Saturday, December 27, 2008

On the spectrum of morality, right and wrong

I got a cool gift from myself for Xmas this year, the BBC's Planet Earth on dvd. Last Xmas, I bought the same for my parents and I got to watch a little of it after dinner was over, so I knew I was eventually going to buy it myself. I also have the BBC's Blue Planet, which is comparably spectacular. Today while watching it I asked myself what it was I liked so much about the program. My answer was... the spectacle displayed on the screen of the world at it's largest, it's massive life-herds, landscapes, and planetary isolation in the sort of context that could only be providedby a satellite view. Seeing the world I live on from this vantage, was and is both breathtaking and humbling. Seeing horizon-spanning flocks of birds mid-migration, a continuous shot showing the actual spanse of the horizon as the flock extends past it, is eye-poppingly wondrous. For those who have never seen this documentary, do yourself a favor and buy it, rent it, check it out from the library, something, but see it. It will be worth your while.
So after asking myself what I liked about it, I asked myself what I thought my very religious parents probably like about it. I came up with the same answer, the sheer spectacle of our world.
I found this an interesting thought to pursue, so I continued my self-interrogation roughly as follows.
Question: What do my parents see in the grandiosity of our world that I do not?
Answer: Nothing, we see the same beauty.

Q: So where do my parents think the beauty of the world comes from?
A: God.

Q: And where do I think the beauty of the world comes from?
A: Nowhere. The beauty of the world does not exist in the world. In other words, it is not a feature of the world, but an interpretation within the confines of my mind, of the world as it exists. If I were not here, or for that matter, were no humans at all here, then beauty being an idea would not exist. Beauty is a thought that we are capable of having, and thoughts are without a doubt confined to the mind. Without our minds, beauty's state of idea-ness could not exist and thus would not exist. The world is what it is, the mountains we look at are big to us because we are comparing our size with their's, the rivers are blue to our eyes, the diversity of life and it's various manifestations are noteworthy to humanity only because we can compare them (since they exist) to the idea of them not existing, an ability which is unique (probably) to humans. The act of comparison is what creates our ideas including that of beauty. So again, I do not attribute the world's beauty as having come from somewhere, much less a god. It is of our own devising, and our ability to do such a thing is the direct result of our brains being developed as much as they are. And just to be clear, the notion of ideas being planted in our minds (by some outside interloper) can be adequately put to rest when you consider the alternative of comparison generating discrimination. We compare. We then discriminate, assigning beauty to one side and ugliness to another, with banality somewhere in the middle. Our minds, in the act of comparison, are the generators of what we say is beautiful.

My parent's see the beauty of the world as the proof of god's existence.
I see the beauty of the world as the beauty of the world, as my mind determines it to be, through comparison and subsequent discrimination.
But, here's the real point, we both see the beauty of the world. It is the world, visible, measurable, and tangible to which, at least in part, those who believe in god point to as a reason to harbor such a belief. These people are relying on evidence for their belief. Evidence in the form of the extant world and it's vastness. The sheer size of the world as displayed by the BBC's documentary is proof of god's creativity and handprint, to my extended family.

But the thing is, the evidence they are relying on to solidify their position is, in this case, evidence for the exact opposite as well, namely that the world is tangible and explainable. The mountains majesty is there for all to see, and if so desired, to touch and analyze. the rocks and elements that comprise the mountain can be discovered, named and repeatedly recognized, thus pulling back a little bit more of the veil of the physical world. Indeed the physical world we see has an explanation completely devoid of divine invocation. Infact, the explanations offered by the last few centuries of ever-progressive scientific discovery reveal complexities of nature that no religious text has ever even described, much less adequately explained away. For instance, there are cave systems throughout the world that house life forms that simply were unknown to the arabs and jews of the 1st century a.d. Animals that are pigmentless, and eyeless, because these physical characteristics were and continue to be unnecessary to them, have lived in these isolated areas of the world for more time than the bible recounts. To the testimony of these animals, the great flood of noah as described in the bible, is incompatible. It is understandable that the authors of the middle eastern religious texts did not know of animals like these, or others (emperor penguins, carrier pigeons, dwarf mastodons (who were alive at the time of the writing of the old testament)). And without the knowledge of these animals, or better said, with only the knowledge of the largely agriculturally-domesticated animals with which they were surrounded( such as rams and goats), the civilizations who passed these stories of man's superiority over the animal kingdom (and interestingly enough also the plant kingdom, but not the fungus or slime-mold kingdoms) are easily forgiven for concocting a story to describe, as best they could with the information they had, the world as it appeared to them. What is harder to forgive is the determination through time to cling to these abhorridly incomplete descriptives of the world we live in. We know polar bears exist, but the biblical authors did not. Should we then trust that these stories created so long ago, and designed to describe the natural world and our kingship over it are still representative of the truth of our world? Of course not. We cannot allow ourselves to "believe" in something that has been overturned by a wider discovery, yet that is exactly what the world at large has been doing for more than 2 millenia. Religions request that we suspend our disbelief quite in the face of more satisfying and sensible explanations. To that end, over time, religions have surriptiously altered the arena of disparity to another more slippery slope, that of the mental accuity of humankind.

The soul, the consciousness, the human condition is undoubtedly what my family would now point to in defence of their belief in the religious. There is, in their minds, something which has yet to be explained, the human condition and all the stuff that goes along with that; concepts like morality, right and wrong. To the religious, these are concepts about which science can offer no insight, or better said, the natural world has not nor could ever have a way to explain. They also would maintain that morality is something that transcends humanity and is part of a divine set of laws laid down long before mankind ever stepped foot out of the good-ol-garden . I would take issue with these concepts, and infact I do. Here's how.

Morality is commonly accepted as the umbrella term for defining right and wrong, but the word actually offers no clear definition of anything. It harbors the other two terms but does little else. Ask yourself " what does morality mean". what answer do you come up with that doesn't invoke the words right or wrong? Morality is only a word, one which at best simply makes reference to a particular realm of humanity. In this respect, it is just like the words right and wrong. Ask yourself "what does right mean" or "what does wrong mean". What answer do you come up with that doesn't invoke the words morality or right or wrong. Instead of offering definitions, all three of these words rely on the assumptive practices of those who say them to divert the attention of those who hear them uttered or see them written on a page. The word morality assumes that there is an outside standard to which all behavior is measured, a spectrum that at one end reflects universally acceptable behavior, and at the other end, universally unacceptable behavior. These poles of universal acceptance or rejection are what the words right and wrong are in reference to. The words right and wrong are not descriptors, they are instead judges of what is acceptable and what is not. Something intersting yet subtle to notice is that these words also rely on the assumption that this spectrum actually exists, that there is some universal standard, removed from the behaviors themselves, to which the behaviors can be judged. Now I'm not sure how far Heisenberg's uncertainty principle can extend (that which you observe you change i.e. if you know the position of a particle you cannot know it's velocity and vice versa) but what is clear is that none of the words include a description or even a measurement of what is most important, behavior.
Morality refers to the entire spectrum, Right refers to the acceptable side of things and Wrong refers to the unacceptable side of things, but again none of the words properly addresses what the spectrum should be used for, actually measuring behavior(s). The words morality, right and wrong don't describe actual behaviors, they only report where along the spectrum behaviors might fall. So in this sense there is no value to use words like right, wrong or morality, because at best they simply place undescribed behaviors along a possibly non-existant spectrum of judgement mostly, as we will see, in an deceptively arbitrary manner. Again, all three assume there is such a spectrum. But when that assumption is abandoned we can see that such judgemental practices become silly. To return a previous point, without the human mind, ideas simply don't exist, and this applies to idea that a spectrum exists with which to assign a place to human behavior(s). We created this spectrum, without us, there is no concept of morality. Just look at the idea of killing. Non-human animals do it all the time and show no remorse for their victims. It's all in a day's work so-to-speak. Certainly these predators recognize that their prey are alive, yet they commence to killing them anyway, and as if that was not bad enough, they then EAT what they killed, and why, because they "know" if they don't eat they will suffer and maybe they know they will die. There is fear present in predators. And certainly the prey animals recognize that predators are trying to kill them, so one cannot say that they do not display fear of pain or death. If such was the case, and these animals showed no fear of predators, then they certainly wouldn't be the excellent runners they are, or so adept at camoflauge, infact the entire arms race between predator and prey would have never gotten off the ground, because the predators would have wiped out all the prey, seeing as how the prey didn't resist, which would have of course led to the demise of the predators themselves, because if you don't have a steadily resupplying reserve of prey, eventually you will run out of food and die yourself. So fear of death most likely exists for the prey and predator alike, yet the killing still goes on. Such "emotions" don't cause the predators to stop their hunt or the prey from standing idly by. No, the predator-prey relationship abounds and has done so since the beginning of life. Predators don't feel bad for their prey, certainly not enough to not go after them. Rather, murder (the premature and intentional ending of a life) is a natural part of the life cycle. It is we who have villified the practice.

Now of course we qualify murder as the killing of someone for the sake of killing someone. The choice to kill someone (of our own species) is what has made the practice fall at the "wrong" end of the spectrum. But, and this is crucial to keep in mind, the act of killing is no different to a lion as it is to us, the only difference between our two species is the reason behind the killing. And where does reasoning come from, the human mind. So the origin of morality's spectrum is again revealed to be a concoction of the human mind.

