Sunday, September 30, 2007

Enlightening Talk News Discussion about Niger

In The Know: Situation In Nigeria Seems Pretty Complex

Bill O'Reilly - Closet atheist?

This is so funny. Theists and liberal extremists are irrational. Oreilly forgets that ultraconservatism is just as bad as liberal extremism, and ....oh, he's a theist also and protects and supports their irrationality. Funny how he doesn't apply his rules to himself. Reminds of the speech recently by Ahmadenejad- guy sounds like a lunatic... but without doubt really believes he is an honest and thoughtful man who cares about the truth.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Calling Spades Spades

I am reading her book now. It's amazing how the honest truth is so contraversial.

New Rules

This is one of the best new rules ever. The end rant about health in America is worth listening to.

"Ask your doctor if getting off your ass is right for you"

"The government is your dealer, and they subsidize illness in America."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ratings Are Meaningless

Oreilly accuses CNN of joining the darkside because of their low ratings. He states that his ratings are 6 times that of CNN at 8pm.
How does Oreilly explain that *I* would rather watch his show than CNN also? How does he explain the phenomenon that *I* would rather listen to Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Michael Medved and company over AirAmerica, which I find to be boring and embarrassing.
Ratings don't tell you why someone watches your show. The success of ultra-conservative feux news shows is their Id-stimulating entertainment value. Liberals already know what they believe, now we want to laugh at how Bill uses lies, half-truths, exaggerations and distortions to explain what he believes. It solidifies our stance.
Why don't we listen to Air America much? Because we don't want to see everything we despise about the disingenuous talk radio format being copied by people who believe what WE believe. It's embarrassing. Talk radio is entertainment because it is transparent bullshit that bypasses critical thought. Even a child can see through the spin tactics. All you have to do is take the facts and twist them 180 degrees- the war is working, we are safer now, it's all the liberal's fault, it's cold today so global warming is clearly not true.... Whatever is the most aggregiously counterfactual is sure to be the position they take.
But the polls tell the tale.
September 25, 2007
Democratic Party Maintains Solid Image Advantage Over GOP
Public Prefers Democratic Party to Republican for handling terrorism, military security
by Lydia Saad
And for keeping the country prosperous-
Fifty-four percent of Americans now say the Democrats would do the better job, compared with only 34% choosing the Republicans.
Bill Oreilly is an idiot. If you didn't already know it.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Assault on Reason

Finished it. There are parts of this book which were amazingly well written. The chapter "Convenient Untruths" should be mandatory reading.

I am deeply biased in my assessment. Come to think of it, I can't even understand what the counterargument would possibly be. Would it be something like this?-

1.) No Mr. Gore, one-way media where one debator is also the moderator and the controller of the volume switch is good for the marketplace of ideas, and promotes a reasonable citizenry.

2.) No, the internet is bad because then more people learn facts and have dialogues and that's not good for ultra-conservative propaganda. The internet supports terrorism.

3.) No Mr. Gore, just because there is overwhelming scientific concensus on certain major issues doesn't mean there isn't a heated debate still raging and that we should carry out rash actions right away.

4.) No, I think it's great that oil companies fund the president's version of climate research because they have the most at stake.

5.) Wrong again Gore, the founding fathers bent over backwards trying to provide the executive branch with unlimited power.

6.) And of course, everyone knows that giant corporations are themselves "persons". Duh! Didn't you read the constitution?

7.) What do you mean watching TV is bad for your mind? I wouldn't know anything about Brittany, OJ, Peterson or Paris, let alone other major world developments if it weren't for 24 hour news.

Admit it Mr. Gore, Bush is the best president ever. If it wasn't for you liberals, we'd have owned Iraq long ago.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Build Up That Wall

I am posting this mainly because of the cool picture. Click on it to enlarge. But it's also a cool website- Build Up That Wall.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Cement Garden

The Cement Garden by my favorite author Ian McEwan.

I think this was his first novel. McEwan started his career gaining a reputation for Macabre stories which daringly explored human nature. This was certainly one of those stories.

