And the Offended Shall Inherit…

 

“It’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more… than a whine. ‘I find that offensive.’ It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that.’ Well, so fucking what.”- Stephen Fry

One of the deep divisions within the “atheist-skeptic community” is the idea of offense. That people can be offended by words is not being disputed (at least not by me). What is being disputed is the degree to which people have a right to not be offended.

For years the outspoken atheists have held that “you don’t have the right to not be offended”. This worked out rather well in dealing with the religious zealots who claimed that the drawings of their prophet were offensive. The problem arose when those folks who (seemingly) are more concerned with issues of social justice than of church-state separation, began to make some noise in the community. The way they engineered the use of offense as a winning move is quite interesting.

Firstly, offense is a bad word to use. Most atheists are inured to the cries of offense from interactions with the religious. What if, instead of offense, we called it “harm”? Harm is entirely subjective. Only the one claiming harm done to them can be certain if harm has been experienced…from typed words on a monitor. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty sure that a person suffering from PTSD may be triggered by words on a monitor. The problem here is that those “triggers” are unknown to everyone except the PTSD sufferer.

That someone claims to suffer from PTSD and claims to be triggered by whatever another person happens to have typed on the internet, should not be able to stifle discussion or as an “instant win” for any on-line disagreement. Let’s indulge in a hypothetical scenario or two, shall we?

Suppose someone has been raped and suffers from PTSD as a result. Further, let’s assume that this person has certain trigger words or descriptions that can cause the severe symptoms of PTSD to occur. Is it reasonable to log into social media platforms and engage people about the very topic which one is triggered by? Is it the wisest course of action for one’s own health? If I had a word, phrase, or description that would cause symptoms, I’d like to think I would avoid those topics whenever at all possible. At the very least, I would avoid them until I had some measure of success in treatments.

Let’s try another scenario: I’m a Twitter Social Justice Warrior. I want to “raise awareness” of certain issues on social media. I put my message out on the internet in a public forum. When someone replies with a disagreement, I engage with them in some fashion. If the disagreeing party begins to make arguments I’m unable to address, I can become nasty until they say something I can claim to be “triggered” by – instant win, dot @ retweet, and let the dogpile commence. Claiming harm instead of offense serves as an “instant win”.

My question is how can we tell the difference between the actual sufferer of PTSD and the well acted Twitter SJW? I submit we cannot.

Second method of allowing offense to be dispositive : tie it to a negative -ism. Since certain words can be claimed to be sexist or racist, they can be used for the “instant win” as described above. “Cunt” seems to be one of these words which the “offended” party can claim offense without using the term offense.

Instead of the recipient being offended, the originator is now sexist and can be disregarded. I’ve seen “bitch”, “fag”, “homo”, “dyke”, “tranny”, and other words cause this instantaneous -ism assignment. The invention of various new -isms allows an even greater selection of words to cause offense and therefore to allow their user to be dismissed.  Various  -isms I’ve noticed lately: ableism, cissexism, gender essential-ism, and others. (I’m going to coin a phrase here so I can type less: offensism- the deliberate use of a negative -ism claim to silence or disregard in lieu of stating offense was taken).

A shining example of offensism actually caused quite a stir a while back for one of the leaders of the social justice warrior brigade. While even the SJW elite felt that this particular example was over the top, it nevertheless serves as an extreme limit (for now) in the data set of offensism tactics.

One other example of offensism that is a bit disturbing to me is the racism card being applied to discussions of Islam. While there is still a good amount of push back on this point, you will have undoubtedly seen criticism of Islam be met with cries of “racism”. While many of us who oppose religious belief encroaching into secular spheres can recognize the Islam/Racism form of offensism,  it seems fewer are able to spot the “gender wars”/sexism form (or some of the newer and less well known versions).

What is the way forward in terms of rigorous discussion and debate amid these and other forms of offensism? Do we simply wave the white flag when an -ism is thrown out at us? Let me know what you think…and get some time.

 

The Last Thing to Go

I know a little about chronic pain. My first experience with it was in my knee.