Cannibalism is another good example to look at. Across the animal world, cannibalism is not a universally accepted behavior, but it is also not a universally unacceptable behavior either. In some species, it happens all the time, as a part of the life cycle. Even plants practice it, although the process is much longer, and consequently doesn't cause humanity to cringe at the thought, like we do when considering animalistic cannibalism. Since the practice is not universal on either side of our spectrum of judgement, then it must lie somewhere in the middle. Well, but, murder is also acceptable in some instances (self-defense, war-times, capital punishment) so shouldn't it too be considered to fall somewhere in the middle of our spectrum, rather than at the polar end of unacceptable behavior? (Notice again, the spectrum does not describe the behavior, it only assigns a judgement to the acceptability of it). Cannibalism is interesting in that most everyone would agree that it is a "wrong" behavior, but how so? In the same manner that we think murder is "wrong"? Mind you, I am not condoning either practice, I am only discussing the idea of whether or not there is an outside standard of comparison which exists, by using familiar and extreme behavioral examples such as murder and cannibalism. For the record, Don't kill anyone or eat anyone. Caveat done, back to the blog.

Well what about, the good or "right" side of things? We talked about murder and cannibalism, and have shown that the spectrum doesn't provide the definitions we think it does, and also incidentally we have shown that, at least the polar end of universally "wrong" is not so polar afterall, since the extremes of human behavior actually fall in the middle.
So let's look at altruism. That seems like a behavior that would certainly fall at the "right" polar end of our spectrum. What altruism is, our spectrum doesn't tell us, it again only assigns it a place of "rightness", and again only within our minds. If we weren't here, altruism (doing good for others regardless of effect on the doer) would not exist. All we have to do is look at the non-human world again and we can see that the closest non-human animals, and plants for that matter, ever come to altruism is through the phenomenon of symbiosis (where two species perform services for each other to the mutual benefit of both). It may be a uniquely human concept, altruism, but before we can examine it's place on our spectrum we must ask does it really exist at all? Well what are some altruistic behaviors we could examine? How about military service in times of war? That seems like a good one, especially right now. Except, military people get a paycheck when they are in the military, whether or not there is a war going on, so nope, military service does not meet the criteria of being altruistic because there is a benefit to the doer (paycheck). Brave and to be commended, but not altruistic.

What about religious persecution, standing up for your beliefs? Well, we all know that those who are religiously fervent enough in their beliefs to be persecuted for them, are also banking on the paradise that awaits the martyrs of the faith, so nope, the benefit to the persecuted is there (at least in their minds) and thus religious piety does not qualify as altruistic either. But let's say somewhere in the world there is an example of pure unsullied altruism taking place right now. what does it matter if that example is being performed by a human to a member of a different species. Nothing. It is only altruistic if it helps our fellow man. Before the animal rights folk jump all over me, let explain a bit further. Let's say the unsullied example of altruistic behavior took place in a world where no humans existed save our one hero, instead there were only non-human animals incapable of creating a concept like altruism. This human constantly behaved altruistically, to the other animals around them, but with no accolades or reciprocity (thus adhering to the qualifications of being considered an altruistic individual), how would this person ever go about discerning that their behavior was altruistic? To this individual, altruism would simply be the way of life. Having no other humans (individuals capable of coming up with altruism) with which to compare their behavior, this human would not really be altruistic so much as they would just be a (the) person. In such a scenario, we can see how altruism is another concoction of the human mind, and as such, it easily falls onto the "right" end of the equally concocted spectrum of judgement.
Now we can ask whether altruistic behavior isreally deserving of being on the "right" end of the spectrum. What about the case of euthanasia? For a doctor to perform this procedure to a dying cancer patient, who clearly has expressed the desire for it to be done, would result in imprisonment for the doctor (Dr. Kevorkian), and before you say "well there's your altruism for you", remember that Kevorkian got paid for his services, so he might have had some detriments to weigh his decision against, but there were also some benefits, so no altruism there on his part. So if the procedure takes place, is it right? Certainly to the patient it is, and probably to the doctor, but not to the opponents of the practice. So again we have muddy waters here. If euthanasia cannot be qualified as absolutely altruistic (again in our human minds) then it certainly cannot fall at the "right" end of the spectrum, but rather like the concepts of murder and cannibalism, it should and does fall somewhere in the middle.

So now I must ask, do we really even have a spectrum? Examples from both ends, seemingly clear cut examples, don't fall where we superficially think they do. It's more like a big cauldron of behaviors that sometimes allow certain behaviors to roil up to the top and be deemed "good" or "bad". The surface behaviors are really only that surface ingredients, that periodically burst forth to our eyes, long enough for us to denounce them or glorify them while all the rest of the time the cauldron is mixing everything together creating the soup of the human experience.
We make our own rules, like it or not. We determine what we think is good, bad or indifferent. We compare, discriminate and isolate everything around us, especially ourselves. There is no spectrum chiseled in stone tablets, sent from above by some invisible yet all powerful overlord. We have made it up and it is not true. The world is not the handiwork of god, nor is it the handiwork of us, it is the handiwork of it. We call it beautiful because we have decided it is. When we are gone, the world will still look like whatever the world will look like then, and no one will be the wiser. Happy new year, everyone, and thanks to those who have been periodically reading this blog over the past year.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

On Socialism and the candidacy of Barack Obama

I will begin with a caveat; this blog began before the election. Rather than abandoning it though, I've decided to finish it, omtting or changing nothing from what I started out writing. That being said, let the stonethrowers begin to gather their destructors...

This election eve is witness to almost a year's worth of unending slander. Hillary vs Barack. McCain vs Romney. McCain vs Barack. Palin vs Barack. Palin vs Biden (not often). Biden vs McCain. etc... As is the case with every election that I can recall (I'm only 33), this one has been mired for some time in the doldrums of insult after insult. And what's more, people really seemed to get jazzed by it. Youtube has given us too many opportunities to hear the bloodlust americans revel in when it comes to denouncing their opponent. I say their because that is exactly what it seems to play out as, Barack vs the guy in the line at the McCain/Palin rally. It seems as though the voters actually think they have an obligation to hurl expletives at anyone who might challenge their choice of supportable candidate. "Barack is a Muslim. Barack is a terrorist. Barack is a socialist. Barack is a communist". I'm sure there are many others, but this is as comprehensive a list as I need for the purposes of this blogpost.

I don't know what religion Barack Obama adheres to, quite frankly I find it appalling that his or any of the candidates for president for the last 225 or so years, religious beliefs has ever been brought up during an election season. I hope one day an atheist can be elected president of this country, but I hold no real hope for that, as it seems painfully obvious that this country as a whole seems bent on turning itself into a theocracy. Just down the street from my house in west michigan is a church (protestant) which has a row of pseudo-election signs lining it's driveway which say "Jesus for president". I kid you not, "Jesus for President". Now, I don't know about you, but the thought of there even being a portion of our country which feels strongly enough about the possibility of America being headed by an invisible, 2,000 year-dead, middle-eastern, megolomaniac, seems both a bit far-fetched and a trifle troubling, but who am I to pass judgement, that is for the vengeful god to render.

I also don't have any reason to think Barack Obama could actually be an all-out terrorist. For one how the hell would a terrorist think it possible to have any terroristic effect on the nation state and not be found out. The office of the presidency is the most scrutinized public station in the world. We found out that Bill clinton got a blowjob from an intern didn't we? If someone can dig up a morsel like that, how hard would it be for someone to discover that the person we democratically elected as our commander-in-chief, was actually plotting to destroy our country from the inside out. We do not, no matter how much some people might wish we could, live within the confines of an Ian Fleming/James Bond storyline. Nor do we languish in the pages of a Tom Clancy Novel. Obama is not a terrorist. And for those William Ayers/ Jeremiah Wright folk out there, who use indirect associations to "determine" their opinions, let me say, what would you have done had these two individuals not been thrust to the headlines as they were? It was a good thing someone found out about these two people, so that those oh-so-many voters out there who are basing their decision to vote for McCain solely on the fact that he is not Obama, could have a leg to fallback on, when they were questioned about how they came to their decision. Obama is scary, because of these two people, mind you not because he himself is all that scary, but because he knows of these two people, and somehow, in the minds of the Anti-Obama proponents, he is incapable of distancing himself, intellectually from those who do not labor with the same interests as he, at heart. Nope, Obama is just a puppet of the Ayers/Wrights of the world. We've all heard enough from this particular demographic. We understand that you have decided to vote against Obama because you can't believe for a minute that he is a man capable of deciding a proper course of action by himself. You believe, wholeheartedly that he is a shell, one who will do his anti-american masters' bidding, as though he were as brainwashed as you are, if he were to get elected. You are a component of society which at one point in middle europe, oh a couple of hundred years ago or so, were denied the chance to vote democratically, and rightfully so. You can't think straight, much less come to a reasonable decision regarding who is or is not a valid candidate for the office of presidency. Please, don't expect any who have a brain to assign any degree of dignity to your ignorant and dangerous voice in the voting booth.

