A recently published study found that glyphosate “may serve as one of the drivers for antibiotic resistance,” and that it may contribute to “the proliferation of plant and animal pathogens.” Many in the scientific community say that we don’t know enough about the ecological and health effects of glyphosate, and that more research is necessary. What do you think? Should the U.S. ban glyphosate? Increase funding to scientific research into its impacts? Why or why not?
Roundup is not the problem. Being afraid of things we don’t understand is the problem. Roundup is one of the safest herbicides we have, but the word safe applied to things that are designed to kill something, even plants, is deceiving. Compared to other treatments, glyphosate (Roundup) requires fewer, lighter treatments, completely the opposite of what most people think. I wrote at length about Monsanto and Roundup in this post a few years back. Monsanto isn’t evil and neither is Roundup. What is evil is the targeting that environmentalists do in association with their delusions about clean food.
I also find myself repeating this more and more often these days. One study does not a science make. One study is possibly a anomaly. Two studies begins to look like real data. Three studies and you might be onto something. Get back to me when there is as much evidence that Roundup causes cancer as there is evidence (or a lack of evidence) that it is cancer causing. The entire paragraph that the sentence is in on the Countable.com site is fallacious; as in begging the question, the real begging the question not the popular refrain begging the question, which is the opposite of fallacious. But confusing fallacy names aside, there can’t be any of the scary things mentioned associated with the herbicide, because there is no data linking it to the scary things other than popular belief trying to find causes for things that may not even be happening.
Learn and understand, not fear and react. That should be a modern mantra.
So what is it if it’s genetically bovine muscle tissue if not beef? I want someone to explain to me how beef isn’t beef if it tests out as beef? This is the most transparent attempt to manipulate markets that I’ve seen since the tobacco industry stood up and said their products were not dangerous or addictive. That was a lie, and pretending beef is not beef is also a lie.
I have been and remain anxious to be in the front line of consumers for this product. It’s a product that is good for the environment. It’s a product that removes the suffering of animals raised for food completely from the equation. Because it is only muscle cells, there is no chance of gut bacteria getting mixed in with the meat causing costly recalls and deadly food poisoning outbreaks.
And if the whole truth were told on this subject, we have no choice. The increase in protein demand from a more affluent world population will require us to produce meat in this fashion if we can ever hope to feed everyone while not destroying the environment. Do not fall for the natural fallacy and believe cows are natural and lab meat is artificial. Cows were modified by man to be what they are today. Lab meat is simply the next step in that process.
What we need to be thinking about is not what we call meat that is grown from animals we recognize in the field, but rather what names we will apply to the kinds of cultured meat that will appear after this technology is accepted. If you blend genomes to heighten taste and (for example) remove allergens like alpha gal from the product, it won’t be beef or pork any longer. It will still be muscle tissue (meat) but what kind of meat that would be part of what kind of animal that has never been seen in the wild or on the farm? That is the real quandary.
In any case, the meat producers must not be allowed to try to alienate the consumer from this new food supply, altering the playing field to suit themselves and not the entirety of humanity on the planet as the oil companies and tobacco companies and the sugar industry has done in the past. This needs to be put to rest now so that consumers can be assured that they are getting what they pay for and that no business can blow smoke up consumers butt with fake claims of natural and organic. As if food you can digest isn’t organic. As if feedlots and slaughterhouses are natural. Do not fall for that kind of bull because you will get the bullshit along with it, and what is in bullshit can kill you.
Throwing off the baggage of revealed knowledge. We don’t need its dead weight any longer.
This is a story about a title, a phrase. It is the story of an an idea and about disbelief in general. It is also a story about how the best of intentions can go so horribly wrong when you promote an idea to a prejudiced group, an idea that you don’t quite understand yet yourself. It is also a story about a label and who will willingly wear it.
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. 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. (Christianists. –ed.)
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?
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, let alone a belief system, which itself has a definition that most people will argue with you about.
A belief is an attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition about the world is true. (Wikipedia) A belief system comprises a set of mutually supportive beliefs. The beliefs of any such system can be religious, philosophical, political, ideological, or a combination of these. (Wikipedia) There are things which are beyond the level of mere belief. The kind of things that go unquestioned and so are never even things you consciously believe in. The spiritually minded call that faith. Faith or trust can be used almost interchangeably by the average person. There is no fundamental difference between the two words.
