Friday, December 6, 2013

The Christmas Tradition

. . The celebration of Christmas is a great example how traditions are corrupted and history rewritten to serve popular needs.  Christians are often dismayed by the commercialism of the holiday and plead to put Christ back into Christmas.  Most likely this group has little knowledge of the history of Christmas and that Christ was never the origin of the Christmas tradition. Rabbi Lawrence Kelemen summarizes the origins of Christmas tradition in his History of Christmas.
. . The popular myth is Christmas was when Jesus of Nazareth was born.  Actually, no one knows when he was born, but is is generally accepted it was not on December 25'th.  This date derives from the gruesome Saturnalia custom of the Roman Empire, a week long period of lawlessness celebrated between December 17-25.
Roman courts were closed, and the law during this period did not allow any one to be punished for damaging property or injuring people. Each Roman community would select an innocent victim whom they forced to indulge in food and partake in debauchery during the week.  On December 25'th, Roman authorities brutally murdered the victim with the belief they were destroying the forces of darkness.
. . In the fourth century CE, Christianity imported the Saturnalia festival hoping to take the pagan masses in with it.  They converted large numbers of pagans to Christianity by promising them that they could continue to celebrate the Saturnalia as Christians. However, there was nothing intrinsically Christian about Saturnalia. So, these Christian leaders named Saturnalia’s concluding day, December 25, to be Jesus’ birthday.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Skepticism in Healthcare

     I have often repeated the World Health Organization statistic that Americans pay TWICE that which the industrialized world pays for an average healthcare system.  Unfortunately, the American solution to this problem has been to cut payments to doctors rather than to force a change in our medical systems.  That only makes the matters worse.  Doctors then resort to quantity and not on quality of care and the problem gets worse.

·         - What’s the 6’th leading cause of death in America?  PREVENTABLE medical errors. http://www.justice.org/cps/rde/justice/hs.xsl/8677.htm
 
·         - According to the National Quality Forum our medical system is focused on QUANTITY and not quality.  http://www.qualityforum.org/Publications/2008/12/Investing_in_Healthcare_Value.aspx Overused tests and treatments include antibiotics, X-rays, cardiac CT scans, heart by-pass surgeries, back surgeries, knee and hip replacements, prostatectomies, angioplasties, and hysterectomies.

     The way we pay for medical services seriously exacerbates the problem.  Americans worry little about the services they expect.  Few pay for these treatments.  American patients are convinced that MORE is always better and care little about expenses.  They are not competent to judge their own or family treatment.  Few get intellectually involved and totally surrender decisions to the medical system that is overrun with greed.
      Unfortunately, a segment of America strive to hold onto the “status quo” which has been projected by the CBO to increase heath care spending within a decade from around 18% to 24% bankrupting the country.  They choose to treat the symptoms (more cuts to entitlements) rather than cure the cause (fee for services paid by third parties).  Obamacare may be a clumsy start, BUT at least it is a start.  Change is not an option and the rest of the industrialized world proves that a better way does exist.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Stop Swallowing Republican Lies about Obamacare

. . I keep following these Republican scare claims to be sure I am not missing anything.  I have 150 employees for whom I must provide healthcare.  I expect minor effect on my business.  I am not unusual.  The CBO expects less than 5% of Americans do be directly impacted.
 . . The facts are quite simple: The cost of American Healthcare is out of control and those raping Americans are fighting to keep it that way by feeding lies through lobbyists and buying incompetent Congress men and women, which appear to be mostly Republicans.
. . Hospitals in our area have been laying off staff because they are expecting considerably more scrutiny under Obamacare.  Medical offices are being forced to get efficient. The results of all of that seems quite self-evident – continually improving costs for medical care.
. . It’s not theory; hundreds of year of evidence shows -- it’s what happens in a free and competitive market.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Obamacare Shutdown

      They’re at it again – the Tea Party.  The focus of their ire this time is Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act otherwise known as Obamacare.  I continue to search the Internet for publications by reputable unbiased analysts to understand the real facts about Obamacare and the bottom-line reasons why so many claim to be against it.  Against it to such an extent, that they will do whatever to stop its implementation, even if it causes Americans great harm by shutting down the government.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Bachmann Out to Lunch AGAIN

Michelle Bachmann is typical of the Tea Party crowd in the US House.  They manufacture "straw men" and argue furiously about them.  They manufacture their own facts which they vigorously support.  Whereas the Tea Party is on the right track, to reduce government spending, they do it so incompetently that it is hard to take them seriously.  Bachmann's recent visit to Egypt is so representative of this group-think..
Samara Shehata, a University of Oklahoma political scientist who studies Egypt's Brotherhood, tells The New York Times that the bizarro press conference mostly demonstrates "a confluence of interests among the coup leaders in Egypt and Islamophobes in the Congress." But Bachmann's "utterly absurd" statements take the cake, Shehata says: They're like "a Saturday Night Live skit — unbelievable, ludicrous, almost comic if it wasn't so painful."
http://theweek.com/article/index/249307/watch-michele-bachmann-flubs-almost-everything-about-egypt 

This wouldn't be so scary if this woman, who claims to be a leader of the Tea Party in Congress didn't run for President and had serious Republican support, at least for a while.  No wonder Romney had so much trouble (and Boehner now).  They were (are) constantly being upstaged by the Bachmann class "theorists" with a confirmation-bias-seeking constituency who swallow her every word as factual.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Obama Doctrine

      One of the key considerations for Obama's supporters is belief that he would move America out of Iraq and Afghanistan and not embroil the country in another meaningless and costly war.  He stiff- armed Libya and kept America's distance from other Islamic skirmishes.  It doesn't take much intelligence to realize that these were loosing battles for American interests.  The combatants will say or doing anything to attract the world's only super-power to their camp, including lies, misrepresentations, and disingenuous promises. History continues to prove that unequivocally.   Then came Syria.
     Obama was bombarded from all sides of the battle to involve America in some manner.  He half-heartily threatened to use that force, looked weak, but in the process achieved two major coups without firing a shot:  he moved the weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) further from falling into the hands of terrorists and he got Russia, Syria's major ally, to get off the sidelines and participate in a solution.  Who the hell cares if getting there looked sloppy.  The gambit of personal ego was successful.  It was a strategy move that neither Johnson nor Bush were competent in playing and instead chose to sacrifice America lives and treasure.

