Friday, September 08, 2017

Atmospheric Science: The Cover Up

Riddle me this:

Why would someone trust the information in this satellite photo....

but not this satellite photo.....


Today, September 8th, 2017, it is a beautiful, warm, sunny day here on Florida's West coast. Perfect beach weather! The type of weather for which snowbirds("snowbirds" = Florida slang for tourists from the North) flock here in the upcoming winter months.

If not for the weather forecasts and the institutions behind them..e.g....International Space Station, NASA, etc., you wouldn't in a million years think that looming in the Atlantic Ocean right now is a monstrous, category 5 hurricane heading directly toward Florida. And yet, millions of people are taking heed and trusting the atmospheric physics and chemistry behind the meteorology.

So, what gives? Why then are there some people who don't trust these same sources when it comes to, say, the shape of the earth? In image 2 you can plainly see the curvature of the earth. Normally the apologetic from flat-earthers is that NASA, and by extension, every other space administration globally, is part of a huge cover up to hide the true shape of the planet that we inhabit. In other words, they contend that the photos that show a spherical planet are "fake".

Of course, not once have I heard a credible reason for why they would be hiding the true shape of the earth, but this is part and parcel with conspiracy theorists..i.e..never connecting the dots.

In the meantime I think I will but my faith in the atmospheric sciences. And by "faith", I mean it in the colloquial sense, not the religious sense. The former, of course, is based upon a proven track-record and this is why I trust it, while the latter is not, which is why I do not trust it.                                                                                                                                             

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Suds - Psychic - Songs

Okay, I can get on board with some suds, specifically, an ice cold bottle of  Negra Modelo with a squeeze of lime. And of course, being a musician I can get on board with some songs, as long as those songs aren't Folk or Country songs, and this goes doubly for today's Country music. But I digress. This could be for a whole discussion of its own.

What I cannot get on board with, though, are charlatans. It's especially awkward to see that a former classmate has fallen into this line of work, which means that at some point they either knowingly set out to prey on people when they are at their most vulnerable, or they have been duped (self-deceived) into believing that they have special powers. I would venture a guess that the later scenario is much less common than the former. Either way, on the top of a list of the most likely explanations for when seers, mediums, psychics, and clairvoyants, etc. get "hits" - for instance, when the personalities of our dearly departed loved ones meet up at a TV studio, or in this case, a tavern, to reconnect with their living relatives back here on earth - this is because the "medium" has used cold reading techniques, a la, "I'm sensing someone here lost a loved one to illness........either a Mary, or a Marvin? I'm getting an 'M' coming through. Anyone know a Mary, or a Marvin, or a Melissa, or a Mark who passed away?"

To the rational-minded it is clear what is really taking place, here. Anyway, I saw the above ad on social media a few weeks back, and since I went to Junior High School with this person I thought about striking up a conversation. Then I thought, nah, better to just remember her as the cute girl with hip hugger bell bottoms from back in the day. It's not that I don't still think this sort of thing ultimately does more harm than good, not to mention it gives organized religion a leg-up; I still firmly believe this. It's just that I'm trying to pick my battles a little more selectively these days, which I confess is not easy, especially given the current state of affairs in American right now.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

See You Later, Alligator!

Today's featured fallacy: the straw man

"A straw man is a common form of argument and is an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent's argument, while refuting an argument that was not presented by that opponent."

~ Wikipedia

In the wake of the whole protest in Charlottesville, anyone on social media has no doubt seen the array of memes that people are posting, both "for" and "against", the recent removal of certain Civil War related statues/monuments., etc. Welp, the above gem of a meme is one such meme.

Okay, point by point:

"Gonna" isn't a word, you *insipid morons.

*Yes, this is a nit pick and has nothing to do with a straw man. And yes, calling someone a "moron" is itself a fallacy, namely, an ad hominem. However, the insult isn't the extent of my argument, as I'm including reasoned arguments along with it. In other words, the personal insult is not in lieu of an argument, so not technically an ad hominem. 

Next, the statues aren't being removed "for no reason"; they're being removed and some relocated because they represent a part of history in which a part of America was advocating (and fighting for) the right to not only own other human beings, but to beat them should they act up or show defiance. Saying that the statues are being removed for "no reason", besides being untrue and intellectually lazy, is a way to make it easier to refute, hence, the straw man fallacy. You make your opponent's argument sound "silly," then it's easier to criticize.