There are things which are not faiths or beliefs or trusts. There are things which simply are. Things that simply are can be questioned and their nature will be revealed by the interrogation. Gravity exists, even though science cannot currently explain it. The Earth rotates around the sun and also rotates on its axis. This gravitational relationship causes the sun to appear to rise every single day, and this arrangement has persisted for the entire length of recorded time. None of us need to believe the sun will rise, it simply does the thing it does just like dropped objects will fall to the ground. If they don’t fall then you aren’t on Earth. What is the weather like in space? Believing the sun will rise is a waste of brain energy, just as believing in gravity is a waste of brain energy. Things that can be demonstrated don’t have to be believed to be true, they simply are true.
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. I didn’t always think this way. When I was first liberated from the need to feign belief in the father/son/holy ghost I wanted to proclaim my atheism to the world. I wanted to evangelize like the christians that I was surrounded by did. I wanted to be able to check atheist off on the religion list and say “see, I don’t believe in your god.” That thread on Dan Carlin’s BBS was an outgrowth of my desire to tell everyone that their god was bullshit. I was an anti-theist.
Then I discovered that not all atheists were attempting to understand what it was they believed and why; they were not dreaming of themselves as amateur philosophers. They weren’t even people who were interested in knowing how they knew things. They simply believed like religious people believe, never questioning the fundamentals of what it was they believed. Some of them were not anti-theist. My experiences there changed my attitudes and thus changed me from an anti-theist to an atheist to a freethinker. But now I’m getting ahead of myself.
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.
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. Skeptics can simply dispute the findings of science. Like atheists, you can argue with those people about what it is they believe and why, but they will still call themselves skeptics anyway. 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. This is why I don’t identify as a skeptic even though I am skeptical of just about everything I hear, read or see.
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. If we want to be successful in our objections, 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 it 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.
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. Redirected the who kills more question to the article Atheism Kills that just went live on the blog as a recovered archive piece, wrote an intro paragraph to explain the wandering nature of the narrative, fixed the Mo teapot image link. – 02/29/2021. Added a definitional paragraph for beliefs. I almost can’t believe I had to do that. Added a paragraph for my abandonment of anti-theism. – 07/19/21
Everything that gets done by humans as a group requires humans as a group to do it. There will always be free-ridership and people who get more out than they put in. Should we then say “fuck it” and climb back up in the trees? Go back to the caves because the trees were a bad idea? Where does this regression end?
Surveys and studies have been conducted that show that investment in education yields benefits far beyond the dollars invested. Studies have also shown that barrier-free healthcare yields better outcomes for the vast majority of people living in a system. That these benefits translate to better productivity for more years for more people.
Only stupid people argue against investments that profit everyone including themselves. Even those people who object to lazy people getting free stuff.
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.
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:
Jim Wright asked this question on his Facebook page recently,
Responsible Gun Owner Exercise: You’re in a public place. Lots of people. Guy in camo walks in with a pistol on his belt and an assault rifle in his hands.
Quick, is he a good guy with a gun or a murderous nut?
Well, which is it?
Come, come, seconds count, no guessing and don’t fuck it up. How do you KNOW? Is there a secret hand sign? A T-shirt? Does his phone emit an IFF signal? Which is it, good guy with a gun or bad guy with a gun? For full credit, you MUST answer BEFORE HE STARTS SHOOTING. Show your work.
Extra credit: How does he know YOU’RE not a bad guy with a gun?
He followed it up with a (very long) response addressing the various answers that he got. The answers are almost irrelevant. Of course there is no way to know what this person’s intentions are. As another Facebook friend pointed out as a counter you don’t know what anyone’s intentions are if you are just now seeing them.
But that isn’t the question. The presence of the firearm alters the equation. This is a known fact, that visible weapons alter the behavior of people. It is true, as that same Facebook friend pointed out, the person could be carrying invisible weapons. A suicide vest, anthrax, a firearm in his pocket, a knife in his shoe, you name it. But that also isn’t the question.
The question is simple. You are armed, you see another person that is armed. Do you shoot him or don’t you? You have to answer this question before he starts shooting other people, or you fail the test. This is a very valid point that Jim has been trying to illustrate for several years and over about a dozen posts on Stonekettle Station, all of which I’ve read. The question isn’t whether guns are bad or not. The question isn’t whether we should be armed or not.
