left biblioblography: August 2010

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tuesday Funny – Sick Sad World

Back when my stepson was a teenager, I was subjected to a variety of TV shows, some truly adolescent, some quite funny. I took a liking to Daria – an MTV offering featuring a misfit, sardonic teenager. One of my favorite parts was Sick Sad World. Quite funny.



Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Dangers Of Dualism – Or, Sometimes There Is No Yin To The Yang, Only Yang…


There is nothing to be known about anything except an initially large, and forever expandable, web of relations to other things. Everything that can serve as a term of relation can be dissolved into another set of relations, and so on for ever. There are, so to speak, relations all the way down, all the way up, and all the way out in every direction: you never reach something which is not just one more nexus of relations. - Richard Rorty

It is perhaps the curse of humanity that we measure one quality against another, on an abstract scale by which we reify concepts and push them around a little so as to get the right and proper weight – or the measurement we prefer.

And really, it’s a natural offshoot of the way we see the world. There is heat, ergo there is cold. Light, darkness. Heaviness, lightness. Life, death. Etcetera etcetera etcetera, as some fictional king of Thailand once said.

It is then not such a long shot that people would, per the transitive effect, start applying it to the fear of death. There is a physical aspect to us, therefore there must be some non-physical aspect as well. This leads to bunny trails all around. Dualism is defined as:

In philosophy of mind, dualism is a set of views about the relationship between mind and matter, which begins with the claim that mental phenomena are, in some respects, non-physical.

Ideas on mind/body dualism originate at least as far back as Zarathushtra. Plato and Aristotle deal with speculations as to the existence of an incorporeal soul that bore the faculties of intelligence and wisdom. They maintained, for different reasons, that people's "intelligence" (a faculty of the mind or soul) could not be identified with, or explained in terms of, their physical body.

A generally well-known version of dualism is attributed to René Descartes (1641), which holds that the mind is a nonphysical substance. Descartes was the first to clearly identify the mind with consciousness and self-awareness and to distinguish this from the brain, which was the seat of intelligence. Hence, he was the first to formulate the mind-body problem in the form in which it exists today. Dualism is contrasted with various kinds of monism, including physicalism and phenomenalism. Substance dualism is contrasted with all forms of materialism, but property dualism may be considered a form of emergent materialism and thus would only be contrasted with non-emergent materialism. This article discusses the various forms of dualism and the arguments which have been made both for and against this thesis.

Descartes was, as far as I am concerned, a wonderful mathematician but a complete twit philosophically. His prognostications were obviously predicated on presupposition, as the following paragraphs demonstrate:

In his Meditations on First Philosophy, Descartes embarked upon a quest in which he called all his previous beliefs into doubt, in order to find out of what he could be certain. In so doing, he discovered that he could doubt whether he had a body (it could be that he was dreaming of it or that it was an illusion created by an evil demon), but he could not doubt whether he had a mind. This gave Descartes his first inkling that the mind and body were different things. The mind, according to Descartes, was a "thinking thing" (lat. res cogitans), and an immaterial substance. This "thing" was the essence of himself, that which doubts, believes, hopes, and thinks. The distinction between mind and body is argued in Meditation VI as follows: I have a clear and distinct idea of myself as a thinking, non-extended thing, and a clear and distinct idea of body as an extended and non-thinking thing. Whatever I can conceive clearly and distinctly, God can so create. So, Descartes argues, the mind, a thinking thing, can exist apart from its extended body. And therefore, the mind is a substance distinct from the body, a substance whose essence is thought.

I don’t know where to start in on this. 1. he obviously didn’t call all his prior beliefs into question, because obviously he was a theist throughout the entirety of this ‘meditation’, 2. he didn’t apply the ‘brain in the vat’ very rigorously, 3. he obviously didn’t conceive of the possibility that the brain couldn’t operate independently of the body…the list goes on.

The central claim of what is often called Cartesian dualism, in honour of Descartes, is that the immaterial mind and the material body, while being ontologically distinct substances, causally interact. This is an idea which continues to feature prominently in many non-European philosophies. Mental events cause physical events, and vice-versa. But this leads to a substantial problem for Cartesian dualism: How can an immaterial mind cause anything in a material body, and vice-versa? This has often been called the "problem of interactionism".

