Wednesday, November 30, 2016
But therein lies my problem. I consider myself a liberal by and large but I disagree with my fellow liberals on several key issues that sometimes become debating points with them. For example, I think European countries should limit their immigration from Muslim majority countries because there are problems with assimilation, radicalization, unemployment, and in some cases, problems with crime. My liberal friend's jaws drop when I say this. They can't believe that I, a self-professed liberal, could ever utter such a thing. I'll give you another example. I think African-American culture contributes to the problems in the African-American community and that it isn't just systemic racism and poverty. Again, when I say this around my liberal friends they can't believe I could say such a thing and they always feel compelled to push back and debate me on it.
A handful of times I've been accused by people of not being a liberal, and instead being a conservative! Oh my! Me? A conservative? How could this be? That's one of the dirtiest words you could call a liberal. I think it's preposterous that I would be considered a conservative. I'm liberal on almost every issue - but I'm not a liberal fundamentalist. I don't take the extreme left position on every issue, and I detest being pressured by the far left to jump on over to their side, while at the same time I can understand that urge. This is exactly where the political labels like "liberal" fail.
So what can we do? Do we create a variety of new terms to describe the growing political micro-genres? What do we call Second Amendment loving liberals? Or pro-choice liberals? Another reason I despise the labeling is because once you call yourself a "liberal" in a conversation you're going to be assumed by your interlocutor to hold every position liberals typically believe, and I hate that. When I'm talking to conservatives and I identify myself as a liberal I often have to clarify that I disagree with liberals on certain issues — like Islam and terrorism — because liberals have a reputation of thinking Islam has nothing to do with terrorism (an absurd idea). And so more recently when I'm asked to identify my political affiliation, in order to try and avoid the assumptions I've been calling myself a "left-leaning independent populist," or that I'm "mostly liberal, but disagree with liberals on certain things." But it isn't as convenient as having a single word represent you.
So as it stands I lack a definitive label that I feel identifies me properly in the political sense and I'm not motivated to try and create the right term. Unlike with the term "atheist" — a label I proudly wear because I know it identifies me and I know how to defend it — the term "liberal" is increasingly becoming something I identify less with, not because I'm becoming a conservative, but because the term is too restrictive.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll from last summer showed that Trump supporters had the highest rates of negative views towards black people. While not surprising, one thing to note is that since people tend to be embarrassed to report views that are considered unpopular to others conducting a poll, it could be the case that these numbers are underrepresented - just like with how analysis of election polls suggests people were embarrassed to support Trump in surveys.
Monday, November 28, 2016
Saturday, November 26, 2016
We need to talk about some of the problems we have.
I think it's more important now than ever that we figure out and address the problems within much of liberal thinking today. I say this because if we don't it could be the downfall of liberalism that enables people on the Right to continue having their political and social victories. And we don't want that. So we have to get real with one another and talk among ourselves about the problems within liberalism and the way liberals behave, because there are plenty. And don't you try and deny that there are problems in liberal thought today. Thinking like that is exactly part of the problem. You must first acknowledge that there are problems with how liberals think and behave, and force yourself to be open minded. OK. So how do we do this? Well, I don't pretend to have all the answers, but here are some important things we can do to correct what I see as an influx of too many irrational ideas and behaviors threatening the progress of liberalism.
Know that there is a difference between liberals and liberalism. Liberals are people who in one way, shape, or form, have liberal views on various issues. The way they behave in relation to their views can take on a variety of forms, from informed and respectful to down right nasty and fascistic. Liberalism is the general philosophy of liberal views that liberal people hold, and it too comes in a spectrum that can take on a variety of forms. As such, "liberalism" acts more like an umbrella term that can cover many ideas some liberals will disagree with. So when listening to the criticism of the Left, keep that in mind. You can maintain your liberalism while disagreeing with the tactics used by some liberals and with ideas that exist under the umbrella of "liberalism." We don't all have to always agree. So don't feel the need to always defend everything liberals do and every idea liberals have when a conservative is criticizing them.
