Monday, October 7, 2013

Handy Video Explaining Time Dilation & Length Contraction In Relativity

If you're sometimes confused by understanding Einstein's theory of relativity in terms of length contraction and time dilation as I am, this handy video gives you a nice visual representation to understand these two mind blowing phenomena.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Autumn Sun

Autumn sun, I'm in pain and numb.
Keep me warm 'til winter's done.
Be there when the October rain has come.

You twinkled different in your summer run.
Now you sit so low your rays are shunned.
Autumn sun what have you become?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Here's Why Poor People Vote Against Against Their Economic Interests

If you're white, conservative and poor in America, you've basically been fucking yourself over economically for the past 30 years if you've been voting republican. The democrats have a more favorable economic platform, but they're attached to liberal social values, and you prefer conservative social values like the kind republicans offer. But the republican economic platform favors the rich, and so you're stuck between a rock and a hard place: Vote for your social conservative values, and against your economic best interests, or go vote against your conservative social values and for your economic best interests.

Perhaps The Most Pressing Issue Of Our Day

Believe it or not, I don't think that the threat from religious fundamentalism is the most pressing issue of our day. Although it's an important issue that needs to be addressed, the destruction of the middle and working class by big business, Wall Street, and the politicians they've bribed to facilitate their agendas is the most pressing issue we face in America today. Millions are negatively impacted by the economic policies and the tax policies we have that are skewed in favor of almost exclusively benefiting the rich and the ultra rich, and making a decent living has never been harder.

The cost of everything is going up while middle class wages from the year 2000 has even gone down when adjusted for inflation. Almost all the new wealth that has been generated since the economic meltdown in 2008 has gone to the top 1 percent - to the very people who essentially screwed up the economy in the first place. And college tuition has been rising over three times the rate of inflation while job prospects for recent graduates are bleak.

There has never been a time in recent memory when the gap between the wealthy and the middle class has been so wide, with such a callous disregard for those who are struggling.

And the rich simply don't seem to care. They're living it up while everyone else sees their take home pay eroded away by rising costs of living. The thing is, the rich today don't need the middle class as they once did. They don't need manufacturers making anything. Those jobs could either be outsourced to cheaper labor markets or done by machines. And they don't need the purchasing power of the middle class anymore. The rich can make their money in the financial services industry - a pseudo-economy that doesn't make or produce anything, and that mostly caters to and benefits those who are already wealthy. It essentially just cashes in on (often) risky investments and financial speculations often at the expense of worker's jobs and benefits. Should these investments go awry, as they did, tax payers will be standing by ready to bail them out because Wall Street's got most of our politicians in their back pockets. And banks are in the business of coming up with convoluted schemes to trick people out of their hard earned money. There are literally people in the financial services and banking industry who sit around in board rooms and think of elaborate schemes to fuck people over, and out of their money because we don't make or produce anything anymore and now our economy is propped up on the exploitation of unsuspecting workers.

It makes me sick.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Presuppositionalism, Again

Where do I even begin?

Presuppositionalists have got to be the most annoying kind of Christian that exists. I spend most of my time debating evidentialists because they're at least willing to start from a neutral standpoint and build a case for god using the same evidence that we all have access to. But when you put the evidence and arguments for god under the microscope for a detailed analysis, it often doesn't end well for god. And presuppositionalists are weary of this. So what they do is they dismiss the evidence altogether, and simply presuppose that Christianity is true and that the Bible is god's infallible word, and any evidence or argument that contradicts the "truth" of Christianity must be wrong by definition. This shields them from having to deal with any counter evidence - they will simply conclude that all the evidence against their religion is a delusion through their presuppositions.

I've been debating with this presuppositionalist lately to sharpen my skills in that area. His argument is basically this: We all assume a metaphysic on faith. He assumes Christianity is true on faith, and then he interprets all the evidence for it and against it under the metaphysic that Christianity is true. Therefore, it's impossible for him to be argued out of his position that Christianity is true because any evidence or argument you use against him is either dismissed a priori, or "interpreted" under the metaphysic that Christianity is true. It's a firewall of sorts. But think about it - if you have to presuppose a metaphysic that excludes even the possibility that you're wrong and that your religion may be false, that shows the inherent weakness of your religion. If Christianity is indeed true and the Bible is its god's infallible word, there should be plenty of evidence from the natural world corroborating its narrative and its claims. And on top of that, he accuses atheists of presupposing naturalism to interpret the evidence for and against god and Christianity. It's the most annoying thing ever.