Dropping from about 9 ft to the floor in order to save a maladjusted limit switch from destroying a $400,000 machine with hydraulic efficiency, I blew up my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). I still managed to press the emergency stop button on the machine, to save it, but it cost me nearly a year of chronic pain.

Since the incident happened at work, my company allowed workers compensation insurance to pay for the surgery and physical therapy afterwards. It was nice not having to pay the ~$7,000 the surgery would have cost. Anyway, the surgeon used the center third of my patellar tendon to create a new ACL. The surgeon later said that when he opened up my knee it looked as though a bomb had gone off. The surgery was performed as day-surgery, meaning I went home the same day. I got no instructions from the nurses (either that or I was too out of it from the anesthesia to remember them, so I did not begin physical therapy until 2 weeks after the surgery. After those two weeks of immobility, my leg muscles had atrophied to the point that I couldn’t even “fire” my quads.

The first physical therapy procedure was electrical muscle stimulation to strengthen the muscles enough so that I could “fire” them voluntarily. The other procedure was the “weighted bridge”. I call it that because the therapist put my heel on a foam rest and placed a bean bag weight on my knee to stretch the bent leg toward straightening out. It was excruciating.

I enured five months of physical therapy before I could walk without crutches or a cane. Every session was painful even though I followed my therapist’s advice to take my pain medication just prior to the PT. I absolutely hated my therapist, right up until the day I walked out of the clinic under my own steam.

Less obvious to me at the time was the effect that the pain in one knee had on almost every thing I did. For instance, I stood primarily on the uninjured leg. Even after the physical therapy had given me full use of the leg, the habit of standing on the other one was ingrained. This over use of the non-injured leg lead to a back and hip problem a decade later.

The lower back pain is a bit more insidious. The spine affects almost every thing you do. Sitting, standing, laying down, lifting, bending, walking, and sex. You start to compensate for the back pain with your arms, Drop your pen? Support yourself with a hand on the desk to bend over to retrieve it. No desk? Squat, instead of bend. Want to sit down? Ease yourself into the chair by supporting yourself on the armrests. Nearly everything you do is consciously or unconsciously affected by the desire to not have that action hurt or worsen the pain.

So why bring this up? What does it have to do with not believing in gods? Well, I found that one of the last pieces of my theistic indoctrination to be purged was the plea for succor when in pain. The old habits of praying for relief were as hard to break as the subconscious habits that pain itself induced as I described above. Now when I experience pain, I don’t pray for a god to take it away, I reach for my medication.

The loss of a parent-life after death

When I was 25 years old I lost my dad.

I’d been out of the Navy for just over a year, newly married, and living in New England where my new bride was from. My dad had been unable to attend the wedding, although we had invited him. My mom was there, so I had some family in attendance.

I did a video about the influence my dad had on my life and the juxtaposition of that experience with my reversal of roles when I became a dad.

 

 

That phone call you get at 3AM is never good news. My uncle was on the other end to inform me of my dad’s death. It was a single vehicle automobile accident in the early morning hours of his birthday. He ran off the road, hit a tree and died instantly. I was planning to call him later that day to wish him a happy birthday.

Needless to say, I booked a flight back to Florida so my wife and I could attend the funeral. It was chaotic to say the least since my mind was still reeling and shocked by the first stages of grief.

To get the full picture of the events at the funeral, I’m going to have to give you some background information on key events in my life and my dad’s. Please bear with me, I hope it will be worth it.

I deliberately use the word “dad” as opposed to “father” for him because I was not his biological child. My dad adopted me when he married my mom when I was about 2 yrs old. My biological father had waived his rights, and I never saw him again. I have no memories of my biological father. My dad loved me, though and I never felt I was treated any differently than my half brother, my dad’s biological child.

My mom and dad divorced when I was 8-9 years old. My mom was exploring her faith and had been won over by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. This institution was considered a cult by my dad. I’m sure there were other factors which led to the divorce, but this was the dominant one.

