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Monthly Archives: July 2013


Bible Book Summaries: The Criterion Collection

Those of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook might know I took up a project to summarize all 66 books of the Bible, roughly one book per day. I recently finished all the books and I thought it would be best to publish them all in one grand blog post. A tweet-dump motherlode assault on the senses.

Before (or after) you read these, check out this guy who is tweet-summarizing the entire Bible by chapter.

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Religion and Science Blah Blah Blah

Below is a comment I posted on a blog post written by a Facebook friend of mine, Jason (from Becoming the Archetype—a reference point for those of you who are familiar). The post was a response to a video titled “My Question For Theists,” which I haven’t watched yet—my comments were general and more in response to the blog post than the video.

I don’t know what Jason’s nor the1janitor’s knowledge background is, but I thought it was good to do a level set on some things. There was really no reason for me to comment other than I’ve been reading on the philosophy of science lately and I wanted to commit something in pixel while it was fresh in my mind. It’s purely self-interest as motivation.

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A couple of things to keep in mind, not necessarily directed at either of you but it bears some weight on the discussion.

1) Science is hardly the only way we can know things about the universe. We can know via the senses, like how I know I am at a computer right now because of my sight and tactility. We can also know via experience. I know that my lawnmower’s engine is hot because I burned myself on it a few weekends ago. We also validly know things through authority (I know I was born on August 31st through the authority of my parents and my birth certificate) and memory (I remember my birth certificate saying I was born on August 31st). That religious belief is unscientific (I would call it a-scientific to strip the derogatoriness of the term) should hardly be a surprise but it’s a misapplication of the methodology.

2) Science suffers from what philosopher David Hume called the problem of induction. Generally this means that it arrives at conclusions using inductive logic, which goes from particular instances (in this case, through experimentation) into general ideas. We know that gasoline is combustible because it has been tested and concluded as such. The problem with this is that there’s no reason for us to believe that the next experiment with gasoline will produce the same results. In broader terms, we don’t know that the universe will act the same way tomorrow as it does today. It is an assumption based on prior experience, but it cannot be conclusive the way other methods of knowledge-acquisition are. There is a way to kind of jerry-rig scientific inquiry by the falsification method, but there is still an element of assumption with that.

3) Unless you’re a scientist who has conducted a experiment that arrived at a particular conclusion, every scientific fact has to be taken on authority–often by three or four degrees of separation from the scientist.

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Neil Degrasse Tyson Trolls the Human Race

He says we’re just too stupid for aliens to bother.

Too stupid, except for probably him, his fans, his publishing agent, the colleagues still in his good favors, etc. The idea gets some traction because he’s being half-humorous and it plays well with the scientism crowd as a safe criticism. It’s not aimed in a specific direction—humanity’s stupidity is something of which “we all know,” yet it doesn’t really apply to anyone in particular.

There are some large assumptions he has to make: that the aliens lack empathy towards sentient lifeforms who could benefit from advanced technology, or that they won’t be astonished to find other life at all in the universe and want to establish contact to find out more. Or they might find something for which they’d want to peacefully trade us.

Near the end he seems to be really satisfied at reading projection into Hawking’s statements. I don’t agree with Hawking either but I wouldn’t call it projection. It doesn’t matter. Mild controversy is good for niche celebrities to generate every few months (what’s up, Ann Coulter?) to maintain rhythmic media visibility.

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Website About Logical Fallacies Pretty Much Commits Logical Fallacy

Oopsies.

Oopsies.

The nicely-done Your Logical Fallacy Is commits an unfortunate logical fallacy:

Here are some reasons you might want to order one of these pretty great posters:

2. To put up in your kids’ bedroom so that they get all clever and whatnot, and are able to tell the difference between real news and faux news *cough*.

So meta!

The implication is that Fox News is biased and other sources are “real news,” a demonstrably false claim since major news outlets are intentionally biased. This is known as the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy.

That Fox News is biased isn’t untrue, but they are singled out because they are known for being biased in a different political direction than other networks. The dig doesn’t explicitly point out the network, but let’s not kid ourselves.

