Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Stupid! It Burns! (high-tech industrialist edition)

the stupid! it burns! Dear atheist: I have faith you'll read this
Today's column is an answer to an anonymous letter I received recently in response to my column on April 5, titled “To Atheists: Why Not Play It Safe?” [sadly, behind a paywall -BFB] If you didn't read it, it was a case for “faith,” not using biblical quotations, only pure logic. . . .

Dear Atheist: . . . In your letter, you ask: “Have you ever read anything by Bertrand Russell, Bernard Katz or Richard Dawkins? Open your mind and educate yourself. Belief in the supernatural is demonstrably far, far easier than thinking for yourself.” Well, in college I encountered the writings of several superintellectual, but not very intelligent, self-serving gurus like Bertrand Russell, Immanuel Kant and others, but they are all passé, as is Darwin's “Tree of Life,” which recently has been scientifically discredited. See the DVD “The Case for a Creator” by Lee Strobel for scientific details.

According to the article, the author, Bob Thomas, "is a retired high-tech industrialist who later served on the Carson City School Board, the state welfare board, the airport authority and as a state assemblyman."

The Stupid! It Burns! (wrong way edition)

the stupid! it burns! Atheists; “Supernatural doesn’t exist”. Said who?!
“Natural” is what moves with the Laws of Physics & Biology while, in contrast, “Supernatural” is what moves against. However, both Natural and Super, MUST be accompanied with detectable effect(s) on our physical environment for their existence to be acknowledged/believed.

Due to their detectable effects, science had pointed out many “against the law” processes that took place during the known history of Universe and Life which could arguably be classified Supernatural at least from directional points of view. One famous example is the moment when the planet Earth became no longer “sterilized”! The moment of which Life appeared in the form of the first Prokaryotic Cell 4 billion years ago. The moment most atheists wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about as much as they would on evolution afterwards.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Stupid! It Burns! (superior edition)

the stupid! it burns! Some bonus stupidity today!

Atheists Affirm the Superiority of Christianity
I recently read an atheist cartoon—yes, there are such things. It was mocking the worship of an “invisible, inscrutable, and vindictive deity.”

Rather than be offended, I actually thought, “Hmm, an atheist affirms the superiority of Christianity!” . . .

Now, I’m sure that by “invisible,” the typical atheist is mocking all theists as believers in a myth—something or someone that is unseen because he does not exist. [No, "invisible" means unseen, or, more broadly, imperceptible] . . .

Christianity is superior to all “faiths” because Christians believe in Christ—God visible, God in the flesh, God incarnate—active and engaged. . . .

Again, I’m sure that by “inscrutable,” the typical atheist is mocking all theists as believers in a false deity whose ways cannot be defended. [No, "inscrutable" means "incapable of being investigated, analyzed, or scrutinized; impenetrable."] . . .

Christianity is superior to all “faiths” because Christians believe in Christ—the Word, the Logos, who communicates, reveals, makes know, and explains God personally. . . .

It’s quite clear that by “vindictive” the atheist is mocking all theists as believers in a cruel being who capriciously sends undeserving beings to eternal damnation. [Ok, you got that one right.] . . .

Christianity is superior to all “faiths” because Christians believe in Christ who, though He had no sin, became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). We worship the God of holy-love who does not wink at sin as if He were an unjust judge, but instead, defeats sin by the death and resurrection of His Son. . . .

I agree with the atheist. No one should worship a god who is “invisible, inscrutable, and vindictive.”

Christianity is far superior to all faiths because Christians believe in the Trinitarian God revealed in Christ as the incarnate, immanent God of holy-love.

The Stupid! It Burns! (irrational morality edition)

the stupid! it burns! The problem of atheism: Can atheists insist upon morality?
Am I perpetuating a myth when I say that atheists cannot establish a basis for morality? I do not believe I am. It’s not that atheists cannot be moral. Of course, they can. But they cannot be good without God, for “morality” is derived from religious belief.

(Note: By “religious belief” I mean any idea that cannot be rationally derived, which is how most atheists define religion.)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Money and barter

In response to my earlier post Money and control systems, a reader comments:
I've always thought "money" is simply a way to avoid the inefficiencies of barter. It could be pieces of paper (or digits in a computer), but in theory it could just as easily be shells, twigs or anything else. The real value is from the goods and services produced by human beings, and money is simply a kind of oil that smoothes the exchange and trade of these goods.

The problem with this comment is "simply". The commenter is correct: real value does indeed consist of the actual goods and services produced by people. But saying that "'money' is simply a way to avoid the inefficiencies of barter" is like saying that a political system is simply a way to avoid the inefficiencies of anarchy, or a 747 is simply a way of avoiding the inefficiencies of walking to Cleveland. The present capitalist system, with money in such a central role, is so clearly not simply a smoother barter system that this comment can be seen only as an item of dogma propagated by the capitalist ruling intent on cloaking its power and influence.

I don't intend to be rude to the commenter: As years of discussing atheism and religion have taught me, the hardest step is losing one's attachment to the dogmas that are shouted at us continually from the moment we're capable of speech.

Money is indeed a way to smooth the exchange of goods and services. But it's so much more.

