To the BitterSweetEnd: I’m Stealing All Your Content

… well not all of obviously because this guy has a lot to say. Here is my response to this intriguing post:
The Christian (Theist) Challenge
I answered these before looking at the other replies so I wouldn’t be influenced by them.

1. Do you feel like Religion, God and The Bible conflict?
If you were to ask Jesus this question, he would say Religion and God definitely because Religion is man’s attempt to quantify or control God. It is man’s imposed structure and it generally goes awry. God and the Bible I don’t think conflict. The Bible says that all scripture is God breathed or inspired by God so I don’t see that as a conflict.

2. If God told you kill someone, (And you are 100% it’s God). Would you kill that person? Why or Why Not?
When is the only time you can get away with speeding legitimately? If you have an emergency and you have to get to the hospital immediately. If you get stopped by the cops, you quickly explain the situation and they happily drive ahead of you to the hospital. It is justifiable in this situation to break the law.
If God told you to kill Hitler, would you do it? I don’t think many of us would counter that the greater good is served by the death of Hitler. Yes, I would kill someone. I would also kill someone in self defense or if they were raping my daughter or threatening someone I love.
You may consider that God is the giver of life and thus he has the authority to take it away. One of the greatest heroes of the Old Testament was told to sacrifice his son which he was in the process of carrying out when God told him to stop.

3. Who created God; if he came from nothing or has no creator doesn’t that violate The First Law of Thermodynamics?
I think you have to have a broader imagination here. If he created the First Law of Thermodynamics he doesn’t have to submit to it. If God predates the universe, he also predates time so we have to think about beginnings differently then. I can’t claim to understand it because it is so far outside my experience but if he says he has always existed I just have to say okay on that one.

4. If you believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God; do you believe it to be inerrant or infallible? And, If the Bible is found errant, does God still exist and is the Bible still a trustworthy source?
I believe that it is inspired but I don’t believe it is necessarily factually inerrant or infallible. This is bordering on making the Bible itself God or a demigod of sorts. Many people treat the Bible as an idol and they venerate it nearly to the point of worship which I don’t think God intended. It points to God but is not God. People need to clarify passages that talk about “the word of God”. Sometimes this is God’s literal words, sometimes it is Jesus (“In the beginning was the Word”) and sometimes maybe it is the Bible but I think in most cases it is the first one.
The Bible is definitely trustworthy. It is thousands of years of distilled wisdom and divinely inspired writing.

5. In the Bible their are stories of God telling the Israelites to kill innocent women & children and children being punished for the sins of their father. Is this morally right or morally justifiable?
I am not in a position to judge God. Otherwise see question 2.

6. If God is perfect, how can something imperfect come out of something that is PERFECT? Did God make a mistake?
Can an excellent carpenter build a crappy birdhouse? I guess so if he wanted to.
I don’t think God made a mistake. He made us like he wanted to make us. You could say that we are flawed or we are fallen. It doesn’t make much difference. It is quite clear we were capable of being flawed from the outset. This gives us the opportunity to choose him (embedded in love is a choice). If we were perfect we wouldn’t be able to not choose him (maybe). Love is meaningless without choice.

7. If a Christian goes into a forest and gets lost. And he prays to God to be saved and not die. Does a God still here him? How do know? And, how can you be sure?
I suppose the way you can be sure that your prayers are heard is based on experience. I prayed about such and such a thing and something came out if it. For me, it is not that my prayers are always answered the way I wanted them to be, it is more like I can see that the best possible result came about that improved my character or made my life better in some way. Like if my son constantly asks for sugar cereal but instead I feed him porridge, he might not like it at the time, but later on he won’t have rotten teeth and malnutrition. We shouldn’t always get what we want. That might be why God hasn’t made me win the lottery. (…yet! Please, God, Please!)

8. If you were to die, and when you go before God; it’s some other God you have never seen or heard of nor worshiped? What would you do? Would you plead for him not to judge you harshly and what would you say?
Nice to meet you… Sir. What is the basis on which I am judged? Feel free to judge me on the basis of the life I lived. I am in awe of the universe you created.

9. What is something that would convince you that Christianity is wrong and that there is no God? (If your answer is NOTHING, than please explain WHY?)
When I die and nothing happens, I will be fully convinced.

