Sunday, March 18, 2018

Stephen Hawking On Star Talk

As we all bid farewell to the passing of physicist Stephen Hawking, the most famous scientist of his generation, we can appreciate his humor as well as his intellect. Here he was on a recent episode of Star Talk with Neil deGrasse Tyson, demonstrating a bit of that. Interestingly, he died on Pi day (3.14), also Einstein's birthday, and was born exactly 300 years after the death of Galileo (Jan 8, 1942), often considered the father of modern astronomy. A life started and ended by mathematical coincidences indeed. What a universe!

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Problems Of Free Will As Explained In Waking Life

Back in 2001 a fantastic movie came out called Waking Life that explored numerous philosophical issues in a way few movies have done before or since. It was also distinct in that it used a technique called rotoscoping, where animations are drawn over live action video. I first saw the movie almost ten years ago and loved it. At the time, I hadn't done any serious research into the free will topic, but since then I've studied it intensely. And given all my current knowledge on the topic (which I think is very extensive), I can say that the part on free will is very good at quickly summarizing two of the known problems inherent in free will belief that many casual thinkers overlook.

Check it out, and watch the full movie if you can. If you're a philosophy lover, you will enjoy it.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Abortion And Anti-Natalism Part 1: Anti-Natalism Analyzed

It recently occurred to me that I've never made a formal argument for abortion on my blog, although I've certainly touched on the topic in various posts. I've been inspired to write about abortion because of my recent interest in the idea of anti-natalism. So I plan on spending two blog posts writing my thoughts about each topic, culminating in an argument for the ethics of abortion.

Anti-natalism is the view that not procreating is preferable to procreating because life necessarily involves some degree of suffering and there is an asymmetric relationship between suffering and pleasure such that the experience of suffering outweighs the experience of pleasure. So for example, on that latter part, imagine you were offered a week long vacation to anywhere in the world where you can do anything you wanted and all expenses would be paid for you making it totally free. But, in order to get the free vacation, you must submit to a certain amount of physical torture first. This physical torture would involve massive amounts of pain but not include any life lasting physical defects, like broken bones, scars, etc. Just pain. You also get to negotiate how long the torture will be, with the ability to bargain it down. The bargaining starts at 1 week in length, the same length as the vacation. The question is: what would be the longest amount of time you'd be willing to be tortured for a week long all-expenses paid vacation in paradise? Would you be willing to be tortured for a week? A day? An hour? A minute? A second? None at all? Chances are the maximum amount of time of torture you'd be willing to endure is not equal to the amount of time of pleasure you'd get on the vacation. In other words, if you were forced to endure an equal duration of torture to the pleasure of the vacation, you would likely not agree to the deal.

And that's because you recognize that there's an asymmetry between pain and pleasure. 1 minute at the spa getting pampered is not equal to 1 minute of torture. Now what exactly that ratio is between pain and pleasure is perhaps subjective, but virtually all of us recognize that there is an asymmetry, and we factor that into our calculations for ourselves and our loved ones when we make a cost-benefit analysis of difficult ethical conundrums.

And therein lies the basic argument for anti-natalism:

  1. Suffering is guaranteed in every human life. 
  2. Because there is an asymmetry between suffering and pleasure, such that the impact of suffering far outweighs pleasure, 
  3. In the moral calculus to have a child the heavier weight of the potential suffering overrides the weight of potential pleasure.
  4. And thus, it is better to not have a child than to have one.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Video I Made Last Year On The Pro-Truth Pledge

This is a video I made last year for my friend John Kirbow on him taking the pro-truth pledge. I made several videos like this, most of them were for The Atheist Conference that is now dead. But some of that footage is still usable, and I will find a way to repurpose it. For now, check it out. I plan on creating a YouTube channel (or several) to make videos like this in the future.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Economist Mark Blyth On New Economic Normals

For the past year or so I've been listening to economist Mark Blyth break down the rather complex and esoteric field of economics. Despite his thick Scottish accent, he's a skilled communicator at making it somewhat digestible. He's particularly good at criticizing the ineffectiveness of right wing ideas like austerity and showing the problems that come as a result of middle class wage stagnation for 40 years. This is a recent talk of his at the Global Financial Markets Forum on those topics.

Follow him on Twitter here: @MkBlyth

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Secular Humanism: What Is It, And Can It Replace Religion?

There are numerous ideas in modern social justice philosophy and tactics used to achieve its goals that are counterproductive and that are fueling a resurgence and interest in the political Right. Many people on the Left are completely unaware of this because they live firmly surrounded by the ideological bubble cocooning them from any views they might disagree with.

