Sunday, February 28, 2010

Okay, Wow.

Seems Blogger hasn't been informing me of moderated comments from old threads. Got 21 listed. Get ready for a flood of pent up Gabriel.

Another Game Ping

Recently picked up a game on PSN called Greed Corp. It's a turn-based strategy game my brother and I are enjoying. Anyone interested in a few rounds with us?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Setting Up For a Letdown

I like the movie, Pulp Fiction, but there's one thing I can think of that would improve it. For the two or three of you who haven't seen it, one of the MacGuffins is a briefcase that contains something unrevealed, and shines orange light onto the people who look inside. The improvement I have in mind: They should have left the lightbulb out of the briefcase.

Without the lightbulb, we could interpret the briefcase's contents as "anything." With the lightbulb, our choices narrow down quite rapidly to little more than "something most people would call supernatural." One of the resulting dominant theories I've heard seems a little too obvious: Marcellus Wallace's soul, thus the 'miracle' that saved Travolta and Jackson's characters was God intervening to make sure they save his soul.

It feels too restrictive to me. And I think that feeling carries over to real life science mysteries: Woos so often seem to love restricting the answer to what our limited imaginations can come up with. Science is liberating because reality isn't restricted to our imaginations. How does consciousness operate? The answer of "the soul" is restrictive and unsatisfying. Many soul hypotheses are little more than the process of ad hocking away the evidence, instead of making predictions and daring to risk being wrong. Being wrong is not something to be ashamed of in science. Every experiment scientists conduct is an act of bravery and humility: The results may not be to your liking because the universe does not exist to conform to your desires. Every scientifically-minded person knows that, and welcomes the opportunity to be surprised.

Some Problems With the Apologetics Gods

Currently watching the Atheism Tapes on Netflix streaming, and felt something I needed to express: The various absurd gods Apologists want us to believe in.

The random god: Quite often, I've seen people define their god as being unpredictable in principle. The problem with this is that it makes it random: Science is very good for detecting patterns and making predictions. The only thing that should be unpredictable in principle would be something truly, truly random.

The impotent god: Another alternative depends on defining god as undetectable, which leads to the question of "how can he do anything at all?" We can't detect gravity directly, but we sure can detect (and predict) its influence on objects. Science is the best tool we have for understanding the invisible. It's done that for so many forces before. What makes the god force fundamentally different?

The arbitrary god: Often shows up with divine command theorists. They posit a baseless god as the foundation of morality: God exists without any previous basis, but for some reason is super-special-awesome to be the sole privileged entity to dictate morality. He has no previous basis to found his decisions on, and no reason to have this authority. Close relative to the random god.

Friday, February 12, 2010


I've got a real case of it concerning a member of the Mercury Militia over on one of Akusai's videos.

I've worked up a nice sweat dealing with that troll. I need to take a shower.

Monday, February 08, 2010

A Substance Almost, But Not Quite, Entirely Unlike Tea

I've been following a troll by the name of Young Apologist who showed up at Skeptico, recently. Mostly, I've been quiet while the others dissect his nonsense line-by-line. He ended up repeating one tired old thing about how you can't use material description to talk about "immaterial" objects like souls and such. And that gets to the title of this post.

Like so many other dualists, he's essentially trying to describe something, not by what properties it has or what it does, but by what it's not. Of course, that leaves him with an infinite amount of room to move goalposts.

In science, you have to define what you're talking about in a meaningful manner. You do this so that you have testable predictions: What will you see when you examine the subject? What will happen when you do X to the subject? If those predictions are wrong, then you can admit you're wrong. Faith works the opposite way: "I am infallible" is the underlying basis of faith. Laying out definitions for the things they have faith in can only create opportunities for them to be demonstrated as wrong.

That's why they use nonsense words like "supernatural" to avoid defining their terms. Of course, this has a nasty habit of removing evidence from the process. If there's no evidence, no predictions, or anything like that, how do they know? The typical response I get boils down to reassertion of their superiority: They can know the unknowable because they said so.

It's really pathetic.