left biblioblography: February 2007

Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Welcome to another episode of 'Things that get so far up my nose, it scratches my hypothalamus'.

A shout out to to KC at bligbi.com (who learned about it from Unscrewing the Unscrutable) for this one.

After my last tangle with an alleged 'professor' (of journalism, no less!), I gave it no more thought. Now we have a Professor of Law spouting off, and none too well, I might add.

Prepare to get somewhat incensed.

One of my best friends grew up in the Mormon Church. I asked Steve recently what he thought of Mitt Romney's statement that "we need to have a person of faith lead this country." Steve, unlike Romney, isn't an orthodox Mormon, but he's a very thoughtful person, who knows more about religion that just about anyone I know.

Fairly standard entry point: 'I talked to someone of faith'. Anecdotal.


Steve's view is that religious believers of every stripe all have something in common with each other that's relevant to issues such as who ought to be president.

It seems fair enough, that is, if you're a believer, that is.

But he's careful not to overstate the matter: he emphasizes that many Christian churches don't consider Mormons to be Christians, and that such disagreements aren't trivial. (A good rule of thumb is that differences of opinion of the sort that have led large numbers of people to kill each other are probably pretty significant).

People get violent over religion. Not really a newsflash.

Still, Steve believes - correctly in my view - that in general the differences between religious believers are less important than the differences between believers and nonbelievers, and that this distinction is and ought to be relevant to political life.

And here we go again. Best to skip over less important points, like say, who's qualified to hold an office? Watch as he makes a stilted argument on discriminating against atheists.

That belief helps explain why, for example, Americans say they are far less likely to vote for an atheist for president than for members of various groups (women, Jews, ethnic minorities) who have been excluded historically from presidential consideration.

It's called discrimination, my friend. Imagine the response if you denied someone office based race, sex, gender, or any other civil rights matters. (I'm not going to accept a 'gee, just shut up or change your mind' riposte, because that stinks of thought police.)

Now among liberals, the knee-jerk reaction to such poll data is to condemn the intolerance it represents. Yet I think there are good reasons for refusing to vote for an atheist for president - subject to the caveat that I also believe genuine atheism, like genuinely orthodox religious belief, is actually quite rare.

Aye caramba!!! Do any of these people bother do any research? Wait for it: he'll reveal an underwhelming source a little later on. Albinos are rare: will you deny them public office on the grounds that not only are they rare, they make people uncomfortable?

Of course there are lots of people who claim to be atheists, just as there are lots of people who claim to be orthodox religious believers. But how many people, at least among the social classes that produce presidential candidates, believe in the doctrines of Christianity with the same degree of confidence with which they believe in, say, the existence of Antarctica?

Wait: what? How lopsided is that argument? G.B Shaw wasn't too far off when he said, "Those who cannot do, teach." How is this germane? Answer: it's not. Social classes? Nice of him to admit there actually is a caste system in American politics.

Naturally it's considered quite rude to press people on such matters,

You can press me anytime, 'professor'. I don't find it rude: I know few 'genuine' atheists who do. Of course, it helps to beg off on doing any real research, by pretensions of courtesy.

but in my experience most supposedly orthodox religious belief, on closer examination, melts away into a vague sense of an ultimate moral order, supervised by an even more vaguely conceptualized divinity. (Among a lot of liberal Christians, this is asserted openly, to the point where they seem to adhere to a form of Christianity that excludes all specifically Christian beliefs).

I'd advise this cat to get out more. 'Ultimate moral order'? Good thing he doesn't teach philosophy.

Conversely, when one presses a purported atheist, one almost always finds that the person believes in various propositions that simply don't make sense without a belief in some source of an ultimate moral order, i.e., what most people would call "God." For instance, almost everyone who claims to be an atheist still makes lots of "ought" statements, as in "we ought to preserve biological diversity," or what have you.

Hold on: there's a vast difference between propositions and believing in some anthropic principle that rules unseen over the unwashed masses. The ultimate authority is Man, that's it. If you require an unseen cosmic baby sitter to refrain from plunging into feral chaos, I'd say that goes more to your poor upbringing and lack of self-control. Who has this guy 'pressed'? Anyone I know?

The latter view is that of the famed biologist Edward O. Wilson, in his new book The Creation. Written in the form of a letter to a pastor of the Southern Baptist faith in which Wilson was brought up, Wilson argues that atheists like him and religious believers ought to agree that preserving biological diversity, and therefore in the long run humanity, is a profound moral imperative.

And that's it. Sum total of his research is...drum roll please...one book! Let's not forget that this is a strawman (obviously) - I'm guessing that the book in question had a bit more...substance. This appears to be the be-all and end-all of his research. Chatting with a buddy and reading a solitary book on the subject. Wow, don't exhaust yourself, Professor.

Wilson is a brilliant man, but this kind of thing has always seemed to me nonsensical on its face. After all, the human race has existed for an eye-blink of cosmological time and will certainly cease to exist in another eye-blink or two.

This paragraph is just - eye-crossing. What is this supposed to mean, exactly? That we shouldn't give two rips of a rat's fart in a hurricane? Is this some weak jab at existentialism? Back-handed ad hominem, to boot.

The only response a genuine atheist would have to that fact is, so what? Which helps explain why there are almost no genuine atheists.

This is just pathetic. How much is this guy getting paid for this? I wouldn't give him 5 bucks to write this - hell, he'd have to pay me to accept the stupid thing. I write better articles for free, fer cryin' out loud. Obviously he's piggy-backing on the 'cold empty lives' stereotype about atheists. "Believe in nothing - why should I care?"

Bad news, prof: we're thinking, breathing, living human beings regardless of our un-belief. No one I know or have met (online or otherwise) is in any way apathetic - we still have passion, we are allowed to raise our voices in the ruckus, our fists to the skies, cry J'ccuse! or Kudos!, and many of us are deeply concerned, both with our fellow human beings as well as ourselves.

Because this is all there is. That's it. Best to make the most of it. Touch a heart, a mind, one another, breathe, laugh, cry, enjoy, and most of all, help each other.

And guess what? I'm the real deal. A genuine atheist. And there's a lot more out there than just little ol' me. A lot more. Fifteen to sixteen percent (give or take) of the US population. So we don't get a seat at the table? No political representatives? What happened to 'no taxation without representation'? Hey, didn't we fight a war over that?

And maybe, just maybe, if you attended a Beyond Belief convention, or a Western/Eastern Atheists Meet, or actually left the campus and looked for us, you'd find out just how wrong you are.

Welcome to reality.

Here's his email. Send him your indignant responses (note: DO try to keep it somewhat polite - we still have a major PR problem, ergo, we should at least try to behave with a modicum of decorum).

Paul Campos is a professor of law at the University of Colorado. He can be reached at paul.campos@colorado.edu.

And there you have it. Final analysis: rhetorical rigmarole.

Till the next post, then.



I'd sure like to enter this frog into a jumping contest:

And I suppose that orphanage makes for strange bedfellows:

Just more proof that things are not the way they seem, the world's not (and never has been) locked in static absolutes.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007


I found this a while back, and thought I'd share it with you all. Rowan Atkinson (as the devil) sorting out all the newcomers to Hell.

Favorite line: "Atheists. Atheists? Over here, please. You must be feeling a right bunch of nitwits, ey?"
Second favorite line: "And finally, Christians. Christians? Ah yes, I'm sorry, I'm afraid the Jews were right."

Always was a big fan of Rowan Atkinson, especially his 'Black Adder' episodes.


Monday, February 26, 2007


I stumbled across this accidentally on Youtube, and learned something new.

Charles Bradlaugh

"1833–91, British social reformer, a secularist. Editor of the free-thinking weekly National Reformer from 1860 and later associated with Annie Besant, he was an early advocate of woman's suffrage, birth control, free speech, national education, trade unionism, and other controversial causes. In 1880, Bradlaugh was elected to Parliament after several unsuccessful attempts. Rather than take a Bible oath to be sworn in as a member of Parliament, Bradlaugh, an atheist, demanded the right to take an affirmation. This action provoked a great deal of controversy, and it was not until 1886 that the matter was settled in his favor. His numerous works include Land for the People (1877), The True Story of My Parliamentary Struggle (1882), and Speeches (1890)."


