Monday, October 29, 2012

Noah's Warming?

We all heard the debate between the climate change deniers, and those that accept the science (otherwise known as the ones that are correcty). But there is one group that really takes the cake. I'm speaking of those that claim that global warming, and thusly polar ice cap melting causing a rise sea levels is outright false because of one story in the Bible. That's right, the story of Noah's ark. You know how it goes, the Abrahamic god is pissed at his creation for being so sinful, so he selects one family to build a boat, charges them with stocking it with two of every animal and seven pairs of every 'clean' animal, forty days and nights of rain flood the Earth past it's highest peak, all on the ark are safe on a year long zoo cruise until the waters subside and all are safe. But after the flood comes
this.
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

-Genesis 8:8-11
Yup, God promised not to send another global flood to destroy the Earth. Then some believers take that quote and shout that this verse proves that global warming is a hoax. Obviously there are problems with this.  First, they just ignore the evidence that clearly suggests that human activity is playing a role toward warming the planet. Secondly, climate change does predict rising sea levels, but it's coastal flooding not a worldwide flood that is predicted. Obviously these people are ill informed and simply ignore the facts. Which is obvious when we consider the fact that... 3) The global flood of Noah never happened!

•There isn't enough water on or around Earth.
•The rate of rainfall would have to be a constant wall of water (far greater and long lasting than any tropical downpours).
•The ark wouldn't be structurally sound for the load it was supposed to carry.
•It was way too small to carry even a fraction of the animals that have existed, let alone food for all.
•The mixing of salt and fresh water would have been lethal to most aquatic life (whales and fish on the ark?).
•If the water truly crested above Mt. Everest, the cold temperatures would have killed many of the species aboard.
•Additionally, the prolonged exposure to the thin air at that elevation would also be lethal.
•There's the problem of how animals from throughout the world converged on one location, and then found their way from one location to the farthest corners of the globe again.
•Had the Earth been covered with water, there would be no plant life remaining.
•Even if the ark also had a store of seeds, the soil would be far too waterlogged to grow anything for quite some time.
•Repopulating the Earth would have to occur through incest (again), which wouldn't allow for the genetic diversity we see today.
•And most obviously, the Egyptians kept written records before and though the time the flood was said to of happened. Odd that the good people of Egypt wouldn't realize they were all drowned under a global flood.

The conclusion is obvious, and that's that the flood of Noah never happened. Yet there are those that believe that this story literally took place, and feel justified denying global warming because of a promise in a fairytale. Global climate change is a very real issue, that all should come together on. Rather, we are faced with the unfortunate problem of people denying climate change for reasons as silly as this. Hopefully we can turn the tide before things get too out of hand.

-Brain Hulk

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fate

Fate, destiny, the idea that the future has been predetermined and that we are just along for the ride. This is one idea , to which, I certainly don't prescribe. This idea is common in religions. The notion that their god has a plan all laid out for them.The funny thing is that some also feel they have free will and that their deity is omniscient, and planned their lives. These are things in direct conflict with one another... but I touched on this in an earlier posting.

This idea is also prevalent in astrology. The absurd idea that the view of the stars in the sky somehow not only decides out futures, but also defines the very person that we are. I feel that these ideas do a disservice to the reality of life. The idea that your future is predetermined shortchanges the very real decisions we make, and the work we do on a daily basis. If my future truly was 'written in the stars', than what's the point in working hard? What's the point in trying to make good decisions? And what's the point of trying to live a good life? If the premise of fate is correct, no matter what I do, my life will turn out the same. This is obviously not the case.

Another area where I don't agree with 'destiny' is the idea of a soul mate. Some say that it's a romantic idea, but I wager that the alternative is much more romantic. The idea of a soul mate presupposes that there is one perfect person out there for you. And a deity created this person exclusively for you. They are your perfect match, you will meet and fall in love, no ifs, ands, or buts.Think about that. You have a match that is crafted just for you. You are to meet no matter what. And you are to fall in love no matter what.

The alternative is that there are no soul mates. That no one was created especially for you, and there is no guarantee of finding love. So, when you do find that very special kind of love, doesn't that make it all the more special? You didn't have to meet, you didn't have to fall in love, but you did! Look at the number of people in the world and the size of this globe. The chances of meeting that specific special someone, when you did, how you did, be lucky enough to court them, get to know them better than anyone and possibly marry them are so small. Change one thing at some point in your life and you may have never meet at all. But even in the face of those great odds, you met, fell in love, and
grow a connection stronger than can be properly expressed. None of it had to happen... but it did!

To me, finding that special connection in the face of those far odds is far more meaningful and special than a relationship that was going to happen, like it or not. Just like the person that bets the long shot and wins is filled with unbridled excitement, I feel that the long shot of seemingly perfect love is amazingly exciting. Those of us that live the long odds of life and are lucky enough to find someone in this sea of people that we can love this much, and feel the need to spend our life with is something that is also amazingly exciting, lucky and, to me, outstandingly meaningful.

