It’s Not Between Science And God

May 18th, 2010

While I was somewhat moved to post this by this article at the Chronicle of Higher Education, it’s really a point I keep making, and keep having to make. Reading the article, and the comments, it seems that the default consensus is that one must pick between a materialistic view of the universe, where even if there is much that is unknown, there is nothing which is inherently unknowable[1], nothing “beyond” understanding, just beyond our present knowledge, and the JudeoChristianIslamic God.

This is bollocks.

The choice is, basically, between science, and every god, demon, spirit, entity, manifestation, or idea ever imagined and yet to be imagined. Pretending as if Zeus, Odin, Kali, Osiris, Xenu, the Angel Moroni, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster have already been eliminated from the running oversimplifies the issue and more or less hands victory to the Believers. However, once you reject the idea that the universe can be understood through science, you reject the scientific method and all it entails and implies. You reject not just some specific theories or knowledge, but the entirety of our way of knowing. You are left with nothing but the subjective, the personal experience, the whim. You are left with no means of distinguishing between Christianity, Mormonism, and Scientology in terms of which one is “true”, because any methods you devise will, ultimately, rely on some variant of the scientific method (or on bloody violence, purges, and the burning of heretics). If you accept, for example, archaeology as a means of proving that the pre-Columbian civilizations described in “The Book of Mormon” did not exist, you are accepting the supremacy of science as a means of determining truth — and if you accept that, you must accept that there are no truths “beyond” science. (Though, again, I wish to emphasize this doesn’t mean all the answers are known, just that there is no way we will ever know the answers if we abandon science.)

Absent science, and the scientific way of thinking, there is no means of convincing a neutral party that your god is more ‘real’ than someone else’s. How, for example, can you prove an E-Meter is bunk if you reject the scientific model of the universe? That is, if you say, “This a magic machine that reads emotions!”, I could, in a scientific frame of mind, say, “OK. If this is true, then we can set up tests. We can take people who have been proven to have certain mental illnesses, and others who do not, but are pretending to, and we will see if you can figure out who is who consistently over many tests. Then we can take the E-Meters and make 10 give basically random readings and 10 work as designed, and see if the accuracy goes up or down as expected. Then…”. However, this requires first accepting the primacy of science, the idea we live in a knowable universe that does not allow for supernatural intervention. Otherwise, any failure can be ascribed to any cause one can imagine — the agents of Xenu, “negative vibes”, or anything else, and this cannot in turn be tested for and eliminated as a factor.

It’s been said, quite often, that the difference between an atheist and a believer is “one less god”. Any truly honest believer who applies the same filter to his or her own god that they do to all the others would be compelled to become an atheist. Any believer who attempts to prove their god is the right one via the tools of science is asserting that science is how we understand the universe and that this understanding does not permit, by definition, the supernatural. Any believer who simply asserts their god is the “right” one and offers no evidence beyond their subjective experiences or other arguments by assertion (“So many people believe in my god, they can’t all be wrong!” or “If my god wasn’t real, the world would be horrible!” or, my personal favorite, “If my god isn’t real, then there can’t be any morality!”)has no means of convicing anyone, so they are ultimately left with coercion — faith at the point of a sword.

(Any time you see the word “god”, in the above, please interpret it as reading “god, gods, goddesses, godlings, demons, spirits, body thetans, fay folk, and every other such thing”. This isn’t about Yahweh. This is about choosing between a universe that can be known and a universe that can’t, and that’s the only choice there is. Once you’ve chosen to believe in an unknowable universe, you have chosen to abandon the only tool which can tell you what should be believed.)