"In 1880 Bradlaugh was elected Member of Parliament for Northampton, and claimed the right to affirm (instead of taking the religious Oath of Allegiance), but this was denied, and he subsequently offered to take the oath "as a matter of form". This offer, too, was rejected by the House. Because a Member must take the oath before being allowed to take their seat, he effectively forfeited his seat in Parliament. He attempted to take his seat regardless, was arrested and briefly imprisoned in the Clock Tower of the Houses of Parliament. His seat fell vacant and a by-election was declared. Bradlaugh was re-elected by Northampton four times in succession as the dispute continued. Supporting Bradlaugh were William Gladstone, George Bernard Shaw, and John Stuart Mill, as well as hundreds of thousands of people who signed a public petition. Opposing his right to sit were the Conservative Party, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and other leading figures in the Church of England and Roman Catholic Church.

"On at least one occasion, Bradlaugh was escorted from the House by police officers. In 1883 he took his seat and voted three times before being fined £1,500 for voting illegally. A bill allowing him to affirm was defeated in Parliament.

"In 1886 Bradlaugh was finally allowed to take the oath, and did so at the risk of prosecution under the Parliamentary Oaths Act. Two years later, in 1888, he secured passage of a new Oaths Act, which enshrined into law the right of affirmation for members of both Houses, as well as extending and clarifying the law as it related to witnesses in civil and criminal trials (the Evidence Amendment Acts of 1869 and 1870 had proved unsatisfactory, though they had given relief to many who would otherwise have been disadvantaged)."

I learned about Mr. Bradlaugh via this:

The preacher in the video talks about Charles Bradlaugh, and how another preacher brought together 5,000 men, freethinkers, atheists, skeptics, and tells the story of the 'prodigal son' and whatnot, and managed to 'save' 2,000 men.

I looked into the matter - found this:

"Editor and Agitator

"As noted by David Berman, Bradlaugh unlike some of his predecessors, was willing to “take the war into the ‘enemies’ camp” and was quite thorough in his atheism.” From 1854 to 1859, he edited London Investigator and in 1860 he became an editor of National Reformer.

"Two years before his death, Bradlaugh introduced a bill to repeal the Blasphemy Laws in England. Just before his death, the House of Commons passed a resolution expunging from its Journals the many bitter entries of former years. However, Bradlaugh was in a coma at the time and never learned of the belated gesture. Meanwhile, his attempt to abolish the Common Law offence of blasphemy failed and “still disfigures our democracy,” editor Peter Brearer of The Freethinker has written.

"Although G. J. Holyoake was no admirer, he said of Bradlaugh that “He was the greatest agitator, within the limits of the law, who appeared in my time among the working people.” Although he attracted fierce loyalties and strong aversions, none denied his power, effectiveness, and what George Bernard Shaw described as his “passion and conviction.” Josiah Wedgwood remembered a friend telling how Bradlaugh “described to us how the shadow of the Cross lay like a black curse across all history, and as he spoke of the horrors of Christianity great tears rolled down his face.”

"Although a considerable part of Bradlaugh’s life was devoted to political work, it is probably as the “image-breaker,” the protagonist of Freethought, that he will be longest remembered, according to Foote. In the mid-1850s, he was, in his words, “honored by the British Banner” with a leading article vigorously assailing him for his lectures against Christianity. This “assailing” never ceased during his life, and was by no means confined to his views and opinions. He wrote numerous pamphlets. The “Plea for Atheism” appeared in 1877. In the debate with the Rev. W.M. Westerby on “Has or is Man a Soul?” (1879), and elsewhere, he showed his complete rejection of belief in a future life."

(You're gonna love this next part)

Last Years

"Bradlaugh died on 30 January 1891. His daughter, Mrs. H. Bradlaugh Bonner, took minute precautions to procure “signed testimony from those who had been attending him,” that during his last illness he had never uttered a word directly or indirectly bearing upon religion. The last words she heard him speak during the night of his death “were reminiscent of his voyage to India.” Despite this testimony, Foote wrote, “The traditional Christian falsehoods on this subject are still circulated and the writer of this notice is constantly encountering them. As recently as 1932, Mrs. Bradlaugh Bonner found it necessary to refute the absurd story about her father’s holding a watch and challenging God to kill him in sixty seconds. Such mendacities no longer yield the amusement of novelty to Freethinkers; rather, they are considered a tribute to Bradlaugh’s greatness.

"In 1994, more than a century after his death, Bradlaugh was again in the news. A Church of England clergyman had urged that a statue of Jesus should replace that of “the atheist MP” which stands in Abington Square, Northampton, the town which first elected him to Parliament in 1880. The suggestion was considered “crass and offensive,” in the words of Barbara Smoker, and the town newspaper editorialized, tongue-in-cheek, that, yes, the statue might better be replaced by the Bishop of Durham. The newspaper then reported Smoker’s statement that
"No one can deny that Charles Bradlaugh—an outstanding Radical Liberal of the 19th century—really existed . . . whereas Jesus is probably no more historic than Aladdin or Peter Pan."

"Bradlaugh's funeral drew 3,000 mourners, including Mohandas Gandhi, who appreciated his sympathetic support for Indian self-government. The burial was in Brookwood Cemetery, the largest cemetery in the United Kingdom."

It is no secret that I distrust Christians, and their little homilies: the recanting of Voltaire, Paine, and Ingersoll spring to mind. They lie to suit their own needs, as most folks do.

For more reading and info on this under-remembered brother-in-arms, see here.

The famous "A Plea for Atheism" can be found here.



I had a recent discussion (of a combative nature at times) here, upon which one poster actually stated, and I quote: "PROOF itself is simply a FORM OF EVIDENCE. There is all types of evidence: Authenticated, Witnesses, Hearsay, Circumstantial evidence, Direct evidence, and even Res ipsa loquitur."

So again we go on the merry-go-round of who shoulders the burden of proof. Of course, I maintain (as many others do) that the onus lie squarely on the shoulders of the believer, which usually results in the reply, "Prove otherwise!"


I maintain that every atheist, agnostic, or other label equivalent to the 'there is no god' mindset bears the mantle of the trier of fact, which translates to: "Trier of fact is a person who determines facts in a legal proceeding. To determine a fact is to decide, from the evidence, whether something existed or some event occurred."

And of course, we fall back on the scientific definition, lacking an impartial judge, jury, etc. - "Outside a legal context, "burden of proof" means that someone suggesting a new theory or stating a claim must provide evidence to support it: it is not sufficient to say "you can't disprove this". Specifically, when anyone is making a bold claim, it is not someone else's responsibility to disprove the claim, but is rather the person's responsibility who is making the bold claim to prove it."

One of the consistent difficulties encountered is that it's been an assumption that some vast omnipotent deity has always existed (whether monotheistically or fragmentary), ergo, its non-existence is considered the bolder claim. However, as history has shown us, a consensus on a subject is more often wrong than not. An argument from tradition also has proven itself to be a weak rejoinder: little in this world is fixed in stasis.

The presuppositionalist approaches the entire subject from the wrong angle. Instead of testing the waters of said hypothesis, it is presumed to be correct, and all viewpoints flow henceforth from this fixed point (head, meet brick wall!).

Of course, by the above scientific definition, it (i.e., there is no god) can be construed as a 'new theory', but then again, we have seen that the concept of Illic est haud deus is hardly new: it has been around as long as (if not longer) any of the monotheistic constructs.

And when a group of people (no matter how large, two or two million) make an extravagant claim, it is contingent on them to provide the evidence to support their extravagance. Items such as defiance of the natural laws (bringing the dead back to life, for one) and the demonstrability of said defiance, proving the hand of some anthropic principle is behind reality (this is known as anthropic bias), or demanding that a personal anecdote be entered in as evidence.