The plot centers around a 15 year old, his attractive 17 year old sister, a 6 year old brother, and a 13 year old sister. Their father dies of a heart attack. Then their mother gets sick and eventually dies. In order to avoid being sent to an orphanage and having the family split apart, they bury the mother's body in a chest and fill it full of concrete in the cellar. They continue to live in the house together, keeping their mother's death as a secret. The 6 year old boy has a desire to become a girl so kids at school will stop picking on him. He begins to cross dress. The main character is the 15 year old who is sexually attracted to his sister whom he eventually has incestual relations with.

Some have likened it to "Lord of the Flies", but I don't thikn this was the author's intent really. But it is in part, an examination of unsupervised human behavior.

All this talk of human evolution in the new age community as if it were synonymous with our biological evolution. But send a group of infants to mars to be raised by robots and you'll have a colony of religious savages in no time.

Why did they do it? It felt good.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Al Gore's new book (--a book report, in Ecolanguage)

I am reading the book right now. So far it is amazingly good.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Line of Spectacular Proportions

I wish people could see and understand this fully.

Karla McLaren

It is very difficult to find someone who was once immersed in the New Age culture that has publicly recanted and adopted a science and reason point of view.

Karla McLaren has been a member of the metaphysical/New Age culture for thirty-two years. She has authored nine titles in the genre, including Emotional Genius, Energetic Boundaries, and Your Aura & Your Chakras: The Owner's Manual.

After thirty two years of having magical powers, she decides she never really had any after all.

As a former new-agey healing arts practitioner myself (just admitting that fills me to the brim with embarrassment and makes me want to crawl under my desk) I can certainly recognize Karla's voice as my own. I just finished reading her wonderful 2004 expose in Skeptical Inquirer where she announces the end of her new age career. Then I read her 2007 website article describing what has happened since. It's amazing how much I have forgotten about my sojourn through the land of fairies and nymphs. Living through that was one of the key reasons I can be staunchly atheistic today. If McLaren isn't an atheist yet, it is only because she is in the middle of the progression towards it. It's like a whole new life since I abandoned that world-view. I just can't believe that was ME!

McLaren came to the same conclusions I did. The new age community rejects and abhors critical thought. It is filled with people who have untreated mental illnesses and who enjoy being victimized, and none of the methods and practices it proposes actually works in any way better than something available on non-mystical terms.


"We love to say that we embrace mystery in the New Age culture, but that's a cultural conceit and it's utterly wrong. In actual fact, we have no tolerance whatsoever for mystery. Everything from the smallest individual action to the largest movements in the evolution of the planet has a specific metaphysical or mystical cause. In my opinion, this incapacity to tolerate mystery is a direct result of my culture's disavowal of the intellect. One of the most frightening things about attaining the capacity to think skeptically and critically is that so many things don't have clear answers. Critical thinkers and skeptics don't create answers just to manage their anxiety. "

"My challenge to anyone who is concerned about the reduction in critical thinking in America, and the seemingly overwhelming movement toward magical promises is this: Instead of haranguing people who are trying to soothe their pain, do something to relieve it. Fight not against the myriad opiates. Fight against the things that make them necessary. It's a much harder job, but in the end, it's one that will actually make a difference. Research shows that in countries with adequate social support networks (such as most of Western Europe), religious observance is very low. It's not the educational levels that make the difference, though proper education is certainly a factor in adequate social support. It's the fact that people don't require as many opiates because their social structure is more functional. "

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Challenging Nature

I finished reading Challenging Nature: The Clash Between Biotechnology and Spirituality By Lee M. Silver.

In this challenging and eye opening book Lee Silver describes the knee jerk reaction to biotechnology from two factions of society-

1. Christians- commanded by God to subdue and usurp the earth and everything on it and fill it with their offspring.

2. Post-Christian people who are subconsciously obsessed with the idea of a "mother nature" that somehow knows what she is doing and has some hazy plan for where it's all going that they better not interfere with.

