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I have a burning need to know stuff and I love asking awkward questions.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

No IDer…..

These are some of Attorney Eric J. Rothschild’s closing remarks at the recent Dover, PA Intelligent Design trial. I think they sum up the case against teaching ID very well indeed.

Michael Behe told this Court that intelligent design is not a religious proposition, but he told the readers of the New York Times the question intelligent design poses is whether science can make room for religion. He acknowledges that the more one believes in God, the more persuasive intelligent design is. The religious nature of intelligent design is also proclaimed loudly and repeatedly in the Wedge document. The other indisputable fact that marks intelligent design as a religious proposition that cannot be taught in public schools is that it argues that a supernatural actor designed and created biological life. Supernatural creation is the religious proposition that the Supreme Court said in Edwards cannot be taught in public schools. And it's obvious why this has to be the case. When we talk about an actor outside nature with the skills to design and create and build biological life, we are talking about God. The experts that testified at this trial admit that in their view, the intelligent designer is God. The Discovery Institute's Wedge document's first paragraph bemoans the fact that the proposition that human beings are created in the image of God has been undermined by the theory of evolution. Professor Behe admitted that his argument for intelligent design was essentially the same as William Paley's, which is a classic argument for the existence of God. Intelligent design hides behind an official position that it does not name the designer, but as Dr. Minnich acknowledged this morning, all of its advocates believe that the designer is God.

The case for intelligent design as a religious proposition is overwhelming. The case for it as a scientific proposition, by contrast, is nonexistent. It has been unanimously rejected by the National Academy of Science, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and every other major scientific and science education organization that has considered the issue.

There's a reason that science does not consider the supernatural. It has no way of measuring or testing supernatural activity. As Professor Behe testified, you can never rule out intelligent design. Defendants' comparisons to the big bang or Newton's work make no sense, for those, as with many scientific propositions, we may have at one time attributed natural phenomena to supernatural or divine action before working out the natural explanations that fall under the heading "science." Intelligent design is moving in the opposite direction, replacing a well-developed natural explanation for the development of biological life with a supernatural one which it has no evidence to support.

Personally I feel that the attempt to get Intelligent Design taught alongside Evolution in American science classes is a crude and rather ham-fisted attempt to get the State to teach Fundamental Christianity. Also I can’t help thinking that ID is a crock of $%&* so laughable that I’ll take bets that the judge had a hard time keeping a straight face. I look forward to the verdict.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Myths of Atheism

Excerpts from Atheism: The Case Against God by George H. Smith

The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none that does good. (Psalms 14.1)

This frequently quoted passage captures the essence of how the average religious person views atheism. It is often approached with fear and mistrust, as if one were about to investigate a doctrine that advocates a wide assortment of evils -- from immorality, pessimism and communism to outright nihilism.

Atheism is commonly considered to be a threat to the individual and society. It is "science divorced from wisdom and the fear of God," writes one philosopher, "which the world has directly to thank for the worst evils of 'modern war'...." In a recent critique of atheism, Vincent P. Miceli claims that "every form of atheism, even the initially well intentioned, constricts, shrinks, enslaves the individual atheist within and against himself and, eventually, as atheism reaches plague proportions among men, goes on to enslave and murder society."

Presenting the atheistic point of view is a difficult, frustrating endeavor. The atheist must penetrate the barrier of fear and suspicion that confronts him, and he must convince the listener that atheism represents, not a degeneration, but a step forward. This often requires the atheist to take a defensive position to explain why atheism does not lead to disastrous consequences. The atheist is expected to answer a barrage of questions, of which the following are typical. Without god, what is left of morality? Without god, what purpose is there in man's life? If we do not believe in god, how can we be certain of anything? If god does not exist, whom can we turn to in a time of crisis? If there is no afterlife, who will reward virtue and punish injustice? If god does not exist, what becomes of the worth and dignity of each person? Without god, how can man achieve happiness?

These and similar questions reflect an intimate connection between religion and values in the minds of many people. As a result, the question of god's existence becomes more than a simple philosophical problem -- and atheism, since it is interpreted as an attack on these values, assumes a significance far beyond its actual meaning. Defences of religion are frequently saturated with emotional outbursts, and the atheist finds himself morally condemned, diagnosed as a confused, unhappy man, and threatened with a variety of future punishments. Meanwhile, the atheist's frustration increases as he discovers that his arguments for atheism are futile, that the average believer -- who was persuaded to believe for emotional, not intellectual, reasons -- is impervious to arguments against the existence of a supernatural being, regardless of how meticulous and carefully reasoned these arguments may be. There is too much at stake: if the choice must be made between the comfort of religion and the truth of atheism, many people will sacrifice the latter without hesitation. From their perspective, there is much more to the issue of god's existence than whether he exists or not.

