Saturday, May 28, 2011

How To Tell If Your Belief Is Stupid

A lot of people try to push their beliefs on all of us every day, and we do the same ourselves. The big problem is that a lot of beliefs are just plain STUPID. Unfortunately, we often can't see that something we buy into is dumb or not (but since we don't really think we're stupid to begin with, we think it's everyone else who has dumb ideas, not just us). So, in order to help you, the reader, I have constructed a short guide to identifying stupid beliefs. After all, identification is the first step towards ridding yourself of stupid beliefs. If any belief you hold matches one of these 5 criteria, it is a stupid belief. If you don't agree, feel free to post a calm, rational, and well-thought-out comment in the comment section.

1: If The Belief Is Not Verifiable, It Is Stupid
When you lack compelling evidence, you lack the ability to verify, and believing something that you can't verify is stupid. An example comes in the form of plaster casts of Sasquatch (Bigfoot) footprints. Do you have any evidence that the footprint is anything other than a fake? You only have the cast itself, and the word of the person trying to sell you the cast. You don't know that the Sasquatch is real, that the man trying to sell the cast to you is reputable, or if the cast is anything more than a fake. If he can't show you evidence aside from the cast itself, then believing you are holding a plaster cast of a Sasquatch footprint is simply an unverifiable claim...and if he can show you such evidence, then it will undoubtably be more interesting than any plaster cast would be.

2: If The Belief Is Not Falsifiable, It Is Stupid.
Falsifiability is an important principle not just in philosophy, science, and the philosophy of science, but in everyday life. How can you test any claim made by anyone if there isn't a way the claim could be proven wrong? An excellent example is David Icke's claims that the world is ruled by shape shifting aliens. If we ask why we've not seen evidence of this conspiracy, it's blamed on a cover-up. If we ask why we've not seen proof of the existence of shape-shifting aliens, it's because they can change shapes, of course. Literally nothing can disprove this notion. Meanwhile, the mainline theory ("David Icke's belief is bullshit") can easily be proven wrong by simply catching a shape-shifting alien changing form on tape. Granted, every attempt to do so has failed, but at least there's a test that could prove us wrong.

3: If The Belief Is Not Supported By Experts In The Relevant Field(s), It Is Stupid.
Some people study a particular thing their whole lives, or at least a significant portion of their lives. They learn from the best sources available, using the most up-to-date information to further their understanding of their chosen field, and often conduct research that furthers our collective knowledge of that particular field of study. These people are called "experts" and they know what they're talking about. Common people (you) do not. If, for example, every medical practitioner on the planet says that autism cannot be caused by any vaccine, and Jenny McCarthy, a Playboy Playmate turned actress with no medical background, is saying they do, she is wrong. Plain and simple.

4: If The Belief Is Dependent On A Logical Fallacy, It Is Stupid
There are several logical fallacies out there. While something is not necessarily false because the reasoning that one uses to reach that conclusion is faulty, if the only or best reason to believe something is a logical fallacy, then the belief itself is stupid. A great example is found in the Appeal to Tradition page, specifically example 2, wherein a man says that women shouldn't be equal to men in that country because that is how the country has always been. Can you think of a real-life country that also treats women poorly because of tradition?

5: If The Belief Depends On Faith, It Is Stupid
Oh come on! You knew this was coming. The word "atheist" is right there in the URL.
Of course, I'm specifically using the biblical definition of faith, found in Hebrews 1:11, or belief in things that you can't prove. If you deduced that point 5 is very similar to point 1, you are right, however, there is a difference here. When someone simply believes something they can't verify, once it's shown that the idea is wrong, it's not hard to accept reality, since there is generally at least some circumstantial evidence. When one has faith, it is very, very difficult to admit wrongness, since things you accept on faith more often than not affect one's life in a real way. But face it, if we were talking about was anything else aside from your religious views, would you accept it on faith alone? Well, actually, yes, there is one thing that is faith-based that isn't religion, but, dear reader, I highly doubt you think that racial supremacy is anything other than a stupid idea. Read more!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Raising A Child With No Gender?

Before I get into this, here are some links to bring you up to speed: Original Toronto Star article about a Toronto couple raising their youngest child, Storm, without a gender. They've not even released his or her sex to anyone other than their other kids, a close family friend and 2 midwives. The Star has also published a follow-up article, with some of the readers' views reflected in said article. And Fox News chimed in on this, making sure to make it sound like a debate between an insane asshole and a decent human being, though I am pretty sure they meant for the AFA guy to be the decent human being (hint: he isn't)

This story, and the furor around it, has highlighted some general ignorance about these topics. I'll clarify some of this and offer my commentary on the story itself after the jump.
Clearing up confusion:
1: Gender and Sex are different things
This is something that it seems nobody commenting on the article seems to truly understand. While they have some basic idea about this, those who oppose these parents' decisions seem to think that gender is some sort of ingrained thing. If you have a penis (meaning you're a male, physiologically) you will be masculine, gender-wise, and vice-versa, they think. Of course, the very existence of Transgendered people shows that, at the very least, this isn't always the case.

