The author of the Hardcore History and Common Sense podcasts. I’ve been listening to Common Sense since about episode 70. I have heard all of the Hardcore History episodes. I have had some pretty pointed critique for Dan over the years.
On the Dan Carlin Facebook group, a former moderator of the old BBS posted this little tidbit of a text string,
The real issue is not to that trump and Biden are the same, it’s that their differences don’t matter.
If you lived in Gaul or Hispania or Bythnia or Alexandria, The correct answer to Marius or Sulla is neither.
The corruption on display by Biden and Trump cannot be fixed by Your Guy.
Disempower DC. Let Oregon be a progressive. Let Mississippi be conservative.
It is the only hope to prevent the violence that will not be worth it, even if you win.
nmoore63, The Ponderous Right-Winger
We go way back, Nick and I, as if in saying “way back” you mean quiet but firmly militant enforced tolerance of disparate beliefs that are violently at odds under the surface. Kind of like the various ethnic groups kept together under the pressure of a dictatorship, now released to tell each other what they really think. Of course, I had to respond to this tasty bit of bait.
The belief that Biden is corrupt is where you stumble into the bullshit. There is no proof, none whatsoever, that Biden is corrupt. Even if there was, he hasn’t been a tax cheat all of is adult life and Trump has. He hasn’t defrauded his contractors since the 1980’s and Trump has. Joe Biden isn’t a racist, and Trump is. Joe Biden isn’t a populist, and Trump is.
Trump wants to be Marius or Sulla, a Caesar or Tsar, except Donald Trump doesn’t have the balls to do the work. Joe Biden isn’t even trying to be a dictator, so making that comparison with him is pointless.
The list of differences is nearly infinite. I have zero patience for people who want to pretend that Biden is the same as Trump or that the Democrats are the same as the Republicans. They aren’t. The similarities between Democrats and Republicans ends at the point where the parties have both inserted themselves into the framework of the country and shouldn’t be there. After that point, their goals diverge, as is demonstrated on a daily basis.
Republicans want to keep voter turnouts low, because that is what has worked for the oligarchy in the past, and they are the oligarchs that profited from discouraging voter turnout in days gone by. Over and over the points add up and the Republicans are the ones who are responsible for most of the problems today, because they took on those problems when they invited the Dixiecrats into their fold.
In four years the story may well be different. But as long as the Republican party remains the racist, fascist creation of Donald Trump, I will be a Democrat. The problem is Trump and his supporters, not the Democrats and the rest of the human race. If you don’t understand this point by now, you probably never will.
I get it. I really do. You think that the states can go it alone if we only let them have a free-er hand. That is your anarchist beliefs talking. Anarchism is a dysfunction of the mental processes, it is not (not) a philosophy. If it was a philosophy there would be more to it than just believing you should be free to do as you please. The Zero-Aggression Principle (ZAP) or whatever your particular flavor of anarchism amounts to is not a philosophy. It isn’t a philosophy because aggression among humans is unavoidable.
In the end, when words fail, it comes to force. Anyone (anyone) who has lived long enough to raise their own children knows this fact. If they deny it, they are lying to themselves and to you. You doubt this? Your child is running towards the street and oncoming traffic. Do you stop them before they get run over? If so, you have used force to get your way. You have aggressed against your child. So much for anarchism. So much for the ZAP, it was zapped by parental concern. As it should have been.
So here you are, willing to use force to get your way, and you want me to believe that you won’t use it to get your way in most other situations where you think you’re right. You’ll use force, if that is what it comes to. This is human nature, and I’ve had a lot to say about the subject of human nature in my many years of blogging.
When this country (the United States) started there had never been any government quite like it before in history. There was Greece and it’s Athenian direct democracy, and then Rome and it’s vaunted (but largely powerless) Senate. But there hadn’t been a new government formed that was based solely on the words written on parchment.
A solid majority of the people who migrated here were aware of parliaments, but those nations they came from had kings and other forms of nobility that held the power. The American colonies were the first to fall to the new ideas of the enlightenment, followed closely by a few other countries that were most remarkable in their spectacular failures than they were in their successes.
The ideas of faction were nascent then. Poorly understood, loosely equated with political parties of the time, a thing that the founders of the United States wrote about in the most ominous tones. But even they fell into factions shortly after the first election that gave us George Washington. Factions that were firmly in place by the time that Thomas Jefferson unseated John Adams and became the third president of the United States.
Faction, it turns out, is unavoidable. But that doesn’t mean that we have to encode factions into the body politic. We don’t have to suffer them dictating policy on the whim of their supporters, reversing from election to election. We can remove them from the system, just like has been done in California, the only state that has so far done the work that needs to be done to divorce government from factional infighting.
How is this done, you ask? Jungle primaries and representative districts that are drawn by a non-partisan commission. That is how it was done in California and it will work in every state in the United States if the people of those states would agree that was what they wanted. So we take over the Democrats, because the Republicans are already off on a fool’s errand of vanishing returns, and then we make the system sound by passing state legislation that ends gerrymandering, institutes jungle primaries and mandates public financing for all elections.
With those measures in place every dollar that gets into a representatives hands from outside the government will be criminal and prosecutable. Their parties will be largely irrelevant aside from the issues the party represents. Whoever best represents an area will be the representative because there won’t be a corrupting influence involved in drawing the districts. It’s a long haul, but we can do it. We can do it forty-nine times (or fifty-one, or a hundred and fifty-one) if that is what it takes, because we, the Democrats, will have the majority. We will have the majority and we will maintain the majority for as long as the Republicans continue to pursue a vanishing, white, evangelical electorate.
For Republicans to win in the nation these efforts will create, they will have to actually change. There is little chance of conservatives ever embracing that liberal notion.
Is Trump a libertarian? I don’t think Trump has an ideology. He is a con artist and this presidency is merely his latest con. He caters to the conspiracy-minded, the wilfully ignorant, etc. He’s said it right out loud, like he always does. “I love the poorly educated.” He loves them because they are easily manipulated. It is our job to see him punished for his crimes. The first step on the road to seeing justice done is to discover what is real and what is fake, and to adhere to the real.
Libertarianism is not real.
Libertarians sold their souls to the Republican party when they nominated Bob Barr and then sold them again to the next Republican retread for president. That is, the ones that didn’t outright leave and form the Tea Party and screw up the GOP to the point that it became the party of Trump. I was a Libertarian once. Luckily that fever passed.
Libertarians, like the Orange Hate-Monkey, sneer at expertise in general. They set aside all government theory as statist. Libertarians are anarchists in everything but name, and anarchists are happy as pigs in a wallow when government fails. Government failure, and the population shrugging and accepting government failure, is evidence of their ideals successful incursion into the population. With just a bit more apathy they’ll finally be able to topple the US government (just like the anarchists helped do in Russia in 1917) and replace it with whatever comes next.
Trump is a direct result of the Tea Party’s influence on the GOP, and the Tea Party movement started as a Ron Paul lead incursion into the Republican party. Trump is the result of Libertarian ideals, just as the S&L debacle and other deregulation fiascos are results of libertarian influence in politics.
I have no doubt that they are out there leading the charge right now, demanding their right to infect their fellow men with their uncovered faces, because telling people to wear masks, citing public health concerns, is a violation of their right to contract. If it was only them dying from the infection then I would wash my hands of the subject and let them spread the infection among themselves and then withhold medical treatment on the grounds that they should have known the risks when they refused to wear masks. But that isn’t how public health works, and herd immunity (AKA, a vaccine) remains the only way out of this pandemic.
…that means following the guidelines of the experts in the field, and allowing government to do its job ensuring that there are medical facilities for everyone who needs them when they need them. Because we will all ultimately need them and almost none of us can afford to foot that bill.
Letting government do its job successfully is something that they and their Orange Hate-Monkey president are simply not willing to do. If government works then they can’t point to it and say “see, it isn’t working.” I’m not so fond of my ideals that I’d see other people die for them, myself.
