Wednesday, January 27, 2010

It's a particularly French flavor of boredom.

My inspiration has been severely inadequate this past month. I desperately hope this has gone largely unnoticed, but I don't wanna kid myself. I've been trying to make myself keep writing, but everything I write just looks like shit to me.

So: new plan! Since I am by nature a compulsive writer, and typically can't not write, I am going to take my best friend's suggestion and try to recharge my creativity batteries - I shall accomplish this by not writing anything at all for an entire week. I don't know if I can go that long without saying something about something. I mean, I have the internet, and the State of the Union Address is tonight. There will be no shortage of things to write about! But seven days from today, I should be chomping at the bit to just get my opinion out there, rather than getting depressed over my complete inability to articulate an idea in a persuasive or interesting manner.

Wish me luck!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Poison for Your Brain: The Stupid, It Burns (from both barrels)!

So I skimmed over PZ's take on Adams' childish whining, but then Rhodopsin sent me Orac's scathing excoriation and I just had to read up. I even gave Natural News my e-mail address just so I could see the whole damn thing.

This is Poison for Your Brain, and not something serious like, uhh... something... else... so I'm just going to up & say that this guy's showing more ego defenses than Jessica Rabbit shows leg. (Pro Tip: that would be, like, all of them.) Can we go through the list? I think we can!

We've got delusional projection, denial, distortion, maybe splitting (that one's a bit more of a stretch); the whole article is a case in acting out, there's clearly some fantasy at work, I'll give him a free pass on idealization and passive aggression (since I took splitting and I'm already a little stretched); actual projection, and this is not a joke, we can see the jealousy and injustice collecting common to any martyr complex and/or motivated troll; I'll give him another pass on projective identification and somatization because I don't care to play doctor that seriously with him; OK, I guess that's it, actually. The neurotic defenses are missing, as far as I can tell, and the mature defenses are also completely absent.

Seriously, take a look at the Cliff's Notes. This guy needs to see a shrink before he offs somebody. This is just stupid. And all over a fuckin' internet poll, for crying out loud.

What the fuck?!

In other news, neocons apparently think that theories of truth are a big fuckin' secret. (Also via PZ.) Seriously, these people need to take into account that Wikipedia exists (how about libraries?), or... or... or I don't know what. Fuck, who am I kidding, the shit either works or it doesn't. It all depends on whether the masses are idiots or educated enough to see through the bullshit. Whoops, I think my cynicism is showing!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Quickies Before Bed

Arguing with a cyberspace publisher is probably easier than arguing with a meatspace publisher. Still, it's frustrating to hear that my cover image needs at least 0.125" bleed on all sides after forgetting it from the first time; then to remember, "OK, I'll just add 0.25" to each dimension in Photoshop," but forget that it's 0.25" total and instead add 0.5" total; then to be told that I still don't have at least 0.125" bleed on all sides. Last I checked, 0.25 is at least 0.125.

Keep in mind that I'm doing all this fancible graphics work on a Mac I bought when I graduated high school in 2002. Yeah, the RAM upgrade I got with it put it at a total of half a gig. It takes me several minutes to open Photoshop, I have to watch a progress bar creep along every time I save, and making the .psd into a .pdf gives me nearly enough time to write another book.

Then again, I'm glad that it still just works. But still. Anyway, here are a few of the things that I've been looking at on the internet, which I think you should look at, too:
OK, that's enough out of me. I need sleep. And to get this damned book finished!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bullshit Pulpit: The Doctrine and Dogma of Double-Deism

I'm getting real sick of religious people getting their trump card of "God says so" in public discussion, so I am inventing a new religion to trump their trump. A "double-trump," if you will, hence the name: "Double-Deism." Today's post will detail the tenets of Double-Deism and how precisely these counter the tactics of whatever religiot you're arguing with at the moment. First and foremost is to remember to improvise, and turn the believer's own tactics against him or her. Counter any dismissal with accusations that your opponent is being intolerant and disrespectful of your carefully considered and deeply held religious convictions; brook no disagreement on the legitimacy of your theology by asserting that any statements discrediting Double-Deism (including this post's admission that it's a joke religion) are damnable heresy; and remember that your religion is ultimately whatever you say it is, no matter what.