2: This is some sort of experiment
The fact is, if it were an experiment rather than parents simply doing what they thought was best for their children, the parents wouldn't be avoiding further media attention. Unlike some absolutely horrible people who are becoming celebrities due to their kids, these people shared their story once and have done their best to keep out of the public eye since, except for telling the media to leave them alone. They aren't giving the results to anyone, and no one except those directly involved in Storm's raising will be able to monitor it at all.

3: This is definitely going to hurt the child
This one pisses me off most. As the American Psychological Association said in the Fox article, there's little, if any, research in this area. That doesn't stop people, including the noted homophobic bigots at the American Family Association, from issuing dire statements about this child's future. (On a side note, hasn't it become apparent that we shouldn't trust an organization with the word "family" in its name? Between a powerful group that wants to make the U.S.A. a theocracy, the guys that said that Spongebob Squarepants was gay and therefore evil, the guys who recently predicted the world would end and profited off this prediction, and the various criminal organizations, it's pretty apparent that "family" is the new "communist") The fact is, we can't tell what will happen, and have no precedents regarding this. In fact, I almost hope this is an experiment, except for the fact it would be quite unethical and slightly illegal. The data gained from such an experiment would be extremely valuable, is all I'm saying.

My Thoughts On The Story

I wholeheartedly support the parents here, and not just the "experiment" factor. Nor is this simply a case of supporting the parents' freedom to choose how to raise their children (I don't, not totally, but that's a subject for another time). No, the fact is that this is a logical progression. When humanity began, we needed some sort of gender roles in order to survive. They didn't have to specifically be divvied out by sex, but it makes enough sense. After all, we needed someone to take care of the kids, and since women already give birth to them and come equipped with breast milk, so why not make them the child-care workers? And since taking care of children keeps one at home, why not make women the home-makers? That left getting food and building stuff and protecting things to the men, who didn't mind, what with all the testosterone and all that.

But, as time went on and we advanced technologicall, the necessity to have specific "gender roles" has lessened to the point where only cultural conservatism keeps gender roles in place. In fact, such traditional gender roles are quite clearly limiting to individual freedom - women are still struggling to assert themselves as capable leaders in the realms of politics and business because leadership is a "masculine" thing, and men lose child custody battles at alarming rates because "women are better parents". Even in small things, gender roles are inescapable. If you're a man, you only watch romance films if your girlfriend forces you to, and you aren't allowed to enjoy them without being labelled as weak; if you're a woman, you only watch action films if your boyfriend forces you, and you can't enjoy it without being "one of the guys" and thus being thought of as "not sexy". It's as if your life's direction is set by your genitals.

In conclusion, traditional gender roles need to continue to shrink until they dissolve completely. I hope that raising one's child without a gender, and allowing the child to choose their own identity, really catches on.

Also, fuck the American Family Association. Seriously. These people are bastards. This cannot be stressed enough.
Read more!

Poetry Wednesday: Ode To A Moron

Note: This was written to be read aloud in front of an audience. It's also completely true, with the exception of one thought I put in a character's head, though I think it's reasonable to assume he thought that.

Ode To A Moron

Here’s a story I remember,

From a far distant December...

Atop the ski hill in a tiny town in BC,

There are many resorts. One in particular,

A monument to excessive wealth,

Has several multifloor buildings within its compound.

Here, there was a woman from Manchester,

With son and husband, first time in the country.

She found out that night that, once lost,

One simply can’t replace one’s dignity.

She forgot plenty of important details...

Like that the door to her deck automatically locks,

That winter in Canada is rather cold,

And that bringing your clothes with you to the hot tub,

Or at least a towel,

Or at VERY least, a bathing suit,

Is generally a good idea.

When her time in the tub was done, she found herself trapped.

In a panic, she shivered and she shrank.

She couldn’t wake husband or son, she found herself trapped.

In a panic, leapt into a snow bank.

Off her balcony, two floors,

Then ran she did, door to door,

Screaming “let me in”.

No one did, of course.

Don’t get any ideas, she wasn’t ugly,

But the time was.

After checking all buildings, save one,

At the morning hour of quarter to one,

One couple, tired as they were kind,

Opened the door only to find

A stark raving mad stark naked Madchester woman.

The husband was unsettled by this.

She wasn’t ugly, of course,

I’m sure that thoughts of intercourse

Ran through his head.

As did thoughts of losing his bed for a couch.

But they did help this damsel in distress,

And lent her a towel with which to dress,

Then called the security guard,

The knight in bright yellow reflective armour!

Well, not really armour, it’s actually a jacket...but it is official looking, and that’s what counts.

Our hero arrived at the scene moments after the call,

Much to the relief of all involved.

The master keys were in my hands,

Her destiny was in my hands,

If only she could remember

Her god damned room number.

She shot a few numbers at me, and none stuck.

Finally I asked her name, which she gave in confidence,

And I found her room rather quickly.

The walk was fairly long, sadly,

She was frantic, raving madly,

She then told me her life story,

Which was, frankly, fucking boring,

But it’s how I got that Manchester fact

That I used way back,

At the beginning of this story.