And so in the sea of alternatives to traditional religion, a large segment of the Left has turned to social justice in a way that resembles all the hallmarks of a traditional religion, just without the deity. This alarms many, including me, which is why in my last post I argued why we have no better alternative but to double down in our efforts to replace traditional religion with something like secular humanism. But this won't be easy, and secular humanism is fraught with problems if it is to replace religion. And that's what I'm going to explore in this post.

What is secular humanism?

First, what is secular humanism? The name gets used a lot by atheists, but what does it mean? While there are numerous definitions, I'll focus on two. From, it's a "comprehensive, nonreligious lifestance incorporating:
  • A naturalistic philosophy
  • A cosmic outlook rooted in science
  • A consequentialist ethical system"
So secular humanism commits one to a basic consequentialist ethics, according to the Council for Secular Humanism. According to Wikipedia, secular humanism is a "philosophy or life stance that embraces human reason, ethics, social justice, and philosophical naturalism while specifically rejecting religious dogma, supernaturalism, pseudoscience, and superstition as the bases of morality and decision making."

The international symbol
of secular humanism
So let's examine the definitions above. First, secular humanism is naturalistic, meaning, it's atheistic. And that means it can't be religious in any traditional way. So far so good. Second, it's rooted in science, meaning, it's a worldview with an epistemological framework "relying on methods demonstrated by science." A critic could argue that this is scientism. Scientism is the view that science alone can render truth about the world and reality. The problem with that is it's wrong. There are other ways to know truth besides science, like for example, philosophy. It's not clear from the secular humanist's site that they are saying science is the only way to truth, but it is implied. Science is certainly the most reliable way to know truth about our world, as I've written about in the past, but it isn't the only way. This is a modified view known as weak scientism. Third, strict consequentialism as a normative ethical theory is too restrictive. The best approach to ethics is the tool box approach: a combination of consequentialism, virtue ethics, and deontology. So demanding that secular humanists must abide by consequentialism is a potential problem. It can alienate people, like me, who think there is no single normative ethical framework that works perfectly in all situations.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

What Should Replace Religion In A Post Religious Society?

I just wrote a few blog posts last week about how traditional religious belief is rapidly declining in the US, particularly among the younger generations, and how in its absence "social justice" increasingly has become the new "religion" of the Left, adopting along with it many of the negative attributes one typically associates with traditional religion: dogma, tribalism, group-think, purity.

I am certainly not alone in noticing this, nor am I the only one concerned by it. I see this as a huge problem. The Right has made somewhat of a comeback in recently years with its fresh faced new internet superstars Ben Shapiro, Steven Crowder, Milo Yiannopoulos, Laura Southern, and Paul Joseph Watson, all gaining notoriety riding the growing wave of criticism of the Left's extreme PC culture and identity politics. It's quickly becoming "cool" to riff on the Left's insanity — as well as a good way to make money. Notorious critic of the Regressive Left, Dave Rubin, for example, makes over $30k a month just on Patreon donations.

I'm mostly on the Left politically (even though I'm increasingly weary of labels), but I do have to say, many of these popular critics of the modern day Left do have a point. Their criticism isn't completely unfounded. In the larger picture, it was never just religion simpliciter that was the problem, it was always the kind of thinking endemic in religion that was the main problem: the dogmatic, tribalistic thinking that puts feelings-before-facts. Religion is just a product of that kind of thinking; it's not the cause.

Here is where I will predictably tell you that we need to replace religion with critical thinking, secular humanism, and skepticism. But I'm not sure anymore that this is even possible. I'm very skeptical skepticism will prevail. That's not to say we shouldn't encourage these three things as paramount, it's just to say that achieving them as a replacement for religion may not be feasible because human nature is antithetical to them. (More on that later.) Secular humanism is also too vague an idea to unite us. What is secular humanism? That's a topic I will tackle properly in a future post, but for now, suffice it to say that it's not going to unite people as easily as traditional religion did. Not even close. And yes, I'm aware that religions divide, even from within via competing sects, but I don't see secular humanism even coming close to the unifier that any major religion ever has.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Social Justice: The New Religion Of The Left?

Traditional religious belief is dying, especially among younger generations like millennials (AKA Gen Y) and the new generation below them, Gen Z, as I just blogged about. And the Left in particular is jettisoning traditional religion at a phenomenal pace. Between 2007 and 2014, disbelief in god grew among liberals from 10% to 19%, according to PEW. While this is all music to my ears, a growing concern I share with traditionalists is what is going to replace traditional religious beliefs?