According to George Friedman in  Strategy, Ideology and the Close of the Syrian Crisis
The alignment of moral principles with national strategy is not easy under the best of circumstances. Ideologies tend to be more seductive in generalized terms, but not so coherent in specific cases. This is true throughout the political spectrum. But it is particularly intense in the Obama administration, where the ideas of humanitarian intervention, absolutism in human rights, and opposition to weapons of mass destruction collide with a strategy of limiting U.S. involvement -- particularly military involvement -- in the world. The ideologies wind up demanding judgments and actions that the strategy rejects.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Putin and the Anole Lizard

      If a male anole lizard encounters something that he perceives to be a menace or danger, he will not hesitate to prominently fluff out his throat fan, (aka a dewlap). As he does this, he may also attempt to assert his status in a couple of other ways, including head nodding and moving sideways nearer to the source of danger.What else can explain Vladimir Putin's bizarre op-ed piece in the New York Times? http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/12/opinion/putin-plea-for-caution-from-russia-on-syria.html?ref=opinion&_r=0
 
     Let's get this straight.  Russia is a minor world player.

George Friedman in Stratfor Global Intelligence states,
Putin is bluffing . . . Russia is merely a regional power, but mainly because its periphery is in shambles. He has tried to project a strength that that he doesn't have, and he has done it well. For him, Syria poses a problem because the United States is about to call his bluff, and he is not holding strong cards.
http://app.response.stratfor.com/e/es?s=1483&e=749033&elq=d013c47695ed431bb870ed6565d1f7c8

Confirmation Bias by Kerry and McCain?

It has been report by Fox News that Secretary of State John Kerry and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. cited an op-ed piece by Elizabeth O’Bagy, a discredited Georgetown University alumna, in The Wall Street Journal in their rush for a military strike in Syria. Specifically, Kerry read a quote from the op-ed in which she wrote that Islamic extremist factions are not "spearheading the fight against the Syrian government," but rather that the struggle is being led by "moderate opposition forces."
http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/09/13/syrian-expert-elizabeth-obagy-vouches-for-jihadist-group-in-court-affidavit/#ixzz2elnsncG8

Their sloppy research in quoting op-ed rather than facts is reflective of the Bush Administration's rush into the Iraq War. In this latter case Bush's team gave too much credence to a so-called Sadam informant "Curveball" who latter proved to be a liar.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Crocodile Tears?

According to the Iraq Survey Group Final Report  Iraq used almost 19,500 chemical bombs, over 54,000 chemical artillery shells and 27,000 short-range chemical rockets between 1983 and 1988. It deployed 1,800 tons of mustard gas, 140 tons of Tabun, and over 600 tons of Sarin.  Specifically,

Use in the Iran-Iraq War, 1983-1988

  • August 1983: Haij Umran — Mustard, fewer than 100 Iranian/Kurdish casualties
  • October–November 1983: Panjwin — Mustard, 3,000 Iranian/Kurdish casualties
  • February–March 1984: Majnoon Island — Mustard, 2,500 Iranian casualties
  • March 1984: al-Basrah — Tabun, 50-100 Iranian casualties
  • March 1985: Hawizah Marsh — Mustard & Tabun, 3,000 Iranian casualties
  • February 1986: al-Faw — Mustard & Tabun, 8,000 to 10,000 Iranian casualties
  • December 1986: Um ar-Rasas — Mustard, 1,000s Iranian casualties
  • April 1987: al-Basrah — Mustard & Tabun, 5,000 Iranian casualties
  • October 1987: Sumar/Mehran — Mustard & nerve agent, 3,000 Iranian casualties
  • March 1988: Halabjah & Kurdish area — Mustard & nerve agent, 1,000s Kurdish/Iranian casualties
  • April 1988: al-Faw — Mustard & nerve agent, 1,000s Iranian casualties
  • May 1988: Fish Lake — Mustard & nerve agent, 100s or 1,000s Iranian casualties
  • June 1988: Majnoon Island — Mustard & nerve agent, 100s or 1,000s Iranian casualties
  • July 1988: South-central border — Mustard & nerve agent, 100s or 1,000s Iranian casualties
Where was the American outrage at that time?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

One Mistake Can't be Corrected by a Bigger One

If events in Syria play out as it seems they will - a "narrow and limited strike" that rallies people around Assad and shifts focus away from his murderous campaign against his own people - Obama will have succeeded in making the situation even worse for the Syrians on whose behalf he is supposedly striking. Truly, Syria could wind up being one of the worst foreign policy disasters in US history, destroying whatever shred of diplomatic credibility the Obama administration had left.
It's almost enough to make one nostalgic for the days of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld..
by Mark LeVine, professor of Middle Eastern history at UC Irvine and distinguished visiting professor at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University in Sweden
Click here to read his entire post on, Will Syria's chemical weapons take down Assad - or Obama?  

Yes, we're witnessing a huge amateurish boondoggle by Obama administrations, but a second boondoggle only makes matters worse.  Obama's credibility in the World is gone PERIOD.  He can only make matters worse for Americans. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Don't Underestimate Our Ability to Screwup Syria

. . .Think American administrations know what they are doing?  Has anyone forgotten Iraq?  Oh yah, our military did their job, just fine.  The problems didn't arise until we had to implement a foreign policy in Iraq and the Bush Administration looked like total amateurs.  They demonstrated a level of naivete that astonished the world.  Is there any reason to expect the Obama Administration will be any different?  Absolutely not.
. . . Since 1948 western governments repeatedly misunderstood the Middle East and nothing has changed. These countries are tribal societies devoted to a religion into which few non-Islamists have any insight.  With this high level of incompetence, western countries have no business interfering in Middle Eastern affairs.  Every time our arrogant politicians THINK they are going to help these poor backwoods nations move into the 21-st century, they prove how very little they know.  Hell, our politicians can't even fix America's problems.
. . . Stratfor Global Intelligence has had several educational articles on Middle Eastern strategies.  You'll want to click the title to read their recent. Make no mistake, these countries have very sophisticated leaders, who LIVE Middle Eastern politics.
Iran: Managing U.S. Military Action in Syria
Conventional wisdom says that a weakened Syria would undermine Iran's regional influence, but a U.S. military intervention in the country could actually benefit Tehran. The government there has devised a sophisticated strategy for responding to a U.S. attack.
 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Do Not Forget GENERAL Eisenhower's Warning

Washington Hypocrisy

"History would judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator's wanton use of weapons of mass destruction against all warnings," John Kerry said reflecting his strong belief that action was a moral imperative.
Where was that MORAL IMPERATIVE when

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tell Congress NO on Syria

This whole Syrian issue is a major chess game for which America must look far beyond its next move.  Our leadership must be planning moves three and four down the road.  Just as in the game of chess you will certainly loose if your vision is limited only on your next move.

It is obvious to everyone who has done even the simplest analysis that any punitive strike on Syria will have no effect -- period.  First, it has zero support from the world’s nations, except for maybe France and Turkey, and it will be read for exactly what it is – a feckless attempt of America to save face.  Then what?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Climate Bamboozle

. . When the President can't get his facts straight, what is the average Joe supposed to do? Unfortunately, Obama reflects the general opinion of Americans (click here) which haven't change too much since 2008.
. . With that as a backdrop the U.S. Senate is preparing to vote this week on a resolution that would block the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant. It very unlikely that they will recognize the REAL climate facts.

