Friday, October 26, 2007

Categorizing Atheists

I had an idea the other day about atheism, and after some thought, I've come up with 4 types of atheists. (This is speculation only; pure mental masturbation).

1. Scientific Atheists - uphold science as the only method of obtaining truths about the world. Believe that the lack of empirical (non-testimonial) evidence is reason enough to not grant assent to the God-claim. Because their disbelief is largely based on the scientific method and statistical reasoning (God isn't impossible, just infinitesimally improbable), their rationale is very difficult to communicate to the religious layman. Richard Dawkins falls into this category.

2. Philosophical Atheists - reason and logic tells them that god is a logical impossibility. Additionally, philosopher-atheists tend to be better at using language than their scientific counterparts. These philosphers can usually make a good case against the religious layman, but when you get them in a room with a philosophical religionist (or apologetic), the conversation quickly spirals into a word game. I consider Bertrand Russell to be a philosophical atheist (although his extensive work in mathematics could place him in the previous category, his ability to use language makes this category more appropriate).

3. Formerly Religious Atheists - strict religious upbringing (Missouri Senate, many Catholics, strong anti-gay churches, etc.), often coupled with antagonistic relations with parents/family causes them to rebel in their adulthood, which takes the form of turning against God. Because their disbelief is just a tool of their angry revolt against their perceived victimizer (God or God through their parents), many of these atheists still feel an internal need for religion, and seem to be the most likely to return to religious belief later in life (as Universal Unitarians). Think Brian Warner (a.k.a. Marilyn Manson), activists, shock-value atheists.

4. Apathetic Atheists - people with no apparent reason for or against disbelief. Atheists of this type seem to have either grown up in atheistic or otherwise non-religious families, or religious belief simply was never able to take root in their minds. Similar to the religious layman, this is the atheistic layman. Frank Zappa is a good example.

Where does your humble author fall in this categorization scheme? I'd say a mix of 1 and 4.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Guilt and Vegetarianism

There is an inherent guilt that comes along with being a vegetarian. If you visit relatives, they will often either feel awful because they forgot you were a herbivore, or they will make some special, god-awful vegetarian mess and force it upon everybody else in an attempt to please you. Catering is no option, either, as most of the time, the caterer will enforce a minimum number of vegetarian sandwiches to be ordered, even if it's just one non-meateater in the group.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Mom was right, television rots your mind.

It's interesting that America's health care system wasn't in a state of crisis until Michael Moore said it was.

Eat that, Stephen Colbert.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Al Gore wins the Nobel Prize


Are they serious?? The Nobel Peace Prize just lost a lot of respect.

Honestly, I don't mean to come off as an ideological hack, but "Global Warming" is about as over-hyped as Britney Spears. Does nobody listen to the leagues of environmental and natural resource economists when they say that there are costs and benefits to be considered before we agree to any UN pacts that will set us back billions and billions of dollars?? (Not to mention years and years in terms of economic and technological progress?)

An example of the "environati's" unwillingness to listen to (or defend against) reasonable arguments: Bjorn Lomborg has admitted on several occasions that global warming is, in fact, happening, although you wouldn't know it by reading any randomly-chosen environmentalist blog.

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Thoughts about DC

I've been living here for about a month, and I have a few observations about Washington DC:

  • The weather. It's terribly swampy here. The air feels thick, heavy, almost like your swimming through it. Forget about hair and makeup - it must be a quite a site, actually, to see a city's entire female population arrive at work in the morning with their hair mussed, dampened and pressed against their sweaty, make-up smeared faces. DC's fever finally broke this week, though, and we went from 95F on Monday to about 55F last night.

  • The skyline. There aren't too many tall buildings here. It's actually quite nice, to walk to work in the morning and have a clear view of the Washington monument. It's a large city, but unlike New York or Chicago, you can see the sky from downtown. The tallest buildings are Marriotts.

  • The traffic. Who in the world thought that traffic circles would be an efficient way to direct traffic?! Without a doubt, traffic circles are the worst conception in the entire history of city planning.

  • The kids. Or the complete lack of them. There are a few small children, but I've only seen one teenager in my four weeks here. I think young people are rare enough in the middle of the city that I haven't been carded anywhere I've gone. If you've always wanted to live in a place without punk-teenagers, DC is the place for you.

  • The local economy. Like a good little economist-in-training, I've thought a lot about this. I can't figure out how it works. I have a suspicion that DC's infrastructure - the Metro, the city workers, the free museums - is financed by federal (not local) tax dollars, though I haven't asked anybody. I just can't see how this city could sustain itself. The sales tax rate is lower than in Minnesota.

    Additionally, I can't determine what the big industry is here, aside from government, of course. A lecturer I saw my first week here warned that the only thing DC manufactures is power, and that people who are drawn to power tend to flock to this city like moths to a lamp (rather, two lamps - a blue light and a red one). I tend to agree with that. Not often in Minnesota have I overheard a group of people discussing politics in public, but you can't escape it here. I saw a sign in the window of one of the congressional office buildings. It was a stop sign that read "Stop Privatization." Vague, but I'll assume the person meant "-of social security and medicare," although they could have meant "-entirely" for all I know. Is there really a philosophical war going on between the social-engineering paternalistic left and the behavior-policing theocratic right? I miss the real world, the world where people do productive work.

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Monday, October 8, 2007

Profitability of cable networks

In their 2000 book The Satanic Gases, Patrick J. Michaels and Robert C. Balling state that the cable tv channel "Weather Channel" is profitable. Which raises a very important question:

How is "The Weather Channel" profitable, and "TechTV" only operated for four years - entirely in the red - before getting bought out (by an inferior company at that)?

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Friday, October 5, 2007

On Music and the Last Temptation

So I got my hands on Peter Gabriel's Passion album today, the soundtrack to the Scorcese film The Last Temptation of Christ. It's got to be the most amazing music I've ever heard. I've got my headphones on and I'm listening to it in the middle of the intern room, and I'm just about moved to tears. From just listening. Peter Gabriel is a master at his craft.

Which led me to wonder why the film was so offensive to people's sensibilities in the first place. I consider it one of the best films/stories I've ever seen. I wonder if Christianity had been taught to me (or the world) from that paradigm, as the idea of sacrificing your own desires for a greater cause, (rather than the "magic man," miracle-worker crap I learned in sunday school), if I wouldn't be an atheist today. Kazantzakis' story speaks in a way that disarms your auto-skepticism and really drives home the overall theme, so much so that you can disregard the mystical threads in the larger philosophical tapestry.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

On Rights

I've been thinking a lot about rights lately, and how misconstrued the idea of rights seems to be these days.

Rights are not dispensed by the government. Government does not create rights, rights exist independent of any legislative body. Failure to understand that is failure to understand liberty.

Rights include: the right to life; right to property; right to be free; right to pursue happiness; among others.

Rights do not extend to "the right to not be offended." Rights do not include anything that takes from somebody else. Health care is a great example of a misunderstood non-right. Resources for producing health care services are finite, and desire for health care is infinite. Giving some health care to Roy leaves less for Bob. Prices remedy this conundrum.

This post is probably a little unclear because I've got "Bones" on in the background. I didn't know this show was a CSI clone.

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