In a rare feat of legal prowess, my dad gained custody of my brother and I after the contested divorce finally settled. In order to get custody, it was recommended that my dad re-marry. His new wife, my new step mother rapidly dropped her facade of pleasantry to reveal the hatred underneath. She had a son by a previous marriage who integrated into our new family. To demonstrate how bad my step mother was, her biological child has nothing to do with her today.

The situation was so bad that I tried to run away and contemplated suicide at one point. Eventually I told my dad that I wanted to go back to my mom.

 

So the funeral was held in a small mortuary in the tiny city I grew up in. My dad who was over 6ft in life, had been cremated. The small urn of his remains seemed a surreal vessel for a man of his stature. The feelings of disbelief were intensified by the incongruity of its size and his. A Polaroid picture of him was on the poster card near the dais.

I was early so I grabbed a seat in the front row. Lost in my own thoughts for a bit, I was startled from my reverie by one of the funeral home employees. He told me that my step mother (who had been separated from my dad for almost a year, I later learned) had demanded that I not sit “with the family”. I was stunned. Instead of making a scene I got up and walked to the back of the now nearly full viewing room. I stood there sobbing by my wife who was doing her best to console me.

Fortunately my dad’s mother saw what had happened. My grandma sent my uncle over to me with a message. “You come sit with us. You’re family.”

************************************************************************************************

 

For many months after the funeral, I would see him randomly in my peripheral vision. He was in many of my dreams. So many things reminded me of him. Eventually this too passed.

My own son was born almost exactly five years later. I lamented the fact that my dad had not gotten the chance to see my child, and that my son would never know his grandpa.

The belief in life after death is quite easy to explain, isn’t it?

 

 

 

Stalkers revisited.

So recently this happened. I thought this line of thinking had been totally discredited, but apparently not in some circles.

Then this morning this happened.

Sigh, okay one final (hopefully) explanation.

Imagine two people are at their own soapboxes in Speaker’s Corner, both talking to whoever shows up to listen. One of these people stops talking to walk around and listen to the other speakers. They overhear part of a conversation or message from the first speaker and initiate communication with the one still on the soapbox.

The communication gets heated and the one who did not initiate the contact records the conversation for posterity and later plays the recording from another soapbox.

The one recorded then claims being “stalked” by the recorder, likely because of the stupid things they said now being on full display for any passersby.

This is not stalking, people. Twitter is a public forum…a virtual Speaker’s Corner where everyone can talk. If you don’t want to participate in the public discussion, there are settings you can use to have private ones. What you cannot do is claim that contact initiated by you and recorded in your own words is stalking!!

I’ve covered the argument of general Storification in a previous post, so I’m not rehashing it here. Suffice to say, some folks aren’t cut out for public speaking.

 

“Daddy, why are you crying?”

I will ask the three or four readers of this blog to forgive this indulgence into the realm of the personal. This is a true story.

When my son was born, he was probably the ugliest baby I had ever seen. I know that sounds terrible, but it’s true. Still, I was very happy about his arrival and participated in his feeding, changing, bathing, and play time. I was working 40-45 hours a week in a field service industry. I traveled from location to location performing maintenance and repairs on equipment.

I would get home and participate in my son’s evening activities. My wife at the time had another child from a previous (but very brief) marriage. My son’s half-sister is only 2 years older than my son, and so I had previous “baby experience”. Both children enjoyed “daddy time” rolling around on the living room floor, watching “A Nightmare Before Christmas” several dozens of times (on VHS by the way), and having me read to them in the recliner. It was exhausting but very satisfying as I’m sure many parents can attest.

Before my son turned two my work and then marital situation began to deteriorate. Sometimes things happen where a company isn’t performing well in the market and needs to “downsize”. This is exactly what happened in my case. I was “let go”. Along with the loss of the job came a loss of the company vehicle which I had been using (as allowed at the time) for personal errands. It was also the only vehicle we had at that time. I picked up a fairly cheap used vehicle and found a new job at a single facility about 25 miles from the house, but making less than I was before. With a family to support, I had to take what I could get.

The reduced income caused some friction in my marital life as I’m sure anyone who has gone through a familial fiscal crisis can tell you.