10. This is a quote by the atheist Richard Dawkins…”We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go ONE god further.“-Richard Dawkins. Why does the Christian reject all other gods, but not their own? Why are you Christian? Why do you believe in only the Judo-Christian God?
This is kind of like saying to a married man, “You’ve rejected all other women except for one, so why not just go the whole hog and become celibate.” There is a large chasm there.
Any religion that does not claim exclusivity is essentially pointless because if it is acceptable to be in some other religion while being in the non-exclusive one, you might as well go to the exclusive one and increase your odds of getting it right.
I became a Christian because I was raised that way. I choose to remain a Christian because I am fully convinced, although I prefer to be called a follower of Christ as I think the term “Christian” has a lot of baggage. Please note that not everything I was raised with I still believe now. My beliefs are not static and I prefer to be an independent thinker, not tied to any particular dogma apart from Christ and what he taught. That being said I find the Bible reliable and compelling but I wouldn’t claim it is necessarily inerrant.
The major difference between Christianity and all other world religions is in others it is what you do for God and in Christianity it is what God does for you. All you have to do is believe that Jesus died so your sins can be forgiven and you can be acceptable before God and God takes care of the rest. That being said, salvation is free but it will cost you your life and you will never be so happy to give it away (I say this with sincerity). This is very compelling to me. Love and forgiveness are central concepts in Christ’s teachings which are very attractive to me.

Once I experienced Jesus and glimpsed eternity, I could never go back.

To the BitterSweet End

This post is in response to this post on The BitterSweet End. Go read it first and come back when you’re done.

I see this as multiple arguments that stack up in favor or against. I don’t know all of them for atheism because I’m not collecting them (maybe an atheist could fill in some for atheism), but here are a few that I believe for myself:

The universe was caused-> God may have caused it.
The universe appears to have been designed -> God may be the designer.
The universe appears to be fine tuned to support life -> God may have created it for life.
Humans seek meaning or “higher calling” -> God qualifies as a higher calling.
Humans desire, give and receive love (many would say above all else) -> maybe a God who loves built us.
…. this isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list, I think you see where I am going with this.

Then, in my own case, I have my personal experiences that confirm my philosophical suspicions that there is in fact a God because he has taken care of me and bailed me out of so many jams I have lost count…

… future reply:”Well isn’t that great for you but what about all the children being raped and starving to death that cry out to (your) god on a daily basis. Why doesn’t he do for them that he chooses to do for you, you western pompous twat.”

To that I say: I am really humbled and a bit ashamed that God chooses to help me with my ridiculous petty life as important as it is to me it doesn’t hold a candle to those children that are suffering. All I know is that he is God and I am not. I am not in a position to judge what he does. I would like to think he is doing something to alleviate their suffering but he isn’t accountable to me so I don’t have a very satisfactory answer except to say that in my life, such as it is God is a good friend and he has shown that he loves me.

As usual, your comments are appreciated.

Stir the Marbles in Your Head with Neil deGrasse Tyson

To my shame I had never heard of this guy before but I stumbled onto this video on Youtube and thought it was pretty brilliant.

I like how he frames the argument and just how little here cares. Come to think of it I think the English Premiership is pretty pointless but I don’t spend much time railing against it.

Once on that page you can click on this video:

This is very entertaining but it got me thinking about “life”. It doesn’t cut down on the fine tuning argument just because life only exists in one small part of the universe (that we know of). It doesn’t matter that 99% of species that have ever existed are now extinct, although I think a different figure might be interesting like how many species generally exist at any given time. Ok, I’m pretty sure that’s unanswerable so let’s just call it rhetorical. The amount of real estate we occupy in the universe is just a matter of scale. If the whole earth fit on the head of a pin would that even matter? (In reference to scale or amount of territory we occupy. I understand our physics would be totally different.)

Life is irrepressible. It keeps coming back from the dead. Some scientists are looking at the bottom of a lake in Antarctica just to see if there is a place on Earth where life can’t exist just to know that this thing actually has a floor to it.

I do a bit of software design. If I was able to create a self replicating program that gave the best of its source code to the next generation and systematically weeded out the garbage all the while slightly altering the source code to improve the chance for betterment for millions of generations and continued to do that until it became sentient, that would be amazing beyond my wildest dreams. Then, if that sentient computer being looked back and said, “It all looks like a big accident to me… “. Well, that might sting a bit.

Autism and Accidental Creativity

I recently read the book Autism and Creativity by Michael Fitzgerald. The premise of the book is that men with autism, more specifically High Functioning Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome are inclined to be creative in a way that breaks the mould because they are incapable of fitting into the world in a conventional way.

I would extend that to say that because people with Asperger’s don’t learn in the conventional way partly because with varying degrees they lack empathy and therefore struggle with intuitive mimicry in the same way that “normal” (neurotypical) people do. Essentially they don’t really learn by example in the same way that neurotypical people do. Sometimes they can be taught a skill in conventional ways but many times they just have to forge their own way. This often leads to interesting unconventional results.