We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law.We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History contains a portion of this quote in the intro to each episode. I recognized it as being an Edward R. Murrow quote the first time I heard it. It was also featured in a scene in the movie about him titled Good Night, and Good Luck, Murrow’s signature tagline for his broadcasts.
Edward R. Murrow stared down the last demagogue that held high office. He did it at great cost to himself and his fellow journalists. Where are those people brave enough to stand up to the demagogue currently seated in the chair of the President of the United States? Are we too amused by the circuses to bother with it?
This instrument can teach; it can illuminate; yes, and even it can inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it’s nothing but wires and lights in a box.
I’m listening to Carl Sagan’s The Demon Haunted World on Audible right now (a hat/tip is due for the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe here) I remembered reading this commentary on the celebration of stupidity somewhere online before deciding I needed to at least read the book once. The Facebook memories for today included a paragraph or two on the subject. Ah, memory hole plugged. I knew I’d read that somewhere before.
I started that status entry with,
It is a point of pride to me that I couldn’t sit through Dumb and Dumber. I never bothered to watch Beavis and Butthead; as in, ever watch. I know one joke from that series. I remember it only because I am unable to forget it.
A family member loved the show back in the day, and he and another friend enjoyed pretending they were Beavis and Butthead and would do that skit repeatedly until I gave up and laughed. Gave up and laughed, against my better judgement.
Stupidity is not funny. Stupidity is dangerous. Ignorance gets people killed. All. The. Time. Not knowing that your pool is the most dangerous place in your yard is what kills children every year. I stood outside on the deck in my backyard waiting for my now-crawling son to fall in the pool, and after he did fall in the pool I jumped in fully clothed to pull him back out. This was the third person I had saved from drowning in my life, the only time I knew that what was about to happen would happen. I knew that the baby would explore his world. I knew he would not know what to think of this thing called water and edge and pool. I knew he would probably fall in, and I watched to see if he did. When he did I was prepared to pull him out immediately, and the scare kept him from ever going near the pool again unless we were present and teaching him to swim. He swam like a fish at two or three, I don’t remember when exactly he took to water, but he was probably swimming better than he could walk for most of his childhood.
Knowing he would fall in allowed me to save his life and turn the unknown danger into a teaching moment that he carries with him to this day. Knowledge is power.
I don’t find stupid people amusing, I find stupid people threatening, and for very good reasons. Stupid drivers get other people killed. I see it pretty much every time I drive. Stupid people on their way to painful, deadly futures in their cars, and they’ll probably take someone else with them when they do that one stupid thing that gets them killed. Stupid voters elect poor leaders. It is not for nothing that MAGA=Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans, this assertion is demonstrable, repeatedly. Stupid voters elected the Orange Hate-Monkey. The OHM himself acknowledges this with his damning with faint praise comment “I love the poorly educated.” Stupid leaders destroy entire nations. The OHM and his willful ignorance, his flock of the willfully ignorant in tow, are burning this country to the ground as I type this out right now. The idiots will not know they’ve destroyed the country until it is too late to save it from them, but they might as well be covering everything in gasoline and lighting the match themselves. Destruction is just about that certain.
I will not laugh at the OHM or his followers. They aren’t funny. They are threatening my life and the lives of my children, and I won’t allow those threats to go unanswered. There will be consequences for the two years of the OHM’s rule, one way or another. The stupid who voted for him need to feel this pain themselves, like discovering you are immersed in a liquid that you didn’t know was there, and no one told you how to swim before you fell in. They need to recognize danger and avoid it in the future. How will this lesson be taught? That is a very good question.
Throwing off the baggage of revealed knowledge. We don’t need its dead weight any longer.
Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.
Once upon a time there was a forum at Dan Carlin’s podcast website. The forum has since been deleted, and the posts only sporadically appear in the Wayback Machine now. It’s hit or miss to find any of the almost six thousand posts I logged there over the decade or more I haunted the forums. For a very long time I considered those forums the best place, the only place, to go to argue politics and philosophy. I was probably always wrong on that score, as I was wrong on so many other scores back then, but it felt almost like home for a period of a few years. Before it turned sour. Before it was dominated by the hateful few who had successfully driven off the thinkers there.
I discovered Dan Carlin’s podcasts, Common Sense and Hardcore History through an advertisement on Freetalk Live, back in the days when I was a hardcore Libertarian idealist. Back when I would show up to argue things I didn’t understand with people I didn’t understand and couldn’t figure out. I was lucky if I could extract a rebuttal from the cryptic lines of text they would type in reply to my (in my mind) clearly worded arguments. It took many years and lots of fumbling to realize that what I thought was clearly worded was generally the same mish-mash of disconnected and unconnectable personal anecdotes turned into text strings that I was presented with by other members of that and other forums. Groups of the blissfully unsuspecting that I would descend on like a vengeful wraith of anarchist freedom gone mad, sputtering coded gibberish that I’m sure most people couldn’t even wrap their heads around. At least, that is how it seems in hindsight.
Dan Carlin was one of the pioneers of what is now a burgeoning industry of informational and news podcasts, and I was an early listener of his starting with about the thirtieth podcast of Common Sense. I signed up for his community forum in January of 2007. I made enemies almost immediately and was driven off by old-timers there a few times. I was driven off only to return the next time Dan posted a Common Sense show that I wanted to argue about. I say driven off because that is what was happening. Dan Carlin had and still has some quaint ideas about the value of input from those uninterested in conversation, what most of the world today labels as trolls. I wasn’t above trolling in my own way, but I never understood why clear attempts to end conversation were never stopped by the many moderators present on the forum. It was years later that I realized that they were never going to do anything about these trolls. Dan Carlin’s expressed opinion on the subject of freedom of speech was that everyone had a right to speak even when that speech was specifically intended to disrupt. As my willingness to be verbally assaulted waxed and waned, and as the membership in the group altered and new people appeared to take the place of old adversaries, I would come and go infrequently.
I would come and go infrequently that is until episode 172, an episode I retitled Texas SBOE Destroys Education; an essay that I posted to this blog at the time and also posted to the forum. In that podcast Dan appears to suggest that creationism could be successfully taught alongside modern scientific theories about the history and future of the universe, a point which he quickly denied on the forums and yet remains exactly as I stated in the podcast. When I protested that the last thing that should be done was to compromise the scientific method in such a fashion, I was immediately laid upon by a large section of the forum’s membership, an overwhelming number of which were christians (like the majority of American society itself) christians who wanted their views taught in school as if their beliefs were the unassailable truth. Truth with a capital T, better than the results of scientific inquiry.
After being badgered for days about how science is itself ultimately unprovable in a post-modernist sense, after being badgered for my atheism and how atheism also makes claims about reality which cannot be proven, I created a secondary thread with the title Atheism is Not a Belief System. I honestly thought I’d at least get the rest of the atheists on the forums on board with this subject line. I mean, not having a belief in a thing isn’t itself a belief, right?
It’s funny in hindsight, this naive belief that two people could agree about anything on the internet. What happened over the years, from June 2, 2010 to the day the boards went down late in 2016 can only be described as a cluster fuck. There really isn’t any other words that will cover the mess that resulted from the creation of that thread.
Part of the problem was mine. It took years for me to distinguish between those offering friendly criticism and those who were militantly convinced that all atheists were of the devil. The last group was pretty clearly demarcated because most of them were incoherent even though they offered walls of text as explanations. It was during the attempted shepherding of this rolling orgy in a cesspool that a lot of my current attitudes towards substandard attempts to troll, incoherent if firmly believed arguments, and just plain bad attempts to be funny were formed. Since the people trolling the thread to silence conversation were never going to be punished by the administrators of the forum, I was forced to simply block the trolls who could not be reasoned with. I blocked the dangerously deranged and mildly threatening alike, attempting to force the thread onto the course that the title implied, all to no avail. The militant christians of the forum made it a religion thread, until I finally gave them what they wanted. I changed the title to That Religion Thread. This was the first of several subject lines I gave it. Every one of the new names I came up with were blatant attempts to murder the thread. I would change the title and the OP’s contents to reflect what the forum’s participants were saying at the other end of the (then 400 page) thread, and I did that several times over the course of years. The effort was largely ineffective, although I did get the thread to roll briefly off the front page of the forum once. Once.
