Friday, February 29, 2008

Vitamin E Supplements May Raise Risk of Lung Cancer

Vitamin E supplements may raise the risk of lung cancer, doctors have warned.

A study of more than 77,000 people found that taking moderate to high doses of vitamin E led to a "slight but significant" increase in risk of the cancer...

Hope and Fear

In 2004, campaigning for John Kerry, Bill Clinton said:
"One of Clinton's laws of politics is, if one candidate is trying to scare you, and the other one is trying to get you to think, if one candidate's appealing to your fears, and the other one's appealing to your hopes. You better vote for the person who wants you to think and hope."

Hillary's new fear mongering ad:

I guess she took neocon monster William Kristol's advice. The reality is that the neocons would not be too upset with a Hillary presidency. It's Obama they hate and fear.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Thoughts on the Passing of William F. Buckley, Jr.

William Buckley died today. I remember seeing him with Norman Mailer and Kurt Vonnegut on Firing Line once. Now they have all three died within a year of each other. It brings to mind that line from Citizen Kane: "As it must to all men, death came to Charles Foster Kane".

Buckley was instrumental in transforming the conservative movement into a cold war conservatism that supported a massive warfare state. And for all his supposed hatred of communism and its enforced conformity, he acted as his own Stalinist purger, declaring that certain people were not part of conservatism as he wanted it monolithically defined, e.g. the John Birch Society, Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard and as recently as 1993 with the firing of Joseph Sobran from National Review. Still, I had much affection for Mr. Buckley. His wit and charm and intelligence were captivating. He believed he was right when he was often wrong, but he could change his mind, as he often did, or take positions contrary to mainstream conservatism, e.g., the legalization of marijuana, support for the Panama Canal treaty (he debated Ronald Reagan on that one in the 70's) and most recently his opposition to the Iraq war.

His magazine was my introduction to conservative/libertarian ideas in written form (I had learned my early anti-liberalism from Los Angeles late night radio talk show host Ray Bream) and I still remember seeing National Review in the public library and devouring WFB's columns, later subscribing so I would never miss an issue.

I remember something he wrote after John Lennon's murder, taking issue with the lyrics of Imagine:

Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Buckley said how sad that was, that we should instead imagine Lennon as a companion of the angels. At the time I read that, which was years after Lennon's death, I was unsure of Heaven, but I was just coming out of evangelical Christianity, which viewed a John Lennon as anything but a companion of angels and more likely as a permanent citizen of hell. Buckley's thoughts made me see that there were intelligent people who believed in God but rejected something so indefensible as the idea of Lennon burning in the lake of fire forever. That meant a lot to me at the time.

Buckley's infamous debate with Gore Vidal in 1968 is ironic considering that Vidal turned out to be a big defender of the US Constitution and a real and important patriot, especially during these dark years of Bush the second.

William Buckley vs Gore Vidal:

Below is Buckley with Noam Chomsky in 1969 during the Vietnam War, when both men were in their 40's.

Buckley vs Chomsky Part One:

Buckley vs Chomsky Part Two:

Whatever your opinion of him, I think you can feel sadness at his passing.

Q&A on William F. Buckley

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

God the Man

You will often hear the claim that God is neither male nor female, as God, being a spirit, can have no sex. The trouble is that Christianity refers to God as a Father (male) and when he became human as Jesus (the Son or second person of the Trinity) he chose to become a man. Jesus will, according to the faithful, have his body forever, and so will always be a specifically male deity. The whole idea of God as a man with a human (or human-like) body is a pagan one, which is why Muslims find the notion repugnant. Their God is truly sexless, Christianity's is not. This of course reflects the inherent sexism of Christianity (not that Islam is any less so, after its fashion) which is displayed in the writings of Paul with prohibitions on women teaching men or having authority in the church, etc.

But think of a God that decides to become one of its creatures but when it does so leaves out one half of the species and incarnates only as a male. Is this truly to become fully human when the other sex is not represented in the Godhead? Why not have the Holy Spirit incarnate as a woman, for example? A whole third "person" going to waste when it could have joined the party and experienced the sufferings of the weaker sex. Catholicism tried to compensate by elevating the Virgin Mary to near goddess status, but it's just not the same thing. A God who really wants to become human has to become both sexes, but Christianity doesn't portray it that way. The reason it doesn't, of course, is clear. Christianity, like all religions, is a man made story, and no gods, human or not, were involved in its creation.

A Night In Little Italy

Going out to eat was always an adventure. Some of the best memories I have from childhood are of restaurants. But I still can experience the delight in dining away from home (or a fast food outlet) when I go to a real sit down establishment.Well, not too long ago, I had to go help my Mom and while doing that we decided to go with my aunt to an Italian place downtown, for dinner. We drove in my aunt's car and it was dark out so I enjoyed seeing the lights and buildings of the city. Our Little Italy is full of places to eat and the restaurant we went to that night has been there since the 1950s. It gets very busy, even during the week, but when we arrived it didn't look too crowded. You can tell because when it gets busy there is a line out the door. The parking lot is small and narrow and you sometimes have to wait to find someone else pulling out before you can park. So after we finally did get a spot and parked and walked back to the entrance, the queue was already to the front door!

The entrance door opens to a wall and then turns the corner down a narrow space filled with items to purchase, things like olive oil and tomato sauce and then on the right side is a deli counter. It gets very crowded as the line of people waiting to be seated gets longer and longer, with everyone jostling for position, and groups of people that are together tend to spread out, instead of staying single file (so they can chat while waiting) and it becomes nearly impossible to get by into the dining area itself. If you are right at the door itself, you cannot see around the corner. I stayed there because my aunt disappeared, announcing she was going to "see what she could do" about getting us a table. She didn't want to wait, you see. Time passed and then my Mom decided to check and also then disappeared around the corner. More and more people began to arrive. I wondered if I should hold a spot in line, but no sooner had I that thought when I suddenly heard my name being called. It was Mom and I pushed my way through the crowd and saw her waving her arms, motioning for me to come along. I did so, as best I could.

When I made it to where she stood a waitress was all of a sudden there and my aunt appeared and we were lead to a table. It faced the street window and I could look out at people passing on the sidewalk. It was a pleasant evening, but I felt like we had cut ahead in line, as many of the people that were still waiting in line had arrived there before we had. It reminded me of the scene from Goodfellas when Henry and Karen go into the restaurant through the kitchen and get seated right away. I asked my aunt how she had pulled it off (I knew it wasn't money, she is too careful with a dollar, so she hadn't greased anyone's palm) but she wouldn't reveal her secret. Maybe she was just bolder than everyone else, so she got what she wanted. There is a lesson there, I think.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Why I Walk

The following begins an occasional series on things I've listed in my Blogger profile.

I walked to the supermarket yesterday. A few days before I bought some pinto beans from the bulk bin and after I got the beans started I decided to add some ham to them. They have ham steaks at that market for just a couple dollars, so that's where I went. The walk takes 15 minutes or less, and it was a pleasant day out, not too hot but with lots of sunshine and a few friendly clouds. I didn't see any other pedestrians on my walk, just a few kids on bikes. Now, I always wonder why more people aren't out walking on such a nice day. The next door neighbor, for example, always gets in his truck even if he's just going to the corner convenience store for beer, just a block away. In fact, as I was getting back from my walk, he was pulling up to his drive with some more beer. Does beer make you lazy? I'll tackle that question another time, what I really want to know is, where are all the walkers?

Walking is listed as one of my "interests" on my blogger profile, and it really does qualify as such. I've always enjoyed walking, although I don't walk everywhere all the time (no one can) and I do sometimes feel too tired or just a bit lazy to the point that I take the car for even a short trip. But most of the time, when I can, I walk. It is an exercise I will be able to practice for the rest of my life (barring some unforeseen event) and that's one thing I like about it, you're never too old to go walking.