They also have obsessions which lead to interesting results. In this book one of the more drastic examples is Ramanujan who was an unconventional math genius. He died at a young age partly because he neglected his own wellbeing as he was completely obsessed with math and often would forget to eat and otherwise look after his bodily needs. Their obsessions work hand in hand with their incredible ability to completely focus on just one thing for extended periods of time.

Before I read this book I never really thought of Asperger’s as being a creative force as the people with it are being “creative” more out of ignorance of how to acclimate than out of a genuine desire for creativity. That’s why I would refer to it as accidental creativity. They are unconventional because they don’t understand how to follow convention and in general choose to defy convention partly because it doesn’t make sense to them but also because off a general lack of understanding of social rules and therefore feel less desire to conform. Also, they don’t appear to be creative in the expected way, just odd as a result of their inability to understand social interaction.

On one hand people with Asperger’s have a hard time because they end up becoming social outcasts but we should be embracing these people despite our reservations because they aren’t like us. They are inherently “outside the box” thinkers as they don’t recognize there is a box in the first place. We really need these people to propel society forward. They need us as well because as a consequence of their social dysfunction, they are generally poor communicators, so they need people that understand them that can help them liaise with the world.

It turns out we are better off together.

What is Creativity?

Is creativity about independent thought or about being different from others? If someone came up with a style like Monet without any exposure to Monet would they also be a creative genius? If someone in an undiscovered culture draws like Picasso, does that mean they are a creative genius or just have a bad sense of scale? Or if someone creates in a way not yet discovered by modern art trends does that make them a creative genius or is it just “primitive” art?

One of them has to do with creativity in a social sphere and one has to do with objective(?) creativity. In order to be creative when surrounded by alternative visions of creativity is to do something different. It seems unlikely to me the sideline idiot art critic, that Jackson Pollack would have ever happened upon his “paint spatter” style in an objectively creative manner. If anything, the spatter hand paintings found in prehistoric caves are a step above the random paint spatter as at least they represent something (the artist’s hand).

Does objective creativity really even exist? Creativity will always have to be defined within some sort of context such as language or art history or what have you. Complete object creativity would perhaps be incomprehensible as even being creative. Take for instance clouds… as I peer out the window at the blue sky with clouds moving across the sky in a never before seen display of infinite complexity while being constrained to the basic hues of blue, white and greys… but nobody talks about the creativity of clouds, except me.

We don’t think of clouds as being creative because clouds are considered a collection of inanimate particles blown about by a mindless weather cycle. Even in this, creativity is constrained to something that only a person can do. So even creativity which is meant to be the freest of all birds still lives in a box.

Lessons From the Wood Lice

Woodlice

I live in a place where wood lice are prevalent. I don’t have any quarrel with them. If they make it to the inside of my house, I just put them outside. I think they are kind of cute in their mindless tiny armadillo way. It’s unfortunate that I have to kill some of them every time I put my household compost into my compost bin. It has a heavy wooden lid to keep out the larger creatures, well actually it forces the rats and mice to work a little harder to get in but it does keep the birds out. When I move the lid all the woodlice are gathered around the top of the lid and some inevitably get squashed by me moving the lid. Besides me killing them with the lid, you see their little carcasses all of the place as they die for lack of food or what, I know not.

The problem with woodlice is they breed to the point of starvation and they insist on living in inherently dangerous locations. Remind you of anyone? These past couple days, Hurricane Isaac just went through the US where it gave a little dusting to Louisiana, the same place that got destroyed a few years ago by Katrina. Why would you live in a city below sea level in a hurricane prone area? I’m convinced they decided to rebuild the levies to provide proof of concept in the same way dropping a bomb on Japan was to provide real life testing of what the bomb could do to an actual population. Did you ever wonder why the two bombs they dropped had totally different designs? They wanted to see which design would be more effective. Ok, New Orleans has a unique culture, etc. That’s fine. If you are willing to put your life on the line to experience unique culture then that’s the risk you’ve signed up to. Many people would say they can’t afford to leave. This cannot be true. Refugees walk away from where they are being shot at with whatever they can carry but they get rewarded with their lives.

Best Popcorn in My House

To make the best popcorn ever you only need a pot, oil, popcorn and a bowl. The pot I use is a little over a gallon or 5 litres and the bowl is a little larger volume which is handy as you want it a little larger for when you stir it around to get the salt distributed. Also, some pots are better than others. I have tried it with a cast iron and a stainless steel pot with a thin bottom and the stainless steel one works far better because it gets hotter quicker and it’s lighter to shuffle on the stove.