  • Globally, weather-related losses have not increased since 1990 as a proportion of GDP (they have actually decreased by about 25 percent).
  • Insured catastrophe losses have not increased as a proportion of GDP since 1960.
  • Hurricanes have not increased in the U.S. in frequency, intensity, or normalized damage since at least 1900.
  • There are no significant trends (up or down) in global tropical cyclone landfalls since 1970 (when data allow for a comprehensive perspective) or in the overall number of cyclones.
  • Floods have not increased in the U.S. in frequency or intensity since at least 1950.
  • Tornadoes have not increased in frequency, intensity, or normalized damage since 1950, and there is some evidence to suggest that they have actually declined.
  • Droughts have, for the most part, become shorter, less frequent, and have been covering a smaller portion of the U.S. over the past century.
  • Of 73 climate models used and their predictions versus the actual temperature measurements from two satellite datasets and four weather balloon datasets. “The level of disagreement between models and observations is quite striking.”
  • The level of warming in the most recent 15-year period is not significantly different from zero, despite this being the period of greatest greenhouse gas concentration
. . The last two factual bullets are the clinchers.  The so-called global temperature anomaly has not significantly increased during the last 15 years whereas everyone one of the 73 climate models projected significant increases. The catastrophic global warming crowd have no credible explanation.  However, the simple answer is – the models are wrong and governments need to be careful about basing policy on them.
. . If you want the almost unbiased facts, see NASA website http://climate.nasa.gov/key_indicators#globalTemp

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Voltaire

I disagree with what you say but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.
I can't remember how many times I have heard somebody repeat that phrase on talk radio, but I suspect often disingenuously. I like the addition to that quote  that Keith Taylor added in his article "Grumble Grumble" in Skeptical Inquirer, Vol 37 Issue 4. p54. Because it reflects my experiences so closely and because showing a snapshot of the article adds to my credibility, I have attached the major portion of it.  Just click the <Read more> at the bottom of this post.

It's remarkable the trash people circulate on the internet.  I also like Keith's comment
"If you don't want your ideas challenged, don't send them to people who think."

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A News Skeptic

      Even the most skeptical among us have had this happen: A friend or relative forwards an e-mail from an organization with a safe-sounding name (“The Clean Air Initiative,” “The Center for Consumer Freedom”), but the e-mail is filled with scary assertions, usually of a political nature. If the Obama-care health bill is passed, Grandma will face a “death panel” that will decide if she lives or dies; if Barack Obama is re-elected, America will soon become a Marxist or Muslim nation. Some of the chain-emails are obvious partisan propaganda. But some are more subtle . . .
      This is the opening paragraph of How To Be a Skeptical News Consumer by Donna L. Halper.  Since it overflows with her biases and tends to ramble, I have paraphrased the important content below.  You can read the article in its entirety at http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/13-06-12/.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Theory of Everything.

The following video, Athene's Theory of Everything, offers thought provoking insights into belief systems, cognitive dissonance, and quantum physics.  The interpretations are based on facts, but they are the interpretations of the author. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Whorehouse Sues the Church

This story is all over the internet, but is it factual?
MT. VERNON, TEXAS . WHOREHOUSE SUES LOCAL CHURCH OVER LIGHTNING STRIKE
      Diamond D's brothel began construction on an expansion of their building to increase their ever-growing business. In response, the local Baptist Church started a campaign to block the business from expanding -- with morning, afternoon, and evening prayer sessions at their church. Work on Diamond D's progressed right up until the week before the grand reopening when lightning struck the whorehouse and burned it to the ground!
      After the cat-house was burned to the ground by the lightning strike, the church folks were rather smug in their outlook, bragging about "the power of prayer." But late last week 'Big Jugs' Jill Diamond, the owner/madam, sued the church, the preacher and the entire congregation on the grounds that the church ... "was ultimately responsible for the demise of her building and her business -- either through direct or indirect divine actions or means."
      In its reply to the court, the church vehemently and voraciously denied any and all responsibility or any connection to the building's demise.
      The crusty old judge read through the plaintiff's complaint and the defendant's reply, and at the opening hearing he commented, "I don't know how the hell I'm going to decide this case, but it appears from the paperwork, that we now have a whorehouse owner who staunchly believes in the power of prayer, and an entire church congregation that thinks it's all bullshit!"

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Positivity Effect

I lead bicycle rides around middle Tennessee.  Often, I have a ride started and not too far into the route the grumbling starts.  I hear, "I thought you said this route was flat."

Well, I thought it was.  I honestly didn't remember all the hills, but sure enough.  We got hills.  My comrades don't except my excuse of "these hills weren't here the last time I rode it."  Finally, I just tell them, "I'm old.  I no longer have space in my database to remember the bad things.  So I triage my memories.  Good stays; bad is out."

I have recently learned, while studying cognitive biases and why people believe idiotic things, that I am hardly alone in my bias.  It even has a name "Positivity Effect."  Wikipedia explains it  as follows:

Is it REAL or a Myth?

For a myth to persist it must inspire, it must capture the imagination, and most important it must capture a person intellectually enough that they commit "body and soul" to the concept no matter how improbable or irrational giving rise to cognitive dissonance.  To see what I mean watch this video

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=4146234873383&set=vb.1809138075&type=2&theater 

Are you amazed?  Have you figured it out?  Is it possible for a staircase to violate the laws of physics.and basic logic by looping back on itself?

Imagine what one could do given decades, centuries, or millennia to fashion a myth with stories built upon stories upon stories.  We detail one such myth in this blog -- the Bell Witch Legend.  Was it real? Of course not, but that has not stopped hundreds of people to believe in or even claim to have personally experienced the Bell Witch.  Want to know more? Then you must continue to read this post.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Religious Hypocrisy

How often have we been told, "Love the sinner; hate the sin? Then how does that explain "Baptist Plan Mass Exodus from Boy Scouts."  The Boys Scouts aren't endorsing homosexual life style.  They aren't teaching it.  It's not a new merit badge.  They are just following "What Would Jesus Do?  The answer is quite obvious. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Liars Figure and Figures Lie