Sometimes when things begin to go wrong, they only continue to do so until a minimum energy is reached. It’s as if once the boulder atop the mountain starts falling, the only thing that can stop it is for it to reach the ground. My car broke down. It was not a minor issue like a belt or an alternator; it was a transmission. My job was roughly 25 miles from home and my car was now wheels-up. I managed to catch a ride with another employee of that facility who lived near me for about two weeks. Unfortunately, they moved to be closer to work. With no way to get to work (not even bus service) I lost my second job.

A few months later and savings were all used up with no job and no car. We decided (more accurately my then wife decided) that we would move across the state to live with her parents since the house payments were now seriously in arrears. The bank foreclosed and I lost my house. Within a fortnight of moving in with her parents, I was told by my son’s mother that she wanted a divorce and that I had to leave.

I still remember the feelings of helplessness and despair as I realized that my stepdaughter and I would be forever estranged and that I would miss out on a good deal of my son’s life. As I wept, my stepdaughter came to me, held my face in her tiny hands and asked, “Daddy, why are you crying?” Even just typing that sentence caused tears to stream down my face again.

My son was two days shy of his 2nd birthday and so didn’t understand what was happening. I wept again when my aunt graciously came out to pick me up. She had a spare bedroom and would allow me to stay with her until I got back on my feet. She had talked to the manager of the only commercial enterprise within walking distance of her rural home (a convenience store) to set me up with an application/interview. I was grateful.

I walked the half mile to the convenience store on odd shifts, weird hours and seldom reaching 40 hours per week (usually 34-38) for a mere $5.25 per hour. This was in the late 1990′s, so that’s not a lot of money. Still, I paid for my own food and also paid $50 per week as child support to my ex wife. She allowed me to see my son every other Sunday, since I worked Saturdays. My aunt was kind enough to drive me to the “half way” point to facilitate my visitation.

Slowly I built up some cash reserves and my aunt offered to sell me her old car, since she was getting a new one. I made monthly payments to her on the amount she would have gotten for it as a trade in. Once I had wheels again, it was a fast track to getting a better paying job and eventually my own apartment. I hate to think what would have happened to me if my aunt hadn’t helped me then.

While I was still working at the convenience store, the soon to be ex-wife had been living with a local pot dealer near her parents house. Sometime before I got my aunt’s car,  the ex left the pot dealer for another guy. I’m going to have to start naming these folks just for convenience. Let’s call the new guy Zack.

Zack wanted to marry my ex. The problem with that was no divorce had been applied for, much less granted. Shortly after I got my wheels, but before I found my first better paying job, I was handed paperwork to sign. Documents written by a paralegal, for an uncontested divorce.  I was very nearly broke, just getting back on my feet. I had no money for lawyers to fight any of the conditions of the agreement. It was all fairly standard stuff: joint custody with the mother being the primary custodial parent, alternate weekend visitation for the father. Joint custody means simply that both parents have the authority to make decisions about their child; school decisions or medical decisions. It does not mean equal time with the child. I signed, what else could I do?

My son was 2 and a half when the divorce finalized. It was very rapid because there were no marital assets and both parties had signed an agreement which included child support. Fortunately, I managed to avoid the type of child support payments that had to be overseen by the state. I had kept receipts of all the money I had given since the separation. I continued to keep the receipts throughout.

Thus began the cycle of alternate weekend visitation. Once I was working a Monday-Friday job, I had the full 47 hours every other week to see my child. His new stepfather could see and interact with my son 6 times more than I could. Zack and my ex moved even further away from her parents (and me) for his job. While still within driving distance, It was nearly an hour away.

The artificial nature of this visitation arrangement made it difficult to have any meaningful impact on the direction of my son’s life, or the forming of his character. There were times when he would misbehave at mom’s house and I would hear about it from her when it was my weekend. Needless to say, disciplining my son for something I didn’t witness during my precious time with him was not high on my to do list. I spoke to him on the phone when he got older, but phone conversations with a 3-5 year old are…well, limited in scope.