The question is, how do you know what your actions should be? That is all there is to it. The gunnuts are convinced that the solution to the mass murder problem is more guns in more hands, but that just makes the question that much more difficult since it muddies the waters as to who is the bad guy and who is the good guy. If you shoot the guy before he shoots other people, are you the good guy or the bad guy?
You can’t know. There is no way to know. It is the nature of the universe, the uncertainty principle. You can’t know before the first shots are fired. If you shoot first, you are the bad guy. But if you’re carrying the weapon to prevent aggression, what good is it if you don’t use it when you should have? What if his first action is to shoot you because you have a visible weapon? What if his first action is to demand that you disarm? How many hours of time are we willing to waste making sure that each of us on an individual basis are good guys who are supposed to be carrying weapons and not bad guys who aren’t? All day, every day, from now on?
We can’t approach the problem from this direction. It just isn’t going to work. This is the reason why laws are made. This is the reason why governments exist. It isn’t for any of the paranoid delusions that individualists envision as they sweat inside their bunkers gripping their pistols in fear. Laws are written to make sure that standards are met. Government exists to see that laws are followed.
I wrote and then shelved the above months ago. I had some notion that I would riff on a response from J. Neil Schulman who insisted the above question was meaningless. However Mr. Schulman (surprise) really didn’t have a response to the above aside from putting more guns in more hands. He has since unfriended me over some trumped up excuse involving calls to use RICO laws to initiate civil prosecutions of climate deniers, similar to what was done to RJR after it was discovered that the cigarette manufacturer was paying scientists to muddy the waters surrounding the effects of cigarette smoke on the human body.
FYI, smoking causes lung cancer, and anthropogenic climate change is almost certainly as real as the findings concerning smoking and lung cancer. I don’t think it is outside of reason to use tactics similar to those used before in order to bring wayward corporate funded scientists to heel so that we can get down to the business of dealing with climate change. Climate change isn’t the subject of this post, but his level of denial concerning climate change is reflected in his level of denial when it comes to weapons and who should be allowed to have them.
However, being a good father as well as a responsible gun owner himself, he made sure that I went to classes to train me in the proper handling and storage of weapons before I was allowed to take possession of my first real shotgun. I still have the certificate issued by the (irony of ironies) NRA for hunter safety training in cooperation with the State of Kansas.
It is a mark of how far down the road to crazy we have come that the NRA no longer thinks weapons training is important enough to be required before allowing weapons purchases, even though their website stresses the importance of weapons training. I’ve known enough people who sleep with a loaded weapon next to their beds now that I no longer believe the argument that gun owners don’t need weapons training because they’ve already had it. A common refrain amongst gunnuts.
Then we had the latest mass killing, as well as the several other shootings on campuses across the US, even in Texas where campuses are no longer gun free zones (negating that counter-argument) and it seems that Jim’s question from a few months ago now has recent real-life examples that really do beg the question (no longer a fallacy) how do you tell who the good guys with guns are?
…The minute you bring up examples of a clear lack of training like the above though, gunnuts (or ammosexuals, take your pick) start screaming about how we want to take their guns away. I’d like to state for the record, yes. If you think that the above is a reasonable use of a firearm, I want you to turn in your weapons, right now. Because you don’t know the first thing about firearm safety.
Ted Cruz is now touring the country denouncing Social Security as a Ponzi Scheme. Ah, that takes me way, way back. I remember a young idealistic Libertarian who noted on his blog back in 2008,
The local talk show host, Jeff Ward, refers to Social Security in this fashion repeatedly. (he even has a sound bite of Republican front runner John McCain calling Social Security a Ponzi Scheme. I was listening to the show when he said it, and I was listening to the show when Ward found the clip again. I wonder if McCain would be willing to repeat and affirm his words today?) It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out.
Yes, that was me. That’s not the only time I talked about the program being a Ponzi Scheme, or other government programs being such. It was a common refrain, repeated by many other libertarians and non-libertarians at the time. Clearly it’s still a refrain repeated by the ideological inheritors of the small government talking points that hold power today. That was the last time I referenced Social Security this way, and at that point my opinions were already shifting. I just wasn’t ready to admit it.
No True Scotsman fallacies aside (libertarian or not) it is worth noting that the label of Ponzi Scheme applied to Social Security by the people in charge of seeing the program remains solvent, is a declaration of their intent, not an assessment of the viability of the program. That is the most crucial point to be made on the subject.