We found her building, finally.

The one she didn’t check, naturally.

But it’s where we reached the climax of her stupidity.

After all her panicking and moping,

Her condo’s front door was left wide open

Read more!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Help my friend's charity drive!

Before I start the actual post, I'm going to ask you to do something I never thought I'd ask of you: forward this post to everyone you can. I don't have a lot of readers at this point, and I'd like this campaign to be a success. So please, spread the word.

If there is a god, I'd say he was giving me a sign. Shortly after getting the news that inspired this long post about death, I received a facebook message from my friend Tamara. She is shaving her head for charity, and I'd like to help her out. The donation link is here.

The charity this is going to is the Ft. St. John Hospital Society, specifically, funds raised will go towards a new digital mammogram machine. We are building a new hospital in our city. The current one is quite old, and given our growing population and the many smaller communities around ours that depend on our medical facilities, the new facility is desperately needed. This new hospital will include a cutting-edge cancer testing and treatment facility, which is why Tamara is participating. This region (northern BC) is vastly under-served in this respect, with cancer patients often having to make costly trips to the other end of the province to receive treatment and testing.

In addition, Tamara's luscious locks will be made into a wig and given to the charity Wigs For Kids.

Since I truly want this charity drive to succeed, I will match all donations, up to $100*. The shaving of her head will take place on May 28, 2011, but the charity donation page will remain open until June 10, 2011. All donations $20 and up are tax deductible.

Thank you very much for your support, and please, pass this page around to everyone you know. I lost my grandmother to cancer, and know several others who have had their personal lives devastated by this horrible disease, so this a bit of a personal thing for me.

*This number is subject to change. $100 is the most I can currently afford without having to default on any bills, so barring a personal financial crisis, it won't go down...however, if I come into more money before the donation deadline expires, I will be able to increase my commitment. Thus, the asterisk. If I had more to give, I would, but I'm not made of money...and if I was, what a horrible existence that would be! Always having to watch your back, never able to trust your friends not to take a piece off of you to pay their bills...it would certainly give a new meaning to "costs an arm and a leg"...why is "I'm not made of money" even a phrase?

EDIT: Thanks to all who contributed. She raised a total of $1052, $200 of that came from online donations. Special thanks to Obscurus Lupa who promoted this charity over Twitter. Check her out here: http://blip.tv/OLPresents Read more!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

An Atheist Ponders Death

Christopher Hitchens is dying. The funniest and wittiest of the so-called Four Horsemen of Atheism has been battling cancer for some time, and recently cancelled his appearance at the American Atheist Convention due to losing his ability to speak-something he wrote about in a recent Vanity Fair article. There are at least 2 other atheists who are well-known public figures who are similarly infirm due to disease: Stephen Hawking (who was in headlines recently due to his proclamation that heaven isn't real) and Roger Ebert (who has had plenty of conservatives and Christians tell him that losing his jaw should be a sign he needs to shut up). Also this week, YouTube atheist vlogger thehappycabbie declared that he had a terminal disease (please watch his videos, as views give him some financial aid).

This has, naturally, gotten me thinking about death, and how does an atheist confront it? My first encounter with death was when I was roughly 3 years old. My maternal grandmother developed stomach cancer (there's that disease rearing its ugly head again), and died sometime in 1985. In fact, my first ever memory was of the funeral. I didn't understand what was going on, and how could I? I was three! I hadn't even started kindergarten yet. When I saw the casket being lowered, I freaked out, screaming for someone to "open that box" because "my grandma's in there!" My mother claims that I spoke "like a chipmunk" for a few years afterwards, presumably due to grief. I don't really remember this, but something like that isn't vivid enough to make a real impression at that age. Aside from my grandmother, I've had few other examples of death taking anyone out of my life (listed here chronologically). There were two family friends who died in a car accident when I was little (to this day, semi trucks scare me as a result of this). A kid I played soccer with died in an accident when I was 16. A neighbour, a classmate I worked with for a short time and a friend who I had a bit of a crush on died in separate car accidents. After I lost my faith in any god, my paternal grandmother, who I met once, died of...something, I'm not sure what. A friend's mother who I worked with died of cancer, and my dad's adopted parents died of complications caused by old age. Oh, and we had a few dogs die too, 2 before I lost faith (my mother's old dog due to old age, and a puppy my folks bought for me), 2 after (one got hit by a car, one had to be put down due to a genetic disorder common amongst purebred border collies).

How did this affect me? Well, aside from the grandmother who died when I was 3, my dad's adopted mother, the friend I had a crush on (Kirsten) and 3 of the 4 dogs who died, I didn't feel especially close to any of them (and really, I was more torn up about my adopted aunt's actions around my adopted grandma's death than the death itself). Actually, I only felt bad about Jedi, the first dog I had who died, because I accidentally killed it. Note to parents: do not let your 5 year old feed the dog packing peanuts, because despite the name, they aren't yummy or nutritious, but dogs will eat them anyway. So while I was a bit sad about their deaths, but they all went to heaven, in my view.

