Words are Hard

You know what’s funny is how often people will use a word to describe themselves when almost no one can agree what that word means.

For the purposes of my own ongoing narrative, there are four words that people use, three of which no one agrees on. The first of the four, and the one that is easiest to define, is theist. A theist believes in a God or gods. A theist Christian believes in the Biblical God, for example.

Now we enter muddy waters, and what I am about to tell you is not a strong definition but my own personal use of the words. Let’s start with agnostic. This is a weird one, actually, as gnostic generally means seeker of knowledge, or just knowledge… So to be agnostic would, from an etymological reading, be a person who denies seeking knowledge. Like Astrology, however, the meaning of the word’s roots has been dropped over time, and now an agnostic is a person who does claim knowledge of theistic truths. That bears some additional definition, I fear.

It is sometimes said that a person is a “teapot agnostic”, which evokes the narrative of Bertrand Russell’s space teapot. Russell, a late nineteenth-early twentieth century atheist, once posited that there was a teapot floating around in space, and it was his right to believe in it because you could not prove that it did not exist. To prove that it did not exist would be to make a constantly evolving, exhaustive map of the entire solar system at all point simultaneously (the teapot moves, obviously). A teapot agnostic, therefore, is said to believe that the likelihood of God existing is comparable to that of the teapot; very unlikely, but possible.

Atheist, then, is a word I use to describe those that believe, actively, that there is no God. These are the people who tell religious people they are wrong, and that they should update their thought processes and stop being so… So wrong! I am not this thing, or at least, I would not describe myself this way. I certainly am not one who holds to the belief that there is no God.

Nontheist is a somewhat newer word, though I do not know the detailed etymological history of it. I know for a fact that it has been in frequent use since the 90s, and was used by Richard Dawkins in his 2002 TED talk on atheism.. But to me, it signifies something slightly different than atheist. To me, a nontheist is not someone who believes there is no God, or believes in a God, they are just someone who does not believe in a God. That… That is admittedly a very difficult statement to explain, and very difficult to understand, and it took me many years to iron down even the way I felt, let alone a word to use to describe it.

How to describe it without sounding atheist or agnostic? I don’t even truly know. I certainly do not have an active belief that there is no God. I am certainly partially agnostic, but not in the traditional “Could be or not could be,” sense. I just… Don’t believe there is a God (or, perhaps, a Personal God who cares what I think or do on a daily, moment-by-moment basis). I am sorry, even to me this is a deeply unsatisfying definition. In my head it evokes a wide-reaching set of ideas and feelings that I seem not to be able to put into words.

Anyway, words are hard. That’s really the point here.

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Meanwhile, in Another Universe

I’ve posted about radical feminism before, and actually this specific feminist in particular… And while I recognized that she has managed to create a nearly self-contained universe where she is scorned beyond all measure by a universally negative force, I never truly understood the mechanism she believes is at work. Thankfully, a recent post of hers managed to clear that notion up for me in some semi-satisfactory way. That is to say, what she believes is happening is impossible in a world where humans live; she expects that 50% of the planet gets together and has 100% unanimity of cause.

Do you think I am exaggerating? I will assume you haven’t read the post I linked, I wouldn’t either if it weren’t for a nearly insatiable curiosity in my soul. To that end, I will give an excerpt for your enjoyment:

“[Women] don’t “share” [men’s] ideology and reproduce it in turn, against ourselves, as the intents and workings of patriarchy aren’t clear to us at all: we simply don’t have access to the same information as them. Men prevent us from seeing it by excluding us from their institutions, boards, meetings, parties, peer networks, forums, rituals, clubs where they openly exchange about their dominance, where the important decisions are made, where all the crucial knowledge and skills are transmitted and where they bond over sexual degradation of women in the most overt ways (mostly prostituted women).”

Now perhaps I am reading it incorrectly, but if I am maybe someone can help me. It sounds like she believes that men get together, all of us, merely to talk about how we are oppressing women, methods we use, what works and what doesn’t, stories about the women we have oppressed specifically, among ten thousand other sordid details. Further, fathers pass this information, she says, to their sons, teaching them to dominate women emotionally and physically, but does not share any of this with their daughters.