If the programs are allowed to fail because of funding shortfalls, then the government made the program into a scheme that would fail. There are many variables which could be tweaked in a program as complex as Social Security is and any number of simple alterations in the tax code would make the program solvent from a funding standpoint. The program could be made solvent, if only our political leaders had the courage to make those changes.
If the program fails it is because we allow it to fail by refusing to support it. We allow it to fail by voting for representation that sabotages the program causing it to fail. If we allow it to fail, it is a failure of government as an institution, not a failure of the specific program. Government is charged with the authority maintain programs like this one, and if it can’t keep these programs running then the institution of government is itself bankrupt and not worthy of of the allegiance of the people.
When your Representatives or Senators tell you that caring for the elderly and the infirm is a fraud perpetrated on the public, that should give you pause to think, not cheer. Are the elderly and infirm worthy of our empathy? Categorically, I’d say yes. Republican budget writers seem to disagree with this sentiment. The question is, does the population of the United States agree with the controlling faction of the Congress? If not, we have a lot of work to do in the near future. If they do agree, then there are a lot more anarchists out there than the polling reveals.
That brings me to the next mouthful of crow. One I’ve needed to take for awhile now.
State Socialism (or Marxism) which is just dictatorship with a pretty label, has been unmasked. That bogeyman should be retired to the halls of a museum, along with the strident defenses of capitalism that sprang up in its wake. Capitalism is as oppressive to the poor as any of the feudal systems of history, as any decent study of history can reveal if you approach it with open eyes.
The notion that ability to pay was not a baseline for survival wasn’t something that occurred to me just when I was no longer capable of paying (correlation to the contrary) I was never one of those libertarians in the first place. I truly was an idealist, I thought that people would voluntarily contribute enough in charity to pay for the necessary systems that would keep the poor, the elderly and the infirm from starving and dying in our midst. I mean, it works that way in the Netherlands, why not here?
This ideology, this dream of mine, that charity can do what government does currently, provide for the less fortunate in our midst, might still be possible at some time in the future. One day, Americans might care about their fellows on such a level that they voluntarily support them at a high enough level that no child goes hungry, that no elderly person dies for lack of care. That the infirm are not left on the streets to die. That day is not today.
In today’s America, it is all but illegal to be poor. The disabled are routinely ridiculed and derided as lazy (an even more valid observation in 2017 Trump’s America) The elderly who, for the first time in US history are not the poorest of the poor, are now viewed as profiting from the work of others rather than benefiting from the contributions they made to society in the past.
The immigrants who do most of the hard work constructing, farming, cleaning, (the same position they have always occupied historically) are dismissed as illegals, paid as little as possible, and deported the moment they are no longer useful.
The leadership of this country, with the exception of President Obama, has gone to great pains to set average Americans against each other, squabbling over the scraps of the budget left over from funding more military hardware than we will ever have need of. This is not the America I want to leave for my children.
It is time for a change. It is time to admit that we are not individual islands, that we do need other people in order to survive, to thrive. That social caring is not an ill but a blessing. That it is possible for government to work; that not only is it possible, but it is our duty to make sure that government does work. What does it mean to be a citizen in good standing, if it doesn’t mean that? Government for the people, by the people. If that government fails, it is because we have failed as a people.
If Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme, it is because we no longer value the contributions of the most vulnerable among us. If socialism is a dirty word, then we are nothing more than cannibal tribes eating our own to survive. Life should mean more than that.
Don’t be that guy. The conservative described below. Just don’t:
I have a confession to make; several of them actually, and not all of them will occur here. I used to spend an inordinate amount of time hanging out on the forums of Dan Carlin’s website (newly renovated) largely because I tended to agree with his political arguments and loved his history show. Since I first signed on those forums I’ve abandoned them several times because of various hostile posters, only to be drawn back again because of some inane argument presented in of his Common Sense podcasts.
The latest Common Sense(titled Kickstarting the Revolution) is a nice illustration of why I have stopped spending time arguing with devotees of Carlin’s on his website, and why I contemplate abandoning his political podcast altogether. Starting from the false attribution to Churchill which he repeats and is debunked on Churchill’s website like so;
“If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35, you have no brain.” There is no record of anyone hearing Churchill say this. Paul Addison of Edinburgh University makes this comment: “Surely Churchill can’t have used the words attributed to him. He’d been a Conservative at 15 and a Liberal at 35! And would he have talked so disrespectfully of Clemmie, who is generally thought to have been a lifelong Liberal?”