As I became more and more disillusioned with the concept of online arguments per se, I spent less and less time on the one board that I had ever managed to get a foothold in. In the end my cutting wit would get me banned from just about every forum I joined. If I was not banned outright, I would simply submit to the pressure to leave. I’ve never been one to overstay my welcome. This eventually became true at Dan Carlin’s forum as well. The only time I came back was when someone would resurrect the zombie atheism thread specifically to get us old-timers (now I was one of them) to come back and argue about something. The orifice-plugging spectacle reached a staggering 608 pages in length before Dan pulled the plug on the forum itself, finally admitting what I had attempted to illustrate to him several times; that some form of authority is required for a productive conversation to occur. He has now moved his community to Facebook, where any user can remove anybody for any reason they please from a conversation. This also impedes productive conversations, but at least those threatening your life can be kept from seeing your activity online there.
That is the story so far, the history of the title of this piece without the meat of the argument for it. Congratulations if you’ve made it this far. I will now attempt to codify six hundred and eight pages of sporadic on-topic posts into one sound argument that I think will cover the ground intended. I’d like to hope that it turns out better than the time I told my mom I don’t want to talk about god anymore, I’d rather talk about something important, but please don’t hold your breath waiting to see if it will work. I’m not going to hold my breath so I wouldn’t expect anyone else to, either.
Part of the problem of outlining this argument is that, for me, the argument has always been transparently easy to understand. Ever since first discovering that belief in god wasn’t universal, way, way back when, back in the days of Sunday school religious indoctrination, grade school prayers and mandatory church attendance for the children while the parents stayed home and slept in. Back in the olden days before the internet and cable television, the days when you had to read books to learn anything, and you had to know which books told you what thing you needed to know to even be able to pull off that herculean task. But it was bound to happen eventually. As a voracious reader who wouldn’t have minded living at the library, I was going to run across the fact that some people didn’t believe in god in some book somewhere.
Reading Bertrand Russell and Winston Churchill as a teenager was my introduction to disbelief. Black Velvet is the name Winston Churchill gave to the afterlife. A featureless non-consciousness with no experience of time. Eternal dreamless sleep. Rather than instantly converting me to atheism, the idea that there was an ending to existence scared the crap out of me. I doubled down and became a born-again christian, crawling to the front of the church in my desperation to believe the way everyone around me seemed to believe. The way my grandparents believed and were so happy with. I wanted to be like them.
But it was useless. I was never going to believe the way they did because I wasn’t them. I also wasn’t my parents who cheerfully packed us up and sent us to church with the grandparents while they went back to sleep. I had questions and I wanted answers to those questions, even if the answers to those questions scared the crap out of me. It wasn’t until I found a kindred spirit in the form of the Wife that I knew that it would be OK to simply admit that I didn’t believe the fairy tales written in the holy books that everyone took so seriously. Our children have never set foot in a church unless we went with them; which means they’ve been to several weddings and several funerals at churches and not much else. So I proved I was not like my parents or my grandparents to my children and to myself.
But what does it mean, Atheism? Is it different than Agnosticism? What about Freethought? The answer to those questions is that every single person who takes on one of those labels has some different conceptualization of what the label means to them, exactly like any other descriptive term applied to any individual whether that term applies to sex, gender, race, religion, job function or area of study and thousands of other quantifying parameters that I can’t be bothered to mention. So if I tell you atheism means “X” I’ll get a majority of atheists who will probably disagree with me the moment I state it that concretely.
What my years of shepherding that thread proved to me is that the devil is in the details of the phrase Atheism is not a Belief System. Depending on how you define atheism, you will or won’t agree with it being a belief system, which itself has a definition that most people will argue with you about.
Christianity is a belief system. The system parameters involve accepting some basic tenets of the faith. Jesus Christ is the savior. He was born of a virgin. He is part of a triumvirate made up of the father, son and holy ghost. These rules were worked out in deep lines of blood over the course of centuries, and still there are those who want to be called christian and yet not believe in these three basic things.
Islam is a belief system. I don’t know it as well, having been raised a protestant christian in the middle of the bible belt, but Islam’s basic tenets are that Muhammad is the last prophet of god and that the Qu’ran is the word of god set down by him. What is in the book and the associated writings of historical mullahs makes up the system that constrains Islamic faith.
Every single religion has a book or philosophy associated with it that constrains it. Very few people before the enlightenment era in Europe (1800’s) knew what was written in the books that Catholics and Protestants venerated, and even today reading the Qu’ran in any language aside from Arabic is considered problematic by many islamic sects. So if you don’t speak and read Arabic, you won’t know what is in that book even now. That’s not to say that the books are not available, even to disbelievers, but that very few people actually read the books that contain the rules defining the religion they ascribe to. This leads to its own set of problems, but in the end even the hucksters who misuse tradition are constrained by the rules they invent to describe their variation of the religion they promote.
This is not true of atheism. Even if I venture to define the word atheism there is no set of rules that an atheist can be punished with that constrains what an atheist believes or doesn’t believe about the universe. Other atheists will tell you that’s not atheism but they have no ability whatsoever to make you stop claiming you are an atheist. There is no rules committee that will kick you out, no authority that will seek to force you to conform, no structure of any kind aside from simply being willing to refer to yourself as an atheist and suffer the consequences. Consequences inflicted by believers everywhere.
Here ends the discussion of belief systems. Now I will move on to hazard a definition of atheism. I’m going to cite a source rather than walk out on that limb all by myself.
Atheism, in a broad sense, is the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. Strong atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Most inclusively, atheism is simply the absence of belief that any deities exist. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which in its most general form is the belief that at least one deity exists.
Atheism, theism being the root word and a- being added to denote the lack of. A lack of belief in gods. Even that broadest of definitions will get some atheists’ panties in a wad, and they will definitely squall at my insistence that a lack of belief is not itself a system of belief. There are many, many atheists out there which share nothing in common with me aside from the fact that neither of us believe in gods. There are even some who believe in things which aren’t gods and also aren’t demonstrable by science, but that is another discussion and an entirely different article.
Atheism, as a mode of critical thinking, is loosely congruent with skepticism. Skeptics and atheists both question things that the vast majority of humanity agrees to, but that is about as far as their agreement goes. There is far more agreement between humanists and atheists in general than there is between atheism and skepticism, the latter being quite capable of disbelieving things which are actually demonstrable. They simply dispute the findings of science. Groups like The Skeptics Guide to the Universe combat that kind of silliness, but it’s a never ending game of whack-a-mole trying to keep the disbelievers from using skepticism as a cover.
Humanism arose in the enlightenment era, along with the re-emergence of atheism from the hiding that a millennium of persecution by Catholic Europe had forced it into. Humanism quickly split into two factions; Religious Humanism and Rationalist Humanism. Religious Humanism became loosely affiliated with Deism, both of which have almost vanished into history. Rationalist Humanism rebranded itself as Secular Humanism, and if you were going to point to an atheist belief system, Secular Humanism is its standard bearer. But not all atheists are comfortable with the Humanist moniker, making humanism its own belief system, functionally different than the looser term atheist.
When people talk about “isms,” they are referring to some “distinctive doctrine, theory, system, or practice” like liberalism, communism, conservatism, or pacifism. Atheism has the suffix “ism,” so it belongs in this group, right? Wrong: the suffix “ism” also means a “state, condition, attribute, or quality” like pauperism, astigmatism, heroism, anachronism, or metabolism. Is astigmatism a theory? Is metabolism a doctrine? Is anachronism a practice? Not every word that ends in “ism” is a system of beliefs or an “ism” in the way people usually mean it. Failure to realize this can be behind other errors here.