Barack is a socialist, or a communist. This one has been all over youtube at the republican rallies. I wonder if the people who are vomiting these words even know what they actually refer to. I tend to gravitate toward the idea that these people are the same who never really learned high school government, but just memorized enough words from the book to answer enough questions correctly to pass the class. I would submit that these folks most likely think socialism and communism are the same thing. They are not. But to these backwater mouth-breathers, anything that is not preceded by the prefix Demo, politically is directly from the realm of Hades. Socialism is different from Communism. Communism leads everyone to work conjointly at the behest of the central government to better the state of which the people are the populous. The government assigns duties and delegations to individuals in order to perform the functions of society at large, for the betterment of the nation. Everyone works for the betterment of the state, for the state is what matters over all else. Communism is as viable a political concept as democracy is, if it were to be administered by people who were actually of the mind that the state is more important than the individual, however, history has proven that so far, no human leader of a communist country has this necessary personality trait. Indeed, no person will ever be that ideal, for the simple reason that we are all selfish, and rightfully so. But if such a person were to come along, there is no reason to think communism in it's truist form could not work just fine.
Socialism promotes the betterment of the people, not the state in which the people live. Socialistic ideals are as equally viable a possibility as democratic ideals, but have not been ideally put into practice because again, absolute power will corrupt absolutely. Those who have been the leaders of socialist countries, have historically let their own individual ambitions and idiosyncracies overthrow the mandate of their political genetor and impede the socialist progress that was, at least at one point, possible under their administration.
Democracy promotes the self over all else, it is by design selfish, and rightfully so, afterall we are all individuals. What better way to live life than to look out for number one. Problem is, absolute power still corrupts absolutely, and make no mistake, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney did everything possible over the last 8 years to increase the absoluteness of the president's power, and we are now paying many prices for this corruption. No system is foolproof, all can be faulty, if they are entrusted to less than qualified people, which is how Governor Palin should never have been picked by McCain. Qualification is earned through demonstrable intelligence and experience, not from popularity. As nice as Palin has made the thirty-something evangelical christians feel, this in no way shows her to be qualified for the vice-presidency.
Back to the point, lets look at all the socialistic tendencies America has in place, and then decide whether we really want to ridicule the evil of socialism.
1. The military, to defend the people from oppression
2. Public and Private education, to ensure that the society as a whole progresses intellectually, making life better for all.
3. The Transportation system, rails, roads, shipping, air traffic, all designed to connect populations of people to each other, thereby increasing the socialization of our species
4. The taxation system, designed to use funds provided by everyone to build and maintain that which all will use to some degree, thereby bettering the society at large
5. The centers for disease control, working to eliminate societally widespread illness and contagions, clearly for the betterment of the society, not the government, and only secondarily for the betterment of the individual.
6. For that matter, the entire medical field, at it's heart; however, democratic ideals have seeped into this field as well, fostering greed within the pharmaceutical industry as well as the actual field of practical medicine. But at the heart of medicine, is the survival and flourish of the society.

Socialism is deeply imbedded in our "sacred" democracy, like it or not. You may think you are an island unto yourself, but everytime you pull out into traffic you are tacitly engaging in a socialistic activity. By purposefully driving safely and not recklessly, by adhering to the rules of the road, you are participating in a societal act, thus I can rightly "accuse" everyone who has ever driven a car on a road amongst traffic of being a socialist. Of course such an "accusation" is not an accusation at all. Socialism is not a bad thing, despite what the ignoramuses at the broadcasted McCain rallies in PA might desperately want you to believe. I really wish people would stop before they start to denounce any idea they have little to no understanding of. I wish they would stop and ask themselves "Is what I'm about to say really true, or do I just think it is, because that's what I've been taught to think?"

Quite frankly, I think the country could use a little socialistic bent right about now, as long as those who put it into the mix do so with its real meaning at heart.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Fear, again

I began thinking about this particular blog a few months ago. After many sidetrackings, I've decided to return to it. So, the question is, are you afraid of dying?
Davy Jones asked his victims "Do you fear death?" in the second Pirates of the Carribean movie.
Do you?
If so, how so?
By what reason or mechanism do you arrive at the point of fear whenever the thought of your no longer existing comes to you?
What makes you feel the way you do about your own impending death?
Have you ever thought about death's psychological power?
I know, I know, I just asked a lot of similar questions. Let's try and find some answers.
Death can mean a lot of different things to people. For some, it means the end of our physical life, our body's demise. It can also mean, the end of our mindfulness, our thoughts, feelings, and emotions. For many, we can die an unavoidable physical death, but can choose to either die or survive a spiritual death. So I ask, what is it about an ending that is so fear-inducing? We have no inkling what non-existence would be like. We have only ever been alive. We are understandably unfamiliar with what being dead could be like. Infact, we can't even be sure there is a recognizable likeness to being dead, we could be privy to, having never been in a state of recogizable deadness before.
Death is the unknown, and the unknown is what drives and sustains fear. If you are at all, or have ever been, afraid of your own death, it was (is), for sure, the currently unknowable premise of what awaits you, post-life, which has fostered your dread.
If you are not afraid of your own death, good for you.
This means you have come to grips with your inability to fortell the future, in one of a few ways. Either you are living in the comfort of any of the various forms of immortality offered by the many world religions, or you are living your life according to the principle that there is no afterlife to worry about and you only have the time you have on this earth to do with as you will, for good or for ill. Christianity offers immortality via jesus' supposed ressurection. Judaism offers immortality to those who are jewish and are awaiting the "real" messiah who will take them into paradise. Islam offers immortality to those who believe in Allah and his one prophet Muhammad (I probably spelled this wrongly). Hinduism and Buddhism advocate varying types of reincarnation as immortality, and so on and so forth.
None of the religions offer relief from the oppression of fear through personal means. It is always at the hands of an outside figure, a god who controls things from on high, or a perpetual evasion, that we can, through the world's religions, attain relief. Relief through Belief.
The religions seperate the mind from the body. Indeed, dualism is a bedrock of religious dogma. Without it, immortality would be a much harder sell. It's vastly easier to persuade someone to buy insurance than it is to buy a well made and easy to maintain item. Religion is a form of insurance, against an unpleasant afterlife. We hear the pitch of the salesman, " Serve god now with all your heart, and receive riches beyond your wildest dreams upon your death and subsequent entry into heaven i.e. rivers of milk and honey, gold-paved streets. It resounds with us "wow, I really should think about this, what if all this stuff is true, and I am digging myself into a deeper hole...". and we sign the check. Think about it, people buy homes on the gulf coast of the united states all the time, knowing full well that hurricanes are an annual imminent threat, and then they buy outrageously priced insurance policies to cover those houses, in the "event" of a hurricane. When it would be much easier and smarter to not build a house in an area of the country prone to natural disasters. We are so easily persuaded to do stupid things, things that run counterintuitively to our own common sense, it is no wonder religion has entrapped the world's population.
If you don't believe that our fear of death and the fear of our own mortality fuels the belief in the god of christianity, then ask yourself " What if we were immortal right now?" What if humans had been immortal since day one? If, hypothetically, we were always immortal, then many superstitions would simply never have arisen. Vampirism, ghosts, angels, the mystique of the graveyard, voodoo, the light at the end of the tunnel, etc... I could go on and on, but the point is made, halloween would not only be much less scary, it would never have become a holiday at all, so I guess there is a good point to religion afterall :-). The fear of death and mortality pervades so much of humanity. Without it gun violence would not matter, neither would drug trafficking.
Infact, if we were immortal right this minute, then most likely we wouldn't even be here, from the simple point that if all humans, ever, have always been immortal, then we would have had no need to procreate in order to continue the survival of the species. Species survival would have been a nonissue. Seeing that the world is the size that it is and can house so many individuals of so many species it seems obvious that the world was "destined" to be the home of mortal beings who die off periodically only to be replaced by newer members of the species. Death is part and parcel of the natural world, as it only could be. If according to christianity, adam and eve were originally immortal then it seems odd that having been made in the image of god, as the bible narrates, they were bestowed with the same reproductive "equipment" as all other mammals.
Dualism, "the ghost in the machine", " the little man at the controls", "the homonculus", the "soul" whatever, is an unnecessary step. We do not need to seperate the mind from the body. What basis do we have to even consider such a thing. We do not have anything to point to which we can say irrefutably "that is from the realm of the supernatural". We only can interpret things as such. And if one can interpret something as supernatural, another can interpret the same as natural, which is exactly the point, there is nothing that is universally accepted as being from the supernatural realm (and for the record, again, I am of the opinion, until shown otherwise, there is no such thing). On the flipside, we have plenty of universally accepted natural-world objects. Concrete blocks, hair, the Atlantic ocean, cock-roaches, thermonuclear warheads, the list is limitless. Well what about songs? Do they exist? Or poems? If they are realized, through production of some sort, they then exist in the natural world, for all to experience, but if they remain unrealized, they still exist in the natural world, the difference being they can only be experienced by the author(s). Thinking something is no different than building something, only the scale of enjoyment changes between the two, not the realm in which they exist.

If we do not seperate our mind from our body, if we reject the idea of dualism, then we need not harbor feelings of dread about death. It is only because we have been sold our insurance policy that we hold onto the unknown and it's fearsomeness. If we relinquish the policy, the unknown will become irrelevant, and there is nothing at all wrong with this. Infact, this would be a much more peaceful world, if we all lived with no regard for a continuation past our own death. Life would be more precious, because we would recognize it's fleetingness, and we would enjoy it more fully, knowing that once we die, we are gone. There would be less of a struggle to find ourselves, to live at peace with our neighbors, to be good people, because with no safety net to catch us, we would be on our own, and being on your own is the best way to grow up and be responsible. Despite the siren song of religion, I truly wish civilization could look clearly at what the world would be like without religion just once. Fear is what religions need, and it is what we have swallowed hook, line and sinker, it's time to spit it back out, before the whole world gets hauled up into the boat and slapped on the grill.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

On Inductive versus Deductive reasoning

Since "coming out" to my family in January about my atheism, I've had a few debates with them and others about christianity versus atheism. Just the other day, two Jehovah's witness ladies came to my door, wanting to innocuously know if I believed the bible had a prophetic nature. They had no idea what they were in store for. It was a pleasant discussion, but ultimately one that had very little effect on either parties involved. A few months ago, I posed an email question to one of my long-distance friendly adversaries that said "What of science, do you accept?" They said, " I accept any claim of science reached through deductive reasoning. I disregard anything concluded as a result of inductive reasoning" This person categorized evolution as a postulate arrived at through inductive reasoning. This is interesting. Inductive reasoning (bad, for scientific truth), deductive reasoning (good, for scientific truth). My friend doesn't think evolution has occured, they think we were modeled out of dirt by the hand of god, 6,000 or so years ago, in our current form, as was everything on the earth (maybe not necessarily out of dirt, per se). They also give as one reason for their unacceptance of evolution, the statement that evolution was arrived at through inductive reasoning, not deductive reasoning.