Failing this, we then go to the documentation. Aristotle's dictum was that the "the benefit of the doubt should be delegated to the document itself, not arrogated by the critic to himself."

Of course, the book of which we speak is heir to vast amounts of errancy, so much so that is incredible that it is so widely accepted and relied upon. Not a year goes by that it is proven to be not only incorrect, but vastly mistaken on multiple levels and subjects. Historically, it misses the mark with staggering incompetency (so much so, that it's adherents are prone to use the Texas Sharpshooter method): it contradicts itself so often, that platoons of apologists have to massage and re-massage the fixed data and provide multiple translations in order to salvage it: and the fact that the myriad alleged authors that have little or no multiple historical external attestations does little to bolster it's fragile veracity. In fact, it's child's play to show that the book disproves itself (perhaps this is a bit of hyperbole: the ability to read, and some level of competency is assumed - not to mention the willingness of the listener to actually apply a yardstick of critical analysis to a cherished belief).

So we are left with little. Sporadic, unprovable witnesses of a faceless nature, an oral tradition which is shaky at best, a few historical annotations which are beset with doubt, and a set of documents that by any other standards are not only impeachable, but best relegated to the fantasy section of any bookseller.

And so the believer clings to the wreckage of that galleon which has shattered on the rocks of logic, that broken barque that is past seaworthiness, adrift on the ocean of fantasy, denying that the sailed ship is still whole, still capable.

The world is a wondrous, intricate place of beauty. I am always in awe of it: from each and every particle to the fields of flowers, the marvelous puzzle of life itself. But rather than to ask the why of it, I am more intrigued by the how of it. "Why?" is the venue of armchair philosophers. "How?" is the raison d'etre of the pragmatist.

Be then, the trier of fact, instead of the crier of slack. Question all things mercilessly.

That, dear readers, is my nickel's worth: flip it, or tuck it in your pocket.

Till the next post, then.


Sunday, February 25, 2007


A shout out to a troll at the NGB for this one: someone supposedly discovered the tomb of Jesus' family.


From Isreality bites:

"The inscribed box, with some human remains still inside, apparently was crammed into an old cave near Talpiyot, an industrial zone in Jerusalem, alongside nine other two thousand year-old sarcophagi allegedly containing the bodies of Mother Mary, the carpenter Joseph, a little-known brother called Jofah, Mary Magdalene, and, most surprisingly of all, Jesus's son Judah, who technically could be considered the grandson of God."

Mary Magdalene? I didn't know she was family. Adopted?

"To read more, click here.
"It sounds like a sequel to a Da Vinci Code sequel. And just as profitable. The filmmakers
express aim is to cross the excitement of Indiana Jones-style tomb raiding with Dan Brown's bold approach to modern theology, all in a 90 minute video.
"A couple of these mysterious bone boxes are about to be unveiled in New York City, in good time to promote Cameron's latest made-for-television movie, which will be broadcast on Discovery Channel in the US, Channel 8 in Israel, and Channel 4 in Britain before Easter.
"Devout Christian congregations will abhor Cameron's publicity stunt as absolute heresy. Some 27 years after archaeologists first uncovered this unprepossessing family tomb containing half a dozen inscribed caskets and four unmarked ones, the sensational scientific claims now threaten to debunk belief in the Resurrection, a cornerstone of the Christian faith. The New Testament recounts how three days after crucifixion, Jesus arose from the grave (which is now supposedly the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at the heart of Jerusalem's old walled city.) But scientists, archaeologists, DNA experts, statisticians,and antiquities specialists are suggesting that Jesus's burial site was on a hill rather far away from the old rugged cross.

Hoo-boy, I can see Pat Robertson having a stroke in my mind's eye.

"Repercussions of the initial discovery were minimized, even after Israeli professor Amos Kloner deciphered the inscriptions containing such profoundly familiar Biblical names a decade ago, because the Israeli Antiquities Authority stored the caskets in their Beit Shemesh archive. Little publicity leaked out. Biblical archaeology has proven to be a minefield, albeit with a certain sects' appeal. Who could have foreseen that forensic tests could be made on Jesus' bones in a New York crime lab? If you thought that the Israeli archaeologists' salvage tunnel close to the Al Aqsa mosque ignited some religious fury, get ready for another white hot fight. Remember the Spanish Inquisition? Or the fuss over teaching Darwin's theory of Evolution? After Monday's press conference, Izzy imagines it won't be long before an intelligent design component emerges for the holy caskets in the cave. "King of the World", eh?"


Oh, shoot: this means I may have to burn my Jesus-myther card (you know, the one we get when we attend the Midnight Black Mass, anoint each other with oil, and sacrifice - oops! The High Shaman's gonna - oops again!).

I trust we can see the ripples generated? Not only was Jesus only a man, he had at least ONE kid, and the Ascension becomes a hot bone of contention (pun intended).

Of course, this could simply be a bunny trail - as in Alice Down the Rabbit-Hole - but we shall see, shall we not?

Till the next post, then.


Friday, February 23, 2007


Have I mentioned that I'm a big fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000? I haven't? Now I have.
Joel and his two robots (Crow and Tom Servo) are trapped on the Satellite of Love, and forced to watch cheesy B-movies. (I won't go into Joel being replaced by Mike - that'll draw a lot of unfriendly fire.)
Once Youtube is back up, do a search on MST 3000, or MST3K...I can spend HOURS just watching. Ain't technology just the cat's pajamas?
Sometimes, they watch a short feature - in this case, it's a featurette named 'Spring Fever', and it's quite amusing. Google videos also has a few of them as well. I was hoping to find their take on 'Uncle Jim's Dairy Farm', but alas, it was not to be found.


Thursday, February 22, 2007


I received this ugly nonsense in my in-box today:

"House of Representatives set to vote on 'hate crimes' giving homosexuals special rights

Contact Your Representative In Opposition to HR 254 Today!

"The U.S. House of Representatives will soon vote on HR 254, which establishes “hate crime” legislation. HR 254 will create new special rights for homosexuals under the guise of enhancing law enforcement. It would make “sexual orientation” a protected class alongside race, religion and gender. "

Oh, HORRORS! We all know these people are second-class citizens! How dare they?!?!?

/Sarcasm off.

"The only way this bill can be defeated is with a real grassroots uprising by those who care about the future of their children, families and marriages!"

As we all know, none of this is going to destroy any such institution.

"The intent of this law is to force the acceptance and approval of homosexuality on every American, regardless of their religious views. Here is a short summary of HR 254."

These idiots are pretty short on agape, aren't they?

"For a more in-depth review of where we are headed, click here. "

The link goes to the website 'Concerned Women for America', and yes, you guessed it, it's a Christian site, and the article elaborates on various 'misdemeanors' that have the bigots up in arms. Some of the complaints are frivolous, but some appear to be actual infringements. However, I'd bet dollars to donuts that there are quite a few embellishments and/or omissions of detail.

"Here is a partial list of what homosexual activists are trying to force on every American. While HR 254 will not, in and of itself, accomplish these goals, it will open the door to such regulations. Once the elephant gets its trunk under the tent, the way is open for the elephant to move inside and do whatever he wants."

Elephant? You mean the GOP?

"Preaching that homosexuality is a sin from the pulpit will result in the preacher being charged with “hate speech.”

This is a LIE: read the actual bill.

Churches will have their tax-exempt status revoked if they oppose homosexuality.

Another lie. No mention of churches whatsoever.

Homosexual marriage will be legalized and recognized in all states.

Again, nowhere in the bill whatsoever.

Polygamy will be legalized.

Not a single mention in the entire bill about marriage.

Landlords will be forced to rent to homosexuals.

Yeah, it's called discrimination, fucktard.

Scouts, and all non-profit organizations, will be required to hire homosexuals as leaders.

Again, no mention of ANY organizations whatsoever.

Biblical language used to define homosexuality will be considered “hate speech.” City officials have already had a billboard removed in Long Island, NY, because it was classified as “hate speech.” The billboard read: “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.” (Leviticus 20:13)

Good: we don't need some antiquated rule from thousands of years ago to run our lives. You don't like? Don't participate.

