22 April, 2011

News from Heathensville - Part 1A

A few hours ago I mentioned the letter that Christopher Hitchens wrote to those attending the American Atheist Convention.  Hitch was supposed to be here, but his health has deteriorated to the point that he couldn't make the trip.  Instead he wrote this letter, which I now share with you because it really is to all those fighting the good fight for truth and reason in this 21st century:

Dear fellow-unbelievers,
    Nothing would have kept me from joining you except the loss of my voice (at least my speaking voice) which in turn is due to a long argument I am currently having with the specter of death. Nobody ever wins this argument, though there are some solid points to be made while the discussion goes on. I have found, as the enemy becomes more familiar, that all the special pleading for salvation, redemption and supernatural deliverance appears even more hollow and artificial to me than it did before. I hope to help defend and pass on the lessons of this for many years to come, but for now I have found my trust better placed in two things: the skill and principle of advanced medical science, and the comradeship of innumerable friends and family, all of them immune to the false consolations of religion. It is these forces among others which will speed the day when humanity emancipates itself from the mind-forged manacles of servility and superstitition. It is our innate solidarity, and not some despotism of the sky, which is the source of our morality and our sense of decency. 
      That essential sense of decency is outraged every day. Our theocratic enemy is in plain view. Protean in form, it extends from the overt menace of nuclear-armed mullahs to the insidious campaigns to have stultifying pseudo-science taught in American schools. But in the past few years, there have been heartening signs of a genuine and spontaneous resistance to this sinister nonsense: a resistance which repudiates the right of bullies and tyrants to make the absurd claim that they have god on their side. To have had a small part in this resistance has been the greatest honor of my lifetime: the pattern and original of all dictatorship is the surrender of reason to absolutism and the abandonment of critical, objective inquiry. The cheap name for this lethal delusion is religion, and we must learn new ways of combating it in the public sphere, just as we have learned to free ourselves of it in private. 
    Our weapons are the ironic mind against the literal: the open mind against the credulous; the courageous pursuit of truth against the fearful and abject forces who would set limits to investigation (and who stupidly claim that we already have all the truth we need). Perhaps above all, we affirm life over the cults of death and human sacrifice and are afraid, not of inevitable death, but rather of a human life that is cramped and distorted by the pathetic need to offer mindless adulation, or the dismal belief that the laws of nature respond to wailings and incantations. 
       As the heirs of a secular revolution, American atheists have a special responsibility to defend and uphold the Constitution that patrols the boundary between Church and State. This, too, is an honor and a privilege. Believe me when I say that I am present with you, even if not corporeally (and only metaphorically in spirit...) Resolve to build up Mr Jefferson's wall of separation. And don't keep the faith.
Christopher Hitchens

News from Heathensville - Part 1

Son JMS and I are in the midst of the American Atheist Convention here in dreary downtown Des Moines, IA.  And so far it has been interesting.

In addition to rubbing elbows with the likes of PZ Myers, Lawrence Kraus, and Andy Thompson, (Oh, and Greta Christina for those of you who appreciate her writing), we have been privy to some interesting news.

The Atheist/Freethought/Humanist/Secular movement is combining on some exciting, in your face projects:
  1. For July 4, banners promoting Atheism, to whit reading "Godless America",will be flown over major sporting and other events in every state in the nation where atheism/agnosticism is "the fastest growing religious segment" according to recent polls. For those of you who might be unaware -- that would be all fifty states.  Ought to be a hoot.  And
  2. In the spring of 2012, every non-theist organization in the country is sponsoring, and AA hosting, a Reason Rally in Washington, DC, which is predicted to be the largest gathering of non-believers in the history of the world.  Among others, Richard Dawkins has committed to attend.  The FSM willing, I'll be there.
Well, gotta get back to the show, I'll report more later  --  including on Christopher Hitchens couching and compelling letter to the convention.

16 April, 2011

John Galt's Speech in just 964 Words...