Does any of this NOT sound familiar? It would seem that I am far from alone in my frustrated attempts to put forward the ideas of atheism in a mostly religious world. You can see why people can get VERY emotional and even threatening when the existence of God is questioned. I wonder if it is even possible to discuss this issue rationally.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Know your Rights - and Stand up for them!

Check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation website (link provided in the Links Section). They have lots of useful stuff to aid your Blogging experience.... Enjoy.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Who are you?

Just who do you think you are? How do you define yourself? By the job you do? By your personal history? By your achievements? Do you define yourself as a success or as a failure? Do you see yourself as empowered or as a victim? How does your definition of yourself affect your life and can changing one change the other?

There are things I tend not to define myself by. I don’t define myself by my gender, by my class or background, by my job or profession or by my achievements - probably because I honestly don’t think I’ve achieved very much! What I do define myself by is my ideas and my beliefs. What I believe is basically who I am and where I stand.

I would take no offence if you called me a Liberal – though I know it means different things to different people. I would even take no great offence at being called a socialist just so long as you didn’t associate me with Tony Blair and so-called ‘New Labour’.

Funnily (as an aside for a moment) for a while at University one of my lecturers called me ‘Comrade’ in a seemingly derogatory fashion. After he had used the word a few times I asked him what he meant by it. He said “Well, you are a Communist aren’t you?” I gave out a hearty laugh and said “Hardly. They’re FAR too Right Wing for me.” I’m still not sure how he took that

Anyway…. Those of you who have read some of my previous postings know that I am an atheist. This is one of my core values and my core ‘beliefs’, it is fairly basic to who I am. I am also a vegetarian (for about 7 years now) and am unlikely to eat meat ever again. I am an Egalitarian. I am a Republican too… I’m guessing that my readers from across the great pond may have taken a sharp intake of breath when I mentioned Republicanism. But fear not, it’s not what you may be thinking. What I mean is that I’m in favour of the UK becoming a Republic rather than the Constitutional Monarchy we apparently are.

I am probably a great deal more than I have already alluded too above but I think that I’ve hit at least some of the highlights – and it’s certainly enough to be getting on with.

So, it only remains to ask: Who are you?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Rich Man, Poor Man

Excerpted from Economic Apartheid in America by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman on CommonDreams.org

What kind of world is it where:

Top executives now make more in a day than the average worker makes in a year.

Of the world's 100 largest economies, 47 are nations, and 53 are corporations.

Seventy-five percent of major corporations hire a consultant to stop employees from forming a union.

The Washington monument is 555 feet tall. Say it signifies the 2003 average compensation for CEOs in the Fortune 500. The average worker salary would be only 16 inches tall, representing a ratio of 419 to one. In 1965, the worker's monument was 13 feet six inches tall, representing a ratio of 41 to 1.

The United Nations Development Program reported in 1999 that the world's 225 richest people now have a combined wealth of $1 trillion. That's equal to the combined annual income of the world's 2.5 billion poorest people.

The richest 10 percent of the world's population receives 49.6 percent of the total world income. The bottom 60 percent receives 13.9 percent of the world's income.

The wealth of the world's three most well-to-do individuals now exceeds the combined gross domestic product of the 48 least developed countries.

Half of the world's population of six billion live on less than $2 a day, while 1.3 billion get by on less than $1 a day.

That’s right – This One.

Is this the way it should be? Is this the best way for things to be? Is this the place we want our children to grow up in?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Pulling the Plug...

As it’s approaching ‘that’ time of year my thoughts naturally turn to rampant consumerism. At least that’s the behaviour Big Business wants us to display – and not only during the run up to Christmas. But I can’t help thinking (it’s a problem I know) that the levels of consumption we are supposed to exhibit, the level of gift giving that’s expected of us (after all who wants to look ‘cheap’ @ Christmas) and the way that adverts are designed to make us feel inadequate if we don’t have the latest gizmo or gadget is just plain WRONG. This is not the way that things are supposed to be. This is not the way things SHOULD be.

So, when I found an article in Wired Magazine called: ‘Eat, Sleep, Work, Consume, Die’ it drew my interest. He’s a few of the comments made by Tony Long –

“Just because technology makes it possible for us to work 10 times faster than we used to doesn't mean we should do it. The body may be able to withstand the strain -- for a while -- but the spirit isn't meant to flail away uselessly on the commercial gerbil wheel. The boys in corporate don't want you to hear this because the more they can suck out of you, the lower their costs and the higher their profit margin. And profit is god, after all”.