When pressed by believers to explain what atheists believe, I am frequently forced to reference other sources as a bulwark for the concepts I’m trying to relate. Believers rely on the sureness of the majority to justify the things they believe. The empirical nature of human experience justifies doing this right up to the point where we start talking about things we believe but cannot prove directly. A freethinker cannot rely on the comfort of the majority because a freethinker has none to fall back on. A freethinker must be able to tie what they think to concretes that are demonstrable so that the believer will be unable to disbelieve the thing being demonstrated. An agnostic will simply claim no knowledge on subjects they cannot demonstrate. Agnosticism is useful when conducting experiments, I’ve used it several times myself when running experiments that I really want to understand the outcomes of. But I am not agnostic about the subject of the existence of god. I have found no proof for the existence of god.
Test it yourself. The next time you are asked to pray, don’t close your eyes and bow your head. Notice anything? No sense of otherness? No sense of being in the presence of some greater power? Look around. Do you see those other unbowed heads? They too question the existence of god, but not enough to stop going to church. To synagogue. To the mosque. Why do we do this? Jesus said that we should do our praying in private. Why do we insist we must pray in public? Force others to pray in public? Enforced compliance? Discipline that forces the next generation to tread the exact same path we were forced to tread? Break that mold and see what is outside of it. You might like it.
When you observe the beauty of nature, realize that the beauty is anchored in naturally evolved healthy forms. That is why fungus and disease repulse us. Not because they are supernaturally evil, but because they are evolved systems just like the human form; co-evolutionary systems that our evolved brains recognizes on some subliminal level as harmful.
The observation by Jonathan Ross in the video above (within the first ten minutes) that he was reluctant to refer to himself as an atheist because he didn’t see the need to define himself by what he didn’t believe in or scarcely thought about is offered as the same reason that I prefer to be tagged with the label freethinker these days. Freethinker describes my process for coming to accept facts that I encounter. Atheist merely relates my lack of belief in gods. We as humans do not all agree on the importance of faith, of having faith or of belief of any kind, and it becomes imperative that those of us who question the rampant religiosity of today’s political climate to stand up and object to it. To do that we have to not alienate the people we hope to persuade. Not adopting monikers that come pre-loaded with hatred is one of the basic things we can do to achieve this goal. Freethinker is more subtle. Freethinker is so subtle that I have encountered christians in Facebook Freethinking groups who are unaware that freethinkers in general are atheists. Are atheists because there is little rational reason to profess a belief in gods beyond a nod to the concerns raised by deists.
What is the purpose in life? Why are we alive? Here? Now? None of these questions are the kinds of things that atheism can offer answers for. Belief in a universal god, a natural god, does lend some quietude to those kinds of epistemological questions. Deism or Spinozism can be bedrock to anchor the unquiet mind upon, but most believers remain unsatisfied with a deity that they cannot ask favors of. A maker who doesn’t hate the same things the believer hates, love the same thing the believer loves. Spinoza was himself ejected from Jewish society for atheism. There wasn’t enough of god left for the believers to believe in, apparently.
The United States was founded by people escaping religious persecution. Religious people who turned right around and persecuted their own people for not adhering to the doctrines that had been imported with them. The few who have stopped to question traditional beliefs, people like Thomas Jefferson or Thomas Paine, have been ridiculed down through history for their disbelief (in the case of Paine) or qualified belief (in the case of Jefferson) at the same time they are celebrated for the things that lead to the creation of the United States. A godless country founded on a godless constitution. Godless for good reason; because persecution of the people through authority not founded on demonstrable principles of justice is what lead them to leave the places they came from. The rich heritage of disbelief that is this country’s birthright is being forgotten, buried under mountains of false piety, demagoguery and self-righteousness.
The judicious application of Occam’s Razor to the mountains of bullshit we are confronted with on an hourly basis in this information age is a life-saving necessity. If we don’t learn how to find air in this ocean of data, we will drown for lack of sense. These observations bring me to the core of the argument. The argument that Atheism is not a Belief System.
There is a specific piece of baggage that believers want to saddle all non-believers with. That is the baggage of revealed knowledge. Atheists are equally in the dark because they cannot know the things they claim to know. There is an intellectually rigorous approach to knowledge which questions the basis of that knowledge. This is commonly referred to in professional circles as performing your due diligence; researching your precepts to make certain they are valid. Insofar as atheism resembles agnosticism (no knowledge of) on the subject of the existence or nonexistence of a generic god, a Deist or Spinozan god, one can say with a respectable level of certainty I know this. Consequently non-believers are not in the same boat as believers. Even the average religious believing person can escape that boat, the boat of claiming certainty for things they don’t actually know, if they simply adopt this intellectual rigor for themselves. As a recent news article summarized, be willing to adopt and use the phrase I don’t know.
This argument about atheism is at its root a legal argument. Can you prove the things you believe? Can you demonstrate the existence of god beyond a shadow of a doubt? Believe whatever crazy thing you want to believe, just don’t tell me I have to believe like you, or believe anything at all without providing some kind of proof to back up the claims that are made. Why would I take a different stand? I pick my battles carefully. I created that thread on Dan Carlin’s BBS forum all those years ago with this specific argument in mind. Never mind that the SNAFU (Situation Normal: All Fucked Up) continued around me beyond my ability to control for year after year. It was the attempt to place the onus of revealed knowledge as a shared burden on the shoulders of all humanity that I initially rebelled against. You, dear reader, may disagree with me, but I think I can finally say I’m happy with the argument I’ve laid out here. The defense rests, your honor.
It is a testament to how many times I’ve rehearsed this argument in my head that this post comes pre-equipped with an addendum. Many of the arguments thrown at me in the past have been incorporated in the longer post that appears today on my blog. Much longer and much better thought out than my stumbling attempts to communicate what I thought were simple ideas all those years ago.
Still, I know what kinds of arguments I didn’t incorporate, and what kinds of objections I’ve seen in the past and already have rebuttals for. Hitler was not an atheist and atheists don’t kill people for having a religion. That argument figured highly in numbers of mindless repetitions, but it was a stupid argument so I won’t write about it here. Austin Cline who wrote for About.com at the dawn of the internet age has written much more about this subject than I ever will. Go read his work if you just have to have that argument addressed right here and now. I will, however, take a few extra paragraphs to deflate a few of the better thought out counters that I’ve run across in the past. I will be saving everyone some time and frustration this way. No one needs more frustration, and everyone wants more time these days.
I’m going to start at the beginning. There is a segment of the human population who are simply afraid of atheists. Atheophobia is a thing. I’ve met quite a few of them over the years. When I run into new ones these days I can almost be bored while hitting the block button. Almost. Fear of atheists is very real and predominates a lot of political rhetoric in the world today. There is no group more targeted than the disbeliever other than the sects of the majority’s own religion, sects that are considered threatening to those in power. Once those troublemakers are out of the way, the atheists are the main targets of hostility. We dare to say the emperor wears no clothes, and believers cannot produce the emperor’s garments or even the emperor himself in order to disprove the assertion. Fear of atheists is the basis for most of the arguments that follow.
The more determined philosophy majors decided early on to make a career out of repeating specific arguments, relying on the casual reader’s ignorance of a specific subject, philosophy and its arcane word usage and definitions, to allow their falsities to go unchallenged. If you really want to know something about fallacies and what constitutes one, here’s a list. Specifically, the Argument from Ignorance was oft-cited, so I feel that it warrants specific mention.
Argument from ignorance, also known as argumentum ad ignorantiam or “appeal to ignorance” (where “ignorance” stands for: “lack of evidence to the contrary”), is a fallacy in informal logic. It asserts that a proposition is true because it has not yet been proven false, it is “generally accepted” (or vice versa). This represents a type of false dichotomy in that it excludes a third option, which is that there is insufficient investigation and therefore insufficient information to prove the proposition satisfactorily to be either true or false.
Argument from Ignorance is an informal fallacy; which means, the argument could also be true and still be fallacious. Life is a series of imperfect decisions based on partial knowledge, and that’s when things are most certain. The least certain involves a coin flip and deciding whether you want to believe the coin’s conclusion or doubt it. One can possess good reasons for thinking that something doesn’t exist, an idea captured by Bertrand Russell’s teapot, the analogy I started this article with. However, the existence of a creator god, or much more, a specific religious conception of the creator god, would fall under the arena of pragmatism (Occam’s Razor, the law of parsimony) wherein a position must be demonstrated or proven in order to be upheld, and therefore the burden of proof is on the argument’s proponent. That is, the person who wants you to believe in a thing has to prove that thing is true or real. In this case, a god.
