Thursday, March 10, 2011

I'm Moving to Pretendistan

In Pretendistan, the average IQ is over 120.
There are no churches, and there is no Republican party.
In fact, there are no political parties at all - such an idea would be absurd in Pretendistan. It'd be like having scientific parties.
Pretendistanis understand that morality is the mortar that holds a society together and makes it strong.
Their actions are guided by this understanding.
There are no keys or locks in Pretendistan. Nobody is enough of an asshole to go around stealing other people's shit.
Schools teach critical thinking and fiscal responsibility there.
All drugs are legal. Their addiction rates are half ours.
Traffic laws are unnecessary. Pretendistanis pay attention to what they're doing.
Pretendistan combines elements of socialism, capitalism, and communism - the government controls oil transparently - nobody profits from its sale.
Advertisements actually inform you.
Science is valued beyond its potential to create new avenues of profit.
Pretendistanis are aware that the world will exist beyond the next year or two and plan accordingly.
Pretendistanis know they're human. They know their fundamental nature and subsequently their limitations.
No Pretendistani elevates himself/herself or his/her group(s) above any other.

    The world could very easily be a much better place. With the exception of that first detail (although it would help with the others), every difference between Pretendistan and the US depends entirely on individual choices made by individual people. We have the capacity within us right now to become like Pretendistan.

    I really wish I could move to Pretendistan right now, but unfortunately, nobody knows where it is. The closest I can get right now is Canada. Fortunately, I believe the world has been moving in the right direction, slowly, for the past 400 years or so. It might take a few more revolutions but we'll get there.

    Take care, sir.

    Sunday, March 6, 2011

    Jesus Probably Did Not Exist.

    Yeah, I said it. I actually believe it. Even most other atheists resent my saying this. It's not due to a lack of familiarity with William Lane Craig, et al. I know pretty much all the arguments. Most of them are rendered moot by an argument I use, in the form of an analogy. I'll explain further down.

    The Iron Chariots Wiki puts it, I would say, mildly:
    Today, there exists little in the way of historical documentation for Jesus' life beyond the Biblical Gospel, and it is likely that these accounts were not written by eyewitnesses. This lack of evidence makes it very difficult to discern actual historical facts behind the Christian stories that describe him. This, however, has not stopped scholars from defending the existence of a historical Jesus, as well as specific views of who Jesus was.
    Some atheists consider discussion of a historical Jesus to be a red herring and argue that, while a person named Jesus may or may not have existed, there is clearly no reason to believe that he had special powers, was the son of God, or performed miracles. Even if it could be firmly established that Jesus, the man, existed, this would not be evidence for the extraordinary claims that make up the foundation of the Christian religion.
     Nothing even approaches an eyewitness account. There is no other real evidence beyond written accounts. Even the name "Jesus" is contrived. Elements of Christianity existed centuries before the alleged birth of Christ.
    Authors Richard Carrier [blog] [wiki] [YT], Robert M. Price [blag] [wiki] [YT], David Fitzgerald [YT] [book], Bart Ehrman [blag] [wiki] [YT] make the case clear in their books, lectures, debates, etc. READ THEIR SHIT and THEN talk to me about the arguments (or at least watch the YT links - they're entertaining, I swear).

    Anyway, the analogy I like to use regards the Roman invasion of Gaul by Caesar's 13th legion. Imagine for a moment that archaeologists stumbled upon a collection of letters signed by identifiable members of the Roman military at the time of the battle of Alesia. They are eyewitness accounts, written in first person (you may argue that the fact that the original gospels were reproduced is in fact evidence of their truth value, since apologists like to have it both ways). They consistently describe an event in the midst of the battle wherein the goddess Athena descended and gave the general a magic wand, which he used to turn various Gallic warriors into frogs. We would not expect much other evidence (beyond reproductions of this account in other places - assume there are if you want), as the remains of the frogs would have long since disappeared. We know the battle really took place, already. We already know that Caesar was a real man, too. Would this alone convince you that the goddess Athena really exists, and that magic wands exist? For some of you, it may be. If so, I may have to talk to you about an amazing investment opportunity.
    But this evidence is FAR better than the evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ. There are no eyewitness accounts, let alone signed, let alone by identifiable figures referenced in other sources, let alone originals, etc. It's special pleading to accept the Gospels as accurate. It's about as justifiable as accepting any other religious text, for that matter.

    There is one good argument for an actual historical Jesus (hence the qualifier "probably"). Cults spring up based on charismatic leaders who are merely human but are attributed supernatural aspects all the time. David Koresh is still worshiped as a messiah. Sathya Sai Baba is considered by millions to be God right now. True divine nature does not seem to be a prerequisite for widespread belief/adherence. But at the core of each cult/religion (the only difference is size, really) is a real person. The only difference is that the antiquity of Christianity naturally makes its history murky. I think, however, the answer lies in the similarity between early Christianities and other cults at the time, most of which were probably fabricated wholecloth as a metaphor for the sun and the zodiac signs etc. anyway, like Mithras. Much of the Gospel story seems contrived [read the Incredible Shrinking Son of Man] anyway.

    The most interesting theistic argument I've heard to account for the success of other cults similar to Christianity at the time (suggesting there was a need for such an argument) is that the miracles performed by members of pagan cults were in fact real, but the work of the devil [read Not the Impossible Faith by Richard Carrier]. Anyone willing to entertain this kind of theology has lost the argument, in my mind, based on the nature of the devil in such a theology. That's another discussion.

    More on the topic

    Take care, sir.

    Saturday, March 5, 2011

    I nominate Harry Glicken for Discordian sainthood

    Hopefully you've at least heard of Discordianism, if you aren't already a worshiper of the Goddess. If so, you probably know about Discordian saints, like His Imperial Majesty Emperor Norton I, a failed San Francisco business man who declared himself Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico and Officially dissolved Congress in 1859.

    I've found another interesting candidate. Harry Glicken was a volcanologist. He was supposed to watch Mount St. Helens erupt, but missed it for an interview. His replacement, David A Johnston, died watching the eruption (along with 56 other people). Apparently, they failed to learn from Pliny the Younger, who documented the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD from a safe distance quite adequately without dying. His uncle, Pliny the Elder, wanted a closer look and wound up in Hades (ok, he actually had the noble intention of attempting to rescue survivors and suffered a massive asthma attack in the noxious clouds of smoke and ash).

    In defiance of all sense, Glicken again decided to get a closer look at an impending volcanic eruption - Mt. Unzen, in 1991. Guess what the fuck happened. FORTY-THREE scientists died, including Glicken. This may qualify him, despite being a scientist, for a Darwin Award too.

    Take care, sir.

    Thursday, March 3, 2011

    Technological Singularity

    So last night, I had sort of an odd brainstorm regarding the technological singularity, a la Ray Kurzweil. I was watching Star Trek TNG with some of my friend when I realized that by the time we have the technology to build transporters and replicators, computers will be ridiculously powerful, and we'll combine these technologies to manipulate matter in extremely intricate ways. Before long, we'll be able to create just about anything wherever we want, whenever we want. We'll be teleporting and rearranging matter all the time, reshaping even our bodies. We'll be sharing information nearly instantly and reshaping the entire planet before long, ultimately becoming something like a massive cloud of hyper-intelligent matter that used to be Earth - a giant nebulous consciousness. We'll learn how to bend space and time and envelop the entire universe and live forever. In a sense, we'll become God.
    That's how I hope it happens, anyway.