In recent years, it seems that an answer is starting to emerge. Traditional religious belief is being replaced by social justice philosophies as religions. Social justice is in a way becoming the new religion of the Left.

Social justice is a broad term generally referring to "a concept of fair and just relations between the individual and society." Legitimate social justice is perfectly fine and reasonable, but in recent years "social justice" has morphed into a new ideology based on an obsession with exaggerated perceived "victimhood" and "oppression," where getting the right gender pronouns are as important as actual racism. Today the pejorative "social justice warrior" (or SJW for short) refers to the kind of person for whom social justice is important, but who is gravely mistaken as to what real justice and fairness is, and how it pertains to individuals and society.

For example, an SJW will argue for "equality" but then insist that all differences in equality of outcome are due to racism and/or sexism and not other factors. So the fact that there are more men in physics and engineering, or more male CEOs, they will argue is due to cultural or institutional sexism, and not because more men simply like those professions and strive for those positions. They will insist that we have a 50/50 representation of men to women in all fields that women don't already dominate and that "fairness" means equality of outcome. And any challenge of this as an idea, or as a practicality, will get you tarnished as a sexist who's enabling the patriarchy.

And this is when social justice starts to become a new religion: there's an idea of the way the world works and the way it ought to be regardless of the facts, these ideas are held with dogmatic fervor, and anyone challenging them will be ostracized and effectively accused of heresy, which encourages extreme tribalism, group-think, and ideological purity.

Here are some of the dogmas of modern day social justice philosophy:

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Atheism Doubles Among Generation Z - But Are Only 6% of US Adults Atheists?

A new Barna poll has come out recently which reports that Atheism Doubles Among Generation Z from 6% of all US adults to 13%. This is no surprise to many who pay attention to cultural trends as it's well known that religiosity is dropping precipitously.

But I do take issue with the idea that only 6% of US adults are atheists. Technically, the 6% comes from people who identify as atheists, not those are are atheists. That is an important distinction. Many people who are atheists don't identify as atheists for a variety of reasons, and that means the number of people who identify as atheists will always be lower than the number who actually are.

PEW Research's numbers from a few years ago stated that, "Nearly one-in-ten U.S. adults overall (9%) now say they do not believe in God, up from 5% in 2007." But only 3.1% of Americans are "atheists" according to their 2014 Religious Landscape survey. So 3.1% of American adults reported themselves as atheists, but 9% don't believe in god, which would make them atheists. So PEW's own numbers show that there are nearly 3 times as many actual atheists than reported atheists.

As someone who wants the world to be less religious in the future, I'm excited about the results from the new report. But I take issue with the idea that only 6% of US adults are atheists. The real number is much higher, and may be as high as 26%.

I hope that in the not-too-distant future, as millennials become the largest voting block in the US, their higher rates of irreligiosity will change the political landscape to finally once and for all get influence of religion out of American politics. And then, hopefully, we can have real policy debates with facts and evidence without religion ever interfering, like they do in many other first world nations.

But given traditional religion's decline, this brings up the next question: what's going to replace traditional religion? And that will be tackled in my next post.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Religion At Work

The other day I saw this ad on the internet advertising a 1 day conference called "Faith at Work New York" that according to its website is a "dynamic, one-day conference on how we, as Christ-followers, can engage in everyday work as a sacred calling from God Himself, and thereby become agents of grace in workplaces everywhere."

It seems to me like it's trying to teach people to preach the gospel and proselytize at work, and it got me thinking: is it appropriate to proselytize at work?

I would say the answer is no. One should keep their religious beliefs out of the workplace as much as possible. Here's why.

Work is a place you have to be (unless you want to go broke). And most people don't have the luxury of just being able to quit their jobs and go somewhere else. Millions of Americans are a few paychecks away from being homeless, and so work is such a special kind of environment. It's not like a shopping mall, or a street corner that you can leave without severe consequence. Because of this, when people are at work, they shouldn't be subject to religious proselytizing as it could make them uncomfortable with undue pressure to respond a certain way.

This is heightened by the fact that there are many power imbalances at work. Managers have the power to fire workers. What if a manager tried to preach the gospel to a subordinate? The subordinate might feel as if accepting their manager's enticements might get them favors, or worse, rejecting them might get them fired. Just as with workplace relationships, power imbalances at work make religious proselytizing a big complication. Big enough that I think it should be avoided altogether.