However, Kirsten's death really got to me. Why? Aside from being her friend and having feelings for her, she was a non-believer. She was hell-bound. It was tremendously sad for me, because she was a good person and had a kid to raise. I weathered it well on the outside, but when I wasn't around people, I was in tears. I couldn't even bring myself to go to her funeral, I was so devastated. It took me months to rationalize that, since she was a good person, she was in heaven despite not worshiping any god. After all, any good, loving god would let in a good person like her, right?

The reason this idea of a heaven existing comforted me wasn't because of the eternal bliss these people would experience, though that helped. No, what really helped was the feeling that it wasn't the end. Their friends and family would see them again, I'd see them again and be able to form a closer bond with them in the afterlife than I did in life. In other words, heaven was my way of forgetting the permanency of death.

I should take some time here to talk about my sometimes suicidal depression. I may get into that more in depth later, but the death part does concern what I'm talking about. This actually started while I still believed in the Christian god. Oftentimes I would find myself with some plan to end my earthly existence, and sometimes I had the means to accomplish this end (get it? Means to an end, end of my life? Suicide jokes are fun!) There were a few times when all that stopped me was the thought of eternal damnation, as suicide was essentially an unforgivable sin. So in that respect, the belief in the Christian afterlife saved my life.

However, when I realized no just and loving god would torment someone forever, and thus hell must be just the end of the soul...suicide was no longer off the table. This mental condition made me want my life to end, and I never really treated it. So while this version of hell helped me reconcile my morality with my god, it removed my religious reason to not commit suicide...and so I made 2 attempts on my own life. I have not tried that since losing my faith, for a variety of reasons that I'll explain later in this post.

I've handled the deaths of friends and family much better as an atheist than as a theist, and I think the reason for that is that atheism allows us to see death for what it really is. With theism, death is a passage into another life, it isn't all that bad. Hell, in the Salvation Army Canada magazine, War Cry (later renamed Faith & Friends), announcements of church member deaths proclaimed they were "promoted to glory". Atheists have to see that death is the end. There's nothing else. It's disparaging, in a way. A funeral is "goodbye" not "see you later" to an atheist. We are forced to face this reality, and to deal with it.

It really isn't all that bad, though. When life is limited, it becomes special. As a Christian, I regularly found myself looking forward to heaven, and neglecting the gift of life that I'd been given. I am still in the habit of avoiding people and generally not seizing the day, something I hope to change. The fact remains, though, that a life that is finite is infinitely more valuable than one that is not. There is more need to accomplish what we can in the short time we have, more reason to advance our knowledge of science (especially medical science) in order to make what short lives we have longer and more bearable. And frankly, the fact that our lives are so short helps make them bearable, too. There is no conceivable way that an eternal existence could be viewed as anything other than torturous, even if we retained young bodies forever, a la Highlander. When there's nothing left to do, nothing left to accomplish, life becomes dull, boring. A period of boredom that lasts millions of years would certainly become torturous at some point.

The reality is, an eternity of heaven for the good, much like an eternity of hell for the wicked, is simply the overindulgent fantasy of someone from humanity's childhood. The reality is rough at first, like all growth processes. In the end, however, realizing death is the end allows us to come to terms with it-in fact, forces us to do so. And we are much stronger for it.

But what if you are the one who is dying? I'd suppose that a healthy attitude towards death would not include denying its permanency, but accepting it as the natural end to an existence that is, in fact, against the odds and (for lack of a better word) miraculous. A better source for this particular subject is www.penmachine.com which is a weblog of an atheist man who died of cancer. I have not read all the back posts, but what I have read is enlightening.

One more thing I must add before putting this overly long post to rest is that the insidious lie of deathbed conversions must be put to an end. Not to say that it doesn't happen, but this truly is insulting. It implies that we are liars who actually believe in your particular god, or that we're too mentally weak to not fall for a superficially comforting lie during our darkest moment. Much like the no atheists in foxholes myth, this has little to no basis in reality. So just stop it.
Read more!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Poetry Wednesday: Happy

Note: This is probably going to be a regular feature here. Feedback, as always, is appreciated.


I used to say I was not happy, but sad
That everything I actually had
Was misery pain, doom and gloom, no rays of hope shined in my room but now…
Now I see that what before had depressed me should not make me sad, but happy!