Never mind that I personally can disassemble the assertion by simply observing that I have never been an ideologue, and it is not solely the realm of the young as he insists when he brings up that misquote (ideologues making up the bulk of liberalism in his argument) since there are any number of hidebound hoary old ideologues out there insisting that their ideology must be followed, and that make up the bulk of the Conservative wing of the Republican party. But that’s just where he starts to go off the rails.
I don’t think a lot of you have perhaps considered that we are a month away from the 2016 election kickoff, and I know what you are thinking because I always think the same thing; already?!? Yeah, the midterm elections are a month away. If you’ve got some fancy-schmancy wise interesting outside the box idea for impacting the 2016 Presidential elections for all our good, you need to start it now.
No Dan, that isn’t what I’m thinking. What I’m thinking is that you (and the vast majority of the electorate apparently) are once again mistaking authority for ability. Attributing to the President more power than he actually has, and holding him accountable for actions beyond the powers of his office (on the one hand) and expecting the next President will be able to exercise powers he doesn’t have in order to fix things which aren’t under his control in the office of President (on the other) What this podcast represents, at the end of another long and winding hour and a half, is one more episode chalked up in support of the dictator theme; the false dream that electing the one right person will fix things, skipping over the very obvious fact that what is important right here and right now is that people go vote in the midterms.
The lackadaisical way that US Americans approach the obligation to participate in government both highlights the need for a requirement that people participate in their government; while at the same time reinforcing the observation that we get the government we deserve.
This reliance on the President, this common belief that this one person can fix the ills of an increasingly complex system inhabited by hundreds of millions of people who are all going about their merry way living their own lives, is the worst kind of naivete. Couple that with the blind insistence that the calcifying remnants of the two party system are no different from each other, in the face of the popular takeover of the Republican party by the Religious Right in the form of the Tea Party, evidence that the revolution that you agitate for is already occurring, has been occurring since 2008…
…Well, it boggles the mind, the lack of understanding of the system itself that these views now represent. I’m more than a little mortified. The reference link for this podcast points toward Lawrence Lessig’s site. I agitated for Dan to interview Prof. Lessig for ages on the show, and now that he’s done that and promotes him, he links the Prof. to the completely dysfunctional idea that 2016 is somehow more important than the day to day operations of party machinery, or the impending disaster that will be handing the Senate over to the hidebound Republicans if only their Ebola-fearing voter base goes out and votes this month.
That isn’t how the world really works. Yes, the individual can matter, does matter. Yes, authority grants a certain amount of power, but that power is limited by design and by the reality of there only being so much one person can do.
The fallacy here, as I so often come up against, is the externalizing of purpose. The false idea that your purpose in life can be satisfied by some external agent, can be defined by someone else than yourself. That voting actually does something aside from (as I’ve alluded to many times) seal the deal that you make when you set out to support a candidate or a position and then work to see the goal come to pass.
You have to decide what is important, you have to do the work to see it successful. You cannot simply go vote and expect others to carry your goals forward with them while you deal with things you deem are more important. They will do what they think is important. Either you accept that their goals are at variance with yours, or you don’t and are never (and will never be) satisfied with any outcome no matter how much better it may make your actual conditions in life.
…in that vein, the Democratic party and the Republican party are simply tools to be used, just like any other social structure. They are no more and no less good or evil (or monolithic) than the individuals who work in those groups to advance the goals they set for themselves.
So go vote this month! But not just vote, go scope out your local party, see how the sausage is made in the hands of the people who currently hold power; and if you want wild ideas about how the internet can fix the problems of aging structures in or government, maybe you should take a look at this;
Pia Mancini and her colleagues want to upgrade democracy in Argentina and beyond. Through their open-source mobile platform they want to bring citizens inside the legislative process, and run candidates who will listen to what they say.
If we want to get away from the kind of world that Noam Chomsky outlined in Manufacturing Consent, or the kind of world where the wealthy buy the votes of or representatives as described by Professor Lessig in Republic, Lost; How Money Corrupts Congress – and a Plan to Stop It then we should listen to people like Pia Mancini, or dedicate ourselves to one of the many groups who are working daily to modify the system so that is is more responsive to the voting population of the US.