-Brain Hulk

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Language/Cussing



The other day, I was asked about if non-religious people should refrain from religion related cursing, and my opinion on cursing in general. In my opinion, it all depends on the context. If every other word you say on a regular basis is one that has been deemed a 'curse word', then you will probably come off as ill-cultured. But if you hurt yourself and shout an exclamation, or are talking about something that makes you angry and use a word to display your true emotions on the topic, then I feel that such utterances are perfectly fine, and understandable.

I am against the vilifying of words no matter what. Words are simply a collection of sounds that we have given meanings to. There is nothing inherently 'bad' or 'good' about a word until we give it meaning. And like I said, intent and context are paramount. If you are asked what you had for lunch, and your reply is "I had a f***ing sandwich, you f***ing c**t.", than such usage would typically be considered obscene and unnecessary. However, if someone punches you in the face and you yell "F**k that hurt! F**k you, you c**t!", such a reaction would seem warranted. Same words used, yet context makes all the difference.

As for saying religious swear words, Ive said it before and I'll say it again. Don't worry yourself about it. Some will say it's inconsistent, but I don't see the issue. There is no rule that a non-believer can no longer utter the word god or Jesus if they don't believe. If that was so, parents could never tell their kids about the tooth fairy, Easter Bunny, or Santa. What about Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn? No one couldn't read that book unless we accepted that they were real people first. Also, the believers who will seize on it as a claim that we can't say that are guilty of the same 'crime' they accuse us of. They all still say Thursday, even though it is named after Thor. In fact, most of the days of the week and months are named after gods or festivals that they don't believe in either. Similar thinking goes in to atheist's celebrating Christmas. All the original meanings have been co-opted and destroyed through the generations. It's what it means to you that's important. After all... What's in a name?

-BH

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Worth the gamble.

Here in my home state of Maryland there are a few questions on the ballot that are getting a good bit or discussion going. One is about marriage equality (Question 6), and some of my previous writings should clearly tell you that I am very much in favor of affording same sex couples the same rights that my wife and I possess. Another is gambling (Question 7), and the subject of today's post. In short, the question is posing the building of a gambling resort and allowing existing 'slots only' casinos to add table games. I know people that are against it, and when you switch on a local television channel just about every other add it either for or against it. The the web adds that I see daily also join the debate regularly. Trouble is, the 'problems' I've heard presented against passing this seem to come up quite short to me. Lets review...

School Funding
Question 7 is touted as a money maker for education. The vague claim that it will generate millions of dollars for schools is mentioned as a reason to vote 'yes'. However, those against it argue that the money will not be guaranteed to go toward education, and that even if it does go to the education trust, that they can and have take it back to cover budget shortfalls. Okay, noted. But lets think about this for a second. The intent is for revenue to go toward education, but it can't be guaranteed to go or stay there and I say "So what?". More money in the state budget means more flexibility. That means that more can be put toward education, or it can also go elsewhere if needed. I hate the idea of money being taken from education, and would love for every dime to go to our schools, but let's be realistic. More money can only be a good thing no matter where it goes. If the funding goes elsewhere, that will mean that the funding for education would remain the same. But, that would also mean that there is more funding to go around and that none, or less, would have to be robbed from the education budget. Something that would be welcome since millions have been taken from education to be used toward other ends in the past. The way I see it, it's a win-win either way, and has the potential to be a very big win for education if serious work is put toward fixing the state budget so that most of this new funding can stay in education.

Jobs
Question 7 also touts that it will create thousands of jobs. Those against Question 7 state that there are no guarantees that the construction jobs needed to build this casino would go to an in state company or Maryland residents. True, but where's the problem that makes this a deal breaker? Lets look at the different possibilities.

1) The contract goes to a local company and all the workers are local as well. That's the best case scenario that gets Marylanders working and keeps all the money in the state.

2) The contract goes to an out of state contractor, who employs local residents to take on the job. This one splits the money up. The company will be the one getting paid by the casino, but then a good portion of it will be passed on to the Marylanders that are being employed by the project. Also, while the contractor may be out of state, they will likely be using local suppliers for lumber and all other construction materials needed.

3) The contract goes to an out of state contractor who brings along an out of state crew. This possibility means the least amount on money stays in Maryland, but a good portion will still stay in state in one way or another. Just like the previous possibility, the lumber and all other building supplies will still come from local suppliers. If the contractor does bring his own crew along, it will mean no, or few, construction jobs for Marylanders, but there are still other areas that would keep money in the state. If an out of state crew is taking on the job, they will need someplace to stay through the duration of the project. This means additional revenue for local hotels and motels. These workers will also need to eat, so local markets and restaurants would receive an up tick in sales. Also, when they aren't working, they may want some recreation. This means money for local theaters and shops. So even the worst case situation doesn't leave Maryland at a financial loss.

