Saturday, December 17, 2011
Friday, December 16, 2011
Rest In Peace, Christopher Hitchens
Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.The above quote is from the final chapter of the first Hitchens book I ever read, Letters to a Young Contrarian. I have kept it through the years (I received the book as a gift in, I believe, 1998) and peruse it regularly still, if only to add a new word to my vocabulary. It was the book that prodded me to start my personal dictionary in a computer file; the friend who gave it to me said that he walked into the book store and jokingly asked, "Where are your fancy-talkin' books?"
Since then I have read several of Hitchens' books and watched most of the debates and lectures available online. His ability to confront the things that he found wanting, unnecessary, or evil was inspiring and his lack of conformity to the conventions of showing "due respect" to those "deserving" (to those in black and white collars, for example) was at first shocking, then obvious. He will be, for me, one who changed my outlook, and for that I am grateful.
The Missionary Position, one of his most contentious books, was enlightening to me in that he took a universally loved person and exposed the wizard behind the curtain. I recall him "debating" with Bill Donohue on some show about the book and Donohue wailing about the physical dimensions of it while never addressing the actual charges...because he could not. He knew the truth.
I remember reading an article about Hitch traveling somewhere and seeing a Nazi sign on the street. In spite of obvious danger to his person, he took a black marker to it because, he explained, Nazi signs, "exist only to be defaced."
Watching Hitchens and Stephen Fry debate John Oneiyakan, a Catholic bishop, and a British conservative MP named Anne Widdicomb was eye-opening, riveting, and inspiring. Seeing a person of Hitchens' (and Fry's, for that matter) strength stand up to what is obviously nonsense and obfuscation makes one want to do the same whenever the opportunity arises.
Hitchens, sadly, is gone now. Tonight, there shall be glasses raised in his honour, as there should be from now on when the thirteenth of April rolls around. Because of him and his voluminous writing and speaking, there are many thousands of us who will not stand idly by, who will face oppression, and who have a long list of behavior and conduct, as both Churchill and Hitchens said, "up with which we will not put."
Monday, December 05, 2011
Deepak Chopra Baits Atheists
Via Deepak Chopra's twitter feed (from which I am hilariously blocked), a selection of recent snippets with added commentary:
Question for atheists: Does your brain make you an atheist or do you have choice in the matter?Last I checked, my brain and its inherent interactions/chemical processes are what I use to make all decisions. The lack of any sort of proof or evidence for god(s) is what made me an atheist. Let's try to pay attention to the language we've all agreed upon, alrighty?
No one knows enough to be an atheistWhat does this even mean? Granted, I could say this about 89% of what comes out of Chopra's mouth/keyboard, but still. Is he saying that no one knows everything about everything, therefore you can't say there's no god(s)? Does he realize that the sentence, "No one knows enough to be an agardenfairyian" holds exactly as much weight as his tweet?
Since atheists believe in a mechanistic brain they have no choice.A "mechanistic" brain, as opposed to a "metaphysical" brain? What is Chopra saying here? That the brain does not work by chemical/physical processes? He's a doctor, right? What sort of brain does he believe in, exactly?
A mechanistic universe would make everyone a zombieSure. Just like how a "metaphysical" universe makes everyone an annoying, blathering, quantum-abusing, woo-peddler. "Zombies"? Come on, man, are you really saying that atheists are zombies? I can hope to at least be a Walking Dead-type zombie, I guess....
I'm not an atheist because militant dogmatic atheism has low standardsI love the phrase, "militant dogmatic atheism". I find it hilarious. What do we do that is "militant"? We maybe disagree with people who say there's an invisible man in the sky. Perhaps we refuse to say that homosexuals are "evil" because some 2000 year old book says that a man who lays with a man is an "abomination" (nevermind that King David might have been a smidge light in the leather sandals). Sure, we will likely scoff when people say things like, "I'm not religious, but I'm spiritual", but we're hardly deserving of the "militant" label.
I also love how he throws "dogmatic" in there too, just to mirror the religious folk. Here's an education point: most atheists, if they're worth their salt at all, are open to being convinced of just about any idea if the evidence is there. We'll change our mind - most of us have abandoned a religious upbringing and confronted family, friends, and our inner biases towards what "feels good" to come to the evidence-based conclusion that there are likely no god(s). We'll change back if the evidence shows its head, but it won't. It's not there. And no amount of special pleading by Chopra about "consciousness" or "quantum theory" is going to change that.