When I worked in San Diego doing customer service for DIRECTV I got in the habit of walking around the block (it was a long block, a half hour walk at least) at lunch time. I always felt better after, even if on occasion I was a bit sweaty as I walked up the final incline back to our building. Sometimes I would just walk to get something to eat and not walk the whole route. There is a food court down the hill from where we worked and most of my coworkers would hop in their cars for lunch, even if they were just going down the hill. I remember one time a young guy in sales walked down to the McDonalds and he complained when he got back about walking back up the hill and how he would NEVER do that again. These were young people, not over thirty in most cases, and yet to even suggest walking anywhere to them (as I sometimes did) would get you a look as if you'd asked them to fly to the moon. I still don't understand that. I got so much out of those walks, enjoying the sounds and the trees along the sidewalk and the familiar sights as I made trip after trip as the months wore on. I miss that walk, but there are, thankfully, an endless supply of great walks, and I'm just now starting to get used to my walks to the grocery store and when I move (as I will, its inevitable) I will find new walks to inspire me and to enjoy.

One thing I don't recommend is to stop walking for any significant amount of time once you've started. I did that at one point due to things going on in my life at the time and found that I quickly got out of shape. I regret my lack of walking then, because not only was I not getting the extra exercise, but I now realize my mood was affected also.

To stay in shape, to get ideas, to meditate, to think, to be alone, to feel better, to notice things you never will from a car, those are some of the reasons I walk. You should give it a try sometime.

I just wanted to add that walking is a great way to take a break as well. When I as selling Directv and depending on commissions for my income I would often take a break by walking. It really helped to relieve the stress when sales weren't going well (dealing with people who called about the service and asked you a million questions but refused to order until they talked to their husband or checked around or some other lame excuse got very frustrating at times) and this was even recommended by our sales manager, although no one but me took the advice. I did take it and walked with it and took advantage of it by taking more than one walk a day at times. Of course when I moved to customer service (a long story) I no longer had the freedom to take as many breaks for as many minutes as I could get away with. They never minded when I was in sales, though, because I always did well and they were paying by sales commissions, not hourly. So, go ahead and talk a short walk if you need to relieve some stress and improve your mood, it really helps.

Why the Mainstream Media Deserve A Slow and Painful Death

Via Check Your Premises

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Atheist Blogroll

I am pleased to announce that Skeptical Eye has been added to the Atheist Blogroll. Thanks go to Mojoey for adding this blog and for providing this service to atheist and agnostic bloggers everywhere. Atheists are and will likely remain a small minority for the foreseeable future, but the internet, and things like blogrolls, allow our point of view to gain wider publicity. In a world saturated by religious propaganda we can only hope that those who do not share our nonbelief will at least learn that we are not monsters, and that we are just like them, only without faith in the unknowable.

Atheist means to me simply without belief in a god, and in the most narrow sense, without belief in the god of classical theism, i.e., an all-powerful, all-good, all-knowing being that created and sustains our universe. I tried to cling to a belief in that god, even after leaving Christianity, but the facts of reality just didn't square with the existence of such a god. I wish it could be otherwise, but wishing doesn't make it so. I claim no knowledge of any gods that do not meet the definition above, they may exist, but most likely do not, and I cannot force myself to believe in the incoherent (in the case of classical theism) or that for which the evidence is simply lacking (in the case of other sorts of deities that do not possess all of the attributes of the God of western religions). If compelling evidence for a god is ever discovered, I want you all to know that I will be the first to remove my blog from the Atheist Blogroll, but I am not expecting such evidence anytime soon. Until that day, the only truly rational position is non-belief in such things. Don't ever let anyone bamboozle you into thinking otherwise.

To request adding your blog to the atheist blogroll go here.

To see the blogroll, scroll down the sidebar under the Atheist/Freethought links section.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Evil Parents Television Council Sics Big Brother on NBC

The Parents Television Council has filed a complaint with Big Daddy Government (the FCC) over an innocuous "nude scene" on the NBC series Las Vegas. In the scene, three women are seen streaking across the casino floor on security monitors. The Parents Television Council was founded by right-wing nutjob and big federal government lover L. Brent Bozell III. If he does not love the Feds, why turn to them to go after a private company? If Bozell's excuse is that the airwaves "belong to the public" then Mr. Bozell is a socialist and should give up calling himself a "conservative." Now, Mr. Bozell did turn over leadership of the PTC in 2006 to Timothy F. Winter (a liberal and Democrat), but by his past statements and actions, I'm sure he approves of this current complaint. "Conservative" L. Brent Bozell and liberal Democrat Tim Winter, two socialist peas in a big government pod. I have only this to say to these bureaucrat loving jerks, KEEP BIG BROTHER'S FILTHY HANDS OFF OF MY TV!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Microwaving Your Instant Lunch: The Styrofoam Question

I wrote the following at another blog and received quite a few hits based on people searching for info about the safety of microwaving the Styrofoam cups that those instant noodles come in.

I had been to Walmart and bought some Maruchan Instant Lunches. I haven't really eaten those for a long time, but when I saw them on sale for .25 each I decided to try some of the chicken flavored ones. My first introduction to the food was actually rival brand Cup Noodles (I remember the name as Cup O Noodles at one time) and I've always liked them as a quick meal, maybe with some toast. I had a friend I worked with years ago who kept a large supply of Cup Noodles in his office, and he would eat one whenever he got hungry, which was often. He would fill one of the packages with water and microwave it.

Well, I decided I would have one. I read the package directions on the Instant Lunch and it instructed to heat the water on the stove and pour it into the cup or to heat water in the microwave and then pour into the cup. It did not say to microwave the Styrofoam cup in the microwave with the water already in it. Well, that's how I always saw people in offices and workplaces do it, but I followed directions and since I did not want to go to the trouble of waiting for water to boil on the stove, I just grabbed my glass mug and filled it with water. I drink a lot of tea and most of the time just fill my glass and heat in the microwave. I find the "beverage" setting gets the water hot enough for me, but not that hot. Thinking it would need to be hotter for the Instant Lunch, I set the microwave for 3 minutes on high. The mug was very hot when I pulled it out and I poured the water into the noodles and waited with anticipation. Then I thought I'd have some tea as well and got my cup and without thinking about it filled it with room temperature water. I instantly heard a noise, a little crackle and pop. I noticed immediately that my cup had two cracks on either side all the way to the brim, splitting it in two. The glass held though. But only for a few moments. The front half fell away and I didn't have a chance to catch it as it dropped to the floor, water spilling everywhere. I thought, oh no, I'll have to sweep up little bits of broken glass. But the part that hit the tiled floor didn't shatter. It just bounced and stayed intact. The glass (which I also got from Walmart) is very thick and appears quite strong. But it had been too hot when I'd put the cooler water in it, so while it could survive a fall to the floor without breaking, water did it in. If the timing and circumstances are right, anything is possible and even the strong are vulnerable.

You never know how someone is going to end up at one of your pages after doing a google search. I had someone end up at my story Bicycle Rocket Man after searching for How to Put Rockets on a Bicycle. Needless to say, my short piece offered nothing remotely helpful in that regard. Now, I don't know much about adding rockets to bikes, but I do feel slightly more competent to comment on the matter of using a microwave oven to heat precooked noodles, so here goes.