“But stock-market capitalism is today's coin of the realm, consumerism its handmaiden, and technology is the great enabler. You think technology benefits you because it gives you an easier row to hoe? Bollocks. The ease it provides is illusory. It has trapped you, made you a slave to things you don't even need but suddenly can't live without. So you rot in a cubicle trying to get the money to get the stuff, when you should be out walking in a meadow or wooing a lover or writing a song”.

“Look around. Our collective humanity is dying a little more every day. Technology is killing life on the street -- the public commons, if you please. Chat rooms, text messaging, IM are all, technically, forms of communication. But when they replace yakking over the back fence, or sitting huggermugger at the bar or simply walking with a friend -- as they have for an increasing number of people in "advanced" societies -- then meaningful human contact is lost. Ease of use is small compensation”.

Like fire our consumer society can be a valued friend but a terrible enemy. What is it today? Or more importantly what is it to YOU? Is having a Starbucks on every corner a blessing or a curse? Is ease of communication killing conversation? Do you REALLY want to be able to work from the beach? Is it REALLY a good idea to be available 24/7?

The society we live in is the society we CHOOSE to live in. If you don’t like it – then stop doing it. You are not a slave to the gods of the Free Market unless you want to be. Need some space? Some you time? Then turn off your mobile phone… Difficult isn’t it? What if something important happens? What if you miss something? How’s your anxiety level just now as you reach for the off-switch?

Maybe happiness is being unplugged – but you’ll never know unless you try it. Go on – unplug from the Great Machine. Be ‘off-line’. Be anonymous for a little while. Try being ‘off the Grid’ for an hour a day. Feel Free – disconnect, and go talk to someone IRL (snigger)…

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

An Act of God?

Many Malaysians, Russians and U.S. residents view the recent South Asian tsunami that has killed over 250,000 people was an act of God.

GMI Inc. polled 20,000 people from 20 nations, from Jan. 8 through Jan. 12, to find the widespread prevalence of a religious interpretation to the Indian Ocean catastrophe, the company said Wednesday. GMI found that half of Malaysian respondents felt that the tsunami was an act of God; similarly, half of Malaysian respondents indicated they were much closer to God after the tsunami. In the United States, 10 percent of Catholics and half of southern evangelicals also embraced a religious interpretation of the tsunami's source. Other nations where the tsunami was seen as an act of God were Russia with 27 percent and South Korea with 15 percent, for a global average of 16 percent who thought the devastation was a divine act. Japanese residents were a striking exception to the overall poll results, with few seeing God behind the tsunami.

I honestly don’t know whether to scream or laugh when someone calls a disaster like the South Asian Tsunami an ‘Act of God’. As far as I am aware God is supposed to be one of the Good Guys – in fact He’s supposed to be THE Good Guy and yet… hundreds of thousands of people died. Men, women and children died by the hand of a supposedly loving benevolent God.

I don’t know what actually surprises me more, that a loving God is supposedly thought capable of such mass killings (I hesitate – slightly - to use the word murders) or that people can still worship a God that does things like this on a regular if apparently random basis and that such actions bring them “much closer to God”. Personally if I believed that God had killed members of my family, or my children, I doubt if such acts would bring me closer to Him.

If disasters such as tsunami’s, hurricanes and earthquakes are indeed ‘acts of God’ then He is not a loving or a caring God and does not deserve worship (though I guess it would be prudent to fear and try to placate Him). If they are natural disasters and He is incapable of stopping them then He is not God. If He stands by and lets them happen He is not a caring God and, again, does not deserve worship. If He is responsible for the deaths of countless innocent people as part of His master plan then He is an Evil God and should be opposed wherever possible. Whichever way you look at it ‘Acts of God’ do Him little credit and cannot but reflect badly on those who place the responsibility for such disasters in the hands of their Deity.

Anyone else think we should stop using such phrases in a hopefully enlightened century?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Life after Death? Or Life after Life?

Yes, it’s BIG question time again and this is one of the biggest. Is their any kind of Life after we Die?

This is probably one of the earliest philosophical questions asked by mankind. When we became self-aware at some point in our distant past we must have become almost immediately aware of our own mortality. We would have experienced the deaths of other creatures and of our fellow humans. There is a great deal of evidence to support the notion that early humans had burial rituals and some idea of an afterlife but just how reasonable is that idea and what are the alternatives?

It seems to me that there are 3 basic ways at looking at this question. They are:

1) That when we die something (the Soul) survives, is judged in some way, and is transported to another realm as a reward or punishment for actions undertaken during our lives
2) That when we die something (the Soul) survives and finds its way into the body of either another human or another creature to continue its earthly existence
3) That when we die nothing survives and that’s the end of it.