Employees will not be allowed to say anything negative about homosexuality in their workplaces.

Oh yes, heaven forbid that we dare show tolerance to anyone who is different!

Classes promoting the homosexual lifestyle will be included in school curricula beginning with the lower grades.

Again, no such mention is made.

Employers will be forced to hire homosexuals.

Are these people FOR REAL?!? 'Forced'? I don't think so. They just won't be able to deny employment based on their extravagant prejudices.

Adoption by homosexuals will be legalized in every state.


"To read HR 254, click here.

"Let me say again: HR 254 will not, in and of itself, accomplish everything the homosexual activist’s desire. But it is the first step is to position their cause where they can achieve all their goals.

"If they are successful with HR 254, rest assured they will pursue their next goal and will not stop until they achieve all their goals."

This is just a slippery slope writ large: save the children from those 'nasty ole gay activists', especially since in accordance with their antiquated mores, these people are only HUMAN if they're heterosexual.

Hey, this is AMERICA. That means nobody (emphasis on the nobody) gets special privileges. Likewise, nobody (emphasis on the...oh wait, said that already) get special discrimination either.

These assholes have a lotta nerve calling themselves AMERICANS, you ask me.

Goddam sexual fascists.

You don't like how this country's being run?


"Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats." - H. L. Mencken


Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Thus the sum of things is ever being reviewed, and mortals dependent one upon another. Some nations increase, others diminish, and in a short space the generations of living creatures are changed and like runners pass on the torch of life.


"Almost nothing is known of the life of Lucretius. The medieval chronicler Jerome is the only source of information. After giving his subject's birth date, Jerome declares that Lucretius was made insane by a love potion and composed his poetry during intervals of lucidity, with later emendations by Cicero. Lucretius committed suicide, according to Jerome, in the forty-fourth year of his life (50 B.C.)

"Despite Jerome, the date of Lucretius's death is more commonly assigned to 55 B.C., because Donatus, the 4th-century biographer of Virgil, says that the poet assumed the toga of manhood on the very day Lucretius died. Cicero also comments in a letter to his brother Quintus in 54 B.C. that "The poems of Lucretius are, as you say in your letter, touched by flashes of genius and all the same composed with great skill." It is assumed that Cicero would have had Lucretius's poem in hand only after the letter's death. If Jerome is correct as to Lucretius's age at death (44 B.C.) and Donatus as to the year, the poet was born in 99 B.C.

"Lucretius is generally considered to have belonged to one of Rome's old aristocratic families, although some scholars have concluded from the name Carus that he was a slave in a Lucretian household or, at best, a freedman.

"As to the story of Lucretius's insanity from a love potion, it is supported by a passage at the end of book 4 of De rerum natura (On the Nature of the Universe) in which the poet violently attacks the lovemaking of men and women - which he describes rather fully. No other direct or indirect evidence exists. The work itself is dedicated to Memmius, a patron of literature who dabbled in verse. Memmius was a Roman magistrate in 58 B.C. and afterward governor of the province of Bithynia.

His Work

"De rerum natura, some 7,400 lines long, is divided into 6 books. The title translates the Peri Physeos of Epicurus, whom Lucretius acknowledges as his master and praises in the most lavish terms.

"Book 1 begins by invoking Venus, appealing to Memius, praising Epicurus, and listing the wrongs committed in the name of religion, the reasons for accepting Epicurus, and the difficulty of treating Greek philosophy in Latin verse. Next, the poet sets forth the atomic theory of Epicurus (derived from Democritus). Nothing comes from nothing and nothing can be destroyed. Matter exists in imperceptible particles (atoms) separated from one another by space. The atoms are solid, indivisible, and eternal. Lucretius then refutes the rival systems of Heraclitus, Empedocles, and Anaxagoras and proves that the universe is infinite and that its two components are also infinite, atoms in number, space in extent.

"Book 2 contains Lucretius's most explicit reference to the moral theory of Epicurus. It also deals with the motion of the atoms, maintaining that their "slight swerve" (exiguum clinamen, book 2: line 292) causes free will. Lucretius passes to the shape of the atoms and the effects their various forms create. The number of shapes is not infinite, but the number of any given shape is. The atoms lack secondary qualities, that is, color, heat, and sound, and are without sensation. Finally, Lucretius shows that there is an infinite number of worlds and describes their formation and destruction.

"Book 3 treats of the soul, its nature, composition, and fate. In the first two books Lucretius's purpose is to dispose of human fear of the intervention of gods into the world by proving that the universe is material and all events are due to the movement and combination of atoms. In book 3 he counteracts the fear of death and of punishment after death by proving that the soul, too, is composed of matter and is dissolved at death into atoms. The book ends with a triumphant passage on the mortality of the soul and the folly of the fear of death.

"In book 4 the poet deals with the nature of sensation and thought: sight is the result of emanations of atoms from an object which pass into the eye. The remaining senses and the mental processes function in an analogous way. Next, the poet refutes the teleological view of creation, treats of the will, sleep, and dreams, and ends the book with a violent attack on the passion of love (which makes men do unreasonable things).

"Books 5 and 6 are an appendix in which the atomic principle is applied in detail. Book 5, after praise of Epicurus and an attack on the religious view, describes the beginning and end of this world and certain problems of astronomy. The poet then accounts for the origin of life on earth, the creation of man, and the development of civilization.

"Book 6 begins with a eulogy to Epicurus. It deals with miscellaneous celestial and terrestrial phenomena and proves that they have physical causes, thus opposing popular superstition, which interpreted unusual occurrences as divine signs. A treatment of pestilences leads him to a long (150 lines) description of the plague at Athens in 430 B.C. on which the work closes."

His Philosophy

"Throughout his work Lucretius attacks religion and the fear of death, for him the causes of all evils on earth. He upholds the powerful light of intellect, which has discovered the true nature of the universe. Specifically, it is Epicurus who, through the "living force of his mind" (1:72), penetrated beyond the "flaming walls of heaven," traversed the measureless universe in his imagination, and then set forth what can and cannot come into being and how each thing has its powers limited (1:62-79).

"Religion, says Lucretius, has been responsible for such monstrous acts as the sacrifice at Aulis of the pitiful Iphigenia, young daughter of King Agamemnon. The fear of death and of punishment after death is the cause of avarice, ambition, cruelty, and other forms of wickedness. This fear can be dispelled only by an understanding of the "outer appearance and inner working of nature" (3:31-93). Lucretius maintains that it is necessary to use the charm of poetry to explain the nature of the universe just as doctors, when attempting to persuade children to drink bitter medicine, smear the rim of the cup with honey (1:933-950, 4:6-25).

"Liberated by philosophy from superstitious fears and the fear of death, man achieves ataraxia, a state in which he is free of disturbances of all kinds. He has gained, Lucretius says, a lofty and serene sanctuary, well fortified by the teaching of the wise, from which he may view others in their futile struggle to reach the top in human affairs.

"The fervor of Lucretius's arguments, especially the violence of his attack on love at the end of book 4, does not seem to stem from a completely tranquil mind. Yet his poetry is at times magnificent, his hexameters, although not as lithe and graceful as Virgil's, have a powerful and austere majesty. Above all, Lucretius's effort to free men, by science and the power of intellect, from the dark and irrational fears which enslave and torture them has earned him a place among the benefactors of humankind."

Pleasant it is, when over a great sea the winds trouble the waters, to gaze from shore upon another's great tribulation; not because any man's troubles are a delectable joy, but because to perceive you are free of them yourself is pleasant.
The drops of rain make a hole in the stone, not by violence, but by oft falling.
The greatest wealth is to live content with little, for there is never want where the mind is satisfied.
Though the dungeon, the scourge, and the executioner be absent, the guilty mind can apply the goad and scorch with blows.
From the very fountain of enchantment there arises a taste of bitterness to spread anguish amongst the flowers.
Pleasant it to behold great encounters of warfare arrayed over the plains, with no part of yours in peril.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Man, do I get fed up with these people.