Webster's dictionary:
induction: inference of a generalized conclusion from particular instances.
deduction: inference in which the conclusion about particulars follows necessarily from general or universal premises.

Please take a moment to look at the difference between the two definitions.

To induce that something is the case, you must begin with a set of particulars, from which you can then extrapolate a more complex and wider idea. The beginning is the details.

To deduce that something is the case, you must begin with a general or universal premises, from which you can then conclude that the particular, observable micro details are direct results.

My friend doesn't accept evolution because it begins with a set of particular observations about nature a: extinction, through the observable particular of fossil remains, b: genetic mutation, through the observable particular of both laboratory DNA experiments and natural adaptive attributes of different species. My friend doesn't accept evolution, because it then proceeds with these particulars to expand a more widely-encompassing set of explanations, which arebased on the little details already observed. My friend DOES NOT ACCEPT evolution because of this.
But, my friend, accepts most everything else they encounter in life which employs the exact same process.
Take breakfast, my friend decides to have breakfast after having taken inventory of the particulars of their pantry. They start with the details. They then induce that breakfast is a possibility, so hunger and energy will dissipate and increase respectively, extrapolations based on detailed information gathered. My friend accepts inductive reasoning when it comes to breakfast being helpful, but does not accept inductive reasoning in regards to evolution. What else do they contradict themselves with? Well, how about travel? My friend goes to work each work day, and I presume they employ some method of transit to facilitate this trip, either individual car, mass transit system, paddleboat, something. Well, how do they do this. Do they begin with the universal premises that travel is a possibility? Yes and No. Yes, in that, to the short-lived human individual, confined to the particulars of past discovery, it is inevitable that to my friend, it seems a universal premises that traveling fast via non-human means is a real possibility. However, that universality is only seemingly so. The wheel was undiscovered at one point in our history, albeit well before I or my friend lived. My friend and I both enjoy the benefits of the wheel, but the wheel was at one point, an observable particular of the environment. Using this observable particular, our ancestors extrapolated that this arc-edged implement could be used to speed things up for them, and the rest is history. So in this way, the answer is no. My friend as a human being, can never begin, at the real beginning with a universal premise that faster travel is possible, they must always and forever be grateful for the particulars discovered by their distant ancestors.

Inductive reasoning is validly accepted as a way of discovering scientific descriptions of our world. Evolution could only ever have been the result of inductive reasoning, and rightfully so, that is exactly what makes it make sense. It started with details, and Darwin induced from those details that something more fundamental and unseen to the incurious, was going on.

But what about deductive reasoning? The taking of a universal premise and gathering the observed details underneath the umbrella. This is a different approach, and certainly not one that scientists regularly employ. Particle physicists sometimes employ this method, because without such a method, the unobservably small constituents they are concerned with would never have been postulated to begin with. Elementary particle such as quarks, leptons, and electrons don't leave tell-tale signs for the laymen to see, which is how each of them remained unpostulated for so very long. However, the only other arena which regularly utilizes deduction is that of religion. It makes sense to me, that my friend, a fundamentalist, southern christian conservative, would accept deduction but not induction, because religion starts with the universal premise that god exists. It then gathers under that assumption, the ideas that we are his creation and we are sinful by nature. The evidence gathered under the umbrella is done so after the macro-assumptions are made. The bible is one of the particular evidences of the truth of christianity, as is the idea of our possession of self-awareness. These two particulars of evidence are assimilated into the general idea that god exists, only after the the premise has been both postulated and accepted. This is the nature of deductive reasoning. So according to my friend's logic, they can willingly accept the inexact theories of string theory, the multiverse, and both quantum mechanics and special and general relativity (which few non physicists really understand), but they can't accept that breakfast might fend off hunger and increase productivity.
All of this is prelude to the real subject of this blog, and that is this:

If christianity were truly true, then christians should have been able to arrive at their belief system wholly divorced of the bible. Now doesn't that contradict the entire preceding section? Didn't I just get finished saying my friend arrived at their belief because of deductive reasoning? While that is true, it doesn't really counter what I've already said. Again, If christianity were really true, then evidence other than the bible should support it's claims. Christians have only the bible as external evidence that what they claims is true is so. Without the bible, for the last 4,000 years (torah and later the new testament) what grounds would the christian church have had with which to not only survive, but to flourish as it has? I say, the christian has only the bible as an external source of evidence, but what about the recognition we all have of ourselves, our self-awareness? That is not an external source of evidence but an internal one, something that is confined to the individual and cannot be rightfully used to gauge the truth of a social trend such as a particular religion. Social truths (memes) as religions claim to be, can only be found to be as such, if A: they are the result of individual(s) within the population coming to exactly the same conclusions time and again throughout the entire course of the population's existence (species), and B: if there is indeed an all-powerful controlling entity which actively participates in the lives of the individuals in such a way as to ensure that such social decisions are being arrived at. However, such a discovery is not possible, because it pits inductive reasoning against deductive reasoning. Remember inductive reasoning involves starting with the particulars and ending with the big picture, while deductive reasoning starts with the big picture and fits the details into that big picture. The problem with trying to affirm or deny god's existence by evaluating the testimonial truth of self-awareness as internal evidence, is that it requires that we start with inductive reasoning, the details being the observable, comprehensive and macro-social behaviours of the species, and the resulting arrival at the same behavioral conclusions, all of which will result in the big picture of god existing as the controller of this drama; and, it simultaneously requires that we begin with deductive reasoning: assume there is an all-powerful, active participant in our social lives, having endowed us with self-awarness, thereby granting us the ability to construct social lives, whose further activities center around ensuring our arrival at a universal set of behavioral conclusions. We must start with the big picture of god absorb all the details into this as to make them fit with our preconception. we must deduce that the details are the result of god's being in existence, but we must also induce that god exists because of the myriad of details which poin to that conclusion. This is circular. You can not have both inductive and deductive reasoning at play at the same time.
Rest assured, I am by no means suggesting that humanity, in all it's societies has actually resulted in the same universal morals, as such a discussion would require. It is painfully obvious that we as a species have exhibited throughout our history a deplorable lack of compassion for our fellow man. Genocide's existence testifies to our incapability of agreement on the universal sanctity of life, So does slavery. For that matter, all violence testifies to the one thing that makes humanity the same, we are animals. Our self-congratulatory religions might feign to celebrate the simultaneous prestige and disdain of humanity, but our behaviours illuminate our animalistic nature much more so. I suggested that christianity should have some other source of external evidence with which to support it's claims. Here are a few suggestions:
Let's see some literal stars fall to the ground (impossible since stars are bigger and hotter than the earth, and so would burn us up without being able to "touch" the ground): Mark 13:21-25.
Let's hear some mountains sing about how good god is (again impossible since sounds must utilize vibrations and mountain cannot be simultaneously the source and agent of vibrations, not to mention what language the mountains would sins in ): Isaiah 55:12
Or how about some rocks crying out: Luke 19:40.
How I'd love to see a big-ol mouth open up on Teddy Roosevelt's face at Mt. Rushmore and hear him start singing the hallelujah chorus....
There is no evidence away from the bible, for the christian to believe in christianity. Without this, it is impossible to validate the truth of christianity's claims, therefore, without taking anything else into account, the best christianity can do at this point is acknowledge that it is severely deficient in it's case for the ultimate in truth. But we must take into account many other things, for instance: a: The existence of rival religions, some of whom make almost identical claims using almost identical sources of "evidence", b: The existence of secular explanations for the issues religions concern themselves with; life, thought, feelings, etc...
When these alternative explanations are taken into account, the christians case slides from being severely deficient, to that of one of maliciously outright deceipt. It is no excuse for the christian to assert that their belief system has brought comfort to anyone, much less many billions of people over the years. Comfort with an idea is not a way of validating it's truth. I may be very comfortable with not working a day in my life, but that is no reason to believe that not working a day in my life is how I should spend my existence. It might be very comfortable for me to simply ignore the cries of my child, because I'm tired, but that doesn't mean that my child isn't hungry, just because I am more comfortable thinking that if I wait long enough, he will stop being hungry and stop bothering me. Comfort is a not only an invalid excuse it is a deplorable one. The truth of existence, will only ever be discovered, it will not be nor has it been revealed, not in the manner which religions speak of.
Christians: you have no acceptable reason to say the things you say, you have no honor in speaking of things about which you've never invested any amount of effort in trying to disprove, and you have no sympathy from those of us who recognize your false humility.
Atheists: you have a responsibility to call out your lazy religious friends and make them confront what they say they believe, but do so in a nice way, so as to make them sure that you're confrontation is a plea for reason and not an attack on a personal level.
Scientists: You have a responsibility to do your jobs, continue collecting the data, and inducing from your data, larger more encompassing explanations of our world. It is to you who the world looks for it's answers, despite what the world might say to the contrary. It is widely accepted that cars will work, we base our transitive lives around this fact, but I'm unaware of any church official who beat Henry Ford to the punch and invented the automobile before he did. Science is what we need, not religion. Keep up the work.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A conversation

Atheist and Christian:

A: " Why do you believe in something you have no credible evidence exists?"
C: " Because I have plenty of evidence of what I believe in."