"For twelve years you've been asking "Who is John Galt?" This is John Galt speaking. I'm the man who's taken away your victims and thus destroyed your world. You've heard it said that this is an age of moral crisis and that Man's sins are destroying the world. But your chief virtue has been sacrifice, and you've demanded more sacrifices at every disaster. You've sacrificed justice to mercy and happiness to duty. So why should you be afraid of the world around you?
"Your world is only the product of your sacrifices. While you were dragging the men who made your happiness possible to your sacrificial altars, I beat you to it. I reached them first and told them about the game you were playing and where it would take them. I explained the consequences of your 'brother-love' morality, which they had been too innocently generous to understand. You won't find them now, when you need them more than ever.
"We're on strike against your creed of unearned rewards and unrewarded duties. If you want to know how I made them quit, I told them exactly what I'm telling you tonight. I taught them the morality of Reason -- that it was right to pursue one's own happiness as one's principal goal in life. I don't consider the pleasure of others my goal in life, nor do I consider my pleasure the goal of anyone else's life.
"I am a trader. I earn what I get in trade for what I produce. I ask for nothing more or nothing less than what I earn. That is justice. I don't force anyone to trade with me; I only trade for mutual benefit. Force is the great evil that has no place in a rational world. One may never force another human to act against his/her judgment. If you deny a man's right to Reason, you must also deny your right to your own judgment. Yet you have allowed your world to be run by means of force, by men who claim that fear and joy are equal incentives, but that fear and force are more practical.
"You've allowed such men to occupy positions of power in your world by preaching that all men are evil from the moment they're born. When men believe this, they see nothing wrong in acting in any way they please. The name of this absurdity is 'original sin'. That's impossible. That which is outside the possibility of choice is also outside the province of morality. To call sin that which is outside man's choice is a mockery of justice. To say that men are born with a free will but with a tendency toward evil is ridiculous. If the tendency is one of choice, it doesn't come at birth. If it is not a tendency of choice, then man's will is not free.
"And then there's your 'brother-love' morality. Why is it moral to serve others, but not yourself? If enjoyment is a value, why is it moral when experienced by others, but not by you? Why is it immoral to produce something of value and keep it for yourself, when it is moral for others who haven't earned it to accept it? If it's virtuous to give, isn't it then selfish to take?
"Your acceptance of the code of selflessness has made you fear the man who has a dollar less than you because it makes you feel that that dollar is rightfully his. You hate the man with a dollar more than you because the dollar he's keeping is rightfully yours. Your code has made it impossible to know when to give and when to grab.
"You know that you can't give away everything and starve yourself. You've forced yourselves to live with undeserved, irrational guilt. Is it ever proper to help another man? No, if he demands it as his right or as a duty that you owe him. Yes, if it's your own free choice based on your judgment of the value of that person and his struggle. This country wasn't built by men who sought handouts. In its brilliant youth, this country showed the rest of the world what greatness was possible to Man and what happiness is possible on Earth.
"Then it began apologizing for its greatness and began giving away its wealth, feeling guilty for having produced more than ikts neighbors. Twelve years ago, I saw what was wrong with the world and where the battle for Life had to be fought. I saw that the enemy was an inverted morality and that my acceptance of that morality was its only power. I was the first of the men who refused to give up the pursuit of his own happiness in order to serve others.
"To those of you who retain some remnant of dignity and the will to live your lives for yourselves, you have the chance to make the same choice. Examine your values and understand that you must choose one side or the other. Any compromise between good and evil only hurts the good and helps the evil.
"If you've understood what I've said, stop supporting your destroyers. Don't accept their philosophy. Your destroyers hold you by means of your endurance, your generosity, your innocence, and your love. Don't exhaust yourself to help build the kind of world that you see around you now. In the name of the best within you, don't sacrifice the world to those who will take away your happiness for it.
"The world will change when you are ready to pronounce this oath:  I swear by my Life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for the sake of mine."

12 April, 2011

The Argument from Ignorance and related thoughts.

