Gravitational Waves are Us

Verifying-Gravity-Waves-with-Neutron-Star-Emissions-2Big news in science this week. Something or other about gravitational waves–the original ones–like in the big bang theory. Yeah, another theory, like evolution (meaning all stupid/ignorant idiots can stop reading and go back to fantasy island). Not that I judge of course. *smirky face inserted ——>Cheeky-Tongue-bbm-smiley-This stuff goes back a few decades to some guy or other who predicted this wave would be there, as a way of explaining what seemed to be the rapid inflation of the universe from a singularity into the vast expanse we find today, mostly of empty space and dark matter. Also it explained the general uniformity of matter concentration, throughout. Got all that? Doesn’t matter.

Just know it’s big. About as big as the Higgs Boson find a while back. Maybe bigger. Like in Einsteinian big. As in a whole lotta folks near peed themselves.

You and I? Ah, not so much. Didn’t affect the price of gas nor reduce my angst about non-duality achievement any. What else matters?

Speaking of which, non-duality that is. I’m not any closer. Nor any farther. Since it’s not a place to go to, it’s just opening your eyes and seeing R E A L I T Y. Dontcha wish Aretha had sung about that instead of a very dualistic concept like respect?

Anyway, I been hanging around with such concepts for a while now. Some of it is making some sense. But I don’t feel enlightened in any way. I mean, one of the things that some and I mean S O M E people say is that to the enlightened or awakened mind, “everything is exactly the way it should be.”

Which is way way uncool and kinda sick given the cesspool of poo the world is in. But ya see, there is a logic to it. Saying that the world is a shit hole is a value judgment quite clearly. Various despots, political and economic, probably would disagree because they have island homes and barely raised a buffed finger before someone is at hand to step and fetch for them. They are powerful and they like it. The world is their oyster.

But there’s a whole ‘nother level where everything is exactly as it should be. In fact, it’s exactly as it has to be. I can no other than it is. And that’s very non-dual when you think of it. See, reality is nothing but the sum total of all actions by everyone, and all actions by everything, as far as the eye can see as they say, like in to the edge of the universe. Given what you are doing, thinking, feeling, and multiplied by all the rest of it, including the blade of grass that is struggling to grow, and either is or isn’t, a one-time-only unique reality is formed. And it is what it is, and is exactly what it must be.

Let me know when your eyeballs quit spinnin’ and I’ll go on.

The reality of all this, is neither good nor bad, nor right or wrong, or any other dualism. It just is.

Human egos (that’s us) attach ourselves to certain desires of what that reality should/could be, and then the fun begins. We try to change it, all the while other people are doing the same, but maybe not at all in the way we want. And some people just say to hell with it, and create their own little fantasy reality. Those are the really interesting one’s when you think about it. Talk about your Sim city! It’s like a game box filled with deities, and laws, and morals, all designed just by YOU for YOU. It’s amazing how far some people will take this. Just ask Ken Ham how far you can parade a fantasy world and get people to pay you for it.

So the trick, as I see it, is the not give a damn, because it won’t change anything anyway, but somehow be a good person and do “good” in the world, all the while not being attached to any outcome that is most assuredly not going to go your way anyway–since who the hell are you to dictate the world?

Can you see where I am stuck?

It’s not all no God, if you think that I’m headed that way. I’m not. I think the same “truth” derives from either a god-model or a spontaneous out of now where for no reason explanation. One may take a bit longer to arrive at, but in the end, both lead to the same thing. Reality is still gonna be reality, unless you get off the train and decide to hitch your donkey to a literal star over Bethlehem. Then you just dig the ditch a little deeper, or sink deeper into Plato’s cave.

All roads lead to. . . .

What?

They lead to realizing that a mind is just conveniently for aesthetic? purposes, housed in a bony case called a head. And the rest of “us” is conveniently covered over with bones and tissue and skin and offered as an “entity”. The mind is not mine, or yours, it’s ours. It’s as big as the universe at least, and perhaps bigger. I haven’t walked around the block very far yet. Yet that’s where it has to lead. Unbounded mind, all mixed in a soup of unbounded minds all being one big mind. Trying to be “me” is fairly selfish and silly at the same time.

Yet I go on being me. Reading Jed McKenna doesn’t enlighten me, nor do I agree with a lot he says, and I find some of his explanations of why he acts so darn ego-driven when he’s not, unsatisfying and vaguely con-artist in the attempt. I surely don’t buy into the idea that everyone who has ever become enlightened has to pass through this “first step” which wrenches the guts and destroys everything. Is it essential to leave spouses and children and go off barefoot in a quest? He claims a fair percentage end up in loony bins at least for a while.

I don’t buy that. Course, he would say that anyone who doesn’t agree with him, hasn’t become enlightened and probably doesn’t want to suffer the slings and arrows as it were. But since Mr. McKenna remains an enigma of sorts and unreachable pretty much, I’m not sure he’s any more real than the Wizard of Oz. All show and glitter, but look behind the curtain.