For most of my adult life I have been in camp 2, and stridently so. I have been outspokenly convinced of the "innate intelligence" of life and nature, and that there is some hidden plan that cannot be bested and is not even worth second guessing with any manipulations or modifications. I was convinced there was an over-riding "life force" that humans could do nothing but corrupt. I like the use of the word "post-Christian" to describe the "New Age", because it is merely a substitute religion after Christianity was proven false by modernity.

I had thought I went 180 degrees from this camp 2 position until I read this book. I realized I still had some left over sympathy for camp 2, primarily based on my ignorance. This book was an eye opener for me. It covers everything from food engineering, medicine, stem cell research, the barbarity of natures own genetic goof ups, conjoined twins, fetus in fetu, teratomas, etc...

Remarkably, most of the battle is against those who are still in camp 1, who think that meddling with nature is disrupting god's perfect plan. Silver points out the intentional and mendacious warping of terms that have led to a pandemic of public ignorance and misconception of the issues. Much of this misconception is willingly absorbed by a religious public who desires to be misinformed.

What Silver points out is that all humans have been doing for thousands of years, and all evolution has been doing for thousands of years is rambunctiously and haphazardly meddling around with genes. There is no "natural order of things". Countless examples of the absurdity of nature's experiment are given. It is illustrated with countless examples how bioengineering and technology have been used to increase the efficiency and humanity of the way we cultivate food (which is disgusting when described, no matter how you look at it). For instance, before around 1990, the only way to get cheese to curdle was to take an enzyme out of the lining of the 4th stomach of a calf. Only in the 90's did they start modifying bacteria to create the enzyme, thus eliminating the need for the calves.

Looking ahead 100 years I can see the grandson of Hugh Hewitt (Conservative talkshow host) proclaiming on his talk show that stem cell research, genetic engineering of human traits and the eradication of genetic disorders through bioengineering all came about because of the wonderous benefits Christianity provided our wonderful Christian nation. None of it would be possible with Christianity of course, because Christianity invented science. Pah!

You can check out Silver's media appearance videos on his website

"The Nihilists are Right"

By the Grace of Guile:
The Role of Deception in Natural History and Human Affairs
Loyal Rue


"The nihilists are right, admits philosopher Loyal Rue. The universe is blind and aimless, indifferent to us and void of meaning. There are no absolute truths and no objective values. There is no right or wrong way to live, only alternative ways. There is no correct reading of a text or a picture or a dance. God is dead, nihilism reigns. But, Rue adds, nihilism is a truth inconsistent with personal happiness and social coherence. What we need instead is a new myth, a noble lie. Only a noble lie can save us from the psychological and social chaos now threatened by the spread of skepticism about the meaning of life and the universe."

I agree. Which is why I describe myself as a nihilist pretending to be a secular humanist. The nihilists are right. And there is a good many people who know this but would never call themselves nihilists. Of course, saying that nihilists are right does not imply that one acts based on their nihilism. Humans are compassionate and empathic by their very nature. We are given pleasure by our biology and are impelled to care about others and to create beneficial things for the community merely by having 46 chromosomes. There is no choice in the matter on our part, unless we have a rare genetic dysfunction where we lose our conscience. A normal healthy person is not going to live as if their life is meaningless, even if they realize that it is. This is part of the duplicity of the human mind. We have a rational mind that can come to observe the absurdity of our own biological impulses and yet still derive pleasure from those impulses and seek them out concurrently. I agree with Loyal Rue, we need to make a pleasant lie. I have my own, primarily based on Zen Buddhism and high doses of caffeine. When the catastrophic weight of reality comes crashing down in my consciousness I have an escape hatch. In ways I credit my religious past, and my amazing propensity for dissociation to formulate this escape hatch which has certainly been useful at preventing an anxiety disorder. Others are not so lucky.

Of course, I don't actually believe in the escape hatch (for Christ sake!). But if I didn't pretend to at times, I'd surely go insane.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Hitchens is Brilliant!

Most well put I've ever heard.