Believers will frequently fall back to Pascal’s wager next. “Ah,” they’ll say, “but if you believe in god you get to go to heaven. So it’s safer to believe in god and not go to hell.” In a side note about my personal journey to freethought, Hell was one of the first concepts that I discarded, and I did this for my own sanity. Which version of god is the god I need to believe in? This is important because if you postulate that avoidance of hell is the goal, you need to be sure to observe the right rules and not the wrong ones. Since religious texts are generally self-contradictory given enough time and permutation of belief, you really can’t know from them which laws to follow and which ones not to. How can you possibly know how not to end up in hell?
As for that, I deemed that if god was love then hell had to be of our own creation; literally, if you are living in hell you had a hand in making it, in its continuance. I can understand why suffering people don’t just kill themselves. I’ve been disabled and stricken with vertigo and migraines on a regular basis for ten years and more. But if you experience hell, you are the one that can change that experience. No one else will be as capable as you are of correcting your personal dilemma. You don’t go to hell when you die. That would not be the actions of a loving god. You would find perfection hellish if what you value is not the values of the inhabitants of the afterlife.
It was a close place. I took . . . up [the letter I’d written to Miss Watson], and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: “All right then, I’ll go to hell”—and tore it up. It was awful thoughts and awful words, but they was said. And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming.
After discarding the human-made construct of hell, I could breath a lot easier and it made the rest of the argument that much easier to deal with. A believer might well object “you can’t just get rid of hell,” but the truth is that you can. In the christian religion everyone has a personal god. You take god into your heart and if you listen to him he tells you the truth. Listen to your heart. You’ll hear it say “there is no hell” unless you need to punish others so much that you cannot let the concept go. If you can’t then I really do feel sorry for you.
The next target in the argument for god varies radically based on the personal experience of the believer. A favorite argument of my past tormentors was the concept that evidence proves something. They would call evidentialism into question, as if the requiring of evidence before ascribing to a certain belief is somehow suspect or disqualifying. Contrary to the hand waving excuses I’ve heard repeatedly, requiring evidence before believing something is a generally accepted practice for anything not involving high-browed philosophy and religion.
While no sensible epistemologists generally urge people to disregard their evidence when forming beliefs…
An oft-retyped summation of my willingness to accept evidence as proof runs as follows; while gravity may only be a theory, I wouldn’t suggest jumping off a tall building and expecting to float. Evidence dictates you will fall to the earth at a pretty predictable rate and cease to exist in a living state pretty shortly after contact with a hard surface. Please note that not only are all the concepts in this summation open to question if you start questioning evidentialism, but I could just as easily be describing how to bake a cake as I am trying to communicate a crucial fundamental understanding of the universe. Gravity exists whether you believe in it or not.
“Correlation is not causation but it sure is a hint.”
I think this came up in relation to an argument about the Big Bang origin of the universe and whether or not all the stuff in the bang existed before the bang. Physics will tell you it had to exist before time/space existed or else there wouldn’t be a universe to exist now. So there was a before before space/time. What that might be is a matter of the highest speculation, but then we are talking about the suggested existence or non-existence of a creator god here. Hard to beat the infinite regress of creator gods to explain the previous creator god, much more likely is the infinite string of universes coalescing and dispersing in their own little space/time bubbles. Turtles all the way down as the saying goes.
Finally, the last argument worth mentioning is “Granted you can’t prove god exists; but then how do you prove love exists?” I always assumed the believer was wanting me to capitulate in a sobbing mess and swear my everlasting love for god almighty in light of this observation. I mean, you have to grant that love exists without proof, right? Except that you really don’t. This is one of the oldest problems in human existence, the foundation of what is responsible for more killing than every war in history. Does she love me? Does he love me?Luckily, science has an answer for that,
The researchers said that their study, entitled Love-related changes in the brain: a resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging study, had successfully obtained the “first empirical evidence of love-related alterations in brain functional architecture”.
There you have it, proof that love really exists. Yes, I know, I’ve just destroyed all of romanticism.
As an atheist or freethinker or agnostic or skeptic or whatever disbelieving label I choose to adopt later, I don’t have to prove the infinite nature of the universe, or the non-existence of an intelligent hand in it’s creation. I don’t have to prove these things any more than any believer is capable of proving that the opposite is true. That is the nature of a belief, as opposed to a fact or knowledge. I can freely believe in the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) I can even refer to you that group’s website, venganza.org. I don’t have to provide one shred of evidence for the FSM’s existence to have a belief in him; or for that matter, to have him represented at any event in which participation by varying beliefs is encouraged. That was the purpose for which the FSM was created. A religion based on eating pasta, drinking beer and love for everyone. In the FSM, disbelievers finally came up with a god worth believing in.
The FSM is just the latest in a series of fanciful creations presented in an attempt to prove to believers that they were pretending that they could know things that can’t be known. A host of previous creatures that include the original satanism church, pink unicorns and the floating teapot mentioned previously all leading up to the FSM and Pastafarianism. May the blessings of his noodly appendages be upon you. All of these creations purposefully misunderstood by the believers who encounter them and refuse to understand. Believers who protest “you’re just being silly.” Yes. We aren’t the only ones that observation can be applied to.
The demand for certainty is one which is natural to man, but is nevertheless an intellectual vice. So long as men are not trained to withhold judgment in the absence of evidence, they will be led astray by cocksure prophets, and it is likely that their leaders will be either ignorant fanatics or dishonest charlatans. To endure uncertainty is difficult, but so are most of the other virtues.
Edit history: General wordsmithing throughout and the addition of the atheophobia section – 03/24/2018. Added a sentence declaring why I was better acquainted with christianity to the Islam paragraph, and added a link to my origin of the universe postulation in the addendum 10/15/2018. Migration to WordPress – 1/7/2019. Added Pastafarianism doesn’t kill image – 2/23/2019. Added the TAM2012 youtube link, updated links to current blog location – 4/22/2019. Redirected some links from archive.org to blog posts created on the blog from the archives records. Other minor wordsmithing. Recreated the quote from About.com for “is atheism an ism?” after finding it in the Wayback Machine again. Added the war in the name of atheism link and descriptive sentences to the first paragraph of the addendum. Added seven states image and associated links – 7/28/2019. Added Bertrand Russell end quote and the featured image with a link to the author of the image – 2/6/2020. Archive.org version history for the article: Blogspot, WordPress.
I believe. I believe. To hell with learning anything. To hell with putting five goddamned minutes into it. No, I believe. Like we haven’t learned anything in 20,000 years of history. Like a caveman staring fearfully at the approaching storm. “Grog believe thunder is giant farts of god mammoth who live in sky!” A whole worldview, science, history, meteorology, summed up in one line. Though … given human nature, there was probably another caveman who responded with, “Bro, you lost me after ‘thunder,'” – StonekettleStation on Facebook
There is a discernible shortening of attention spans as the information age progresses. It seems some people just can’t keep up with all the information that is constantly being thrown at them. The pundits call this “information overload”. Everyone will experience this if they haven’t already. Too many messages. Too many podcasts. Too many news feeds. Too many opinions that all make interesting, if not actually valid points.
This reminds me of a frequent trope of Dan Carlin‘s on his various podcasts, the historical story of the Gordian knot in which the ruler of all Asia would be the man who could untie the knot. Alexander the Great, as legend has it, drew his sword and cut the knot, thereby convincing those in attendance that he would be the next ruler of all Asia. Modern man, faced with information overload, foolishly believes that he can cut the knot of too much information by simply declaring what he believes, devoid of any truth.
What the slicers in this allegory fail to understand is that Alexander the Great did not conquer all of Asia after cutting the knot, but was instead laid low by disease or poison and died with no clear heir to rule after him, his accumulated lands and treasure divided among his generals. There is no quick way to become informed, to solve the Gordian knot. Either you are informed or you must rely on the judgement of others who are, people trained in the areas that you lack proficiency, the oft-derided *elites* in the Trump world. If you don’t do this then you are a fool marching into battle with no estimation of the force you will face, no idea of the terrain you must traverse, no assurance that your force will even survive to take up arms when battle calls.
