Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Biblical Skepticism

1 Thessalonians 5:21 Parallel Translations
NASB: But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; (NASB ©1995)
GWT: Instead, test everything. Hold on to what is good.(GOD'S WORD®)
KJV: Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
ASV: prove all things; hold fast that which is good;
BBE: Let all things be tested; keep to what is good;
DBY: but prove all things, hold fast the right;
ERV: prove all things; hold fast that which is good;
WEY: but test all such, and retain hold of the good.
WBS: Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
WEB: Test all things, and hold firmly that which is good.
YLT: all things prove; that which is good hold fast;

Yes, I know...its the old picking of nits about the good book as the inerrant word of god...but one has to respect a passage that essentially tells one to test/prove/research all things and discard the bad.

Now it may be a stretch to equate 'that which is to be discarded' in the above c&v quotations with 'the untrue' but from a skeptical perspective it doesn't look like a big stretch. I'm sure the 'context police' will say that 'that which is to be discarded' is quantified by 'that which brings god displeasure' and in fact has nothing to do with truth or proof or evidenced fact.

Take it as you will....I find it amusing that the book iteslf contains instruction for skeptical analysis.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Looks like I'll be starting my hollywood career as an extra in the upcoming Simpson's Movie.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Of Peer Approval, Agent Attribution and Time-Binding.

As a social creature, humanity seeks peer approval in social situations. We see this in almost every aspect of social structuring. People seek the approval and well wishes of their peers and associates, and those that are outcast or shunned by their peers and associates suffer from this isolation. We tell stories to each other - we are a story telling species. We tell stories through words and art and acting and actions. But we seek approval for our stories. Great tales get re-told over and over - and they become the "Canon". Social Myths that meet the approval of groups get told over and over again, reinforcing this group approval of the tale. Embellishments and heroic actions get more approval, and are re-told far more often than stories of the mundane or ordinary.

As the descendant of a prey animal, humanity uses an Agent Attribution mechanism to fill shadows with horrors, rustling bushes with potential predators, half-heard sounds with inimical intent, half felt rhythms with projected animus. It is widely thought that our brains do this as a survival mechanism. To assume that all bushes with rustling leaves contain a jaguar that could eat us - simply makes us safer. Sure there will be false positives; certainly there will be rustling bushes that do not contain jaguars waiting to pounce on us and drag us off to be consumed. But many false positives, in this instances, are far more desirable than any single false negative. Thus our perceptual projection of "Agents in Bushes" acts as an evolved survival mechanism that helps protect us from danger.

It is also widely thought that humanity is the only species that binds time. We conceptualize yesterday. We conceptualize tomorrow. But this then brings up the question of tomorrow's tomorrow (and tomorrow's tomorrow's tomorrow...ad infinitum.) We have the concept of eternity...a shadowy, conceptual future that we can envision through recursive reasoning, but can't really picture in a mental map with any sort of realist predictability. Sure we might do many of the same things next Tuesday that we did last Tuesday, and maybe the next several Tuesdays will be very similar for us, but we can't really say that every Tuesday from now until we experience no more Tuesdays will be the same for us. Thus the concept of eternity becomes a shadowy cavern of potential actions and reactions. We can imagine events, but we cannot, with any accuracy, predict them.

Is it reasonable then to think that these three phenomena of human mentality (among many) have combined to have great effect on our history as a species? In conceptualizing "Eternity" (tomorrow's tomorrow's tomorrow's tomorrow's...tomorrow) with our ability to time bind, do we then instinctively need to attribute "agency" to that vast gulf of unknown, unknowable possibility? Do we "need" (instinctively, or due to evolutionary programming) to envision the jaguar in the bush of tomorrow? Further, in our capacity as a story teller species, do we then embellish the jaguar in the bush, turning it into a wondrous and spectacular Jaguar with mystical powers and supreme animus? What then if our peers and associates approve of our story, and re-tell it over and over and over - embellishing it as they go along?

That's GOTTA be good for you.....

Today Nic and I were driving into work though some rain. On all the roads we traveled there was a foamy white "chemical" residue on the pavement...every road.

It was either washing off the pavement, or being washed onto the pavement from surrounding landscape. WE were passing through residential and commercial areas of the city, but the chemical seemed to be everywhere.