Other arguments:

"By taking the statues down, your erasing history!" (misspelling intentional)

Nope, you can't "erase" history. 'Ever heard of books? Libraries? Museums?

"The Great Pyramids of Giza were built by slaves, too. Let's remove them!"

Okay, fine. Move to Egypt, apply for citizenship, and then petition to have them removed. 'Probably won't succeed, mind you, since there was such a thing as "obligatory labor" in that era, which is akin to when the Amish here in the U.S. raise a new barn. The community joins in to see it through. In this scenario, no one is owned and no one is beaten or lynched if they flat-out refuse to help. So, yeah, this sort of false equivalence isn't going to fly.

Other false equivalence:

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides" ~ Donald Trump, POTUS

There aren't "many sides" in this particular case, there are only two sides: 

1) White Supremacists, and 2) people against White Supremacists.

Yes, I'm afraid that's it. There are those whose mission is to prevent equal rights and beliefs for anyone non-white, and there are whose mission is to ensure those same rights for ALL people, regardless of skin-color. Which side are you on?

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Lacey Sturm: A Former Atheist's Testimony

So, the other day on social media a video popped up in my news feed. The person who posted it friend-requested me a few months back, and best as I can tell, this was because he is a lover of "prog-metal"(progressive heavy metal music). To connect the dots for anyone reading along, my old band is thought to have helped pioneer this sound, at least, according to fans and industry people. The correlation is below.

After a little investigating, aka, clicking around on this person's page, I found that the person who posted said video is crippled and in a wheelchair and also appears to be a father of a little girl. This, and the fact that he is a fan of what I do, mainly the former, made me think twice and ultimately decide against posting a response or rebuttal to the video he posted. It made me think twice because his faith could be the only thing getting this guy by in life. And yes, I'm aware that faith could be the only thing getting countless, able-bodied people by in life, as well. As I've said many times on this blog, I do not speak out against religion because I get my jollies or some sort of cheap thrill pulling the carpet out from under people----in this case, it would be a guy in a wheelchair. No. I speak out against religion for largely two reasons, which are, 1) because religion does more harm than good, which, even in this day and age, this clearly still makes the world more dangerous than it needs to be. And 2) because I want believers to know the actual reasons why people become atheists, as opposed to the reasons they are told in church, and/or, as opposed to the reasons they arrive at by projecting their own misinformed views onto me and other atheists.

So, now the video......

Okay, so prior to being "saved", Lacey here, in all of her 16, 17, 18 years on the planet, had been through a lot of hurt. 

Now, I'm not trying to minimize anyone's life experiences, but come on now anyone who's ever been a teen and is now over 40. My goodness! And what's this?....she was self-centered and only thought of herself? Say it isn't so! So, in other words, self-centered just like 99.9999% of all other teens in America. 

[Edit: I've since learned that Lacey Sturm is currently 35, albeit, I have no idea how old she was at the time this video was made]

Lacey goes on..... 

"And when you're an atheist, it kind of....if you don't... if...if life gets too hard, there's really...there's really no reason to keep going.....I don't know." ~ Lacey Sturm 

Correct. You don't know. You don't know what you're talking about, other than making assessments about your own life, which wouldn't be so bad if you weren't also attempting to project your solution onto everyone else. You assume that a teenager who has a lot hurt over feeling like an outcast is on par with a teenager who has a lot of hurt over losing both parents in an automobile accident.

In other words, Lacey here has a very myopic view of life. She thinks that everyone's threshold for emotional pain is exactly the same; that everyone's trials in life are exactly the same, and subsequently, that everyone's problems can be made all better with a once size fits all "elixir" called Christianity. But of course, this is what Christianity does - that is, it teaches us that everyone suffers from the same "root" problem and that there is one solution that will work for everyone. This is actually one of the things I now loathe about Christianity.

So, do you know how I know that this just doesn't work? Here's how: Because for starters, suicidal thoughts are not exclusive to "atheists". That's the biggest clue of all. I can count six people I've known who were devout, church-going, bible-believing Christians who, for one reason or another, decide to end their own lives. 

On a much larger scale, I think it then becomes very safe to say that on any given day in church someone is thinking of (or has recently thought of) committing suicide. Given this, we can see that what Lacey thought of as a direct, unique message from God wasn't so unique after all. In fact, it amounts to confirmation bias: Lacy subjectively validated in her own mind that her problems were "unique" to her and that God had chosen to intervene. It was His Plan.

