unfounded

About this intelligence, Albert Einstein wrote in his book "The World As I See It" that the harmony of natural law "Reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection."
Here's a page of Einstein quotes on religion, including the full context of the above.

To me this sounds like poetic metaphor, but Einstein may well have been a Deist.

But so what? Atheists don't worship Einstein any more than they worship Darwin. They were both great scientists, but their opinions and personal views weren't divine pronouncements. Nor did their scientific work become dogma (See above where Einstein admits he was wrong)

He went on to write, "Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe--a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble."
Again, metaphor or Deist. Either way, without mathematics or experiment, it's just opinion.

Pretty significant statement, wouldn't you say?
No, not really

Stay tuned for tomorrow's installment: "Bird Droppings on my Telescope."
I look forward to it

Respectfully Submitted,

Perry Marshall

Cosmic Fingerprints, 67 East Algonquin Road, S. Barrington IL 60010 USA


So in the end this is all just argument from authority (Einstein said...therefore God) and argument from ignorance (We don't know, therefore God). Meh.

Note: My references are not definitive sources, however they all make further reference to actual scientific publications.

Later,

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Common questions atheists are asked

The Friendly Atheist posted a list of questions that atheists are often asked. He suggests that the answers be short and clear.

Here are my answers to them.

Why do you not believe in God?
I read the Bible when I was about 15. That plus a complete lack of real evidence.

Where do your morals come from?
The same place as everyone else's. Humans evolved a cooperative society. That is way over-simplified, but a full explanation deserves an entire post all to itself. Maybe sometime I'll do that.

What is the meaning of life?
42. Duh. Seriously, there is no one Meaning to life. If you feel your life needs meaning, then it is up to you to provide it.

Is atheism a religion?
No.

If you don’t pray, what do you do during troubling times?
Something productive.

Should atheists be trying to convince others to stop believing in God?
No. I think that we should encourage people to learn to think critically, and embrace reality. Failing that, I'd encourage theists to leave me alone.

Weren’t some of the worst atrocities in the 20th century committed by atheists?
The worst atrocities in all of human history were committed by humans. What's your point?
Note: Hitler was not an atheist. (Don't kid yourself, that's who you meant)

How could billions of people be wrong when it comes to belief in God?
By being wrong.
The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd.
- Bertrand Russell

Why does the universe exist?
It exists. This question makes no sense from an atheist viewpoint.

How did life originate?
I don't know. I'm comfortable with that.

Is all religion harmful?
That depends on what you consider to be harmful. I'll just say that it can be.

What’s so bad about religious moderates?
They provide an environment that produces and shelters extremists. Plus the "they aren't really Xian" argument is really annoying.

Is there anything redeeming about religion?
I don't think so, but some people prefer a comforting lie to the truth.

What if you’re wrong about God (and He does exist)?
I'll take my chances.

Shouldn’t all religious beliefs be respected?
No.

Are atheists smarter than theists?
Not necessarily.

How do you deal with the historical Jesus if you don’t believe in his divinity?
The same way I deal with historical Beowulf. If he ever really existed, the stories of his life have been greatly exaggerated.

Would the world be better off without any religion?
Possibly. I doubt it, though. What the world would be better off without is credulous, superstitious thinking that leads to religion.

What happens when we die?
The living get on with their lives. The dead decompose.

Some of these questions deserve longer clarifications. I may do that sometime. Others barely deserve to be answered at all.

Later,

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A Harry Potter weekend

I went to see 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' last night. I thought it was good. A bit sketchy on some parts. I think there were some things that I wouldn't really have gotten if I hadn't already read the book. Still, it was a pretty decent movie even without those bits.

I remember thinking, as I left the theater, that I should have pre-ordered the new and final book ('Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows') on Amazon so that I could get it without hassle.

Imagine my surprise when I went to get the mail today, and there was a package from Amazon with a bunch of Harry Potter references printed on it. Apparently I had pre-ordered it (several months ago, at least) and completely forgotten.

No one who knows me will be at all surprised by this.