I do not hate this woman, I am merely baffled. How can we hope to even open a dialog to help them as the world stands? If she honestly believes that anything any male says, regardless of time and place, is explicitly crafted to instill the illusion that there is no such thing as an absolute patriarchy? The post itself opens with this quote:

Liberal men in modern Western totalitarian regimes (which they call democracies) say we are ‘socialised’, ‘educated’ into … ‘patriarchal values’…

Alright, to get this out of the way first, I have NEVER heard anyone, male or female, speak about forced socialization and education into a regime outside of Marxist fiction (unless she thinks 1984 by George Orwell was a documentary…?).

Second, I don’t even know what “patriarchal values” means, in all honesty. I also don’t know how women are educated into them, these are all things that she seems to assume are taken for granted as common knowledge among those who exist outside of the patriarchy. That, if you will forgive the irony, is an application of the exact same stripping of knowledge that she so vehemently accuses men of using to control women. How can we fight back if we don’t even know what we are fighting?

Plenty of people will (and have) told me that even wanting to open a dialog with people such as Witch Wind is a silly idea, that they could not be spoken to in any case. I’d generally equate that to saying “Well, they could be helped, but are they really worth the effort?”

I want to bring more happiness into the world than I take out of it, and many radical feminists seem to be deeply unhappy people. I can see where they are coming from; if you literally believed that 99% of the world stands starkly against you (100% of the males, and 98% of the females who have accepted the idea of the patriarchy as the standard way of the world), you would likely be unhappy to.

Maybe I could never get through to 99% of radical feminists, but if even one saw that their beliefs stood in absolute contrast to the real world, if even one opened up and saw that the entire world was not against them, then I have brought some happiness into the world (or, at the very least, taken some unhappiness out of it, but the math is startlingly similar).

I know you will get the pingback, Witch Wind. I know you probably get thousands of them, most making fun of you. But honestly, even if I could never hope to make you trust a man, I really want to know how you believe that 100% of any group of people are able to come to some unanimous conclusion that oppressing an entire 50% of the Earth’s population is a good thing? I mean, even slavery, which was the perfect economic system (from a financial standpoint) was struck down because too many people could not stand the constant oppressing of another. Though almost no whips and chains were wielded against the north by the south, the Union came together to stamp out the systematic oppression thousands of people.

Do you think that there are men out there who could stand by and let so many be oppressed? That 100% of men could enjoy it? I am just confused.

I mean, I would like to believe the entirety of your wordpress history is an elaborate trolling of anyone who reads it, but I just… I don’t know. *Shrug*

I just don’t know.

On Inconsistent Scoring Scales

Formal debate is not something to be watched by the masses. The problem is that, with a formal debate, the viewer is left to make their own conclusions on what they just saw, and each person will score it according to their own biases and views. This is, of course, by design — while trying to convince each other, you are also trying to convince the watchers.

Because of this you are left with a strange fallout to any debate, whether political, religious, or just about whether Goku and Vegeta could defeat every hero in the Marvel universe with only the two of them (obviously, they could). The fallout, though, is that you end up with figureheads on either side, trying to convince people who share their views that their side won. Obviously, both sides cannot “win”, there is no “win condition.” Perhaps one side persuaded more people to join their side than the other, but a score of 55-45 in something like a debate is not something that, to me, constitutes a win; maybe I don’t even want a winner, I just want more information.

I am going to choose a recently televised and WILDLY popular debate as an example; Ken Ham versus Bill Nye. Those in the Creation camp have said Ken won, those in the science camp said Nye won (statistically speaking, Ken Ham won the United States while Bill Nye won most of the world, just given various poll numbers), but I don’t know if either person really changed anyone’s mind. People already in the Creation camp were going into the debate knowing Ken would win, people who stood on the side of science had decided Bill’s victory prior to the debate, and as for Ham himself, he went in knowing Bill could not change his mind, and Bill went in knowing Ham could not change his mind. Hell, they didn’t even formally debate, now that I remember back to any of the formal debates I have taken part in (I was in Debate Club in high school), as they didn’t rebut each other almost at all. They made their own points, presented their own views (part one of a debate), and then halfheartedly spoke to the points of the other before answering audience questions. The thing even about the audience questions is that they each answered in their own way, again very seldom referencing the answer of the other.

But the interesting thing is what happens after this debate, or really any debate.

Creation Today dedicated two episodes of their show and podcast to telling everyone how much Ken Ham totally won. Reddit and 4Chan, two of the largest (but certainly not the only) bastions of progressive thought (and havens for atheists (alternate reading: echo chamber for atheists)) proclaimed that Nye won the debate so handily that it was as though Ham didn’t even show up.