The question of the safety of microwaving Styrofoam is the main concern of those asking the question. Styrofoam is a trademarked name of Dow Chemical, but the word is often used generically to refer to any item made of polystyrene foam, a type of plastic. As long as it doesn't melt, it would appear to be safe to microwave it, contrary to the belief of many that you never should. Basically if the label says you can microwave it, then go ahead. All containers that come into contact with food are tested by the FDA for safety, making sure that unsafe amounts of harmful substances don't leak into food. Separate tests are done to insure the safety of microwave containers. My Cup Noodles container says on the lid: Due to variance in microwave heating power, it is best to boil water in a separate container in microwave. You'll notice, however, that it doesn't say you can't microwave the container directly. Again, as long as the cup doesn't melt, it should be perfectly safe to microwave. Most people who eat these noodle cups seem to just put the water in and microwave with no problem. If it is still a concern, then just boil water in a separate container and add it that way. Or, stop buying noodles in foam cups.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to do some research on adding rockets to bicycles.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Night of the Living Bunnies

Sometimes you're just stunned by the credulity of even educated religious believers. In a debate with Jeffery Shallit, Intelligent Design advocate Kirk Durston took the pro side on the question "Are there good reasons for a scientist to believe in supernatural beings?". Shallit held his own and pointed out that most scientists don't believe in God. If you want to know why so few accept invisible magic beings, I'll tell you. THEY KNOW TOO MUCH. When you know how the world really works and understand cause and effect and natural explanations, there really is no room for gods. As Laplace said to Napoleon “I have no need of that hypothesis.”

Durston went through the usual litany of theistic arguments, including such golden oldies as the Kalam argument, the design argument, the first cause argument, the probability argument (the origin of life is supposed to be too improbable to have happened without a magic being intervening) and so on. When it got interesting though was when he reached his arguments based on God's miracles in his life. He asked the audience to consider prophecy and that "information about the future requires a source that transcends time" like Biblegod, I guess, but if old Kirk is talking about the imagined prophecies of the bible, I fear there is not much hope in that avenue of inquiry panning out with a positive result. He then went on to the next piece of evidence, supernatural intervention into an individuals life, stating that "When that happens you know God exists." Now, that's very important, for I believe it holds the real key to Christianity's hold on people like Durston and why all the other unconvincing arguments for God suddenly seem so persuasive to such minds. You see, they "know" God exists, so no debates or arguments or evidence or lack of evidence can change their opinion. I was once as they are, I too "knew" God was real, and Jesus was there with me at all times and so on. I plan on writing a post called I WAS A TRUE SCOTSMAN because so often Christians make the claim that those who leave the faith were never really "saved" in the first place. Mark Smith's encounter with William Lane Craig is instructive in this regard:

Dr. Craig, for the sake of argument let's pretend that a time machine gets built. You and I hop in it, and travel back to the day before Easter, 33 AD. We park it outside the tomb of Jesus. We wait. Easter morning rolls around, and nothing happens. We continue to wait. After several weeks of waiting, still nothing happens. There is no resurrection- Jesus is quietly rotting away in the tomb.

I asked him, given this scenario, would he then give up his Christianity? Having seen with his own eyes that there was no resurrection of Jesus, having been an eyewitness to the fact that Christianity has been based upon a fraud and a lie, would he NOW renounce Christianity? His answer was shocking, and quite unexpected.

He told me, face to face, that he would STILL believe in Jesus, he would STILL believe in the resurrection, and he would STILL remain a Christian. When asked, in light of his being a personal eyewitness to the fact that there WAS no resurrection, he replied that due to the witness of the "holy spirit" within him, he would assume a trick of some sort had been played on him while watching Jesus' tomb.

The witness of the Holy Spirit, you see, trumps everything. That is the true key to Christian apologetics and the marvelous mental gymnastics Christians engage in when defending their ridiculous beliefs.

But back to Mr. Durston. He talked about sin and how he finally gave his life to Jesus and how he slowly found God doing great things in his life. He said his relationship with God was "the most intimate relationship I've had in my life." He admitted he has an excellent relationship with his wife and great ones with his kids and his friends, but that his "relationship" with his invisible imaginary friend "goes far deeper." Can you imagine being married to someone who says they have a deeper experience with an invisible being than with you? Kirk then said of God "I talk to him and he talks to me." Yes, Kirk, we know how real those "conversations" are. He said knowing God was "the most fulfilling experience by far" that he's ever had.

He said that Mr. Shallit had two choices in regard to these experiences, that he (Mr. Durston) was either lying or insane. Kirk, Kirk, Kirk, shame on you for reformulating C.S. Lewis' idiotic Lord, Liar, or Lunatic false trilemma as your own false dilemma. You need not be lying or insane, just simply deluded.

Mr. Durston then went on to his next piece of evidence, "physical miracles", and related a tale of a bull (bull or bullshit, you decide) on a farm, and then presented the piece de resistance, the story of the amazing resurrected rabbits! Now, I had to replay this portion of the video a few times to make sure I wasn't imagining it. I wasn't, and my worst suspicions of Durston's utter credulity on matters supernatural were confirmed. He said one day his sister's daughters pet rabbits died and were cold and stiff as boards and in full rigor mortis. Then he said one of the girls said "Why don't we pray to God to make them come alive again" so they prayed and then one of the girls (the older one?) said "I think God wants to do this in private" so they put the rabbits back in the cage, left the room and "waited for quite some time" before going back and checking on the rabbits, discovering "both rabbits perfectly fine and hopping around their cage". Durston actually said: "I have no explanation as to why two rabbits suffering rigor mortis will suddenly come back to life because two little girls ask God to make it happen"! In other words, he can think of no explanation other than "God did it" which should make one take everything he said earlier about needing God to explain life and the universe with a very large grain of salt. Assuming the basic fact of the rabbits being really dead is true, the key to this story is where one of the girls says that God needs some privacy to work his "miracle" and that they all left the room for "quite some time." Was one girl in cahoots with Mom or Dad and were the dead rabbits replaced with new, live ones? That seems far more probable then a miracle. Why else would God need to do the job when no one was looking? Sounds like a Santa Claus type incident to me, with perhaps the younger girl being protected from the harsh reality that her pets were dead. I've heard many stories of dead fish, birds etc., being replaced in just such a fashion, with a young child not knowing the difference and being fooled. But Kirk Durston believes in the resurrection version and that God has the ability to bring rabbits back from the dead, but not the dead children of grieving parents, that he will perform a miracle restoring life to the lifeless bodies of bunnies, but stand idle and do nothing while children are kidnapped and raped and killed. Which leads me to ask not only what kind of God this is, but also that if someone as seemingly intelligent and educated in the 21st century as Kirk Durston can so easily come to believe in dead rabbits rising from the grave, how much more so might first century uneducated people have come to believe in the tale of a resurrected God-man?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Pill Swallowing Made Easy

I read this awhile ago at Lew Rockwell and it reminded me of a true story of pill swallowing phobia.

The pill is not a unique good, a special something that behaves differently from any other things you swallow. Yes, it can be a bit harder but it is about the same size as many foods we eat routinely. We eat hotdogs and chew them only here and there and down the hatch they go. Same with steak. We chew a bit, mash it around somewhat, and down it goes. Same with biscuits, rolls, sausage, chocolate cake or any number of other foods. We know we should chew our food into a pulp but we do not. We often just manipulate it into a reasonable size and swallow. That reasonable size is often far bigger than a pill.

So why do we have such trouble with a pill? Because we are thinking about it as a dreaded pill instead of as yummy chewed food. I submit that if you change the way you think of the pill, the throat will open and it will go down easily without any crazed head tosses.

Now, for lifetime pillphobics, there is a small moment right before the pill goes down when panic sets in and the gag reflex takes over. We suddenly realize "Oh my goodness, I'm taking a PILL!" and then disaster sets in.

Read the rest here.