Speaking of final books, I read on Robert Jordan's website that the next Wheel of Time book will be the last one. It was also mentioned that it will be significantly longer than the others (given the brick-like size of the others, this one must be a cinder block). It will have to be, if Jordan is going to wrap up the series in it. I've said before that I think it's time for the series to move clearly towards closure, but I am not sure one book, even a particularly long one, will be able to do so satisfactorily.

Later,

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Why I am not a Darwinist.

Darwinist is a term mainly used by creationists in an attempt to paint acceptance of the Theory of Evolution (ToE) (all of science, in fact) as a religion, with Darwin as ToE's messiah, and The Origin of Species as its Bible.

Unfortunately, creationists can't accept that it isn't true.

They can't bring their nonsense up to science's level, so they try to drag science down to theirs.

Also, any term to collectively describe people who accept ToE will quickly be perverted the same way. "Evolutionist" has been.

Anyway, do not refer to me as a Darwinist (or an Evolutionist). I will vehemently deny the association. I do not worship Darwin.

Later,

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Check this out!

My cousin-in-law, Kyle, showed me this a couple of weeks ago. I just remembered it.



http://richarddawkins.net/article,1322,n,n

Later,

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Debunking some creationist lies

Bogosity Ep. 2: Evolution vs. Creation (Part 1)


Bogosity Ep. 2: Evolution vs. Creation (Part 2)


(via Bad Astronomy)

Later,

Monday, June 25, 2007

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Best time travel quote ever.

I was going through my post archives, looking for something I thought I remembered saying, so that I could just link to that post, rather than say it again. I'm still looking, but I read a post I had made about the movie 'Primer.'

I mention my favorite line from the movie. It's still the best time travel one-liner I have ever heard.

"Man, are you hungry? I haven't eaten a thing since later this afternoon."

Later,

Sidebar additions

My cousin jackal recently started a couple of blogs. I have added links to them to my sidebar.

Later,

Rowan Atkinson

I was never a fan of "Mr. Bean," and "Johnny English" kind of sucked, but Rowan Atkinson's stand-up is pretty good. Here's an example:



Later,

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Stub

This post is just a stub to let people know that I'm still alive. Things have been pretty hectic at work lately, and I'm too busy de-stressing whan I get home to make any meaningful post.

If I don't stop now, I'm going to start ranting and raving like the lunatic I pretend not to be.

Hopefully, I'll be able to say something coherent this weekend.

Later,

Saturday, May 19, 2007

NOMA

Stephen Jay Gould (an evolutionary biologist), in a attempt to reconcile science and religion, introduced the concept of Non-Overlapping MAgisteria1

The basic idea is that science says stuff about the physical world, religion says stuff about the spiritual world, and never the two shall meet.

Nice idea. Doesn't work.

Here's why:

Religion says some crap about God (gods? bipolar? MPD?)
Science: "Talk is cheap, show me the evidence."
Religion: "No way, NOMA says I don't need physical evidence."
Science: "Fine. Go away."
Religion: "I won't. You have to teach my stuff, too."
Science: "Teach your stuff in philosophy or art appreciation or something."
Religion: "My stuff is as real as yours. I can prove it."
Science: "Talk is cheap, show me the evidence."
Religion: "Well, you don't know everything."
Science: "True, but irrelevant."
Religion: "If you don't know, then it's God."
Science: "What?"
Religion: "God fills the gaps in your knowledge."
Science: "Those gaps are shrinking fast."
Religion: "You can't prove God didn't use science to do everything."
Science: "What happened to NOMA?"
Religion: "NOMA says that you have to respect my position."
Science: "No it doesn't. It says that we have to stay out of each other's business."
Religion: "Really? Well then it and you will both have to go."

If religion really stuck to spiritual things, it would never make any testable statements. As soon as it says something testable, it has violated NOMA. Religion (particularly Xianity) does this all the time, then cries "NOMA!" whenever science says that it's full of it.

Later,

1Rock of Ages, 1999

Dark Angel

I just finished watching the series Dark Angel.