I know I am not the average viewer, and the problem is that most people don’t bother to even look at the other side (the lay person certainly). The problem is not the figureheads, not at the root, the problem is a complacent population. Your average person in the Creation camp will see that everyone on his side is saying Ham won, and become even more entrenched in his belief that Creationism is truly the Truth and the word of God. Do you know what this means? This means that, just for having the debate, Bill Nye has helped bolster the Creation crowd. Conversely, the already science-based crowd will be firmer in their own beliefs. How many people changed their mind, or made their mind up as a result of that debate? I’d argue that it was a handful at best. That being said, if you are on the fence on this issue, I won’t lie; there is lots of charisma on the Creation side, and their data (at a glance) looks very convincing (though if you go and do independent research, you will find that it falls apart under close scrutiny, and that almost all of their science has been disproved (and I only say almost because we still don’t know how life started, not exactly)). If that debate found more converts for Creation than for science, a little bit of reason died in the world.

And that is why I think that one of two things should happen. Either you go Richard Dawkins’ path, and reject all debates (for what is the point if you know you are not going to change minds), or just take the argument off the table of “entertainment”, for that is what the Ham/Nye debate really added up to.

That isn’t to say stop fighting, it is just to say that we should stop fighting, but we need to make it not a spectacle of charisma but a war of reason, of minds, and of data. Data can lead to differing conclusions, but data itself cannot be falsified. Whether you say that the sediment layers in the grand canyon are evidence of a global flood or of a river eroding the valley over millions of years, you still have the undeniable FACT that there are layers of sediment there. And you know what? I am happy to let true geologists publish papers explaining how they got there; I am not qualified to say *how it happened*, but I am qualified to say that an OVERWHELMING majority of geologists agree on how it happened, and I am happy to listen to the near consensus.

You can side with 3% of scientists who disagree with the other 97%, that is a freedom you are certainly afforded… But if you are siding with that same 3% because Ken Ham (whose highest level of scientific literacy is that of a school teacher, which he will happily tell you) told you to, I believe you have erred in exercising your brain’s astounding capacity for discovery. You are not discovering anything, you are just doing as a parrot does, and echoing information told to you by someone who is incapable of forming an academic opinion on the subject. I will, of course, freely admit that I, too, am acting the parrot, but I am parroting those with incredible depth of knowledge in that specific subject.

The above is a deep reason why I believe that the battle between science and religion should not be a spectacle of entertainment, it should be a battle of the greatest minds, a chess match behind closed doors, and I believe that once the match is won (as I believe in some arenas it has been), the winner can be simply and easily declared by viewing not the match itself, but the chess board after game; seeing the player who has the other in checkmate. There is no argument, no speculation, no 3rd move guessing as to who will win in the end, just an outcome.

The loser will admit loss, the winner will declare victory, and it won’t be a spectacle any more.

But maybe I just want a perfect world, and maybe I am asking too much.

I am sorry.

The Mathematics of Prophecy

Another thing I’ve seen mentioned before, but thought very little of, is the mathematics of prophecy. I thought “Meh, it’s just a few people that even the more dogmatic people are like ‘Ehhhhh… I don’t know him.'” But as I looked into some more prophecy stuff for one of my posts last week, I came across it again, and I was left (suitably, I think) confused by the whole enterprise.

I’m using two sources for this article, but it doesn’t really matter which I use; the whole enterprise is silly in both cases.

http://www.reasons.org/articles/articles/fulfilled-prophecy-evidence-for-the-reliability-of-the-bible

http://www.lamblion.com/articles/articles_bible6.php

To really point out the fun times I had researching this, I am going to try to use only prophecies that are mentioned in both writings.

First, the book of Zechariah chapter 11; in this book, 30 pieces of silver are paid to Zechariah for his having tended a flock of sheep (literal sheep, near as I can tell, but perhaps they are people sheep). In any case, for some reason, someone paying Zechariah 30 pieces of silver (and with no mention of a future Messiah in the whole chapter) counts of prophecy (WHO KNEW?!). The first linked article has this prophecy being fulfilled as a 1 in 10^11 (that is, 1 in 100,000,000,000). Wow! So unlikely!

The other article, citing the same source (Zechariah 11:12-13) has that SAME prophecy as 1 in 1000. That’s… That’s quite a swing in estimates. Neither show work, so I can’t even really comment on which one is closer. WE MOVE ON!