      The debate surrounding Obamacare emphasizes the importance of checking the "source" rather relying simply on someone's interpretation   Failure to check the facts can lead to misinterpretation.
- Ref: http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/29/opinion/carroll-obamacare/index.html?hpt=hp_bn7 
      Those that still know Obamacare is around remain divided on how they feel about it. A recent poll from CNN found that only 43% of the public "supports the health care law." This might lead you to think that most of the country wants it repealed. But, as with so many things related to health care reform, there's more than meets the eye here. A full 16% of Americans, about a third of those who "oppose the health care law," do so because it's not liberal enough.
      It's important to remember that in many ways Obamacare was a "centrist" solution. Many don't like to hear that, believing that it's socialism-writ-large, but a sizeable chunk of America supported something like Medicare-for-all, a single-payer solution more like what Canadians, or our elderly, enjoy. Many of them still think that's a better choice for health care reform.
      In other words, it might be fairer to say that 59% of Americans support a system that is as liberal or more liberal than Obamacare, while 35% don't. That's a much different interpretation than what many are repeating.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Everyone Hates the IRS

      Everyone hates the IRS, so it is an easy target to fire up the political "base," especially if the latter are the non-thinking type who throw around innuendo as if it were facts.  We have had a lot of experience debunking Tea Party claims, probably because they have managed to be in the news far more often than other non-mainstream political organizations and have claimed more absurdities.
      We have commented earlier about their most recent ploy (attacking Obama Administration about IRS actions) to stay relevant.  Action by the IRS in reviewing 501c4 applications hardly seemed unusual and the recent article "When the IRS Targeted Liberals" confirms what we suspected.  For those of us who have the misfortune to deal frequently with the IRS, what the Tea Party was whining about seemed IRS SOP.  As we said in our earlier post, "Been there; done that."
      We have nothing against the Tea Party and support their efforts to get spending in control.  The current course of government spending should have everyone concerned. Not since Reagan ballooned the federal debt have things financial gotten so far out of control.  Anybody remember Ross Perot and his charts?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Media Climate Hype

      With the recent tornadoes I knew it was coming. The climate zealots would claim global warming. They are not necessarily those with a science background, but most likely the media types. The "real" climate scientists already stated they couldn’t predict the impact global warming on tornadoes. Whereas the higher temperatures increased atmospheric energy, the resulting sheer winds reduced the potential for formation. The balance was uncertain. Nevertheless, that didn’t dissuade NBC evening news on May 25, 2013. They linked a “claimed” a worsening of tornadoes and hurricanes in recent history due of course to global warming. It's total media misinformation.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Federal Budget

      It’s remarkable the number of times we have to explain the Federal Budgeting process.  Lately, it has been primarily to Republicans who repeatedly state that President Obama has not submitted a budget since he has been in office.   That statement is wrong on two counts and generally demonstrates a serious lack of understanding of how the Federal government works, aka Civics 101.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

37 and Counting

      Michele Bachmann who makes the following claims about Obamacare
The IRS is going to be "in charge" of "a huge national database" on health care that will include Americans’ "personal, intimate, most close-to-the-vest-secrets.
The IRS is "going to be in charge of our health care.
 The IRS will have the ability potentially" to deny or delay health care.

led the House for the 37'th wasted time on a vote to repeal Obamacare.  Good law or bad law, it doesn't matter this vote was going no where.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Here We Go Again - Cold Fusion

      In a previous job with a major technology company I reviewed submitted ideas and patents for heating and cool inventions.  Never got a submission for cold fusion device, but got a lot for devices that pulled free energy out of the air, ground, power lines.  Many came with their "university experts," of course many cleared the patent office, and many had a list of newspaper and semi-tech magazine endorsements.  However, it generally took minimal effort to demonstrate how all violated the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  Of the hundreds of submissions, we pursued none. Deja Vu!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

GOP Whine

      The specter of the IRS is certainly foreboding and has been used in the past, most notably by the GOP under Nixon to threaten “enemies.”  However, the GOP does protest too much.  The issue is not whether the TEA party was unduly mistreated, but that liberal organizations apparently got considerable less scrutiny than they should have received.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Energy Boondogles

      The "greenies" continue to push the misconception that competitive forms of alternative "green" energy are just around the corner. It's just a matter of pouring money on them until volume makes them economically feasible. That is simply not true.  If a potential market existed, major energy companies, such as BP wouldn't be shutting down operations even after significant investment. Also consider reading The EU Green Hell.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Infamous Psychic Gets it Wrong

      Even after Sylvia Browne, infamous psychic, appears in 2004 on the Montel Williams show and told Amanda Berry’s distraught mother Louwana Miller that her daughter was “in heaven and on the other side” and that her last words were “goodbye, mom, I love you,” it is reported that Sherry Cole, Amanda Berry's cousin, said that her family in no way blames Sylvia. They still love her and believe in her in classic cognitive dissonance fashion.  Ms Miller died the following year.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Liberal/Conservative Theater.

      After having been involved with advocacy and the public sector for the last decade, I have gained a new appreciation for the factors that shape so many social debates, such as the Gun Debate.  The measures of success used by the liberal and conservative protagonists aren’t the same and often not even closely related.  Consequently, as each presents its case, it is not likely to achieve its goal even with the most logically sound argument. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Bible Quotes for the Literalists

Old Testament scripture condemning homosexuality,
Leviticus 18:22 - “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.”
New Testament scripture
Romans 1:26-27 - “… Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men. …

Denying a woman’s ability to preach in church
Timothy 2:11-12 - “… I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.

Justifying slavery
Titus 2:9-10 – “Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything. …

Justifying anti-Semitism
Matthew 27: 25-26 - “Let his blood be on us and on our children.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Global Warming Debate

      Science is best performed in an apolitical fashion.  However, that has hardly ever been the case when dealing with social policy.  From the time when one of the most notorious cases in history, a single scientist Galileo Galilei challenged the teachings of the largest institution of his time the Catholic Church; from the time when the most prominent scientist of our time, Einstein challenged one of the most successful theories of our time quantum mechanics to now; scientific debate rages on critical scientific issues.  Most notable is the debate on Global Warming.  As in the case of past times, those with benefit of the majority strive to silence the minority.  But fortunately, that is not how science is supposed to work.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Inconvenient Truth About Global Warming

      The most serious inconvenient truth about Global Warming is that the conclusion advanced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the primary culprit for planet warming is not a consensus of the scientific community.  A significantly qualified group of climate scientist disagree.  For example, read "No Need to Panic About Global Warming: There's no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to 'decarbonize' the world's economy," from the Wall Street Journal