Now, here is the true story. Imagine someone who has never had an easy time swallowing pills. Since childhood it has been a problem. They haven't taken any pills for quite some time. The last time they remember taking a pill was when they had some wisdom teeth removed and were given an antibiotic prescription to take afterward. At that time, with some great amount of effort, the pills miraculously went down, but every time a pill was due to be taken, the moment was anticipated with dread. When each pill swallowing episode was over, a great wave of relief washed over their person, until the next time, several hours later, when it was pill time again.

Now, imagine they have discovered a swelling fingertip on one of their hands. It is very red and reaches the point that it starts to stretch the skin to such an extent that it becomes very painful. The finger is filling fast with pus and eventually bursts, letting blood and pus ooze out. The finger, unfortunately, even with this release of pressure, is not getting better. An appointment is made to see a doctor. The doctor diagnoses that the finger is infected and prescribes an antibiotic and when they go to the pharmacy at the supermarket near work to get the prescription filled they find that the pills are pretty large. WAY TOO BIG TO SWALLOW. A second appointment is made when the finger's condition has not improved after several days (of course the pills have not been taken; it was hoped that the advice of a kindly nurse to soak the finger in hot water and Epsom salts would work, but by itself this treatment seems nearly useless and the finger begins to swell again until it reaches its former humungous proportions). The doctor they see is not the same one as the first visit (it is an office with more than one doctor, in fact a whole army of doctors appears to occupy the place) and at first he suggests using a needle on the finger to lift up the edge around the fingernail and let the goo out that way and do it several times daily. He does not know that the previous doctor has prescribed an antibiotic. The hope rises in their heart that this doctor doesn't think an antibiotic necessary. But there is a human factor that intrudes (or perhaps it can be said that there is a human intruder, a busybody) for they had invited a friend to come along and the friend says "show the doctor those big pills you've got in your pocket and see if he can give you some smaller ones." The doctor looks surprised. "They prescribed an antibiotic?" he asks. "Well, yes." The doctor takes the bottle of pills in his hand and opens it. He puts his unwashed fingers inside and pulls some of the little oval shaped drugs out. "See this line here in the middle of each pill?" he says. "You can the split the pill along the line and then it's only half the size and easier to swallow." They are not convinced this is an answer to the dilemma so the doctor ends up writing them a prescription for a smaller sized pill. These smaller pills are half the dose so twice as many must be taken. They are round and quite flat but when the attempt to swallow one is made the pill gets stuck and begins to disintegrate and is regurgitated as a half-mushy mess.

A return to the pharmacy gets them a cherry flavored liquid version meant for small children. The bottle is large and it goes down quickly as the several tablespoons required for each dose are consumed. The finger starts to go back to normal size and the redness subsides and all is well. But wouldn't it have been easier to just follow this advice to begin with?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

What Is This Recurring Charge On My Statement?

Skeptical Eye has joined the Out of Iraq Bloggers Caucus. Check out the blogroll on the sidebar. I visited some great sites just by randomly selecting blogs from the list. The Iraq mess is the most important issue this year. I believe it overrides every other issue, even the economy (though there is a relationship, as the Iraq occupation is costing us billions).

I was listening to Glenn Beck on the radio (not a regular habit of mine) the other day, and he was talking about the election and whether or not he would be voting for John McCain in November. He said he thought that Obama was dangerous because he was the return of FDR and his spending would bankrupt us (or something to that effect, I'm paraphrasing). The truth is, even if you are an economic conservative the Republicans are not the answer, certainly not this year. Bush has increased domestic spending and expanded entitlements (the prescription drug benefit) and his neoconned foreign policy has lead us into a quagmire of epic diminsions. On the home front, the bill of rights has been ripped to shreds (with the acquiescence, of course, of congress, including the majority of Democrats) and McCain will only continue these failed and even more dangerous policies. What's more of a threat to the America we know and want to pass on to our children, a few more domestic programs or the continuation of the present destruction of the civil liberties enshrined in our constitution; a Democrat in the White House or a worse than Bush clone who will likely fulfill his demented fantasies of putting the boots of US troops on the ground in more countries around the world? War is the health of the state and always has been, but today's "conservatives" have apparently forgotten that.

The video below shows the monetary cost of the war for each American family. To fully be aware of the deeper meaning of the video (whether it was the intent or not of whoever produced it) you have to realize that unlike other products or services we choose to purchase in the free market, the state takes our money even if we didn't ask for the "service" it says it is providing. Voting usually doesn't change much, so the idea that "the people" want what government is giving us is a lie. The American people turned against the Bush administration's foreign policy in 2006 and voted in a do nothing Democratic congress to change that. Did we get what we voted for? No, because both parties are part of the ruling establishment and the people's will ultimately matters little to them. That is why I don't have much hope for anything but a possible reduction in the influence of the neocons if a Democrat is elected President (the neocons have been careful to keep their feet in both major parties). We certainly won't be seeing a change in the basic premise of current US foreign policy, i.e., of the interventionist assumptions of our elitist rulers.

Via Pissed On Politics

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Bird Flu Follow-Up and Videos

Another quote from here to follow up on the bird flu:

Although some “experts” still argue that preparations against bird flu must continue, many are finally beginning to realize what I said all along -- that this overhyped, oversold “pandemic” was never a threat in the first place. According to Dr. Paul A. Offit, a vaccine specialist at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, “H5 viruses have been around for 100 years and never caused a pandemic and probably never will.”

And from NPR 2 years ago:

What is bird flu?

All bird flus are influenza A. Influenza A is primarily a respiratory virus, causing coughing, congestion, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, and fever in most species it infects.

This strain (also called the H5N1 virus) surfaced in Hong Kong eight years ago, although it may have been around for four decades previous to this. It has mostly been affecting Asian poultry. When tested in the laboratory, it has been found to be quite deadly, killing ten out of ten chick embryos against which it was tested. It is difficult to tell how many birds it has killed in Asia, though, because millions of birds have been killed by humans to prevent its spread. As soon as one chicken develops symptoms, it is killed along with all the chickens that may have come in contact with it.

It appears to be quite deadly to humans as well, although in Hong Kong in 1997 many humans reportedly developed antibodies to the virus and did not get sick. There is concern that if the virus mutated, it could cause a pandemic because we do not have built-up immunity to it. This mutation could occur either at random or if the virus mixes its DNA with a human flu virus inside a pig or a human. But it's also quite possible (in fact it's even more likely) that it may never mutate at all or that if it does mutate, the mutated virus would result in a much less severe illness in humans.


Bird Flu Pandemic Parts 1 and 2:

Bird Flu Fears Take Chicken Off The Menu:

Bird Flu Comedy:

And a Daily Show audio

Friday, February 15, 2008

Do Food Additives Make Kids Hyper?

In the current (March 2008) issue of Reader's Digest they report on a study at the University of Southampton, England on the affect of artificial colors and preservatives on the behavior of children. The study concluded that hyperactive behavior only increased about 10% among kids that consumed the additives.

I think the real concern of parents should be the amount of processed food kids are eating. Provide your children with fresh and homemade food whenever possible. Fast food and the canned and boxed foods that line the shelves of the local market are most likely to contain large amounts of sodium, sugars and other refined and artificial ingredients. In particular watch what your kids are drinking. Soft drinks have been called liquid candy due to their high levels of sweetner in the form of high fructose corn syrup. There seems to be a link to the rising rates of obesity and the increasing consumption of HFCS. Get kids to drink water when they are thirsty, or provide alternatives like milk, and if your children won't drink a lot milk because they prefer the sweet taste of soda pop, have on hand some chocolate flavoring (buy the brands without corn syrup). Fresher foods and lower amounts of junk food will go a long way to insuring your kids stay healthy and learn good eating habits that will stay with them into adulthood.