The next common prophecy is the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem. The first cites 1 in 10,000, the second 2.8 in 10,000. Well, they are pretty close there, though the historicity of Jesus having been born in Bethlehem is in doubt. If Joseph was actually there for a census, as the Bible states, one would think there would be a very strong record of Jesus of Nazareth being born there, but we are out of luck on that count (Jesus is not mentioned in the census primarily because A) That is not how censuses in Roman territories were conducted, and B) there is no evidence for a census having been taken at the time of Jesus’ birth. Biblical literalists have to do some fun gymnastics on this point, but we are talking about math here).

Here’s another fun one; Psalm 22:16 (frequently cited, and one I cited just recently). The Messiah will have his hands and feet pierced. The first cites a chance of 1 in 10^13 (10,000,000,000,000) as Crucifixion hadn’t been invented yet. The second cites 1 in 100,000. The weird thing is that this is cited as “clear evidence” that the prophets knew Jesus would be crucified. Well, that doesn’t sound like crucifixion to me, though it is odd that he would have had his hands and feet nailed to the cross as this was not standard procedure — but we have very little evidence stating that he was nailed there outside of the Gospels (read: no evidence at all). That being said, if you have full faith in the Gospels, I can see why you’d think it was a fulfillment of this prophecy… But here’s the thing; we can call that prophecy in hindsight, as we know how Jesus died… But if you were a Jew in, say, 15 CE (after Jesus’ birth, but before his ministry), what are the chances you would read the passage saying “his hands and feet will be pierced”, and think “Oh yeah, they’ll clearly nail him to a cross, even though crucifixion is generally performed by tying them to the cross. Makes perfect sense. I’ll watch for a Messiah that gets nailed to a cross.”

See, there is a reason that the Jewish people do not accept Jesus as the savior; he does not fit the prophecies. As much as Christian hindsight and wordplay say “he is the Messiah because prophecy,” they can really only connect those dots when they already have the answer (think of a connect the dots figure where the dots aren’t numbered, but someone has already drawn the picture). The prophecies are great, but only when you already have the answer.

One that is cited as prophecy (and one of the VERY FEW prophecies that actually claim to be prophecies (rather than about the writer himself)) is from the book of Daniel Chapter 9, verse 25-26. The odd thing is that the passage itself reads “69 ‘sevens’ will pass’, and for some reason this is supposed to be “years” according to … People? I guess? I read it as 69 weeks, but maybe I am, again, the crazy one.

Perhaps it is just my closed mind not understanding prophecy correctly.. But even the prophecy stating “He will ride into the city lowly, on a donkey,” also states that he will do it as the king of a kingdom that stretches from sea-to-sea. At the time of Jesus riding into the city, he was only known as an itinerant preacher. He sent his disciples on ahead of him to work up the crowds, and even then you would be hard pressed to stretch his reputation as far as to say “There is a king riding a donkey.” At best you’d have “Huh. It’s weird that a rabbi is riding a donkey, but everyone else seems excited, so I’m on board.”

In any case, and like I said, there are a few things that make these prophecies falter. First, pretty much everything quoted from Zechariah is out of context. The prophecy in Psalms is misrepresented. Malachi’s prophecy didn’t even come true (or, if it did, no history ever recorded it). Even with all that in mind, to even start to do the acrobatics required to make all of these puzzle pieces fit together, you have to assume that the Gospels record a literal history. After assuming the Gospels are literal history, you then have to make further jumps to connect the out of context passages (they don’t even claim to be prophecies) to the life of Jesus.

It’s a lot of work. Maybe it’s not the chances that Jesus would fulfill the prophecies that is 1 in 10^17… Maybe it was the chances that someone would look at the Old Testament and shoe horn it all together, then have billions of people believe it despite a stunning lack of evidence.

That makes more sense, at least to me.

BRUTAL MURDER

http://liveactionnews.org/mother-wins-case-to-kill-her-disabled-daughter/

http://www.itv.com/news/2014-10-26/mother-wins-right-to-end-disabled-daughters-life/

http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/527851/Mother-heartbreak-allows-disabled-daughter-to-die

I was going to post about this as soon as I read it, but I felt like I needed alternate points of view. To me, it is almost open and shut; I do not like suffering. I’ve linked three different takes on the article. The first link is clearly designed to get you up in arms, because something something life is something something, you can’t kill someone. If you let the terminally ill just DIE when they want to, MURDER WILL SOON BE LEGAL IN THE UNITED STATES!