I shall call these the Heaven/Hell Option, the Reincarnation Option and the True Death Option.

Let’s look at these in a bit more detail.

Both the Heaven/Hell Option and the Reincarnation Option require that something (the Soul for want of a better word) survives the body after death. Now the existence of the Soul is a whole other issue (which I hope to address in more detail later) but lets look at it in a general way for now. The Soul has, so far, eluded detection by medical technology. It is in some way associated with particular bodies and in some sense both transmits and receives information to and from the body and yet is non-corporeal. It retains knowledge of a person’s life and is, in some sense, the indestructible core of a person’s identity.

Personally I have a great deal of issues with the existence of the Soul. As with so much else in this area the more I examine the subject the less sense it seems to make. What exactly IS the Soul? What is it made of? Where is it? How does it inform our actions? How does it send & receive information if it’s incorporeal? How does it survive the body after Death? The questions just go on and on.

As to Heaven & Hell, either these places exist or they don’t. If they exist are they natural habitats or were they created by God? This brings up another BIG question. Does God (or various Gods) exist and do we actually need to posit the idea of God(s) to validate any particular Life after Death scenario? I don’t actually think that God(s) is/are absolutely necessary to the Reincarnation Option, after all it could be a purely natural process. The individual dies, the Soul is released and wanders about until it finds a new ‘host’. In this scenario the addition of Godlike creatures is an unnecessary complication. The Heaven/Hell Option is a bit more complicated. Firstly the existence of either place would, unless they are purely natural phenomena, need a Godlike entity to create and maintain them. Second there is the judgment aspect. Presumably the final location for the Soul is based on its ‘Goodness Quotient’ or GQ. If the Souls GQ is high enough it goes to Heaven. If it’s too low it goes to Hell. There is, of course, a slight variation to this process where a Soul with too low a GQ to get into Heaven might have one too high to be consigned to Hell and will, therefore, be assigned to a ‘temporary’ holding area called Purgatory until such time as the GQ gets high enough to get promotion to Heaven.

All this is, of course, very complicated and rather unreasonable. After all for the Heaven/Hell Option to be credible we need:

A Soul that survives physical Death The accumulation of some kind of points system to determine the Souls final location The existence of Heaven & Hell (and maybe Purgatory) The (probable) existence of a God or Gods A Soul Judgement Mechanism

Personally I can’t really give any of the above much credence. Is the Reincarnation Option then anymore credible? I think it is – but only slightly for it still requires that something survives Death in a coherent enough form to move from a now dead body to a living one, though at least it does away with most of the rest of the arguments against the Heaven/Hell Option. One thing does bother me though, the fact that if Souls are moving from dead people to newborns (for example) then where are all the extra Souls coming from? After all the numbers of humans have increased considerably over the last million years or so, therefore many more Souls are required for the increased human population. Either these new Souls are created by some process or, possibly, they are elevated non-human Souls which previously resided in animals – which of course brings in a whole new raft of complications into the mix.

So although the Reincarnation Option is more credible than the Heaven/Hell Option it is far from problem free. So what about the last of the options – the True Death Option?

This option has nothing that survives bodily death, no extra realms to hold departed Souls, no God (or other process) judging, and no problems with the increase in population. Indeed it seems to have no problem at all except that fact that it is personally distasteful to many people. If there is no life after death, especially one without reward or punishment, there seems little point in being good. After all if we’re not being judged by any higher being for a place in the afterlife we only have to worry about rewards or punishments right here on Earth. Without an afterlife the life here and now can begin to look pretty meaningless – even pointless. It makes out that we are merely animals who happen to be self aware and have manufactured various belief systems to make us feel better about our inevitable (and permanent) demise. But at least in my opinion the True Death Option is the most credible by far of the 3 options presented. It is by far the simplest and most reasonable option and despite its ‘distasteful’ overtones I consider it the most likely to be true. Of course no one really knows but we’re all going to find out one day. I wonder what we’ll discover.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Sanity Evolves - Pennsylvania School Board Ousted

From Reuters

Voters on Tuesday ousted a Pennsylvania local school board that promoted an "intelligent-design" alternative to teaching evolution, and elected a new slate of candidates who promised to remove the concept from science classes.

The board of Dover Area School District in south-central Pennsylvania lost eight of its nine incumbents in an upset election that surprised even the challengers, who had been hoping for a bare majority to take control of the board.

Bryan Rehm, one of the winning board members and a former teacher at Dover High School, said the new board will hold a public meeting to decide the precise future of the policy. He said intelligent design will no longer be a part of the science curriculum, regardless of how the court rules.