The good thing is that the poster is free of obvious fallacy, though you can tell the creator leans a certain way if you look at the examples. It makes sense, though. If you enshrine logic enough to make a poster about it, under the current intellectual climate of the world you’ll tend to lean closer to some belief systems than others.

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Gulliver on the Good Life

Not an example of the good life.

Not an example of the good life.

From Chapter 10 of Gulliver’s Travels:

No man could more verify the truth of these two maxims, “That nature is very easily satisfied;” and, “That necessity is the mother of invention.” I enjoyed perfect health of body, and tranquility of mind; I did not feel the treachery or inconstancy of a friend, nor the injuries of a secret or open enemy. I had no occasion of bribing, flattering, or pimping, to procure the favour of any great man, or of his minion; I wanted no fence against fraud or oppression: here was neither physician to destroy my body, nor lawyer to ruin my fortune; no informer to watch my words and actions, or forge accusations against me for hire: here were no gibers, censurers, backbiters, pickpockets, highwaymen, housebreakers, attorneys, bawds, buffoons, gamesters, politicians, wits, splenetics, tedious talkers, controvertists, ravishers, murderers, robbers, virtuosos; no leaders, or followers, of party and faction; no encouragers to vice, by seducement or examples; no dungeon, axes, gibbets, whipping-posts, or pillories; no cheating shopkeepers or mechanics; no pride, vanity, or affectation; no fops, bullies, drunkards, strolling whores, or poxes; no ranting, lewd, expensive wives; no stupid, proud pedants; no importunate, overbearing, quarrelsome, noisy, roaring, empty, conceited, swearing companions; no scoundrels raised from the dust upon the merit of their vices, or nobility thrown into it on account of their virtues; no lords, fiddlers, judges, or dancing-masters.

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Not Your Parents’ Government Collapse

Useful physical objects: not known to just disappear.

Useful physical objects: not known to just disappear.

I doubt the collapse of nations occur as they do in movies. Things would more likely end gradually, with a quiet, undramatic whimper (sorry, doomsday preppers, and people who think The Purge is realistic). This holds true if the collapse occurs via the government’s own hand—enterprise-wide, self-inflicted failures and arrogant largesse—as opposed to armed revolution.

Human minds were not created to handle the scope of what modern democratic or representative governments have become, and politicians are not made of more robust intellectual material than anyone else, and certainly no more robust moral material. There’s too many moving parts and moving parts within those moving parts for a group of oligarchs to maintain a sense of what’s going on. Free market economists relate this concept to their studies by calling it a “fatal conceit“—knowledge and expertise about things is too dispersed for it to be centrally controlled, and the fatal conceit is the phenomenon that those in power assume the proper accumulation of relevant knowledge to craft “effective policy,” which is state-speak for “the most productive direction to point our guns.”

The point is, in certain circumstances, like America’s, the collapse of the government won’t mean much to people. We can go on living our lives and deal with issues that come up, and the people that have become attached to their precious state will have to resolve it internally as they would the death of a loved one. But practically speaking little will change in their actual lives, because government collapse does not equal social or economic collapse: roads will somehow be built, security will somehow be provided, the food will somehow end up on plates—all assuming there is a demand for it in the first place. Or something may come along that will render technology once used by governments obsolete and unwanted. The demand for whale fat fell dramatically when the light bulb was produced.

Don’t ask me how. I only know how to design a usable website and write with some lucidity. But think about it: there’s millions of people in this country (and even more in other countries, so I’m told) that will be the same person tomorrow if the government vanished overnight. I’m sure someone, somewhere will figure out a way to solve a problem. It’s not rocket science, unless you’re launching rockets—which you don’t need a government to do.

The further point is, all of the resources that the government owns—buildings, vehicles, weapons, computers, politicians with a salvageable skill for the real world. Stuff doesn’t just disappear. All these things go somewhere. Where do they go?

Images of non-disappearing objects stolen from Internet websites.

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