My neuroses once depressed me, my insecurity was more than I could bear.
Every decision caused an existential crisis. EVERY decision.
“What shoes should I wear today? Black leather, sandals, run down runners? The black leather looks best, but it might make me look like I take life too seriously. Oh my god, does caring about taking life too seriously mean I’m taking life too seriously?”
Seriously. Every choice leads to dilemma.
“The sandals…well, my feet are too ugly, I’d have to wear socks…oh my god, have I turned into one of those square yuppy knobs that wears socks with sandals? Since when have I cared for superficiality? What has happened to me?”
Behind every door lay more inane insanity
“The runners, then. But they look so grunge. ‘So grunge’? Has anyone said that since 1994? Am I that old, that out of touch, that stuck in the past that I follow 14 year old trends?”
This paralyzed me at all turns, I came to no conclusion.
This path only leads to confusion, never finding truth.
But you know what? I don’t want to figure it out.
I want the search for truth to go on,
For those who have it figured out are wrong
And we confused souls, all the rest, wear indecision like a vest
Honesty is a virtue, you see.
I can’t hide my neurosis, thus I’m naturally virtuous.
And that makes me happy.
My loneliness once got me down, being surrounded but alone,
Not being able to relate with the vast majority of humanity, but now I see.
You see, I am above the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune they hurl at me, the lower strata of humanity.
I’m immune to the crushing lows and inconsequential highs of their miserable, sickening lives.
I can appreciate these cretins, however, as the fascinating creatures they are
Much better as an outsider, and for that I’m happy.
My depression once made me sad, and all the others who were glad reminded me of my own inadequacy. I wondered if there was something wrong with me?
But I can see, as the happy cannot,
In this crystal planet the filthy spots that need to be wiped
Happiness is denial of the world’s imperfection, and only the depressed are equipped to see it and fix it and give you a reason to smile.
My sadness may save the world, and that makes me happy. Read more!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Racists Are Pathetic Part 1

Granted, this is probably an obvious fact to most of you, but I like the title. This is titled "Part 1" because, undoubtedly, I will find many, many other examples of racists displaying their pathetic nature.

Recently, I came across this video:



In the last couple of months, this monstrosity has gained at least 50,000 views between the various reuploads.What this video does, really, is highlight just how pathetic these people truly are. Pathetic on an intellectual level, anyway. In reality, racism is an actual, tangible threat, as shown in this article. That's why I'm making this post: To point out how foolish, pathetic and just plain whiny these people are. Click the read more link, please (don't want to make this too long so people have trouble scrolling)

Let's actually look at the video itself. The message is one that, if you're not paying close enough attention, is hard to oppose. I don't like the idea of one group of countries being forced to have all the world's immigrants, while the rest of the world has no such rules imposed on them. I certainly don't support white genocide, or any genocide for that matter, nor do I like the idea of slandering people who campaign against genocide. But when we think about these things, we see that no one is actually saying that only white countries should have immigration into them (this is what we call a Straw Man Fallacy). It isn't even true that "white" countries have more immigrants coming into them, as shown by NationMaster. Note that of the top 10 countries with the highest net migration (as in, most immigrants coming in compared to migrants leaving the country) only 2 European countries are listed (Spain and Ireland, #8 and #9, respectively). And of course, their definition of "genocide" is a particularly loose one, one that allows for immigration and "race-mixing" to be compared with the violent massacre of an entire people.

Which brings me to the major point here: Despite the upswing of support for far-right, anti-immigrant and racist ideologies in the west, these people are desperate.
So, they've done the best they can to get new followers by obscuring the message and outright lying, capitalizing on an inbred sense of xenophobia most people have to further their agenda.

There's nowhere you can see this more readily than StormFront. To many of you, the place is already old news, but most people who aren't racist steer clear of the place. The motto of the site is "White Pride, World Wide" and it's almost eery how much these people have borrowed from Political Correctness in their discourse. They aren't "white supremacists" they're "white nationalists", they aren't "racists" they're "racialists" or "race realists", they aren't "holocaust deniers" they're "holocaust skeptics" (that one really gets to me, as a legitimate skeptic), they don't support "hate" they support "pride", it's not "anti-Semitism" it's "anti-Zionism". It's all an effort to rebrand the white supremacist movement to people who are conservative but not especially hateful or racist, because they know that despite the recent increase of support, they still are seen as loathsome idiots, at best.

Getting back to the video, the worst part of it is the inherent whiny-ness of it. These people, born and raised in stable and economically powerful countries, know that many immigrants are asylum seekers running from real war, real genocide, and yet, in the white racist community, immigrants are labeled as "invaders" and accused of genocide themselves. It almost sounds like a rich Valley-Girl type getting grounded for a week and comparing herself to Aung San Suu Kyi. It is inherently ridiculous, and yet these fools need these lies to be unchallenged in order to survive. If you do challenge these beliefs, unless you buy their fallacious reasoning, they disengage. If they have the power to, they will prevent you from discussing any further (when I made a comment about how no one wants for only white countries to allow for immigrants, I was blocked). And when we tell these fools just how racist they're being, they cry about being labeled racist. To go back to the Valley-Girl analogy, this is like the grounded princess calling anyone who pointed out her histrionic complaints "unreasonable fascist baby-killers".

To sum this up, yes, you are racist. There is no white genocide, and no, there is no race problem, there is a racist problem. The Final Solution to the Racist Problem is for racists to grow up and get educated.
Read more!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Wherein I Prove There Is No God

I have a confession to make.

I've gradually moved into a position that is quite similar to Strong Atheism. My reason for this is my multiple discussions with religious folks over the last few years, and the fact that their cases for their religions are weaker than most conspiracy theories. You guys have had literally centuries to perfect your arguments, and the best you have can't withstand any serious investigation. If the case for any god is so weak, why should I believe it at all? How is it possible that such a concept can be true and yet not proved after millennia of people trying to prove it?