Every work environment is different and I have no idea what kinds of tactics will be taught at this conference. I would hope these concerns are taken into account. At my job, religion is almost never talked about, certainly not in a way where it's presumed to be true. My manager is actually a theist, but he's critical of religion, and so whenever it comes up, he's never preachy about it. If I was put under pressure at work to believe Christianity, I don't know how I'd react. The anti-theist in me would lash out and tell my coworkers their religion is nonsense. The accommodationist in me would be more diplomatic. Thankfully, living in the secular metropolis of New York, I've never had that experience. But I know my fellow atheists in the south are not as lucky.

I don't think religion nor atheism should be promoted in the workplace. In other words, there should be a separation between business and religion. Now if your business is religion that's another story. But in general, in most businesses that are merely selling a product of service that has nothing to do with religion, and so religion should be kept out.

I hope that the faithful don't think it's a good idea to bring religion into the workplace as a tactic to increase their numbers. That will likely backfire in our increasingly secular culture. There is no going back to pre-2000s levels of religious belief. That's just not happening Christians, sorry to burst your hopes. And the increased irreligiosity of generation Z ensures that.

Friday, February 16, 2018

How Special Relativity Makes Magnets Work

Length contraction is a fundamental consequence of the fact that we live in a 4 dimensional world in which objects are worldtubes in spacetime that are cut at different angles by the "now slices" of relative observers. Depending on the angle of the slice across the worldtube, it will either be longer or shorter. That means that objects that are moving relative to you will literally be contracted in the direction they're moving in. Now technically, this contraction doesn't come from the objects being "squished" in the sense of being compressed, like what you do with an accordion or a slinky. That would require an additional force and is a misunderstanding of length contraction.

If you've ever wanted a clear example of experimental proof of length contraction you may not have considered, watch this video from the highly popular YouTube channel Veritasium that shows how electric magnets are due to length contraction.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Time And Perception

I'm obsessed with time. In fact, I've been obsessed with time for a very long time.

I'm obsessed with every aspect of time, particularly it's ontology, and whether the future is real (exists) and I've written plenty about that on this blog. But there's another aspect of time I haven't written about so much, and that's the perception of time.

They say that as you get older time seems to pass by faster and faster, and it's definitely true. I'm now in my 30s and I can no doubt experience time flying by in a way that simply didn't happen when I was a kid. Ten years ago was 2008, and I can remember 2008 like it wasn't that long ago. However, back in 2008 ten years before that was 1998, and 1998 seemed like ages ago to me when it was 2008, even though they're the exact same amount of time.

I'm currently a bit obsessed with this kind of perception of the passage of time. Five years when you're a teenager seems like a lifetime, but in your 30s it goes by like nothing. When I was a teen in the late 1990s, the 1980s seems like eons ago, and the music, fashion, and culture seemed so foreign. Now ten years perspective doesn't seem that different. Sure there are no doubt cultural changes from the past 10 years. But someone from 10 years ago if transported to today would not look so out of place. It didn't seem that way in the 90s when compared to the 80s.

Time seems to pass by faster as you get older because when you're older you have less new experiences and your life becomes more monotonous. When you're a kid growing up everything is new. You're constantly learning and having new experiences and your brain is filing these new experiences away in memory at a much faster rate than it does when you're older and have less new experiences. When your brain commits more experiences to memory time seems to move slower. It's just like how before accidents people say they experience time slowing down. This is due to the brain committing more experiences to memory.

So is it inevitable that time will seem to continue moving by faster and faster the older we get? Well not exactly. There are ways we can mitigate this. Having frequent new experiences can make time seem like it's passing slower again. Getting out of the daily lifestyle routines and making changes can help as well. Basically, you want to avoid falling into monotonous routines, which plagues many of us as we get older. Learn something new, go on a trip, discover and explore new things. It will not only make time pass by slower, but it will make life worth living.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Why The Free Will Defense Fails Even If There's Free Will

We hear it over and over again: God let's people commit evil acts because he doesn't want to take away our free will. It's repeated so often and in such a knee jerk fashion that you'd think it was theistic Tourette's syndrome.

The only problem is that it fails as an explanation even if there's free will. And quite easily. Now of course libertarian free will is totally incoherent, but if we assume for the sake of argument that free will is somehow true, the free will defense of moral evil still fails. Here's how.

The original Dr. Evil
Let's take the classic epitome of moral evil: Adolf Hitler. Atheists will commonly raise objections to the theist's claim that god is omnibenevolent by saying, "If God is good and can prevent evil, why didn't God prevent Hitler from committing the Holocaust?" The theist's answer: free will.