It would seem from the above that sanity is breaking out all over. The dramatic turn around on the Dover Area School District board shows that at least in some areas of the US the rational study of science will be allowed to continue without the presence of God to explain any gaps in our knowledge.

Personally I’m still looking forward to the verdict of the court – but at least in one small corner of Pennsylvania it won’t really matter. I can’t help wondering that alongside the Vatican pronouncement on the proof for Evolution if this is the beginning of the end for so-called ‘Intelligent Design’. Maybe it is. I do hope so.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Sanity prevails - Blair defeated over terror laws

This from the BBC:

Tony Blair says his authority is intact despite suffering his first House of Commons defeat as prime minister. He said he hoped MPs "do not rue the day" they rejected his call to allow police to detain terror suspects for up to 90 days without charging them.

MPs voted against by 322 votes to 291, with 49 Labour MPs rebelling. Following the defeat MPs backed by 323 to 290 votes a Labour backbench MP's proposal to extend the detention time limit to 28 days, from the current 14 days.

Blair said the police had told him the case for the 90-day detention proposal was "vital" and "compelling". It had been his duty to put the plan before MPs and it had been their right to vote against it, he said. But, he said: "I think it was a wrong decision - I just hope in a longer time we don't rue it." He said people would think it was "very odd" that given the advice of the police and security services, MPs had "decided to ignore their recommendation".

It's funny but when I heard the Prime Minister use the words "vital" and "compelling" I couldn't help but flashback to another "vital" and "compelling" issue concerning the Iraqi WMD. Strange that. When Blair kept saying "trust me, it's for the good of the country" I couldn't help thinking that he may be a little 'economical' with the truth. "I've seen the evidence and I am convinced" he said - well Tony, sorry but we've heard that all before.

But anyway... after a dramatic vote - complete with Ministers being flown back at the last minute - some sanity has prevailed. Liberty has trumped illusions of security and all without the help of the House of Lords this time. Politicians never cease to amaze do they?
The Right to Beat Children.

I came across this news article some time ago and was so shocked and surprised by it that I kept it.

From the Associated Press

A private Christian school that says corporal punishment is part of its religious beliefs asked the House of Lords on Wednesday to uphold its right to spank misbehaving pupils.

The Christian Fellowship School in Liverpool, northwest England, says a 1996 government ban on corporal punishment in schools is out of step with the wishes of the public and infringes the rights of Christians to practice their beliefs.

The High Court and the Court of Appeal have both rejected that argument. James Dingemans, representing the school and headmaster Philip Williamson, told five law lords - members of the House of Lords who constitute Britain's highest court of appeal - that it was an established principle of English law that parents had the right to inflict corporal punishment on their children, and could delegate that right to a teacher. "The Court of Appeal was led into error by creating and applying a doctrine of non-interference which is completely inconsistent with a principled approach to religious freedoms," he told the lords, who are led by Lord Bingham. That, said Dingemans, had meant that "one of the most important human rights is near worthless." In its ruling, the Court of Appeal said physical punishment for an offence committed at school could be achieved by contacting the pupil's parents and leaving any punishment to them. That way, there was no question of parents' religious freedoms being in conflict with the ban on smacking in the 1996 Education Act, the appeal judges said.

I have no idea how the case panned out.

But think about it for a moment… Does anyone else have an issue with this?

A Christian school founded on the teachings of a wise, benevolent and loving deity want the legal right to hit children – because it’s part of their belief system. Sounds crazy doesn’t it? Or is that just me? What values are these people trying to instil in the children - that violence and the threat of violence is the way things should be?

I suppose this also throws up the whole issue of corporal punishment in schools (or anywhere else for that matter). Is violence and fear the best way to control people? Why do people need to be controlled in the first place? What is wrong with a society that resorts to sanctioned acts of violence against its own population?

Monday, November 07, 2005

Going Postal.

I recently came across this interview on Alternet (www.alternet.org/) which I found most intriguing. Mark Ames puts forward the idea, in his book Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion: From Reagan's Workplaces to Clinton's Columbine and Beyond (Soft Skull, 2005) that so-called spree killing are not random acts of violence at all – but part of slow motion rebellion against the ‘American Way’.

Here are some extracts from his interview with Jan Frel:

It's not easy to stare this country square in the face and bear witness to the pandemic of horror, misery and rape-the-fields viciousness that abounds. I can do it at the most for 10 minutes at a time... and then find myself drifting back to my Comfortable Place. It's far harder to sit down and write about what's really going on in America; there are entire publications -- like Newsweek or New York Magazine -- that give every sign of making it editorial policy to scour each article and delete any hint of reference to the scales on our dark underbelly. So it's a fairly powerful event to find a decent-sized book that does nothing but articulate a series of truths about the American Life you've hardly read about or spoken about, but just simply felt. Mark Ames' "Going Postal” is such a book. Ames takes a systematic look at the scores of rage killings in our public schools and workplaces that have taken place over the past 25 years. He claims that instead of being the work of psychopaths, they were carried out by ordinary people who had suffered repeated humiliation, bullying and inhumane conditions that find their origins in the "Reagan Revolution." Looking through a carefully researched historical lens, Ames recasts these rage killings as, essentially, failed slave rebellions.