Put your stove on the highest heat possible. Let it heat up the pot to super hot. Put a decent layer of oil on the bottom of the pot, like a quarter inch or 7 mm and let that heat up to the temperature of the pot. When the oil starts smoking, that’s as hot as it will go before it starts to burn. The secret is to get the oil as hot as possible before you put the popcorn in. The hotter the oil is (below smoking), the lighter and fluffier the popcorn will be. Put the in enough popcorn to be up to the top of how much oil you put in the pot and put the lid on the pot. Let it sit until the first kernels are popping, then start shuffling it back and forth on the burner while maintaining contact with the burner. You may want to use oven mitts or potholders as the pot may get hot. You will need to shake it back and forth for about a minute or two until all the kernels are done popping. When the popcorn starts to not pop as vigorously as it was be ready to take it off the burner. If there is no more popping don’t keep it on the burner anymore or the kernels will burn. When there is only one per second or so popping take it off the burner and pour it into a large bowl.

Now just salt and butter or however you normally season your popcorn. I just sprinkle vegetable oil on top and salt it. This makes popcorn similar to what you would get at a movie as they use a kettle style popper, it’s effectively the same process, minus the fake butter seasoning.

Enjoy your popcorn!

Surprise! The Sun is Really Round

And by round, I mean really round. Scientists were expecting the sun to be slightly squashed because that’s what happens when something spins on its axis, like the earth for instance is widest at the equator because centrifugal force spins that part outward and as a consequence, the poles are pulled inward because the crust is just floating on the molten core of the earth. So that’s what the scientists were expecting the sun to be like until they actually measured it. Just goes to show, you can have all the theories you want but until you actually measure it, it is not fact.

This is part of the problem I see with judging the age of the universe, carbon dating or whatever we cannot actually verify by observation. It’s obviously foolish to just throw up our hands and say it’s beyond our ability to find out but it’s also foolish to commit to one path when others are viable even if not fashionable.

Welcome to the Double Dip

Let me start off by saying this is not based on any scientific analysis or professional capacity of mine, just a lay person’s view of the economic situation.

I believe that the world is going into a long drawn out recession, maybe a depression. The reason for this is the savings and earning power of the middle class has been depleted. During the great depression, the world economies lay mostly dormant for about a decade while governments tried to figure out what to do. Some people say it was the infrastructure projects in America that got it out of recession, some would say it was WWII. Keynes convinced the US government of the validity of his theories regarding the paradox of thrift, economic stimulus and the like. When the government stimulated the economy with the make work projects, the economy came back to life. I believe a major difference between that depression and this recession is that the middle class was able to replenish their savings in the lean times so that they had something to spend when the economy showed up. Now, we have the economy but the middle class is tapped out. Any government stimulus gets used up, there is immediate positive effects, but it doesn’t last much beyond the last of the stimulus because the economy doesn’t have the staying power. It’s a bit like pouring fuel directly into the engine of your car when your tank is empty, the engine will run as long as you pour the fuel in but will stall when you stop.

I’ll be happy to be proved wrong but if you’re reading this please be prepared for a few lean years where things will get worse before they get better.

Best Slurp Ever

I recently started making iced capps in my blender based on this suggestion. For that one you just need to make coffee ice cubes out of cold coffee, put it in your blender with however much milk and/or more coffee (depending on how milky you want it to be) and a couple teaspoons of sugar based on taste, blend it for a minute or so and you’ve got an iced capp. If you like strong coffee, you could easily do it with espresso instead of regular coffee. If you want mocha, put in chocolate sauce.

On to the slurp. I used to make this all the time, but where I live now doesn’t offer frozen juice concentrate so its a bit harder to swing. Your blender has to be capable of crushing ice. Hint: if the blades in your blender aren’t metal this isn’t going to work.

Put the frozen juice concentrate in the blender, then fill the blender up 3/4 with ice. Put in enough water to cover the ice and a bit more. Blend for about a minute or so. Make sure the mixture is actually circulating through the blender. It should form a swirling well (aka vortex) in the middle. If it isn’t circulating, it may develop an air pocket by the blades of the blender and it will just sit there and spin and might burn out the motor on your blender if you leave it too long like that. If it won’t circulate you may need to add more liquid. It also helps to tap the sides of the blender to try to shift the mixture.

That’s all. Give it a go and report back your results. Enjoy.
Slurp