I don’t know that any of it matters. But clearly it seems to matter to a whole lot of humans because we spend billions of bucks on thousands of teachers and gurus and books and CD’s and speeches, all to help us along the road to what was that again? Some place not here.

And it’s not that we are all so god-awful unhappy being here. I know I’m not. Life right here and now is damn good in my book. I got no serious complaints. I’m pretty sure that a whole lot of seekers would agree.

Yet something keeps being that itch we can’t quite scratch.

I’ll let you know if I ever get there.

When I’m not too busy doing whatever it is you do when you are enlightened.

I hope pizza is still on the menu.

The Pretzel God

Ham-Nye-debate-in-a-nutshell-via-exploring-our-matrixI found myself once again engaged in that never-to-be-solved conversation with a creationist, commonly referred to as a YEC’er (young-earth creationist). That such conversations are tedious is obvious. I never sought it, rather the usual folks just have to respond when you make fun of their favorite belief.

The other day I posted  a thing from Buzzfeed, which merely and perfectly objectively showed the “questions” that some YEC’ers would have asked Bill Nye after attending the “debate” at the Creation “Museum” run by Ken Ham. Ken Ham is either a silly lunatic who believes the nonsense that spews from his mouth, or he is a grifter. I’m not quite sure which.

Actually Buzzfeed, I now find, has answered these 22 questions, sometimes humorously, but always factually as far as my knowledge goes. My post was met by, not a reasoned response but the highly laughable video created by one Ray Comfort called Evolution vs God. In it Ray confronts a few professors but mostly students and demands that they produce a “change of kinds” that he can see, peppered with the now standard question, “were you there?” The upshot seems to be the rather bizarre notion that Ray has that if “you were not there, you can’t prove it happened.”

Now we already know Ray from his enormous boo-boo in the Banana Proof, calling it the “evolutionist’s nightmare. Here Ray tells us that the banana is clear evidence of something created by God just to fit the hand of the human being. We will skip his retraction when he learned about how the banana has been altered by humans and no longer resembles what it did originally and well, how monkeys of course seem to have hands that work pretty darn good too in eating bananas.

Now I did not watch the famous debate between Nye and Ham. Both sides undoubtedly have not changed their mind one whit nor anyone elses. Both sides will claim victory. That Ham, as I’ve been told, made lots of assertions without any proof such as “it is not proven that the earth is old”, when it clearly is, is par for the course.

The reality of all this is that the only real loser here was Intelligent Design. Actually I was a bit surprised to learn that the ID folks hate the YEC folk. See, the ID people actually in some cases are scientists, and they are trying mightily, though usually falling short, in bringing some actual science to the discussion. They, for instance, don’t believe at all in a young earth. They simply believe in a grand master God who created such things that they say are “irreducibly complex”–God is the designer of such things as the eye , and the blood clotting cascade. So Ham really screwed them  in their longed for resurrection from the damned which occurred in the case of Tammy Kitzmiller, et al vs. Dover Area School District, et al. (400 F. Supp. 2d 707, Docket no. 4cv2688).

The meme above gives voice to the real problem with these fringe fundamentalists. And fringe is what I do mean. While Ham and his cohorts often tout the “fact” that nearly 50% of all Americans believe in creationism, that is not at all accurate. As with all polling, how the question is framed matters greatly. When you get to the extreme of a Ham–the earth is only a few thousand years old, ditto the universe, and Adam and Eve were the original humans, and the bible (usually only the KJV translation) is the literal word of God–we are talking about something less than 10% of the population.

The problem is this: faith is a matter of belief. People who assert (and it’s always these ultra uber “Christians” or extreme fundamentalists who do) that they are “positive” “sure” “absolutely certain” that what they belief is true, are deluded by their own arrogance. Faith is belief. More clearly it is belief in the face of doubt. Some of the most famous of saints struggled the most with their faith–languishing for years in doubts and questioning. Ironically, if God were as the uber fundies contend–a god of judgment, they would fail. It is no great thing to believe what is proven. Faith is believing in spite of doubt. I suspect a god of judgment would favor the one who believes in spite of doubt rather more than the one who believed because he was convinced the proof was complete. Don’t the atheists do as much?

Worse, the YEC’er likes to claim that they “follow the word of God”, in other words, they do the bidding of God which is clearly set out in their translation. But this is false. For the bible is not something that is capable of one and only one meaning, not in its sum or in its parts. It is an interpretive document, informed by many other disciplines. For instance the word na ‘ar in Hebrew literally means “youth”. The word zaqen literally means “old”. However it would be a mistake to conclude that a youth is younger than an old person. For from learning about the sociology of ancient Israel, we learn that the term youth is attached to any male not yet head of a household, while old is attached to any male who is head of a household. Thus a na ‘ar can be older than a zaquen. (From Method Matters: Essays on the Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible, “Sociological Approaches: Toward a Sociology of Childhood in the Hebrew Bible” pg. 262,[Society of Biblical Literature: Atlanta, 2009]

Fundamentalists will deny all this simply because they truck in being able to discern the meaning of scripture by reading it. In that way it is they who believe in the “their own vain thoughts”, not the scholar who knows that the texts are not literal in nature, and that translation and context mean everything to meaning. God is twisted in the fundamentalist mind to fit what the mind needs Her to be.