A: " Such as....?"
C: " Such as my soul, my sense of morality, my very faith. All of these are the evidence you seem to think doesn't exist. But for sure, faith by itself is enough proof that god exists, because without god, there would be nothing to have faith in, therefore faith would be uneccessary and would have never come into existence. Since it exists, god exists."

A: " Is it safe to say that if you didn't exist, bodily, that all of your evidence, your soul, your morality, your faith would also not exist?"
C: " Only for me personally, nothing about my non-existence has an affect on the existence at large of those concepts, morality, the soul, etc..., but yes, I think it's safe to say that, when referring only to me."

C: " Ask yourself this, If there is no god, then why do we exist?"
A: " Okay."

A: " If there is no god, then why do I exist?"
A: " The question is faulty to begin with, it should be if there is no god, then HOW do I exist. By using the word why, I imply the existence of some reasoning being that can and does impose it's reasoning ability onto the issue of existence, a reasoning being is a god, even if it's not a creator god, such as the Judaic version is said to be. But, if I change the question to "How do I exist", I can answer as such: I exist because my parents joined an egg and sperm together. My DNA enabled my proteins to replicate and diversify, eventually into me. It just so happens that my parents had non-detrimental genes which successfully got passed down to me as the representative of a new generation, because they mated. And it happens that their parents were also as fortunate, and their parents' parents were also, and so on and so forth. That is how I exist, but I would ask you to ask yourself the very same question you posed to me."

C: "Okay."
C: "If there is no god, then why do we exist? I don't know why. It seems to me, there would be no reason for us to exist, no real explanation for our intelligence, self-awareness, consciousness, morality, sense of right and wrong, and so on and so forth. My heart tells me these things, my mind doesn't. My mind might tell me the answer to an arithmetic question or whether or not to buy a certain stock (certainly not GM), but my heart is what leads me to not lie to my friends, my heart is what tells me I love my family. There is no biological explanation for what I feel in my heart, but there is a perfectly acceptable supernatural explanation. Without a god having created these things, they simply wouldn't exist."

A: "So when you ask yourself this question, are you questioning the existence of god, or yourself? It seems to me, that although this seems, on the surface, to be an exercise in questioning god's existence, it is really questioning humanity's."

A: "Postulate that there is no god as we do at the beginning of the question" If there is no god", then follow that with the remainder of the question " then why do we exist". Being in existence but without a god, is not possible for you to imagine, so really you are questioning your own existence, if you posit god's inexistence. Since you obviously exist, you have every reason to think god does as well, because, it is impossible for you to contemplate that humanity could exist as it does, with all of our "uniquely" human attributes, without our having been designed by a higher power. But that is the chink in your armour. You see, it is only the incurious who accept things at face value. It may be impossible for you to see existence seperate from a god, but such a view is narrow, and allows for no room to err. Frought with conceivable doubt, such a tunnelled opinion tends to lead it's adherents toward evermore compact doctrines, always refining until the point at which, the refinement, the honing eventually melds the original material into such a hard, compact almost projectile weapon, metaphorically speaking. In this case, the original material humanity began with was uncertainty itself. Unsure of what the noise of thunder was, we were curious but afraid, so we assigned it a divine position. But our unsurity continued, as it did with other primitively thought about phenomenon. As we grew more intelligent, we dug further into the fields, and uncovered more of the answers about those things which concerned us. Disease became, if not universally controllable, at least more containable and treatable, through wholly natural means. Same with crop propagation, inclement weather avoidance, etc... but the divine status we earlier had apportioned to many misunderstood phenomenon, remained more or less intact. This original material of uncertainty first began to be welded and compacted by superstition. Time moved on and the compaction continued with the advent of organized religion. Uncertainty of anything was not alleviated by religion, it never has been. Religion only soothed the savage beast, it has never done anything to clear up misconceptions. It provided no answer to our questions, it has only ever made us forget our questions altogether (although, notoriously, questions tend to have plagued us throughout history long after we swallowed our false medicine, popping up again and again, ). The sheer inability of someone who believes in god, to acknowledge the possibility that everything we see could very well have come about without a god is what makes the gap between the atheist and the christian. It really is a simple thing, if you think about it, on the one side, a person thinks it is possible for the world to have come into existence through means that are part and parcel of it as it is today. On the other side is someone who cannot think such a thing. Christianity, or religion as a whole (those religions which postulate a version of creation) is simply a result of uncreativity. If you can't imagine something, that certainly doesn't mean that such a thing is impossible, it only points reveals a lack of imagination. I, as an atheist, can absolutely imagine a world having been created by a god, but it is only imaginary. I don't bear the burden of questioning my own existence, because I am not hung up on whether or not god exists, I know he does not. You, a christian, have to square that, because it is you who have accepted as inexplicable that which has already been explained by the world. It is you who have relegated incuriosity to the realm of being faithful, and thusly have helped to build our world systems around social foundations based on the non-existent. These world systems are now beginning to crumble, because of the lack of sure foundational reality-based support. God is not on his throne, all will not be solved by him, America will not be saved because it is a country of the faithful. God does not bless America. We are not one nation under god, we are only one nation under nothing, all on the same level. For sure, we exist, but god does not, nor did he ever need to. It's high time you accept that what you believe is simply incorrect."

C: "I pity you, and will continue to pray for you."
A: "Thanks, but please spend your efforts more wisely."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Questions for the Christian

The following are a list of questions for any of you Christians out there to ask yourself. I'd love it if anyone wanted to actually answer them for me by commenting.

1. What are you in need of salvation from?

2. What is sin?

3. How do you recognize it?

4. Is sin a source of fear, resignation or delight for you?

5. How do you gauge your behaviour?

6. What is heaven?

7. How do you know it exists?

8. Does being a Christian make you personally a better person, all by itself?

9. How do you know you possess an immortal soul?

10. Do you tend to reconcile contradictory passages of the bible, if so, how?

11. Do you recognize contradictory passages in the bible?

12. Do you base your personal sense of morality on what is found in the bible, or do you form your own ideas for morality on what you've learned as you've aged and observed your surroundings?

13. How do you know god exists?

14. Do you base your belief in god on the writings in the bible, your intuition of the existence of a soul, your sense of morality, the wonder of the natural world, etc....?

15. Where is heaven? Hell?

16. How do you know hell exists?

17. How do you know the christian god is the correct model, and all others are not true representations?

18. How is blasphemy any worse a sin than any of the other possible sins mankind could commit?

19. Which of the two versions of the biblical ten commandments do you adhere to?

20. If, on the eve of your death, you were to find out definitively that there is no god, heaven, hell, sin, or christ, would you regret any portion of how you lived your life?

Have fun, and please answer honestly.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

On the salvation message and loving your enemies

"For god so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever should believe on him, would not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16 Everybody that has ever heard of the bible knows this verse. Many of us know it from memory. Hell there's probably plenty out there who know the whole bible from memory, I don't know. The point is, that rainbow-colored-wig-wearing guy at all the major sporting and political events has made this verse known to a lot of people. I think we should discuss it, and by we, I mean I think I should offer my critique of it, and those of you who read this can spout back at me your critique of me and how you're sure that I'm gonna burn in hell for my blasphemy and sacrilege. Bring on the grilling.