[1]“Inherently” is a key word. There may be things we will never know, because no method will ever be found to know them. This does not mean they are inherently unknowable. Consider, as one of a trillion possible examples, a man marooned in 1756 (a randomly picked year) on an island somewhere in the Pacific, who dies there, alone. What were his final words? Barring some fairly spectacular changes in our understanding of the universe and how it can be manipulated, I am happy to say “No one can know the answer to that.” It would be rather ridiculous to say “Since there exists this unknown thing, this proves there’s a God”, but just about every “God of the gaps” argument, which is what virtually all modern “proofs” of the existence of some god boil down to, is precisely this.  There is nothing inherent in the nature of “a man’s final words” that makes them unknowable and beyond science, even if it is not possible for anyone to know this hypothetical man’s last lonely utterance. I cannot tell you with absolute certainty why there is a universe at all. I can offer some speculations and ideas. I, or at least some alternate me who is a competent physicist, could probably devise experiments to test at least some of them. It may be that this is a fairly simple question when all is said and done and we’ll soon be making universes as High School lab projects. It may be that it is a question whose answer cannot be found. Even in the latter case, though, there’s absolutely no reason to leap from there to god… no reason to say, “Since we don’t know why or how the universe exists, this proves the existence of some other entity I just made up.” The universe does exist; this is a fact. (Descartes notwithstanding). Making up some cause of the universe which cannot, itself, be proven to exist does not work. It answers no questions. It provides no knowledge. It tells us nothing about how we should live our lives, what values we should hold, what is good or evil, or how to increase crop yields or overclock our graphics cards. “Some entity outside reality made reality” is a non-answer. If this non-answer gives you emotional comfort, it’s only because you’re not thinking about it very hard. (It also, inevitably, instantly leads to “Who made that entity?”, which means it’s either turtles all the way down, or we leap forward to “If a universe-creating entity can spontaneously exist, so can a universe, rendering the entity unnecessary.”)

Bell Curves Are Not Miracles

May 12th, 2010

So, we have a tragic air crash in Libya. And while you read this brief blog entry, far more people than died in that are going to be dying all around the world, we just won’t be hearing about it on the news. And, no, this isn’t some kind of “Every life is precious and sacred and when someone dies we are all diminished, blah, blah, blah” piece of glurge. Our brains cannot comprehend the number of deaths (and every other tragedy — rape, mutilation, torture, starvation, disease) which occur around us daily, and I don’t mean that as poetic metaphor, but as scientific fact — they can’t. We are only capable of perceiving around 100 or so other people as “real humans”. Google “Dunbar’s Number”, or, even better, “Monkeysphere” to read more. However, that’s not the point of this post.

Rather, I want to focus on what I am sure is about to happen — a whole nauseating tidal wave of posts, essays, and email describing one person’s survival as a “miracle” and showing this proves the grace, compassion, love, etc ad very nauseum of God, or whatever entity or entities the writer happens to believe run the universe.

Simply put: No.

A “miracle” would be the shattered remnants of the plane lifting themselves into the air, knitting themselves together into a whole plane, and being safely redeposited on the ground with everyone alive, healthy, cured of whatever unknown diseases they may have had festering inside of them, while a choir of angels appeared and made statements to the press. (And I’d still reserve judgment until Penn&Teller had had a chance to look over the scene)

An improbable event is not a miracle. It’s just… improbable, and to a large extent, every event of our lives is improbable. Given the huge array of choices, decisions, and possibilities, what are the odds of you getting the precise box of cereal you just bought at the grocery store? Consider the other customers coming and going, the speed at which you walked to the store, your decision to go shopping today instead of tomorrow or yesterday, your decision to go down Aisle 3 first instead of Aisle 2, the fact you spotted a coupon for Raisin Bran this morning and chose to buy it instead of the generic store brand, and on and on… it’s ludicrously unlikely. A million different things had to happen in just the right order for that particular box to end up in your hand, and not the box which was in front of it, or the box behind it, or the box that the clerk is bringing to restock, or… you get the idea.

The odds of any given lottery number coming up are one in 40 million, but twice a week, a one in forty million event happens in my state.

Out of hundreds of plane crashes, occuring under hugely varying circumstances with extremely chaotic conditions, sooner or later, there will be an improbable survivor. That’s all this is — the far end of the bell curve, no more a miracle than someone dying from an extremely trivial accident that normally would result in nothing more than a slight bruise is a miracle. This is a sign of nothing, this teaches us nothing, this demonstrates nothing — except, perhaps, that far too many people do not understand physics, probability, or that the only meaning to be found in life is the meaning you choose to impose upon it.