My fundamentalist opponent dropped her side of the conversation after I produced any number of critiques of Ray Comfort’s silly video. That is the way of all such people, for in the end, they have no facts that they can articulate beyond scraps of talking points that they essentially don’t understand in the first place. She left with this parting shot, from Matthew 7:6:

Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast
ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them
under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

Ironically, it is one of the more controversial passages from the Sermon on the Mount, and there is much disagreement of what it means. But I’m betting she is sure what it means. And that says it all.

Well, Where Have You Been, Huh?

UglyDog_width_640x-1-1Got your attention didn’t I?

Well where have you been? I been waiting here it seems like forever, and NOBODY showed up. So I thought I might jar you from your lethargy with Buttons here, my friendly pup.

Actually I have just been busy in a fairly good way. Holidays and all. Finally have days utterly to myself. Made enough food yesterday to last until at least Monday. By then, I think we will start to be tired of it all.

Frankly the political scene both disgusts me and bores me. I still keep INFORMED, but I’m just so tired of Republicans being, you know, so Republicanish, which is a nice way to say douchey. Do they ever stop being douche bags? My representative sure doesn’t. Steve Pearce is his unholy name, and he is a douche of the very first order.

A millionaire they tell me, and owned lock, stock and barrel by the TeaDrunkards. I find it amusing to read the GOP playbook (sent around to all the lil man and woman/childs pretencing at actually serving the public). Said playbook is regularly filched/gifted/snuck to various liberal organizations and published for all to see. It consists of phrases (typically called “talking points”) and suggestions of things to do to make the GOP look intelligent and the Democrats to look stupid.

The playbook lately has focused a lot on Obamacare, of which I am thoroughly tired by the by. So, to make a long story not quite as long, old Steve has been busy reading his, and he regales us regularly on Facebook with lists of all those tens of millions who have lost their coverage in New Mexico, followed by a plea to “please send us your stories of misery”. He then reports one or two of these, and dusts his filthy lucre hands off and thinks he’s done his “job.”

Of course he offers these people no help of any sort, and fails to bother suggesting that they go to the exchanges and see what they might be offering. We have no individual exchanges here since our other douche Guv Martinez, didn’t sign the legislation until it was too late to have the time to set them up for October. So we are very douchey here. (Guv Martinez may have some serious problems of her own since her main man on her staff is a Rovish like creature that a number of people have suggested might be leading her into some illegal behaviors )

Anyway, his latest addition to stupid dialogue is to suggest that Domino’s Pizza is paying $15-20 per hour to drivers, but only in “energy selling” states, meaning those states that are pumping oil and frackin’ their way to heaven with gas. Now any student in the first fifteen minutes of undergrad school (pick your subject) knows that one has zero to do with the other on so many grounds that we reach infinity. But what was funny was that a whole bunch of Domino’s drivers chimed in with “hey Steve, you idiot!” Turns out that the $15-20 is an estimate of what drivers CAN make with tips off their base crummy salary, and DOESN’T include the cost of maintenance of their vehicle and GAS. But poor old Steve fairly misses that, since he’s simply following the PLAYBOOK.

I figured after going a few rounds with Steve, that well, I was right in the ball park with this next story. It seems like dinosaurs liked to poop in groups.  In this they are similar to camels and elephants, which means the apple don’t fall far from the tree, I guess. Or not. Evolution is a strange thing.  I’m really pretty sure that Republicans poop in groups too.

Which leads to this: did ya know that some soft tissue from a T. Rex survived 68 million years? It was found in Montana, and I have no idea whether that mattered at all, but factoids are important in Jeopardy, so consider me a coach. I mean under the best conditions it’s only supposed to last a million years. Anyway, the collagen from the beastie resembles that of birds, which must make the people at the Creation Museum go scrambling for an explanation. It all has to do with a lot of biological mumbo jumbo and IRON-rich blood that for some reason known only to a BIOLOGIST, helps preserve the tissue.

Which reminds me of Coach, Craig T. Nelson, who is among the dumber of the Republicans I know of. He hates paying taxes, hates the “welfare” society we now live in, hates Obama for bringing all that to Merika, and so on and so forth. And he’s not going to take it any more, refusing to pay taxes for things he doesn’t believe in. After all, he says, “What happened to society? I go into business, I don’t make it, I go bankrupt. I’ve been on food stamps and welfare, did anybody help me out?. . .” YES YOU IGNORANT FOOL, THE GOVERNMENT HELPED YOU OUT WITH THE FOOD STAMPS AND WELFARE!!!  I mean this is Louis Gohmert stupid.