Christ (which incidentally was not his name, but an misappropriated title meaning messiah, his last name was not Christ) did not love his enemies, despite what mainstream christianity will proclaim to the uninitiated. The bible verse cited above says that god loved the whole world, (presumably he loved the whole world of humanity, since he has unquestioningly ignored the plight of the rainforests, as well as the extinction of many modern species of animals), but that's not exactly what is bornout through the stories passed down by generational christians. Actually, as closer examination of both John 3:16 and other new testament verses is employed, it's easy to see that he died only for those who loved or currently love him, or stated more accurately, came to or will eventually come to love him, all others, including but not limited to those of us who knowingly reject him, as well as those of us who were born into the disawareness caused by debilatative diseases, have been relegated to the sufferings of the eternity of painful burning in a lake made of fire.
Now, the way it seems to me, a real messiah, who was truly part and parcel of a creation-wielding godhead should have died for everyone, and indeed would have included all in his umbrella of salvation if he were really what the bible claims him to be, but even more so he especially should have died on behalf of those whom he knew would reject him. In an existence governed by a god (father) figure that we are meant to think we actually do live in, it is those people who disregard the danger they allow their immortal souls (things which I thoroughly disbelieve in, just for the record) to exist under that should be the first in line, precisely because their very willingness to flaunt themselves in the face of eternal death, could be seen as true ignorance, to such a degree that a responsible "loving" god could not allow it to dominate the survivability of his offspring. Again, if we are to believe that god really did so love the world, and not just those whom he knew would accept him ahead of time, (see omniscience) then those who don't so much as acknowledge him should be, if not first in line, then at least right behind those who glory in him. One could argue that god-loyalists should be rewarded for their loyalty above and before those who show no acceptance of or grovelling over such a "wonderful" gift of salvation. But how could god love everyone, yet allow some of those he loved, one who happened to not love him back, to go to hell anyway, when it was well within his power (see omnipotence) to disallow that scenario if he so chose. The rules being of his own making, and his not being subject to them, else he lose his omnipotence, he could easily have arranged things such that no one, christian or unbeliever, would ever be the wiser to the fact that acceptance of the gift proffered by him, was not a contingency of entrance into the paradise awaiting them in the afterlife. He could have built his elaborate plan in such a way that people could live life as they wanted, striving to be as good a person, individually as they could be, eliminating the threat of eternal torment from the system, and then upon each person's death, he could have simply announced to the unearthly hosts of the already deceased, and the newly decesaed that "SURPRISE, you going to spend the rest of all time in paradise, despite what you might or might not have done during your lifetime, because I so loved the world that I gave my only begotten son, that whosoever lived will have ever-lasting life, because those life-having folks (everyone) are my children and I love you all, no matter what. A god could have said something like that in his "word", he could have set his elaborate system up to actually do what would truly be beneficial to us his children (the creators" of god), but he did not, and you wanta know why he didn't set things up this way? It is because, he doesn't exist, and this system of atonement is an incomplete and primitive system of tribal justice. Justice is a human ideal. It is born of self-awareness and is most likely peculiar to us as a species, but not because we possess some immortal soul, but because we happen to have neurologically evolved to a more advanced state than other mammals have so far. God didn't send his son to die for the whole world, as the bible story recounts, it is clear that the fictional biblical god sent his son to die for those who would accept his gift of atonement, all others could literally and, in his mind rightfully, got to hell. This is pedantic, juvenile and outright transparent in it's display of the human qualities of jealousy and hurt feelings. For god did not so love the world, but we so loved those in it who would think and do what we as a species came to believe was the "right" thing to do, that he did not give his only son so that whoever believed on him would have everlasting life, but we gave ourselves a fantasy that would absolve us of taking responsibility for our own actions so that we could seperate ourselves into classes of distinction between those who are "good" people and those who are "bad" and by doing so we allowed ourselves to construct equally fantastical divisions such as heaven and hell, and we were then able to further elaborate our construction into a system of do's and dont's which would get you into said heavenly or hellish constructs. But we ignored one thing as we revelled in our newly-found cleverness as fictional constructionists, our ability to build, was blinded by our need to build, and so we left cracks in the foundations of our facades in our hurry to erect the shell of our morality. Cracks such as god loving the whole world, but only allowing his sacrifice to cover those in the world who accept it, a glaring inconsistency if ever there were one. If you are a christian, please take a moment and CRITICALLY evaluate the tenets of your faith which you hold so dear. Take a moment and play devil's advocate with yourself and your faith. I know you live in a world of certainty about what you believe, but have you ever even considered the possibility that you might be mistaken, and that despite your desire for the things you believe to be true, there may not be enough concrete unassailable reasons to think they really are? I grew up a christian, in a christian household, as I've mentioned many times on this blog. I have learned the tenets of the christian faith, and I have found them to be childishly ridiculous, How is it that I but not you could have come to this conclusion? Is it because I wanted to disbelieve? Certainly the mainstream, Palin-supporting, southern, 30 something, middle-class, christian mom and/or dad of three god-loving children has always wanted to believe, so is it just a matter of me being the opposite, I want to disbelieve? Or is it that one of us has conciously decided to approach the subject from a purposefully different and counterintuitive angle, precisely for the objectivity such an action could provide, and one of us is too comfortable in the established course of life to disrupt it in any such way? Which sounds more plausible to you? Christians, wake up, and either question what you believe for the sake of the answer, whatever it may be, or waste the span of your life trusting that you haven't f***ed up royally. Either way, as the bumper sticker says, If I'm living my life as if there's no god, I'd better be right, well, I am living my life that way, and I'm more certain there is no god, than any christian I know is certain there is. And you know how I know, because I can't stand some people, especially those I would qualify as my enemies. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Friday, October 10, 2008

On the election

I am voting for Barack Obama, when the time comes. My reason: I have concluded that he is the most intelligent person running for the High Office. My evidence: He is in the prime of his life. He is articulate. He received a degree from Harvard. He understands fiscal issues. He believes that he can effect a portion of change, but also acknowledges that he is not the only possible one who could do so. He negatively portrays his opponent only about 1/3 of the time, in his political commercials, according to an NPR report yesterday, which means 2/3 of his commercials are portraying what his qualifications are for the office, and what possible changes he would try and implement if he were elected. He is not a self-proclaimed maverick. He makes decisions on an individual basis, sometimes going with the prevailing thought, and sometimes not doing so. He is a pragmatic idealist.
John McCain is probably a nice man. I don't know him personally, nor do I know Barack Obama personally, whom I'm sure is also probably a nice man. Senator McCain is a lot of what Senator Obama is not, but there are seeming similarities between the two men, at least to me. For one, they both recognize that some restorative course of action is due for the failing financial system of which up until recently, America was at the helm of. Secondly, they both acknowledge the fact that America is not behaving responsibly with regards to fossil fuel consumption. Thirdly, both men want America's place within the collective world's esteem to be restored to it's pre-911 position. There are other general similarities, but three is enough to illustrate my point.
At the heart of the matter, the two candidates want the same basic things.
So how does one person get elected to the Presidency in America? Do they highlight the similarities between themselves and their opponent? yeah...Right! Opponents by definition, try to persuade as many voters to see the dissimilarities between they and their opponent. Especially if the candidate views him/herself as being the underdog of the contest. Obama spends about 33% of his ads attacking McCain. McCain spends almost 100% of his ads attacking Obama. This is the first sign of the disparity in intelligence level of the two men. McCain could behave as the bigger man, but he has chosen not to. If Barack Obama were the nefarious person McCain ads want to show him as, then in this media-driven world, by now, someone unaffiliated eith the McCain campaign, would have uncovered and exploited his (Obama's) deviousness. McCain has no need to bring anything negative about Obama to the attention of the voting population, that's what CNN, MsNBC, and The New York Times are for. Obama recognizes this, which is why he has spent relatively little time highlighting his opponents deficiencies, instead postulating his own assets.

Reason one how Obama is smarter than McCain: Obama doesn't waste time on people who don't matter, because he realizes he is the only one he can control.

I decided to vote for Barack Obama the first momentI heard him speak, during the early days of the democratic Primary, and I have never faltered in my support. This is because, he spoke well. He does not stumble over his words, he does not say "Um" or "Uh" a great deal, and he is deliberate in his pronunciation. What do any of those points matter, when it comes to choosing a president-elect? The president is a figure head, albeit one with some degree of official sway, but a figure head nonetheless. As such, the president is thought of as an image, in the minds of the world's population. If we elected a person with poor speaking skills, such as George W. Bush, the esteem of the country is automatically lessened, and lest we forget, both McCain and Obama want to reraise the level of the world's esteem for us, so please don't fall into the trap of thinking that America can "go it alone" without the rest of the world. If we lived in a different world system, perhaps that would be possible, but we exist in a world of our own making. Our credit-based system which has assimilated a large portion of the world, requires that we Americans either restore our credibility, or allow it to evaporate entirely, and rebuild from scratch either a carbon copy system of credit/loan/investment or a new system based on something else (production/saving). Obama is a much more polished public speaker than McCain is. He is more comfortable speaking in general. McCain strikes as someone who wants to seem like he wants to be there talking to you, but really he desperately wants to go somewhere else. Obsession is a sign of disorder, mostly, and McCain is entirely obsessed with using the phrase " My Friends" when he speaks publicly. Clarity of articulation results from years of practiced thought, introspection, and conclusion-drawing. McCain simply doesn't sound like a thinker, he sounds like a guy who's gonna shoot from the hip, go with his gut, someone who might listen to what those around him are saying, but might for no comprehendable reason go exactly against their recommendations. Bush lasted 8 years doing so, but he has dragged our country into the doldrums as a result.

Reason Number two how Obama is more intelligent than McCain: He is vastly more articulate.