Here's 6 reasons how this answer fails:

  • God could have made it so that Hitler got into art school, which could have set his life off on a very different direction, possibly preventing Hitler's rise to political power. Hitler famously got rejected from the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts when he was 18 by failing the entrance exam, ending his dream of being a professional painter. This would not have violated anyone's free will.
  • God could have made Hitler die in World War I where he served as a soldier and was wounded, and that would have prevented his rise to political power, preventing the Holocaust and World War II. Tens of millions died in World War I, many from disease. Hitler would have been just another casualty. This would not have violated anyone's free will.
  • Going back further, god could have given young Hitler cancer as a child. God kills thousands of kids with cancer every year across the world, extinguishing any freedom those kids could have had as adults. Why not have given baby Hitler cancer? Surely none of the kids who do get cancer and die would have committed as much evil as Hitler did. Again, this would not have violated anyone's free will.
  • Going back yet further, god could have given Hitler's dad erectile dysfunction on the night Hitler was conceived, which would have prevented Hitler from being conceived, thus preventing World War II. This would not have violated anyone's free will.
  • Further still, god could have made it so that the sperm cell that would have made Hitler never got to the egg by making other sperm cells get there instead, which would have resulted in a completely different person being conceived and born instead. This would not have violated anyone's free will.
  • And lastly, god could have made it so that the sperm cell that would have created Hitler never got created in the first place. Very simple. And again, none of this would not have violated anyone's free will.

Any one of these possibilities would have prevented Hitler from committing moral atrocities like the Holocaust in a way where no one's free will is ever challenged, and each of them could have easily been done by an omnipotent deity. These type of preventions could similarly be applied to Mao and Stalin, and any other moral monster from history. It's amazing how few people have noticed this. But it's always been quite obvious to me.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Democrats Have Doubled Down In Identity Politics

So I was at a State Of The Union address watching party on Tuesday with a bunch of friends to see what Trump would say. Before his speech a disagreement broke out among the mostly Left-leaning audience about what the Democrats need to do in 2020 to win back the White House.

Several people were explaining to me their theory that the Dems have to run a non-white woman in order to secure the presidency. No white male or even (according to some) a white woman should be the Democratic nominee. Why? Because too many white people have gone on to be the nominee!

The entire time I was pushing back: what if we just focused on getting a really good, smart, and principled candidate who is naturally charismatic regardless of their race and gender? Wouldn't that make more sense than focusing entirely on their race and gender? My ideas weren't popular. A giant portion of Left-leaning people have doubled down and gone full speed into identity politics, and I'm afraid it could be the Left's demise and give Trump a 2nd term.

A really smart, qualified, white male candidate will get no respect from many people on the Left because he's white and male, and not because of anything he's for. The furthest away you are from being a white, heterosexual, cis-gendered male the better. So if you're a woman: check. If you're non-white: check. Gay? Check. Trans? Check. Disabled? Check. This means the perfect candidate for the identity extremist Left would be a black trans-female disabled lesbian. She'd get a certain number of votes merely for meeting every requirement in the non-white male oppression checklist.

I am all for non-white male candidates being president but first and foremost they have to have good positions on the issues. I will take a true progressive like Bernie Sanders despite his white-male-hetero-cis-genderedness, over the neo-liberalism of Hillary Clinton or Cory Booker. What matters to me is always competency and principles, not whether or not you pee sitting down or don't need sun screen lotion.

It seems unlikely that large numbers of liberals will discontinue thinking that the most important aspect of a presidential candidate is their race, gender, and sexuality, and not their views. Since the election of Trump it seems to be only getting worse. I have strong reservations that this is a winning formula for presidential success, given the large backlash against identity politics. So Trump might be president until 2024.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

A United Atheist Community Is Impossible

It's been nearly a month now since The Atheist Conference collapsed and I've been thinking about the fallout and it's implications for the broader atheist community.

First, I want to clarify a misconception. It seems that many people thought that having Steve Shives at the conference lead to its demise. This is not true. What killed TAC was entirely due to the director's immoral behavior, which lead to many of our major speakers pulling out. Shives had nothing to do with it.

Second, the rift created by having Shives at our conference has lead me to completely abandon any hopes of atheist unity. The atheists community is irreparably divided and this is an inevitable consequence of the individualist atheist mindset. We're not divided over doctrine like the religious are, we're divided over politics and social issues. Since atheism has no doctrine, there's nothing to unite atheists other than disbelief in god. But that's hardly something to be united under. There's no organization or community dedicated to non-basketball players, or non-chess players, nor is there any reason too. It just isn't a thing.