In my opinion(no need to believe me) both dogmatic #atheists and fervent believers have a relatively low standard for understanding realityAnd from his YouTube video of December 5th entitled, "Why I Am Not An Atheist, A Theist, Or An Agnostic", some quotes to which I'd like to briefly respond:
...I don't believe in the god that atheists are attacking...In my experience, atheists don't "attack god(s)" because we don't think they're real. It's the same thing with, say, bridge trolls. If someone believed in bridge trolls and told me that the trolls know the way to everlasting life and that I should join them in Troll Worship at the local Trollagogue, I would attack their reasoning and logic, not trolls...because they're not real. See the difference?
Today, science has replaced belief, and science is all about empirical evidence, but I believe that empirical evidence is also basically replacing reality with an image of reality. Because what we call "empirical evidence" or facts are not really attributes of the universe, but as I've said before, descriptions of modes of perception and knowing in a human nervous system to human questions asked in consciousness.Where to begin, where to begin...? How the hell is science, "replacing reality with an image of reality"? What does that even mean? Poppycock, I say! Poppycock!
...I also believe that if you go to the ground of being and our identity shifts to the ground of being then we see ourselves as one with the Source of all that exists, and this is the Source of our intuition, insight, imagination, creativity, free will, choice making. Also the Source of atomic values such as truth, goodness beauty, harmony, evolution, and forgiveness, and tolerance, and love, and compassion, and joy, and equanimity.If you gave the Dalai Lama a kilo of ecstasy and a nice back massage, he might come up with this level of flummery.
...the truth is we are neither the observer nor the observation, but the pre-existing consciousness that splits in every moment into observer and observed and processed, and because this is an infinite universe, there is room for everyone in the infinite mind because it is the infinite mind that is the atheist, the theist and the agnostic as well.It's nice that he wraps it up by including everyone under the umbrella of wooery. You can tell that he's taking the information from quantum mechanics (the "splitting" of "pre-existing" stuff into changing entities) and ignorantly applying it to the macro-world as if it is transferrable. It's not. Sure, observing can change the outcome of an experiment, but is that really worth bringing in the weirdness of an "infinite mind"?
How about, "No", Scott.
Thursday, December 01, 2011
Today marks the sixth year that this blog has been up and running. There have been a couple of lulls here and there of a month-ish, but overall, it's been fun. I'm still enjoying having an outlet for my skepticism, annoyance, and occasional rage, so I'll be blathering on for a while yet. Thanks to everyone who stops in from time to time and read what's happening, and big thanks to those who follow me on an aggregator or some weird techie thing like that. "Big ups" to you, as the kids say.
Man, We (Canada) Suck
What the hell does it take to make politicians sit up and take notice? Canada is now the shittiest place with respect to climate change...like, in the world. We signed the Kyoto Accord, but then didn't follow up with the promise to reduce emissions to below 1990 levels; not only did we not do that, but our emissions went up by seventeen percent.
You would think that would be a source of embarrassment to our government, but apparently not. Funnily, in the Conservative Party of Canada's platform document, it states on page 41 that with respect to "Conserving and Respecting Our Environment", they have:
aligned our climate-change targets with those of the Obama Administration - our goal is a 17-percent reduction in domestic greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2020.Odd that that 17 percent thing keeps popping up.
I shouldn't shit on the Conservative government too much, however. It's not like the previous Liberal governments did anything either. Hell, after 1997 when the Kyoto Protocol was negotiated and signed, with Canada being an active participant, our greenhouse gas emissions went up by fucking nearly thirty percent. That's disgraceful.
We need to get some group in power who realizes that the science on this is solid and that we're seriously screwing with the climate of the planet. We could be leaders in this field, setting the example for other countries to follow, developing the technologies that change the ways we consume energy - instead we seem to be burying our heads in the sand even deeper. I find it telling that in the Conservative Party platform there was no mention of funding scientific inquiry or technological development of alternative energy sources. Maybe I missed it.
Labels: alternative energy, Canada, climate change, Conservative Party of Canada, Conservative platform, Copenhagen Accord, embarrassment, emissions, Kyoto protocol, Liberal government, reduction, science
Deepak Chopra Apologizes to Richard Dawkins
Deepak Chopra was on Bill O'Reilly's show and got caught up in some bad-mouthing that got slightly out of hand. You can watch the O'Reilly segment at Hemant's blog, The Friendly Atheist, if you'd like, but the point is that Chopra recognized that he went overboard. He took to the YouTubes to apologize.
He doesn't state exactly what he said that was offensive, just that he took Dawkins' criticism(s) to be personally offensive and reacted inappropriately. This is a good step but ultimately it comes across as a little CYA-ish. He got led by O'Reilly into essentially admitting that the idiocy that is Intelligent Design is valid and that the U.S. is a Christian nation, so he had to do something to backpedal a bit.
Well done, Deepak Chopra, I just wish it was a little more specific. I'll do my part to try to address just the silliness you peddle and not resort to ad hominem attacks.