Two views on HFCS (the first one below from the corn refiners):

The Murky World of High-Fructose Corn Syrup

The Great Bird Flu Hoax

They had many of us fearing a bird flu outbreak, but...

Last year, the number of human cases of avian flu dropped rather than rose for the first time -- from a paltry 115 in 2006 to an even more insignificant 86 in 2007. Frightening headlines warning of a pandemic that could kill 150 million people have all but vanished.

The case of “the impending pandemic of the Avian Flu” might as well have been a fictional mini-series made for television, but as usual, reality is stranger than fiction. It would be hard to make up a story as filled with greed and political corruption as this one.

Back in 2005, headlines warned the U.S. was facing a cataclysmic extermination event, with a calculated two million Americans succumbing to the bird flu; the best case scenario taking only 200,000 lives.
Photos of overflowing hospital wards from the 1918 flu epidemic heightened the fear factor to a fever pitch.

Well. A fool does in the end what the wise man does at the beginning, and this would certainly apply here. Reviewing the scientific facts is often a good place to start, but that did not happen in this case. Somehow they were able to translate the minuscule deaths that had occurred worldwide into somewhere between 200,000 to 2 million deaths from a virus that does NOT readily spread from birds to humans, nor between humans.

Read More

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Video: John McCain Says "10,000 Years In Iraq"

I look forward to the year 12008, when America will finally bring the troops home from Iraq. Thanks John McCain for letting us know your exit strategy before the election.

Monday, February 11, 2008

There Is No Right To Eat In A Smoke-Free Restaurant

I suppose I could have called this post Is Libertarianism the Only Political Philosophy Consistent with Atheism? I sometimes do wonder why giving up supernatural gods is so often easier than giving up the worship of the God of the Almighty State. A recent example of this is found in this post at Massimo Pigliucci's blog. The topic of the post is Penn and Teller's Showtime series, and Pigliucci does make some good points in regard to the show itself. However, he reveals his pro-government bias when he says that libertarianism is "either naive or disingenuous".

So, puzzled, I started to look at P&T’s background assumptions, and the lights came on immediately. As they freely admit (though not on their TV show), the magicians are staunch libertarians, with Penn being a fellow of the Cato Institute, a so-called “think tank” that pushes a pro-business, less government agenda. We all have ideological positions (I am a progressive atheist, for instance), so I am not criticizing Penn and Teller for adopting their particular set of assumptions about the role of government in society (though I do find libertarian positions either naive or disingenuous).

What is so ironic (and sad) about such a statement is that the real naivete is on the other foot. It is naive to believe you can use government to implement your "progressive" agenda and then not expect that same government to violate civil liberties (the PATRIOT act was passed with overwhelming Democratic support) and many other basic rights.

One of the comments on Pigliucci's post took Penn and Teller to task for their position on second hand smoke and their opposition to anti-smoking laws.

And regardless, an argument can be made against public smoking even if there is no evidence of it being harmful. I absolutely hate smelling that foul smell of smoke when I am having a meal. I simply cannot enjoy my meal if I am engulfed in smoke. And a restaurant's main purpose is to provide a good, meal. So, by smoking, and exercising their right to smoke, these people are in fact crushing my right to enjoy a good meal, which is why people go to restaurants. Why are these people entitled to their right to smoke, while I am not entitled to my right not to have smoke in my face in a restaurant? Obviously this simple argument can be made for other places as well, such as buses, trains, office etc.

Smoking is a nasty habit to say the least. Why should the non-smokers be forced to live with it? As atheist we are being forced to live with God everywhere we turn, and we don't like that. This is exactly the same situation. People have rights, which they should be allowed to exercise, AS LONG AS THAT DOES NOT OPPRESS OTHER PEOPLE'S RIGHTS. And that is the case with public smoking.

So here we have an atheist, a person who presumably prizes reason and rationality, presenting a most unreasonable, irrational and fallacious argument. The problem is not with the writer's personal preference for a smoke-free environment (as a life-long non-smoker I share that sentiment; I too hate being around tobacco smoke, and cigarettes are the worst), no, the problem is in desiring to impose that preference by force, i.e., by passing a law, on others in violation of private property rights. If you freely enter my PRIVATE restaurant and choose to dine there, then if my policy as restaurant owner, e.g., allowing people to smoke at my establishment, is not to your liking, then you can freely take your business elsewhere. The writer says his right to be smoke free while eating is being "crushed", but this is no more a violation of his "right" then it would be if a fundamentalist Christian entered a strip club and ordered a meal and then complained that his right to enjoy his food in a booze and nudity free atmosphere had been violated.

This comment reveals a person so self-absorbed that they see their preferences as the standard by which laws should be passed. There is no awareness in such thinking of pluralism or human differences (and some atheists wonder why some Christians worry about the real intentions of religion-haters; well, it's no wonder they're afraid when atheists like this appear to want to use government to impose their will on society in a Nazi-like manner). Must we all be exactly the same? Do smokers have no right to enjoy a meal with a cigarette anywhere outside their own home (and who knows how long they'll even have that right)? In a free society we can all have what we want, your smoke filled diner and my smoke-free one. Why then do some atheists want to crush us all under the boot of Big Brother (or as I call him, Big Daddy Government)? Private property rights are eroding at an alarming rate (and have been virtually nonexistent for commercial property owners for decades). There was the recent story of senior citizens forced to work for 7.00 an hour to pay off property taxes they could not afford. There is the continuing abuse of eminent domain, taking property and giving it to private developers. All of these indicate that the very idea of private property is disappearing from our once free land. So, atheist hypocrite (I refer to you government loving, tax and spend liberal types) you have no right to laugh at the Christians for their worship of their imaginary Sky Daddy until you stop advocating the destructive and irrational worship of your false idol, Big Daddy government, the Almighty State.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Ebay Sellers Strike

Ebay sellers are organizing a strike for the week of Feb. 18-25 to protest new feedback policies (eBay wants to eliminate allowing sellers to post negative feedback on buyers) and fee increases.

Five sellers who left eBay

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Saturday Mormon Cartoon

In olden times, kids would get up early on Saturday mornings and make their own breakfast (cold cereal and milk) and sit in front of the TV for hours watching cartoons (Mom and Dad happily snoring away in another part of the house). Today, Saturday is nothing special when it comes to television programming and cartoons are available 24/7 on numerous cable channels.

Today, I present a cartoon for your Saturday viewing pleasure. It looks like it was made in the sixties or seventies. It is a presentation of Mormon beliefs, and I can't say for certain that it is completely accurate in portraying those beliefs, but from what I know of them, it seems close to the truth.

And of course, Saturday morning wasn't complete without those toy commercials. Here are some 70s era Star Trek toy ads:

The Silliness of Mormonism

Mormon Truth Blog

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Lewis Carroll On Eternal Punishment

Lewis Carroll was the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, an Anglican clergyman, and author of Alice in Wonderland. As a Christian he was deeply troubled by the doctrine of hell and eternal punishment, unable to reconcile such an idea with the supposed goodness of his God. The real solution would have been to recognize the contradiction and abandon the Bible as the word of god, adopting in its place Deism, Philosophical Theism, or atheism. Unable to give up Christianity completely, he attempted to interpret scripture as saying hell was not eternal. Throughout the history of the church, in fact, a minority has always tried to find a way around the monstrous evil of everlasting fire, Universalism and Annihilationism being two minority positions.

Of course, most orthodox Christians reject such attempts to transform their god into a being approaching the level of human mercy and compassion, prefering the old fire and brimstone, perverting their normal sense of justice and right and wrong to go along with what they've been taught is God's truth. David J. Stewart of, for example, believes that almost everyone goes to hell.