The only thing that unites an atheist community is extreme persecution by the religious, like the kind happening to atheists in Muslim majority countries. But atheists by and large just don't experience that kind of persecution in the West. This is why there is little reason to have a strong organized atheist community in irreligious parts of the world like Denmark or Sweden, or New York or San Francisco. It is only where religion dominates and persecutes the non-religious that atheists feel the motivation to unite, which is why atheist communities in the American South tend to be much stronger than those in the North.

As atheism becomes more and more normalized and the rights of the non-religious become more and more secured, the need for an atheist community becomes less and less. Basically, the goal of the atheist community is to make itself obsolete. Perhaps the efforts of the atheist community for the last 15 years, which saw the rise of the New Atheism cultural movement, has become a victim of its own success. It's become so good at normalizing atheism that the need for it to continue existing at the size it was simply isn't there. And once religion ceases to be the threat that it once was to atheists, other issues will take center stage, and that's exactly what happened.

We were hoping that Trump's election would have a uniting force on the atheist community, and the main goal of TAC was to help facilitate this. But it didn't. The persecution of atheists even under fundamentalists like Mike Pence and Jeff Sessions just isn't bad enough to warrant such a unity. Most atheists across the US saw no difference in their lives once Trump took office. On top of that, the social issues that divide atheists today, like radical feminism and extreme political correctness, only seem to be getting worse by the day, and they have a much greater tangible effect on the live of most atheists in the West than religious fundamentalism does.

I've accepted this reality and I will no longer call for the futile idea of atheist unity. A united atheist community is impossible; that's just the way it is. But I'm definitely not going to stop being an active atheist. With TAC out of the way I can now focus on other projects. I will continue writing on this blog about atheism and related issues. I will continue working with my local atheist community in making more atheist related content, especially video content — something I haven't explored deeply. This will be in the form of documentaries and videos about atheist related subject matters, science, philosophy, and social issues, in both a scripted and unscripted format. I'm also planning on making a documentary about free will this year, something I'm uber excited about. This will necessarily reduce the number of blog posts I can make, so my frequency might be reduced, but there will be videos! Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Rules Of Engagement: Sex And Dating In The 21st Century - Part 2

Continuing on from part 1, I've argued that there is a gray area when it comes to the rape/non-rape and harassment/non-harassment divide because, among other things, the definition of consent is not agreed upon. And there's a series of new problems on our hands given the seemingly new rules surrounding appropriate communication we all must abide by: Women don't want to be harassed. Men don't want to be rejected. But neither do women want men to not ever pursue them, and neither do men want to be harassers (well most of them at least). In light of the recent allegations against Aziz Ansari, this is now more needed than ever.

So, I've decided to write my suggestions on the new rules of engagement: a 21st century conversation on sex, dating, and consent. This is one of the things we absolutely need analytical philosophy for. Sex and dating should be no exception.

I've broken this down into several areas covering day-to-day situations, bars and nightclubs, dating, and sex.

Let's start with day-to-day situations first. I'm defining a day-to-day situation as situations where you're in public, in a restaurant, on the street, on a subway or bus, in a common area in a college, or any place open to the general public, like the kind we frequent on a day to day basis.

A question arises: Is it OK to approach someone in a flirtatious manner or comment on their sexual attractiveness in these day-to-day situations? Consider these scenarios:

  • A guy catcalls a woman passing by on the street by telling her she looks really beautiful and that he would love to get her number. 
  • A guy tells women passing by on a busy street that he thinks they're beautiful. 
  • A guy politely strikes up a conversation with a woman next to him in a bookstore or cafe to talk about a non-controversial subject in a manner that is a bit flirtatious. 

I'm using a guy in all my examples because I want to focus on the main area of controversy, which is in the way men approach and behave with women. There is a kind of woman who would consider all of these situations harassment and a kind of woman who wouldn't. And some women may consider it harassment only at certain times, with certain men. Given that at least some women would find it to be harassment, should men behave according to the feelings of those kinds of women and refrain from such behavior with all women?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Is There A Difference Between Genuine Criticism Of Islam, And Anti-Muslim Bigotry?

I'm a huge fan of Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz, and I think most of the criticisms against him are mislead. When it comes to the complex issues of Islamic extremism, Islamism, and reforming Islam for the 21st century, I really listen to his opinion. He gets it in a way that I think few others do, and it's in no small part because he's lived it. He was part of an organization called Hizb ut-Tahrir in his teens and twenties whose goal it was to spread Islamism around the world, and was later imprisoned in Egypt for 4 years due to his participation with them.