We need to divorce ourselves from identity politics. When we focus too much on gender, race, sexuality, and other identifying labels, we tend to alienate those that are outside those labels while implying that everyone inside the label thinks alike. I've heard many liberals aghast at how Trump could win 30 percent of the Latino vote given his stance on immigration and what he said about Mexicans. But I like to kindly remind them that Latinos are not a monolith. I know several Latinos who are OK with a border wall and are OK with deporting at least the criminal illegal aliens. And liberals are also too obsessed with the idea of merely having a woman president. Yes, I'd love to have a female president, but it has to be the right female president. It can't just be any woman. Hillary was a terribly flawed candidate but many too many liberals overlooked this and were drawn to her primarily because she could make history as the first female US president. But that didn't work because not everyone is obsessed with merely getting a female president. And when she lost I heard many liberals blaming sexism as the main reason (or the only reason) why she lost — as if her hypocrisy and scandals meant nothing and it was only her gender that caused her to lose. This is the kind of close mindedness that results when you give into identity politics and all you see is a person's gender. Stop thinking people vote based on their gender or race or sexual identity and focus on the issues that transcend these labels.
People who think different from you should be allowed to speak openly. I agree with some of the criticisms of the Left that many liberals are increasingly becoming authoritarian in their tactics such that unless you agree with them and hold the most liberal positions on every issue, you are denied the right to speak and organize, especially on university campuses, and are labeled a bigot, a racist, a sexist, or a xenophobe. Respect the freedom of speech you claim to support. We liberals need to respect diversity of opinion, in additional to racial and gender diversity. Liberals need to begin actually engaging people with opposing views and debate them with reasoned arguments, not try to prevent them from speaking. The Left is giving up on intellectual argument because they feel they've won the culture war and don't have to debate anymore. Bad ideas will inevitably develop and will flourish under a system where free and open criticism is shunned, and that's exactly what the Left is allowing more and more.
Friday, November 25, 2016
over 2 million votes and counting. Second, this election was not about the traditional social issues like same sex marriage and abortion. It was about jobs, trade, and immigration. Now yes, while it's true that building the border wall and deporting illegal immigrants is a strong conservative view, immigration is not a typical social issue in the same way that same sex marriage and abortion is.
So as a socially progressive liberal, Trump's election didn't really phase me. The American people are not turning the clock back on decades of social progress and going back to the close minded views of the past. More Americans will be moving towards liberal views on same sex marriage, abortion, marijuana legalization, and more Americans are will be becoming increasingly secular in the coming years. Our attitudes on political correctness, long associated with liberals, will probably have to be reconsidered in light of Trump's win, but that's something I personally support.
It is true that legally speaking, many policies and laws can regress back to past decades. It is possible that a Supreme Court packed with conservative justices can roll back certain progressive decisions that might effect us for decades. And that's scary. We might see creationism back in the schools, the 10 commandments back on public court houses, and Roe v Wade struck down. So there will be no doubt many epic legal challenges over the next 4 years due to Trump's win and my friends and I are already talking strategy about what we may need to do. This is a time for action. Let's hope Trump's win unites atheists, secularists, and liberals like never before. It's time now to set aside minor disagreements and to focus on the big battles up ahead.
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
It seems that many YouTube atheists have moved away from criticizing and debunking religion to talking about feminism, political correctness, and other things that are dividing the atheist community. Criticizing religion is feeling more and more now like beating a dead horse. Religion has lost the debate. It's over. Atheism won. I've been increasingly feeling this myself. And although I'm not completely done beating the horse of religion (I don't think it's dead, yet) I do feel the strong urge to pivot towards politics and social issues more.
With the election of Donald Trump two weeks ago, the time to be political is more urgent now than ever. What's a Trump presidency going to mean for secularism? What's it going to mean for the future of science education? What's it going to mean for progressive values? For race relations? For the atheist community? These are currently all open questions. But Mike Pence's history of evolution and climate change denialism, along with Trump's the appointment of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, who was once rejected as a federal judge in 1986 for being too racist, the future is not looking good.