JF: What got you interested in American rage murders? Did you have an inkling about what their underlying cause might be before you started piecing the articles and background information about them together in a systematic fashion?

MA: Columbine. I had just flown home from Moscow to visit a friend who was dying of cancer when Columbine happened, and my first, unmediated reaction to the news was something between sympathy and awe. Officially everyone was horrified, but a lot of friends I talked to, ranging from artists to yuppies, told me they had the same reaction, that Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were like heroes, and we were all surprised it didn't happen sooner. So I started to ask myself why I had this sympathy, why it was so widespread (and sympathy for the killers is incredibly common, just highly censored), and that led me to look at the larger phenomenon of rage murders. On my next visit there was a massacre at Xerox in Honolulu. At the time I was trying to cover the start of the 2000 Democratic presidential nomination campaign, and I felt overwhelmed by the intolerable insanity of the culture, and that feeling of being crushed, and then I remembered, "This is why I left the US for Russia in the first place." That was when I finally linked the two, workplace and school rage murders. These weren't the works of psychopaths -- they were people fighting against something intolerable that many of us know is there, but hasn't been named yet. There isn't a Marx to give a name to post-Reagan middle-class pain. How do you fight against something horrible, oppressive, and debilitating before it even has a name? Especially when everyone, especially middle-class people, sneer at it and refuse to believe it's valid. When you're too deep in the culture, you start to think that the most horrible/mundane aspects are normal and just the way things are. When you're outside of it for awhile, it's a little easier to see the insanity and brutality for what it is.

JF: How much blame do you place on Reaganomics for the changes in the workplace that you argue lead to rage attacks?

MA: Put it this way: rage murders in the workplace never existed anywhere in history until Reagan came to power. Reagan made it respectable to be a mean, stupid bastard in this country. He is the patron saint of white suckers. He unleashed America's Heart of Vileness -- its penchant for hating people who didn't get rich, and worshipping people who despise them, and this is the essence of Reaganomics.

MA: As for the slave tendency in humanity, I think it's a lot stronger in America than in most other countries in part because no other country on earth has so successfully crushed every internal rebellion. Slaves in the Caribbean for example rebelled a lot more because their oppressors weren't as good at oppressing as Americans were. America has put down every rebellion, brutally, from the Whiskey Rebellion to the Confederate Rebellion to the proletarian rebellions, Black Panthers, white militias... you name it. This creates a powerful slave mentality, a sense that it's pointless to rebel. And this in turn creates pointless rebellions like modern workplace and school rebellions, just like our early slave rebellions were carried out in totally pointless, seemingly random ways.

JF: You demonstrate that there is absolutely zero accuracy in the psychological profiles that "experts" have assembled to predict what kind of young student might start another Columbine, and you instead advocate profiling schools that could prompt a deadly massacre. What are some of the tell-tale signs to look for?

MA: White kids. Just look for white kids, and you'll have a potential Columbine. When I said that the school should be profiled rather than the kid (since the Secret Service and FBI have both concluded no profile of a Columbiner is possible), I meant something larger than just the school campus -- I meant the entire culture. Our culture today is completely insane, the disconnect between how our propaganda says our lives are, and how our lives actually are. And let's face it, white middle-class kids are far more deeply invested in the dominant cultural lies, and therefore more easily destroyed by the rupture when those lies become untenable, than minority urban kids are.

JF: You repeatedly cite how calm the attackers are while the killing is going on, how they consciously avoid the people who treated them nicely, and how many of the victims sympathize with the impulses of the rage killers. Were you surprised at how "rational" -- input leading to output -- these rage attacks look within their context?

MA: No. In fact, I have to admit it pleased me to learn this, because it proved that these people are not sick freaks like Jeffrey Dahmer and Charles Manson. This is what makes rage massacres so threatening and unique. They appeared out of nowhere in the annals of crime, starting up in the mid-1980s, just as Reaganomics took hold. The rage murderers were often very well-liked at their offices or schools. They were often seen as harmless. They were middle-class, trying to get by. The fact that they were rational in their massacres proved that they weren't out to kill for pleasure, but rather they were striking against something larger than just human blood. They wanted to kill the Beast, and many employees or students represented a part of that Beast, while others clearly did not. That is to say, their rational behaviour during these massacres proved that they weren't sick -- quite the opposite, their problem is that they couldn't live by the Lie any longer.