Paco de Lucia

Wow, the young Paco. I had never seen this video before. A bit mechanical compared to what he becomes.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Stating the Obvious Gets Easier Every Day

Wow, who would have thunk it? A republican stands up to the bullshit better than any democrat has so far!

Brothers Karamazov

Finally finished it. I won't lie, I felt the book was about 400 pages too long. I decided to read it due to the continuous references to it in the debates I had been watching about religion versus atheism. There is a section in the early part of the book which covers Christopher Hitchens' arguments against religion just as good as he does. Unfortunately, this in-depth analysis of faith and religion sort of stops early on and is then illustrated by an exceedingly long and painstaking narrative in which every main character (with the exception of Alyosha Karamazov the young religious brother) seems to be in a state of hysteria with a touch of schizophrenia. My Serbian friend who read the book simultaneously told me that this is exactly how Russian culture is (I'm not sure how far I would take that). Every scene and every character is set within the context of emotional hysteria over big or small things (doesn't matter) and reading this tome becomes exhausting because despite everyone's never ending hysteria and conflict, it never seems to end.
The most oft reference to this book is the idea surrounding Ivan Karamazov that without religion everything is permissable. This exact line appears nowhere in the book as far as I could tell even though it is regularly set in quotes (which is my way of smugly saying nanny-nanny boo boo I actually read the fuckin' thing).
But Ivan's dilemma was not very perplexing to me in the face of Darwinian evolution.

Ivan didn't understand that primates have a natural moral sense which is biological in nature. Before Darwin, I assume everyone looked at moral choice making as a function of some sort of metaphysical auric field that hovered around their head waiting to respond to an act of perfect free-will. Even this far along after Darwin most people still don't acknowledge that there is ANYTHING biological about moral choice making, despite a virtually infinite amount of evidence to the contrary. Ivan, being the most intelligent and educated of the family was forced to wrestle with a dilemma which is a total non sequiter to everyone who is not religious today. Simply put, Since human nature involves having a moral sense which is hard-wired and inherent in primate biology, the result is that everything is not desirable even if it is permissable (due to the absence of the cosmic dictator). Its no more complex than that. It is only a perplexing and contraversial theme to religious people who can't comprehend or refuse to acknowledge basic biology. Despite Ivan's atheism, it is not at all suprising or even worthy of contraversy that he was willing to judge himself so harshly as a culprit of the murder of his father or the difficult choice he had of whether to try to save his brother Dmitri by his testimony (at the risk of his own life). Ivan was driven to madness on account of the fact that he was born 100 years too early, in a culture basking in religious superstition and bereft of scientific knowledge about the truth of human nature. Ivan was trapped in an artificial forced choice experiment between belief and immorality. Religious people to this day try desperately to frame the debate this way, relying on the willing ignorance of their listeners.
Dostoyevsky's insight into human nature is astounding. His insight into the conflict of faith and reason is displayed to a remarkable extent by his ability to take multiple opposing viewpoints with his characters and argue them to the hilt. And now, after reading this headrest I can understand why Christopher Hitchens says "he was probably a schizophrenic".

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Christopher Hitchens: God Isn't Great

Hillarious. Hitchens makes some good points about people lying to the polls about their Christianity. People claim to be Christian just like some friends of mine claim to Islamic while they have promiscuous sex and couldn't give a damn about it.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Supply Side Jesus-uh

Yes, when the richest 1% of the country is becoming unimaginably wealthier than they already unimaginably were, and the middle class is not budging, it's time for the gospel of supply side Jayzus-uh! to rally the proletariat.

D. James Kennedy

D. James Kennedy got the cosmic hook. I remember watching him in my days as a Christian and admiring him. More recently I would watch as a form of entertainment. With sudden death one is struck with the obvious but strikingly relevant question- where is he now? Of course, I think most likely he has been annihilated. However, if somehow his consciousness lives on, I wonder how someone breaks it to him that all his Christian ponderings and literalism are entirely false, and were nothing but a lifetime of masterbatory illusions.