Rev. Dodgson knew in his heart there is something terribly wrong with that belief.

As he says in this essay: "When all this has been considered, its outcome seems to me to be the irresistible intuition that infinite punishment for finite sin would be unjust, and therefore wrong. We feel that even weak and erring Man would shrink from such an act. And we cannot conceive of God as acting on a lower standard of right and wrong. In the words of Dean Church, " Can we be so compassionate and so just, and cannot we trust Him to be so?" To set aside this intuition, and to accept, as a just and righteous act, the infliction on human beings of infinite punishment for finite sin, is virtually the abandonment of Conscience as a guide in questions of Right and Wrong, and the embarking, without compass or rudder, on a boundless ocean of perplexity. In taking this position, we have to face such questions as these : " Why do I accept whatever God does as being right, though my conscience declares it to be wrong ? Is it that He is my Maker? What ground have I for holding that the power of creating is a guarantee for goodness ? Or is it that He loves me ? But I know already that wicked beings can love. No. The only reasonable ground for accepting what He does as being right seems to be the assurance that He is perfectly good. And how can I be assured of this, if I put aside as useless the only guide that I profess for distinguishing between right and wrong, the voice of Conscience ? "




The most common form of the difficulty, felt in regard to this doctrine, may be thus expressed : " I believe that God is perfectly good. Yet I seem compelled to believe that He will inflict Eternal Punishment on certain human beings, in circumstances which would make it, according to the voice of my conscience, unjust, and therefore wrong." This difficulty, when stated in logical form, will be found to arise from the existence of three incompatible Propositions, each of which has, apparently, a strong claim for our assent. They are as follows : I. God is perfectly good. II. To inflict Eternal Punishment on certain human beings, and in certain circumstances, would be wrong. III. God is capable of acting thus. One mode of escape from this difficulty is, no doubt, to let the whole subject alone. But to many such a position is a cause of distress ; they feel that one of these three Propositions must be false ; and yet to regard any one of them as false plunges them into difficulties and bewilderment. The first thing to be done is to settle, as clearly as possible, what we mean by each of these Propositions, and then to settle, if possible, which two of the three rest, in our minds, on the deepest and firmest foundations, and thus to discover which one, of the three, must perforce be abandoned.

First, then, let us settle, as clearly as possible, what we mean by each of these Propositions. I. God is perfectly good. As to the meaning of this word "good," I assume that the Reader accepts, as an Axiom antecedent to any of these three Propositions, the Proposition that the ideas of Right and Wrong rest on eternal and self-existent principles, and not on the arbitrary will of any being whatever. I assume that he accepts the Proposition that God wills a thing because it is right and not that a thing is right because God wills it. Any Reader, of whom these assumptions are not true, can feel no difficulty in abandoning Proposition II., and saying, " If God inflicts it, it will be right." He, therefore, is not one of those for whom I am now writing. I assume, then, that this Proposition means that God always acts in accordance with the eternal principle of Right, and that He is, therefore, perfectly good. II. To inflict " Eternal Punishment" on certain human beings and in certain circumstances, would be wrong. The word " Punishment " I assume to mean, here, " suffering inflicted on a human being who has sinned, and because he has sinned." I use the word " suffering," rather than " pain," because the latter word is so often understood as implying physical pain only, whereas mental pain might also serve as punishment. Hence we may at once simplify this inquiry by excluding from our consideration, the case of suffering inflicted where the sin of the creature is not a necessary cause. Taking " sin " to mean (as already defined) a " conscious and voluntary " act, so that, if the act be involuntary , it ceases to be sin, we may set aside the Calvinistic theory, which contemplates the infliction of suffering on creatures unable to abstain from sin, and whose sins are therefore involuntary. This theory will be considered elsewhere. The word " Eternal" I assume to mean "without end." As to the human beings who are here contemplated as the subjects of Eternal Punishment, there are three conceivable cases, viz. : (A) The case of one who has ceased to possess Free- Will, and who therefore has no further power either to sin or to repent. In such a case, Eternal Punishment would be suffering inflicted through infinite time, and therefore itself infinite in amount as punishment for sins committed during a finite time. (B) The case of one who retains Free-Will, and who has ceased to sin, has repented of all past sins, and is choosing good as good. In this case also Eternal Punishment would be infinite suffering, inflicted as punishment for sins committed during a finite time. (C) The case of one who does not come under either of these descriptions, that is, one who retains Free-Will and continues for ever to choose evil. In such a case Eternal Punishment would be infinite suffering, inflicted as punishment for infinite sin. I assume that the reader would not feel any difficulty in recognising the justice of inflicting continuous suffering as punishment for continuous sin. Hence we may set aside case (C) altogether. Also we may combine cases (A) and (B) into one, and interpret Proposition II. as asserting that it would be wrong to inflict infinite suffering, on human beings who have ceased to sin, as punishment for sins committed during a finite time. Proposition III. does not seem to need any explanation. It will be well before going further to re-state the three incompatible Propositions, in order to give to Proposition II. the form it has now assumed. I. God is perfectly good. II. To inflict infinite suffering on human beings who have ceased to sin, as punishment for sins committed during a finite time, would be wrong. God is capable of acting thus. We know with absolute certainty that one at least of these three Propositions is untrue. Hence, however overwhelming may be the weight of evidence with which each seems to claim our assent, we know that one at least may reasonably be abandoned.

Let us now take them, one by one, and consider, for each in turn, what are the grounds on which it claims our assent, and what would be the logical consequences of abandoning it. It may be that the Reader will then be able to see for himself which two of the three have the strongest claims on his assent, and which he must, therefore, abandon. First, then, let us consider the Proposition. I. " God is perfectly good." The grounds on which this claims our assent, seem to be, first, certain intuitions (for which, of course, no proofs can be offered), such as " I believe that I have Free-Will, and am capable of choosing right or wrong ; that I am responsible for my conduct; that I am not the outcome of blind material forces, but the creature of a being who has given me Free- Will and the sense of right and wrong, and to whom I am responsible, and who is therefore perfectly good. And this being I call ' God.' " And these intuitions are confirmed for us in a thousand ways by all the facts of revelation, by the facts of our own spiritual history, by the answers we have had to our prayers, by the irresistible conviction that this being whom we call " God " loves us, with a love so wonderful, so beautiful, so immeasurable, so wholly undeserved, so unaccountable on any ground save His own perfect goodness, that we can but abase ourselves to the dust before Him, and dimly hope that we may be able some day to love Him with a love more like His great love for us. The abandonment of this Proposition would mean practically, for most of us, the abandonment of the belief in a God, and the acceptance of Atheism. Secondly, let us consider the Proposition. II. To inflict infinite suffering, on human beings who have ceased to sin, as punishment for sins committed during a finite time, would be wrong. Here it will greatly simplify our inquiry to begin by considering what are the various purposes for which punishment may be supposed to be, first, enacted, and secondly, inflicted ; and what are the principles which, in view of those purposes, would make us regard its enactment and infliction as right or wrong. Punishment, when enacted or inflicted, by human beings upon each other is necessarily limited in its purposes. We cannot read the minds of others, and therefore can never know whether any human being is or is not really guilty in anything he does. Consequently, human punishment can never reach beyond the outward act : we dare not attempt to punish thoughts, however sinful, that have not resulted in action. And, even here, our principal purpose must necessarily be to save Society from the injury that such acts would cause to it. Hence there is little in the principles affecting punishment, when inflicted by Man, that we can safely appeal to in considering punishment as inflicted by God. There is, however, one principle which clearly applies equally to both : we recognise that some proportion should be observed, between the amount of crime and the amount of punishment inflicted : for instance, we should have no hesitation in condemning as unjust the conduct of a judge who, in sentencing two criminals, had awarded the greater punishment to the one whose crime was clearly the lesser of the two. But, in the sight of God, our guilt consists in the sinful choice, and we rightly hold that two men, who had resolved, in similar circumstances, on committing the same crime, would be equally guilty in His sight, even though only one had actually committed the crime, while the other had been accidentally prevented from carrying out his intention. Hence we may assume that God's purpose, in the enactment of punishment, is the prevention of the sinful choice, with all the evils consequent upon it. When once the punishment has been enacted, it must necessarily, unless some change takes place in the circumstances contemplated in the enactment, be inflicted. We may easily imagine a man, who has enacted some punishment, finding good reasons for not inflicting it ; for instance, he might find that he had made a mistake in enacting it, or that he had failed to take account of some unforeseen circumstance. We might even imagine a man to have threatened a punishment without any intention of ever inflicting it. But none of these suppositions can be made as to punishment enacted by God. We cannot believe Him to be ignorant of any of the circumstances, or capable of announcing that He will do what He does not really intend to do. We must trust His perfect knowledge of the thoughts of men, for judging who is guilty and who is not, and the only principle of right and wrong that seems reasonably applicable, is the sense that some proportion should be observed between the amount of sin and the amount of the punishment awarded to it. And here comes in the one consideration which, as I believe, causes all the difficulty and distress felt on this subject. We feel intuitively that sins committed by a human being during a finite period must necessarily be finite in amount ; while punishment continued during an infinite period must necessarily be infinite in amount. And we feel that such a proportion is unjust. Once suppose the punishment finite for finite sin, so that if at any period of time the sinful choice ceased to exist, the punishment would not be infinite, and I believe this difficulty would no longer be felt, and that we should be ready to recognise punishment as deserved, and therefore as justly inflicted ; and also to recognise the many good purposes, such as the reformation of the sinner, or the warning given to others, which the punishment might serve.