I certainly find it a fascinating hypothesis. The idea of people just ‘losing it’ for no reason never really sat well with me and I think that Mark Ames might be on to something here. I have yet to read the book (the paperback isn’t due out here until March 2006) but it’s definitely on my ‘to buy’ list as I’d love to learn more about this interpretation.

So are these people just crazies with guns… Or is there something darker beating at the heart of American (or maybe even Western) Culture. Are spree-killings a result of full throttle free market Capitalism? It’s certainly a scary thought………..

Saturday, November 05, 2005

So what exactly IS Atheism?

The scientist/philosopher Carl Sagan wrote:

“For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”

Atheism is characterized by an absence of belief in the existence of gods. This absence of belief generally comes about either through deliberate choice, or from an inherent inability to believe religious teachings which seem literally incredible. It is not a lack of belief born out of simple ignorance of religious teachings.

Some atheists go beyond a mere absence of belief in gods: they actively believe that particular gods, or all gods, do not exist. Just lacking belief in Gods is often referred to as the "weak atheist" position; whereas believing that gods do not (or cannot) exist is known as "strong atheism".

It is important, however, to note the difference between the strong and weak atheist positions. "Weak atheism" is simple scepticism; disbelief in the existence of God. "Strong atheism" is an explicitly held belief that God does not exist.

The Atheist position is that the Universe is understandable and explainable in the naturalistic terms of science and mathematics. There is no need for a god in order to explain the Universe, or reliable evidence to show that any god or gods exist. Atheism is more than just a belief paradigm; it is a conclusion based on the lack of any empirical evidence for any gods. Reality rules. Richard Dawkins expressed it well:

“The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”

Some people claim that it takes more faith to be an Atheist than to be a believer. This is false. All it takes to be an educated Atheist is understanding rational logic and what scientific evidence is, not unquestioning faith or beliefs. Atheists know that the process of evidence and logic can also be applied to subjects such as evolution and the Big Bang. This may remove some of the ‘magic’ from the Universe, but for many it can create deep feelings of amazement and wonder of the world around us.

As you should know by now I’m an atheist. During my time on this ball of spinning rock we call ‘Home’ I’ve moved from indifference in my childhood, to scepticism in my teens, to outright hostility in my 20’s. As I’ve matured (no giggling in the back there!) my hostility has lessened. I’m still highly sceptical and I will still challenge religious arguments though in a less hostile way. I am however coming to the conclusion that if we allow the religious forces in the world to gain power in too many places we could very well be in for dangerous times ahead.

We are in desperate need of a New Enlightenment.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Maybe there IS a God.....

Nope. I haven't gone completely mad - well, not completely.... But I can't help thinking that this CAN'T be a mere coincidence.

I was cruising The Great White Bear's Blog when I came across this:

Google the word failure. The first item that comes up is (no shit) THE BIOGRAPHY OF GEORGE W. BUSH! Try it! I damn near fell outta my chair laughing. As of this writing, it was still working!

So - naturally - I tried it.... and it WORKS. It was SO funny I could barely breath for a few seconds. What makes it even funnier (if that's possible) is the URL:


Now that IS funny.... So maybe there IS a God... and He's got a cracking sense of humour.. and by the looks of it He's pissed with George.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

What’s the problem with Gay Marriage?

The sight of homosexual men and women having wedding days just like those enjoyed for thousands of years by heterosexuals is unsettling, just as, for some people, is the sight of them holding hands or kissing. Being aware of this just what is the case for allowing Gay Marriage?

The case for allowing gays to marry begins with equality, pure and simple. Why should one set of loving, consenting adults be denied a right that other such adults have and which, if exercised, will do no damage to anyone else? Not just because they have always lacked that right in the past, for sure: until the late 1960s, in some American states it was illegal for black adults to marry white ones, but precious few would defend that ban now on grounds that it was “traditional”. Another argument is rooted in semantics: marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and so cannot be extended to same-sex couples. They may live together and love one another, but cannot, on this argument, be “married”. But that is to dodge the real question—why not?—and to obscure the real nature of marriage, which is a binding commitment, at once legal, social and personal, between two people to take on special obligations to one another. If homosexuals want to make such marital commitments to one another, and to society, then why should they be prevented from doing so while other adults, equivalent in all other ways, are allowed to do so? All very good questions.

..and some tongue in cheek ‘reasoning’….

Homosexuality is not natural, much like eyeglasses, polyester, and birth control are not natural.

Heterosexual marriages are valid because they produce children. Infertile couples and old people cannot get legally married because the world needs more children.