Gee thanks, Renee. You managed to wreck Western civilization with an expression of your solipsism. Nice going.

Descartes himself struggled to come up with a feasible answer to this problem. In his letter to Elisabeth of Bohemia, Princess Palatine, he suggested that animal spirits interacted with the body through the pineal gland, a small gland in the centre of the brain, between the two hemispheres. The term "Cartesian dualism" is also often associated with this more specific notion of causal interaction through the pineal gland. However, this explanation was not satisfactory: how can an immaterial mind interact with the physical pineal gland? Because Descartes' was such a difficult theory to defend, some of his disciples, such as Arnold Geulincx and Nicholas Malebranche, proposed a different explanation: That all mind-body interactions required the direct intervention of God. According to these philosophers, the appropriate states of mind and body were only the occasions for such intervention, not real causes. These occasionalists maintained the strong thesis that all causation was directly dependent on God, instead of holding that all causation was natural except for that between mind and body.

Geez, does any of that sound slightly familiar?

The more recent argument is that thoughts/consciousness/mentality are composed of energy – therefore they can exist independently of the mind. Of course, when anyone points out that that is unprovable…well, the current response is not only a fallacy, but negligible: “You can’t prove otherwise!” (And we all know how that conversation ends.)

Now here in modern times, we can stipulate without hesitation that the mind and body are not ‘separate and distinct qualities’; we can deduce via induction that the mind cannot function without the body attached (as of this writing, science fiction hypotheses notwithstanding), and we can safely theorize that culled information doesn’t survive the destruction of the body as some ephemeral wisp haunting the nights or the clouds or the molten center of the earth. In fact, it is safe to say that for the most part, all those philosophers and alchemists and necromancers and ‘spiritual geniuses’ were for the most part, full of it.

And that’s my nickel’s worth.

Till the next post, then. 


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wednesday Funny – Knowing Me Knowing You With Alan Partridge…

Here’s something I watched recently – the first episode was simply unfunny, but the rest of them were hysterical. Knowing Me Knowing You With Alan Partridge is about an absolutely awful talk show host with some of the worst acts and worst guests one can imagine.



Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Many Evils Of Islam

Cross posted @ Atheist Oasismuslimhorror

There is no doubt that Man’s inhumanity to Man is dwarfed by Man’s inhumanity to Woman, as evidenced in the photo above. Of the Big Abrahamic Three, Islam has proven itself time and again to be the most barbaric. This woman’s tragic story is listed in TIME:

The Taliban pounded on the door just before midnight, demanding that Aisha, 18, be punished for running away from her husband's house. They dragged her to a mountain clearing near her village in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan, ignoring her protests that her in-laws had been abusive, that she had no choice but to escape. Shivering in the cold air and blinded by the flashlights trained on her by her husband's family, she faced her spouse and accuser. Her in-laws treated her like a slave, Aisha pleaded. They beat her. If she hadn't run away, she would have died. Her judge, a local Taliban commander, was unmoved. Later, he would tell Aisha's uncle that she had to be made an example of lest other girls in the village try to do the same thing. The commander gave his verdict, and men moved in to deliver the punishment. Aisha's brother-in-law held her down while her husband pulled out a knife. First he sliced off her ears. Then he started on her nose. Aisha passed out from the pain but awoke soon after, choking on her own blood. The men had left her on the mountainside to die.

A scene from the distant past? Frighteningly, no:

This didn't happen 10 years ago, when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan. It happened last year. Now hidden in a secret women's shelter in the relative safety of Kabul, where she was taken after receiving care from U.S. forces, Aisha recounts her tale in a monotone, her eyes flat and distant. She listens obsessively to the news on a small radio that she keeps by her side. Talk that the Afghan government is considering some kind of political accommodation with the Taliban is the only thing that elicits an emotional response. "They are the people that did this to me," she says, touching the jagged bridge of scarred flesh and bone that frames the gaping hole in an otherwise beautiful face. "How can we reconcile with them?"