I'm particularly concerned about Trump's conflict of interests. His business holdings and properties around the world can directly conflict with his presidential duties. There have already been reports that he allegedly asked the president of Argentina for a favor on a project he has in the country. Trump is renting the Old Post Office in Washington DC from the government via the General Services Administration and has turned it into a hotel and once he becomes president he will get to appoint the administrator in charge of the GSA. He's already suing DC to lower his tax rate. Trump can use that hotel as well as his other properties to curry favor from leaders and diplomats alike. And since Trump is apparently not putting his assets in a blind trust, but is instead having his kids - who he'll be able to communicate with regularly, run the Trump Organization, it's certain Trump will use the office of the presidency to enrich his personal wealth.
There are actually a few things I agree with Trump about. I am for a strong border, and I am ok with deporting criminal illegal aliens. But I do not think we should deport all of the illegal immigrants who have behaved themselves while in the US. I think they should be allowed to get permanent legal status, but not citizenship. If they want to become citizens, they must return to their homelands and apply like everyone else. I am for a vetting process that seeks to determine whether potential immigrants or people we grant visas to are sympathetic to Sharia law. I do think that we should consider limiting immigration from countries with cultures where it might be more difficult for immigrants from there to adapt to American culture, but I'm against banning all Muslims.
I do support pulling out of the TPP negotiations, as Trump announced earlier this week. And I do support renegotiating NAFTA. In fact, most, if not all of our trade deals need to be renegotiated to favor American workers. I do generally think PC culture has gone too far but I'm not in favor of going back to the racism and sexism of the 1950s and 60s.
Trump is a bit vague on other issues. He was pro-choice his whole life until he started running for president. I don't know how sincere he is on his pro-life stance but I'm for keeping Roe V Wade exactly where it is. So I disagree with Trump on that. I do know Mike Pence is vehemently pro-life, and he's really the one I fear most. On same sex marriage Trump said the issue was "settled" and seemed to indicate that this decision was not something he planned on changing. I think Trump is personally not against same sex marriage, but again, I fear what Pence might try to do. He's actually tried to jail same sex couples who try to get married in his state of Indiana when he was governor.
I'm definitely against Trump's views on climate change. I think Trump doesn't actually believe it's a Chinese hoax but I think he's still going to try and push fossil fuels very strongly. I'm definitely against his plan to pull out of the Iran deal, but I think his stance against this was all talk. I've been told by a few fellow liberals that Trump getting elected has allowed us to avoid World War 3 with Russia over Syria. I have no idea if that's accurate.
Basically, politics is too important now. Debates over religion are interesting, but the real work and debates need to be about politics. The political threat from the Religious Right just became much more potent with Trump's election, and we are going to need to keep a watchful eye on them. On top of that, our nation is more divided now than ever. How do we get people out of the echo chamber? How do we get information and facts to people in a post-truth world? How do we resolve our differences and bridge the divide? What are the rational solutions to our nation's problems? These all need answers and to do that it takes attention. So I'm still going to write about debunking religion, but that is going to be shared with more political issues.
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
Saturday, November 19, 2016
Whatever position you have on man made climate change — even if you think it's a Chinese hoax —you'd think that a rational person would agree that we should treat the planet with respect. We shouldn't dump toxic chemicals in the waters, we shouldn't destroy ecosystems beyond repair. We should respect and preserve habitats. It's juvenile to think we can pollute as much as we want without consequence, regardless of your views on climate change.
I think man made climate change is real and the evidence shows it. And I recently did the single biggest thing you can do to stop man made climate change if you care about it: I stopped eating meat. But I know there are many people who care about the environment who just aren't willing to do much about it and who say that the taste of meat is just too good to give up. I was like that for a long time. It's just too hard for many of us to sacrifice something we enjoy and actually do anything for the betterment of our planet.
Consider this analogy. Imagine if I was passionate about preventing rape, but I didn't want to do anything about it. I never spoke out or argued against it. And if a friend of mine told me he thinks it's OK to sexually assault or rape women I never try to convince him that way of thinking is wrong. Instead I do absolutely nothing to change my lifestyle to affect the problem of rape. Would that make any sense? No, it wouldn't. But for those who are passionate about preventing climate change and do not stop eating meat, it makes just as much sense.