The Wolf-pac – We must reverse Citizens United, Restore our Democracy, and Save the Republic. Join the Fight for Free and Fair Elections in America! That has had success in at least one state house.
Move to Amend – which has been trying to get legislation through congress; and not having much luck at it.
Lessig’s own Rootstrikers.org – which is the third iteration of his groups attempts to form a movement behind the ideas he has put forward again and again.
Or maybe even a group like Represent.us that is facing pushback on the local level in Tallahassee right now while trying to make inroads on the problem of corruption in or governments.
Governments. Plural. More than one. Local, County, State & Federal; not just the President. So go vote, because that’s all that is left to do right now with one short month left in this election cycle. But don’t allow yourself to sit back after voting and expect the problems to be solved, or (even worse) wait for a President to be elected who will fix the problems we face, that will do so in a way that you approve of (which is a pipe dream) go out and change the system by participating in it. At least then you will have earned the right to bitch about how things turned out, rather than just pretending you have that right because you have a right to free speech.
I myself have been accused of being on the payroll of Monsanto. I wish was on the payroll of Monsanto. If any Monsanto executives are reading this and want to pay me, please let me know. I am not a journalist, I do not care if anyone considers my opinion unbiased or not. I will gladly take your payola.
However, targeting people who rightly suggest that the phobic froth around the mouth of the anti-GMO crowd is just this side of crazy is completely uncalled for and really should be investigated;
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, besieged by complaints from targets and the science and journalism communities, immediately launched an investigation of Adams and the site, with Adams facing possible felony charges of inciting violence (if he lived in a Europe or a Commonwealth country like the U.K., he would probably already have been served).
I’ve never had any use for Mike Adams or NaturalNews.com, although I have been vilified by many, many people who mistakenly go to his website thinking that his information is reliable, it isn’t; and with his death threats and targeting of science journalists he has finally crossed a line that I hope he will be punished for.
GMO is not Monsanto. GMO is not a thing. GMO (Genetically Manipulated Organisms) is many things, some of them quite beneficial; but that doesn’t stop people with a phobic response from loosing their shit over the subject. Nor does its beneficial results get recognized by the self-same phobic types who decry it’s very existence. Case in point, this article offered by an anti-GMO friend on Facebook that I have since blocked due to his (Mike Adams like) insistence that I was a Nazi sympathizer for Monsanto.
Scientists at the Mayo Clinic on May 14 announced a clinical trial that had been carried out in 2013, in which a Minnesota woman was injected with enough measles vaccine to treat 10 million people. Over the course of several weeks, the multiple tumors growing throughout her body shrank and vanished.
After undergoing chemotherapy and stem cell transplants, Stacy Erholtz’s myeloma — a blood cancer affecting the bone marrow — had spread into her skull and other parts of her body. The virus she was injected with had been engineered by researchers for cancer therapy.
You read that right. GMO cured that woman’s cancer. That is just the tip of the iceberg. Mexico has halted planting of a GM corn that was engineered specifically to address dietary deficiencies in their poor diet (which is largely corn) based on anti-GMO fears, and the threatened profit margins of competitors.
Mexico already imports tens of thousands of tonnes of GMO yellow corn each year, largely for animal feed, and permits planting of other GMO crops, mainly cotton and soybeans.
Supporters of GMO corn like Mexico’s corn farmers’ federation argue it can boost yields by up to 15 percent.
Their peers in the United States, Brazil and Argentina – the world’s top three corn exporters – are already producing large quantities of GMO corn.
Because many children in countries where there is a dietary deficiency in vitamin A rely on rice as a staple food, the genetic modification to make rice produce the vitamin A precursor beta-carotene is seen as a simple and less expensive alternative to vitamin supplements or an increase in the consumption of green vegetables or animal products.
Our first world fears should not be given more credence than their very real needs. I think we should let them decide if they want to eat or not, want to see or not. It is a lot like the fear surrounding vaccination. When your kids start dying, you’ll discover you like medicine after all. GM foods are not health risks in and of themselves, no matter how many times you say otherwise; but, ya know, Round Up ready corn! It causes cancer! Except it doesn’t.
The biggest criticism of the study is the combination of two features – the small sample size and lack of statistical analysis. The entire study is premised on comparing various dose groups with control groups that were not exposed to GMO or glyphosate. And yet, the authors provide no statistical analysis of this comparison. Given the small number of rats in each group, it is likely that this lack of statistical analysis is due to the fact that statistical significance could not be reached.