There is another intuition, felt, I believe, by most of us, of which no account has yet been taken. It is that there is some eternal necessity, wholly beyond our comprehension, that sin must result in suffering. This principle is, I believe, enshrouded in, and may to some extent make more credible to us, the unfathomable mystery of the Atonement. And this principle must be allowed for, I think, in considering the present subject. There is also a difficulty, that will probably occur to some readers, which ought to be noticed here. It is the doubt whether the man who checks and puts out of his mind a sinful wish merely from fear of punishment, can really be less guilty in the sight of God, "Granted," it may be urged, " that Divine punishment is incurred by the evil wish, whether or no it result in evil act, so that its enactment may serve to prevent that wish, yet surely what God requires is that we should love good as good, and hate evil as evil. If a man checks the evil wish merely from fear of punishment, and not because it is an evil wish, does he thereby cease to sin?" Here it must be admitted, I think, that the enactment of punishment for evil wishes does not, of itself, produce the love of good as good, and the hatred of evil as evil. Yet surely it may help in that direction ? God uses, I believe, such motives as best suit the present need ; at one time, perhaps, fear may be the only one that will influence the sinner ; later on, when, through fear, some habit of self-restraint has been formed, the evil wish may be checked by the consideration that indulgence of it might lead to acts which the man is beginning dimly to recognise as evil ; later still, when this recognition has grown clearer, a higher motive (such as human love) may be appealed to ; and later still, the love of good as good, and the love of God as the Being whose essence is goodness. When all this has been considered, its outcome seems to me to be the irresistible intuition that infinite punishment for finite sin would be unjust, and therefore wrong. We feel that even weak and erring Man would shrink from such an act. And we cannot conceive of God as acting on a lower standard of right and wrong. In the words of Dean Church, " Can we be so compassionate and so just, and cannot we trust Him to be so?" To set aside this intuition, and to accept, as a just and righteous act, the infliction on human beings of infinite punishment for finite sin, is virtually the abandonment of Conscience as a guide in questions of Right and Wrong, and the embarking, without compass or rudder, on a boundless ocean of perplexity. In taking this position, we have to face such questions as these : " Why do I accept whatever God does as being right, though my conscience declares it to be wrong ? Is it that He is my Maker? What ground have I for holding that the power of creating is a guarantee for goodness ? Or is it that He loves me ? But I know already that wicked beings can love. No. The only reasonable ground for accepting what He does as being right seems to be the assurance that He is perfectly good. And how can I be assured of this, if I put aside as useless the only guide that I profess for distinguishing between right and wrong, the voice of Conscience ? " Such are the difficulties that meet us, if we propose to take the second possible course, and to reject Proposition II. The third possible course is to accept Propositions I. and II., and to reject III. We should thus take the following position. " I believe that God will not act thus. Yet I also believe that, whatever He has declared He will do, He will do. Hence I believe that He has not declared that He will act thus."

The difficulties, entailed by choosing this third course, may be well exhibited in another set of incompatible Propositions, as follows : 1. God has not declared that He will act thus. 2. All that the Bible tells us, as to the relations between God and man, are true. 3. The Bible tells us that God has declared that He will act thus. As these three Propositions cannot possibly be all of them true, the acceptance of (i) necessarily entails the rejection of either (2) or (3). If we reject (2), we are at once involved in all the perplexities that surround the question of Biblical Inspiration. The theory of Plenary Inspiration which asserts that every statement in the Bible is absolute and infallibly true has been largely modified in these days, and most Christians are now, I think, content to admit the existence of a human element in the Bible, and the possibility of human error in such of its statements as do not involve the relations between God and Man. But, as to those statements, there appears to be a general belief that the Bible has been providentially protected from error : in fact, on any other theory, it would be hard to say what value there would be in the Bible or for what purpose it could have been written. The more likely course would seem to be to reject (3). Let us consider what difficulties this would entail. We are now supposed to have taken up the following position : " I do not bejieve that the Bible tells us that God has declared He will inflict Eternal Punishment on human beings, who are either incapable of sinning, or who, being capable of sinning, have ceased to sin." It is well to remind the Reader that, in taking up this position, he entirely escapes from the original difficulty on account of which we entered on this discussion. And how widely different this is from what we considered as the first of the courses possible to us ! That would have involved us in the abandonment of Christianity itself; this entails many difficulties, no doubt : but they all belong to the infinitely less important field of Biblical Criticism. The Reader who is unable, whether from want of time or from want of the necessary learning, to investigate this question for himself, must perforce accept the judgment of others : and all he needs here to be told is that the interpretation of the passages, which are believed to teach the doctrine of " Eternal Punishment," depends largely, if not entirely, on the meaning given to one single word (cuwy). This is rendered, in our English Bibles, by the word " eternal " or " everlasting " : but there are many critics who believe that it does not necessarily mean "endless." If this be so, then the punishment, which we are considering, is finite punishment for finite sin, and the original difficulty no longer exists. In conclusion, I will put together in one view the various modes of escape, from the original difficulty, which may be adopted without violating the inexorable laws of logical reasoning.