Double-Deism is the belief in the generic anthropomorphic creator deity known as "Double-God." Double-God is simple enough to understand: whatever positive qualities are ascribed to your opponent's deity, Double-God is twice as awesome. Period. If someone tries to tell you that their god is infinite, and that Double-God can't be doubly infinite, prove your superiority with math. Proofs abound (it's amazing the bullshit that people will buy if you just say it right), but perhaps the simplest and easiest one would be to start by having your opponent consider the set of all even integers, the set of all odd integers, and the set of all integers. While each set is infinite in size, the set of all integers is equal to the other two sets combined, and so it is doubly infinite (or at least its infinitude is double that of the other two). Similarly, while your opponent's deity of choice may also be infinite, Double-God is simply twice as infinite.

It's important to keep in mind at this point that, while you understand Double-God perfectly (because Double-Deism means whatever you want it to mean), you cannot expect the infidels to understand. Double-God has not revealed itself to them, and so they will be unable to embrace it. This means that you must always be very, very nice to the unbelievers: tell them in as sickeningly sweet of a tone as you can manage that it's OK, you don't expect them to understand the depth and sophistication of your faith as Double-God has revealed it to you. Really, it's no problem, they don't have to understand or believe you, they just have to take you seriously like they ask you to take them seriously. That's all there is to it.

The Alert Reader will have noticed that I referred to Double-God as an "it," and this brings us to the mystery of double-doubleness. You see, while many anthropomorphic deities are male or female, Double-God is twice as male as the male gods and at the same time twice as female as the female gods. But this is still only double (and doubly so), it is not quadruple. There's no such thing as "Quadruple-God," after all - that would just be silly. This also makes Double-Deism the first truly egalitarian religion ever, since the mascot, I mean, frontman, that is, central authority figure is both male and female (and doubly so) at all times and in all respects. This is not a contradiction because maleness and femaleness are not mutually exclusive, Double-God just makes the infidels think they are.

Double-Deism also has a central holy text known as the Super-Bible. Unlike other holy texts, which are written on physical pages in Earthly languages, the Super-Bible is a book of pure meaning that cannot be so contained. This is what makes the Super-Bible so much more glorious and awesome than any Earthly text. It also means that you can't just pick it up and read it cover-to-cover; so glorious a book is not meant to be sullied by mortal hands for mortal purposes. Instead, Double-God delivers divine revelations to true believers on an as-needed basis, using whatever book is handy at the moment. Infidels will see nothing but a mundane book, but true believers will see the Super-Bible as Double-God wants them to see it at the moment. Double-God can also show different believers different parts of the text at one and the same time, and nobody can prove that this is not what's happening, so everyone has to go along with it no matter what.

It's also important to remember that anything said to be from the Super-Bible that works against the point you're trying to make at the moment is despicable lies from an infidel who was making things up to discredit true believers such as yourself. And if you ever contradict yourself, you have the option of either A) denouncing your past assertions as the muddled ravings of your past infidel self before you saw the light (if this was a long time ago), or B) asserting that there is no real contradiction, only a failure to understand in the mind of your opponent (if this was not a long time ago). The Super-Bible is a perfect and true holy text, after all, and therefore cannot contradict itself. All you have to do is work backwards from there!

Perhaps the greatest evidence of the truth of Double-Deism is its eschatology. The miracle here lies in the fact that every doomsday prophecy is true. You see, every time someone said that the world was going to end, it actually would have, but for the fact that Double-God stepped in and saved the entire Universe. Double-God has to do this a lot, which is why it never has any time to perform stupid miracles or give private conversations to unbelievers. I mean, subverting the apocalyptic machinations of every other supernatural critter in the human imagination Universe is a rather taxing ordeal, because many of these entities are themselves infinite and omnipotent deities, and not even Double-God's doubly-doubled infinitude is enough to keep up with all of that noise and also tally the fall of every sparrow and attend to next Tuesday's football game. You take care of that shit yourself, and get some fucking perspective while you're at it, you fuckin' ingrate.