In other words – the results of the study are uninterpretable.
So the fear of the unnatural really is a phobia, unsupported by science. Understanding that, you might get a feel for why companies that market products might not want to be subjected to labeling mandates that cover GMO content in their products.
GMOs are just one efficient tool that people using bad farming practices can also utilize. This is akin to arguing that because crop dusting huge volumes of chemical pesticides is bad, we should boycott airplanes. Herbicide and pesticide resistance were cropping up long before genetic engineering came onto the stage, necessitating much greater use of those chemicals or turning to more toxic alternatives. The introduction of Roundup ready crops actually began as a wonderful thing in this regard, since Roundup was less toxic than many of the alternatives being used previously, and could be used in much lower amounts. That happy state of affairs was mis-managed and now much larger doses are needed because of resistant weeds, but again, this isn’t the fault of the GMOs.
The fearful just want to boycott, and the manufacturers don’t want to be boycotted. Consequently labeling mandates will continue to hit brick walls (even though full disclosure should include such labeling) until there is less unreasoning fear in the public at large. In Other Words, educate yourselves and you might get what you want in return.
There is broad scientific consensus that food on the market derived from GM crops poses no greater risk than conventional food. No reports of ill effects have been documented in the human population from ingesting GM food. Although labeling of GMO products in the marketplace is required in many countries, it is not required in the United States and no distinction between marketed GMO and non-GMO foods is recognized by the US FDA.
I hear you saying “But patenting of organisms! Evil Monsanto!” If you want to change patenting, then change patenting. You won’t get much argument from me. Patenting itself is a government subsidized monopoly on production, I much prefer competition.
Monsanto, separate from the subject of GMO in general, is its own worst enemy. Every attempt that it makes to limit its liability through law, or to manipulate the media to cast itself in a better light ends up being picked up and used by its enemies to make it look all the more evil and manipulative. It’s hard to imagine that you can make a company responsible for creation of Agent Orange look more evil, but that is a failure of imagination, as the article I lead off with should illustrate. (Read this article about Monsanto and see if you can understand just how wrong the common knowledge about the corporation actually is. They didn’t create Agent Orange. That’s the start. -ed.)
Studies dated 2004 through 2006 identified several causes for farmers suicide, such as insufficient or risky credit systems, the difficulty of farming semi-arid regions, poor agricultural income, absence of alternative income opportunities, a downturn in the urban economy which forced non-farmers into farming, and the absence of suitable counseling services. In 2004, in response to a request from the All India Biodynamic and Organic Farming Association, the Mumbai High Court required the Tata Institute to produce a report on farmer suicides in Maharashtra, and the institute submitted its report in March 2005. The survey cited “government apathy, the absence of a safety net for farmers, and lack of access to information related to agriculture as the chief causes for the desperate condition of farmers in the state.”
Over and over again I attempt to enlighten friends who fall for the natural fallacy offered by people like Mike Adams. Over and over again I’m told that I don’t understand the first thing about the subject. Because they know. Monsanto is evil. GMO is bad. Never mind that neither of those accusations are true, as I (and others) illustrate over and over again. Humor doesn’t work. Information doesn’t work. Maybe the problem is psychological?
Orthorexia nervosa is not listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), which psychologists and psychiatrists use to diagnose mental disorders. The DSM-5 currently lists anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, “other specified feeding or eating disorder” and “unspecified feeding or eating disorder”.
Some clinicians argue orthorexia nervosa should be recognised as a separate eating disorder and have proposed clinical DSM diagnostic criteria. They note distinct pathological behaviours with orthorexia nervosa, including a motivation for feelings of perfection or purity rather than weight loss, as they see with anorexia and bulimia.
I don’t want to introduce fallacious reasoning into the mix, use the “Oh, you’re just crazy” dodge to dismiss the people who disagree with me. I genuinely do want to understand why people fear GMO’s as much as they do, and why. Time and again, though, the answers are not quantifiable in any way that I can make sense of. I’m left with little else to explain the issue.
His central question in the video “Could the future of food production be genetically modified organic food production?” challenges us to understand exactly how misguided the current atmosphere is when it comes to the subject of GMO. The video is a must-see.
