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Monthly Archives: May 2012


A Minor Compendium of Black and White Photos of Writers Smoking – Ayn Rand Edition

My friend Ben Pike asked me why I hadn’t posted any photos of Ayn Rand smoking in my previous posts. The exclusion wasn’t intentional; I had a folder of just her sitting around that I was planning on unleashing. Now is that time.

I didn’t find many photos of her. Let’s face it, she wasn’t photogenic and a lot of media and academic gatekeepers disliked her or just plain ignored her. This holds true even today, despite the resurgence of popularity of her writing. Heck, unless they’re objectivists, even most libertarians have some issues with her.

If you are uncaring about political or philosophical opinions, just stick to reading only Anthem and it’s a safe bet your eyes will remain comfortably unrolled.

Not black and white, technically:
Ayn Rand Smoking, #1

Ayn Rand Smoking, #2

Ayn Rand Smoking, #3

Ayn Rand Smoking, #4

Ayn Rand Smoking, #5

Not a photograph (duh), but nice enough to post here. By John Cox:
Ayn Rand Smoking, #6

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You’re Not an Idiot If You Answer Some of These Questions Wrong

Forbes posted yesterday about “10 brainteasers to test your mental sharpness”. Most of the riddles were the trick/”false premise” type of questions with crucial information that tend to sneak by the testee.

Riddles like these focus on ambiguities of language rather than actual problem-solving. When we hear a riddle or problem we tend to pick out the important words/phrases and let the contextual words slide by, assuming we know what they mean or “completing” their meaning while actually ignoring them. It takes only a few seconds of effort to detect the key word(s) but to me they don’t qualify for rigorous intellectual engagement…although how much can you fit into a sentence or two?

We assume, sometimes rightly so, that people don’t intend for us to take their language completely literally. When we read number seven on the list: “In British Columbia you cannot take a picture of a man with a wooden leg. Why not?”, we consider “take” as a synonymous verb for “photograph”, not “steal”. That’s because the common usage, given the context, and most people aren’t enough of a jerk (maybe) to slip a different meaning.

Of course, going into these you’re told that they are brainteasers, so we’re tipped off to look for a linguistic trap. It’s not a matter of the degree of intelligence that helps with solving these, but a simple shift in perception.

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Recipe: No-Bake Primal Energy Bites

1 cup chopped nut(s) (almonds, walnuts, etc.)
1/2 cup nut butter (almond, walnut, etc.)
1/3 cup raw honey
1 cup coconut flakes (unsweetened)
1/2 cup flaxseed
1/2 cup cacao/carob (powdered or chopped, unsweetened)
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
  1. Throw everything into a bowl.
  2. Mix (hands are best).
  3. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Using a melon baller (or hands), roll into balls.
  5. Makes a bunch.
  6. Keep refrigerated, or outside somewhere if it’s cold.

Wifey made a version of this a few weeks ago that she got from Chicktrest but I thought I would try a slightly different version, one that has probably already been done before and posted somewhere on the Interscreen.

I thought about calling these Caveman Balls or Grok Balls but they already kinda don’t look appetizing. Adding scatology would just make it worse.

The ones I made here are almond butter with chopped almonds, so they are very…almondy. The almonds I had were already salted so I didn’t add any salt. I also had some cacao chips and coconut that were sweetened so I did maybe 1/6 a cup of honey.

Fun fact: the little beige nub near the top center of the photograph is the leg of a Chia pet.

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Correction: Abraham Vs. Aristotle

In reading my last post I noticed I made a subtle but fatal error. I said that atheists and skeptics have an epistemological apparatus that can apprehend supernatural things. While I think this is true it is only acceptable—according to the state of philosophy as I know it—if the actor is a supernaturalist to begin with. So the acceptability of Hebrew/Middle-Eastern epistemology rests on the acceptance of the supernatural.

I’m of the mind that the existence of this apparatus is acceptable by skeptics as well, because it seems necessary to make any propositions about the supernatural at all, not just the properties of supernatural things that theists propose. To illustrate this, think of the apparatus like we do eyes. Atheists “see” darkness and call it such, theists “see” something illuminated in front of them and can form propositions about it*, but both actors need eyes and functioning vision to make these determinations, else “darkness” or “I see something” are incoherencies.

I’m not very formally educated in philosophy and I don’t know if this has been proposed at all. The idea needs a huge huge huge huge amount of exploration and frameworking in order to make it an acceptable proposition regardless of what religious framework we believe in.

So, someone should do that.

Photo by withassociates.

*Please ignore the unfair comparison between atheism/darkness and religious belief/enlightenment in this analogy.

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Abraham Vs. Aristotle

Just pretend the other guy isn't Plato and that they're arguing. Like, the angry arguing.

I’ve been reading one guy here and another guy here and here. They talk about Hebrew/Middle Eastern (H/ME) epistemology, the existence of which I and most other Christians are aware and utilize under different names and applications. H/ME relies heavily on revelatory knowledge—our radar aimed at the metaphysical or supernatural—as a legitimate form of knowing things. Contrast this with Aristotelian epistemology that Western Civ is based on, where knowledge is acquired solely through human faculties.

Naturally, some say that these two ways of knowledge gathering are incompatible, but I think the rejections of one for the other is too hasty. They simply need proper application. We use Aristotle to apprehend the physical world, and we use H/ME to apprehend supernatural things. Someone who is wholly given to one or the other framework can just slip the other one in if they’re not cowed by their own fundamentalism. I’m making it sound like it’s buttering a slice of bread but accepting a different way of knowing things can be life-shattering in extreme cases.