So yeah, this should be enough to get you started on being a full-fledged proselytizer for Double-Deism. Remember to stay flexible and improvise, and never give any ground to your opponents which you won't use against them later. For those of you who have never been infected with a religion before, it can be difficult to put yourself into the religiot mindset; just remember to start with "you're right," apply pareidolia and confirmation bias liberally, and "Double-God made a miracle happen" is a legal move. Also, you have to stay serious and nice the entire time, to drive home the point that you are sincere in your beliefs no matter how crazy they appear to be. Religious people do this all the time, after all, and we need to beat them at their own stupid game here. Keep those things in mind, and you'll be all set to flummox your opponents in public debate for years to come!

Examples for Practice:

Religiot: You can't have morality without religion!
You: Yes we can, because Double-God says we can.
R: You only believe that because you're deluded by faith.
U: That's not true, and we could still have morality without religion even if Double-God didn't give us permission. Double-God just confirmed this, I read it in the Super-Bible just now. Here, it says, "Humans can make a perfectly legitimate morality without religion, whether or not any deities exist. Double-deists understand this, independent of their faith. This would also be true even if Double-God didn't exist, which it does. The word of the Twice-Monarch, thanks be to Double-God."

R: [Deity du jour] created the Universe and everything in it.
U: Sure, but Double-God created that deity. They had a falling out, though, and now your deity just doesn't want to talk about it.

R: Life has no meaning or purpose unless those things are given to us by [deity du jour].
U: Sure it does! Double-God says so, right here in the Super-Bible! [Elaborate as in first example.]

Monday, January 18, 2010

Poison for Your Brain: Side hugs. I am not making this up.

You need to watch this video. You also need to record your reaction to it on a video of your own and upload that to YouTube, because I am a schadenfreude junkie and I want to see your brain break. OK, that won't happen, but you still need to watch this video:
I don't think I can stress enough that this is not a joke. In a world where we are fighting over women's rights to reproduce or not, where relatively harmless cannabinoids are outlawed while addictive carcinogens are perfectly legal*, where you have to play primitive and silly social games to get laid because you can't just go out and pay someone to fuck you however you like, where legal contracts for domestic partnerships are only legal in certain places if the parties' plumbing matches in a certain way, where the same label of "militancy" is used to describe tactics of public debate and tactics of delusion-based violence alike - in such a world, there are people who are worried about the propriety of hugs. "Full-frontal hugs," that is. Side hugs, apparently, are OK. So is being a rough rider, I guess.

I feel the need to point out that I am not making this up. My friend Jack, who told me about this last night, said that he had to look up over a dozen internet articles before he was convinced that this is not a Poe. I only needed three, but then again, I've been to an Acquire the Fire concert. I've seen this shit in action firsthand.

These lunatics (and I mean that literally, these people are actually crazy in an important way) really believe that the mere chance of your groin coming into contact with the groin of another person, in a way that might possibly somehow be stimulating (if you've never actually had sex, that is), merits the overhauling of a nearly universal display of familiar affection. Double-you tee fuck. The killer, for me, is that even if you do their whole side-hug bullshit like you're posing for a photo, you still have to watch your hands, or you might inadvertently brush up against a nipple!

In a way, though, I find this almost poetic. Here is yet another religious warping of a perfectly natural part of being human, engineered to protect against imaginary harm in an impotent display of piety, to separate them from the unwashed masses in their minds while not actually accomplishing anything of substance at all. Really, it's religion in a nutshell.

* - For clarity, I think they should all be legal and the answer to abuse and addiction, like so many things, is therapy and education.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Dear The Internet: Today I made another blasphemy!

OK, so I'm all about doing those things I say I'll do. Really, I am, I'm just a procrastinator, too. At any rate:
You can click that for huge. And, y'know, complete. So far. Look, this is like a progress report because I wanted to put something up, I'm just sick of Photoshop right now.

Anyway, in all my dawdling, I came up with a far grander vision for what I wanted this to be (with a little prodding help from Silver Garou and Rhodopsin), and I've scaled it back to something I can do in a reasonable amount of time. Two weeks isn't already past unreasonable, is it? I think I can safely tell you that a pile of puppies is involved. Stay tuned!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

So that only took, like, a month...

I swear, I can do decent work when I sit down and take my time. And get some feedback (thanks, Silver Garou & Rhodopsin!). Here it is:
It's a wraparound, that's just the front. The click-through is bigger and has the whole actual thing. I'm giving myself the rest of the weekend to stare at this and see if anything is egregiously wrong with it, so if there's any feedback, the proof isn't shipping until Monday.