Your fate is written in the texts you don’t read, the advice you don’t even take time to hear. You are already laid low and dying, and you simply don’t know it yet.
I’ll be voting for Jill Stein in the general election. It’s hopeless, but it’s the right thing to do. If Trump is ultimately elected well I’d say that’s no more than we deserve. We’ve voted for the lesser of two evils over and over again for decades. Trump is the logical conclusion of such a national voting pattern. In the short term, voting for Hillary might seem like the smart thing to do, but in the long term a Hillary presidency will lead to fascists even worse than Trump. My great hope, is that the next President’s mediocrity is enough to convince people to abandon the two parties.
These twisted narratives regarding Hillary! (we know where they came from now –ed.) All available evidence that I’ve seen indicates that we didn’t orchestrate the coup in Honduras. Instead, that was just a good old fashioned power grab, without our influence behind it. Our complicity in that mess happened after the fact. We continued to give them financial support, and refused to call the coup a coup, because US doctrine states that we are to suspend aid when countries have military coups. So, we’re not “directly responsible for the coup in Honduras.” We just acted unethically after it happened. The same policy is still being implemented with John Kerry as the Secretary of State, so this is not a Hillary problem.
Try to understand how the Secretary of State‘s job works. The Secretary doesn’t get to act unilaterally in any way that they see fit, regardless of what the president wants. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. They get to make suggestion based on what they think is best; and, once the president make a determination regarding what they think needs to be done, the Secretary is allowed a certain degree of discretion with respect to how to accomplish the goals they’re given by the President. Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, was not allowed to determine what we were doing in Honduras. That decision came from Barack Obama. Maybe she would have done the same thing in his place, Maybe she wouldn’t have, but giving her all the blame/credit for decisions like that reveals a misunderstanding about the Secretary of State’s role in policy.
The slippery slope argument as it is applied to the subject of voting for Hillary or the Democratic party is fallacious. It simply hasn’t worked out the way that the naysayers who have been naysaying all my life have said it would work out.
We are no-fooling way on the other side of the problem of slippery-slope and reaching the point of collapse for lack of participation in the system; and this is all because the people who live under the system refuse to take any interest in the running of that system.
The parties are the problem. I’ll grant that as a precept. But this means that ALL of the parties are the problem. Even the Greens, the LP and whoever else pops up this year. Only the Democrats and the Republicans can change the system as it stands now. Either we motivate them to change it by participation (participation that is only capped by voting) or we allow the system to collapse entirely and build something fresh from the remains. Personally, I think there is something worth saving in the Republican system the forefathers gifted us with. That is why I will be voting Democratic this fall.
Voting for the Democrat is simply accepting that the only way to reform the system is to engage with it. Voting third party is thinking you’re going to reform the foxes in the henhouse by leaving the foxes alone to their devices while you sit a mile down the road twiddling your thumbs.
The only systemic progress we make in this country is the result of mass movements, not the ballot box. The women’s suffrage movement, the civil rights movement, the labor movement of the early 20th century, the anti-war movement during Vietnam…these are the source of real progress. The idea that the two parties are going to magically decide to reform themselves is ridiculously naive.
It has been a thing in independent circles for awhile now, a desire to see the system fail rather than participate in it. This shouldn’t be the first choice if there are other possibilities out there. Reform is something that can be done if only 10% more of the population took an active role in politics. We know what the solutions are, we simply lack the numbers participating in the major parties to make the changes.
…and if you could get a movement of that size and power then you will make change. But, voting doesn’t stop you from engaging in that movement. The two things aren’t mutually exclusive.
I never said “boycott all voting.” I am voting for Jill Stein after all. I’m saying we should stop voting for the two parties until they give us what we want. There’s no reason to vote against the future of this country,which is the choice we are presented with.
The teabaggers have taken over the GOP and they will see their demagogue nominated. They have done exactly what I am suggesting be done to the Democrats, but in this instance we want to change towards equality, not away from it. This is what the teabaggers want, white supremacy, white nationalism. Christianism. Not equality.
Without pressure exerted from within, the Democrats will never change.
The Democrats don’t want real change and you know it. Look at their record of warmongering, handouts to the big banks, the continued refusal to push for single payer health care, and their refusal to even attempt to reform the system.
I’m saying that you’re boycotting contributing anything productive to the system. Don’t do that. You can do all you can to make change in the fashion you were alluding to above, and then vote for the lesser of two evils (quoting) so the world doesn’t burn around us while you try to make major changes. These things aren’t mutually exclusive.
The Democrats are a collective made up of the people who participate in the process. What I’m suggesting is we alter the makeup of that collective, thereby altering the party and its goals. You can’t just create a viable national party in the United States. First the party has to control a city, then a state, then a region, then become national. That the two we have are encoded into the system is one of the many corrupting factors we have to change.
I left the Libertarian Party because they are wasting their time. They try for national status without first controlling a region. This same observation also applies to the Green party. They can’t be national without first controlling a region. It takes regional support to make a national party viable.
Look at the success of the pro-legalization movement. They have very nearly gained control of a region. That is effective use of the process for good. How many decades must third parties bash their heads against the notion of running national candidates and failing before they realize their approach won’t work? The Democrats or the Republicans will win nationally. That is how the system is set up. Pick a party and change that party.
If the system is rigged, why would I want to participate in it? Progress isn’t made that way, historically. When it comes to cosmetic issues like legalization of marijuana, the system is responsive. But when it comes to structural issues, like campaign finance reform, the system is utterly incapable of reforming itself.
That is special pleading. Fallacious thinking. Either the system will reform under pressure, or it will fail under pressure. There are no other choices available. Voting for the lesser of two evils (quoting again) doesn’t stop you from being able to make progress in the fashion you’re indicating. It just puts someone in power who will be slightly better for the environment, for the country, etcetera. Can you deny that Obama was leaps and bounds better for the than W?
As an atheist I deny the existence of evil. It is a religious concept with no bearing on the real world. Bad exists, as in bad outcomes exist. A bad outcome in this election would be for the Republicans to do anything other than to lose badly. If they don’t lose badly they will be emboldened to continue the course that are on. That cannot be allowed to happen.
Obama is more conservative than Clinton, and Clinton was more conservative than his democratic predecessor before him. Obama represents a step backwards, and those who voted for him are complicit in that step backwards. The two parties shift further to the right every year, because we keep encouraging them to do so.
That is demonstrably false. President Obama repealed conservative orders, signed repeals of conservative legislation executed/passed by Bill Clinton, W., W. dad, etcetera, making Obama demonstrably more liberal than all of them. I voted for Barack Obama with pride in 2012. I would do it again this year (2016) if he could run again.
…Even if that were true (hypothetical) the only question is what is better for the country. You can engage in the kind of progressive movements for change that you like, and then vote for one of the two main parties candidates that most align with your principles, just so that things are less shitty while you get out and create a movement (as Bernie Sanders has done –ed.) this is not complicated. There’s no reason not to vote for the more liberal party, even if that party is corrupt.
The “liberal” party is just another mechanism in the Capitalist system of control. It provides us with the illusion of choice,and the ability to feel like we’re “doing something” when we vote. It also lends a veneer of legitimacy to an illegitimate power system. The “liberal” party is one of the primary reasons we’re in this mess today.
Obama was better than W., the way hemlock is better than arsenic. Either way, you’re still left with poison. In fact, another dose of “arsenic” may have been exactly what this country needed. Without Obama’s presidency, OWS might have amounted to something.
You are aware of the Snowden revelations, right? You are aware of our global drone campaign (a terrorist campaign, by the way)? You are aware of the National Defense Authorization Act? It’s all poison, and it all stems from Obama, who actually built upon the programs Bush left behind.