When I met Maajid in New York last September he was telling a group of men about how in the West you have two camps of people who each see Islam through the opposite extreme lens. On the political Right you have extreme Islamophobia — people who think all Muslims are terrorists who hate freedom and want to force everyone to live under Sharia law. And on the political Left you Islamophilia — the exact opposite of Islamophobia, where you have people who act as if there isn't a single genuine issue or problem with Islam itself, or with the behavior of Muslims, and who blame the West for every problem within Islamic countries or among Muslim peoples.

And so I think one of the most difficult questions for most people to answer, and one that is especially difficult for liberals to answer, is: Is there a difference between genuine criticism of Islam, and anti-Muslim bigotry? I asked this publicly in my panel at the Left Forum last year.

Because so many people, especially liberals, don't know the difference, they conflate the two, and often end up calling anyone who has genuine criticisms of Islam a bigot, an Islamophobe, a racist — or worse, a Nazi.

So what I want to do here is outline a primer on some of the differences between genuine criticism of Islam and anti Muslim bigotry to hopefully teach people the difference.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Causality Doesn't Exist — In The Way We Typically Think It Does: A Further Explanation

I've written several blog posts on my site about how causality doesn't exist (see here and here) but now I want to explain in a bit more detail what I mean by this and also clarify some misunderstandings on what my view is.

Most importantly, my view technically is not that causality doesn't exist, it's that causality doesn't exist in the way we typically think it does. That is, my view of causality is completely different from the general every day notion of causality most people have. The naive assumption one often gets when hearing my view is that I'm saying cause and effect relationships don't exist at all, such that if you threw a brick at glass window it wouldn't shatter, or if you jumped in front of a speeding train you wouldn't get smashed to death by it. That's not what my view says at all.

On my view of causality, if you threw a brick at a glass window it would shatter, if you jumped in front of a speeding train you'd be smashed to death by it. The difference between my view of causality vs the typical view is that on my view causes do not bring their effects into existence in the sense of true ontological becoming.

In other words, on my view it is not the case that cause A exists, and effect B does not exist, and then cause A brings effect B into existence. Rather, cause A exists and so does effect B, but in a different part of spacetime. For example, imagine that a blue car skids off the road and smashes into a red stop sign, severing it and dragging it along with the car. If someone asked, "What caused the stop sign to be knocked down?" it's perfectly reasonable to say the cause was the car smashing into it. But the existence of the severed stop sign was there already, in the future direction of spacetime. That is, the effect technically exists along with the cause and is not brought into existence by it. To get a representation of this visually, take a look at the spacetime diagram below.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Most Difficult Questions When It Comes To Being Saved By Faith

The major religions of the world, particularly Christianity and Islam, emphasize the importance of belief in the right god and right religion at the moment of death. Christianity is split between whether belief alone gets you saved, or whether belief plus the right deeds and behaviors gets you saved. Either way, the right belief upon death is almost always part of the equation.

So what does god do when you have a person with two heads? Consider the Hensel twins of Minnesota. They have one shared body with two heads. If one was an atheist and the other was the right believer, what would happen to their soul? Do they have two souls or one? What makes the soul unique? Is it the brain? They have two brains, but one body. If one went to heaven and the other didn't, what kind of body would that one get in heaven? Would they be bodily separated? What if they were both the right kind of believers? Would they stay conjoined in heaven forever?

It's these kind of questions that make the idea of being saved by faith so perplexing.

And if that's not difficult enough, consider the scenario below. Neuroscientist Vilayanur S. Ramachandran describes a scenario where a person whose brain was split in half developed two distinct personalities. One was an atheist, the other a theist! Same brain, same person, and presumably the same soul. If such a thing can happen, how is the idea of being saved by faith logically preserved? The same person can't go to heaven and hell. Does one half go to heaven and one half go to hell?

This opens up further questions for the theist: Is the soul divided when the brain is divided? How can an immaterial thing be divided when a physical thing is divided? If one's personality can be split when a brain is split, that indicates personality is dependent entirely on the brain, not an immaterial soul, and as such, we have no control over what brain we're born with. Given the relationship between belief and the brain the idea of salvation by faith in any way (whether by faith alone or not) is completely moronic. 