Quickly I'll touch on how the choices we make reveal a great deal about us. Sarah Palin is clearly unqualified for the office for which she has been asked to run. And make no mistake, she was asked to run for the VP office. It was not her intention, six months ago, to eventually BE the republican choice for vice president, she was chosen by the McCain campaign. She has done nothing to illustrate her qualifications for the office of VP, moreso than any of us might have been able to do, which is why she is so fond of the phrase "Joe Six-Pack" in her speeches. She knows that she is a Joe Six-Pack and if she has any chance of getting elected she'll have to convince Joe Six-Pack that Joe-Six-Pack wants another one of him/herself running Joe-Six-Pack's home country. She also knows deep down that Joe Six-Pack does not want Another Joe-Six-Pack in charge of everything,and she has to convince him otherwise, even thought she probably wouldn't havevoted for a joe six-pack for VP in the past, but who knows. Deep down she knows, most americans want someone to do their thinking for them, presumably someone can do so well. Palin has spent the last 5 weeks or so, trying desperately to suppress the revulsion most people have to the idea of their stupid-ass neighbor being the Vice President. I say suppress because that's exactly what she is doing by showing up to rallies in states her own party has abandoned. She is Amwaying her way to the white house, Go Diamond!!! Revving up a crowd with worn out cliches about how Mavericky she and McCain are, is no substitute for real-life intelligence and experience. As a voter, I am supremely uncomfortable with a candidate needing to point out "all" the executive experience their running mate has. I don't want my electoral choice to ever even be in the same conversation with executive experience. There should be no question, no conversation to be had, in such a regard. Executive experience when in regards to someone running for National High office should be a subject unneccessary to bring up, it should be a given that someone running for the office they are running for, should have unquestionable experience. I have lied on applications for jobs, I have worded things in such ways as to play myself up to being more than I really am, but a grocery store clerk is one thing, the vice presidency is so much more. McCain's choice of Palin as his running mate reeks of transparency, at least I hope it does. The way I see it, he chose her for one of only a couple of reasons. Initially I thought he chose her for her charisma, which is something he has little of. She certainly makes up for his lack of it. Second though, he could have actually thought she was the absolute best option out there for his Vice President. Either choice illustrates his intelligence rung. On the one hand, he is stupid for believing that the best course of action is to pick a person who will help him get elected as president, because, insincerity always wreaks it's true destruction on whomever wallows in it. Bush patronized the entire country into believing he was right about everything, and he is currently regarded by approval ratings as one of the worst presidents this country has ever elected, not once but twice. His father succumbed to siren song of insincerity as well, also being regarded as one of the poorest choices for president toward the end of his one and only term in office. McCain may really believe the country will approve of him so much that they will fall for his parlour trick of Palin the charisma magician, and elect the two of them to office. He may really believe the country will continue to approve of him as its elected leader and her as second in command well into his term of office, regardless of whether she stays out of the way or is as hands on as she seems to be implying she will be, and regardless of whether her ineptitude will manifest itself in nationally destructive ways. If he does actually believe these two things, then this country will have as one of it's choices for president, the fourth stooge.
On the other hand, he could believe she really is the most qualified of the potential pool of vice presidential prospects. If this is the case, then I am frightened that so many people in this country actually want to vot e for McCain because of Palin being on the ticket. His intelligence level is clearly betrayed by his choice of running mate.
Obama has chosen someone whose qualifications for the office of Vice President has never even been brought up. That is as it should be. Now, if anyone wants to question Biden's abilities, that's fine, he will be able to answer them, and the questioner will be doing so as a response to the unending line of questioning that Palin has been undergoing since her appointment. But, Biden has a clear pedigree, whilst Palin simply does not. It is this lack of superficial experience that ensures (and rightfully so) that Palin will be unscrupulously examined for the next month. I'm sure Biden will not.. How is this fair? Palin has not spent her life notching her belt of experience year after year, she is trying to manufacture surface-confidence in a very short time.

Reason number three how Obama is more intelligent than McCain: He wisely chose his running mate.

McCain and Palin are incessant about their maverickness. They are both going to shake up washington. Thelast time we elected a president who was an outsider, we elcted George W. Bush in 2000. He "won" over the washington insider Al Gore. He was the Maverick. He shot from the hip, he quickly became a wartime president, and he loved that. He portrayed himself as the Cowboy, downhome, texas good old boy, that was on your side, and was going to come to washington and change the clinton legacy to be more moral and responsible. Now we have the end of another morally questionable two-term presidency whose washington insiderness has been celebrated by everyone even remotely associated with this administration. And we have a candidate who is espousing his outsiderness, his tendency towards bucking the system, going against the flow, Blah, blah, blah. And we have his running mate who is most decidedly outside of washington, and is also touting her independently political wares. Being a maverick backfired on the country in 2000 and 2004, what possible reason could anyone have for thinking it will not do the same this time around. Going against the flow for the sake of going against the flow is not smart. Anyone who thinks it is is simply short-sighted. Senators, representatives, judges, lawyers, cabinet members are all in the places ther are because we as a voting population trusted them to be our elected officials. For us to wantonly abandon our own opinions about these people (as those who think a maverick president is a good thing would do), is to ridicule ourselves to the rest of the world. It is saying "We are the most fair and democratic society in the world. Look to us to model yourselves after. But don't mind our fickleness, when it comes to electing a president, we don't really trust those we elected to be of true help. We would rather have someone who thumbs his nose at our collective choices, and goes his own way."
reason number four how Barack Obama is mor intelligent than McCain: He is not a Maverick.

This blog post has gone on long enough. I hope my point is clear enough: Intelligence is required by the office of the presidency. Let us all strive to elect the person who has the most of it, and then let us all trust that the person we elect will utilize it to the benefit of our failing country.

Monday, October 6, 2008

On being a weakling

Yes. I am going to offer another, yet another, argument against one the christian's hallmark beliefs. It's funny how there is a never-ending supply of critique-able topics within organized religion. I guess that's a good thing for folks like me. So here goes:
The christian maintains that humans are the special creations of god. Better than the other living beings around us. Maybe not better, per se, but certainly on a higher rung of the liffe-ladder than trees or manatees. You know what makes them think such a thing. The soul we all have is unique to us. No other being, be they flora or fauna has this set of imperial new clothing. Only we blessed humans have this. Now, go ask any christian you know to describe what their soul looks like. Ha, Ha, Ha. I just couldn't resist throwing that one in there. Of course I know what you're thinking they would say "Just because you can't see a soul doesn't mean it doesn't exist, I mean you've never seen an atom, but you still think they exist!" I think such a response, even one like this, which is one I've extrapolated from my own pre-atheistic experiences, would be better phrased in this way " Just because I can't see a soul doesn't mean it doesn't exist, I mean I"ve never seen an atom but I still think they exist." You see, the subtle change in pronouns between the twosentences betrays just how fundamentally different the two are from each other. In the first, the tone is accusatory and offensive (in the sense that the speaker is on the offense, not meaning I as the listener have taken offense at the statement). I, the listener, am being ridiculed for being hypocritical, in that I am perfectly willing to (in the eyes of my accuser) believe in one particular invisible thing (the atom) but simultaneously unwilling to believe in another similarly invisible thing (the soul). Whereas the second phrase, is defensive and slightly apologetic. I the listener am being asked to understand that the speaker really is utterly convinced of their convictions that the soul exists because of the same logic they use to accept that an atom exists. It is not accusatory of me, it is apologetic on the part of the speaker. It seems to me, that the most prudent method for procuring acceptance of your believing something with no evidence is the method which avoids accusation of the proposed acceptor, wherever and whenever possible. Isn't then ironic that I am writing this blog at all, maybe even a bit hypocritical? yeah, I suppose it is. But how else am I to breach a subject such as this, if not within a public medium such as a blog. And since a blog is written within a singularly isolated authorial bubble, with no input being offered by outside sources, until post-posting has occured, it really is an impossibility to not be accusatorial in writing such things, but I defensively digress. Back to the real post.
Christians think we are special because of our souls. If that were the case, if we were really the most important of all god's creations, above all the animals, plants, even the universe at large or small, then how does a christian explain our fragility. I cannot accept at this point, a christian saying something along the lines of " well it's our very fragility, our susceptibility to the world around us, that makes partly so special". It is by the admission of the christian, our possession of a soul which makes us so special. It cannot be both soul-ownership and also physical frailty. It can in the end only be one, just like highlander. How is it that god, would think it smartto make the most special thing he could make and then house it within such a destructible shell. I mean, bacterial infection aside, the downfall of man through the commission of original sin aside, how could god think it a good idea to make it so the most important of all his handiwork, could be crushed by a loose boulder in the hills outside jerusalem? Our bodies are not capable of universally surviving being smashed to smithereens on the floor of a canyon after having fallen from a 2,000 foot clifftop. maybe one in a few people could possibly survive somethinglike that, but not 100% of us could, which meand we were not designed to be able to do such a thing and live to tell about it. Those lucky few who could and maybe have done so, are the exception not the rule. SO again,what is the christian explanation for our bodies being the frail shell they are? I know damn well, if I were the creator of the world and humanity was my crowning achievement, I would make sure that there was no way my magnum opus could be destroyed by some namby-pamby rock, or stick, or mouthful of teeth, or some microscopic parasitic mooch-driven slimeball. If there were a creator god, which of course there is not, then he was an idiot for giving us such crappy, candy-shell, peanut-brittle bodies. it just shows how unimportant we really are. Just because we can think we are more important than all else in existence doesn't mean we are. How do we know that cockroaches don't think, How do you, Mr. Christian know that a cockroach cannot think. Cause it looks to me like the cockroach is better equipped to survive a 2000 foot fall than I am. Maybe, we got it backwards, maybe the cockroach, or the shark or bacteria are the real important ones, cause they've been around a lot longer than we have. And maybe they can think, I don't know that they can't.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Miracle of Creation?