Louis by the way has been ear-deep in Obama conspiracy theories, claiming that the President is busy via the AHCA in amassing a private army. He’s been at this for some time, and the stories of the government buying up ammunition only goes to support that idea according to the Galloping Gohmert. A portion of the law which allows the training of a group for public health and national emergency response, is to Louis a smoking gun. But he’s a bit unsure of what the weapons of choice will be for this group:

“I’ve continued to ask questions, what is this for?” It says it is for international health crises, but then it doesn’t include the word ‘health’ when it talks about national emergencies. And I’ve asked, what kind of training are they getting? It provides in Obamacare that this commission and non-commissioned officer corps will be trained. But I want to know, are they using weapons to train or are they being taught to use syringes and health care items? But we’ve got no clear answers on that.”

Seems like dear Louis should bring up this subject at the next group poop he has with Cruz and King, and well, all the bare butted GOP’ers at the gathering. Hey, whose poo don’t stink?

Happy leftovers!

Facepalm

Items to Make You Queen of the Watercooler Next Week

large_overworkedSee that’s me. I mean, imagine a woman instead of a man, and that’s me. I’m spend hours reading just so that you don’t have to. I mean you can if you want to of course. God forbid that fine education goes to waste, but I have burned up the Intertubes in an effort to find all the news that you missed.

And I read it all. And some of it was crap upon further inspection, and so I ditched it. And the rest, well you gotta know this stuff. Especially if you want all your friends and aunt Tilde to think you are just a real smart ass. (meant in the kindest way of course)

So, let’s get to it, in no particular order.

Paul Krugman has a fine op-ed in the NYTimes detailing the crazy party, AKA, the GOP. What he says is very true. The GOP argument for deliberately toying with the very health of our economy goes something like this: I have put a gun to your head and demanded your money or your life. If you refuse to give me your money, it’s your fault that you’re dead. I gave you the option to live after all!

On the other hand, this may all go to prove that one can actually get admitted to Harvard and get through it with flying colors and still be utterly and profoundly stupid. Ted Cruz may be set to be one of the most spectacular blazing super nova that sputtered out in record time in the history of horses asses, err, super novae.

If it is true that humans have an individualized predisposition to violence, is it equally true that humans in community have a predisposition to violence in the form of war? It seems many assume this to be true. But evolutionary biologist, David P. Barash argues that this may in fact not be true. The latter may be only a capacity rather than an adaptation. Want to learn more? If you don’t think it matters, think again. We base our defense systems on assumptions of what other groups are likely to do. If we assume all people are driven to war to achieve ends, we build a different defense system than if we do not. And we’ve sure got the tax bills to reflect that.

I know that most of you are just thrilled every time you get a chance to read about quantum mechanics, I mean what self-respecting grease monkey or grocery check out lady  isn’t obsessed with the working of the universe at the extra-tiny scale? Ever heard of an aplituhedron? I bet not. It all means that all the complicated mathematical twists and turns are eliminated as well as the super computer to do the computations. Now little Bobby can explain the most complicated sub-particle interaction with nothing more than a pencil and paper again!

If you are going, uhh, okay so what? Well, you all know that physicists have been since the beginning of time, trying to join the big universe with the small universe (macro and micro forces?) and it has just never fit well, and well, the don’t call it the elegant universe for nothing. Everybody who knows this stuff figured the answer would eventually be simple. This might be it. I’m not a physicist as you might have guessed by now.

I mean this is simply delicious early fall reading. Get to it.  :)

Now I know you will love this one. There is a new book out there that you probably will want to get. I can imagine about half a dozen of you will be on Amazon in moments. It’s called Holy Shit: A Brief History of Swearing, by Melissa Mohr. Colin Burrows review of the book is worth the reading. Now read it your grouthead gnat snapper!

Steven Pinker from Harvard has written a book that details how we are becoming less violent as societies over time. He also argues that the world would be better led by science than by the humanities. Some beg to differ. A great essay from The Berlin Review of Books, and Gloria Origgi, A Reply to Steven Picker’s Scientific Manifesto.

overworked4111Love words? Lots of words? Okay.

The American Scholar has a fun essay called Is There a Word for That? Words are being made up all the time, but you knew that. Want to know who created some words we now take for granted? Who is responsible for katydid? Or neologize ? Or Anglophobia? Blurb? Gerrymander? Bromide? Oh I bet I got your attention now.

Similarly, if you have ever remembered the quote but not the quoter, and the more you looked the harder it got? Who Really Sad That? You would be surprised at how often we get the attribution wrong. Amaze your friends by correcting their quotes!

“Whoever is not a socialist when he is 20 has no heart; whoever is not a conservative when he is 30 has no brain.” Usually attributed to Churchill. Actually? Nobody knows.

Enter the fine world of WAS–Wrongly Attributed Statements.

I betcha thought that the human mind created the gear, that round thingie that has “teeth” and meshes with other objects similarly constructed? That together makes things turn and other things go up and down and maybe side to side? You would be wrong. Scientists have found a gear in nature for the very first time. And YOU are some of the first non-specialists to know that, so don’t you feel so very proud?