Friday, January 15, 2010

101 Interesting Things, part thirty-eight: Emily Rosa

Today's interesting thing is also a person! Before I get to Emily, though, I want to talk about some really stupid bullshit. It's called Therapeutic Touch, or "TT" if you feel like making cutesy ga-ga noises. Good thing I do!

TT was invented from whole cloth by Dolores Krieger (a PhD & RN who really ought to know better) and Dora Kunz (a theosophist who apparently wouldn't know a gullibility zombie if it bit her on the face). Pro Tip: one did. My favorite part about Therapeutic "Touch" is that it's a misnomer. It's also known as "Non-Contact Therapeutic Touch," which sounds exactly as stupid as it is. That's right, kids: Therapeutic Touch does not involve any actual touching.

Because that would be icky.

Anyhow, TT is more or less the alternative (read: ineffective) medicine equivalent of prayer. You cook up a story about "energy support systems" (or "invisible sky genies," as the case may be), then you think really hard that you're engaging in some kind of action at a distance with any degree of causal efficacy. Then you wait and see: either something good happens because of whatever else was going on at the time, or nothing good happens and you blame something else. You don't even ape science by going through science-like motions (ahem, homeopaths), or use nifty rocks (crystal fuckers), or anything of the kind.

It's so stupid, even a nine-year-old could debunk it - and that's where Emily Rosa comes in!

When Emily was in the fourth grade, she decided that she wanted to see if TT was the shit, or just shit, so she decided to put it to the test at her school science fair. She got 21 bullshit-spouting blatherskites (or, as Wikipedia puts it, "TT practitioners") to participate in her experiment, which was very simply set up: picture a table with your standard science fair three-part display board, and there are two holes for hands in the bottom of the board; put an idiot on one side, and a fourth grader on the other, and have the idiot stick his or her hands through the holes. Then the fourth grader flips a coin to decide which of the idiot's hands she'll place her own hand over, and the idiot is supposed to tell the fourth grader where her hand is.

TT practitioners have described the energy field they claim to feel as having the consistency of gelatin or taffy; they say they can really feel it. Rosa's study put the lie to that, with the average idiot scoring a 4.1 out of 10 trials (chance would put them at 5). Emily's science fair project was so straightforwardly awesome (as opposed to backwards and crookedly awful) that it got published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, placing Emily in the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest person to have a research study published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Some incorrigible whiners have said, more or less, "Hey, no fair! She's just a fourth grader, she can't do real science!" Of course, the great thing about science is that whining accomplishes nothing; if you think you can do better than a fourth grader, all you have to do (and the only thing you can do) is actually do better than a fourth grader. You may have to perform at that level a few times for the sake of a little something called "statistical significance," but that's really all there is to it!

...or can't they?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hating on Haiti

So Rhodopsin told me about this enormous earthquake in Haiti a couple of nights ago, right after it happened. I was doing Something Else at the time, and the numbers he was saying weren't really registering with me, so I kind of ignored it (my apologies for that). Turns out, it was kind of a big deal.

Like, the biggest deal of its kind.

PZ and Ebonmuse have already talked about this, and about Pat Robertson's bat-shit fucking loco assertion that Haiti somehow deserved this for making a deal with The Goddamned Devil to gain independence. Not a joke. Here's the clip:
Robertson hasn't been the only one to spout inanities over this, either.

I wonder how much money Pat Robertson has? I wonder how much good he could do for the people of Haiti who have been devastated by this completely natural disaster? I wonder how much good he will actually do for these people? My initial guesses are, in order, "a fuck-ton," "a fuck-load," and "fuck all."

Well, I just went and did a milli-load of good for Haiti. Hey, Pat! What would Jesus do? You think he'd blame the victim? Eh, maybe you're right - that guy's got a spotty track record.

No, seriously, Haiti doesn't even have a FEMA, they need all the help they can fucking get. Direct Relief is one of the most efficient charities in the world. You can also choose to donate specifically to their Haiti response.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Humanist Symposium #48: A Winter Wonderland

A hearty welcome to one and all for this forty-eighth edition of The Humanist Symposium! This weekend, it's gotten down to twenty below zero (Fahrenheit) in Central Illinois: the solstice is past, but winter proper is just getting started as we've only gotten our first "real" snowfalls in the last three weeks or so. Similarly, I had thought that my paucity of posts would end with my return from the frigid northlands, but the togetherness and celebrations were just getting started as I caught up with old friends who had come back to town for new year celebrations and what-not.