How indeed? These are the Taliban – and lest we forget these raging desert rats…

The Taliban—from the Arabic word for student, “taleb”—are fundamentalist Sunni Muslims, mostly from Afghanistan’s Pashtun tribes. The Taliban dominates large swaths of Afghanistan and a large part of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

The Taliban seek to establish a puritanical caliphate that neither recognizes nor tolerates forms of Islam divergent from their own. They scorn democracy or any secular or pluralistic political process as an offense against Islam. The Taliban’s Islam, however, a close kin of Saudi Arabian Wahhabism, is far more perversion than interpretation. The Taliban’s version of Islamic law, or Sharia, is historically inaccurate, contradictory, self-serving and fundamentally deviant from prevailing interpretations of Islamic law and practice.

The major part that I agree with in that paragraph is, “historically inaccurate, contradictory, self-serving and fundamentally deviant” – but then, I thought the majority of religion and religious text is exactly that.

But…who put these madmen in charge of anything? Why, Pakistan, a government founded on Sharia law:

Religious indoctrination in Pakistan’s madrassas and Omar’s campaigns against rapists alone were not the light that lit the Taliban fuse. The Pakistani intelligence services known as the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, or ISI, the Pakistani military and Benazir Bhutto, who was prime minister of Pakistan during the Taliban’s most politically and militarily formative years (1993-96), all saw in the Taliban a proxy army they could manipulate to Pakistan’s ends.

In 1994, Bhutto’s government appointed the Taliban as protector of Pakistani convoys through Afghanistan. Controlling trade routs and the lucrative windfalls those routes provide in Afghanistan is a major source of lucre and power. The Taliban proved uniquely effective, swiftly defeating other warlords and conquering major Afghan cities.

Of course, the USA was fairly stupid about this as well:

Following Pakistan’s lead, the Clinton administration initially supported the Taliban’s rise. Clinton’s judgment was clouded by the question that has often led American policy astray in the region: Who can best check Iran’s influence? In the 1980s, the Reagan administration armed and financed Saddam Hussein under the assumption that a totalitarian Iraq was more acceptable than an unbridled, Islamic Iran. The policy backfired in the form of two wars, one of which has yet to end.

In the 1980s, the Reagan administration also funded the mujahideen in Afghanistan as well as their Islamist supporters in Pakistan. That blowback took the form of al-Qaeda. As the Soviets withdrew and the cold war ended, American support for Afghan mujahideen stopped abruptly, but military and diplomatic support for Afghanistan did not. Under the influence of Benazir Bhutto, the Clinton administration voiced itself willing to open a dialogue with the Taliban in the mid-1990s, especially as the Taliban was the only force in Afghanistan capable of guaranteeing another American interest in the region — potential oil pipelines.

And we’re back to the issue of women’s rights:

The Taliban's long lists of edicts and decrees took an especially misogynistic view of women. Schools for girls were closed. Women were forbidden to work or leave their homes without verifiable permission. Wearing non-Islamic dress was forbidden. Wearing make-up, sporting western products like purses or shoes, was forbidden. Music, dancing, cinemas, any form of non-religious broadcasting and entertainment were banned. Lawbreakers were beaten, flogged, shot or beheaded.

And the press releases are becoming increasingly less…kind. Stories of atrocities abound, enough to sicken anyone with a human heart.

This then, is the ill fruit borne of ‘respecting’ all religious delusions. It is the price paid for allowing insane people to propagate their mental viruses, an ill price for indulgent forbearance. We need to understand that some folks are just beyond being educated, and it must be dealt with accordingly and soon, because no pacifist screed will succeed against these animals with rough hands and rough hearts who will slice away the parts of the world that offends them most.

Till the next post then.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wednesday Funny – Scary Movie (4)

I love all the ‘Scary Movie’(s) – I don’t care what anyone says.



Saturday, August 14, 2010

Scream A Little Scream Of Persecution…

Cross posted @ the Atheist OasisChristian Persecution

(Hat tip to the Freethinker for this one)

The Christian Legal Center. Nice ring, no? To those of us who are acquainted with the capacity of faitheists to fabricate and holler about injustice, it’s a red flag. So get this one:

A Christian couple from Blackburn, Lancashire, have had their application to be foster parents terminated by the Council because of their orthodox Christian beliefs on marriage and their belief that the best environment in which to raise a child is with a mother and a father. John Yallop and his wife Colette had told Lancashire Council that they were Christians but had been assured that they were still welcome to apply to be foster parents.

I confess to being curious – does this apply to single mothers and fathers? Likely decided on a case-to-case basis (contingent on whether the parent[s] in question are religious, I’ll bet).