I really don't know what kind of chemical it was, but that's GOTTA be good for you....

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

You are Here...

Don't Panic.

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Skeptic's Primer - Answers to Difficult Questions

Q: Is(Are) there (a) God(s)?
A: We don't know.
Complex A: We are a Story Telling Species*. We consume verbal, written, audio and visual entertainments regularly that delight our senses, spark our imagination, and cause our minds to real with imagined possibilities of the strange, spectacular, and sinister. While we don't really know if there is anything out there, we excel at creating stories about unheard of and unwitnessed wonders that delight, dismay, and/or detail the peccadilloes of our imagination. In short, we make stories up about daily events - it is not a great stretch to think we might make stories up about events that are outside of the ordinary. In spite of a wealth of literature concerning deity(s) in our common mythology, there is no evidence to support the existence of any one god or god(s).

Q: Is there life after Death?
A: We don't know.
Complex A: Evidence suggests that the "Self" exists because of electrical and hormonal activity in the brain. When a person or animal dies, all electrical activity in the body and hormonal production ceases. While there may be border states of "changed" perception during the shut-down of these processes that may lead to imagined experiences or simply altered state recollections from those brought back from the brink of death, there is no evidence that any process of self or thought continues on after electrical brain activity and hormonal production ceases.

Q: Where does morality come from?
A: Morality is likely the combination of environmental influence and evolved behavioral instinct.
Complicated A: We have observed that altruism triggers the pleasure centers of the brain. We have also observed patterns of behavior that suggest that altruism functions in an environment of natural selection to aid in the preservation of a genetic line.

*Being a Story Teller Species* (See above) we excel at making up just-so stories and cautionary tales that help clarify and outline what social groups perceive to be moral and ethical behaviors, but those behaviors are not sourced in, or derived from these morality myths, but rather seem to derive from observed behaviors of parental and mentor figures, as well as social influence from peers.

Q:How did the Universe Begin?
A: We don't know.
Complex A: We have cosmological evidence that suggests that the universe may have begun in certain ways, and can answer with a fair degree of certainty that what we observe supports our suggested conclusions...but we're open to new evidence - whether that be more evidence supporting our current theories, or new evidence that suggests a new origin for the universe.

*Being a Story Teller Species* (See above) we have made up many stories about how the universe may have began, stretching our imaginations to their unfettered limits as best we could. While these stories, myths and legends may be compelling, there is no evidence to suggest that any of these stories are anything more than myths and legends.

Q: How did life begin?
A: We don't know.
Complex A: We don't know. We have seen experiments where complex proteins have assembled and replicated themselves, even mutating and changing into new "organic" substances through multiple combines (See Spiegleman’s Monster). This suggests that life may have began in this fashion. We also have genetic evidence that suggests that all creatures came from a common source of genetic information deep in the past. Combining this information, our best hypothesis is that life began as a complex soup of chemicals that combined to form precursors to what we now know to be the building blocks of life.

*Being a Story Teller Species*, we have created many stories, myths and fables about the beginning of the universe, world, life, etc....but there is no evidence that suggests any of these origin myths are accurate or representative of what actually did occur.

Q:What if I don't want to live in a world without God(s), Afterlife(s), Reincarnation(s) or other "out of body" phenomena?
A: The desire for something more doesn't make stories, myths, or legends born of that desire truthful.
Complex A: *Being a Story Teller Species* with grand ideals and lofty aspirations it may be comforting for us to create stories, myths, and legends about a protective powerful figurehead that help us make sense of things we don't understand. The fact of this comforting or palliative effect is not an argument for the truth of these myths and legends. Whether the stories are true or not true, the fact of reality remains the same. It is perfectly acceptable for there to be questions about life, the universe, and everything to which the only answer we have is “We don’t know.”

The Bat Cave - Home Theater

From: http://www.cepro.com/slideshow/image/150/

So I wonder if my wife will let me install a "Batcave" style home theater?

*evil grin*

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Victorian Horror

I've been asked by a close friend to pen an episodic Victorian Thriller story that she will ink into a graphic novel.

I'm actually pretty excited about the prospect. I've been doing some cursory research and think I'm going to center my story around the year 1875.

While I have no illusions of being another Lovecraft, I do dearly love the early horror inspired by he and Lord Dunsany.

*rubs hands together...*