A cute little guy called a planthopper (he has a very important scientific name you need not memorize) has a couple of gears in his back legs that mesh together and then when he calls on them to, spin backward sending him off on a leap across the earth that looks pretty fun. I’m sure it made sense to him too in terms of escaping predators or getting up as high as he wanted to feed. It’s called evolution folks. There is a little embedded video so you can watch him go!

Must a life be meaningful in order to be happy? Do we prefer meaningfulness over happiness if we can’t have both? They are not the same by the way. Happiness in part is getting what you want or need in life. Meaningfulness can have zero to do with this. Similarly happy people report that health is essential, yet health has nothing to do with meaningful lives. Happiness is apparent in the now, while meaningfulness tends to be a future assessment. This is a long article but one that raises lots of questions to think about. Well worth your time.

Nautilus brings us the ever-beloved essay on dinosaurs. The discovery and explanation of our bird predecessors have had a varied history as scientists working from small numbers of bones, continually revised their thinking of these creatures over time. As is usual, it is the unsung tiny dinosaurs that have done the most to correct our understanding over time of what these cuties looked like and how they lived. For the kid in all of us, this article will satisfy. I still wish there had been Brontosaurus, they were so neat!

With the advent of all the cute devices we have now from phones to tablets to readers to computers, all with calendars and reminders of one sort or another, there is less and less reason to have to memorize things. Nobody has to write down a phone number or address. The call is registered, switch it to contacts and it’s saved forever. Enter an address in your Google maps app, and you don’t need to record that address again. And maybe, just maybe that’s a good thing. Memorization may be a much over-rated thing. Curious? Read on.

How many late night gab fests have lingered long into the night over the ever-present question– Why was Spinoza excommunicated anyway? I mean this guy was ostracized with a big O, like in members of the congregation being order to be no closer that four cubits to the man. That’s some serious excommunication! Worse, payment of a fine served to dissolve most bans. Spinoza’s was life long. Spinoza himself never spoke of the harem, most of his works and fame came long after it. What is as interesting as why is by whom: Jews who had escaped forced Catholicism in Spain and Portugal and once free in Amsterdam, practiced a form of Judaism that was anything but normative. All in all, quite fascinating.

Happy reading everyone, and to all a good day!

books

Did You Know That. . . .?

Thinker_thumbA lot of disparate thoughts travel through this brain case I can safely inform you. You know me well enough to recognize the dangers of entering into my sandbox of synaptic pleasures. I’m either hopelessly unfocused or a cobbled together unrecognized genius. Some days it’s more one, other days, well.

I’ve come to see it as a blessing of sorts. At least I try to see it that way. I should have been a college professor, but of course that but begs the question–on what subject?

Any the hoo, I have a lot of thoughts about Syria but not a lot of coalesced conclusions, so I’ll beg off at the moment. Is it too trite and cowardly to just say, I’m conflicted?

I had a bizarre discussion with fellow high-school mates about the issue of spanking as discipline which proved to me once again how easy it is to stay with ideas that are both comfortable and supported by simplistic memes that denote little if any critical thinking. More and more I conclude that indeed advances in the human condition are the result of a very few minds indeed, and put into place by mostly brain-dead human hordes who are spoon fed some “reason” for implementing them.

If all that sounds rather cloudy and vague, well, it’s a cloudy and vague day here in Las Cruces. It’s been raining off and on for several days, which is highly unusual, at least for us recent arrivals–we saw so little rain last year that it made one appreciate water as a life-giving commodity surely. This year, we were told, as of Monday at least we had not yet received four inches of the wet stuff, and we might get at least that during this week. Since the desert is nothing but sand covering a rock hard-pan, the danger in these parts is floods in low-lying areas. Water races to its lowest place and rushes along, making gullies and rivulets through the desert. These become ditches or arroyos as we call them here, and eventually the Grand Canyon if you can stick around that long.

So anyway, here are some things I’ve read this week that you might find interesting.

horse_1456083iVlad, who appears to be in the driver’s seat at the moment internationally that is, has some things to say and said them in the NYTimes.

It’s an interesting “open letter to the American people“. Part propaganda, part history lesson, part chutzpah, it is worth a couple of minutes to read.

Having a power mad ex-president of the Communist party and ex-KGB officer, Putin deigns to give America a lesson in democracy. One can but admire the rich irony of that alone!

What he has to say about the subject of exceptionalism is worth reading. There is truth in those words.

As I said, my thoughts on the subject of Syria are unclear. That Putin wants to be a “player” is clear. What it will cost is not so clear.

A man so determined to show off his “masculinity” bespeaks something surely. What that is, I am not at all sure of.

 

¤

geniusI did mention the possibility that I am a hidden genius didn’t I?

That is almost surely a good reason for concluding that I am not.

Like “hero” we bandy about the word genius rather loosely these days.

If you would like to read an interesting take on what genius is and is not, then read I Dream of Genius over at Commentary. I found it a good read.

At least you can see if those you think of as geniuses are what the author does.