The season seems to permeate even our Humanist blogosphere: the theme of this symposium, from reading the entries, is clearly a wintry one. We start off with the starkest reason for the season, death and rebirth. No matter what the superstitious zealots among us may say, the real reason for the season - and I've forgone the scare quotes because I actually mean this - is the death and rebirth of the Sun. In the northern hemisphere, our star wanes from the autumnal equinox until the winter solstice, that particular rotation of our Earth with the fewest hours of daylight in the entire circumstellar cycle.

Graham Phoenix will deliver our opening sermon, some thoughts of his on Death and Departure. A reflection on a Humanist memorial service, which I sincerely hope shall be given to me on my demise, he says of his departed friend:
She believed so much in people, she had no spiritual beliefs. Spirituality, religion, to her was a con that exploited people. There was no God, no after life, nothing beyond the memory someone holds in their heart for a person. So her touchstones were nature and people. Her funeral was a humanist one, first I have been to.
From Graham's description, the service seemed less a "goodbye" and more a "remembrance." It seems to have rubbed him the wrong way, which is a shame; or perhaps it was simply inevitable that he should feel some loss at his friend's passing, and no memorial service could ameliorate that. This dovetails well into our next entry, Greta Christina's thoughts on Atheism, Death, and the Difference Between Pessimism and Realism:
It bugs me when atheists with a more bleak view of death than mine present that bleakness as a logical consequence of atheism, the inherent and natural result of not believing in God or an afterlife. It bugs me partly because I disagree. Obviously. But it also bugs me because it treats a question of personal opinion and philosophy and perspective as if it were a question of fact.
Greta reminds us of the role that emphasis and perspective have on our outlooks in life. The particulars of what we emphasize about our lives on earth, and what perspective we take on the things that come our way, go a far longer way than many wish to acknowledge towards shaping our lives. As a case in point, Michael Fridman reflects upon the role of luck in his life and concludes that he is Living on Borrowed Time:
If we don’t get ourselves extinct, if things go well there may be a time in the not too distant future where (due to a growing population and improving living standards) most humans who ever existed will have had the same cushy conditions. This tirade will become obsolete — since based on a historical view I should have lived well past 25. But until then, it at least seems clear to me that we should stop romanticising the past — and in the words of a TED speaker I don’t remember, start romanticising the future instead.
Well said! We should all strive to help build such a future, where "there but for the grace of chance go I" sort of luck can apply to as many as possible. Although, I suppose that it couldn't really be called "luck," per se, at that point.

But sometimes it is appropriate to romanticize the past, if by "romanticize" we mean "think fondly about." Andrew West reminds us of this in A Humanist Miracle, comparing and contrasting the 1947 original A Miracle on 34th Street with the 1994 remake. Like all good reviews, West extrapolates the comparison between the two movies into a lesson we would all do well to take to heart:
Even if Christmas was 100% described in the Bible, we’d still get to strip the weird stuff and enjoy the rest. This isn’t rude or disrespectful – we’re not preventing others celebrating, but we’re not bound by their rules, because we’re not in their club. There’s no copyright on celebration, and nobody gets to forever assign meaning to ritual. I don’t care why we put up coloured lights – I just like pretty lights, dammit! This is the pleasingly secular message of Miracle 1947: celebrate however you like, and don’t worry about what other people think, but stand firm in your convictions.
This is the sort of lesson we should be looking for in all our daily lives, taking the opportunity to live out our values as TechSkeptic does while Shoveling Snow:
Some days, if the storm is real bad, I'll go around and help two or three people dig out their cars. I get offered money, I get asked what I want. I tell them I don't want anything, I just want them to help someone else out some time. Yeah, I saw the movie "Pay It Forward". I think its a pretty good idea, even if the reality is that almost no one pays it forward.
The great thing about such thoughts is that, if enough people behave like that, it becomes reality. These nice little things are, after all, the whole point in a very important way. We don't just advocate for Humanism because it makes more sense or is more rational or has its underpinning supported better by the evidence. I mean, of course it does those things, too; but instilling Humanist values into a population seems to make that population better, to the best of our ability to tell. Godlessness, on a large scale, is good for people. And a good thing, too, as Adam Lee presents some encouraging statistics and solstice well-wishing in Happy Holidays! Atheism is Growing!:
What this shows, as I've said before and will doubtless continue to say, is that we should ignore the brow-furrowing and finger-wagging of the Very Serious theologians who sternly inform us that we're doing a disservice to our own cause by advocating and defending it in public. We have every reason to believe that atheist campaigns of persuasion are working, achieving their intended purpose of convincing more people to become atheists and weakening the social prejudice that treats religious belief as immune to questioning.
This should provide some comfort to the Mandi Kayes of the world, who have seen "meaning" connected to "religion" for too long by far, and fallen under the illusion that there is any necessary connection between them at all. As Mandi writes in a post on Fulfillment,
There are far too many people, including myself, who have never taken the time or effort to find their own sense of fulfillment in their lives. I’ve always relied on my pre-fabricated bubble to give me everything I thought I needed in my life. And when times get tough, I fall back into the familiar.