As I sometimes say, being against man made climate change while being a meat eater is like being against date rape and being Bill Cosby. Watch the NatGeo documentary Before the Flood on YouTube which goes into the effects eating meat has on the environment. It argues that you should at the very least cut out beef from you diet and switch to chicken, as chicken production's carbon foot print is much smaller than beef's.
This is an excellent introductory video on the human brain and how it functions. What's fascinating is how images we see are physically superimposed on the brain as a reflection. I had no idea that occurred. Neuroscience will slowly unravel the mysteries of the brain, revealing just how our thoughts are encoded in its tissues, and hopefully that will illuminate the nature of consciousness.
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
It was the unthinkable. His candidacy was the butt of many jokes. No one took him seriously at first except for a handful of people. And then his popularity soared to number one, and he began winning primary after primary, but they said he would never win the nomination. And then he won the Republican nomination. And then they said he would never win the presidency.
And now he has just won that.
The critics had been wrong over and over again this election. Including me of course, but I was just going by the projections, and they failed miserably. This is a year when the things that they said couldn't happen, happened. And so early next year we will have President Trump in the White House. It doesn't sound right. It is only now, a full day after he won, just starting to sink in.
So now what? First, how did this happen? In short, the Democratic establishment pushed a corporate friendly centrist who took large amounts of money from banks, who praised free trade like NAFTA and the TPP, and who chose another corporate friendly centrist who loved the TPP as her running mate. Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine were the epitomes of the establishment wing in the Democratic Party who lost touch with working class voters. And so in those critical rust belt states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, Donald Trump's promises to renegotiate NAFTA, pull out of the TPP negotiations, close the border and bring manufacturing jobs back into the US appealed to voters in a way that Hillary Clinton couldn't. And so working class white voters — hundreds of thousands of them who voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012, took a gamble and voted for Trump this time. And that was enough for him to carry those states. That defeated Hillary.
That's the main reason why Hillary lost. The Democrats became too detached with working class voters, particularly white ones, while Trump appealed to them with his promises. This is why I think Bernie Sanders should have been the Democratic nominee. He appealed to white working class voters more than Clinton and he would have likely won those four critical battle ground states in the general election.
Second, I don't know what this means for secular liberal atheists like myself. Certainly it means we're going to have challenges that we wouldn't have had under Clinton. Mike Pence is a super religious conservative who seems hell bent to push through his conservative religious ideology into law. And with Republicans controlling the House and the Senate, and with Trump appointing at least one conservative Supreme Court Justice, things will be tough. I also fear the death of intellectualism in politics, where having a detailed understanding of policy gives way to cult of personality and simple minded catch phrases, and that this becomes the winning formula from now on. That scares me deeply.
We will have to see what happens. Get ready for the greatest reality show on earth.
Sunday, November 6, 2016
This Tuesday is election day and I find myself for the first time in a troubled situation. There is no one on the ballot that I really support. Unlike in 2008 and 2012 where I was a pretty strong Obama supporter, this year there isn't anyone I'm enthusiastic about.
Obviously this election is different than most years because of Donald Trump. It's the first time we have a major party candidate who has no political experience I think since George Washington. He's rambunctious, foul-mouthed, unconventional, and a little crazy — to say the least. Trump becoming president is terrifying on so many levels. He lies through his teeth so blatantly and with such utter disregard for truth that he's taken the concept of the "lying politician" to a new level. Indeed, his brain seems to be impervious to facts. He's proposing filling the Supreme Court with Scalia clones, which if another justice dies in the next four years will tip the court conservative enough to reverse Roe v Wage and Obergefell v. Hodges, effectively turning abortion and same-sex marriage back to the states. Trump has no serious knowledge of the way government works, or the world, and he as all but the most simplistic understanding of the political issues our next president is going to have to deal with. He's a wild card, unpredictable, capable of undermining our democracy and stability, and his VP pick Mike Pence is one of the most conservative members of the Religious Right in the nation.
