I’m still here

Just very quiet. Apparently that’s me in a nutshell. Either I have nothing to say, or I explode with a torrent of useless babble. I wonder if this blog counts as a failed experiment yet, or can I salvage it, like I will with my roommate’s saltwater tank?

Does anyone out there read Russian? I got a comment in Russian the other day, with a link to Tzeentch only knows where. I figure it’s probably spam, but I don’t want to throw it out immediately.

People are funny

Well, they at least make me laugh, which is close enough. Got a hit the other day from the search string “does uncooked pasts expire.” I see what happened there, and it’s the sort of spelling error I make all the time, but it got me thinking. “How does one cook a past?” One can let a memory or thought simmer, is that the same? Would “past” be an acceptable synonym for “memory”? If so, does thinking over a memory qualify as cooking it, and does this in any way affect the shelf life of said memory? I would expect an uncooked past, by this definition to expire much faster than a cooked one, but a cooked past would probably taste a little different than a raw one. I guess that would be the point of cooking one, wouldn’t it?

Just something that got me thinking.

Issues

My mother, despite being a devout Catholic her entire life, has done more to foster a love of learning, and a need to question, than any other person in my life. By actually answering my questions, she encouraged me to ask more, which, eventually, led to my atheism. Ironic, but, thank you, Mom.

I have two issues in mind right now, and both of these were raised while I was in Catholic school. The questions were, 1)”Why did they use the cross for execution?” and “Why did the pharisees oppose Jesus?”

Both of these questions had previously been answered by my mother, and I had forgotten. The first, “It was an easy way to put up a human on display.” The second, “They, like all people, were afraid of change.” What did my teachers, a nun and a priest say? The first, “Well, we use the cross as a symbol because Jesus died on it.” The second, “Well, the pharisees show up a lot in Matthew, and they frequently oppose Jesus.”

That was it. Both questions were completely avoided or totally misinterpreted. I hope it was the latter, but the former seems more likely on the second question. This has bothered me for over eight years. An easy, sensible, likely right, answer was there, but the priest, who should know the answer, avoided the question entirely.

Just wanted to vent.

Thinkies

Chili. Specifically, chili with beans. Chili, clearly, is not the beans. However, the dish is frequently called “chili con carne,” literally “chili with meat,” and can often be made vegetarian. So it’s clearly not the meat. In that case, what is chili? If it has neither beans nor meat, what is left?

Sadly, as interesting and fun as the original thought train was, research led to the conclusion (seen at the Wikipedia article above) that it is, in fact, in the chili is in the chiles, which was the original term. It’s mostly in the mixture of spices, with things like beans and meat being added for substance as much as for flavor. Nonetheless, it can be seen, even in this mundane example, that no individual part can be said to be the essence, and that the essence is an emergent property of the parts when put together.

On Paradox

I call myself an atheist, one who lacks belief in gods, and at the same time, I call myself a Discordian, one who worships and honors the randomness and absurdity inherent in all things, personified as the Greek goddess Eris. Does anyone see the issue here?

The thing is, there really isn’t a problem. I may call myself a Discordian, but at the end of  the day, I recognize that I revere a principle more than any personality, and I mostly find it useful as a motivation and explanation for my behavior.

The even shorter version is that I am morally Discordian, but not in terms of faith. I hope. The truth is, I find myself thanking Zeus for most things that go right, and Tzeentch in cases of traffic. I wonder if perhaps I need a religious framework in order to function, which raises the question of Why. I have two primary hypotheses. First, perhaps my Catholic upbringing has inculcated a sense of need in me (hypothesis a). I might merely have been trained in religion, which would make me act in a religious manner. The second hypothesis is that I might have some “flaw” in me which necessitates religion(hypothesis b). It is possible that I am biologically predisposed toward religion.

The testing of these two hypotheses will take many years, and be difficult for me to do on my own. It would require me to objectively quantify my religious behaviors and record their trend over time. I would have to determine the predictions from each hypothesis, and measure the relative success  of those predictions over time. I shall attempt to begin doing that now.