More Religious Intolerance

      A recent Pew Survey showed that Muslims, worldwide, almost unanimously believe that the only path to heaven is though Islam.  Although Pew doesn't have a similar survey for Christians, it would not be unreasonable to expect a similar result.
     When the results of this survey were presented to a Christian friend who was sincerely attempting to establish religious dialogue between Christian and Muslim churches in the Nashville area, he commented, "There are many different 'flavors' of Muslims just as there are Christians; some more open than others to the insight that there just might be more than one way to the top of the spiritual mountain."
      My though was, "So what's the point?  What's the objective?  What do you hope to achieve?" History and current events repeatedly confirm and the evidence is overwhelming that such interactions are fruitless.
      I said, “Never judge the intentions of the majority by the actions of the few (either bad or good).”   The survey reflects the view of the significant majority and not some extremist sect at either end of the belief distribution curve.
      Although each participant may express an openness in such discussions, it is only superficial, illusory.  Even denominations with only subtle differences in belief are incapable of burying the hatched (unless it is in the other's head).  Remember the centuries of religious wars in Europe?  Remember the current insurrections in the Middle East?
     The only way to insure religious tolerance is through true secularism -- ban all privileges to organized religion in general. Enforce indiscriminately separation of church from state.  Religion must be invisible and a private matter.  It should not be entitled to any special treatment not afforded to any other institution, such as taxation.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Zero Effect and Cognitive Dissonance

      The following article in a recent Popular Science issue provides another look at the concept of Cognitive Dissonance.  L. Mitchell, Zero Effect, Popular Science, March 2013. P 32.
      The simple definition for cognitive dissonance is when people rationalize alternative explanations for cherished beliefs when evidence proves these beliefs are invalid.  Frequently, people even create explanations to hold even more firmly onto beliefs that defy logic.  The phenomenon is most common in religion and politics.  When some beliefs are extremely in opposition to reality the adherents may become radicalized. The recent Boston Marathon bombing is an example.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Value of Petitions and the People who Sign Them

The following YouTube flick has less to do about the Gun Debate and a lot about the significance of petitions and the awareness of people to current events. REMEMBER: these people vote!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Economist Begins to Reasses Position on Global Warming

      The Economist backed away from its past alarmist position, saying that “If climate scientists were credit-rating agencies, climate sensitivity would be on negative watch.” The high-end estimates of warming coming from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is unlikely if not far-fetched.
      Temperatures have not risen over the past 15 years, making a mockery of the computer programs that showed temperatures rising in lockstep with carbon dioxide.

150 Years of Cognitive Dissonance

      Seventh-day Adventism was founded in the aftermath the Great Disappointment, which dashed the hopes of some 50,000 followers who expected Jesus to arrive in 1844. Some had sold their possessions and let their fields lie fallow. The celestial letdown drove a few insane, crushed under the weight of what social psychologist Leon Festinger would later call “cognitive dissonance.”
      But the movement did not disintegrate, as Festinger argued. Instead, early Adventists like James and Ellen White adjusted their beliefs. Something of divine import had happened in 1844, even if it wasn’t the Second Coming, they taught.
      Over the past 150 years, Seventh-day Adventists have built one of Christianity’s most inventive and prosperous churches, all the while praying for the world to end as soon as possible. These 50,000 believers believers has mushroomed to more than 17 million baptized members, including 1.2 million in the U.S. Nearly 8,000 Adventists schools dot dozens of countries. Hundreds of church-owned hospitals and clinics mend minds and bodies around the world.
      The success of this church is a lesson to Skeptics who think a logical argument based on evidence might dissuade the misguided, but often a failure of faith often strengthens that faith. 
      Most Christian churches preach the Second Coming, and nearly half of Americans believe Jesus will return in the next 40 years, according to a 2010 poll conducted by the Pew Research Center

List of Gods

      Like one God? Think what you can do with 3700 of them.  Check out the Godchecker    This website claims to features over 3,700 weird and wonderful Supreme Beings, Demons, Spirits and Fabulous Beasts from all over the world. Explore ancient legends and folklore, and discover Gods of everything from Fertility to Fluff.
      Just so Christians don't feel left out with just one God, the website list saints for them. There is a saint for every location and occasion. You can have your own patron saint. Saints have holy wells and work miracles as they become — to the untrained eye — demi-deities in their own right. It was the saints, angels and holy artifacts that helped draw pagans to Christianity.
     Godchecker is 100% non-denominational. Our Holy Database aims to cover all Gods of mythology, literature and legend. All Gods are welcome, whether Greek, Roman, Egyptian, or of No Fixed Abode. Polytheism is much more fun than monotonous monotheism. Terry Pratchett fans, Tolkien afficiandos, Douglas Adams devotees, Lovecraft lovers and Harry Potter nuts will love our selection of Goddities. All our Gods are certified genuine and digitally signed. This site is blessed by the Holy Snail™ 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

So let it be written; so let it be done.

      Every year we are graced with Cecil B Demille's movie Ten Commandments. The movie follows along very closely to what I learned in Catholic grade school.  Although I may have thought the story of the parting of the Red Sea was an exaggeration, I didn't doubt the existence of Moses.  After all, from where did the Ten Commandments come?  There is also a problem of who wrote the first five books in the Bible - the Pentateuch. Okay, well its unlikely he is the author of this work, but what about the rest of the story?  What about Passover?
      I really hadn't given this much thought until I read the following from Herb Silverman, My Passover Evolution.
I believe the traditional Passover story to be both fictional and horrible. Here’s why: There is no historical or archaeological evidence that Moses existed, that Israelites were slaves in Egypt, or that they wandered in the desert for 40 years. And that’s the good news. I find the Passover story of the Exodus is horribly inhumane: An insecure and sadistic God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Why? So God could respond by bringing 10 plagues to Egypt, which culminated in killing innocent first-born Egyptian sons (but passing over Jewish households). Now and forever, we Jews are to thank God every Passover for creating plagues to benefit his “chosen” people.
I decided to do a little research on my own.  I found out that there is no historical or archaeological evidence for Moses.  That doesn't confirm that Moses didn't exist, but it does mean the stories that I learned as a child and get to watch repeatedly during the Easter season are fictional.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Easter Myths

      It’s a dark raining Good Friday.  But, that is what how it always is on Good Friday.  Isn’t it?  That thought took me back to childhood memory of standing on the stairs outside Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago.  Our junior high school choir group of about twenty girls and three boys was invited to sing during Good Friday ceremonies.  That was about 60 years ago and back then we sang in both English and Latin and most of us actually understood the Latin. 
      As our music instructor, Sister Somebody, I don’t remember her name, gathered us in a group before entering the Cathedral, it started to rain.  No big deal, because we expected it.  It was Good Friday. As a child my perspective of the world was rather parochial.  When it was raining on us, we never gave it a second thought that it wasn’t raining on everyone.  I certainly wasn’t alone on this belief.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Shroud of Turin

      It's Easter and as expected the Shroud of Turin takes on considerable interest at this time. Many people believe that this artifact is the actual burial cloth of Jesus.  Why?  This linen cloth bears the image of a man who appears to have suffered physical trauma in a manner consistent with crucifixion. Since first observed in 1898 by amateur photographer Secondo Pia in the Turin Cathedral, scientists, theologians, historians and researchers have been debating the origins and nature of mysterious image. The Catholic Church has neither formally endorsed nor rejected the shroud.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Cyber Attack on South Korea