Chuck Norris is at it again, bleating out a bunch of nauseating Neo-con neologisms. Article is dated January 22nd 2007.

"On Jan. 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court decided (via Roe v. Wade) existing laws against abortion (at both federal and state levels) violated a constitutional right to privacy and due process under the Fourteenth Amendment.

As a result all national laws prohibiting or limiting abortion were reverted. The primacy of a woman's rights prevailed and the rights of the unborn were not only abandoned, but their nature legally reduced to nonhuman. "

As I've amply demonstrated before, in my post titled The Quickening, abortion's been with us since the time of Aristotle, even the 7th century church fathers rated it as a lesser sin than oral sex, and Aquinas didn't consider the fetus to be human until the quickening. And indeed, Judaic custom dictates the child is a 'person' upon the crowning of the head from the vulva.

So there's plenty of historic precedent. From their own theology, no less. But nooooo...select things have changed.

I find this next set of statements somewhat...amusing:

"A history of justifications

Both Justices Byron White and William Rehnquist strongly dissented the 7-2 majority decision on that winter day 34 years ago. In fact Rehnquist jeered their justification, ''To reach its result, the Court necessarily has had to find within the scope of the Fourteenth Amendment a right that was apparently completely unknown to the drafters of the Amendment.''

Why am I amused by this? Because, not long ago, Mr. Norris was carrying on about how we need to stick to the letter of the law as outlined by the Founding Fathers! (see this post - it's vague, but the wisps of 'Original Intent' are there to be found.)


"We've continued to cloak the truths about abortion with a vast network of ethical justifications, inconsistencies and avoidances. ''The child will not be taken care of properly,'' ''She's too young to have children,'' ''Aborting unwanted children reduces the number of abused children,'' ''Nobody can tell me right from wrong,'' ''It's a woman's right to choose,'' ''If abortion is outlawed women will return to back-alley abortion clinics,'' etc."

These are all valid reasons.

"And guilt and accountability are often subsided by an interchange in language: instead of baby we say fetus; instead of killing we say aborting; instead of dissect we say research; instead of extermination chambers we say abortion clinics – ad nauseam. Who could ever imagine the aftermath of three decades of legalized abortions?"

Wait: what? More word-juggling. A baby can be a synonym for fetus - but when I hear the word, I think of a pink, wiggling little bundle of joy. But the word fetus is used properly, as in: "

  1. The unborn young of a viviparous vertebrate having a basic structural resemblance to the adult animal.
  2. In humans, the unborn young from the end of the eighth week after conception to the moment of birth, as distinguished from the earlier embryo."

The phrase 'extermination chambers' is of course used to conjure up the Holocaust - a thoroughly inappropriate equivocation. In short, weasel wordage.

And of course, the old tried 'n true: blame evolution for it:

"What is human? And what's its worth?

"In an evolutionary, self-centered world, in which man is nothing more than a glorified ape aimlessly shooting for stars of deification, it's not difficult to understand how the slippery slope of human degradation has led from fetal devaluing to discarding. "

Say like, throwing away valuable stem cells because they have intrinsic value? Puh-LEASE.

I have no problem being an evolved primate. Human degradation? Isn't that the forte of religion? We're all sinners, born as spiritual Thalidomide babies, incapable of lifting ourselves from the mire imposed on us? Why, yes it is.

"At the heart of these issues, however, are a couple of questions we all must answer: What is human? Is a fetus human, even in its embryonic stage? And does human life have any intrinsic worth?"

Answer number one: looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, etc. No, a fetus doesn't qualify for personhood. Yes, the life extant does: but I will not elevate the life potential above that.

"Our contemporary world has indoctrinated us to believe humanness cannot be uniquely defined, a fetus is nothing more than a cellular mass, and there is no special value to being human."

Let's see - crapola on the first, yes on the second, horse manure on the third. Like all wingnuts, he mixes 'n matches freely.

"Before our embryonic twins were surgically placed into my wife Gena, the nurse told her, ''I want to show you something.'' She wheeled Gena to the incubator where they were kept and gently opened the door. The incubator was bathed in warm light and soft classical music. Gena later told me it was the most incredible sight she had ever seen. ''It was like looking at something from heaven,'' she explained. That was only 2 days after conception! Whether or not Gena had become pregnant, we were fully convinced at that moment that life begins at conception. Thirty-two weeks later our twins were born."

It's a wonderful story. Touching, really. Problem is, how do you know it's something from Heaven if you've never been there? I do wonder where they received the...tissue that was surgically placed. No disrespect intended.

Sentimentality is fine and dandy on a personal level, but you sure as hell can't legislate based on it.

"A creed that needs to be cloned

From our Founding Fathers forward, there were some basic creeds by which most Americans lived, and I believe we should go back to if we are to restore civility in our land. Here are three:

  1. I believe human life is made in the image of God and as such has intrinsic value, worthy to save.

    And, as human beings, all zygotes are ''created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.'' (Preamble of the Declaration of Independence).

  2. I believe aborting or destroying human life is morally wrong and goes against God's law.
  3. I believe ours and others' mistakes can be forgiven and even turned around for the good."

Waitaminnit: didn't he say something earlier about the Founding Fathers? Let's see: right here - In fact Rehnquist jeered their justification, ''To reach its result, the Court necessarily has had to find within the scope of the Fourteenth Amendment a right that was apparently completely unknown to the drafters of the Amendment.''

So much for the strict constructionist viewpoint. Apparently, it only applies when it's convenient.

Let's take a look at the 14th amendment while we're at it, shall we?

"Section 1 of the amendment declares that all persons born or naturalized in the United States are American citizens and citizens of their state of residence; the citizenship of African Americans was thereby established and the effect of the Dred Scott Case was overcome. The section forbids the states to abridge the privileges and immunities of U.S. citizens, to deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law (a similar provision restraining the federal government is in the Fifth Amendment), and to deny any person the equal protection of the laws."

Of course, it's an amendment, and as such, can be changed to include the unborn, but then, what would the Founders do? Can we alternately cherry-pick that we wish to keep, and stay within the boundaries of 'original intent'?

From here:

"Harris v. McRae
Dissenting opinion by Thurgood Marshall
"The consequences of today’s opinion—consequences to which the Court seems oblivious—are not difficult to predict. Pregnant women denied the funding necessary to procure abortions will be restricted to two alternatives. First, they can carry the fetus to term—even though that route may result in severe injury or death to the mother, the fetus, or both. If that course appears intolerable, they can resort to self-induced abortions or attempt to obtain illegal abortions—not because bearing a child would be inconvenient, but because it is necessary in order to protect their health. {Footnote: Of course, some poor women will attempt to raise the funds necessary to obtain a lawful abortion. A court recently found that those who were fortunate enough to do so had to resort to "not paying rent or utility bills, pawning household goods, diverting food and clothing money, or journeying to another state to obtain lower rates or fraudulently use a relative’s insurance policy…. [S]ome patients were driven to theft." Women’s Health Services, Inc. v. Maher, 482 F. Supp. 725.} The result will not be to protect what the Court describes as "the legitimate governmental objective of protecting potential life," but to ensure the destruction of both fetal and maternal life. "There is another world ’out there,’ the existence of which the Court …either chooses to ignore or fears to recognize." Beal v. Doe (BLACKMUN, J., dissenting). In my view, it is only by blinding itself to that other world that the Court can reach the result it announces today."
A little further down:
"In this case, the Federal Government has taken upon itself the burden of financing practically all medically necessary expenditures. One category of medically necessary expenditure has been singled out for exclusion, and the sole basis for the exclusion is a premise repudiated for purposes of constitutional law in Roe v. Wade. The consequence is a devastating impact on the lives and health of poor women. I do not believe that a Constitution committed to the equal protection of the laws can tolerate this result. I dissent."

For the record, I'm both pro-choice and pro-life. But it's standard fare for the Neocons - they go after the symptoms, rather than the disease. So do us all a favor, Herr Norris, and the rest of you - focus more on the reasons behind the problem.