So here’s to finding real fulfillment within yourself in 2010.

Cheers!
Cheers, indeed! Keep fighting the good fight, even when it goes into your own head. In the greater scheme of things, we should be so lucky as to be able to worry about things like leading fulfilling lives, rather than worrying about having a life at all. Life is complicated, and Andrew Bernardin reminds us of this in The Mundane Secrets to Happiness:
When I first moved to Florida I noticed this about my new area: store clerks and other service providers seemed so much nicer. Sunnier in disposition. Now I know why that may be so. While it is not “something in the water,” it could be a bunch of things in the wider environment that lend themselves to more satisfying life experiences. And so the greater number of genuine smiles and warm words.
The "little things' really do add up, they're what we make our lives out of. Think about it - is your life made up of a few "big things," or a whole bunch of "little things?" Bernardin drives the point home with a bit of applied rhetoric in What to Do About Woo in the Family:
I rarely respond well to being publicly bitch-slapped by the truth. Instead, I appreciate having a breadcrumb-trail of clues placed before me so I may make the progress and then own the conclusion myself.
Nothing like applying a little bit of constructive psychology to the family, eh?

We'll close this symposium on life, death, meaning, and family togetherness by coming full-circle. Cubik's Rube brings us to a vexatious close with his thoughts on a Daily Fail and Akmal Shaikh:
But amidst all this vagueness, there’s one thing I’m pretty damn sure of.

And that’s that, when China executes a British citizen, whatever your thoughts on capital punishment in general might be, the correct response is not “I’m glad he’s dead, and the rest of his lot should all go the same way.”

I’m paraphrasing, but that’s pretty much the gist of this Daily Mail article by Leo McKinstry.
I read it, and so should you, and I have to say that I am pissed. McKinstry's impermissive deontological Othering is exactly the sort of thing we need to be fighting against. Law is not good in and of itself, drugs are not bad in and of themselves, and if you have such a huge problem with something that your society needs to kill people to stop them doing it, then you're probably barking up the wrong tree. Last I checked, the measure of civilization was how permissive it is in letting people do whatever they want so long as they don't harm others. Letting people fulfill themselves in a manner of their own choosing is the logical consequence of expanding our moral circles, and McKinstry's shrieking demagoguery is precisely the opposite of that.

So, in closing, let us Humanists go forth and shovel some snow, so to speak. Let us find fulfillment in making the world a more fulfilling place, let us spread the good news of our message to all corners, let us improve the lives of our neighbors and thereby also help ourselves. And let us do all of this with a happy heart, in full knowledge of the sobering fact that death comes to us all. After all, spring is coming. See you in three weeks at The Purloined Letter! Peace and love to one and all.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Bullshit Pulpit: The Gospel of Godlessness

My roommate, Silver Garou, recently saw this salt stain where his car was parked when he was visiting his girlfriend:
He was kind enough to share with me, and now I want to share it with all of you. Now, everyone knows that A is for Atheism. Clearly, this is a sign from the Universe that he should keep on in his faithlessness and spread the gospel of godlessness. But there's a deeper meaning here, and that's what I want to explore today.