Obviously gay parents will raise gay children because straight parents only raise straight children.

Straight marriage will be less meaningful, since the Britney Spears 55-hour just-for-fun marriage was meaningful.

Heterosexual marriage has been around for a long time, and it hasn't changed at all: women are property, Blacks can't marry Whites, and divorce is illegal.

Gay marriage should be decided by the people, not the courts, because the majority-elected legislatures, not courts, have historically protected the rights of minorities.

Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are always imposed on the entire country.

Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people makes you tall.

Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to all kinds of crazy behaviour. People may even wish to marry their pets because a dog has legal standing and can sign a marriage license.

Children can never succeed without both male and female role models at home. That's why single parents are forbidden to raise children.

Gay marriage will change the foundation of society. Heterosexual marriage has been around for a long time, and we could never adapt to new social norms because we haven't adapted to cars or longer lifespans.

So what exactly IS the problem with Gay Marriage? How exactly will it “undermine the foundations of society” and just how with it “threaten the institution of marriage itself”? I can’t help finding it all very confusing…..

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Voltaire 1694-1778

The Best of All Possible Worlds….

It did make me laugh when Francis Fukuyama wrote ‘The End of History’ after the triumph of Capitalism over the ‘evil empire’ of Soviet Communism. As if history actually stops or is ‘going’ anywhere in particular. History, like Evolution, has no end goal. People who think that it does don’t really understand History at all. It is also symptomatic of a certain kind of mind set. This mind set not only proposes that this is the best of all possible worlds but that this is as good as it gets. This is the pinnacle of Human Civilisation.

You have to wonder what planet these people are from. I mean if this is the best that things can be was all the effort to get here really worth it?

Personally I think that this attitude stems from several things. First amongst these are a basic lack of imagination and a deep ignorance of history itself. Think about it for a moment. Obviously things were different in the past, right? So why won’t things be different in the future? Makes sense doesn’t it. Why should things stay as they are? Look around you at all the new stuff and new ideas popping out everywhere. Are any of these going to have a lasting effect? Are any of these going to change things? Of course they are.

Obviously if you have the attitude that this is the pinnacle of Human Civilisation then any change must be for the worse. After all if it can’t get any better then change must, by definition, be bad. Again this shows a great ignorance of History (and an incredible arrogance). Granted it is difficult to ‘think outside the box’ and look at your particular part of civilisation as a transition between the past and the future, but that’s how it is folks. Human minds don’t really think that way (seeing their particular time as transitory) – but this is where history comes in. History necessarily gives you a greater perspective on things, a longer view than the ‘here and now’. I’m pretty sure that commentators at the height of the Roman Empire thought that it couldn’t possibly get any better than this – well, it did.

Fukuyama’s position that Capitalism had finally triumphed made me chuckle. Capitalism is a fairly new ‘kid on the block’ – 300-400 years old maybe – but there is no guarantee that it’s going to be around forever. I don’t know what it might be replaced by but I do realise that it can (and probably will) be replaced. I also can’t help laughing at quite a few Science Fiction movies. Their ideas of the future amuse me greatly. If you’ve seen any/many you’ll know what I mean. They either see the future (no matter how far ahead) as either the same as now or as a throwback to our past. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen portrayals of the Roman Empire projected into our futures as if historical motifs are somehow endlessly recycled. If there’s one thing we can say about the future (and maybe it’s the only thing we can say) it’s that it will be different from the present (and from the past too). Of course many people don’t like that idea and either ignore it, rationalise it or actively try and do something about it (like outlawing certain types of research that make them uncomfortable).

Science fiction films in particular (books are generally MUCH better in this regard) play on our fears of the future – from alien invasion to rampaging robots they portray the future as dangerous if not downright lethal. Maybe it’s part of the larger process, particularly in the USA, of the apparent flight from reason and the denigration of science. There is a lack of trust - a lack of faith if you will - that we can build a better future. We, as a species, seem to have lost our self-confidence. Maybe that’s also the reason we don’t seem to write Utopia’s anymore. Those who have tried to build a better world are often deeply distrusted or vilified as fools, charlatans or worse demagogues. It’s true that many would-be Utopia builders in the past have tried to instil their vision of a ‘perfect world’ on largely unwilling populations (usually resulting in much death and destruction) but it doesn’t follow that the only way to make things better in the future is by destroying the past or the present.

Despite a particularly bloody 20th Century not everyone has lost all hope that things can improve. As a species we have a lot going for us – despite our many flaws – and I refuse to admit that it is beyond our capabilities to build a better world for our children and the generations that follow them. A first step in this process is the recapturing of hope and faith that we can do it.