The limited contact also made me want to do something fun and interesting when I did get to see him. Who wants to punish their child or waste time just hanging out at the apartment during the 14.3% of the child’s life they get to participate in?

I was going to use the phrase Disney dad here but the connotations are decidedly anti-father. Take a look for yourself.

I had no choice in where they moved. I had a better job than convenience store clerk, but was also now paying my own rent, electric, and food bills along with an increase in child support amount. Hiring an attorney was simply not an option.

So the years pass and the pain has become routine.  Years and years of seeing my son grow up in stroboscopic bursts of time. Years of trying hard not to weep in the car on the trip home from dropping him off at his mother’s, so that I wouldn’t crash my car. Years of sitting home on my non-visitation weekends trying to fill the time. Sometimes there were women I was dating, sometimes not. The not times sucked.

Every so often Zack would move again, but never any closer to me. Eventually the same forces which caused my downward spiral began working on Zack. He lost a job, got another one, had car troubles, had strained finances, and moved… a lot.

Well, I got stable in a job, and with a wonderful woman. We began living together and things got a lot better for me and for my relationship with my son. Since he was older now, we could talk on the phone more often and about significant things. Little did I know that things always seem brightest just before they completely fall apart.

I got a panicked call from my ex one day while I was at work. Zack had been arrested for molesting my son’s half sister. My ex had never worked and was about to be forced to move back in with her parents again. She offered me the chance to be the custodial parent. I jumped at it. I told my boss I was leaving for the day. I called my significant other. I wrote up an informal modification to the custody arrangement which included the fact that I was current on child support and relieving my ex from ever having to pay me child support. I drove to where I was to pick up my son. I took him with me for the final 5 years of his childhood.

Needless to say, that was an emotional day. I got my son enrolled in school in the district I lived in. I had to take a few days off of work to get everything done. Fortunately, my boss and company were very supportive. Things began to settle in a bit in our new routine. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t last.

My son had been witness to the molestation of his sister. He had also been physically (but not sexually) abused by Zack. I made had a point of asking him if Zack treated him well, and my son had always assured me that he did. Children sometimes have to hide the truth due to fear. I never saw any marks on my son, that would lead me to think physical abuse was occurring. It came as a complete surprise to me.

My son had some problems dealing with his feelings about his own and his sister’s abuse. I got him counseling sessions to help. I talked to him about it. We both cried and hugged and forgave each other for our parts in the events.

My son is now a student at university, though he doesn’t know what he wants to do after school. He still has some issues with the psychological trauma of his life with Zack, but they’re becoming fewer and fewer. He’s healing. We stay in touch. I love him very much.

**************************************************************************

 

I’m a man of somewhat mathematical bent so I did some simple calculations that may surprise you:

Every year that I was the non-custodial parent I was able to spend about 58-59 days with my son. Less than 60 days out of every 365. Zack was able to spend over 300 with my son.

In the 11 years that I was the non-custodial parent I was with my son for just under 2 of them. I lost 9 years of his life. He lost 9 years of my contact.

That’s half of his life to this point.

We lost half of his life.

This is why I have a problem when people tell me I’m “privileged” just by virtue of my being a male.

Get some time.

 

 

Guest Post – @Satanskeptic

 What follows is the unedited text of what materialized in my e-mail inbox (presumably) from this entity. I make no claims for the validity of the material. After all, he is the “father of lies”. – PD

Greetings humans.

Many of you think you know me, but what you were taught in Sunday school or church is very like the end result of a game of “Chinese whispers”.

I was there as the big G created this universe. It was almost a non-event though as it wasn’t the first or the last. Many universes exist and each of them have different inhabitants. You humans think you are so special. It amuses me.

My role in the grand scheme of things? This may be difficult for you to accept, but I am not the accuser or G’s enemy. I offer a sounding board to his ideas. I’m the Riker to his Picard if you will.  We have a sound working relationship.
“Wait, isn’t God omniscient?”, you ask. “Why would he need a sounding board?” Nothing is omniscient. That isn’t possible. I’ll let you in on anther secret: the G isn’t omnipotent either.
Oh sure he’s very powerful, but he has limits just like everything else.