       The cyber attacks this week that caused large-scale disruptions on several banks and media outlets in South Korea were most likely carried out by previously known vulnerabilities and exploits.  John Pescatore, director of emerging security trends at the SANS Institute in Bethesda, Md said,"It really doesn't matter if the attacker is a nation-state or a cybercriminal or a hacktivist or a bored teenage kid, you have to make sure you are at least at the due-diligence level for the well-known critical security controls. If you close the well-known vulnerabilities, you can stop any attacker using those techniques."
    Security firm Avast Software noted in a blog that its analysis showed the attackers appear to have exploited a previously known Internet Explorer vulnerability to infiltrate computers at the affected banks.
     Security firm Sophos added that the malware used in the attack was not particularly sophisticated and has been around for nearly a year.
     Symantec published initial findings about the attacks on South Korean banks and local broadcasting organizations and discovered the malware contained a module for wiping remote Linux machines in addition to Windows 7 and Windows XP computers.
     The simple lesson for the average computer user in all of this is: keep operating software up-to-date using the latest update version.
For more info read: http://www.csoonline.com/article/730576/south-korea-cyberattacks-hold-lessons-for-u.s.?source=CSONLE_nlt_update_2013-03-21

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What Science Really Says About the Soul

Even when no evidence exists for a phenomenon, people will manufacture what to them is evidence to correspond to their religious beliefs.  No amount of actual evidence to the contrary will dissuade them. Read article by Stephen Cave with reference documentation at  http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/13-03-20/

      Nathalie was hemorrhaging badly. She felt weak, cold, and the pain in her abdomen was excruciating. A nurse ran out to fetch the doctor, but by the time they arrived she knew she was slipping away. The doctor was shouting instructions when quite suddenly the pain stopped. She felt free—and found herself floating above the drama, looking down at the bustle of activity around her now still body.
     “We’ve lost her,” she heard the doctor say, but Nathalie was already moving on and upwards, into a tunnel of light. She first felt a pang of anxiety at leaving her husband and children, but it was soon overwhelmed by a feeling of profound peace; a feeling that it would all be okay. At the end of the tunnel, a figure of pure radiance was waiting with arms wide open.
     This, or something like it, is how millions imagine what it will be like to die. In 2009, over 70 percent of Americans said they believe that they, like Nathalie, have a soul that will survive the end of their body. That figure may well now be higher after the phenomenal success of two recent books describing vivid near death experiences: one from an innocent—the four year old Todd Burpo—the other from the opposite: a Harvard scientist and former skeptic, neurosurgeon Dr. Eben Alexander. Both argue that when their brains stopped working, their souls floated off to experience a better place.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Iraq War Anniversary

Have we learned from the most immoral event in American history (as many historians are now claiming).  I doubt it.  This war was SOLD to American public and to its allies by a criminal administration. It doesn’t take much effort to sell Americans on idiocy, such as Obamacare is bad for them, that Obama’s is spending more than Bush, and that the government can continue with its “handouts” without serious financial repercussions.

Duped on Iraq War, has press learned?
By Paul Waldman, Special to CNN, March 19, 2013

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Paul Waldman: Rumsfeld remarks in push for Iraq War were classic doublespeak
  • He says reporters, who are supposed to be quick studies in new areas, were credulous
  • He says savvy Bush administration easily duped press into selling case for war
  • Waldman: All news media guilty but hope is that they learned from, won't repeat mistake

Statistics

I received the following statistics from Barry Karr of the Skeptical Inquirer (SI) in a solicitation.  He claimed that a recent public opinion poll found:
  • 52% believe that it is possible for a house to be haunted.
  • 36% believe in black cats bringing good/bad luck
  • 55% definitely believe in religious miracles
  • 23% have witnesses a miraculous physical healing
  • 16% have received a miraculous healing
  • 46% are creationists
  • 57% believe people can be possessed by demons.
The problem for me is the "poll" and the participants are not identified.  Such absence of verifiable evidence hardly builds my confidence in these claims.  SI would not accept such careless reporting on pseudo-science topics and should hold to this higher standard for itself.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

On this Ship We'll ALL Sink

      The chances for a sane solution to our economic demise are virtually non-existent.  Both parties in our dysfunctional government are so deeply entrenched in their ideologies and so well protected in their efficiently gerrymandered districts that little can change.  We are now on course for financial disaster that will make the hyped-up sequester seem like a mild spring thunderstorm.
      It is very unfortunate because a super-majority of Americans and legislators know exactly what needs to be done. Yes, the Tea Party are boorishly selfish idiots, but they are equally matched by less visible boorishly lazy elements on the left who expect someone else to pay for their irresponsible lifestyles. Both sides cling to their misguided beliefs with such religious fervor that they doom those that try to be reasonable.

The Ubiquitous Email of Impending Doom

      One thing that circulates the internet faster than Superman and a speeding bullet is a warning of impending doom And the dire consequences to us if we don’t share it with all of friends and family.  Without any fact checking, we broadcast it to our address book.  Here is my thanks.       Oh yes, I received the following in an internet email. 

As we progress into 2013, I want to thank you all for your educational e-mails over the past year. I am totally screwed up now and have little chance of recovery.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Cognitive Dissonance Rules

      Dissonance is aroused when people are confronted with information that is inconsistent with their beliefs. If the dissonance is not reduced by changing one's belief, the dissonance can result in restoring consonance through misperception, rejection or refutation of the information, seeking support from others who share the beliefs, and attempting to persuade others. Sound familiar?

Cyber-Security Myths

Favorite Dept of Defense Security Myth: Governments create the most powerful cyber-attacks

John Pescatore, director of emerging security trends at SANS, says most government attacks are simply re-using criminal-owned attack resources, and the U.S. Department of Defense likes to hype the threat from nation states to boost its budget. [Ref]

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Sequestration Impass

The idea Wash can't cut <3% from a 3plus trillion $ budget Is ludicrous! Trick of listing worst cuts oldest budget game in book.
      I worked under Jack Welch while at GE. Routinely, he would mandate 5% or greater across the board cuts.  We insisted our operations were efficient and had no room to cut.  BUT, we cut by prioritizing our work, eliminating the least necessary, and readjusting work loads.

