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An Atheist’s Perspective: The Interaction Problem

March 11, 2014 Leave a comment

…”Likewise; thou canst ne’er
Believe the sacred seats of gods are here
In any regions of this mundane world;
Indeed, the nature of the gods, so subtle,
So far removed by intelligence of mind
And since they’ve ever eluded touch and thrust
Of human hands, they cannot grasp
Aught tangible to us. For what may not
Itself be touched in turn can never be touched.”
–Lucretius, On The Nature of Things Book. I

In philosophy the interaction problem is usually reserved for issues of mind-body. In other words if a person were to believe that the mind is immaterial and that the body is material the problem that they must overcome is that of interaction. How does the non-substance interact with substance? For materialists, this presents no problem whatsoever, the mind is made of the same stuff as the body. For everyone else the problem rears its ugly head to the point where even bringing up the question elicits groans. The groans which say, “yes, yes, there is that problem and no I have no answer for it.”

I would add that this problem works against the religious of the world as well…at least those that believe a single divine entity created all of the cosmos. My reasoning is thus: that if there is a god that god must be physical or not. If it is physical then it must be bound by the rules of the physical universe as all things are. Now I am not making the outrageous claim that it is some sort of super person, basically human but larger or more grand somehow. It could be anything, it could be a nebulae some sort of giant star, or perhaps even a network of various objects ala the god computer in Futurama. No matter what the case, physical beings have physical rules. It would fill in various gaps in their explanations for how the world functions as it does and more importantly why. Yet it presents other problems, such as decay.

“Again perceives not
How stones are also conquered by Time?
Not how the lofty towers ruin down,
And boulders crumble? Not how shrines of gods
And idols crack out worn? Nor how indeed
The holy influence hath yet no power
There to postpone the terminals of fate,
Or headway make ‘gainst Nature’s fixed decrees?”

If a thing exists in the physical world, then it must end eventually as all things, even plastic, eventually succumb to the omnipotent cold hand of time. It also eliminates the mechanism by which it hears prayers since we can gauge pretty handily how far a sound travels and that once it leaves the atmosphere sounds die. The issues of a literal physical being are such that it is denied by almost all theists.

Therefore if a thing be not material it must be immaterial. For the principle of non-contradiction binds all things (when dealing in such absolutes). If this god is an immaterial spirit then how it interacts with the material is a giant gap that is missed by those seeking to defend the existence of such a being. Their typical solution is to claim that all things are possible with god, but this is unsatisfactory because the conclusion of such a claim is that the universe has no laws. Laws of Thermodynamics, gravity, acceleration, etc. do not bind the universe because at any point those laws could change.

Further, if it is true that, in the beginning there was nothing. Then we must ask by what material did the being create everything? Ex nihilo, non nihilo–“from nothing there is nothing” as my friend’s tattoo once read. Matter and energy can never be created or destroyed yet this is clearly what the immaterial god is claimed to have done.

Adding a special case to this being merely complicates the issue in violation of Ockham’s Razor. Since no predictive element could be ascribed to any of the universal rules. It would make no sense as further questions are raised as to why this one being can violate the speed of light, but no other thing can (the answer: because he’s god is not an answer but merely question begging). Further there would need to be some kind of system of rules for how the immaterial world operates, and perhaps there is no god, but a whole host of “gods” which exist in this immaterial plane.

It is the consistency of the universe to have these rules which not only allow us to produce food, make medicine, but also to do the very writing I am doing now. Whether by keystroke or pen, knowing how things are going to happen is how we derive the fruits of our rationality. By claiming that such an interaction problem does not exist and yet that this god-being does is to claim a contradiction.

Bullshit.

May 20, 2010 Leave a comment

There are many things in this world that I don’t understand. Mysteries of the universe and the untold depths of the sea hide things that boogie the mind, so as much as some people may claim I’m closed minded I contend quite the opposite. However, I’m going to make a stand right here and call this man’s claim bullshit.

No water or food for over 70 years? No.

Sure I could just sit back and agree with the medical doctors who state that without replenishing water in the body his blood would literally thicken and his heart would fail trying to pump something the consistency of gravy through it’s veins. I don’t however have to do that, because for some reason the enlightened Prahlad Jani still needs to gargle. For what possible reason does he need to gargle unless it be to take in liquid, no matter how minute that amount could be.

I also enjoy the fact that he is bathing too, it’s almost as if the observers could not conceive of a person urinating in a bath tub either. There’s a lot to work with here, such as the 14 day study. Why not make it a month? If he were to live a month that would be something IRA member Sean McKenna once lasted 53 days without food…of course he lapsed in and out of a coma during that time and also was able to ingest both water and salt but that seems to be the record.

Despite the fact that most people want to believe in the sincerity and innocence of the Eastern Religions there’s is no different than ours. They have as many shysters, con men, and frauds over there as we do over here. His claim of deriving his ability from a goddess at a young age is no different than Marjoe Gortner who was claimed to conduct miracles and inspiration from God at a young age (it turned out to be a fraud, by his own omission). Don’t let the exotic aspect of the Indian subcontinent fool you, this guy will be found out and exposed.