Yesterday, in order to preserve my sanity as much as anything, I was forced to “unfriend” a person on FaceBook whom I largely like and mostly agree with politically.  Barn has one huge problem however; he absolutely refuses to accept any concept that derives from science, constantly falling back on the argument from ignorance and god of the gaps pleas, along with ad hominem attacks, whenever an idea causes him discomfort.

I suspect he prefers modern medicine to the chanting of witch doctors or exorcists driving out demons, but then again I could be wrong about that.  I do know that such basic scientific ideas as evolution and climate change send him into convulsions of vituperous ignorance, unwilling (unable) to present either evidence or logic to support his world view preferences.

The argument from ignorance simply says “I do not understand how that could have occurred naturally, so god must have done it”.  End of argument.

God of the gaps is similar, except it references what science does not yet know.  “You cannot explain how or why this happens or that occurs, so god did it.”

We have all been victims of ad hominem attacks.  “John old boy, science is a fraud and when you accept what it says you are showing how dumb you are.”

So, after a year of unsuccessfully trying to engage in an honest and logical discussion, I finally cut it off.  Life is too short.

All of which is prelude to what now follows:

If you cannot cite evidence for your position, do some research.  Barn simply would not do that.  If however you insist on relying on argument from ignorance or god of the gaps illogic, then please do us both a favor and “unfriend” me now.  I am no longer interested in wasting my time with those who choose to wallow in that combination of ignorance and arrogance that demarcates true believers.  Be gone.

Perhaps just as importantly however, I have come to realize that many Liberals/Progressives use debating points similar to the argument from ignorance to support their positions on a variety of topics.  See if you recognize this:  “If government doesn’t step up and help people (choose one) who are losing their homes, have lost their jobs, are uneducated, can’t afford college, don’t have healthcare (you get the point) no one else will.  It is the civilized (humanist, communal, caring, etc.) thing to do and you are greedy (selfish, uncaring, fascist, etc.) if you object.”

They reject much of the American experience, the Free Market, charity, and personal responsibility with the same alacrity that Barn dismisses evolution and climate change.  Largely Atheists, agnostics, or humanists, they extoll their skepticism about the God of Abraham, all the while worshipping prostrate before the almighty god of big government.

They have not, as they imagine, abandoned the thought of, or need for, a god, they have merely substituted one god for another.  Far from having gained independence, they have only shifted the object of their dependence to one just as arbitrary and controlling as the original.  They suffer in essence from a very unhealthy codependence with government.  I challenge them to rethink that codependency and discover real freedom at last.

09 April, 2011

Another trip through the environmental looking glass.

So President Greenjeans, always anxious to steer our nation in a new direction, whether it's a proper direction or not is immaterial so long as it's new enough for him to take credit for it, pushed his company, Government Motors, to spring into production of the Volt, an electric automobile for which there was little market and none of the necessary infrastructure.  Now we have the Volt, or Government Motors has it to be precise, and everything is going along swimmingly except for one minor issue, which is no one wants to plunk down 45 grand for an automobile the size of a tight jacket.

The price of course is one thing, the size and lack of infrastructure are others.  But the real kicker can be found in a study done by a fellow by the name of George Hoffer, a professor of business at the University of Richmond who specializes in the automobile industry, whatever that means.  Anyway, the professor did a financial analysis comparing the cost of owning one of those Volts with the cost of owning one of those awful, environment-destroying, gasoline-burning compacts, a Chevy Cruz, which is manufactured and sold by the very same Government Motors.

What Professor Hoffer's study concluded was that a person would have to drive the Volt a momentous 209,900 miles before any savings realized, including the massive and shameful government subsidies involved, would equal the cost of driving the Cruz.  209,900 miles, or roundtrip across America roughly thirty-eight times.  It wants to take one's breath away.

It goes without saying then that for the foreseeable future Government Motors is stuck with the Volt, and we taxpayers are similarly stuck with forking over large subsidies to tree-hugging liberals with no sense of proportion.  Not to mention millions of shares of stock in said company which are worth today less than the day they were issued.  Is government wonderful, or what?