Furthermore, what about permanent jobs? After all, someone is going to have to work there once the casino is built. Some claim that it would create four thousand jobs, but opponents say that it will only create about two and a quarter thousand. The way I see it, creating 2,250 jobs it a lot better than creating 0 jobs. Obviously, I'd prefer 4,000 new jobs to be created to get Marylanders working, but I'll take 2,250jobs before I take 0.

Economy
This is one area that the 'no' crowd are silent on. It is estimated that $550 million leave Maryland annually to out of state casinos. A premium quality local competitor would likely cause a good portion of that money to stay in Maryland. There is also the added bonus that this Maryland casino could draw in money from out of state in the same fashion that out of sate casinos are currently drawing money out of Maryland.

When I look at these points, I don't see the huge outlying negatives that those greatly opposed to Question 7 seem to feel are glaring. All I see is positives and potential. This is all coming from someone that does not enjoy or even see the point or 'fun' in gambling. If built, I will never set foot in the resort casino, but at the same time, I see something that will at the very least give people jobs and make Maryland more money, and at the best could give education the added funding it needs and deserves.

-BH

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Moral, naturally.

Many believers claim that morality can only arise from a deity. They claim that an 'objective standard' can not arise from a naturalistic standpoint, thus making it subjective. I contend that there is no objective morality in either framework. This is because objective morality is an illusion... it doesn't exist. By definition, objective morality is never changing. What's good is always good, and what's bad is always bad. We see this in our regular lives. Most anyone will tell you that killing another is wrong. Yet there are cases like war and self defense where this otherwise taboo act is deemed permissible. The same is true for the Bible. We are told not to kill, yet elsewhere killing is sanctioned with approval or ordered. The very fact that the god of the Bible can change what is good and what is bad to fit his needs actually shows that even that is a subjective morality.

But the issue at hand isn't if there is objective morality, and rather how morality can exist without the need for a lawgiver. There are a few issues that we can take into consideration.

Empathy: The ability to feel empathetic towards others plays a huge role. For example, I wouldn't
want to be killed, so he probably wouldn't either. I wouldn't like it if someone stole from me, so she probably wouldn't like it either. It hurts if someone hits me and I don't like it, so hitting someone else will likely cause them pain and ill feeling as well. Now, people don't typically ask themselves these questions, but are rather processed subconsciously. This ability to put ourselves in another's shoes, and consideration of their thoughts and feelings can easily drive what we now consider moral decision-making.

Group/social benefit: We are social creatures, and we live in groups. Because of this fact, we can bring about moral norms in order to improve and sustain the well being of the group, society, country, species... Generally, killing one another is bad for the safety and success of the group. Thus, it is deemed as something bad for the group... immoral. Stealing from other group members can also lead to conflict or the survival of those individuals (if we're talking about food theft from early ancestors). Lying about a threat can waste valuable energy and resources, cause a panic where others may get hurt, etc. All things that hurt the well being and success potential of the collective. Since things that hurt that potential are to be avoided and doing so becomes the social norm, you have another pathway to morality.

Tit-for-Tat: This one is the selfish one. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. Basically, do helpful things for others in hopes that they will return the favor. Share a scrap of food here, in expectancy that it will be reciprocated when they have extra, or you are in need. While the initial act may be helpful to the recipient, even if the drive isn't selfless. In this way, it can lead to acts that would be considered moral, but not really the formation of morality itself.

NOPE! Not even close!
Those are a few considerations one has to make when one is interested in seeing how morality arises without a deity deciding the rules. As I hope you can see, natural morality is very possible an is quite likely.

That said, I don't care what a person assigns as the source of their morality so long as they are practicing acceptable social morality. It is also nice when people realize that there no moral absolutes, just the limits that we as individuals and a group deem acceptable.

In fact, natural morality can be better than a supposedly unchanging objective morality when it claims certain things are moral, even in the face of our modern morality. Death for apostasy, stoning disobedient children, gays are abhorrent, marry your rapist, etc, etc. If that is supposed to be a divine moral standard, I'll take our carefully considered morals any day.

-Brain Hulk

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Omniscience

Omniscience: the capacity to know everything infinitely, all knowing, infinitely wise...

This is a trait often attributed to deities. The Christian god is no exception. Yet is seems that the words of believers and their own holy book fly in contrast to this claim as I will illustrate.