We begin with Douglas Gasking's proof that God does not exist. It is elegant in its simplicity, and it goes something like this: the impressiveness of an act is the product of both its inherent difficulty and the handicap to the actor; the creation of all existence is the most inherently difficult task imaginable; not existing is the greatest handicap imaginable; therefore, God (i.e. the most impressive actor imaginable) must have created all existence without existing himself. Otherwise, we're just not talking about God.

What's so amazingly powerful about this little bit of argumentation is that it succeeds where every other ontological argument fails: it explains how God could create all of existence, which is completely senseless when you consider that if God was around then he would have been all of existence. By positing God firmly outside existence (i.e. in the idea space of nonexistent entities), this ontological argument finally explains how stuff comes from nothing in a way that those science-challenged blatherskites can finally understand!

At this point, I think I should point out a key difference between Gasking's argument and all other ontological arguments, namely: Avicenna, Anselm, Plantinga, et al. have always sought to establish God's existence with their syllogistic gyrations. But they fail as a category for the simple reason that the existence of an entity cannot be positively established by argumentation alone. However, the impossibility of an entity's existence (and thus the necessity of its nonexistence) can be established by argumentation alone. To wit: from the definition of a square and the definition of a circle, we know that square circles cannot possibly exist, and thus we know that pro wrestling is fake. (As an aside, compare the commercial success of pro wrestling with that of religion, and then try to tell me with a straight face that the dim-witted mouth-breathers who believe in either of them aren't just plain retarded - and don't bother getting offended, because I didn't just make a slur; I mean that these people literally have a crippling mental disability.)

At any rate, Gasking's argument is not properly ontological, but rather the antidote to such foolishness. As a decoupler undoes the work of a coupler, Gasking's is a deontological argument. Since deontology also means duty-based ethics, we are therefore duty-bound to accept Gasking's argument by ethics, which is always the most important reason to do anything. We just have to buy it, no two ways about it, and anyone who says she doesn't buy it is lying to you and probably to herself as well because she hates God. Yeah, that's right: believing in God equals hating God. Furthermore, this argument applies with equal force to all possible gods (and even most of the impossible ones!), cancelling out all possible ontological arguments for those possible gods, forever, The End. You just can't argue with logic like this.

Perhaps the most elegant aspect of this whole scene, however, is that it also makes sense of the platitudinous deepities spouted by empty-headed theists. A "deepity," for those unfamiliar with the lingo, is Daniel Dennett's term for a profound-sounding statement with two interpretations: one of which is literally true but entirely trivial, the other of which would be profound if it were not manifestly false. Dennett's example is the statement, "Love is just a word," because of course the word "love" is just a word; but the referent of love is not a word, stupid. My favorite deepity is, "The only thing you can see is light," which sounds profound but is no more amazing than, "The only thing you can hear is sound." And so deepities like Karen Armstrong's "God is the God behind God" become obviously true when we replace the word "God" with what we really mean by it: a nonexistent entity, a nothing. Nothing is the nothing behind nothing. "God created all of existence" becomes the rather innocuous (and also scientifically supported) "Nothing created all of existence." "We're on a mission from God?" More like a mission from nothing! God is the source of morality? Oh, I get it now! Nothing is the source of morality - it all makes sense now!

And if a nonexistent entity could create all of existence, then of course it could also perform the comparatively trivial task of forming a salt stain to speak to an atheist. The message from God is clear as the salt crystals in which it is written: "I don't exist, so don't believe in me; and tell other people not to believe in me, too." So hop to it, folks! Go spread the gospel of godlessness!

Quickies Before Work

Got my tablet & stuff in the mail, so now I gotta draw that thing I said I'd draw. Also! I need to finish re-doing the cover for TQM, because that totally didn't happen over solstice vacation. And in the field of Participating in the Internet, PZ Myers is proposing a 2013 meetup in DC - I'm in, and so should you be! Speaking of PZ and Participating in the Internet, The Friendly Atheist has a poll about who is the most godless atheist of 2009. The options are "PZ Myers" and "Everyone else in the Universe combined." I picked PZ, because "everyone else in the Universe combined" includes theists, and there's no cancelling out how much godly idiocy they have (you can't be, like, negatively theistic - theism is already a negative thing! Rimshot!). Anyway, you should vote.

Yes, you.

Right now!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Legal Round-Up!