The right to end suffering should be enshrined in the law around the world. This little girl, depending on the article you read and the view of the author, spent much of her life in surgeries. Not too long prior to her death, a surgery went wrong and she was screaming in inconsolable pain. Not only that, but due to her condition, she would never have a pain free life. She would never be able to feed herself, or drink on her own. She would never be able to walk or care for herself. She would probably have regular surgeries for the rest of her life.

I don’t understand how people get so up in arms about this. The top article basically says (and I am exaggerating very little here) that allowing people to die is horribleness that borders on the Satanic. The case resonates with me because I am a strong, strong believer in the right to die. While Nancy, the young girl referenced in this landmark ruling, may not have been choosing her own death, it is hard to believe that (could she speak to us) she would have said “Yes, I love being in constant pain, needing constant surgeries, unable to communicate or understand anything around me, being unable to move, having to be moved just so I don’t die of bed sores. This life is amazing to me!”. The article, thankfully for my agenda (I’m not shy about it; why should I hide my intentions?), goes on to say that right to death organizations in the US are now rallying. There is a case of a terminal cancer patient referenced, who plans to kill herself on November 1st.

This is monstrous, according to the article. She should not be allowed to end her own suffering! Maybe there is someone out there who can enlighten me as to why your outrage trumps this woman’s suffering. Why does your idea that everyone *should* want to live completely overshadow the idea that this person *DOES NOT* want to live in constant pain, knowing death is coming slowly, but suffering the walk towards that sweet, sweet release?

“Her family will be sad!” That is something that actually drives me a little crazy.

“She should constantly suffer so that I can feel better that she is there!” If that is your idea of familial love, you and I have different ideas. Yes, they may feel bad, but if they love her they will understand that she is in constant pain right now, and will be until she dies.

So what is it? What is your excuse for wishing suffering on this person? This isn’t a suicide because “I feel bad.” Hers is not a pain that will just “Go away” with time. This is not a temporary sadness, and she will not be happier if she stays alive.

She is not disabled, she is not mentally incapacitated, her judgment is not affected… Unless you want to make the stale argument that the pain is blocking her ability to think clearly. If the pain is so strong that her brain isn’t working properly, and that her pain WILL ONLY CONTINUE TO GET WORSE, then your VACUOUS, TERRIBLE, OFFENSIVE argument is that “SHE SHOULD SUFFER UNIMAGINABLE PAIN FOR THE REST OF HER LIFE SO I FEEL BETTER.”

Sorry, I feel strongly about this. I won’t lie, if you wish this pain on this woman, I hate you. I’ll say it, I am comfortable using such a strong word. If you wish suffering on someone else so you can feel better, that makes you a bad person.

I know I’ve repeated the same idea over and over, but it is important to me. What about someone in pain ending their own suffering offends you? I can’t find any argument I find even remotely compelling.

If you are someone who thinks that right-to-die is morally wrong, please comment, I implore you. I will of course try to make you understand my side just as you make me try to understand yours. Please know I am not attacking you (you heartless jerk), but I do have a vested interest in making you understand my side.

Using Bad Science to Call Science Bad is Bad Science

Honestly, though, why does the Institute for Creation Research (http://icr.org) exist? Can you even call it science, when you start with “The Earth is 6000 years old because a book written 2800 years ago told me so. Now let’s cherry pick data and evidence to fit that conclusion.”

Look, science is not perfect. I am willing to admit it. Again, case in point, they have some evidence (carefully chosen) that is hard to technically refute (please read that very literally. The research itself is not *technically* incorrect, but it is *practically* incorrect) stating that the Earth is between 4000 and 10000 years old… But here’s the thing; the ICR will trumpet any cherry-picked study they can find that will agree with their pre-existing conclusion; that the Earth is 6000 years old. It doesn’t matter if 10, 100, or 1000 studies stand against this one study, they have one study that agrees with their conclusion (and conclusion is, obviously, not the correct word to use here).

How do they get funding? Why do they get funding? Why is their whole mission to stand against an entire body of science? What is the point of standing against a whole body of science?

I mean, if you are correct, and it is scientifically provable that the Earth is 6000 years old, won’t science at large eventually agree? Why do you need a specific, religiously funded branch to try to force the issue, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary? To make yourself feel better? It is my prerogative to believe there is a pink unicorn in my bedroom that sprinkles happy dreams on me while I sleep. I could even pay a large group of people to spread said story… But that doesn’t make it true.

Long story short, countering good science by cherry picking very narrow-spectrum studies does your side no good. Frankly, it makes you look silly.

Now please, let science do its thing. Please?