I swear, if the choice were between Hitler and Stalin, you’d be trying to explain to me why I should vote for Stalin because he’s the “lesser of two evils.” The point being, there is a limit, a point beyond which you have to draw a moral and ethical line. I guess we’ll never agree, because my “line” is far closer than yours.
I recognize where that viewpoint comes from, it is the same glamour that Dan Carlin is under. It comes from Glenn Greenwald and the rest of the fourth amendment is under attack contingent. The problem for them is that the most pressing problems in the world have little or nothing to do with that subject; consequently, peering at the problem through that lens produces no useful information but leads to a myopic belief that the problem you are focused on is the only one that counts.
Obama may be to W as eating McDonald’s every day is juxtaposed to Arsenic, but to call them both poisons of the same kind is crazy. It sounds like conspiracy fantasy and the belief that there is some they out there somewhere that controls the levers of the machinery of government with fine-grained control. I don’t see that happening at all at this point. (I would love for some of those people to explain the Orange Hate-Monkey from the perspective of 2020, though. –ed.)
I know about the drone campaign (W started that. Can someone defend the 2019 NDAA? Good luck with that.-ed.) and many other reasons why Obama isn’t an ideal president. I also know that
the ACA got 90% of the country covered with healthcare,
he had the foresight to bailout the auto industry,
the Iran nuclear deal,
his stance on gay marriage,
he repealed don’t ask don’t tell,
he increased fuel efficiency standards,
he created new EPA restrictions on mercury and toxic pollution,
he picked the third and fourth women to ever sit on the Supreme Court including
the first hispanic person of either gender,
he got Russia to agree to further nuclear disarmament,
he gave the FDA the power to regulate tobacco,
he issued an executive order requiring all federal agencies to limit their carbon footprints,
he expanded stem cell research,
he helped Sudan declare independence,
he cut the Global Gag Rule,
he strengthened the Endangered Species Act,
he didn’t interfere with states legalizing recreational and medical marijuana,
he started a program training veterans in green collar jobs,
he donated his $1.4 million Nobel Prize to nonprofits,
he invested $90 bil in smart grids,
renewable electricity generation,
Then there’s Dodd Frank,
the Credit Card Accountability,
Responsibility and Disclosure Act,
the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act,
the Fair Sentencing Act,
the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act,
the Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act,
the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act,
the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
…Oh, and there’s the little thing he helped Bush II do (W. wasn’t all bad. -ed.) saving this country from a massive depression by continuing the bailouts needed to keep the financial system afloat, and offering stimulus that the Republicans never forgave him for.
Obama/Bush II ≠ Stalin/Hitler, or Arsenic/Hemlock. Barack Obama is much better than Bush II in many ways (something that I go into in Obama Best President Since Eisenhower -ed.) and if you truly believe that nonsense then I feel sorry for you. That is the view that produces a downward spiral that there is no recovery from. I’m glad to be rid of that focus. When looked at through a different lens you get a more realistic picture, a more complete understanding.
…which is why I’m going to continue working to salvage the system rather than bet on scuttling it in favor of smaller, more agreeable vessel.
Editor’s note. The Facebook friend and I are old friends from way, way back. Back in the pre-Facebook bad old BBS days on Dan Carlin’s website. I linked him to a thread on Dan Carlin’s Facebook group (now deleted or made private) because I hadn’t seen him on the Dan Carlin group contributing, and because he was illustrating delusion in relation to the Democrats in general and to Hillary Clinton in particular. It was a friendly disagreement that I found productive in a thought-provoking way. I appreciate a good counter-argument when I can find one. I borrowed liberally from his and another friend’s words to make this article for the blog. I hope they appreciate the work.
This was an article that my friend from the DCBBS should remember.
Typical of my attempts to title things, this brief blurb’s title largely misses the mark. Another one of the things I wrote on those dead DanCarlin.com boards, perhaps even one of the last things I wrote. I’m sure I had some deeper point I was planning on making, but like most of my plans this one also went nowhere. How to distinguish what I wrote then from what I’m writing now? Hmm, that is a puzzler. How about the quote I selected from The Federalist article that thrashes Star Trek and liberalism? Yes, that shall be the demarcation point. What juicey bit of bullshit should I select from that piece, though? That is the question.
This was a critique of a critique that attempts to show the correlation between the decline of liberalism and the decline of Star Trek as a franchise. The postmodernism allusion was probably in reference to the now well-known belief that we live in a post-truth world. As if truth, reality, causality, really cares about human problems, a hallmark of my issue with everything postmodern. Reality continues being exactly what it was before, while the people living in it tell themselves different lies that explain it and believe that their lies change the existence of reality. but I digress.
Over nearly 50 years, “Star Trek” tracked the devolution of liberalism from the philosophy of the New Frontier into a preference for non-judgmental diversity and reactionary hostility to innovation, and finally into an almost nihilistic collection of divergent urges. At its best, “Star Trek” talked about big ideas, in a big way. Its decline reflects a culture-wide change in how Americans have thought about the biggest idea of all: mankind’s place in the universe.
In Timothy Sandefur‘s defense, he actually understands the degradation of Star Trek as a philosophical looking glass into mindless action-entertainment. This is why I haven’t considered myself a Trek fan since the Abramanation aired. I deemed Trek dead on the day that film released. However, like nearly all things conservative, the author oversimplifies to prove his point. As an example, Star Trek 6 aired after Roddenberry died (and is one of the worst Trek films ever made. Weirdly Star Trek 2 by the same director is one of the best) but the multi-year rehabilitation of the Klingons that preceded his denouncement of their portrayal in Star Trek 6, starting with Worf on The Next Generation Enterprise is completely left out, because it complicates the point he’s trying to make.
As usual the intent to decry the ideology of another while uplifting one’s own leads to hypocrisy on the part of the writer. This is a serious problem with most conservatives these days. The real culprit here is not liberalism, but postmodernism. An ill that affects all modern ideology, philosophy and politics alike. Not just Star Trek and not just liberalism.
…and that is where I left it. For two and a half years. Why? Because I always aspire to knowing more than I know, and then the realization that I really don’t know that much brings the entire edifice crashing down. Postmodernism is an active ill in society, of that much I am certain. We can know things about the world around us, and not everything in existence is dismissible as the delusions of a weak mind. How we can know these things is a task for epistemology to figure out. That we do know them (existence exists) is not really in question here.
Postmodernism, the school of thought that proclaimed ‘There are no truths, only interpretations’ has largely played itself out in absurdity, but it has left behind a generation of academics in the humanities disabled by their distrust of the very idea of truth and their disrespect for evidence, settling for ‘conversations’ in which nobody is wrong and nothing can be confirmed, only asserted with whatever style you can muster.
I haven’t written on the subject of shootings (justified or otherwise) in quite some time. Well, that’s not quite true. I’ve written plenty on the subject in other places over the last few years, a smidgen of which is reproduced here. But I haven’t posted much of what I’ve written on the subject on this blog since I last wrote about the Joe Horn case in Houston several years back.
While the Zimmerman case was being argued in the court of public opinion and later in actual court (to little effect) I wrote extensively on Dan Carlin’s bulletin board system about the problems with Stalking and Shooting (one of the less clusterfucky of the threads on the DCBBS) the categorical description of the behavior that Zimmerman engaged in.
Zimmerman made a affirmative SYG case, so SYG has everything to do with it. The problem with Trayvon Martin, the problem with Marissa Alexander, is that both of them have black skin. Consequently they are looked down on, even by people who have the same color skin. This fact is borne out by statistics. So Trayvon is threatening simply because of the color of his skin; it certainly wasn’t the presence of a sidewalk, 20 feet from where he was fatally shot. Marissa was assigned a duty to retreat because she had the double curse of being female and being black. Women are routinely jailed for daring to defend themselves.
The problem with SYG is specifically this; we SHOULD have the duty to retreat in public places. Zimmerman had no business profiling and stalking that teenager. No one should expect to get a “get out of jail free” card simply because they claim self-defense. EVERYONE (including cops) should be subject to trial when someone dies at their hands. Had Zimmerman not been emboldened by what they lyingly said he was unfamiliar with, he would have stayed in his car, and Trayvon would have been alive today.