“Holiday”

October 12, 2009 Leave a comment

I have mixed feelings for Columbus Day. Historically, for me, it has always meant a day off from school and when teaching it meant a paid day off from school. The post office and banks aren’t open so it also means that there are somethings that I cannot do today, which is also nice. These things which I experience with fondness are tempered by inability to realize that we this day is such complete bullshit.

I’m not going to take the side of the indigenous people and discuss the genocide, slave trading, and imperialism that followed shortly after Columbus landed in the Western Hemisphere. We know these things happened but that’s not my issue. That would be like lamenting the invention of the printing press because eventually Dianetics would be printed on one, or the invention of the internet because some nerds can claim that they have Asperger’s Syndrome in order to justify their inability to maintain normal human relationships while at the same time feeling superior to everyone else.

My issue with Christopher Columbus is that he is one of history’s greatest douchebags having garnered credit for something that he never actually did. And afterall isn’t that what defines a douchebag?

He never discovered that the world was round. If he had, it would have been quite the accomplishment but he didn’t. The plain fact is that Aristotle way back in BC times had already proven this: “–But in eclipses the outline is always curved: and since, it is the interposition of the earth that makes the eclipse, the form of this line will be caused by the form of the earth’s surface, which is therefore spherical.” De Caleo 294b 27-31.

Also: “There is much change, I mean, in the stars which are overhead, and the stars seen are different, as one moves northward or southward. Indeed there are some stars seen in Egypt and in the neighborhood of Cyprus which are not seen in the northerly regions.” De Caleo 297b35-298a1-4. In other words you don’t see the same stars in the South as you do in the North, an effect you only get on a ball.

Finally: “Also these mathematicians who try to calculate the size of the Earth’s circumference arrive at the figure of 400,000 stades.” De Caleo 298a15-17. This last quote is important because of the word “circumference” which measures the border of an orb or circle.* The whole series of lies that we were taught about Columbus being a brave soul because he tried to prove against the common thinking that the world was flat has not the tiniest shred of truth to it.

Not only that, he didn’t discover anything. Again this isn’t the whole argument regarding the natives, I think we all know that I can’t discover your house if you are already living in it. No, what I am referring to is the fact that the so-called “New World” had already been discovered by Europeans five centuries earlier by Lief Erickson in 1000 a.d. (or depending on whether Greenland is in North America or not 982). Although October 9th is a congressional recognized holiday celebrating the event we don’t honor or remember it in anyway.

To summarize Christopher Columbus didn’t do anything. He landed on an island that he thought was India despite the fact that it would have meant that India didn’t have the spices, silks, and other sundries the Europeans had been trading with in that region for centuries. Columbus died, after a brief stint in prison for tyrannical governorship and embezzlement, still convinced that he landed on the Eastern coast of Asia. So he was also a moron, and for some reason we have a federal holiday for him.

*It’s also quite flawed because 400,000 stades=approximately 9,987 nautical miles. The actual circumference of the Earth is 24,901.55 miles. 

Categories: history, iconoclast

Old Wrinkly White Guys

February 20, 2009 Leave a comment

I’ve been watching alot of USA lately. Since this is the channel that has the reruns of House I’ve been seeing commercials for a great deal of their original programming. While the shows are a bit derivative (Monk=a more neurotic Sherlock Holmes, Burn Notice=a three person A-Team) they all have one thing in common: they focus primarily on character shows rather than plot shows. Every one has a unique character(s) with some odd quirk.

In keeping with their slogan, “Characters welcome,” they have an award for unique people called “Character Approved.” One of these people is Jimmy Wales the founder of Wikipedia. My disdain for Wikipedia is well known to anyone having taken a class of mine. Using Wikipedia as a source resulted in a guaranteed full letter grade drop, I never made an exception to this rule though I suppose I could forsee the possibility. My issue with Wikipedia is in its open source for submissions, there is no editting barrier between author and publication, which can lead to opinions being attributed as facts at the best while sometimes information can be quite erroneous. In one class I demonstrated how unreliable it is by inserting the phrase “and was quite the douchebag” into the middle of the entry on Rene Descartes [to their credit I have to mention that it only lasted a couple of days before it was removed].

So Jimmy Wales is one of the characters that USA has deemed fit for their award. During commercial breaks the channel does a short inventory with him at a row of computers in what looks to be a public library. He gives a self-aggrandizing view of Wikipedia, telling us how the site removes control of history from “let’s say it, wrinkly old white guys…” As if it was a big secret that no one wanted to say but everyone knew.

This obviouse attempt to ignoble the site by getting ultra leftist street cred is bullshit. First off, who are these old wrinkly white guys in control of the world’s information? The internet killed them (if they ever existed) off, in fact the printing press pretty much eliminated a purposeful lack of information. If there really were some cabal of people out there trying to suppress information that was subversive would A People’s History of the United States have ever been published, or Catcher in the Rye? If I want to know something, then the only thing really hampering that ability is myself, not some secrect sect with their hand on the button.