Or as Traditional Chinese Medicine tends to view it - go to the root of the illness, and fix that first. Till then, it needs to stay safe, legal and rare.

I'd be willing to wager, that if these people spent half the money they splooge on anti-evolution propaganda and gay marriage on reducing poverty, it would save a helluva lot more unborn children.

So stop spending all your dough on some fringe-theory scientific community that produces absolutely nothing in the way of contributions, and start taking care of the people that are forced to do this, via financial hardship.

And that's the way of it. You want change? Fix poverty, or at the very least, address it in a manner that reduces the need to seek out this procedure.

In short: fix the problem, not the blame. Stop judging from a distance.

Now get to it.


Sunday, February 18, 2007



Once there was nothing, no place and no time
No gravity and no primal slime.
Then suddenly, like a lightning storm at night,
Bang! went creation, then there was light.

Bang there was light, like dynamite,
No more nothing, no more night.

After the Big Bang, the darkness took flight
Bang, went creation, then there was light.
Nobody knows who first lit the fuse.
Some credit Yahweh, God of the Jews,
But those agnostics who doubt the Bible’s right,
Just say, “S(tuff) happens. Bang there was light.”

After the Big Bang, events happened fast,
All of the cosmos came from the blast.
Theories are complex, abstruse and recondite,
Which means we can’t say why there was light.

We can’t say why, but Bang! there was light.
We can’t say how, but Bang! there was light.
We can’t say where, but Bang! there was light.
Fifteen billion years ago, Bang! there was light.

My thanks goes out to FundieWatch for this unmitigated crap.

It's a website titled 'Truth for Youth', and it's a composite of all the variegated lies the Religious Right spreads.

Besides the Flash video, that blames America's societal ills on the removal of school prayer, they even have a manga version of old Jack Chick's cheap tricks. It's mostly pseudo-intellectual wiffleball pretending to be mental rugby and failing ever so miserably. A bunch of pratts regurgitating PRATTs.

It's pathetic, it is. Everyone should be wary of ANYONE, religious or not, of laying dubious claim to having the 'truth'.

Presented are the cartoons on 'Evolution'. If you peer at the margins, you'll see just who has supplied this (dis)information. Yep, you guessed it: our old friends the Discovery Institute, the Creation Foundation Institute for Creation Research, and Answers In Genesis.

And it's the same old blah-de-blah, yada yada yada, worn out refrains of stupidity that we encounter in the blogosphere.

Panel one is a visit to the museum - the crap begins with the old 'man evolved from monkeys' trash. (I wonder if the museum setting is supposed to lend credibility?)

Panel two starts out with the 'evolution is racist' horse manure (hey, the black kid said it: must be true!) - it progressed into the usual discussion of 'frauds' (fancy this - all those were exposed by SCIENTISTS! Mistakes get made - they go right in the crapper). It then devolves into the 'argument from design'. Oh, and the evolutionists are the irrational ones. Go figure. Tu quoque, anybody?

The third panel starts in with the standard canard: "Oh, was anyone there to SEE it?" Apparently, logical induction is subtracted. It goes into detail (easily debunkable if one does the research) about the occasional mis-measurement found in standard datings, like C14, K-Ar (hey, if it's wrong so often, why is it STILL BEING USED?) It also mentions a mass spectrometer. I dug this paper up on talkorigins.org(which utterly thrashes this stupid argument), written by a fellow Christian no less! It (the cartoon) goes into much major Hovindian hoopla, all of which is easily deflated by a few visits to talkorigins. The 'lava flow dating' problem was resolved (excess argon in some of the lava flow), and of course, the creationists spun that one WAY outta control (what a surprise!). Hadn't heard the bit about the mosses before.

Panel four does a quick segue into the Deluge, which quickly becomes an appeal to incredulity, then swings full tilt into the Watchmaker analogy mixed 'liberally' with 'irreducible complexity' bullshit. Oh, did I mention they got the Second Law of Thermodynamics wrong - again?

Panel five is, as with the first four, replete with the same kind of errors - a brief reference to jumping from point A to point F (frogs into princes), the usual stupidity of 'atheistic religion', the weary horse shit about how two people come to two different conclusions viewing the same evidence (ever hear of scientific consensus, you jackasses?), and of course, the youngster being proselytized to converting to Christianity on panel six.

Here's the rub: I grew up in Pleasanton, CA, and you can't get a more white-bred conservative suburbia than that, trust you me. I never heard a peep about evolution - it was fully entrenched by then (I'm guessing here), there was no prayer in schools, nobody ever debated the 'two world views' (yes, there was a lotta drugs and a bit of hedonism here and there), but no one shot each other, no one ever committed suicide (that I know of: in retrospect, I'm betting a whole lot was kept under wraps), and there was the occasional teenage pregnancy, but by any stretch, it was hardly the wholesale anarchy the 'magic wanders' claim it should've been.
I was too busy with the grinding mish-mash of puberty to really give a flying fuck about it all, truth be told. Jebus didn't help me mature, nor did 'being descended from monkies' severely impact my teenage self-esteem.
I had better things to worry about. Other struggles. Peer pressure (I gave up on that fairly quickly, once I figured out how useless it really is), girls (there were those brief moments where I wondered about my sexuality, but a quick glance around the locker room, no arousal? Starting chasing tarts right quick), what I wanted to be when I grow up (still working on it: late bloomer, go figure, hehehehe), all the Sturm und Drang was strictly directed at the day-to-day struggles of my formative years.
The short version is: let the kids grow up first, and let them figure it out when they're adults. There's plenty of time in college for them to get their heads outta their asses, or to shove them up deeper.
I personally think it's a disgusting maneuver to drag children into the middle of an adult squabble, whether it's a divorce settlement or a religious dispute. It's underhanded, sneaky, and reprehensible. I could go on for a hundred more adjectives on this alone.
And if this isn't bad enough, the entire argument for 'intelligent design' is a ragged patchwork quilt composed of 'nuh-UH!' nay saying denial of scientific facts. It's not science: it's pseudo-intellectual junk religion, clad in a white smock, composed of circular rhetoric that can only convince the believer and the uninformed.
It's enough to make a peaceful man come out swinging, it is.
Freedom of speech and freedom of religion are one thing: freedom of stupidity is another entirely.
And that, dear reader, is my nickel's worth. Spend it wisely, and well.
Till the next post, then.



"In the province of the mind, what one believes to be true either is true or becomes true." - John C. Lilly

This post was inspired in part by the Jewish Atheist, and partially from reading on the 'Net about some debate, where the theists and atheists had to switch sides, and the theists came up with the best arguments against belief, and the atheists had nuthin'. I'd link, but alas cannot find.

So, as a thought experiment, I will hereby take the other side. This pentalogy consists of items that make me doubt my atheism.

1. Saturn.

Not only does this planet sing, but according to Harlan Ellison, in his book Edgeworks - An Edge In My Voice, he says on page 42 when he was covering the first pictures transmitted from Voyager I (essay entitled Saturn, November 11th, date is 1980) of the planet Saturn:

"The Voyager was literally being shot at by Saturn as it flew past. The 'spokes' seem to be -- hold your breath -- enormous linear particle accelerators!"

On page 43, "And so these electrified ice crystals apparently discharge along the length of the spoke creating, in effect, the Solar System's largest radio antenna as well as a natural linear particle accelerator."

That we, as a species, have constructed an echo of a larger process in the system, is enough to give anyone pause. Quasars, too, are particle accelerators.

2. Also, one Dr. Alexander Graham Cairns-Smith (1931) is an organic chemist and molecular biologist at the University of Glasgow, most famous for his controversial 1985 book, Seven Clues to the Origins of Life. The book popularized a theory he had developed since the mid-1960s, that a simple intermediate step between dormant matter and organic life might be provided by the self-replication of clay crystals in solution."

It makes one wonder, does it not? Many mythologies claim that Man was risen from the clay of the earth, breathed into life.