No Matter Who You Vote For, The Government Gets Elected

May 10th, 2010

“There’s nothing in the street
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Is now the parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight”

So. We got this new boss, huh? Seems to me, he looks a lot like the old boss. A-yup.

Attorney General Holder wants to “work with” Congress to find  “the limits” of Constitutional rights for terrorism  suspects.

If the Bush administration had proposed this (which, well, they did) the Usual Suspects on the Left would be out in the streets, playing drums, waving around giant puppets, and pretending to be dead, tactics which turned out to be precisely as effective in generating political change as they sound. (But they sure made everyone involve feel as if they were Real Life Protesters, standing up to ZionistCorpoFascism, and, really, isn’t satisfying your desire to relive what you thought the Sixties were like the entire point of leftist activism? If not, someone’s doing something wrong. But I digress.)

However, since it’s Obama, we can be reasonably certain we will hear a few “tut-tuts” and “Well, y’see…” and “But this is different.” Meanwhile, the fanatical anti-Obama types on the far-right fringes (who were also, for the most part, fanatical anti-Bush types because they hate anyone who seems stronger or more powerful than they are, which is 99% of the planet), will be screeching pretty much the same things they screeched at Bush, but the Left, instead of saying, “Gee, maybe they have a point about the laser beams and micronukes used to destroy the World Trade Center”, will instead be going on about “racism”, allowing them to hate the Obama haters (it’s very important to have someone to hate, mind you, it is the essence of all politics), without addressing Obama’s refusal to make any significant policy changes from the Bush regime when it comes to restoring anything that might happen to be left of the Bill of Rights.

To claim that you can remove the rights of suspects in a crime is to basically throw the entirety of American law out the window, to destroy, completely and utterly and without limit, the basis of American legal system. It is saying, in effect, that someone is not a suspect — that he is guilty. That being accused of a particular crime is enough to treat someone as if he is guilty of that crime, and to remove his rights on that basis alone. All you need to do is say “He’s a witch!”… I mean, a terrorist… and that’s it. Sentence first, trial afterwards. And we will never be sure if it’s a fair trial, because the systems — flawed as they may be, as all systems made by Man must be flawed — we put in place to make sure trials are fair, to accuser and to accused, are tossed out the window.

Any form of this nonsense boils down to “We know he’s guilty, so why pretend he’s just a ‘suspect’?” So, then, why bother with the trial, with the presentation of evidence, with the right to defense? Just shoot him dead after you’ve tortured him for information. Of course, to be fair, this should apply to any situation where you simply “know” the so-called accused is guilty, and justice should just be done swiftly and cleanly, right?

That sort of thinking has always worked well for America and Americans, hasn’t it?

This is pandering to the worst and most beastial elements of the American people, this is cowardice, this is nothing more than trying to escape criticism of being “soft on terrorism” instead of standing up for what is right.

In short, it’s being a politician, which hardly surprises me at all. Obama rose up in Chicago politics. Anyone, ally or enemy, who thinks him an idealist, is a fool. The man is tough — he has to be. He knows how to play the game, to play it well enough to get to the White House running against someone with decades of hard experience in every sort of backbiting, vicious, political struggle, and after he was done with Hillary, he beat McCain as well. (Ba-dum BUM!)

But I do have to wonder if any of his ardent followers, especially the young idealistic fools (but I am redundant there), who thought he’d be a “new” kind of President because he had a bit more melanin in his skin than the prior President, understand this. With luck, this betrayal of their hopes and dreams will squash yet another generation of would-be starry-eyed  dreamers into hardened, embittered, cynics.

Comments Not Coming To Me

May 4th, 2010

Just as an aside, for some reason, I am not being alerted to new comments posted pending approval. All my settings indicate I should be, but I’m not. Go figure.

As another aside, this blog is sorta-mirrored over at http://open.salon.com/blog/lizardsf , and by “sorta mirrored”, I mean, I manually C&P from there to here and vice versa. As part of Salon, it likely has more readers, as I am not good at SEO or otherwise getting my stuff noticed. (Anyone who has ideas to promote this site, or mrlizard.com, let me know!)