¤

If you would like to look at the mind in a different way, a more evolutionary way perhaps then you might want to pick up a new book out there by E. O Wilson, emeritus professor of biology at Harvard.

If you are unsure of whether you want to invest in The Social Conquest of Earth, then you can read through a review of the book from The Spectator.

HINT: once more we are compared to insects. All it all, it looks worthy of some good reading and some very good thinking ahead if you opt in. The review is not favorable on Wilson’s book. See if you agree. In either case, it seems a worthwhile read.

¤

Cosmic archaeology, need I say more?

Some say that aliens have looked and found us. But there is a thriving scientific community that spends its time looking for them. This is way more than looking for Goldilocks planets my friends, much more.

This is the type of scientific speculation that leads young boys and girls to dream of going into space, and leads them to enrolling in our best science and technology universities.

Come and dream for a few minutes. What can it hurt?

Go and read Distant Ruins.

¤

What happens when we both hear and see something? Do these two senses work together to enhance our fact gathering?

Is there a hierarchy of the senses? Do some matter more? Does one?

Oh I’m sure in the late recesses of a bleak and cold winter’s night, you too have asked this question.

So go and get the answer: Who did you hear, Me, or your lying eyes?

HINT: You might just have been McGurked!

¤

Another thing I imagine you’ve given a lot of thought to is why we are so fascinated by the lives of the writers we read and admire. I mean how much has been written about the life of Hemingway for instance? Are we not enthralled with the secret world of Proust, or Dickinson? How about Emerson or Fitzgerald? Balzac? Oh come now, you know you are curious.

A biography writer, shares some thoughts on what we can and cannot learn about those whose words cause us to depart this reality and enter another, one that sometimes we would rather inhabit.

Good reading here.

¤

Finally, if you have ever had the occasion to be “linked” to a “scientist” or other “expert” on something like global warming or evolution, or biblical literalness, American exceptionalism, the Judeo-Christian roots of American government, or similar things, you know what you are up against.

If you had the resources and or time to do the research,  you would almost surely find that most of these experts are anything but. Some our out-and-out failures who can be bought for a price, others are traveling into areas for which they have no formal expertise at all, and others are simply grifters, ready always to make a buck upholding any cockamamie “theory” that comes down the pike.

There is a great little site called Encyclopedia of American Loons. You can look up the biography of a startlingly large group of imposters and get the real low down on what they know and don’t know. An invaluable site. Since they seem to be novice bloggers I asked to them add the widget for a search engine and they have. Now you can enter a name and find out if they have bio’ed him or her. Or if you just want some fun reading, just go read a few.

So, now that I have solved all your reading needs for the weekend, I’ll leave you to it, with promises of more to come.

 

Preachin’ and Teachin’ and Face Palming to the Point It Hurts

beatadeadhorseI am singularly aware that I bang a drum slowly, preach to the choir, and will change not one mind. Those minds that need to change, I fear are so atrophied by lack of use at this point as to be irredeemable.

However, why should that stop me?

I preach because in the great unwashed population, I sense a great number of hanger-ons, barely listening, hardly conscious of that which is beyond their own field of vision. They are the “average” person in American, and perhaps in the world. People so busy making ends meet, schedules kept, children raised to do more than gnaw raw bones on the front lawn, that they have little time for other “stuff”.

In other words, what polls show is perhaps hiding the truth rather than exposing it. I speak of yesterdays revelation from the PPP poll, to the question of whom is to blame for Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath? Nearly a third, 29% thought that Obama was to blame, while ONLY 28% thought George Bush was. A full 44% had no clue.

Now, this means but one thing. Twenty-nine percent of the people in Louisiana are dumber than the dirt they stand upon. Or are they? Granted, those that truly believe this, well they are lost to us. They should be kept in locked houses, taken for walks on leashes, and fed a low-fat diet and given a few chew toys for amusement. A car ride once in a while will suffice to keep them happy.

But I reckon those are just a few. I would hope that they are no more than 10% of the fine people of Louisiana (I reserve judgement on say, Alabama, where the number might be much higher however *wink*.) Most, I would argue, are that group from above, that are barely aware of what day of the week it is. Syria is “some place over there” and “the war to end all wars” was that movie with Tom Cruise. Asking them a serious policy question is akin to asking the average three-year-old what they think of Keynesian economics versus those espoused by Friedman and the Chicago school.

See, it really doesn’t matter what “they” think, since thinking is an experience they have had precious little experience with.

Do we stop there and just go on about grown-up business therefore? Do we just ignore the vast array of childlike innocence portrayed by much of the hard right?

Unfortunately not. I say unfortunately, because gosh darn, lots of people flourish in relative happiness in their ignorance. Some say (Thomas Gray to be specific–go look it up) ignorance is bliss. They might well be right. It’s all fine if everyone has an opinion on everything under the sun and above it for that matter, with one tiny proviso:

THOSE WITH AN ELFIN MIND HAVE NO BUSINESS IN THE PUBLIC’S BUSINESS, I.E., THEY SHOULD NOT BE VOTING ON ANYTHING BEYOND WHAT COLOR TO PAINT THE NEW SWING SET AT THE TOWN PARK!

