Archive for category Religion

Let’s talk Evidence.

One of the common aphorisms we hear in two varieties is, first form, “absence of evidence is evidence of absence”, and second form, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” Either statement seems to make sense on its face; but this is because of a common misunderstanding. In truth, only one form actually works for us within the bounds of reason.
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Happy Thanksgiving

Today is a good day to remember the true spirit of the pilgrims. They would occasionally take a day off from shaming community members in the town square stocks and recreational witch-burning to deliver typhus-infected blankets to the native American Indians nearby, in the fond hope that they be decimated under the loving eyes of God, consequent to the long European tradition of biological warfare against those one would prefer go away. Lest you think the Pilgrim’s work ethic be implicated here, know you that from time to time, they would also organize and do their very best to commit genocide on the local Indian populations in fine traditional fashion, utilizing both sharp and blunt objects – stabbing Indians was equally as well regarded as bludgeoning. In addition, Indian men, women and children received equal consideration in this matter, so you can see that this is truly a multi-dimensional egalitarianism. This may be regarded as one of the true seeds of American fairness.

These are true facts. If this is not how you regard Thanksgiving, perhaps you should re-examine your knowledge of history. Google for UAINE and/or the Wampanoag tribe. Spend a few minutes reading up on actual pilgrim practices.

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I’m just disgusted with people.

Like most literate netizens, I keep an eye on the news. Mostly, it’s bad. Mostly, though, it’s about the idiots in Washington finding new ways not to get useful things done, wasting our money on useless, pointless wars, and the continuing whitewash of the economic firestorm most of us are enduring. All these things are terrible, but I’m kind of inured to them. I see them every day, so I have a tendency to just grumble and carry on.

This week, I got to watch the people be stupid. Lots of them.
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On Animal Testing

devotionAnimals – with great certainty, mammals like cats, dogs, monkeys, pigs and so on – are conscious, feeling beings. Only the least intelligent human, or one completely unfamiliar with the company of animals, can argue otherwise with a straight face. Animals use language, tools and create domiciles; they express emotion, they will sacrifice themselves for their offspring, and they can learn.

They, in many ways similar to human babies, are unable, for lack of sophistication, to consent to risk taking. They don’t have the potential to turn into the kind of advanced being a human baby does; nonetheless, they do think, they do feel, they do suffer. As any human with any reasonable degree of insight can tell you, imposed suffering without any degree of understanding why leads directly to even more suffering and deeper fear. Therefore, it is wholly unethical to subject them to risk (or certainty) of suffering via coercion; further, it is selfish and cowardly to do so for the benefit of yourself or those you value.

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Public Wifi is Dying

Wired asks, Why isn’t wireless available everywhere?

In a public business I’m involved with, we used to provide free wifi. The cost to do so was low, the risk to our properly isolated network was minimal and our customers really appreciated it – no question about it.

Initially, it seemed like a great idea. A really great idea. And as long as you kept your eyes on the ground and didn’t look too hard at what was going on around you, it kept looking good.

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It isn't straight-up stupidity. It's more like this:

CogFail2

By fear of the unknown, I mean literally someone who is uncomfortable with ideas like “we don’t have an answer for that”; you can apply it to questions like “What happens to our thinking self when we die?”, “Did the universe always exist?” and even “Does anyone really care for me?”

With regard to ignorance, I’m basically suggesting a lack of data; either because it hasn’t been looked for, it was looked for and not understood, or one has been outright misinformed. But it goes beyond this, and that’s where gullibility comes in. Gullibility is that error of cognition that accepts weak (or non-existent) data as sufficient to making a case.

Weak critical thinking skills, as used here, is a summary description of the inability to look at what one actually knows, clearly discriminate it from what one imagines or wishes might be so, and only draw decisive conclusions from the best possible information.

I don’t mean to suggest that the above is precisely correct; only that it is approximately or generally so. No doubt there may be more than three contributing cognitive failure modes, and more than one intersection that could be characterized as a “perfect victim.” My goal here is simply to get the idea across that belief in the unprovable, or even the incorrect, isn’t a consequence of simple stupidity.

Feel free to disagree, of course.

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The Ring of Truth

I’ve always had a fondness for the concise and pithy; Today, I thought I’d share some of my favorites.

  • Atheism leaves a man to sense, to philosophy, to natural piety, to laws, to reputation; all of which may be guides to an outward moral virtue, even if religion vanished; but religious superstition dismounts all these and erects an absolute monarchy in the minds of men.

    Sir Francis Bacon

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Finally.

Bush is finally gone.

It’s like having one of those embedded, infected splinters that was just too tiny to grab finally pulled out of your flesh.

I can’t really express how grateful I am not to have to wake up in the morning and face the Next Stupid Thing he had said or done.

Further, Obama has already pretty much put his foot down on the discrimination faced by the gay and transgender communities, including speaking directly against the absurd “don’t ask, don’t tell” military cowardice.

His inauguration speech contained solid declarations against much of what the Bush administration stood for; and he has put a halt to all pending regulations until they can be reviewed by his administration.

It’s as if we have an actual leader.

I still have little faith in congress or the courts, but Obama… as far as I’m concerned right now, he is “the man.”

Welcome, Mr. President. Welcome.

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