Free Will: Many a theist will tell you that God has a perfect divine plan for us but that we also have free will. Meaning that we may make choices that go contrary to his plan. The problem here is that if he is omniscient, before he ever makes us or the plan, he already knows what choices we will eventually make. This voids any perceived choices that we may appear to have. He literally created you knowing what your choices would be, and then created a plan knowing what your choices would be. So the idea that we have real choices within the plan that will determine our fate voids the claimed omniscience of said deity.

Tower of Babel: In this story, the people plan to build a tower to Heaven. Well God was worried that they would succeed. Worried? Surely and omniscient deity would know beforehand that they would fail... Know that Heaven is not literally atop the clouds... Know that current building techniques would not allow them to get nearly that high, and that if the tower got high enough that the thinner air would prevent the workers from going any further.

Facts: One would expect an all knowing deity to realize that Pi does not equal three, and that bats are mammals and not birds. Theses are just two simple fact that all school children should know, yet an all wise deity seemingly does not. There are many more, but I feel this is enough to illustrate this point.

Age Restrictions: This is a question that came up in a discussion on another site. A theist asked why it is in chapter six of Genesis that God says that no man shall live past 120 years. But after that there are people that live past that age. The theistic explanation given is that at the time everyone was too wicked and God didn't expect anyone to be righteous enough again. Yet these people eventually did come along and surprise the lord, and he made exceptions in their case.

Didn't expect? Surprised? Again, if said deity were truly omniscient he would know that these righteous people would exist before he ever thought of setting such an age restriction. Staying within the confines of the religion, this either tells us that God was lying or is not omniscient at all.

Tests of Faith: We've all heard it before. The lord is testing your faith. Whether it be Abraham being
asked to sacrifice his son or simply having tough times at work, someone has stated that our faith is being tested. Yet there is one enormous problem with this hypothesis. An omniscient god would have no need to test ones faith. No need to send misfortune and see how we react or if we even go so far to turn from God for being slighted so. No, an omniscient deity would only have to look into us and would know how we would react to such events and simply see the true feelings and amount of devotion inside of us.

This is also part of the problem associated with Pascal's wager. It is asserted that paying lip service to belief is better that being open about non-belief. In lay terms, faking it. Yet this again ignores God's purported omniscience. For if he truly was all knowing, he would know you weren't sincere in your belief. In turn, making the wearing of such a false facade pointless.

Communication/Prayer:
I have also been told by theists that the reason a non-believer or future non-believers prayers are not answered by God is that he can not hear the prayers of the unrighteous. Again, this flies in contrast with his claimed omniscience. If he can not hear the thoughts and prayers of everyone, he can not know all. Actually, if God is omniscient, there is no reason to pray at all. God should just be able to know your heart's desires, and the prayers you would make without you ever needing to pray. Furthermore, these same people have even told me that he can't make himself heard to those that don't believe. This would additionally speak toward God also not being omnipotent... But that is not the subject of this particular blog.

Church Status:
My wife and her mother were talking the one day and the pictures we are having taken came up, along with the fact my wife and I will not be in the church directory. My wife was baptized, 1st communion and confirmed. She was even a catechist for a bit. I went to CCD and had communion, but that's as far as I got... Well her mom was saying to her that "Well, you're still a Catholic"... In an attempt to get her to be in the directory. My wife replied that she actually isn't, she's a Wiccan. Her mom said, "Yeah but you're still a Catholic though". She then reiterated that technically shes excommunicated because as far as the church is concerned, she practices witchcraft.

My mother-in-law continued that it was still okay because the church and/or preacher doesn't know, so she still has time to 'grow up'. Not wanting a fight, she simply said that if her mom really wanted to be a true Catholic is was her duty to report her true beliefs to the priest and added that she put a lot of thought into leaving that church and arriving at her current belief. That she is not Catholic, but Wiccan. As is always the case, I was absent for this discussion. If present, I would have had to bring up a huge problem with the stance that the preacher doesn't know so the church doesn't know. That big 'problem' is God himself!

It is said to be 'God's church', after all. Well, if he is truly omniscient he would know that my wife is Wiccan and not Catholic. By the rules of 'his' church she is guilty of witchcraft and condemned to excommunication whether on paper on Earth or in the mind of God. Furthermore, my mother-in-law has implied that I am still Catholic even though I am now openly atheist. Additionally, I am officially defected from the Catholic church. I am officially on record with the Catholic church that I am no longer a Catholic. Yet somehow a deity that is said to be all knowing is somehow in the dark on that as well?

I do find it amazing how often the Bible and it's believers will contradict this initial trait that they always apply to their god. Not only does it go on to disprove parts of said god, but begs the question... If we can know so much that God can't, then how can we call him God? We certainly can't say such a being is perfect and I'd opine that the loss of this trait erodes a substantial portion of his purported abilities and proposed power. (Of course his nonexistence erodes his 'power' the rest of the way).

-Brain Hulk

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