Thanks to Atheist Republic's tweet for inspiring this post.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Why Almost Everyone Gets The Big Bang Wrong: Infograph

It's extremely frustrating when you're dealing with internet apologists online who want to tell you that atheism requires that you believe the universe popped into existence uncaused "from nothing," or that the big bang says this is what happened. Surprisingly, even many atheists say this.

The reason why so many people think the big bang says this is because of a few factors: (1) it's very hard to understand the origin of the universe because it's completely non-intuitive, and (2) many well-meaning scientists use a poor choice of words when describing the big bang, in which they say things like the "universe pops into existence from nothing." It technically doesn't. Our language just isn't suited to accurately describe many fundamental concepts in physics, and as a result of this, a lot misinformation spreads to the general public, often by scientists themselves.

And so that's why I created the following infograph below. Hopefully, it can dispel much of the misinformation many people have surrounding what the big bang says so that I wouldn't have to type it over and over. I also am practicing up on my graphic designing skills so expect more images and perhaps even some gifs on similar subjects like this soon.

So check out the infograph below. Download it, share it, put it up on your blogs/social media, spread it around the internet where ever you want. Also, let me know if there are any grammatical/spelling errors in it so they can be fixed.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Cool Site For Weather Geeks

If you're a weather geek like me, check out You can get global temperatures, rain, and other weather facts in real time. One cool feature is being able to find the temperates at various different altitudes anywhere on earth. I used to want to be a meteorologist when I was a kid, and sites that this would have kept me occupied for days. And today, given the threat of man made climate change, knowledge of the weather and the science behind it is ever more pertinent.

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Atheist Conference Is Dead

As some of you may have read, here or elsewhere, I was co-organizing an event this upcoming summer called The Atheist Conference, or TAC for short. It was supposed to be the first major atheist event held in New York City.

I was supposed to participate in two events there. The first was to moderate a debate between atheist Justin Schieber, and Christian David Wood on the existence of god. The second was to host a panel discussion called Make Atheism Great Again, about how atheists can respond better to the arguments for god, and improve their critical thinking skills. It was to be shared with Justin again and the Counter Apologist. It would have been a fucking awesome panel.

But none of this is going to happen now because the event has just been canceled. The reasons why are complicated, but it started out difficult enough. The atheist community has splintered into a million shards in recent years. There are the atheist feminists and the atheist anti-feminists, the social justice warrior atheists and the anti-social justice warrior atheists. The pro-PC atheists and the anti-PC atheists. There are pro-Trump atheists and anti pro-Trump atheists. Atheists are split over gamergate, elevatorgate, whether we should organize, or whether we should even call ourselves atheists at all. The divisions go on and on.

Early on we invited atheist YouTuber Steve Shives to speak at TAC on a panel about YouTube atheism. We gave him the ability to control who's on the panel, as he wouldn't participate on it with anyone who strongly disagreed with him. Naturally, he picked people whose ideology was very much in line with his own. And immediately we got slack by the anti-SJW wing of the atheist community who all told us that our speakers were very one sided in the pro-SJW direction.

There is no doubt about it that Shives's panel was very pro-SJW. No doubt. But it would have been moderated by Lee Moore, TAC's founder, and the plan was for him to be the sole voice of criticism against some of the shadier tactics Shives is guilty of. Also, Shives's panel was just one event at the conference. It wasn't all we were about. We weren't going to put on a social justice warrior conference. Social justice issues weren't going to be the focus of the conference. Trying to patch the atheist community's rifts to focus on getting us united on what we agree on was. There were going to be panels with secular politicians, speeches about critical thinking and the problems of group think, speeches about science, a comedy show with Mike Lee, and of course the debate between Schieber and Wood, which would have been our opening night special.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Quote Of The Day: Hitchens On The Fair Test

Happy New Year!

Whenever an atheist articulates any sort of expression to the effect that religion as it is traditionally understood should disappear, the theist will quite often predictably respond with the insinuation that getting rid of religion will result in gulags and mass slaughter. It's as if to say, godlessness necessarily leads to such atrocities. I heard it just the other day on Twitter. Well it's obviously false. Atheism cannot be conflated with communism. And I think Hitchens had one of the best counter points to show why that was so. From his Google talk:

Now you might be saying, "Wait, weren't they all believers?" Well, some were pantheists, and some were deists, but they were all products of the enlightenment and critical of traditional organized religion and its role in society and government. They were secularists. That was especially true of Voltaire, Paine, and Jefferson. A culture founded in secular enlightenment values—which the Soviet Union was not—is not going to end up anything like what most theists think a godless society will be.


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