Which brings me to this video:



This is one of several videos Shockofgod, formerly ShockAweNow, posed asking the same question: "What proof and evidence do you have that atheism is accurate and correct?" Plenty of people have dismissed the question (and rightfully so, as this dude proves). That said, I think I can answer it pretty well. Click the link to read more.
Now, I'd be foolish to forget this video, which is the only time I've seen someone try to address the question. This attempt actually fails due to the fact that some god can make up a "new body' in the afterlife for his or her believers. Essentially, it would be like saving all data from a computer (to continue the computer analogy) and putting it on another computer. In fact, that idea is prevalent in christian thought.

No, my disproof is based on the idea of "intelligent design". Now, before we start, we should define our terms.

THEISM: Belief that there is at least one creator god that is also a personal god.

DEISM: Belief that there is at least one creator god, but no personal god, specifically, no personal god that cares about life in this universe, human or otherwise.

ATHEISM: Lack of belief in any deity. This includes self-described atheists, agnostics, people who have no opinion either way, and pantheists. After all, if everything is god, then nothing is god.

As Neil Degrasse Tyson pointed out in his halfway-serious-halfway-joking tirade about Stupid Design, there is no way that there is a designer that cares about life, and if there is, s/he is an idiot. The most important parts are at the beginning.

If you can't view the video, the basic gist is that if any god existed and created this universe in order to house life, then they could have done a much better job. In addition to the things pointed out about the inefficiencies of star creation and the human body, he pointed out that life simply can't exist outside of the planet earth. Clearly, if any deity exists that cares about or likes life, there would have been either less space, or more life in that space. If any theist can counter this, then I invite them to do so, but this does seem like a slam dunk against mainstream theism. Unless you believe that earth (and humanity in general) is special, in which case I have 2 questions, that you need to answer:
1: Why is there so much uninhabitable space?
2: Why is the earth so inhospitable to life, especially human life?

I have anticipated the "fall of man" as an answer from christians. Look up Genesis 3, where that story takes place (NASB version here) The consequences of these actions are:
  • Snakes lose their legs and have to drag themselves on their bellies
  • Childbirth will hurt for women (humourously mocked here)
  • People will have to farm food
  • Thistles and thorns will grow, meaning that we created several plant species by eating fruit
  • We will die
So, it doesn't account for the creation of disease, not being able to breathe under water, not being able to survive in extremely cold or hot areas, etc. That's what I'm talking about.

This leaves deism and atheism. This choice is almost literally pointless. Neither suggests an afterlife, rules for life, or any other difference in anything aside from the beginning of the universe. However, using Occam's Razor, we can eliminate deism for adding an unnecessary step. There is no need for a deist deity to exist, and if there is, it's totally irrelevant.

So, now that we've eliminated theism as a viable possibility, and since deism is at best, an irrelevant option, we're left with atheism. As the greatest thinker of all time, Sherlock Holmes, once said: "
When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

I fully expect this to end all debate on this issue.
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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Why Loki Is The Best Super-Villain Ever (A Totally Serious Post)




Many nerdy "bloggers" have posted short essays defending their favourite super-villain as the best super-villain ever. Some have proclaimed the Joker to be best, others have used Lex Luthor or Magneto as their paragon of evility (which is now totally a word and which I totally own the copyright to). I, however, have found the true champion of injustice: Loki. Specifically, Loki as portrayed by Tom Hiddleston in the recently released movie Thor.

There will be spoilers in this article, so hit the "read more" link to, uh, read more.
There are a few criteria one must judge every villain by:
Accomplishments (both the accomplishments before the character is introduced and their accomplishments that the audience watches)
Threat level
Long term survivability (both literal and figuratively, as in, their plan's long term survival capabilities)

Accomplishments

Loki was born Jotun/frost giant royalty, and was kidnapped/adopted by his father's enemy, Odin, after a great battle. The unobservant viewer may think, with those facts in mind, that Loki's primary achievement was to be born, stolen by a better king and passed on for heirdom, in favour of his reckless and arrogant brother. However, if one looks more closely, one realizes that Loki is a master magician born of a species of warriors. None of the frost giants shown in the movie are able to cast any spells at all, relying only on brute strength. The frost giant species, in every continuity, is of lower intelligence, whereas Asgardians are generally at the same level of intelligence as humans, give or take. So, by being a "master of magic", and in fact, the greatest magician in Asgard (and possibly all of the Nine Realms) Loki is the equivalent of a Neanderthal inventing an electric car.
In addition to that, about half an hour into the film, he becomes the king of Asgard. By comparison, Magneto never conquered the world or achieved mutant superiority, the Joker always fails to show Batman that everyone is "one bad day" away from becoming a psychopath, and it took Lex Luthor nearly 70 years to become president.