Lieberman To Revive Alien & Sedition Act

May 4th, 2010

One of the most vile and pernicious laws in early American history was passed by our second President, John Adams. (You might note that Presidents 1 and 3 are on Mt. Rushmore. President 2 isn’t. Funny, that.) This grotesque bit of law, flagrantly anti-American even as the nation was still trying to figure out what “American” really meant, criminalized any “malicious” writing against the government and its officials, and would allow for the deportation of resident aliens if their home countries were at war with the United States. (In showing just How Far We’ve Come, FDR didn’t deport Japanese citizens and immigrants, he just locked them up in concent… sorry, internment camps.Go, us!)

These laws so repulsed citizens of a nation which was born out of saying malicious things about their former government that John Adams was kicked out on his bony ass, and replaced by Thomas Jefferson, one of the few Founding Fathers truly worth admiring, that whole “boinked his slaves” thing notwithstanding.

Sen. Lieberman (I-diot, Conn.) wants to Adams one further — he wants to strip the citizenship of anyone who is accused of joining a “foreign terrorist group”, as defined by the whims of the Federal Government. This week, it’s Muslim insurgents, next week, it could be the IRA, if they’re still around. Since just about every American whose ancestors didn’t walk here from Asia has some connection to an existing foreign culture, most Americans have some concern about the politics of their distant homelands, even if no one’s been there in generations. Whether its Quebecois, Basques, or Irish Catholics, plenty of perfectly loyal and law abiding American citizens may support actions or organizations in foreign lands which can be described as “terrorist” by most reasonable definitions. And since a “terrorist” group is usually “one which is opposed to a government the US is currently allied with”, this makes the US an enemy of said group by proxy.

Even John Adams didn’t go so far as to attack those already citizens. This places Lieberman well ahead of John Edwards (the fake psychic, not the philandering politician) in the running for Biggest Douche In The Universe.

Joining Lieberman in this crusade against morality, decency, law, and basic common sense is pretty much the entire Republican Party, who are demanding to know why a ***SUSPECT*** in a crime was read his Miranda rights, as opposed to simply being locked in prison since we all know he’s guilty, right? The profound and insane illogic of this stance, clearly design to appeal to the room-temperature IQ crowd who cannot think, but merely react, is self-evident, and, if it isn’t self-evident to you, stop reading this and go back to pleasuring yourself with pictures of Sarah Palin. You cannot treat those ***ACCUSED*** of a crime as if they had been ***CONVICTED*** of that crime until they’ve been ***FOUND GUILTY***, and that means a ***TRIAL***, which means they ***HAVE*** to have all the rights, privileges, and protections of anyone accused of any crime, from jaywalking to mass murder.

Otherwise, what the hell are we fighting for? We cannot say “America”, because if you do not believe that “Innocent until proven guilty” is the absolute bedrock of American law, you do not believe in or support America. Period. You are the traitor.

(Let me address a lot of the usual balderdash replies right now: This isn’t a prisoner captured on a battlefield in a war zone, where circumstances often force hard choices and some of the rules have to be changed — but even those changes are clear and spelled out and apply only under defined conditions. This isn’t an episode of “24″, where you torture someone because the bomb is ticking and the whole audience can see it — TV is not reality, and torture doesn’t work. We got very good, useful, war-winning intelligence from captured Nazis — Nazis, dammit! – without needing torture. And lastly, he’s an American citizen, period, full stop. Thirdly, the crime he is accused of it, at best “attempted murder”. Trying to kill someone, or a lot of someones, is pretty vile, but it’s not “actual murder”, which is why we have different laws and punishments.)

Atrocity In Oklahoma

April 29th, 2010

I used to believe that I had reached the point in my cynicism where nothing would seriously shock me. Outrage me, certainly, but not actually shock. Not actually reach the point where I’m left staring at the screen thinking “How could someone do that?” Even when I read about some of horrors and atrocities which continue to spread throughout the world, I am appalled and revolted and disgusted, but not really surprised. You expect brutal genocides in Africa, insane religious fanatics in the Middle East, people who think the Cultural Revolution was a good idea in Berkeley.

I am not sure if it’s a good or bad thing that I actually managed to be shocked today.