If that's true, then when Christians have suicidal thoughts and no one picks up on those thoughts, say, in church, we are then being reasonable to conclude that when plans to hang themselves or blow their brains out are carried out, this must be "God's Plan", too. 

Christian's suffering from depression and killing themselves at roughly the same statistical rate as non-Christians, including atheists? It's almost as if there isn't any "Plan" at all. 

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Satan Mocks Hardest

Of all of the platitudes and adages that come out of Christian's mouths, there is one phrase in particular that I just find hysterical. 'Funny as shit. It usually surfaces when people are critical of the Christian's god, and it's usually when they have nothing to counter the criticism with.

So,  I guess it's basically a last ditched effort to threaten someone into belief, amounting to, "Oh yeah? Well, you're going to get it later, so neener, neener, neener!!!" Anyone who's spent any time on the playground in elementary school remembers this sort of thing.

Can all of us, believers, and even former believers, agree that Satan is God's worst enemy? Non-believers would be playing along under the pretense that it's all true, of course. So, yes? I mean, who has consistently been a thorn in God's side since day one? Who gives God the most brain damage? Who has single-handedly drafted the most believers and brought them on over to the dark side? Who is the biggest perpetrator of evil?

Answer: Satan, aka, the devil.

Christians: Let's get real. No one mocks God more than Satan. No one. And yet, look---God has not so much as slapped Satan on the wrist. God stands there with arms folded while his worst enemy throws a ginormous monkey wrench into his "Plan".

God is clearly mocked, and yet, God does nothing; zilch; nadda.

Since the idea that neither character exists is not up for consideration to a "True Believer", I'd be curious to hear a defense for this. Anyone?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Liberals and Conservatives: Two Sides of the Same Coin?

Some would say that labels only complicate things and cause more division. Okay, maybe in some cases this is true. But in this instance..i.e..where political parties are concerned, if you boil the labels down you're left with certain principles and characteristics.

It is characteristic of conservative-minded people to not be open to new opinions/behaviors. By definition, this would make for at least some close-mindedness, wouldn't it? I think so. Closed to new opinions and points of view? Yes, that falls under close-mindedness.

Conversely, it is characteristic of liberal-minded people to be open to new opinions/behaviors.

So, just sticking to definitions, this seems to fly in the face of the idea that liberals and conservatives are "opposite sides of the same coin," or "birds of the same feather"....that there is really some covert commonality at play, yadda, yadda.

One person on social media put it this way....

If commitment comes from rejection, it means serious thought has gone into this commitment. If commitment comes from tradition, no thought at all has come into it.

This sums is it up pretty well, I think. Sticking with tradition..e.g..if I stick with a principle/value/behavior just because 'That's the way I've always done it!,' this doesn't require any contemplation on my part. I may as well be sticking with tradition for tradition's sake, and this, I contend, is what is taking place a lot of the time nowadays, and it's not only what holds us back as a society, it's what makes our society more dangerous than it needs to be. Less compassion = more potential for danger.

Speaking of society, I'm wondering how a Me, me, me! mindset is conducive to living in a peaceful society? For example, on social media I see one of the current hot topics is health care and the debate on if it's a right or a privilege. The argument that certain people are making is that they shouldn't have to pay for some other person's health needs. Your child has a preexisting condition, do they? Huh. Oh, well. Not my problem.

But yet, if it was their problem, I'm going to venture a guess that they'd surely be fine with getting monetary help from strangers before letting their child die. 

So? Why the posturing, then? Why the short-sighted, myopic view, then?

Here's why: Selfishness...aka, me, me, ME! These people? These people live in their own little societies, their own microcosms, and lately I've been trying to figure out what business they have living in a democratic society. There is no room for a bunch of individual societies here. Only narcissists and sociopaths live in their own little societies.

It's ironic, though: These self-serving, compassion-be-damned people would kill each other once they eliminated those whom they view as "snowflakes", which is their "en vogue", pejorative term for those viewed as weak. Yes, because being anything from poor, to compassionate, to non-religious, to non-white, to non-conservative makes you a crybaby in their eyes.

 Let's just say that I'm not feeling particularly hopeful for the human race these days.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Christian Letters

So, my mother, who lives only ten minutes away, wanted me to stop by her house to check out our former neighbor's obituary.

"Mr. Tench" was a war veteran, and since the obituary had a lot of nice things to say about him, my mother thought I might like to see it. He and his wife, Ann("Mrs. Tench" to me), lived in the house next to us when I was growing up. They were there when we moved into our house, and I believe I was around six yrs old when we arrived. His wife died about ten years ago and their only son died sometime in the 90's. So, Mr. Tench has been there alone for quite a while in the same house. His only daughter in law and grandchildren live up North.