If Trump is going to win he has a narrow margin in the electoral college. Here's a possible winning scenario for him. Trump would have to win Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Michigan. If not Michigan, he'd have to win Pennsylvania. He also has to win Iowa. Or if he loses Iowa, he has to win New Hampshire and all the typically Republican states. Hillary Clinton just has to win just two of those states and Trump's done. The electoral college heavily favors democrats.
Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com
Saturday, November 5, 2016
Across the secular web there has been an uproar over the Southern Poverty Law Center's recent decision to add Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali to their list of "Anti-Muslim Extremists." Now I've followed both of them for years and read their work, listened to their speeches and lectures, and I know for a fact that neither of them are anti-Muslim extremists.
But because Maajid is occasionally critical of Islam, Islamic history, and what Muslims have done in the name of Islam (and in many cases still do today), he's been branded by some on the left as anti-Muslim, despite being a Muslim himself. And so they've written critical pieces against him in left-wing syndications that exaggerate or outright lie about his deeds and intentions, and the SPLC picked up on that and branded him an anti-Muslim extremist without clear justification.
Regressive leftists like CJ Werleman have called Maajid a "House Muslim" because he's willing to take the "extreme" position that there is a link between Islamic beliefs and terrorism and because he challenges Islamists and engages with atheists. Instead, "true Muslims" according to regressives must be the kind that deny theology can have any influence whatsoever on anyone's actions — unless they're good of course. And "true Muslims" must be the kind that blame Western foreign policy for all the problems in the Islamic world and who deny groups like ISIS have anything to do with Islam.
So watch the video above. Tell me this isn't the work of a true Muslim reformer who's trying to find the difficult path on getting Islam updated for the 21st century — which all liberals should realize is desperately needed. The SPLC made a bad decision, and there is a petition on change.org to get both Maajid and Ayaan removed. I urge all of you to sign it and share it on Facebook.
Wednesday, November 2, 2016
If you're a naturalist like myself you have most likely come to the conclusion that the existence of the universe (or multiverse, if there's more than one universe) is a brute fact. A brute fact is a fact that has no explanation in principle. It's a fact that cannot have an explanation. There are many facts that do not have explanations, but can in principle. These are not technically brute facts, but are just unexplained facts. They can be explained, at least in principle, and many of them will be explained eventually. There is another category of unexplained facts that can be explained in principle, but not in practice. For example, a fact for which all the evidence proving it is destroyed might leave us no possible way to explain it, even though it would be in principle explainable if we just had access to the evidence. These are what you can call epistemic brute facts.
So we have three categories of facts here defined as such: (1) a brute fact: a fact that has no explanation in principle, (2) an epistemic brute fact: a fact that cannot be explained in practice but can in principle, and (3) an unexplained fact: a fact that can be explained both in principle and in practice but simply isn't. In addition to this there are three positions one can take on brute facts: (1) brute facts are impossible, (2) brute facts are possible but they don't exist, or (3) brute facts exist.
Now many theists argue that not only do brute facts not exist, they are in fact impossible. That is, they entail some sort of contradiction that prevents their existence. Many theists will also often try to argue that their worldview has no brute facts, and not only that, they can logically explain their worldview in terms of necessity. This is usually done by some sort of argument that attempts to conclude their god's necessary existence, along with the tacit assumption of the principle of sufficient reason (PSR), which says that for every fact, there is a reason for its existence. Needless to say, the PSR and brute facts are not compatible.
What is an explanation is also important. An explanation is generally defined as a statement or account that makes something clear. It makes something understandable, intelligible. For example, the explanation of the existence of the human species is that we evolved over millions of years from another species of hominids. Explanations tell us the how and why a thing came to be, or exists at all. It is to me an open question whether or not all explanations are causal explanations. In other words, when we say X explains Y, are we always just saying X causes Y? Now I have written that causality exists differently from how it is commonly understood, but on my definition things are still explained in the traditional cause and effect notion. You just have to understand these relationships a bit different.
In this post I'm going to challenge several often heard claims about brute facts. One, that brute facts are logically impossible, and two, that believing in a god allows you avoid brute facts, by arguing that not only are brute facts possible, they are indeed unavoidable.