Physics and Atheism

      Recently, physics and religion questions directed to this blog rekindled our thoughts about some of the theories in physics that few in the general public are aware of.  Some of the mathematical journeys, such as M-theory, multi-universes, or cyclical universes, lead physicists down roads that in the past were frequented only by the religious.
      Nevertheless, when the religious attempt to use physics to justify their beliefs that opens the debate to non-religious to use the same physics to discredit those beliefs.
      This link is an interview with Victor Stenger a physics and best-selling authors in which he states
Religion and atheism weren’t matters which I thought a lot about,” he explains. “It wasn’t until the eighties that that changed. That’s when it really started to annoy me how science, and in particular physics, was being abused by religious people.
Our link reproduces this interview which appeared the the June 15, 2011 issue of Skeptic Magazine.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Extacting that Idea or Solution

Anyone who has ever struggled to find a solution to a problem or to come up with new ideas often finds them in the least likely places or in the using the least direct approach, such as listening to an unrelated TED talk.  The concept is to free one's mind to search without restrictions.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Stimulate with TED

      I must admit, I have become a TED Talk junkie.  I especially like the opportunity to hear interviews with the presenters on the NPR TED Radio Hour.  It is thought provoking and insightful.
      One of the special interest of this website is Critical Thought and why people hold certain beliefs, even when they may be totally irrational and not based on anything but faith alone.  Supportive of belief systems are the creation of ideas.
      Two of this week’s NPR presentations  don’t answer these quandaries, but can get one examining personal perspectives and biases.  The topic was Where do Ideas Come From?  Borrowing from NPR,

Exit Tax

      States like California, Illinois, and New York are bleeding tax payers. High wealth people and corporations are finding the financial policies of these states intolerable and potentially destructive.  In retaliation and fear of the inevitability such exodus, legislators in these states have proposed Exit Taxes (click here for an example).  The argument is that these people/ corporations were "enabled by these states" and the states have an financial investment in that success and consequently are entitled to a dividend.
      This topic has become part of the recent discussion in a Debate Club which we facilitate.  One of the participants offered,

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Unfunded Pensions and More

      Recently, a California resident and retiree sent us a note about seriously unfunded and over-subscribed pension funds in California and Illinois.  Normally, we would not include a response on this website, but the seriously bad financial state of America demands that we make as many people as possible aware of the severity of the problem.  As a starter, to get up to speed, just google pension funds in Illinois or California.  In my comments to him I just poured more gasoline on this already out-of-control fire.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Another Example of Religious Hate Speech

On February 8, 2013 I received an email note titled A Tragedy that Needs to be Known. (click to read the chain mail note). It claims
This is a brutal example of how far the struggle between muslims and christians in Nigeria has reached. Muslims are determined to impose their 'religion' all over Africa as well as in other continents.....  
My reaction to the person sending me the note was

Developing a Respect for Alterrnate Viewpoints

I recently participated in a religious dialogue with a friend.  He maintained an unusual high degree of objectivity. He asked to share the dialogue.  So, I am violating my following principles:
You’re welcome to share my views, recognizing that I chose to take the attitude of a Tibetan monk.  If people “climb the mountain” and come asking I’ll answer, but I will not become a missionary.  Missionaries frequently do more harm than good.
His religious attitude is remarkably rare and open-minded. Most people become extremely defensive and assume the posture of the TWO of the Three Wise Monkeys.

He said his goal was,

The Constant Battle - Crackpot claims, Paranoid Conspiracy & Malicious Lies

      With viral email claims, not just skepticism but “outright cynicism is justified.  Despite clear evidence to debunk some of these claims, and the far-removed-from-reality assertions in others, they still make the rounds. Many not only twist the facts but also peddle pure fabrications, urging recipients to forward these “shocking” revelations to all their friends. Yet despite all good common sense, people do pass along these malicious attempts to deceive. Why?
  • Desire to accept information that conforms with one’s beliefs and to reject facts that don’t.
  • Most people are so locked into a particular world view that they tend to reject any information, no matter how well supported, that contradicts their cherished assumptions.
      We have summarized what FactCheck.org calls the most egregious and most asked-about viral claims of 2012. http://factcheck.org/2012/12/viral-spiral-2012/
      Much of what FactCheck received lambasts the president or Democrats. Maybe that’s to be expected for whomever occupies the White House, but FactCheck can’t give a definitive reason for why the viral chatter is more conservative in nature.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Obama Says we Don't have a Spending Problem

All the conservative news outlets and the blogs have picked up on an alleged comment made by Obama to Boehner during their debt negotiations.  Boehner reports that Obama told him that America does not have a spending problem.  This claim has considerable traction because an overwhelming number of Americans believe government has a spending problem as reported in a December 2012 Fox News Poll.

Giving Obama the benefit of the doubt, I thought I would check out the facts.  The following graph shows revenues verses spending of the federal government.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Climate Change FUD

      In his second inaugural address, President Obama promised to "respond to the threat of climate change." One of the concerns he used to justify the urgent nature of the threat— "devastating impact of raging fires."
      In theory a warmer and drier climate should lead to more fires, but is not what is happening.  Nothing is wrong with the theory. It is just other mitigating factors are acting to offset this potential.
      A publication, Long-term perspective on wildfires in the western USA, in the August 2012 Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Science found
Since the late 1800s , human activities and the ecological effects of recent high fire activity caused a large, abrupt decline in burning similar to the LIA fire decline. Consequently, there is now a forest “fire deficit” in the western United States attributable to the combined effects of human activities, ecological, and climate changes. Large fires in the late 20th and 21st century fires have begun to address the fire deficit, but it is continuing to grow.
Clearly the threat of devastating forest fires does not define an urgency.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Different Interpretations of the Same Climate Data

      Hyperbole and obfuscation are terms that routinely describe the Climate Change Debate.  It is hard to dig through all the BS and politicizing associated with this reporting. The same information is often used to substantiate diametrically opposing positions.  An example, of this dilemma follows.
     William Bigelow reported on Jan 29, 2013 in U.N. Report Says Global Warming Predictions Overstated Problem  that
The draft of a U.N. climate change report due to be published in 2014 has been leaked, and it shows that the four temperature models the U.N. used from 1990 to 2012 vastly overestimated the warming of the earth during that time.
He added that Roy Spencer, a climatologist at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, said
Temperatures have not risen nearly as much as almost all of the climate models predicted. Their predictions have largely failed, four times in a row... what that means is that it's time for them to re-evaluate. It is evidence that CO2 is not nearly as strong a climate driver as the IPCC has been assuming.
That post follows a Jan 28th report on Fox News Draft UN climate report shows 20 years of overestimated global warming, skeptics warn, which presents a graph to demonstrate the issue.