How we get to the point where we legally have to allow women to defend themselves, is a separate discussion. Clearly special laws are required, since general laws yield outcomes like Marissa’s. Special laws giving women permission to shoot abusive men. Yeah, that’ll happen.
Being the briefest of brief rehashes of content posted to a 42 page thread, and that typed up and added as a comment to an article on Reason Magazine’s site concerning the attacks on Stand Your Ground Laws that occurred after those laws were so horribly and hypocritically applied in Florida and elsewhere.
But this latest slew of problems isn’t about SYG as a perversion of an offensive action into a defensive one. It isn’t even necessarily about guns, since one of the deaths in question involved a choke hold, not gunfire. It is about police using their unique relationship with their local prosecutor’s office to make unjustified homicides look like justified ones, allowing the offending police officers to claim vindication in the courts, when no court trials have occurred.
Much like the torture post, this post remained unwritten because the solution to me was so obvious, and has even been related by talking heads on various news outlets. The prosecutor’s office in nearly every county and city in the US works closely with the police, or as Jon Stewart observed at about 8:29 in this nine minute clip;
Yes, it’s Law & Order, and a serious (but humorous) oversimplification, but still it has to be observed that police departments have internal investigations departments (and all of them should have) there really need to be special prosecutors appointed specifically to prosecute cases against police officers. There should be citizen oversight everywhere there is a significant police department, too.
Prosecutors work too closely with the police to be able to effectively prosecute cases against them, all of their protestations to the contrary. It is a breach of trust to even allow them to bring cases against police that they work with. The real surprise to me is that it has taken this long for this conflict of interest to be brought to the public’s attention.
This has been true for awhile now, as many people more versed in the subject than I am have pointed out, over and over again. I’ll just point to Radley Balko as one shining example. Time and again he has documented how police excesses go unchecked, and how most people turn a blind eye to the real costs, because it is too painful to witness.
Well, if torture hadn’t come along to interrupt the outrage, we’d still be talking about this mess. We will probably be talking about it again after the New Year’s passes, because it isn’t going away anytime soon unless we do something to fix this broken system of ours.
You might well say, what do these police cases have to do with Joe Horn, or Zimmerman or that other case? If you really have to ask that question, the answer of skin color probably isn’t going to sit well with you. But it is true all the same. In all these cases, the public dialog has gone out of it’s way to give latitude to the aggressor. The dialog in Joe Horn’s case was largely supportive of his actions; and I still think he was legally justified to take the actions he took, even if I would have listened to the operator’s advice myself and let the cops handle it (because they were there and witnessed the shooting) still, his victims were black, making them easy targets to dismiss.
It’s not the race of the shooter that is in question, because the statistics show even black cops distrust black faces. It is the race (skin color) of the victim that allows their deaths to be easily dismissed.
Outside of the black communities who are protesting and outraged over the dismissal of charges against the police, the attitude still remains largely dismissive of the victims rights, of the needs of survivors and family members to see justice done, to have their day in court. FOX (as Jon Stewart and others point out) seems willing to lead this parade of monkeys consistently seeing no evil, hearing no evil, but managing to sound pretty evil all the same.
I write about podcasts I listen to on this blog quite a bit. There was a phase I went through when I first started listening to podcasts and having a lot of free time due to disability, a phase of needing to document the various episodes that I had enjoyed. If you do a label search for FFRF you can see that my obsession with recording my impressions of this particular podcast was quite intense (and yet another subject that I have a series of lengthy articles on that I haven’t published. I really need become obsessed with finishing my writing and publishing it) likely because I felt their online library lacked any real organization.
I’ve noticed this compulsion in other’s behavior over the years, a need to retain copies of all the things they’ve watched, or all the things they’ve listened to. I had never attributed it to myself until I had time to reflect and notice the stacks and stacks of books, music and movies that cover every shelf in every room of my house. Since that time I have consciously tried to restrict the impulse to retain every smidgen of information that I run across, trust the internet not to lose the data that seems to sieve out of my mind, everyone’s mind, unless we are reminded of it on occasion.
Besides, it has become clear over the past few years that there really isn’t time enough to watch all the things I want to watch, or listen to all the things I want to hear; much less space in my, our, homes for all that content. Space in our minds for all that memory. Youtube’s content alone expands so quickly that if you attempted to start watching it, you would never get to the end of it. My Tivo (thanks to Grande) is always full of things I want to watch, but almost never get time to watch sans distractions. Gaming occurs while watching and listening to other content that I need to catch up on, and it all gets blended together in a sort of melange of information that I can’t separate cleanly.
Try as I might to break obsessions when I find them (I used REBT methods to quit smoking and learn to hate the taste of french fries just because both were obsessions that were bad for me) I can’t seem to shake a process once I get started on a project. The process that I’ve gotten into with podcasts is I go back and listen to their back libraries once I’ve determined that the content is dense enough and worthy of further scrutiny. So while I have followed Freetalk Live off and on for years, I have felt no need to go back and review the hundreds (thousands?) of hours of talk show inanity like I have for Dan Carlin’s podcasts which are generally shorter and more informative than 3 hours of random callers. Those are just examples. If I listed all the podcasts that I dabble in we’d be here for days. Just listing the ones I love will take hours.
My most recent project is the Radiolab podcast. I rediscovered Radiolab recently; and I say rediscovered because I remember hearing it on NPR years ago. Or perhaps that is a false memory. I want to say I remember it, because I remember a lot of the voices I hear on it, but I have to say that I haven’t run across an episode yet that I distinctly remember hearing on the radio. Which may be a way of saying that the internet is the modern example of public radio, television and the library all rolled up into one, because a good portion of PBS and NPR are available on the internet if you know where to look.
Apocalyptica (above) was the episode that decided me on going back and listening to the rest of the catalog for the podcast, and I had started into that list on the podcast feed when I discovered that the feed isn’t all inclusive, that there are several years (years) of episodes on the website which are not on the feed. So I had to backtrack (the obsession kicks in) and start from the beginning, from the shows on the website.
I like relying on the podcast feed to tell me what I’ve listened to. None of the podcasting apps track your listening across platforms, so if you are like me and can’t remember if you’ve listened to something just based on the title of the episode, it can become quite tedious downloading, listening and then discarding content because, meh, I’ve heard that before.
So this morning I roll out of bed and decide “enough” of the current book I’m struggling through (The Last Dark, book 10 of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant) I think I’m in the mood for something lighter. What did I listen to last from Radiolab…? Memory and Forgetting is loaded on the phone. Did I listen to that one? I can’t remember. So I crank it up. Rats and Spotless Mind; false memories; the muse of a New York painter; the story of Clive Wearing. Listened to the whole thing again. I have a hard time believing I forgot this episode; Clive Wearing’s experience (like the movie Memento mentioned in this story) is a rather potent nightmare for me. His repeated statements “It’s like death” ring with a certain terror in my mind.
I have to admit that I was running on hour 20 something with no sleep, and had listened to two other episodes that same day. I noted the other two episodes (Zoos are depressing, I agreed with Jad. I was struck with the statement “At the beginning of the morning, the things left standing are the things you need to know.” 37 mins in to the episode Sleep) but somehow the last episode got lost in subsequent sleep. I would go on to mention that the episode Stress reminded me so much of myself and might go a long way to explaining how and why I forgot Memory and Forgetting but I think the rabbit hole is deep enough now.
…and I’ve just discovered that the Radiolab feed/website is as freeform as the show is. There are two different archives for the show. There is the podcast archive and the radio show archive, some of which overlaps. Not all of it does. It’s actually worth the time to go back to the early radio shows in the archive and listen. Especially shows like Emergence, a subject I will be spending a lot of time talking about in the future.
Welcome to my morning.
Editor’s note. Radiolab’s old website was incorporated into the WNYC studios website sometime in 2019. I don’t know that all of the shows listed in the old Radiolab.org website made it onto the new one. I have redirected show links to their new homes on WNYC. The radio and podcast page links now point to the Wayback Machine, where the pages are preserved.