It was pretty awesome. Not because of Jessica Alba (although her presence didn't hurt), but because it fell into one of the (several) sub-genres of science fiction that I particularly like.

It went two whole seasons. Two. Longer than Firefly, sure. But Firefly didn't have James Cameron's name attached to it.

The series finale was great, but there is still a lot of story left to tell. A couple more seasons worth, at least. I don't know why the show was cancelled, but it was on FOX, so I have suspicions. (see my previous post about Firefly)

Like Firefly, I somehow missed this show while it was being aired.

I just did some looking on the internet. It seems that FOX nixed a third season of Dark Angel in order to air Firefly.

Heaven forbid a network have two science fiction shows at once (Why don't cop and lawyer shows have this rule?). Now I really hate Rupert Murdoch.

Later,

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I'm not celebrating, mind you. I just can't dredge up any grief.

Jerry Falwell is dead.

Pres. Bush said Falwell had lived a life of "faith, family, and freedom".

In a hate-mongering, hellfire-and-brimstone sort of way.

This guy blamed pagans, abortionists, feminists, gays and lesbians , the ACLU, People for the American Way, and anyone who has tried to "secularize America" (I wonder if he included George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin) for the 9/11/2001 terrorist attack in New York.

He's gone now.

Meh.

Later,

Friday, May 11, 2007

Read this

You should have no problem with this, and that's pretty cool.



Look in the comments for the "translation"

Later

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Edith Cecelia Nageotte Marley: Nov. 25, 1908 - May 9, 2007

My paternal grandmother died yesterday. I'm not good at expressing emotion. So I won't, except to say that I'll miss her.

Later,

Sunday, May 06, 2007

NeedGod test

I just surfed into this really funny test (thanks to joshua, who left a comment a few posts ago).

It claims to determine if you are a good person. And if so, if you are good enough to get into heaven.1

I doubt anyone will be surprised to learn where I am bound.

After telling me that I'm going to hell, I was asked if this fact bothered me. Well, duh.

I was then told that it should, and given some nonsense about selling my eyes.

Would you sell one of your eyes for a million dollars? How about both eyes for ten million? No one in their right mind would! Your eyes are precious to you... but they are only a "window" for your soul. Your soul (your inner being, your life, your personality) looks out through those eyes. Consider how precious your eyes are... then realize that Jesus said that Hell is so horrible that you would be better off tearing out your own eyes than ending up there for all eternity (Mark 9:43-48).

Perhaps you feel safe because you don't believe in Hell. This can be likened to standing in the middle of a busy highway and shouting, "I don't believe in trucks!" Your belief or disbelief in trucks will not change reality. The same applies in this situation. Your disbelief in Hell will not cause it to cease to exist. God has given us HIS WORD on the existence and purpose of Hell... LOOK HERE to see what God says in the Bible about Hell.

Would I sell one of my eyes for a million dollars? In a heartbeat.

Both for ten million? I'm not sure, but it'd be really tempting.

(However, since neither of them works properly, I doubt I'll be getting any offers)

"Your soul (your inner being, your life, your personality)", uh huh, read this, then come talk to me about my soul.

As for what "Jesus said," CS Lewis once tried to "prove" Jesus' divinity with his "Lord, liar or lunatic" spiel. Either Jesus was divine, or merely a great teacher. If he was merely a great teacher then his claims to divinity were either lies or lunatic ravings, either of which rule out his being a great teacher. Therefore Jesus was divine. The argument is based on a false dilemma. I find "liar or lunatic" to be perfectly reasonable (they aren't mutually exclusive, either). There is also the possibility that the biblical Jesus never really existed.

That second paragraph is pure bullplop. (BULLPLOP!) There is some pretty solid evidence that trucks exist. Where is the evidence of hell? Threats contained in the Bible only affect people who already accept the Bible as true.

Later,

1 I thought the Christian doctrine was that you can't get to heaven by good works; that you must be SavedTM

Mr Deity

I just found these. They're hilarious.