Specifically, this. Oklahoma — a state known for being bombed by a terrorist and trying to classify the Oscar winning film “The Tin Drum” as kiddie porn — has passed, overwhelmingly, despite the governor’s veto, a law which will prevent doctors from being sued if they lie, if they deliberately, willfully, and knowingly, withhold the results of tests indicating that a fetus may have genetic defects. Why? Because a woman might choose to abort the fetus if it will only live for a day, in agony. Or will most likely die in the 8th or 9th month of pregnancy. Or be born in such a state that it will never know or experience life in any way that can be called human. Or would require medical care amounting to millions of dollars for the few years it might be able to stay alive. Or simply be too difficult for the woman or her family to handle, or too risky, or too heartbreaking. There are many reasons why a woman might choose to abort, some sounder than others, but all deeply personal and absolutely no one’s business but hers.

This law basically grants doctors the right to lie if they feel the patient will do something they don’t like with the truth. (It does not, I presume, permit them to tell the woman her fetus DOES have a birth defect if it doesn’t, though I don’t see why not. If we accept that it’s moral for a doctor to lie to prevent an abortion, why shouldn’t he be permitted to lie to encourage one? I’m sure we can all think of a few people the world could do without — every politician who voted for this law, for example. Oh, for a time machine and some RU486. But I digress.)

It is almost… no, it is impossible for me to conceive of the kind of depraved mentality which could even propose this law, much less vote for it, much less do so in the confidence that it will win you praise, not a quick trip to the nearest oak tree via a stout piece of hemp rope. I make an effort, really I do, to understand the other guy’s point of view. This doesn’t mean I will agree with them or be kind to them or spout some hippie crap about how “all points of view are valid”. I do believe, or I did believe, that no one is evil in their own mind, that every sane person is motivated by a desire to do good. Their premises may be horribly flawed and thus their desire results in evil, but if you dig at them enough, you can see some sort of logic, however twisted.

This, though… no. There is nothing here which can be discussed, debated, considered, or evaluated. To pass a law of this kind, you must be a creature utterly without a conscience, and anyone who knows me might be a little slack jawed at what it would take to get me to say that.  To sit there and vote “Yes” for a law this depraved basically places you outside the pale of humanity.

There is vast national outrage over Arizona passing a law which says “If you’re committing a crime, you’ll be punished for that crime.” Where is the national outrage over this?

I completely oppose, obviously, laws banning abortion outright. But such a law, no matter how wrong it would be, does not come close to the depths of evil of this abomination. Under such a regime, a woman can at least trust her doctor to tell her the truth — even if she can’t abort a fetus which will be born deformed or dead, she can emotionally steel herself for it. She can find support among friends and family. If the defect in question is not lethal, she can research and prepare for what she will face. If she knows she cannot support the child, she can try to arrange for it to be cared for by private or public charities before the birth. But under the nightmare realm of Oklahoma, none of this is possible. Note that the decision is entirely in the mind of the doctor — he must decide, based on nothing but whim, if a woman “might” decide to abort based on the news, and then withhold it if he so wishes. Thus,even a woman who would be willing and able to care for a child with birth defects is denied any of the above tools. She will not find out until the moment of birth — if it survived to be born — what she is carrying. She will have been lied to by her own doctor, the man or woman she trusted to provide care for herself and her child. How could she ever trust that person, or any doctor, ever again?

“Madness” is too small a word. “Evil” is too broad. This is atrocity.

In Which Lizard Defends Environmentalists, Rips Corporations

April 27th, 2010

Call Satan and tell him to find your ice skates. Lizard is about to rip into a corporate spokescritter and defend tree hugging hippies.

Apparently, some paper company is whining that people don’t churn out reams of printed copies of emails containing spurious virus warnings, outdated jokes, and  important updates to the company sexual harassment policy, which will immediately be read aloud in a leering voice (“I’ll BET she doesn’t like being called ‘Sugar Lips’!”). So they are encouraging people to ignore the “Think Before You Print” signature line, which I’ve never seen, but which is, frankly, just basic common sense.

They want you to waste paper. Because they sell paper, and if you don’t waste it, they sell less.