However, during the process, problems arose for John and Colette Yallop when the Council asked them whether they would have any objections to prospective homosexual adoptive parents coming into their home for the ‘handover process’ which normally involves a number of visits.  John and Colette Yallop proposed that any meetings with prospective homosexual adoptive parents should take place at a children’s centre rather than in their own home, as they were concerned that it may cause confusion to their two young children aged 5 and 7. As a result of this request, their application was terminated by the Council, causing John and Colette Yallop great distress.

To shave off the sugar coating, it means they didn’t want to have to explain this to their kids. Nice.

It would appear that John and Colette Yallop have been discriminated against due to their Christian belief that marriage is between a man and a woman and that children do best when they have a mother and a father.

Contrary to the studies that say otherwise (even though the data is somewhat flawed).

The CLC is headed by a major league delusionist – one Andrea Minichiello Williams, whose antiquated views are stealthily alarming. The CLC (the ‘clique’, no doubt) also blew money on the Christian Wandsworth case, where a homelessness officer in London ranted for a half an hour at a sick woman, also telling her not to go to a doctor for her illness.

The CLC doesn’t seem to win any cases (except for the Johns’ case), and while we all applaud how they keep throwing good money after bad, remember:

A. Enough exposure solicits sympathy, and
B. there’s a large base of followers to draw upon.

So, this is happening in the UK. Bring in across the Atlantic, multiply it by a hundred, and be thankful torches and pitchforks are out of vogue.

Till the next post, then.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tuesday Funny – Raising Arizona

One of my all time favorite movies is Raising Arizona.



Sunday, August 08, 2010

While Prop. 8 Has Been Overturned, The Enemy Is Tenacious And Insane…

Cross posted @ the Atheist Oasis


As we are all aware, a San Francisco federal judge struck down that horrendous constitutional mistake known as Proposition 8. As a native Californian, I can breathe but a quick sigh of success and gladness, for there is a certainty that those magical-underwear-wearing corpse baptizers will return to gird our loins for their imagined battles.

There was much hullabaloo over this misbegotten piece of legislation, and I recall reading in an editor’s letters column how one voter was so horrified by how one side (the one against the proposition) was treating the opposition, that he voted yes on the fucking thing. Wish I was joking, but no.

The other side doesn’t get this – likely willfully – that this is NOT about a difference of opinion. It’s about discrimination. Equal rights for some equals equal rights for none. But we can but rest for a moment, for the enemy is invidious and dresses well, smiles when you answer the door, and passes out free reading material.

But behind the curtain, behind the porcelain smiles and the starched collars and bland ties, some evils are distressing for their banalities and obtuseness:

President Gordon B. Hinckley, the previous president of the church, officially welcomed gay people in the church,  and affirmed them as good people in an interview "Now we have gays in the church. Good people. We take no action against such people – provided they don’t become involved in transgression, sexual transgression. If they do, we do with them exactly what we’d do with heterosexuals who transgress" (Lattin 1997). The church teaches that homosexual problems can be overcome "through faith in God, sincere repentance, and persistent effort.” "Homosexual relations" is included on the church's list of "serious transgressions" that may result in a disciplinary council and, if the person does not desist, excommunication (LDS Church 1998, p. 95). The church defines "serious transgressions" to include "murder, rape, forcible sexual abuse, spouse abuse, intentional serious physical injury of others, adultery, fornication, homosexual relations, deliberate abandonment of family responsibilities, robbery, burglary, theft, embezzlement, sale of illegal drugs, fraud, perjury, and false swearing" (LDS Church 1998, p. 95).

Yet earlier in the same entry, it specifically states that:

In 1992, when the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases as a mental illness, the church produced Understanding and Helping Those With Homosexual Problems, which removed all reference to homosexuality as a disease. The church frequently references contemporary scientific research, but explains that should not be taken as a position on "scientific questions," such as the cause of homosexuality.

Yet the prior paragraph cited distinctly treats it as a criminal offense of the highest order.

And of course, always remember that Mormonism was literally pulled out of a hat.

So be on guard. I can hear the massive bicycle wheels barreling down on California, ties flapping in the wind, their teeth skinned against the wind and what they deem sin…

Till the next post, then.


Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Tuesday Funny – MadTV (Davey And Goliath)

Some people have scarier imaginary friends than others…