Threat

Loki is, as previously stated, a master of magic, and of trickery. He doesn't have Thor's might, but he doesn't need it. He's fairly physically capable on his own (Hiddleston studied capoeira for the role, and that's pretty bad ass in and of itself) in addition to his magic, and his mastery of manipulation. It's actually a bit of a miracle that Thor won. If Mjolnir didn't decide Thor was worthy and save him last minute (something that the audience only knew due to the already-planned sequels) Loki would have had it in the bag.

Long Term Survivability

This is the clincher, really. Looking over Loki's plan, he carefully laid it out in such a way that he could not have been truly defeated. Now, this does veer into fan theory territory at the end, but I think it's justified, so bear with me.

It's pretty clear Loki had been planning to take Asgard's throne from the beginning, and whether he knew that the attack on Jotunheim would get Thor banished, it would certainly earn the arrogant heir a demotion. As we saw, there was no way to pin any of that set up on Loki. He also knew that Odin had been putting off the Odinsleep for a while, meaning that the new heir (Loki) would be put in charge. By lying to Thor about his banishment being permanent, he eliminated the biggest threat to his plan, and even if that lie was found out, Loki had a built in "out". Odin was, essentially, in a coma that no one knew if he'd ever emerge from, and Freya did agree to keep Thor banished after Loki told her he couldn't just undo Odin's last order...so from a certain point of view, he told the truth.
Then, he betrayed his true father, Laufey (interesting trivia here: in old Norse mythology, the king of Jotunheim was Ymir, and Laufey was his wife). The plan was to kill Laufey, wipe out the Jotuns and become an incredibly popular king so that if Thor ever did find his way back, he'd not be able to depose him. But what of Odin? Loki had that base covered too. As shown by his handling of Heimdall (who he probably expected to die from being frozen alive, and even now, he can claim self defence and would likely be believed as a member of the royal family), Loki had power enough to kill Freya...and Odin was asleep. Laufey gave a perfect alibi. "It was horrible! I tried to save him, but the frost giants got there just before me!" Killing Laufey first ensured that, if someone did come by to help before Odin or Freya died (as Thor did) Loki would still look like a hero. And by destroying Jotunheim, he ends all wars with the frost giants, a group Asgardians already hate, thus solidifying his reign. But even after being caught, his excuse that he thought it was what would make Odin proud of him gave him a sympathetic edge, and given his "good intentions" he'd have likely been let off with a light punishment, with his princeship left intact. Odin's intention to forgive him was clear at the end of the film, as was the sadness of both Thor and Odin.
But while they were saddened at the loss of a family member, Loki dropped off the edge with the knowledge that he could travel to another realm through the Yggdrasil, as he had done before. And so, he is now free to move as he pleases through the Nine Realms, searching for artifacts like the Cosmic Cube, which is shown at the end of the credits. When he has enough power, he'll almost certainly return home, and when he does return to Asgard he will be welcomed with open arms, and given another chance to take Odin's magical artifacts (including that ancient cask and the Infinity Gauntlet).

So, aside from the slim possibility of him dying during this scheme, he had no chance of true defeat, only of being set back. But the kicker? He's so good at lying that he was able to convince fans of the movie that he was a sympathetic character. Hell, even TVTropes, the single nerdiest site on the internet, calls him an anti-villain (a "bad guy" who has noble reasons for their actions). That's right, Loki, a guy who killed his unarmed and de-powered brother and tried to commit genocide was able to convince a large percentage of those who saw the movie that he wasn't all that bad a guy.

And that's why Loki is the greatest super-villain of all time.
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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Pretty Girl Shows Us Ugly Truths

Ruth Ellen Brousseau has, unfortunately, become the face of the new NDP MPs, and it's not a good thing for the official opposition. The new representative for Berthier-Maskinongé has faced criticism for not living in her riding, not having visited the place, and going on vacation during the campaign. But the most interesting thing about this mini-scandal is what it says about us as Canadians.

We are astoundingly politically ignorant.

It isn't just that many of us lack a bit of political knowledge, it's that most of us have a fundamental lack of understanding of how the parties operate, what the standard practices are. This has been used against us a few times by the Conservatives, like when Harper told us that coalition governments are undemocratic and un-Canadian (they are neither) and when he said that being found in contempt of parliament isn't a big deal (it is).
The fact is that all political parties, when federal elections are called, send candidates in from elsewhere when they can't find a suitable candidate from a particular riding, especially if they expect to lose. This is in part to raise local support for the party by running a candidate, so they may eventually be able to win that seat, and partly just to get the subsidy money for the few hundred/thousand votes they can expect from that riding.
To use a personal anecdote as evidence of this phenomenon, I remember in the 2000 federal election when the Liberal Party sent a Montreal lawyer named Delvin Chatterson to my riding at the time (Kootenay-Columbia in BC). His only connection to the area was that his mother moved to the area a few years earlier. He ended up getting second place to the incumbent Alliance candidate. To use a more well known example, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has run for parliament 3 times in 3 different provinces. The first time was in a by-election in London, Ontario. The second was in Peter Mackay's riding in Nova Scotia, which was kinda-sorta right next to where her parents live, and the most recent time was her historic victory in the BC riding Saanich-Gulf Islands. While I'm unaware of any candidate who ever won without visiting the riding first, the rest of what Ms Brousseau did is par for the course. But most of us don't pay enough attention to know or remember this fact, which leads me to my next point...