Now, at least 90% of environmentalism is bullcrap, and 9% of the remaining 10% is basically a religious rite designed to make you feel virtuous without actually accomplishing anything. However, stopped clocks and all that — not wasting paper printing out hardcopies of ephemera is logical from an ecological (heh) and economic standpoint. This is one of the most disgustingly blatant and ham-handed attempts to promote a product I’ve seen. The spokescritter ought to be ashamed of himself, but in my experience, such types are even less capable of feeling shame than I am, and that’s saying something. (On another board I’m on, someone once wrote to me “You should be ashamed.” I replied, “I understand all the words in that sentence, but they make no sense in that order.” He never wrote back. )

I have ripped into whiners who claim we need government support for other failing businesses, like newspapers. I have mocked every claim that this or that industry, social convention, lifestyle, culture, language, or whatever, that is in danger of passing into history, needs to be “protected” and “preserved”. I am not going to give a free ride to paper companies. If your business model is outdated by technology, then you change your model or you go out of business and good bloody riddance. As high-definition, sharp, low-power displays become cheaper and more reliable, actual dead trees become less and less useful as a display medium, and other than for archival purposes, they are grossly inferior as a storage medium. My iPod touch can theoretically hold twenty million pages of printed text. Drop it to 19 million, and there’s room for a program to index and search them all in seconds. And that’s not even the primary, secondary, or tertiary function of the device!

It will be a long, long, time before paper in general goes the way of the 3.5″ floppy, but if it becomes a much smaller business, so frackin’ what? No business — or culture, or idea, or lifestyle — has a “right” to exist. Top-down, enforced, change is generally bad. Organic, bottom-up change is generally good (and even if it isn’t, attempting to stop it by brute force methods is almost always worse). Go gently into that good night, paper companies, or at least try to find a way to make your product genuinely valuable so that people will buy it because they need it and see a use for it. It’s not some environmentalist logo on the email that’s causing them to abstain from printing, it’s the fact printing is usually useless and wasteful of time, resources, and energy. There is virtually no benefit to printing, and encouraging people to do so just to save your failed business model is repulsive.

Comedy Central Pays The Dane Geld

April 23rd, 2010

And that is called paying the Danegeld,

But we’ve proved it again and again

That if you’ve once paid him the Danegeld

You’ll never get rid of the Dane.” (Rudyard Kipling)

Or, in this particular case, the Muslim-geld.

Two nights ago, Comedy Central ran a butchered and censored episode of South Park, in which not only was the name of Mohammed bleeped out, but so was an extensive ending speech, apparently one about not giving in to fear, intimidation, and terrorism. One presumes this speech was censored because Comedy Central’s cowardly executives would spontaneously combust if they heard it (and it would be damn good thing if they did, frankly. Burn censors, not books!)

While some speculate this is all a meta-commentary by Matt and Trey, they deny it, and I believe them.

What it’s all about, of course, is presenting the “image of Mohammed”, which apparently offends some braindead followers of Islam. Of course, offending people isn’t anything new to either South Park or Comedy Central. They’re shown Jesus Christ defecating on (that’s “taking a bit ol’ shit on”, for you inbred redneck types) George Bush. They showed — in the censored episode — Shiva (or maybe Buddha, I forget) sniffing coke. They’ve shown God as a deformed fanged walrus creature. They’ve shown PETA members having sex with animals (granted, that may be more reporting than satire, but anyway…), they’ve shown right wingers as ignorant gun nuts and left wingers as ignorant hippies, they’ve mocked, insulted, and defamed everything one can imagine, often in very crude and scatalogical ways. And they’ve gotten plenty of protests, sternly worded letters, and threats of lawsuits, but only one time, only for one group, do they back down.

For Muslims.

So we’re back to Dane geld. And now they’ve learned. They can silence anything, censor anything, impose any viewpoint they want, just by posting a random rant on a random website. Comedy Central has handed over all of its moral authority to any kook who doesn’t like what they’ve chosen to make fun of this week — so long as the kook is Muslim. (Are you an atheist offended by South Park showing Richard Dawkins having sex with a transexual school teacher? A Christian offended by Jesus being portrayed as an ineffectual shlub? A Mormon offended by the mockery of your faith’s founding? Too bad for you. Comedy Central isn’t scared enough of you. If you’re a Muslim, though, you’re golden.)