The G tends to be a bit of a dreamer; a wild eyed optimist in a perverse universe. He also tends to not think through the consequences of his grandiose plans. That’s where I come in. I try to provide a reasoned response to his creative nature. My only real “power” is reason. My only “magic” is rhetoric. I’m the governor on the G’s high output engine. I’m not always successful in restraining his enthusiastic idealism.

Let’s look at a few of the stories you may be familiar with from religious myth… and I’ll tell you how it really happened. First up: Job.

Job was a devout follower and worshiper of the G and had an excellent lifestyle for the time. The G says to me, “Consider my servant, Job.”  I said, “Yes, he’s an idiot. He is so enamored of you that even if you take away all of his privileges and curse him as no man has been cursed before, he will still remain faithful.” The G didn’t think so. He thought that Job worshiped him and was pious due to wisdom. Job suffered immensely so that I could demonstrate the vapidity of blind faith to the G. Sadly, he missed the point of that exercise.

Then there’s the incident with Jesus. Honestly, I wasn’t tempting him. I was trying to talk him out of his plan to have himself nailed to wood and killed. I thought I could persuade him to abandon his plan of “salvation” for a much simpler plan of just forgiving everyone. Think about it: trying to temp the G incarnate with physical items would have been like trying to talk down a suicide bomber.  His statement, ” Get thee behind me Satan” was actually his plea for me to support (get behind) his plan.  We all know how that turned out.

Perhaps you’re wondering why I didn’t relate the true account of the Genesis story of the tree and the serpent. The truth is, it never happened. The evolutionary process took billions of your years. There was no garden, no Adam, no Eve, no tree, and no serpent. The fact is, it’s just another creation myth.

In fact everything I wrote above the last paragraph is untrue. The fact is I was born when the first homo sapiens ascribed agency to an “evil” event. I am not the Father of Evil, I am very much a child of man.

 

 

 

 

Thought Experiment 2

“Through pride we are ever deceiving ourselves. But deep down below the surface of the average conscience a still, small voice says to us, something is out of tune. ”

― C.G. Jung

For the sake of this post I’m using my authorial power to grant (for sake of discussion) the existence of God. God created the universe ex nihilo and used directed evolution to produce the huge variety and abundance of life here on Earth.

“Wow”, you may say, “that’s a huge concession for an atheist to make. What’s the payoff?”

Patience, my friends.

The dinosaurs were the dominant terrestrial life forms on this planet for ~135 million years. Humans have been in existence for around 200 thousand years. That’s roughly 0.15% of the time that the entire dinosaur clade was dominant. We’re newcomers to this planet in geological time, which coincidentally is also God time. To wait over 13 billion years for a creature that is capable of knowing you exist shows almost infinite patience.

Now the typical theist believes that man is the end point of the entire 13.7 billion years of the universe’s existence and 3 billion years of evolution of life on Earth. The creationist believes that the conditions of life on Earth are pretty much as they were at creation (with the exception of all the extinct creatures killed by the great flood.) They have to believe as they do, because without that belief, the possibility described in the next sentence, is real.

Why would we assume that a patient creator god has humans as its end goal?

The theists will tell you that the holy text of their particular brand of theism says that man is special; that the creator god wants a “relationship” with humans. Some even say the creator god wants our fealty, submission, and worship.
God didn’t seem to want worshipers for over 13 billion years, but now it does?

What if the contradictory holy texts are simply man made?

What if humans are no more important to God’s goal than the dinosaurs were?

What if we’re not as special as we like to think?

What if humans have to go the way of the dodo for God’s actual goal of evolution to arise?

Obviously I don’t believe any of the above post with respect to God is true, but the theist must actively deny these thoughts as part of their daily cognitive dissonance dance.

Some of these thoughts occurred to me on my path from theist to agnostic to atheist. My hope is that someone else will read and it may give them extra fuel to put down their childhood belief system and embrace reality.

Get some time.