That said, the rub is, who decides, and what are the standards. I leave it there, for I admittedly have no answers. Feel free to mingle and talk among yourselves.

That the issue is however reaching critical proportions is evident by a few of the following statistics:

  1. Forty-six percent of Americans would agree that God made humans pretty much as they are today.
  2. Only 58% of Americans see climate change as a problem, DOWN from 63% in 1989.
  3. Eighteen percent believe that the sun revolves around the earth.
  4. Twenty-five percent believe that vaccines cause autism.
  5. Seventeen percent believe Obama is a secret Muslim.

I could go on with a list that would run to several pages of idiotic things that Americans believe. One can find lists of urban legends that denote the belief that Obama is gay, lost his license to practice law in Illinois from some mysterious illegal thing. There are plenty of folks who don’t believe we ever landed on the moon, plenty believe that aliens walk among us, and so on and on.

Most of it doesn’t matter.

But it matters a great deal when it has to do with evolution and our need for continued funding in medicine, geology, and many other disciplines that help us understand disease and how we can stop it. It matters a great deal when it has to do with our response to the increasing danger of man-made climate change, something that 95% of all scientists engaged in this study now believe. (Ninety-seven percent believe in that we are in a time of global warming man-made or otherwise.) It matters because in North Carolina, scientists and their predictions about increased sea levels are PREVENTED from being used by state planners in determining the future allocation of funds to protect the shore lines. DID YOU READ THAT? They are prevented from considering SCIENCE in making decisions about the future of their coastline!

As to evolution and climate change, millions upon millions have been spent in order to convince people that these things are untrue. The evolution deniers write books, create museums, and prepare homeschooling material for profit. They have a great desire to increase the number of people who “don’t believe in science”. The same is true of fossil fuel producers. They are almost the sole funders of the “science” that passes for anti-climate change. They have everything to lose by a weaning of American off of fossil fuels and a turn toward green energies.

We, on the other hand, present the evidence, but we don’t spend a lot of money to spread the word. We have been content mostly to giggle at the “stupid” people and pay no further attention. But they are voting, and they are electing people who are prepared, through either their own dumbness or because it’s lucrative to them, to speak for them, and against truth.

We can no longer remain quiet. We must beat the drum, loudly, rapidly, and continuously, until we break through the thick shell of “I don’t have time for that” mentality that affects probably 80% of our people.

I learned a new term today. Lysenkoism. It happened in Russia, or more properly the Soviet Union, when it attempted to veer off the evolution track into their own sort of biology that gave the results they wanted rather than where the science drove them.

It means:

the manipulation or distortion of the scientific process as a way to reach a predetermined conclusion as dictated by an ideological bias, often related to social or political objectives.

This is what we face in America. And we cannot assume or wait for our ignorant friends to “learn from history”, they won’t because they won’t expend the time to learn anything. Fox with its few seconds of sound bites is the most they can absorb, and only that when it is repeated continuously all day and all week long.

We, who can and do think. We, who do read, and do so critically,  and across the board of left to right, must be the voice that repeats the message again and again until we drown out those voices of personal gain who would lead our society to ruin for their own benefit, who would teach our children ideologies rather than science and truth.

This is why we beat the dead horse.

 

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Idiots

arknutsMy utter disgust and disregard for fundamentalist is well documented on this blog. I make no apologies for it, though I would argue that I am no zealot in this regard, and I am not on a campaign against them as a mission. My mind is far too eclectic in its selection of “things of interest” for that to be so.

I write of politics and my utter disgust and disregard for much of the GOP as well. It is not a mission with me either.

I believe totally in evolution as the means by which life has changed over eons of time. I believe that climate change is real and we are a major causative factor.  Similarly I believe that today is Thursday and that the sun will set in the West.  These are all factually provable items, available to be tested by a variety of reality-based mechanisms.

None of these things so I obsess about, for as I said, much else in the world interests me, such as who is the killer in the new show The Bridge, who will get kicked off Big Brother tonight, and what restaurant shall we eat lunch at today. I am a liberal or progressive, and I heave mightily to the left side of those spectrums, but sometimes extreme liberals/progressives piss me off with their short-sightedness from my point of view. I don’t obsess about that either.

As I said, I’m not a zealot, but a jack-of-all-trades. I likes what I likes and don’t likes what I don’t likes and I’ll tell you about most of them, and defend them until I get bored and move onto something else. I figure I’m fairly sane, fairly smart, and fairly normal and average.

But some folks ( religious fundamentalists for sure, and atheists of the newer type) are zealous. They are on a mission. And I’m here to tell you, that when viewed from the psychological lens, then are very hard to tell apart. I have almost always referred to fundamentalists as religious in nature. But that is not correct. Fundamentalism is a mental disorder or at least is thought so by some. It relates to a type of mind that is fearful of the world and thus creates a reality that is comfortable. It gathers “facts” to support its desired outcome, and is largely impervious to new facts that might contradict the contrived reality. It takes comfort in being a “minority”, being special, in the know, and therefore “better” than others. It regularly trashes non-believers as hell-bound, or not intelligent. It is a cultish worship of a world that works for it.