3. Psalms 90:4 - "For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night."

Prior to Einsteinian physics, time and space were considered to be separate constructs. Not until the Relativity theorem redefined Newtonian physics did humanity realize that the two were deeply intertwined. There is no absolute location in time. While all this sounds abstractly metaphysical, an immortal being would effectively defy all four dimensions. The Psalms verse is...eerie.

4. And I wonder, and wonder again, at the problem of evil in this world. Are we but wayward children, denying and defying a celestial parent? The other thing, is this: there is an eternity for this parent to get back to us - assuredly, an immortal being would become somewhat...laconic in this respect. There's always plenty of time, for an entity beyond the constraints we feel, not subject to the shackles that chain mortality, to come and have a sit-down and a bit of a natter, is there not? Are we intemperate offspring, throwing a tantrum, demanding equal and instant attention? When one child is mistreated by another, the cosmological equivalent of a schoolyard confrontation, is it in anyone's best interest to have the parent there, hovering over every minute of the learning process? Will instead justice be meted out in the next life, a gap between the ripples of time that lap with languid tongues at the sandy banks of reality?

5. Quantum physics is also a nagging doubt: between the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and the observer effect, and all the strangenesses we encounter on the sub-atomic level that are so counter-intuitive, it seems that in some respects, for reality to exist, it needs to be observed.

These are my five points. Discuss, debunk them at your leisure. I will simply observe (and therein lies the rub, does it not? Will my observation of the discussion effect the outcome? Hehehehe).

"Let's dance, put on your red shoes and dance the blues." - David Bowie.


Friday, February 16, 2007


My good friend Mesoforte has tagged me for a meme - a fairly apt one, I might add, since I tend to bristle with aphorisms.

So, in descending order:

5. I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain. - Frank Herbert, Dune

4. Youth is a wonderful thing. Too bad it's wasted on the young - G. B. Shaw.

3. "Man, in his ignorance, supposed that all phenomena were produced by some intelligent powers, and with direct reference to him" - Ingersoll.

2. We are not entitled to our opinions; we are entitled to our informed opinions. - Harlan Ellison.

1. ....Drum roll, please......."Be the change that you want to see in the world." - Gandhi.

I now bequeath this dubious honor on Beep! Beep! It's Me! and Stardust.

Till the next post, then.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Many of us are familiar with these words:

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?

Then he is impotent.

Is he able, but not willing?

Then he is malevolent.

Is he both able and willing?

Whence then is evil?”

Epicurus was his name, and one sharp fellow was he.


"Epicurus (Epikouros or Ἐπίκουρος in Greek) (341 BC, Samos270 BC, Athens) was an ancient Greek philosopher, the founder of Epicureanism, one of the most popular schools of thought in Hellenistic Philosophy.


"Epicurus was born into an Athenian émigré family; his parents, Neocles and Chaerestrate, both Athenian citizens, were sent to an Athenian settlement on the Aegean island of Samos. According to Apollodorus (reported by Diogenes Laertius at X.14-15), he was born on the seventh day of the month Gamelion in the third year of the 109th Olympiad, in the archonship of Sosigenes (about February 341 BCE). He returned to Athens at the age of 18 to serve in military training. The playwright Menander served in the same age-class of the ephebes as Epicurus.

"He joined his father in Colophon after the Athenian settlers at Samos were expelled by Perdiccas after Alexander the Great died (c. 320 BCE). He spent the next several years in Colophon, Lampsacus, and Mytilene, where he founded his school and gathered many disciples. In the archonship of Anaxicrates (307 BCE-306 BCE), he returned to Athens where he formed The Garden, a school named for the garden he owned about halfway between the Stoa and the Academy that served as the school's meeting place.

"Epicurus died in the second year of the 127th Olympiad, in the archonship of Pytharatus, at the age of 72. He reportedly suffered from kidney stones, and despite the prolonged pain involved, he is reported as saying in a letter to Idomeneus:

We have written this letter to you on a happy day to us, which is also the last day of our life. For strangury has attacked me, and also a dysentery, so violent that nothing can be added to the violence of my sufferings. But the cheerfulness of my mind, which arises from their collection of all my philosophical contemplation, counterbalances all these afflictions. And I beg you to take care of the children of Metrodorus, in a manner worth of the devotion shown by the youth to me, and to philosophy (Diogenes Laertius, X.22, trans. C.D. Yonge)."

He sounds inordinately...cheerful, doesn't he, or is that just me?

"The School

"Epicurus' school had a small but devoted following in his lifetime. The primary members were Hermarchus, the financier Idomeneus, Leonteus and his wife Themista, the satirist Colotes, the mathematician Polyaenus of Lampsacus, and Metrodorus, the most famous popularizer of Epicureanism. This original school was based in Epicurus' home and garden. An inscription on the gate to the garden is recorded by Seneca in his Epistle XXI:

Stranger, here you will do well to tarry; here our highest good is pleasure.

"The school's popularity grew and it became, along with Stoicism and Skepticism, one of the three dominant schools of Hellenistic Philosophy, lasting strongly through the later Roman Empire. In Rome, Lucretius was the school's greatest proponent, composing On the Nature of Things, an epic poem, in six books, designed to recruit new members. The poem mainly deals with Epicurean philosophy of nature. Another major source of information is the Roman politician and amateur philosopher Cicero, although he was highly critical of Epicureanism. Another ancient source is Diogenes of Oenoanda, who composed a large inscription at Oenoanda in Lycia.

"A library, dubbed the Villa of the Papyri, in Herculaneum, owned by Julius Caesar's father-in-law, Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, was preserved by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, and was found to contain a large number of works by Philodemus, a late Hellenistic Epicurean, and Epicurus himself, attesting to the school's enduring popularity. The task of unrolling and deciphering the charred papyrus scrolls continues today.

"After the official approval of Christianity by Constantine, Epicureanism was repressed. Epicurus' theory that the gods were unconcerned with human affairs had always clashed strongly with the Judeo-Christian God, and the philosophies were essentially irreconcilable. For example, the word for a heretic in the Talmudic literature is "Apikoros". Lactantius criticizes Epicurus at several points throughout his Divine Institutes. The school endured a long period of obscurity and decline. However, there was a resurgence of atomism among scientists in the 18th and 19th Centuries, and in the late 20th Century, the school was revived.


Main article: Epicureanism

"Epicurus' teachings represented a departure from the other major Greek thinkers of his period, and before, but was nevertheless founded on many of the same principles as Democritus. Like Democritus, he was an atomist, believing that the fundamental constituents of the world were uncuttable little bits of matter (atoms) flying through empty space (void). Everything that occurs is the result of the atoms colliding, rebounding, and becoming entangled with one another, with no purpose or plan behind their motions. His theory differs from the earlier atomism of Democritus because he admits that atoms do not always follow straight lines but their direction of motion may occasionally exhibit a 'swerve'. This allowed him to avoid the determinism implicit in the earlier atomism and to affirm free will.

"He admitted women and slaves into his school, and was one of the first Greeks to break from the god-fearing and god-worshipping tradition common at the time, even while affirming that religious activities are useful as a way to contemplate the gods and to use them as an example of the pleasant life. Epicurus participated in the activities of traditional Greek religion, but taught that one should avoid holding false opinions about the gods. The gods are immortal and blessed and men who ascribe any additional qualities that are alien to immortality and blessedness are, according to Epicurus, impious. The gods do not punish the bad and reward the good as the common man believes. The opinion of the crowd is, Epicurus claims, that the gods "send great evils to the wicked and great blessings to the righteous who model themselves after the gods.", when in reality the gods do not concern themselves at all with human beings.

"Epicurus' philosophy is based on the theory that all good and bad derive from the sensations of pleasure and pain. What is good is what is pleasurable, and what is bad is what is painful. Pleasure and pain were ultimately, for Epicurus, the basis for the moral distinction between good and bad. If pain is chosen over pleasure in some cases it is only because it leads to a greater pleasure. Moral reasoning is a matter of calculating the benefits and costs in terms of pleasure and pain. Although Epicurus was commonly misunderstood to advocate the rampant pursuit of pleasure, what he was really after was the absence of pain (both physical and mental, i.e., anxiety) - a state of satiation and tranquility that was free of the fear of death and the retribution of the gods. When we do not suffer pain, we are no longer in need of pleasure.

