Monday, September 27, 2010

“Rally to Restore Sanity” possible signs

Not much of post here. But reading some of the ideas other people had for signs they will or would carry to the Jon Stewart "Rally to Restore Sanity," I had a minor brainstorm of several signs I might carry... or vend, hmmmm. I won't be making it to DC. That's probably for the best as I would be too ambivalent to choose ONE sign. Some are funny. Some are serious. Some might be both.

Signs suggested by The Daily Show:
-I DISAGREE With you, But I'm pretty sure you're not Hitler

What sign would like to see? Or maybe if you're reading this after the rally, what sign did you like seeing? Here are some of my ideas. Be forewarned, many lean to the left... a bit.

-I was mad ’til I checked the facts.
-No foxnews is good news
-Boycott fear mongers (network logos?)
-“When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” — Sinclair Lewis (?)
-I was mad ’til I stopped watching the news.
-The old deities aren’t working, let’s make (or make up) some new ones.
-I can no longer decide who is more wrong.
-”…the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…” Treaty of Tripoli 1797
-Willful ignorance is still ignorance
-Wishful thinking is the substance of things hoped for
-It is only by faith that we may be fooled
-Keep Jefferson in the text books
-Texas School Board, America is ashamed of you
-Stop shouting… um, please?
-GOD HATES CRABS (leviticus 11:12)
-Speak up, just a little.
-No Pot? No Tea Party.
-Want to lose my vote? Try to scare me.
-I have unqualified unreasonable belief in you.
-Remind me what you mean by “fact.”
-Hey Mister, you forgot your sign.
-He was all like “Yahweh!” and I was like “No way.”
-He who is least of my brothers doesn’t have a lobby.
-It's time for Congressional Turnover, or Apple
-Who do you have to blow to get press credentials?
-I can’t picture mohamed here. Can you draw him?
-DRAW ~blank vertical space~ MOHAMED
-Are ya gettin’ this, camera guy?
-Thanks to Bush I can watch foxnews 24/7
-Thanks to Bush I didn’t have to miss work today.
-No reasonable person ever called me “heathen”
-Without fear and anger how will I rant?
-Prayer not working? Sacrifice a goat… or kid.

Some aren't really in the "Take it down a notch for America" theme. Oh well.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

my Stephen Hawking rant

Hawking irritates me anymore. Certainly there's a lot to admire about him. But there's a caginess that suggests he may be motivated toward marketing more than toward candor.

His "know the mind of god" quote was sheer frickin' genius, if his goal was to sell books. Did that book sell a lot of copies? Oh, yea. Maybe he was just being poetic? pfft That line seems more like disingenuous populist drivel.

The need for supernatural investment to explain the origins of the universe has been superfluous for years. But now that Hawking is publishing it suddenly people notice? I suppose I should be grateful that his celebrity status has gotten this information some media attention. I guess I'm just mad at the world. Why should it take years for natural cosmology to seem interesting. Why does it need a celebrity endorsement? Why is that celebrity Hawking? ARGH!

Misreporting of what was actually written may be part of the what is stirring the hornets' nest. I've probably seen three different outlets headlining that Hawking wrote he had proved god didn't create the universe, and several others that implied as much. Again, I guess I'm just mad at the world. Competition in the media markets rewards controversy and punishes accurate unbiased un-hyped reporting.

And Hawking is JUST NOW sharing this information with the public? He waited until he was ready to publish again? That seems too coincidental to be anything but mercenary.

Maybe I'm just cranky. Maybe I just hate capitalism. Maybe I'm just jealous. Maybe I'm just a cynical idealist (actually, I am). Maybe I shouldn't be picking on Stephen. I don't know what it's like to be him, what motivates him, what worries him. I learned from and enjoyed Brief History and Nutshell. But once more, by being just the right amount of controversial, he is getting another avalanche of free publicity for his book.

Maybe I should be mad at humans and western culture for being such easy targets. But I find it hard to overlook crafty opportunism, even if I may benefit.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Fillet of souls

Assuming there is a soul... and assuming souls have an influence on people, presumably on the brain(?)... then there would be a natural and physical (therefore observable) effect or result on the brain with no natural cause. This is not what we observe.

One might try to impose the idea that consciousness is a direct result of the soul. But if this were true then the brains of infants, amnesiacs and victims of brain trauma would be on similar consciousness footing with custodians of "normal" brains. This is not what we observe.

And if there were souls wouldn't they (therefore "we") have a much clearer picture of the nature of the supernatural realm, all things spiritual, the nature of deities and the afterlife? Yet what we observe is many disparate supernatural belief systems. Culture seems to be a bigger influence on supernatural expectations than any commonly held unseen informed "soul."

What we do have in common is the ability to identify the agency (consciousness or intent) in people, animals, plants, fire, gravity... This is a great survival tool. It allows us to make predictions. Though we might not always predict correctly we can make partially informed decisions. And we usually chose what we predict is safest or most satisfying.

Animals, plants, fire, gravity, etc. all have behaviors, some more predictable than others. But do abrahamic adherents suppose these things have souls? I am not suggesting these things do have souls. We are very similar to a great deal of the animal kingdom. Physically, what most separates us from the animals is our neurophysiology.

Our fore-brain activity, predictive thinking, organizational assessments, pattern recognition, imagination... make us distinct, arguably "special" on Earth. Do we have a more "special" neurophysiology because of our un-observed souls? Or do we have un-observed souls because because of our "special" neurophysiology? Or does that neurophysiology allow us to believe we have souls despite a lack of any objective informed reason to do so? Or maybe it is just a coincidence that only humans have both souls and imagination.

The neurophysiology of the human brain does not require a soul to explain its functionality. Subjective experience, fear of death and wishful thinking may make the idea of an eternal soul so appealing that confirmation bias will overwhelm reasonable and objective skepticism. If someone has any objective evidence of a soul, by all means, let's take a look at it. But if you want to present a cosmic conspiracy theory about why souls exist but can't be observed, I already have a shelf full of fiction I've been meaning to get to.