There seem to be 10 episodes, plus a superbowl special. Check them out.

This link is to episode 1.

Arguing against religion, pt II

I don't know why, but this has been really bugging me.

A commenter on my previous post tried to compare belief in God with belief in gravity, then tried to back that up with Paley's argument from design.

The entire argument is bogus, and I should be able to ignore it. But some other stuff I have read recently brought it to mind, and now I need the catharsis of a blog rant to get rid of it.

So:

Beliefgravity != BeliefGod

Even without knowing anything about Newtonian physics, a person can observe gravity in action (objects always fall towards the ground). Early experiments can be easily reproduced (ie. Gallileo's (apocryphal?) dropping of two lead balls off the tower of Pisa).

God, however, is much more elusive. Paley's argument from design (joshua even uses the eye, instead of the more currently fashionable bacterial flagella) might have been viable in 18021, but, like phlostigen and aether, thanks to improved technology, science has since shown it to be false. There are no direct observations of God (in any reputable publication). No reproducible experiments that demonstrate his properties.

Beliefgravity = well supported by observation and experiment

BeliefGod = blind faith

Conflating the the two is common theist obfuscation.

Later,

1 Paley's argument was that design implies a designer. It says nothing about the designer's apparent maliciousness. (I was going to go with incompetence, but even the most seemingly useless/pointless 'designs' are often brilliantly cruel)

Friday, May 04, 2007

Arguing against religion

My cousin-in-law (if it's not a real term, it damn well should be), Kyle, made a comment that all you need to win an argument against theists are Ockham's Razor and the Atheist's Wager (I'm not sure I know that one).

The thing is, there's a huge difference between what an atheist "doesn't believe" and what a theist "doesn't believe."

An atheist says "I don't believe in X" and means "I don't believe X exists"

A theist says "I don't believe in X" and means "I believe X exists, but it's a sin/occult/tool of Satan, so I'm against it."

Theists also seem unable to recognize this difference.

Hence the common: "Why do you hate God?" Once this gem pops up, the argument is over. Even though the same language is spoken by both parties, communication is clearly not happening.

I recall reading (I don't remember where) about a woman who thought Carl Sagan was arguing for the existence of an invisible, intangible dragon in his garage (Demon Haunted World). That is the kind of communication disconnect we're dealing with.

Plus, I'm pretty sure that most theists don't understand Ockham's Razor any better than they do the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

I have been told that "God did it" is a simpler explanation than the Theory of Evolution.
Showing that:
a) The person has no idea what Ockham's Razor (and probably the Theory of Evolution) really says.
and
b) The person has no idea how complicated the idea of God (aka the Sky Djinni) is.

Note to Kyle: I put this here, rather than just emailing you, so that I could say "cousin-in-law"

Later,

Keyboard fun.

I was going to write about this when it happened, but I didn't have time.

Two weeks ago, my keyboard had an intimate encounter with the dregs of a root beer float (don't ask).

The result was that it would only produce gibberish (even worse than that produced by my alleged typing)

So I took it apart to clean it. Let me say this: Don't ever take apart a Dell notebook keyboard unless you absolutely have no other option. I think if something similar happens again, I'm just going to buy a new computer.

Here is a pic of the disassembled keyboard: (click for larger image)


(I had my glasses off because I'm near-sighted, and my glasses make fine, close work blurry)

and one of the pieces:


Notice the three little plastic pieces on the right of the upper image. They form a little brace for the keycaps. Here's a close up (blurred, unfortunately) of the assembled brace (it's above the 'Enter' key):


Putting this brace together is a real pain. Just to add a bit more fun to the task, the function keys (and the other top keys) are smaller and have a different brace design (I didn't get a picture)

Anyway, it took a while but I got it back together. I only broke one of the little brace pieces. Fortunately, it was for one of the top keys so I put it on a key I never use anyway. (Why do computers even have a 'Pause/Break' key anymore?)

Also, before anyone asks: My apartment is small, and the only feasible work surface was my counter/stovetop.

Later,