Isn't nature beautiful? Complex, varied, awe-inspiring (in the true, non-cliche sense) and some say miraculous. How could we have the world we live in if something didn't make it, purposefully? My mom sees the existence of god in the world around her, as she has told me. Leaving aside the possibility that she includes the magnanimous behaviour of her friends and those "nice strangers" she meets each week at church, I assume she is mainly referring to the grandiosity of the natural world. Her garden growing, wildlife all around her, the vastness of the atlantic ocean, etc... Indeed, the workings of a living body are complex, so complex that most don't bother ever attempting to learn how they operate, beyond a conversational familiarity with the subject. Mountains are enormous. I certainly couldn't make a mountain out of a bunch of rocks and dirt. I couldn't dig out a big bowlful of earth and then fill it with water enough to equal the atlantic. Awesome is a good word to describe these and all the many other monumental natural "wonders" of the world. But I of course have a problem with the tacit assignment of supernatural origin to all of these wonders, that my mom and so many many people in this country so easily give away.
If god were the true creator of all that we see, then his Creation should be comprised of false fronts. The "miracle" of nature, should by definition, defy the laws of the natural world. God should have "made" everything to work exactly as it does, but without the various inner workings that science has slowly revealed over the last 1500 years or so. A human body that lives as ours do, but one with no bones, blood vessels, internal organs etc... would indeed be a miraculous thing. An oak tree that looks just like an oak tree, that does all the oak tree things, but is only a caricature of an oak tree, now that would be something of divine origin. But that is not what we have. Instead we have living bodies that exist according to particular protocols. Reproduction occurs according to duplicatory measures. Respiration occurs in a regulated manner, one that can be observed and described. Infact, the only way the word miracle could be used to describe the workings (or results) of nature is if there were no words other than miracle to use to describe what we see. By having other words to describe more accurately, these repeatedly observable processes, we eliminate "miracle" from the vocabulary. God's "creation" is capable of working all by itself, utilizing no supernatural means, only what it possesses naturally. This in itself is enough to discard any thought of a theistic origin to the world.
If there is no "creation", then what is left to argue for on the side of the existence of god. If "god" didn't create everything, which is one of the hallmarks of god's omnipotence, then what other reasons do we have to believe in such a being. Let's say, everyone agrees the earth was formed from the coagulation of cosmic "gases" comprised of the simplest elements, about 5 billion years ago. Let's just say that we all agree on that, which I know we don't, but let's just pretend likewe do for a moment. If we dismantle the idea that god mysteriously "created" the earth as we know it, through his godly methods, of which we will never be privy to, then in what capacity does god remain ALL-Powerful? If he is not the creator of the universe doesn' this take away some of his power? If some of his power is removed, then doesn't this mean he is not OMNIpotent. If there is something which he did not do, then that means something else did it. I suppose it would depend on what the something is that we are disucussing. Obviously, if we were talking about god having the power to make a pizza, and then we remove all reason to believe that god had ever made a pizza, then of course our conclusion couldn't be that god was incapable of making a pizza, just that he had never done so. But let's be clear, we are not discussing the origins of a tasty italian-american meal. This is the planet's existence here. If god did not create the planet, then we must come up with another explanation for it's existence. If the planet came into being as science has described, without the help of god, then in this grand case, it is prudent to conclude god's incapability in the arena of planet construction. For sure, if god had wanted us to know he existed, without a doubt, it would have been a much easier and more successful road hoed, if he had simply left ample, inscrutable and unassailable evidence that he alone created the earth. Since he did not do such a thing, it is entirely possible to dismantle the facade of god's planetary creationist powers. The way I see it, if the truth really were, god is the all powerful being that christians say he is, then he would have left in our minds, no room for doubt. Since we obviously have this capacity, and exercise it with a divinely morbid regularity, this must lead us to conclude that god's existence is not what the christians have packaged it as. Of course, not everyone is accepting of the scientific method's alternative explanation on the origin of our planet, but the fact remains that this alternative exists. So what if god is just this thing that is bigger than us, that we just know is out there? So what if he is? Who cares? And for what reason do they care if they indeed do? If the christian god is not god, then is the muslim or jewish god God? They really aren't that dissimilar, having originated from the same tradition, so what about the hindu god(s), the norse, native american, various african? None of these, offer explanations which are MORE credible, than that of the scientific explanation, to the origin of the earth. In order to be more credible, they each would have to explain things which science cannot, and do so in a way that is not childishly ignorant. They can not. What about those who say, religion is a means to live your life the best way possible? God is that which can help you to become a better person. The word god, for these people, is a crutch. It adds nothing explanatory to the discussion, but it does allow for retreat into safety, when the discomfort of bad decision-making becomes a bit too much. The idea that there is something directing them towards being good, absolves, ever-how indirectly, a person from having to accept full responsibility for all of their life-long decisions and actions. God is a crutch, that does nothing to illuminate more fully what we do not understand. It is high time we relinquish that which does not help, even if it seems like it does help.

Friday, September 5, 2008

On Guns

" Guns don't kill people, We Do!" A quote from Kiss Me Kate, the Cole Porter musical. It pretty much sums up the NRA position, all joking aside. I'd like to talk about that for a moment. Guns don't kill people, people kill people. If that is the case, I'd suggest to anyone who truly adheres to such a statement, that they give a fully loaded (including one in the chamber, with the safety off) handgun of any caliber above a .22 to a three year old child, standback and watch as that child explores what the trigger is for. Enjoy especially the moment when they discover the cool dark hole at the end of the gun, the one that's cool and smooth. Smile as the three year old points the gun at them while learning exactly how much pressure they have to exert in order to pull the trigger. And then continue to maintain that the three year old with gun inhand is maliciously intent on doing them severe bodily harm, knowing full well what havoc the device in their hands is capable of inflicting. You get my point here. The three year old is not going to kill anyone, yet with a handgun placed within their reach, and with someone, anyone, near them the potential for death is high, BECAUSE OF THE GUN!
Guns are not pieces of art for arts sake. They were not invented FOR their aesthetic value. They are not implements of creation. They are devices with a single reason as to their existence, ending a life. They weren't made so humanity could poke holes in things really quickly and they sure weren't made so we could stick flowers in their barrels. The point of a gun is to propel a very hard, very small object at such a fast rate, so as to penetrate the living flesh of a possible source of food, or that of a possible predator. Wounding something was not what the gun makers were going for. If you wound a prey, then eating that prey will prove to be difficult. likewise if you only wound a charging predator, you probably willstill be overtaken and summarily dismissed from this life. Death, and providing the means to inflict it as quickly as possible, was on the minds of the gun's creator(s). How can we stand at a safe and/or adequately camoflauged distance and still be able to take down our quarry, be it hostile or otherwise?
Most people today are not out participating in the predator/prey dance. Grocery stores, slaughterhouses and commercial agriculture have done a good deal of work to eliminate the one-on-one time we as a species used to have to invest in the procurement of our food. Now guns are primarily used for "sport" and self-defence. The self-defence part is what remains of the prey instinct we all have. None of us wants to be the victim of violence, be it administered by a grizzly bear, bengal tiger or a fellow human. Since we primarily have no run-ins today with grizzly bears or bengal tigers, we are left with the violent tendencies of ourselves to deal with. The "Right to bear arms" that is so often touted by the NRA folks, is cast in the light of being able to defend ourselves from unwanted violence from our fellow man. There is really no argument to that desire. The real argument is that the "right" invoked by the language is viewed as being higher up the ladder of important rights than it should be. You see, we all have a more fundamental right than that of being able to bear arms, and that is the right to being ALIVE. I am not a member of the NRA. I don't own a gun, and never will. I grew up with a hunter father. He taught me how to handle all mannerof guns safely and responsibly. I have hunted and killed (as a teenager, on hunting trips with my dad). I have shot many types of guns. I will never own a gun. The reason is because, although I recognize the necessary protocol in having and possibly using a gun, what reasonsmight exist for using one, in what circumstances the use of a gun is warranted, etc... I also recognize that the gun's very existence is a violation of serenity and peace. A person will pull the trigger, but a trigger pull will result in death if the trigger is attached to a device that can fire a bullet at a target. It doesn't even have to be an intended target, many people are innocent bystanders who "inadverdently" get shot while putting their groceries in the car during a driveby. GUNS KILL PEOPLE. People might use guns to kill particular people, that is where the people side comes into play, but it is the gun which puts into play the death march.

Which brings me to other objects that can be used to kill, knives, bows and arrows, blunt objects, swords, etc... All of these objects and devices existed before guns did, and they all have been usedby people to kill other people, so doesn't this repudiate my entire argument? Not in the least, and here's how. Knives were invented to kill prey. Have you ever tried to kill something with a knife? You have to either be really close ensuring accuracy but sacrificing concealment and/or personal safety or far enough away, ensuring concealment and/or safety but sacrificing accuracy. Neither way proved to be the optimal method for getting food or avoiding danger. So goes the description of the use of blunt objects as instruments of death. Probably, blunt objects were used before knives (sharply-edged stones) were anyway. Bows and arrows offered more distal accuracy, but only marginally so at first, and it also left a lotto be desired in the lethality department. A puncture that only goes through the outer layer of skin doesn't bring down a prey very efficiently. Swords probably were not used for hunting much, for the same reasons knives led to projectile devices. Which brings us to guns. They offer the best of both worlds: distance = safety and concealment, and accuracy = really fast, really small projectiles. Yay!!! We don't have to worry as much about food now. Except you and I don't live in this pre-civilization world, yet guns still exist and have gotten more deadly and more accurate. For what purpose? We've already spoken of that. None of these other devices are of the depth and scope of a gun's complexity. In order to use any of the devices listed above well, it takes a great amount of skill and diligent practice.
How is it that all of the implements listed above still exist today? How is it that guns have not relegated them all to the museum as laughable growing pains of our youth as a struggling species? It is because they work. None of them was a failure, they all contributed heavily to our survival. It's just that guns made our lives more convenient. It made it easier to kill things, leaving us moretime to waste on other pursuits (worthwhile or not). Now that we live in a world where we don't HAVE to hunt our food, the convenience offered by guns can only be manifested in one arena, that of self-defence. Guns make it possible to kill anything that comes close to us, and quickly, whether or not that thing is a danger to us. We use them to "protect" ourselves from ourselves. We also use them to exert self-dominance. We no longer are subject to the dangers lurking in the forest or the savannah. No longer do we require a method of quick preemptive striking on would-be attackers from species other than ourselves. In the resulting evolutionary gap of species dominance we now live in, we manufacture artificial subjectivity within our own species and we commandeer once-necessary death agents and reassign them prime position in our arsenal of species-wide auto-subjugation. Those who really think guns are our natural, god-given right, are going to ensure they never go away, and thus no amount of gun-control will ever make a dent in the self-inflicted violence humanity indulges in on a minute-by-minute basis. Sarah Palin is a sad reflection of the lack of thought behind the rhetoric of gun enthusiasts. Let's hope that, we don't get another Dick Cheney in the vice President's office, or else we'll have another hunting "accident" in a few years.