And that’s about where i tuned him out. I have a magazine cut out from Time in which he is asked to convince a child’s teacher to allow him to use Wikipedia as a source. His answer, “I would agree with your teachers that that isn’t the right way to use Wikipedia. The site is a wonderful starting point for research. But it’s only a starting point because there’s always a chance that there’s something wrong, and you should check your sources if you are writing a paper.”

Which contradicts his “old white guy” theory. Even in his words you can’t thumb your nose at the system, because you still have to check with what those white guys approved. Why, because his shit is admittedly unreliable.

This is, of course, if you want articles of interest on studies like philosophy, literature, psychology, or history. Those articles that are not plagiarized straight out of a text book are usually opinionated. None of those articles should be trusted. The only reliable entries that I would trust without questions would be entries on “Jedi,” “Dragon Ball Z,” any random 80s show (the entry for Magnum PI is impressive), “GI Joe,” or “He-Man”. These entries, and their related links, dwarf almost any other entries of non-pop culture phenomenon. Way to go Jimmy Wales, you took knowledge out of the hands of people that made it their life’s work to study and instead handed it to the nerds.

Iconoclast IV: Boba Fett

September 16, 2008 Leave a comment

My hate for the Star Wars movies is well known to my former students and to those with whom I know on a real life basis. When I was a child I used to like Star Wars, when I was a teenager I liked it as well. The prequels reminded me what they are: kids’ movies. I still have the nostalgia for the sense of wonder and fantasy that they instilled in me then, and for the most part I can watch the movies on television up until the commercial break. Certain characters or scenes pop up and I smile. There is one character however that gets my blood up, that character is the bounty hunter Boba Fett.

In the tradition of what I did with Superman, Descartes, and the movie Scarface several blogs back, I am going to present my argument for why Boba Fett is completely lame.

Premise I: He doesn’t do anything. In the original trilogy we don’t see the character until Empire. In the remastered series (1997) he has as a cameo, a literal walk by, in A New Hope. If you chart his actions in the movies you will find that he is rather inconsequential to the plot. If you replaced Boba Fett with any of the other bounty hunters in the movies it wouldn’t change anything. Anyone could have done what he did, nothing inherent to the character gave him an edge or a unique perspective in regard to the story.

Premise II: Not only does he not do anything, he doesn’t accomplish anything either. Sure, he has the wit to see that maybe the Millenium Falcon would hide on the Star Destroyer rather than escape it, but that is it. That is the only thing the bounty hunter does. One might want to say that he captured Han Solo, but I would counter by asking, did he? He followed the Falcon to Cloud City, but as Lando remarks upon revealing his treachery that the Empire, “arrived a few days before you.” Sure maybe Boba Fett radioed them with their direction, but that’s like winning a fight by calling the cops.

He doesn’t capture Solo &C, Vader does. He doesn’t bring cuff and shackle Solo, Vader does. In a sense, Boba Fett just made a phone call, and the evidence for that is specious at best. If he did, that means he divined (all concede that he could be Force sensitive) their direction, radioed the Empire, who then arrived before the Falcon. If Lando hadn’t made the comment it might seem more probable that Fett did help out. Since he did, more than likely the Empire already had agents there who called out and Fett was the first Bounty Hunter to the scene. In Jedi he does one thing…

Premise III: Lamest death ever. In Jedi, Fett is seen in Jabba’s lair in an apparent role as bodyguard. Or he is just being held on retainer, either way it’s work. Fast forwarding a little bit, when Luke Skywalker as Jedi Knight begins to fight Jabba’s soldiers, Boba stands idle until finally deciding that it is appropriate to earn his pay as a bodyguard. What happens? He gets beaten by a self-appointed Jedi and a half blind Han Solo. Solo, who accidentally kills him I might add. Fett can shoot a rope around a Jedi but when it comes to avoiding accidental debris he fails.

Premise IV: He’s a genomic failure…like his father before him. Jango Fett couldn’t kill Queen/Senator Amidala, so why should we expect anything more out of his progeny? Let me restate that: Jango Fett couldn’t kill Natalie Portman.* Boba Fett is made from the same genes as Jango, he’s a clone. The same genetic stock that makes up Boba makes up the Storm Troopers. The storm troopers couldn’t shoot ice at a hockey arena. The systemic failure in their genome means that Boba Fett is actually incapable of being anything other than randomly lucky.

Conclusion: Boba Fett is a character who is only interesting in the minds of the fans. If he was a character in any other movie he would clearly be forgotten. So what, if anything explains his popularity? It is obvious, his tailor. Fett, dressed in clothing other than his armor is a non-entity. As kids (re:boys) the cool suit of armor is what attracts us to him, as we get older we realize that this is kind of lame so we have to invent stories around him to justify an earlier fascination. He’s a tool plain and simple.

*Of course Gary Oldman couldn’t kill Natalie Portman either so that might not be saying much. At least Oldman didn’t sub-contract the work out to someone else though.

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