The simplest prediction, which covers both, is that over time, my religious tendencies will either hold steady, or decrease. If they decrease, it is more likely that hypothesis a is correct, and that it’s all in my head. If they remain at the same level, AND I’m working to decrease them, it is more likely that hypothesis b  is correct. If I have made no effort to curb my religious tendencies, then them remaining the same is no indication either way, while a decrease still indicates an environmental source of these tendencies.

Despite wandering heavily, this is still more coherent than my average thought process.

I am Skeptic

You’ve seen this post a billion times, by a billion authors. If you don’t want to read it again, don’t.

I define myself as a skeptic. This means, to me, that my default position on any question should be, “Prove it.” It doesn’t mean I automatically doubt everything, it means I don’t accept claims without evidence. I don’t accept incredible claims without incredible evidence. If you tell me that things fall, I’m likely to believe it. I’ve seen things fall, and have seen mounds of evidence in favor of the law of Gravity. When you tell me the Earth is spherical, despite appearances otherwise, I need a little more evidence, as it’s kind of an incredible claim. Fortunately, there is tons of evidence from multiple sources that show this, making it an accepted truth. The case is much the same for the claims about the structure of the Solar System. On the other hand, claims of psychic vision and the like do not have as much evidence, and the claims tend to falter under even casual observation, making them rejected under current evidence.

This is where the skeptic differentiates from the denialist and the doubter. When sufficient evidence comes to light in favor of a proposition, a skeptic will change his/her position. The denialist, on the other hand, refuses to change their opinion. For a good example of this, look at the evolution/creation ‘debates.’ The default position is that everything is as it has been since it started. This is the simplest position, and was the accepted position for some time. In the mid 1800’s, Charles Darwin proposed the idea of evolution, which is best paraphrased as “descent with modification.” When a thing propagates, it will make things like it, with some wiggle room for discrepancies. You are like your parents, but a little different. These discrepancies make the various descendants more or less likely to survive, and the ones more likely to survive pass their discrepancies on, and so forth. All these little differences add up over time, leading to speciation and other frabjous diversifications. This made all of the evidence make sense, and since then more and more evidence has come to light supporting the laws and theories of evolution, and, after a small scuffle at the outset, the scientific community accepted it as a factual representation of the natural world. I, and any sensible skeptic, find the evidence more than convincing, and accept evolution as the source of biological diversity. A denialist or doubter (as I’m using the terms) has decided that evolution must be false, for whatever reason, and either ignores the evidence, or attempts to explain it away. No evidence is good enough, and no amount of evidence will convince them otherwise.

This position cannot hold for all things, however. At some point, positions on issues become so simplified and basic, no proof can be constructed, or they are unprovable but necessary beliefs. Mine are that (1)what I experience is real, barring an outside influence (that is, I’m not hallucinating, at default state), and (2) empirical, inductive reasoning is valid. That is, if it’s held true in the past, it will continue to do so without outside influence. Sort of a Newton’s First Law of Reality. These can’t actually be proven, and are both necessary for anything else to be proven in any manner that is useful to my mind, and the mind of anyone I’ve ever met.

I can’t think of anything else to say at all. If I do, this entry’s getting edited, likely without warning or notice.

Religious belief as poison

That’s not just raw offensiveness, it actually has metaphorical value.

Religious belief has lately been a poison in my mental system. Years ago, when I became Neo-Pagan, I though I had freed myself of Christianity, and when I finally declared my atheism, I thought I had left gods behind completely. Unfortunately, I haven’t told my family yet, so I still go to Mass with them when I’m living there, and it’s been slowly infecting my mind. The casual acceptance of the “fact” of God’s existence is a subtle poison, which corrodes through reason, and worms its way deep into the brain, until it becomes an assumption you hold, and you can’t get rid of it.

This, more than anything I’ve ever experienced, demonstrates clearly the need for people to come forth about atheism. By hiding it, we make it taboo, and people can casually assume you believe in some deiform entity. This allows the poison to work quietly on those who freed themselves of it, or who are too young to have built immunities yet.

I realize the hypocrisy in advocating openness and not practicing it with my own family, and for that, I apologize, but the point still holds.

The only antidote for the poison is regular doses of Critical Thought, under which the vine of religious belief tends to wither and fade. When in doubt, ask questions, and don’t accept non-answers. Truth will out.

Peace,

PMIEF1