"Epicurus explicitly warned against overindulgence because it often leads to pain. For instance, in what might be described as a "hangover" theory, Epicurus warned against pursuing love too ardently. However, having a circle of friends you can trust is one of the most important means for securing a tranquil life.

"Epicurus also believed (in contradistinction to Aristotle) that death was not to be feared. When a man dies, he does not feel the pain of death because he no longer is and he therefore feels nothing. Therefore, as Epicurus famously said, "death is nothing to us.",when we exist death is not, and when death exists we are not. All sensation and consciousness ends with death and therefore in death there is neither pleasure nor pain. The fear of death arises from the false belief that in death there is awareness.

"In his epistemology he emphasized the senses, and his Principle of Multiple Explanations is an early contribution to the philosophy of science: if several theories are consistent with the observed data, retain them all. "There are also some things for which it is not enough to state a single cause, but several, of which one, however, is the case. Just as if you were to see the lifeless corpse of a man lying far away, it would be fitting to state all the causes of death in order that the single cause of this death may be stated. For you would not be able to establish conclusively that he died by the sword or of cold or of illness or perhaps by poison, but we know that there is something of this kind that happened to him." (Lucretius)

"In contrast to the Stoics, Epicureans showed little interest in participating in the politics of the day, since doing so leads to trouble. He instead advocated seclusion. His garden can be compared to present-day communes.

"The most well-known Epicurean verse, which epitomizes his philosophy, is lathe biōsas λάθε βιώσας (Plutarchus De latenter vivendo 1128c; Flavius Philostratus Vita Apollonii 8.28.12), meaning "live secretly", "get through life without drawing attention to yourself", i. e. live without pursuing glory or wealth or power, but anonymously, enjoying little things like food, the company of friends, etc."

Here, I think, are words to live by:


Main article: Tetrapharmakos.

"Tetrapharmakos, or, "The four-part cure," is Epicurus' overall statement of how to live the happiest possible life. This poetic doctrine was handed down by an anonymous Epicurean who summed up Epicurus' philosophy on happiness in four simple lines:

Don't fear god,
Don't worry about death;
What is good is easy to get, and
What is terrible is easy to endure.
(Philodemus, Herculaneum Papyrus, 1005, 4.9-14)

"Early Physics: Epicurean Physics

"Epicurus' philosophy of the physical world is found in "Letter to Herodotus": Diogenes Laertius 10.34-83. Below is its paraphrase.

"If a limited form lives within an unlimited void, the form could only wander aimlessly about, because what is unlimited is ungraspable; meaning, the limited form would travel forever, for it does not have any obstacles. The void would have to be limited in quality and the form of an unlimited quality, for an unlimited form can oscillate and seemingly grasp—practically, but not literally—an unlimited number of spots within the limited void. So therefore all living things on Earth are unlimited, and the Earth on which they live and the universe around it, is limited. (This could be furthered ad nauseam in that the universe is limited and that the galaxy is unlimited, etc.)

"Forms can change, but not their inherent qualities, for change can only affect their shape. Some things can be changed and some things cannot be changed because forms that are unchangeable cannot be destroyed if certain attributes can be removed; for attributes not only have the intention of altering an unchangeable form, but also the inevitable possibility of becoming—in relation to the form’s disposition to its present environment—both an armor and a vulnerability to the its stability.

"Further proof that there are unchangeable forms and their inability to be destroyed, is the concept of the “non-evident.” A form cannot come into being from the void—which is nothing; it would be as if all forms come into being spontaneously, needless of reproduction. The implied meaning of “destroying” something is to undo its existence, to make it not there anymore, and this cannot be so: if the void is that which does not exist, and if this void is the implied destination of the destroyed, then the thing in reality cannot be destroyed, for the thing (and all things) could not have existed in the first place (as Lucretius said, ex nihilo nihil fit: nothing comes from nothing). This totality of forms is eternal and unchangeable.

"Atoms move, in the appropriate way, constantly and for all time. Forms first come to us in images or “films”--outlines of their true selves. For an image to be perceived by the human eye, the “atoms” of the image must cross a great distance at enormous speed and must not encounter any conflicting atoms along the way. The presents of atomic resistance equal atomic slowness; whereas, if the path is deficient of atomic resistance, the traversal rate is much faster (and clearer). Because of resistance, forms must be unlimited (unchangeable and able to grasp any point within the void) because, if they weren't, a form's image would not come from a single place, but fragmented and from several places. This confirms that a single form cannot be at multiple places at the same time.

"And the senses warrant us other means of perception: hearing and smelling. As in the same way an image traverses through the air, the atoms of sound and smell traverse the same way. This perceptive experience is itself the flow of the moving atoms; and like the changeable and unchangeable forms, the form from which the flow traverses is shed and shattered into even smaller atoms, atoms of which still represent the original form, but they are slightly disconnected and of diverse magnitudes. This flow, like that of an echo, reverberates (off one's senses) and goes back to its start; meaning, one’s sensory perception happens in the coming, going, or arch, of the flow; and when the flow retreats back to its starting position, the atomic image is back together again: thus when one smells something one has the ability to see it too.

"And this leads to the question of how atomic speed and motion works. Epicurus says that there are two kinds of motion: the straight motion and the curved motion, and its motion traverse as fast as the speed of thought.


"Elements of Epicurean philosophy have resonated and resurfaced in various diverse thinkers and movements throughout Western intellectual history. The Epicurean paradox is a famous argument against the existence of an all-powerful and providential God. The paradox is quoted as this:

"God either wants to eliminate bad things and cannot, or can but does not want to, or neither wishes to nor can, or both wants to and can. If he wants to and cannot, he is weak -- and this does not apply to god. If he can but does not want to, then he is spiteful -- which is equally foreign to god's nature. If he neither wants to nor can, he is both weak and spiteful and so not a god. If he wants to and can, which is the only thing fitting for a god, where then do bad things come from? Or why does he not eliminate them?"--Epicurus (from "The Epicurus Reader", translated and edited by Brad Inwood and L.P. Gerson, Hackett Publishing, 1994, p. 97)

"Epicurus did not, however, deny the existence of Gods, but he did not think of them along the lines that lead to this paradox, but rather as blissful and immortal beings inhabiting the metakosmia, empty spaces between worlds in the vastness of infinite space.

"Epicurus was one of the first thinkers to develop the notion of justice as a social contract. He defined justice as an agreement "neither to harm nor be harmed." The point of living in a society with laws and punishments is to be protected from harm so that one is free to pursue happiness. Because of this, laws that do not help contribute to promoting human happiness are not just.

"This was later picked up by the democratic thinkers of the French Revolution, and others, like John Locke, who wrote that people had a right to "life, liberty, and property." To Locke, one's own body was part of their property, and thus one's right to property would theoretically guarantee safety for their persons, as well as their possessions.

"This triad was carried forward into the American freedom movement and Declaration of Independence, by American founding father, Thomas Jefferson, as "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

"Karl Marx's doctoral thesis was on "The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature." [1]

"Epicurus was also a significant source of inspiration and interest for Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche cites his affinities to Epicurus in a number of his works, including The Gay Science, Beyond Good and Evil, and his private letters to Peter Gast. Nietzsche was attracted to, among other things, Epicurus' ability to maintain a cheerful philosophical outlook in the face of painful physical ailments. Nietzsche also suffered from a number of sicknesses during his lifetime. However, he thought that Epicurus' conception of happiness as freedom from anxiety was too passive and negative.

"In a purposefully unfavorable expression, Epicurus is titled in Modern Greek idiom as the so-called "Dark Philosopher."

In truth, it sounds like Epicurus was more of an apatheist than an actual atheist, as follows: "An apatheist is someone who has little or no interest in deities to point that he or she does not care whether deities exist and, typically, is not interested in deciding whether he or she believes in deities."

A truly fascinating individual, who laid a great deal of groundwork for centuries to come.

Till the next post, then.