This is what presuppositionalism gives you. If you don't assume the metaphysic that Christianity is true, then you'll be accused of assuming another metaphysic, either a naturalistic one or one presupposing another religion, in order to interpret the evidence for and against Christianity. In other words, no one can come from a neutral playing field, we all, according to the presuppositionalist, come to the table with our worldview already presupposed. This is because the presuppositionalist knows he can't win without presupposing his religion to be true. If going just by the evidence, and a debate over whether evidence bests fits his Christian worldview, or the naturalists worldview, the naturalist will do better.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Guess What? I Saw Richard Dawkins Today!

One of the great things about living in New York is that big names swing by quite regularly. This evening I got to see the "world's most popular atheist" himself, Richard Dawkins. The event was hosted by the New York City Atheists and the Secular Coalition for America. It was rather modest: it was a small room with seating for only about 100-150 and unfortunately I missed the earlier lecture he gave about his new book, An Appetite for Wonder. I had to see the second viewing, in which he just took questions on cards we had filled out before the event. I wrote on my card my question for him, "What advice would you give to young atheists/secularists who want to carry the fight against religion and superstitions?" Unfortunately, I didn't get to have my question read in the second event that I attended, but they may have read it aloud to him in the initial event.

The reason why they had two events was because the line was so long they couldn't fit everybody in the venue, and so they had to split us up into two groups so that each group would get to see Dawkins speak for about 1 hour on his new book. At least, that's what I thought was going to happen. Instead, the first group probably got to see him lecture and then take questions, but the second group I was in just got to see him answer audience questions. But hey, the event was free and it wasn't out of my way or anything, so I can't complain much.

So now I've gotten to see three-fourths of the so called "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse." I first saw Sam Harris during his book tour for The Moral Landscape, then I saw and met Hitchens at a debate over Islam, (and I also saw Michael Shermer give a lecture for his book, The Believing Brain, and I met Neil deGrasse Tyson too). Now that I've seen Dawkins, the only one left is Daniel Dennett. But to be honest, if I could meet any well known atheist and have a conversation with them, I'd prefer to meet a scientist like Lawrence Krauss or Sean Carroll. The reason why is because there are times when I'm debating a theist and I feel like I need a personal physicist to call on, kind of like a life line, when I need a highly technical question answered.

 Dawkins receiving an honorary New York City Atheists hat.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Christian Epiphany

I just recently had an epiphany about Christianity.

It started a few years ago when I was talking to a friend about the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. My friend said that he saw how Judaism and Christianity were similar to each other, like two brothers, but that Islam, he said, was like a distant cousin, very distinct from the two. At the time I concurred with him, but now I actually disagree. As I see it now, Judaism and Islam are a lot more similar to each other, and it is Christianity that's the distant cousin.

Think about it.

In Judaism and Islam, there are many dietary restrictions, like being forbidden from eating pork and fasting. It is forbidden to make engraven images of prophets, saints or god. God is purely monotheistic and immaterial, having no bodily forms. Houses of worship have no images, just words or calligraphy. Christianity on the other hand, has no dietary restrictions (not eating meat on Friday for Catholics during Lent was commutated). Engraven images abound on stained glass windows, statues, paintings, and crucifixes etc. And god is triune, coming in three forms that are separate and distinct yet all are one. That's considered blasphemy is Judaism and Islam.

It's Christianity that is the oddball of the three Abrahamic faiths when you really think about it.

This brings me to my epiphany. While watching a documentary recently about Indian shamans who are worshiped as gods by their followers, I thought to myself how odd it is for religions to be centered around people - mortals of flesh and bone, some of whom have died and are still worshiped as gods. I mean, who could worship a god that dies? And then it struck me. That's the same thing that Christians do! Christians worship a man - Jesus - as god, a man who they believe was divine and mortal.

All of these Indian religions now make more sense given this new perspective. And when Christianity is seen through this phenomenon of people worshiping other people as gods, a practice that goes back beyond the dawn of human civilization, and one that thrives in modern day India, I've been able to see it in a much different light. Christianity follows in the footsteps of those religions who had god-kings and demi-gods who were human or who took human form. In some ways, it's no different from the countless sects and religions throughout the world that worship shamans and mystics and that cling to their every word as manifestations of divine wisdom.

You can't have your faith and eat it too.


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