The Stupid! It Burns! (narcissist edition)

the stupid! it burns! You've got to love atheists
Another big sell is that most atheism promotes hedonistic narcissism at its finest. Several of the blogs I've read enjoy boasting that more and more, young people are abandoning their religious faith. That's not hard to imagine, since most atheist blogs promote their lower moral denominators as one of the benefits of an atheistic lifestyle. Tell young kids that if you abandon belief in God, and you can have endless amounts of video games, candy, pizza, and never do any chores or homework, and you won't have a hard time with mass conversions.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Neil Gaiman on art

The Stupid! It Burns! (genocide edition)

the stupid! it burns! Even atheists advance the Kingdom by La Shawn Barber:
Dawkins also refers to one of the Bible’s many difficult passages, namely that God commanded Israel to kill His enemies—men, women, and children—in vengeance for corrupting His people, but to save the virgins, the purpose of which was to exterminate the enemies to keep them from reproducing and corrupting Israel again. Every man, woman, and child is a sinner who deserves God’s wrath, and God decrees the method and the means for carrying out His wrath sometimes in ways we can’t fully grasp. In the same vein, God used His enemies as agents to punish His chosen people. [emphasis added]

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Money and control systems

"Our main task, therefore, will be to confirm the reader’s instinct that what seems sensible is sensible, and what seems nonsense is nonsense," said John Maynard Keynes in his 1929 pamphlet "Can Lloyd George Do It?". This is the chief task of any honest economist: not to explain a recondite and subtle science to the ill-informed layman, but rather to cut through the mass of lies and bullshit that cowardly, dishonest, and lazy economists have promulgated to confirm to the lay person that many of her instincts are correct. Of course, economics, especially macroeconomics, does have some counter-intuitive elements, but those counter-intuitive elements derive directly and simply from an intuitive basis. Bullshit — myths, lies, equivocations, circumlocutions, and willful ignorance — always grows around the justification of any class rule. Money is, of course, the basic justification for the rule of the capitalist class, and the basis of any class rule can never stand honest, clear-sighted scrutiny; class rule draws bullshit like nectar draws hummingbirds. To start to cut through the bullshit, therefore, we have to understand the nature of money: money is the primary element of a socially constructed economic control system.

What is a "control system"? There are many complex systems that we can usefully divide into a concrete real system and an abstract control system. For example, we can divide up a jetliner into its real system and its control system. The real system consists (primarily) of the engine(s), wings, horizontal and vertical stabilizers, and fuselage: the components that generate and/or directly respond to the four fundamental forces of flight: lift, thrust, gravity, and drag. The control system consists of everything in the cockpit: the yoke, pedals, and throttle; the gauges, dials, and indicators; and, of course, the pilot(s).

The division between real and control systems is not and cannot be absolute: for it to be a control system, the control system must somehow physically modify and respond to the real system. Turning the yoke changes the physical position of the ailerons, which affects the physical lift generated by the wings, causing the aircraft to turn. A change in the attitude of the aircraft causes a physical change to the attitude indicator (artificial horizon). Furthermore, the purely real system can have control effects. On an ordinary aircraft, the horizontal stabilizers on the tail generate a small amount of negative lift (the aerodynamics push down on the tail); when the pitch of the aircraft changes, the force on the tail changes in such a way that the aircraft returns automatically to a stable pitch. The horizontal stabilizers directly control the attitude of the aircraft.

But while the division is not absolute, it is determinable. The key is abstraction. The real system is directly connected to real-word physics. The fuselage must be streamlined to minimize drag. The wings must be shaped just so to generate lift. The engines must combine fuel and oxygen together (and do a lot of other mechanical things) in very specific ways to generate thrust. In contrast, the control system is much less connected to real-world physics. There's no particular extrinsic physical reason we have to use yoke, pedals, and throttle in the specific way that we usually do to control an airplane; we could, if we chose, use knobs, buttons, and switches. All that's necessary is that the control system have the degrees of freedom necessary to represent all desired change and states of the real system. But fundamentally, the more concrete a component is, the more it is part of the real system; the more abstract, the more it is part of the control system. Another key indicator is "removability": we can remove the entire control system of an aircraft and it will still fly; we cannot remove the real system, no matter how the control system is arranged.

Similarly, we can divide economics into a real system and a control system. The real system is people physically working to produce goods (physical things) and services for exchange with other people. The control system is money and the financial system. Work and exchange are concrete: we must do very specific physical things to produce a loaf of bread, a coat, a hat, a computer, or an aircraft. The control system of economics is money. Money is abstract: there's no particular physical reason we have to use small pieces of paper printed in green with pictures of dead presidents on them to control who works where and who consumes what's produced. Indeed, while money exists throughout recorded history, there have been many different control systems, notably communalism, barter, as well as slavery, and serfdom. We could have a real economy without any control system (pure barter), but we have no economy at all if we have only money, without people working and exchanging goods and services.

Indeed, the idea that money itself is part of the real economy, as ineluctable and directly physical as the horizontal stabilizers, is so nonsensical that it takes the most elaborate theological faith to hold that view. That's one reason it's so difficult to argue with hard-money libertarians; like Christians, they are so committed to a nonsensical delusion that they lose the ability to discuss the issue in good faith. Money might or might not be the best control system*, but the intuitive idea that money really is a control system is one that must be grasped and held onto despite the sophistry of the economic theologians.

*It's not the best, but it's better than some others.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Where the Wild Things Are

And he sailed off through night and day
and in and out of weeks
and almost over a year
to where the wild things are.

Maurice Sendak died today

Monday, May 07, 2012

Atheist spam

Someone is spamming my comments with links to the Rationally Speaking Podcast. Please stop. I do not accept spam from anyone. You may comment only if you want to contribute to a discussion.

If the person spamming my comments is not affiliated with the podcast, please let me know in here comments or by email. I'm not sure what I can actually do about it, but I'd like to know.