Oh, BTW…

This is a picture of Muhammed. If you can't see it, do a Google Image search for "Mohammed South Park"

Mohammed

And, if there are any Muslims reading this, don’t say “We’re a religion of peace!” or “It’s just some violent extremists!”.

It is true, there are violent Christian extremists — ask abortion doctors.

There are violent Jewish extremists.

There are violent environmentalist and animal rights extremists.

There are violent right-wing extremists, violent black extremists, violent gay extremists, violent anti-gay extremists, violent extremists of every ethos, philosophy, and creed. It would not surprise me if there are violent Amish extremists out there, building beautifully carved wooden bombs that they set to go off when the horse and buggy goes over 10 miles an hour.

Despite knowing this, publishers of all sorts only back down from one group of extremists — Muslims. Why? Becuase they know, or have good reason to believe, that as a percentage of the whole population of Muslims, those willing to perform violence in the name of their religion are a much, much, larger segment than among any of the other groups I’ve mentioned, who are mostly content to froth, fume, and write letters to the FCC. While violence of this sort committed by non-Muslims is absolutely real and undeniable — again, ask an abortion doctor — there are so few individuals in these groups willing to go that far that the calculus of risk says that it’s safe to take the chance. It may happen, but it probably won’t. When it comes to Muslims, though, this calculus says the risk is too great.

Why is that, hypothetical Muslim reader?

Is it because people just hate and fear Muslims irrationally?

Or is it because the presumably sane majority among the Muslim population is unwilling to address their own extremist elements directly and forcefully, to not spend time pointing fingers at extremists in other religions or talking about “insensitivity” or “cultural difference”, but to actually stand up and say “This is wrong, we live in a multicultural society and if we want the right to worship as we please, we must not just abide, but actively defend, the right of others to differ from us and even to mock us.”?

Hint: It’s the second one.

Ball’s in your court. Because, sooner or later, everyone learns that paying Dane geld doesn’t rid you of the Dane, but standing up to him does.

A Not Entirely Modest Proposal

April 8th, 2010

As the day approaches when we all must pay Sam “The Big Nuke” his annual vig, I have to wonder why there are tax credits for having children, as opposed to NOT having children. Children consume public goods and do not contribute to wealth. A person who has no kids reduces the drain on the education system, the health care system, the transit system… on everything, really. Not to mention that every tree hugger agrees we need fewer people on the planet, though very few seem to remember that it’s down the block, not across the street, if you get my drift. So why not a flat tax credit for being childless, with gradually increasing withholdings — not deductions — the more kids you have? “Fairness” is the watchword of the day, and “The more you use, the more you pay” strikes me as the very definition of fairness.

The Stupid, It Burns (Part Infinity)

April 7th, 2010

To my mind, one of the greatest injustices that we endure in America, and most of the world, is that virulent morons acting under the color of government authority rarely, if ever, have to personally suffer for their crimes. In the unusual event they’re found to be guilty of anything, it’s the government which pays, which means We The People get screwed twice — once when the government yobbo commits his crimes, and again when tax dollars we pay for government services instead get used to pay off the victims of said yobbo. Nine times out of ten, yobbo doesn’t even suffer any shame or humiliation, as he’s likely hailed as a “brave crusader”, not a fanatical moron who is too stupid to know how stupid he is.

Case in point: This schmuck, who is threatening teachers with an extremely serious criminal charge if they a)obey the law, and more importantly, b)act like responsible adults. Teaching teenagers the basics of biology and chemistry is not a crime; if anything, failing to do so is. Horny kids don’t stop being horny because they don’t know what a condom is — they just don’t relieve their horniness in a way less likely to ruin their future lives. Ignorance has never solved a problem, and it never will. The more teens understand their options and their risks, the more likely it is they’ll make a smarter choice. (Not too likely, since they’re teens, but likelier.)

Using your political office to enforce your narrow-minded moral agenda and attempt to scare and bully teachers should be a crime. In a decent world, it would be a capital crime, since no other punishment will dissuade these folks. (See above as for why.) But we do not live in a decent world.