Thought Experiment 1

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke 

Let’s imagine:

A very powerful being in another part of the multiverse. This being is a physical being with supremely advanced technology. Among the proposed technological capabilities of this being are : Tuning and creating new universes in the multiverse, remote (distant) genetic manipulation with precision, cloaking itself from being detected, FTL travel, weather and climate manipulation, highly accurate predictions of future outcomes ( using a computer for example), time dilation or manipulation of some sort,  manipulation of matter and energy on a colossal scale, and possibly others not yet enumerated.

This being (let’s give it a name for easy reference…how about Zoe?) Zoe decides to tune and create a universe with a goal. Part of Zoe’s goal is to make the new universe capable of sustaining life. Zoe creates the universe, and waits until a suitable solar system arises. Perhaps Zoe even has a hand in directing the formation of the proper solar system and target planet. Zoe arranges the proper conditions for abiogenesis to occur on this planet.

Zoe watches and directs the progress of the life forms on this planet, shaping the path of the life forms with geography, climate, and the occasional mass extinction. Eventually, an intelligent species arises and is cultivated, directed towards some Zoeian goal. Zoe can even structure the social framework of the intelligent creatures by a number of means.

You may think that I’m describing the Earth and humans, but that is where I insert the inevitable twist ending. You see, the planet I’m describing is in a nearby galaxy, or a distant galaxy, or on the other side of the Milky Way. It’s the alien species that Zoe has created this universe for. Perhaps Zoe is trying to create a species that will eventually duplicate its own feat, who knows? Zoe works in mysterious ways.

My argument is this: to that alien species, Zoe is another word for God. In fact, Zoe could even be called God on this planet, if we knew of Zoe’s existence.

Here’s the thing that really interests me about this thought experiment: suppose further that life on earth and humanity has evolved entirely without any intervention from Zoe. We are just an accident of Zoe’s tuned universe. Zoe may not even be aware of our existence. Let’s examine two scenarios.

Scenario 1: Zoe is unaware of our existence.

Human evolution and society have arisen through natural means, exactly as the atheist proposes, even though the atheist is properly wrong about the existence of a god, er rather a Zoe. True that though Zoe is not in actuality a “spiritual” being, to the alien species Zoe might appear that way. Zoe can be perfectly cloaked, can hear their supplications and respond. Zoe can appear to walk among them (indeed perhaps it has done so in their past to establish what Zoe/God looks like) and disappear back to pure spirit, from their perspective.

The “supernatural” component of our definition for God is actually met by substitution using Clarke’s axiom at the top of this post.

The atheist and the theist are both right from some perspective. While individual religions are wrong in their precise beliefs about Zoe, Zoe actually exists.

Scenario 2: Zoe is aware of humanity.

In this argument I say Zoe has no moral obligation to humans. Zoe is not an omni-being. By that I mean the Zoe does not possess the typical attributes of God assumed by many apologists. Omniscience, omnipotence, omnibenevolence, omnipresence etc. Zoe is just another being. Humans have no part in the Zoe plan.

Let’s further assume that Zoe has a prediction that at some point in the future, humans will interact with the alien species in a way that hinders Zoe’s plans for that species. To prevent that interaction, Zoe causes disasters or wars here on Earth to distract the humans from space exploration. Perhaps Zoe even plants the seeds of religion here knowing that it will retard humanity in the sciences for at least 1,000 years. In other words, to humans Zoe is more of a “devil”.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little thought experiment, one in which atheist and theist (or at the very least deists) are largely correct. Comments and criticisms are welcome.

I, for one, welcome our Zoe overlord.

What kind of atheist are you?

I recently revisited the strong atheism/”lack of belief” atheism question in some conversations on twitter. I wanted to put some of my thoughts down “on paper” (does anyone write on paper anymore?).

I am an atheist. I don’t believe that any of the deities that I’ve ever heard of or read about exist. Could there possibly be a deity that does? Well, I suppose that depends on how one defines ‘deity’, doesn’t it.