Rachel Maddow whittles away the unsubstantiated reports in the Malaysia Airlines plane crash investigation and points out that NATO warned the world on June 30th that Russia was training Ukrainian separatists on vehicle-borne anti-aircraft capability.
I’ve spent a good portion of today writing responses to accusations that the segment is biased and not based on facts.
I get it, it’s popular these days to insist that television news is biased. If it isn’t FOX news’ conservatives incessantly whining about liberal bias (liberal meaning “anything not Conservative” i.e. mindlessly jingoist with a heavy helping of Jesus on top) it’s the blatant bias of FOX news itself making up stories that they think their viewers will ascribe to (#Benghazi, anyone?) as detailed on any number of channels including MSNBC which the clip above comes from.
The “why” of the location of the plane, it’s status right before it fell out of the sky, will only be answered by the fight recorders if they are ever found. Flight recorders that the separatists claim to have already found.
Conspiracies are already spinning on the subject. Ukraine shot the plane down. Ukraine thought they were targeting Vladimir Putin’s plane (the story from Russian news sources that Rachel Maddow relates) the plane was loaded with corpses and crashed on purpose to frame the Russians. I’m sure there will be more.
Ukraine hasn’t been shooting down planes in the area; Ukraine would have known (since they control their own airspace) that the plane was a commercial airliner. The separatists have been, and shot down a plane at the same altitude and similar heading earlier in the week (not to be confused with a shootdown from more than a decade ago) So they clearly had the capability to do it again, and the motivation to continue hampering Ukrainian efforts to put down the separatists.
The separatists exist largely because Russia funds them. There is a conspiracy theory (which theorists like Dan Carlin deny is one) that suggests that the unrest in the Ukraine is due to US intervention in the region, that we’re trying to pull the former soviet state into the NATO alliance. That that is why Russia acted to claim the Crimea through the use of the separatists.
The truth is that Kiev wants to get closer to the EU, to be considered part of the EU rather than a satellite of Russia. If I understand the political structure of the country, the governors of the various regions are appointed not elected. That has lead to unrest in the outlier areas away from Kiev and its direct control, parts of the country that want to elect their own leaders directly. There is also a history of distrust between the Eastern and Western sections of what we call ‘Ukraine’ today (bad blood from WWII during the occupation by Germany) That is why the separatists accuse the government of Kiev of being under the influence of fascists.
Russia would of course like its territory back. Kiev has been historically in and out of Russian control for centuries, and was actually the first city to be called Russia (Kievan Rus) and would probably be the capital of the country of Russia if the Mongols hadn’t taken it and occupied it. But none of this means that Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin should be handed the keys to Kiev just because he wants it under his control.
Putin and Russia are as accountable for MH17 deaths as the US is for funding and equipping terrorists in other regions; as in, completely accountable if you are living anywhere outside of Russia or the US. As the saying goes “live by the sword, die by the sword.” The trick is to not be the one living by the sword. Vladimir Putin is the last of the KGB. When he dies, that era dies with him. If we can just stop funding the MIC in the US, the other half of the equation will also close.
It really isn’t propaganda or fallacy to say Russia is to blame for downing the plane. The separatists exist as a military force because Russia has encouraged them. Whether the equipment came from Russia recently, or was soviet equipment left in Ukraine at the end of the USSR, it exists because of Russian expansionism and empire that goes back centuries in time.
Putting the shoe on the other foot (to turn another phrase) I saw the same kinds of denial surrounding the downing of Iran Air Flight 655, the Iranian commercial airliner destroyed during the Iran/Iraq war, a conflict we heavily funded and supported. Everything from the excuse that Reagan gave and the US government still sticks to (an accident) all the way to full blown conspiratory “plane full of corpses flown at the Vincennes on purpose” insanity.
But we shot that plane down in cold blood and killed all those people because we were there and ready to kill. The same is true for the groups fighting in Ukraine right now, and the group in question gets its backing from Russia and is equipped with weapons made in Russia. They are the ones ready to kill. They get the blame. As much of the blame as the US got for that downing of an Iranian airliner.
Does that mean war? No. Not even vaguely (I’m sure John McCain is already strapping on his sword, if he ever takes it off anymore) that does mean that Russia and their proxy separatists should answer in international court and pay restitution at the very least. If someone can be found that actually gave the order to shoot that plane down, that person should be put on trial. But I think we’ve had enough killing in the world of late. How about we not call for more, just right now?