We regularly vote for the party, not the candidate.

This probably inspired a "no shit, Sherlock" response from you, but please hear me out. While I understand this idea (not all of us have the free time to fully educate ourselves about local candidates for federal or provincial elections, and the party they belong to is a good indication of where they stand on particular issues) government is made up of people, and sometimes the people we agree with most are the worst people to put in charge. Sometimes the parties choose idiots or corrupt people to represent them. And that is why we need to make the time to learn about political candidates in any election, and keep up with them between elections to make sure they're doing their job.

Ms Brousseau isn't the only example of a less-than-ideal candidate who won due to party affiliation. Jim Hillyer, the new conservative mp for Lethbridge, drew much criticism for refusing to give interviews or attend debates, despite living in Lethbridge and not really having anything else on his schedule (at least Brousseau had the excuse of being a student and bartender in another town...and being on vacation) and upon further examination, had about as many qualifications as the new NDP MPs. Of course, as an Albertan Conservative, he was all but guaranteed the win, even if he didn't bother to campaign. I'm convinced that it would take video of the entire conservative caucus sodomizing farm animals while doing blow off the bodies of naked 10 year old boys to get Albertans to even think about not voting conservative, but I'm sure that Harper would just tell them that the other parties will raise taxes and they'd quickly forget about "Abominationgate".

Another conservative, Bev Oda, whose illegal tampering with the budget was a big part of the reason the conservatives were found in contempt of parliament, won her riding of Durham with 54% of the popular vote, about 50% more than she deserved, and roughly the same percentage of the vote she earned in the previous election. And why? They liked the Conservatives, not Oda.

The same thing happened in Quebec to Brosseau and others. Jack Layton appeared on a popular Quebec talk show called "Tout le monde en parle", then did well in the French language debate. People in Quebec haven't really cared about sovereignty for some time, if surveys on the subject are to be believed, and realized that the Bloc wasn't doing much for the province. Given that the NDP, and Jack Layton in particular, has a reputation for standing up to the Conservatives, and agrees with the Bloc on everything but Quebec sovereignty, Quebecois blindly threw their support behind them.
And that's how a 27 year old assistant bar manager can be elected in an area she's never been to, where they speak a language she barely understands, without campaigning, and while on vacation.

In summary, ms Brousseau shows us to be an apathetic, uneducated and whiny people. Why whiny? More than half of eligible voters decided to not bother (some of us refused to even register) and we lament now about newly elected officials who, frankly, should not have won. Who probably would not have won if people took the time to simply find out who they were voting for and why they deserved their votes.

It will be a very interesting 4 years.
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Monday, May 9, 2011

Introduction

Greetings, and welcome to my new weblog (oh, how I hate the word "blog". It should be stricken from all languages everywhere, upon penalty of light scolding and judgement). In a way, this could be viewed as a "Mother's Day Gift". See, I made a call to my mother for, well, Mother's Day, which was yesterday, and expressed a personal opinion in a manner that some may call "erudite". She commented that I should be writing rather than doing my current job, I figured she was right. I had been toying with the idea of beginning another weblog, one which would, at the very least, allow me the freedom to express myself while possibly entertaining and/or enlightening others, and she gave me the push I needed. So, thanks mom!

You may notice the URL of this weblog. Socialist Atheist Nerd Dude (abbreviated to SAND). This is an attempt to get something resembling a decent name attached to this baby, while letting my biases be known. And I am biased. While I try to overcome my biases whenever necessary, I do not deny they exist. However, I should explain that while this weblog will cover politics and religion, I'll try to make sure that there's something for everyone here.

I do use the word "Nerd" in the title, and that may scare off those who don't like political or religious discussion, but it really shouldn't. "Nerd" is a sort of catch-all term these days. It can be, and is, attached to any form of entertainment one can imagine. One can easily stereotype the word "nerd" to mean an overweight manchild who is obsessed with collectibles and children's movies...however, if you change the word "movies" to "games", does that not aptly describe sports fans? Likewise, no matter how "nerdy" your favourite show, movie, book series, etc. is, there is fanfiction written about it, there are message boards about it, and there is merchandise of it that people cherish as much as I cherish my old Star Wars toys. So, we're all nerds, in some way. And using that excuse reasoning, I can, and will, write about just about anything here. This is in part to avoid staleness, and to allow me to continue updating whenever my interests change.

One other thing you should know is that this little corner of the internet will be dedicated to free speech. I encourage comments and discussion, and no one will ever be censored. In fact, the only time comments will be moderated will be when personal information is leaked without permission, or if you're a spambot. Spambots get no rights.

This post will be updated when I have more content to include posts that new readers should read before anything else. And by that, I mean "popular posts that you may enjoy that may convince you to follow this weblog". Read more!