They are as follows : (1) "I believe that the infliction, on human beings, of endless punishment, for sins committed during a finite time, would be unjust, and therefore wrong. Yet I cannot resist the evidence that God has declared His intention of acting thus. Consequently I hold Him to be capable of sinning." This would practically mean the abandonment of Christianity. (2) "I believe that God is perfectly good, and therefore that such infliction of punishment would be right, though my conscience declares it to be wrong." This would practically mean the abandonment of conscience as a guide to distinguish right from wrong, and would leave the phrase " I believe that God is perfectly good " without any intelligible meaning. (3) " I believe that God is perfectly good. Also I believe that such infliction of punishment would be wrong. Consequently I believe that God is not capable of acting thus. I find that the Bible tells us that He is capable of acting thus. Consequently I believe that what the Bible tells us of the relations between God and Man cannot be relied on as true." This would practically mean the abandonment of the Bible as a trustworthy book. (4) " I believe that God is perfectly good. Also I believe that such infliction of punishment would be wrong. Consequently I believe that God is not capable of acting thus. I find that the Bible, in the English Version, seems to tell us that He is capable of acting thus. Yet I believe that it is a book inspired by God, and protected by Him from error in what it tells us of the relations between God and Man, and therefore that what it says, according to the real meaning of the words, may be relied on as true. Consequently I hold that the word, rendered in English as ' eternal ' or ' everlasting,' has been mistranslated, and that the Bible does not really assert more than that God will inflict suffering, of unknown duration but not necessarily eternal, punishment for sin." Any one of these four views may be held, without violating the laws of logical reasoning. Here ends my present task; since my object has been, throughout, not to indicate one course rather than another, but to help the Reader to see clearly what the possible courses are, and what he is virtually accepting, or denying, in choosing any one of them.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Video: John McCain's Double Talk Express

The Double Talk Express:

Endless Wars:

Is John McCain Racist?.

Links 2/06/08

Today's links:

Mystery of the Missing Children

The Jewish Burqa

Human Embryos Created to Fight Disease

Scientists to Create Human-Animal Embryos

Do-It-Yourself Surgery

Feeling Lonely Can Make You Sick

Thoughts on Abortion from a Christian Blogger

Secrets of Old Hollywood

50 Great Things to do in America

Pizza-making Made Simple (at the Pizza Academy in Naples)

Parents Face Fines for Getting Children Drunk

Internet Suicide Cult

BBC Apologises for Debate about Black Man's Willy

Could a Republican Win the White House Again?

Japan Says "To Hell With the Whales"

Voters told by Election Judges not worry about blank ballots, told voting pens had "Invisible Ink"

The Insane McCain

While Sen. Thad Cochran worries about a McCain presidency, Justin Raimondo, in The Madness of John McCain , says a militarist suffering from acute narcissism and armed with the Bush Doctrine is not fit to be commander in chief. With McCain on his way to the Repubilcan nomination, we should all be very worried about this lunatic gaining the White House.

Unless, that is, you want to stay in Iraq for 100 years:

And go to war with Iran:

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Welcome To Hell

"It is the duty of the patriot to protect his country from his government." -Thomas Paine

Video: Yes We Can

Racism, Barack Obama, and Two Old Bags for Hillary

Just recently I overheard two older ladies talking about the contest between Hillary and Barack. They were both Clinton supporters and were asking each other how any white person could prefer a black over a white for president. One of them even suggested to the other that Obama was a possible Al Qaeda plant!

I know there is still a lot of racial prejudice among the older generation who grew up in less tolerant times, and they vote in larger numbers. However, it may just be that the excitement that Obama has generated among the young could translate into actual votes this time (younger people historically tend not to go to the polls in large numbers on election day) and that might offset that factor.

I started out this election cycle supporting Ron Paul. Obviously he is going nowhere in the Republican primaries, so I have decided that Obama is our best hope for some real change in American foreign policy and getting us out of Iraq. Even though I consider myself a libertarian, I would be willing to accept things like universal health care in exchange for ending the war and bringing our troops home. I really believe the overriding issue this year is restoring our reputation around the world and ending the American empire. Now, I don't expect any Democrat to actually close all our overseas bases and support a truly noninterventionist foreign policy, not even Obama is going to do that, but at the very least an Obama presidency will end the influence of the war crazed neocons (don't be too sure that a Clinton presidency would do the same). At this point, I don't hope for more than that.

If it finally does come down to Hillary Clinton Vs John McCain, then, as corrupt as I believe the Clintons to be, and as much as I don't want to see them in the White House again, I would have no choice but to root for Hillary. She may be reprehensible in many ways (in my opinion), but McCain is dangerous. He would likely lead us into war with Iran and start us on the path to a new cold war with the Russians. I'll take corrupt over dangerous any day.

Some Democrats hope for a "Dream Team" ticket of Clinton/Obama, and I don't really think it impossible, as Hillary may need Obama as running mate to unify the Democratic party and gain the enthusiasm of his supporters. If she doesn't have the Democratic base, especially African Americans, energized, she can't win. An Obama/Clinton ticket, however, would be less likely, as Obama, for a number of reasons, will probably choose a white male as his running mate

The American public, by all the polling, is fed up with the Iraq fiasco, so we have to hope that that trumps any racism among the electorate this year. If John "100 years in Iraq" McCain is the Republican candidate, that, along with the fact that many conservative Republicans can't stand McCain, may be enough for a Democratic victory.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Videos: The Story of Evolution

Evolution in 5 Minutes:

Understanding Evolution:

How Evolution Works:

What This Blog Is About

Is this blog about skepticism? Yes it is. Is it about atheism? It would seem so. Is it about libertarianism? Well, yeah. Is it about me? How could it not be. Are all these things linked, do they somehow go together naturally? Penn Jillette has stated that "Skepticism...libertarianism and atheism... are kind of joined together" and I think he's right, even though not all atheists are libertarians and not all libertarians are atheists or skeptics. Atheism and skepticism seem a natural fit. Skepticism will inevitably lead to atheism if the skeptic is truly honest with himself. My own inquisitive nature eventually brought me to question the basis of religion and finally the very existence of a "higher power." Libertarianism is another animal all together, but I still think you can make a case for its belonging in the group with the other two.

Now, when I first gave up religion, I wandered to the left politically, supporting and voting for Democrats in every election. No doubt much of that was a reaction to the Republican party's takeover by the Christian right. But I was also motivated by the temporary nature of this life, and because I no longer believed in an afterlife, I felt that moving in the direction of a more social democratic if not outright socialist society was the just and right course for the country and the world to take, as there was no heavenly reward coming to make up for all of the injustices and inequalities of life. I soon realized, however, that giving ever more power to the state was just as dangerous as power in the hands of the church. In our pluralistic culture no one religious sect dominates (though the politicized Christian right has tried to gain such influence and dominance for itself) but with the government you have an authority with monopoly power, including the monopoly of the use of force. It came to having to acknowledge that the State's threat of fines, jail and prison inforced by police and courts was as reprehensible as the threats of damnation and hellfire that the Church uses to keep people under its control. Libertarianism or anarchism is therefore the only political philosophy consistent with atheism's rejection of all gods, for to rid ourselves of the gods of Christianity, Judaism and Islam while retaining the God of the all-powerful State only trades one tyranny for another.

Then there was the simple fact of capitalism's amazing productivity and the abundance of goods and services it produces. Life is made better for all through the freedom of the market and the poorest Americans today are richer in real terms than the wealthiest of times past. Would you rather be a millionaire in 1808 or 1908 instead of a person of average income in 2008? We are getting richer and richer (over the long term) and the only way for that progress to slow or come to a halt is if we abandon the principles that gave us that wealth in the first place. How much wealthier might we all be if the United States had not heeded the call of the early progressive movement and had stayed the course that had brought so much prosperity to so many so quickly during our nation's first one hundred years?

So that's part of my explanation for the topics this blog covers. If you are an atheist but not a libertarian (nothing to do with the loser Libertarian party, by the way) then I see you as a fellow freethinker just the same, and likewise if you are libertarian in your political views but of a religious persuasion then we can agree to disagree on gods and holy books while remaining friends and allies when it comes to opposing state oppression. Anything else I write about here you can just attribute to my personal idiosyncrasies.
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