Sometimes I cut down my old street to avoid traffic, and about nine months ago Mr. Tench was doing some odds 'n ends in his yard, so I stopped to say hello. At 90 yrs old, he was pretty sharp, because, while he didn't recognized me right off, he instantly recalled who I was when I mentioned the family name. I'm glad I decided to stop, because that would be the last time I'd ever see him.

To back up a bit, I had already seen the obituary online but I dropped by my mom's house anyway because I had a few things to discuss with her. When I got there she had a bunch of stuff pulled out that she had neatly displayed on her desk..e.g...old photos of my grandmother's side of the family, some greeting cards, and some hand-written letters. The letters were from my grandmother to her siblings, or it might have been her cousins, or maybe both. No matter.

The reason my mom had this stuff pulled out is because her uncle had also recently died. He was one of five siblings, another of which was my maternal grandmother, also deceased. There is only one surviving sibling now, my grandmother's youngest sister. She is in her 90s, and all considered, she is doing well and still living at home. Of course, this is because her son and a few other family members are able to keep a close eye on her.

So, cutting to the chase---my mom grabbed a stack of the letters my grandmother(her mom) had hand-written to other family members. I started reading, and not even one paragraph in I noticed bible quotes with the verse/chapter in brackets..e.g...[2 Timothy 3:4], and the like.

So, quickly, I do a cursory scan down the page, and lo and behold, every single paragraph contained at least one bible quote. In this particular letter my grandmother was speaking about how we live in a fallen world, yadda, yadda. Of course, every generation says this, and I remember my mom telling me that in her day they thought Elvis was "evil" because he gyrated his hips, so, there you go.

But, regretfully, I had a knee-jerk reaction to discovering the bible quotes and I quickly handed the letters back to my mom. When she asked me what was wrong, I told her [paraphrased] that I don't want to see this because it isn't my grandmother speaking; it's her indoctrination speaking. Okay, fine, I might've thrown in a few expletives. I was both saddened and angry. I could see that this upset her, as her eyes watered up.

As nicely as I could, I told my mom that it was bringing back bad memories, because, as I explained,  Christianity stole part of my grandmother's identity.

Now, a Christian onlooker might be thinking, "Yeah? So, what?!?", as if not being your genuine self is a good thing. Or...they might being thinking, "Huh? Christianity didn't steal my identity!"

Okay, it's not only possible, it's beyond-argument-fact: When you set out to live your life in devotion to "God"(or to some other leader..e.g...North Koreans to their leader), you are sacrificing a part of who you really are to appease someone else. And yes, from within the Christian bubble this is seen as a good thing. Fair enough. But on the outside of that bubble parts of the indoctrinated person are absent, simply because the Christian philosophy teaches us to believe that we are "wretched", broken, and in need of fixing. We are no good, "as is". We can't figure things out. We can't be "good"; we need a Master. In fact, our own righteousness is like that of a "filthy rag", according to "God's Word"

How can internalizing such things not change who you really are?

In a lot of ways, it changed who my grandmother really was. But guess what? As kind and caring as she was, this side of her shined through her "faith". It was those rare times that she was things like judgmental or strict that things were the other way around..i.e..her "faith" shined through her.

For example, my grandfather was a carpenter by trade and he had wood-working shop behind their house. My mom expressed to me the day I was over there that my grandmother wouldn't allow my mom to go out to watch or hang around my grandfather because, "Little girls don't do those sorts of things".

Sure, this could be chalked up to society's gender expectations, yes, but the bible teaches that men and women are different, that they were "created" for different reasons, and that their roles are different.

But perhaps most sad of all was a part of the letter where my grandmother was going on about how the youth of their day was so messed up, saying that the reason was because people love pleasure more than they love God, with a supporting bible verse, of course.

I don't know whether this saddens me more or disgusts me more. Imagine, you're given a body along with the urge to seek pleasure, but you're told not to use that body for pleasure. Think about this: In the hierarchy of biological/physiological needs, sex is right up there along side food, water, and AIR!

Be fruitful and multiply, but don't you dare lust!!!!

But kidding aside, when my mom started telling me about some of the instances that my grandmother was critical of her and/or overprotective, I could see that she, too, was becoming upset and dare I say she had some residual anger. It was then that she seemed to actually understand why I was angry and where I was coming from.