Monthly Archives: September 2015

Why Do Kids Believe in Talking Donkeys in the Bible?


Oh yeah, that passage made me wonder if there was once truth in all those fables and cartoons with talking animals. When I was 12 I wondered why animals didn’t talk anymore when the Donkey had talked, and I asked my grandmother if other animals used to talk. She said no. I thought about the talking snake in Eden and I referred her to the talking donkey passage – she looked it up and said God made it happen. I accepted the answer that the donkey was a weird exception.

After that she said I was asking a lot of difficult questions and wanted me to talk to a priest to get it sorted out, but perhaps she needed to talk to one. I trusted her enough that I wasn’t thinking hard about her answers, but I think maybe trying to answer questions raised by a child had given her doubts.

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Grandmother and Religion

My father kind of freaked out earlier when I told him I was an Atheist – he asked his whole church to pray for me (in another state), which irritated me because I won’t be able to talk to any of his friends without the whole community knowing everything.That church is probably where he came up with the ideas 1) it’s a rebellious phase, and your kid might grow out of it and still go to heaven 2) your kid must have big problems in his life to have turned away from God 3) just don’t talk about it and maybe it will go away.

Our conversations are shorter now (sometimes it sounds like he wants to hang up), and there are longer gaps between them. Since him, his new wife, and his church couldn’t deal with it, he immediately told his mother.

I could tell it was an open secret though, because she randomly talks to me about things like how, “I went to Costa Rica with some missionary friends, and I took a shower except it was wired wrong. It lit on fire and I could have been electrocuted by electricity running through the water, and that’s evidence God gave me a purpose.”

I got tired of her insisting that was proof of God and not an accident, admitted my disbelief in religions, and had a four hour argument with my grandma over the phone the other day until past midnight.  Continue reading Grandmother and Religion

Chomsky

I recently wrote to the effect that you only need to read a primary source when you want to confirm a person’s real views.This is an important distinction, because history tends to coalesce around figureheads, who we treat as “great men.” It shouldn’t happen, but it does. If we treated every quotation as pure philosophy, then all arguments would need to stand up on their own regardless of the speaker, and reading the sources would matters much less. Ancient writers aren’t known for writing directly. Unfortunately, sometimes we are misled, and disagreements tips us off to the need to go back to the primary sources. I recently had such an experience with Chomsky. Continue reading Chomsky

Focus on Ideas, not Sources

I tried for the dozenth time to read a bit of Adam Smith’s the Wealth of Nations, but the lack of organization to his 600 pages of ramblings made me give up. There are many pretentious people who say you need to go back to the primary sources to ‘truly’ understand things, as though understanding the idea isn’t enough unless you read it in the words of the originator. This is fallacious, and I don’t consider wikipedia, textbooks, or cliff notes inferior simply because they are streamlined. As long as the idea has been streamlined, it’s a better source.

New ideas are usually shrouded in verbosity, as with anything bleeding-edge, it takes time for people to digest ideas and make them easier to teach. As long as we are concerned with ideas, and not who said what, primary sources aren’t necessary. Most of us aren’t academics, and most of us are looking for interpretations to contemplate; we are not looking to weed through a mess of raw data, that have already been simplified.
To be fair, I suppose this cursory attitude is why I am a layman and not a scientist. I’m usually more concerned with answers than processes or questions. It’s so time consuming to confirm anything as being true (and experiments are the only way to know for sure!) It’s only when I compare my knowledge to a better informed neighbor, that I develop an inferiority complex and feel the thirst to know more, culminating in perfectionism.

But I’ve digressed….I was hoping to cherry pick some passages from the Wealth of Nations in favor of socialism; I’m sure they exist in a 600 page monstrosity! But I think only sadism can discipline someone enough to read through that book.

Who in the right mind would waste multiple evenings reading Adam Smith’s tortured writings, with a dictionary at hand? It’s just not done anymore! If he wanted to be read, he should have written it better!

Science-Fiction Authors tend to be Atheists

If you want to write a great novel that will shake the world and make you famous, you’re more likely as an Atheist. Karl Marx, Thomas Paine, Bruce Lee were Athests; it’s as thougjhintellectuals and creative types seem to have trouble swallowing dogma. In this post I’ll name the science-fictiom authors I was emamored with as an adolescent, who just happen to be Atheist. I hav not cherry picked authors; 80-90 percent of the sci-fi authors that I’ve read enough of to remember their names have turned out to be Atheists.

The best science fiction authors tend to be Atheists: HG Wells, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C Clarke, HP Lovecraft, Douglas Adams, and Gene Roddenberry. And who can forget Dr Who?
I never understood how Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game) remained a Mormon. I don’t understand CS Lewis either, but given his devotion to stuffing fiction with the Christian gospel, his books are probably the least worth reading on this list.

The exceptions stand out more because they are so rare. To summarize:

>There is little Science Fiction from Theists

>Most Science Fiction is bought by Theists

Conclusion: Christians are poor story-tellers, and compensate for their handicapped imaginations by paying Atheists. William Gibson was better at writing entertaining stories about tomorrow’s internet, because he was willing to follow a premise to the most ludicrous conclusions.

Fwiw, I have asked the Christians for an explanation, and the best answer admitted that Christianity holds back your imagination. I paraphrase, “The Christian worldview is incompatible with a progressive vision of the future, and it’s easier for us to write fantasy or apocalyptic dystopias.”

Academic Reasons to Distrust Psychologists

Open any Psychology textbook and there will be references to Sigmund Freud everywhere, even though he’s been largely dismissed as an unscientific philosopher. I understand why he was historically significant, but they waste a lot of time on him, as though they can’t let go of their founder. I always have doubts about the reliability of studies on sentient beings, and the test results often say more about the researchers than the subjects, like writing about your findings when you look at a Rorschach ink blob.

Scientific Misconduct

But even when the Psychology studies appear reliable, fraud occurs. The first Psychology book I read in 8th grade was by Marc Hauser, and he has been convicted of 8 counts of scientific misconduct. Daniel Dennett, my least favorite of the ‘4 horsemen of the non-apocalypse,’ didn’t even have the balls to throw him under the bus. I understand he’s met him before, and probably cited him, but I’d call my best friend a liar privately and publicly if he fraudulently lied to the world.

twitter dennett marc hauser

Another of the 4 horsemen, (Richard Dawkins) also cited Marc Hauser’s surveys on moral dilemmas in the later half of  “The God Delusion.” I haven’t found anywhere on the web where he renounces him either, and I do hope that he makes a note that those surveys should be suspect due to the originator if his book ever has a second edition.

Seriously, how do these New Atheists expect do hold the moral ground if they can’t call out their own fraudulent behavior or pseudoscience? I may be an Atheist, but I so strongly detest the tribal mentality of religious groups, that I don’t want to be part of any group that is afraid of self-criticism. I think it’s reasonable to call myself an Atheist, (since I am a skeptic in regards to religion,) but I have no need for other labels that group me with hypocrites.

If New-Atheism means I’m an Anti-Theist, then that’s an appropriate label, but I’m still going to tell people not to group me with anyone who can’t admit their mistakes. This is not how science is supposed to work, and they”re not setting a good example for morality without religion.

Personal Reasons to Distrust Psychologists

 I personally don’t trust them because they never cured me of anything. When my parents divorced in Middle School I stopped caring about doing homework, and started flunking for a year. I think I was just lazy; I wanted to go home, play video games and forget about the stupid problems in my life. School faculty are stupid and selfish though.

Continue reading Personal Reasons to Distrust Psychologists