However, a Nov 17, 2012 research paper, Comparing climate projections to observations up to 2011 looking at the identical data (also shows a graph of temperature anomalies) reports
We analyse (sic) global temperature . . . for the past few decades and compare them to projections published in the third and fourth assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The results show that global temperature continues to increase in good agreement with the best estimates of the IPCC, especially if we account for the effects of short-term variability due to the El NiƱo/Southern Oscillation, volcanic activity and solar variability.
Lastly, on Dec 15, 2012 ABC News offers a different perspective of the "leaked" report, IPCC draft climate report leaked by sceptics
A draft of the next report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been leaked on climate sceptic websites. The 14-chapter draft report was posted on a US-based blog site called stopgreensuicide and then posted on another site critical of climate science.
The leaker and other climate sceptics have isolated one section of the draft to suggest that cosmic rays such as those of the Sun may have a greater influence on warming than had been claimed.
In our opinion one should not give credibility to any DRAFT reports, stolen or otherwise.  They are still subject to review and redaction.  That is why they a called DRAFTS.

Cyber-Pearl-Harbor FUD

     The media is at it again with claims of a cyber attack equivalent to Pearl Harbor.  Others claim it is just an attempt to offset major cuts to the military budget that is likely as a result of the looming sequester.  Whatever, it is just plain FUD!
      Remember Y2K scare that had planes falling from the sky, Y2K shelters, and every business demanding Y2K preparedness letters from their associates.  What happened? Nothing!
      RSA/EMC Executive VP Arthur Coviello said the need to analyze Big Data for a better picture of a company's security situation is more important than ever, in light of the damaging disruptions companies face at the hands of DDoSers, but he added "I abhor the term Cyber Pearl Harbor.It's not security awareness we need, but a higher level of understanding. Language like 'Pearl Harbor' doesn't get us that understanding."
      He noted that the outright destruction of the Internet from an attack is unlikely.

For other comments follow this link, Cheers to Coviello for 'Cyber Pearl Harbor' rebuke

What is Skepticism?

In 2007 Don Loxton addressed the question of what is skepticism in his article, "Where do we go from here? Has classic Skepticism  run its course."  In it he identifies skepticism as follows:
Skepticism is not humanism, nor atheism, nor libertarianism. Individual skeptics may or may not agree about any given belief or portfolio of beliefs, about religion or politics or ethics or anything else — that’s all neither here nor there. What unifies us is a commitment to a way of finding out, not a set of conclusions. We’re here to promote methodological doubt and the other tools of scientific inquiry.
He has followed up with a challenging and provocative new project, “Why Is There a Skeptical Movement?”. Almost two years in the writing, it examines the roots, founding principles, and purpose of scientific skepticism. He challenges today's skeptics to “appreciate that they’re caretakers for the work of those who have come before.”

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

On the Religion of Atheism

      On February 4'th the Christian Post reported on a live 90-minute debate between atheist philosopher Dr. Alex Rosenberg and Christian theologian Dr. William Lane Craig titled, "Is Faith in God Reasonable?", It was hosted and sponsored by Symposia Christi at Purdue University, Biola University, and Craig's apologetics ministry group called Reasonable Faith.
      The results were reported by a "formal" debate panel as 4-2 victory for Craig, in a vote by those in attendance with 1,390 votes for Craig to 303 votes for Rosenberg as well as online as well with garnering 734 votes to Craig vs 59 for his opponent.  It is certainly impossible to interpret the inherent meaning of these results. I suspect that the majority of the people who read this article assume that Dr Craig was right and D. Rosenberg was wrong.  That would hardly be a correct conclusion.

      A friend David Irvine responded more reasonably to this article as follows:
My first quick read of this makes me wish the article had included a link to the full transcript of the debate; I'd love to know what Dr Craig's 8 proofs are.  Interesting article but a couple of issues about it have already come to mind; the first one being the nature of the statistical population that evidently thought Dr Craig was by far the "winner" of the debate and Dr Rosenberg definitely the "loser"; namely, how many completely unbiased listeners were tuned in to a debate like this?  One might suspect Dr Craig was "preaching to the choir".  I'd think for an impartial evaluation one would have to have a debate about "Christianity vs Atheism" held before an ideal audience that was neither one nor the other which would be problematic in itself.  Another issue for me is how debates are evaluated by many if not most people; is the debate scoring based on the perceived validity of each point made, or is the scoring biased in favor of the one with the better speaking style and delivery? 
Attempting to arrive at a fair analysis, David went on to say,
I still remember listening to the JFK vs Nixon debates on the radio while stationed in France, and thinking Nixon made more sense than JFK but at the dawn of the television age in electioneering where appearance and style trumps content, JFK "won" that debate hands-down and the rest is history. 
      My read on such debates follow.  How do you judge winners of debates?  The common approach is to survey the observers before the debate regarding the topic of the debate and the repeat that survey after the debate.  The winner is the person or team that shifted opinions in their direction.
      I have sat through many of these debates. Michael Shermer has placed several on the web.  He was once a devote Christian who was heading toward the ministry, but along the way he detoured and now is committed atheist.  He is exceptionally intelligent, but I think he likes to engage in these debates because he is still searching.  He would never admit it.  Many devote theists or deists who become atheists also become aggressive and sometimes antagonistic.
      I used to subscribe to publications by secular humanists, but found many of the articles disgusting because of the vehemence and general intolerance toward those who did not believe as they.  The one thing that disgusts me most about the three major religions is the intolerance of dogmas of each.  The religion of atheism engages in this same practice

   As a final observation David stated:
Another issue already for me is the appearance of bias in the author's choice of words; one person's "truth" can be another person's "absurdity"; the (I think it's Hindu) concept of the world being stacked on the backs of an infinite vertical stack of turtles being a convenient example.  I think the term "belief" rather than "truth" may be more appropriate.  Of course the issue of how does one define "truth" in this context apparently was not part of this debate.  Having been on both sides of this debate over the past six decades, my present perception is that from a metaphysical standpoint all religions and atheisms begin with a blank slate regarding objective evidence; the determining factor for me is: What viewpoint or thesis offers the most spiritual value and utility and examples for me today in forming and upgrading my ethical values and perspectives and relationships with others?  
      Instead of simply saying "Amen," I offered. I have read numerous claims of proofs.  My recommendations to everyone is -- if s/he is comfortable in his/her beliefs, are tolerant and respectful of those who do not share them, and are not trying to impose them on others, then don’t search.  They have nothing to gain.  
      The existence of a God cannot be proven and has never been proven or dis-proven.  I am a Ph.D. physicist who has spent many long years studying and has been humbled by the laws and observations of the universe from the infinitely small to the infinitely large.  I have come to realize that the universe is beyond the ability of humans to comprehend.  It logically follows that if such an entity as God exists, it must be beyond the ability of humans to comprehend. I find the simplistic concept exemplified as the God of Abraham to be no less absurd than the Hindu turtle belief.  Throughout history the image of creation and God reflects the comprehension limits of the believer.

Comments by David Irvine were reprinted with his permission.  He has been evaluating his beliefs for a while.  I found a 2006 letter he submitted as a 1980 graduate of Vanderbilt University to the Spire which is a publication of the Vanderbilt School of Divinity, Graduate Department of Religion.