Most people, without knowing it, use both already—the religious zealot “uses science” even though it’s hedged in some by his religious belief structure. Anyone who has watched more than 20 minutes of American TV programming is already aware of this type of person. But even skeptics and atheists use their sense of the divine. Coming to the conclusion that the supernatural doesn’t exist does not come about through Aristotelian ways. It comes through the skeptic’s sensus divinatus, however damaged (unrepared, really) the theist considers the skeptic’s apparatus to be, that nothing is “out there”. Logic, the senses, memories, et al., are fundamentally unable to answer questions about things outside of the universe(s). Determining anything about it, I believe, is read on the output tape spat out by the H/ME apparatus.

Even the smart Aristotelian skeptic of religion, if he isn’t hobbled by his own pride, can believe that the conclusions of theists the world over can be legitimately arrived at through the H/ME method. The theist comes to conclusions, through revelatory knowledge, about the supernatural (namely that it exists, for starters) and has not encountered real defeaters for his theistic belief. He has done his duty in just the same way the skeptic has done his, by using his sensus. The state of post-Sagan skepticism, though, is too mired in its own back-patting that admitting that theism, even if completely dead wrong, isn’t a result of neurosis or conspiracy. The generous skeptic scenario is mostly out of the picture.

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New Testament Manuscript Reliability Doesn’t Matter

A possible personification of New Testament manuscript reliability*.

There’s info online you can Giggle regarding the reliability of New Testament manuscripts compared to similar documents of antiquity. Here’s a good summary, but I saw an image on Facebook (see note way below) that diagramed the comparisons.

It’s an interesting phenomenon to note, but in most cases it won’t do much to convince skeptics. There’s a good reason for this. If, say, historians found out that Aristotle’s Poetics was written by someone else, or a group of someone elses. His (or their) ideas on ethics, metaphysics, and logic would not be diminished. That is to say that the value of the text doesn’t depend much on who wrote it. What was said is what matters.

Similarly, if it was found out that an historian like Tacitus was really a composite of other writers, it may cast some doubt on what was written in The Histories, but it won’t be much skin of the nose of most people today. Many of the events recorded may still be verifiable, but even if the author was inaccurate the consequences to everyday life are minor.

But the standards for the New Testament are different, because even if the manuscripts are reliable it doesn’t answer the question as to whether the New Testament events occurred. It proves, for example, that the copies agree with themselves but not that the recorded events described, specifically the supernatural events, had actually passed. Textual reliability is irrelevant if someone believes the supernatural is outright nonexistent. A skeptic would have to first have to believe that supernatural events, like the resurrection, are at least possible imprimus. The text doesn’t have a bearing on whether they are possible. They merely claim they occurred some time in the past.

The fact of manuscript reliability may have some effect on the skeptic if it removes a defeater for belief—as in, part of the disbelief is held in false information, particularly that New Testament documents are not reliable. But as far as “making believers” out of atheists, a lot more needs to occur, cognitively and a-cognitively, than an historical factoid.

*I originally had a diagram of New Testament manuscript reliability created by Mark Barry. I had emailed him about using the image but he had since taken it down because, in light of recent conversations, he needed to do more research before officially confirming the info in the diagram. He didn’t mention Bootsy Collins.

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It Doesn’t Matter What Business You Spend Your Money On

At least it saves thinky time.

I’ve seen this image appear in my facebook feed at least a few times every week. The idea is that it’s best (according to some) to spend our money on local businesses because the business owners will extract more practical or “moral” utility, where the CEO will just squander it. The only problem is that in the situation the image describes, where you spend your money is irrelevant.

If the CEO does squander his salary foolishly, people benefit in the same way the small business would—he would be injecting it back into the economy by buying the expensive car or by building another house. That’s more factories and more construction work for the providers of working class* families, and more business for smaller companies he patronizes. In some situations, more people would be better off if more business went to the CEO’s corporation than the small family business.

But let’s assume you spend your money patronizing the small business, and that somehow you know they will use the revenue in ways the image proposes. The catch-22 comes because the small business pays taxes (sooner or later—the government has a way of getting money from you). These taxes paid can be used by the government at all levels to benefit the small business’ larger, corporate competitors. Essentially, you would help funding small- and mid-sized businesses pay the government to keep their business from growing.

It’s not your fault, though, nor is it the business’. A company can only get so big the “right” way, by filling consumer demand and creating wealth, before it has to cajole non-market forces into working in their favor. This non-market force is the state, which is able to build walls against the competition coming from smaller companies through legislation and taxation. Thus, CEOs can afford themselves things like exhorbitant bonuses instead of growing their business (creating jobs) because there’s more incentive to rent-seek, which benefits a corporation’s owners primarily and the business secondarily, and less incentive to fill demand, which benefits consumers and the corporation as a whole, from the CEO down to factory janitors.

The best solution, naturally, is to remove the state from the market process by extracting its coercive power and expansive tax levying, and let consumers decide how big or small business will get, through consumption and investment. That way the economic climate reflects demand more accurately and resources are aligned with less recklessness. That’s a tough cookie to bite because the politicians have no incentive to shrink the power of the organization they work for.

*I normally don’t use Marx-inspired class warfare language like this but it fits given the context.

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