So it's been a new year for almost a week, but I've been in the frigid northlands since the 23rd which basically means that I'm incommunicado because one of my family's computers has like forty-five viruses (that I could find), and the other is a five-year-old Mac. Argh.

Anyway, we've got a bevy of new laws going into effect, so I thought I'd take some time to go over a few of them. In completely arbitrary order:

Three States Forward: ...and one state back. New Hampshire and DC joined Vermont and Iowa in legalizing gay marriage, bringing the total to five states. Maine backed out like California in a November referendum (Iowa is poised to do the same, if things don't go well), Massachusetts and Connecticut are still going strong.

Drive-by Communications: Wisconsin, Illinois, Oregon, Colorado, and Texas banned texting while driving, bringing the total number to 28 states to pass such measures. You also can't use cell phones at all if you're in a school zone (hands-free devices are still allowed). In the sensible traffic laws department, Wisconsinanians are now allowed to pass on the shoulder and make U-turns when the Moon is in the second house and Jupiter aligns with Mars.

Eat Right, Or Else: Raise your hand if you know why trans fats are bad for you. OK, if your hand is in the air, you can scroll past this. If not, then you should read up: our enzymes suck at breaking down trans fats, and they're accordingly more likely to accumulate in your bloodstream and clog your tubes. So California banned them.

Oregon Recognizes Religion as Disability: Well, sort of. Oregon passed a law that "redefines 'reasonable accommodation' to be more in line with the ADA." Consider the definition of delusional disorder:
Delusional disorder is characterized by the presence of recurrent, persistent non-bizarre delusions.

Delusions are irrational beliefs, held with a high level of conviction, that are highly resistant to change even when the delusional person is exposed to forms of proof that contradict the belief... Typically, while delusional disorder sufferers may be distressed about the delusional "reality," they may not have the insight to see that anything is wrong with the way they are thinking or functioning. Regarding the earlier example, those suffering delusion might state that the only thing wrong or upsetting in their lives is that the government is spying, and if the surveillance would cease, so would the problems. Similarly, the people suffering the disorder attribute any obstacles or problems in functioning to the delusional reality, separating it from their internal control. Furthermore, whether unable to get a good job or maintain a romantic relationship, the difficulties would be blamed on "government interference" rather than on their own failures or omissions. Unless the form of the delusions causes illegal behavior, somehow affects an ability to work, or otherwise deal with daily activities, the delusional disorder sufferer may adapt well enough to navigate life without coming to clinical attention.
Die In a Fire of Cancer: Florida, Michigan, and Arkansas joined nine other states in requiring cigarettes to turn off when not in use. North Carolina and Virginia joined 28 other states in passing some manner of smoking ban, refusing to let restaurant owners (or bars in 25 states) decide for themselves whether they'll be smoking or non-smoking. Oh, and you can't smoke with someone under 16 in your car if you live in New Brunswick.

Fun fact: the EPA's infamous December '92 study linking secondhand smoke to lung cancer was shot down in July '98 in a 92-page Federal trial for basically being a piece of shit (less-than-92-page rundown here). The short version is that secondhand smoke is gross to some people, which is a reason to allow business owners to forbid it on their property, but it is ultimately no more harmful than seeing boys smooch each other - though it's really gross to some people!

There are over 40,000 laws going into effect, and I'm not even going to bother summarizing them all (especially the silly ones, like Texas teens being unable to go to tanning salons without parental consent). But if you, Alert Reader, can come up with some more interesting ones that are either new or changing as of 01/01/2010, I'll be happy to add them in with credit!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Dear The Internet: Today I made a blasphemy!

Ahem. Inspired by Saturday's Daylight Atheism, I cooked up a little blasphemy in my kitchen just now to tide me over until I get the rest of my stuff in the mail. All of the below photographs can be clicked for huge.
Can you guess where this is going?
Wait for it...
I'd say "boo-yah," or something similarly triumphant, but the thing is, I don't give a fuck. Like, I know that some book-burning, cartoonist-threatening, bacon-hating shit-heads with carp for brains would get their undies in a bind over this, but they're stupid, so who cares what they think?

OK, that's enough pointless nonsense for now. I'll wait for the death threats to roll in, and follow them up with Miss Piggy kissing Mohammed (unless you, the General Reader, can give me something even more blasphemous to draw).