And folks it applies to the “New” atheist as much as the religious fundamentalist. Having spoken to a few dozen of these new atheists, I think I can safely speak about them. Almost universally they were either once fundamentalist believers, or were raised atheistic to begin with. But in each case, a traumatic occurrence happened and they became crusaders out to crush religion as some evil creation and one that is responsible for literally every bad thing that has ever happened in the world.

But let’s examine the patient. Atheists are fond of turning the tables in any discussion with them by asserting that the “one who asserts God exists must prove that existence.” And then they go about demanding that God be proven by a methodology that is designed to work in a physical universe. This would be fine if of course God was discernible by test tubes and spectroscopes.

If science tells us anything, it tells us that at the truly small end of things, the laws don’t operate quite the same as they do on our sensory levels. A thing can be at two places at the same time, and observing a thing can alter its behavior. There are posits of more planes of existence, some eleven I’m told, and that each may have its own laws, utterly alien to our own. But they continue to demand that God be proven to their satisfaction by human scientific standards.

They refuse (a no-information zone) to accept that they cannot prove to anyone’s satisfaction that God does not exist. All they can point to is a lack of scientifically generated evidence that he does.

Let me ask it another way.

Prove that the universe is a meaningless existence. Prove that it has no purpose whatsoever. Prove that it just came into being somehow, and is going through this process of evolution and that it all will end somehow and maybe or maybe not start again, in the same unendingly mindless way.

For you posit such a universe.

We are here by a series of accidents, we live for a short period, and we dissolve into nothingness, which billions of others perhaps on billions of other “earths” do the same, all for no purpose whatsoever. This is the world of Albert Camus, life is absurd.

If it is absurd then what is the point? What has ever been the point? Why have we crawled from the cave to get into our Prius’s and drive to work creating balance sheet profits for companies who will fight to avoid giving us a pension all to sit in the sun watching the balance of our lives fade with the sun? How have we found the guts and fortitude to deny ourselves, to be honest, to help others, if only to die inevitably?

Leave a legacy? Give my kids a better life? You have no ability to feel the satisfaction after you die. You have no legacy to watch mature and give birth to your great-great-great grandchildren. You can claim the satisfaction now, but is that but a joke you play on yourself? If you find life to be hard, filled with obstacles, potholes and down-right evil meanness at least some of the time, why not save your progeny that suffering by not bringing them into the world?

Seeing it from your perspective, why feed the homeless man? You but prolong his misery? The end remains the same. Oblivious death?

Or is it as Camus suggests to you? That accepting all of the above is the final freedom–the freedom to not give a damn? But of course you claim that not to be true, for you claim a morality that is as good, nay better than the religious believers you call names and make such fun of. Your freedom cannot be of the Camus variety.

Yes, you are moral people. Morality is I believe a genetic trait that we have found conducive to life. But you have no corner on intelligence my new atheist friends. You like to think you do, but you don’t.

You hold onto this religion of yours, for indeed it is that, because it makes you feel superior. You smugly look down upon others who believe in God as some sort of child who doesn’t have the presence of mind to know a fact from a fairy tale. Yet you who proclaim the scientific method and profess to understand the rigors of research inquiry, utterly refuse to even consider that the bible you ridicule can be read ANY OTHER WAY THAN THE SAME WAY THE FUNDAMENTALISTS YOU HATE READ IT.

That is rich indeed, for you give them the license to dictate the terms of the debate. And the truth is, you can’t allow that there are other, scholarly ways to interpret scripture, for then your fun would be over. You don’t see it that way of course, because you are on a mission, a mission to destroy religion.

And I’m not utterly opposed to that. Religion is an institution, and institutions need people to run them. And people who are beholden to institutions for their livelihood, are inclined to want the institution to grow bigger and richer, for that makes them more powerful and richer. Lots of nasty things happen as a result.

But faith is another thing entirely. You understand only one perverted facet of it and then extrapolate it to the rest because it works for you that way. That is not reality, but you are information proof.

But don’t get me wrong here. I don’t want to convert you. You are fine in your atheism as far as I’m concerned. No God that I understand wishes to punish you for your lack of progress. Humanity is a work in progress. Not all are as enlightened, and that doesn’t mean I’m somehow better than you because I see the world differently. It will all go as it is supposed to, for evolution is always upward. If we don’t blow ourselves to smithereens with our constant bickering.

I don’t seek to convert you but you seek to convert me. And that is a problem. I don’t seek to convert religious fundamentalists either, but I do seek to prevent them from homeschooling their children into their disease. And I do seek to prevent them from making me live in a society of their making. Minding one’s own business is the key, if you get my drift.

And that is the sad thing.

You are not stupid. But you are willfully ignorant. You cannot make it go away by refusing to examine it. Isn’t that kinda basic to a science-based belief system?

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