God (or god) as defined in definitions 1 or 2 cannot exist in my opinion. This makes being an atheist somewhat of a tautology: “I don’t believe in the existence of things which cannot exist”.

However there could exist entities, real physical beings, which could seem to be gods to us humans. Anyone familiar with the Star Trek franchise will undoubtedly remember the entity “Q”, from ST:TNG.

If such an entity with apparent omnipotence were to demonstrate its abilities to humans, would it be considered a “god”? Even as recently as 100 years ago, the answer to that question would likely be: yes. It would meet almost anyone’s expectations of a god: seemingly unlimited power from just its own will, extraordinary knowledge of the universe, and an ability to be corporeal or not.

In another example from Star Trek (yes I’m a geek, sue me) the “god” Apollo was discovered by Kirk on an far away planet. The entity in that episode was not a god as defined in definitions 1 or 2 in the previous link, but was called a god by the ancients. Indeed, such a creature would seem to earlier man as exactly what a god would be. Remember from mythology that the Greeks didn’t consider their gods omnipotent, or omniscient. Indeed, their gods were capable of being fooled or deceived and thwarted in their goals.

So, I believe it is possible for beings to exist that humans would have classified (or still might) as gods. If the multiverse theories of reality are true, it is possible that some extra-universal being caused the formation of our universe. Such a feat may have even been intended. That being would then have to be called the “creator of the universe”. While such a title or feat is not mentioned in the definition provided, it is still something that many people today claim as one of the ‘properties’ of God.

So instead of saying I don’t believe any gods exist, I say I don’t believe any of the gods that have been proposed to me so far exist. In fact the definition of God as an omnipotent, omniscient, hyper-eternal, omnipresent, omnibenevolent, intangible being is one that I believe cannot exist.

It seems odd to me that the more fallible gods of antiquity are the ones that are logically possible; and the more recent formulations of God are entirely implausible, if not impossible.

Comments welcome and ‘Get some time’.

 

Of Golf and Science

I have no personal experience with golf. I want to state that at the outset.

I have family members and friends who are avid golfers. The amount of energy and time they devote to their hobby rivals that of hardcore gamers. They’re constantly talking about the latest “breakthrough” products, be they clubs, club faces, balls, or even tees. They get magazine subscriptions that rate every new product, method, and grip; all in an effort to improve their game.

There has been a lot of internet hoopla surrounding the Dr. V and her “magical” putter story and the suicide of the mysterious “Dr. V”. The social justice warriors are up in arms over the supposed causal effect of the story’s release to her suicide. Since no note was left, the direct cause of Dr. V’s suicide may never be known. It’s entirely possible it was exclusively because she was going to be “outed” as a person who was born biologically male. It’s also possible that the suicide was directly related to the fraudulent claims of degrees held and familial ties made by Dr. V being revealed.

I’m not a physicist. I’m not an aerospace engineer. I have taken several physics courses though and I do have functional eyes. The function of a putter in golf is fairly basic. It is an instrument to transfer kinetic energy from the player to to golf ball. Practically any object long enough to reach the ground can accomplish that function. Almost all putters in golf have a flat striking surface which helps to have a more controlled direction of travel for the ball.

Some of the latest and newest putters also have most of the mass of the putter head behind the striking surface.

Some also have the mass behind the face of the putter connected at the poles of the club head.

Some have all of the above features plus the head of the putter is designed to allow the player to remove the ball from the cup without bending over.

Take a look through some of the sleek and interesting designs of various putters here.

Now, let’s take a look at the putter designed by (as far as we know) an auto mechanic who claimed to be an aerospace engineer.

Is it any better than some of the other ones seen above? I don’t know. I can say that several of the putters above have similar characteristics (mass behind face, connection at the poles, ball removal) as the Dr. V “Yar” putter and just to my untrained eye a lot of them look better than the Yar, too.

Let’s see how the Yar putter was promoted:

Yay science.

 

Quick edit. Damion has pointed out that I neglected the “near zero moment of inertia” claim for the putter. If that were true, the putter would have near zero resistance to twisting along its axis (where the shaft attaches). See this video for a demonstration.