Category Archives: funny

We Have The Answer! I Repeat: We Have The Answer!

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Notify the media! Call a conference of Astrophysicists.. or er.. Theoretical physi.. I mean.. just call some scientists who know stuff about planets and stuff!

Wait.. hold on.. no.

I’ve just been told what it is and it appears to be quite.. how shall I put this.. dumb beyond comprehension.

I read this to the end only to be disappointed that the answer which the author kept teasing he had to the question of why the universe’s constants are so finely tuned was so terribly unsatisfying:

In short, the reason we see the values that we see is that, if they were very different, we wouldn’t be around to see them.

Why does light travel at a specific speed, or why do the universal constants hold the seemingly arbitrary values they do? Well, after about 3 thousand words, the answer, apparently, is that this is what we observe because had they been different, nobody would be around to observe them! — nobody would be alive to observe them, essentially.

Thanks for that, Mr. Scientist! You sure answered the hell out of that one.

This would be like surviving a nuclear bomb exploding in your face, only to be told that you shouldn’t wonder how you survived — it would be ridiculous, in fact, to ask why you survived — because if you didn’t, oh yesiree bob, you wouldn’t be around to be curious how you did! So strike that from your list of curiosities, you apparently should.

It’s clear that the universal constants can only be the way they are because they were either designed or just happen by chance to be that way. The problem with the latter is that given the unbelievably large spectrum of possibilities, it’s more probable that a chimp banging its fist on a typewriter will be, by chance, churning out lines from Shakespeare.

Of course, to avoid the rut of having God as a hypothesis (as most are keen on doing) some people have ingeniously come up with the theory of the multiverse, where — get this! — everything that can possibly happen has happened and will for all practical purposes happen again (and again.. ad infinitum) in one of the infinite universes that exist. And of course that merely puts the problem a step back since we can still ask how the devil this large ensemble of infinite universes came to be, but lets not get ahead of ourselves.

But if you can forget those annoying little details and believe that a universe within that large ensemble of infinite universes exists where another me had typed this very piece, only this time while standing on my head, then goodluck with that. Surely — surely! — that’s an easier swallow.

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Lawrence’s “All Scientists Should Be Militant Atheists” Article Is Quite Dumb

Lawrence

Arguing with Lawrence about matters that don’t require the use of bunsen burners, the Hubble telescope or integrated calculus, is increasingly proving to be more than a bit sisyphean. The guy might be smart on matters scientific, but on everything else, he’s downright incapable of learning. As others have already written on his inimitable incoherence, I will, in this piece, skip his mistreatment of Kim Davis and Planned Parenthood, and concentrate on his central claim, which is that “all scientists should be militant atheists”.

Lawrence Krauss, as you might recall, is the author of A Universe From Nothing, where he purports to have solved how universes can come from nothing, only to say that ‘nothing’ is actually something, and in fact turns out to be a whole lot of something from which universes can emerge. That book itself is enough evidence that this guy is a hack. I mean, if I sincerely proposed that cars can come from nothing, only to say that by ‘nothing’ I actually meant large production assembly lines, I’ll be put into a mental asylum.

I won’t bother to link to his intellectually sloppy diatribe, you can google that for yourself, but let’s allow him to make his case and see if, like he claims, “all scientists should be militant atheists”.

Reading…

So far as I can see (and, indeed, one would have to look past Himalayas of play-ground rhetoric) his primary argument for the claim is that science does not — indeed, cannot — have “sacred” ideas, as everything should be open to criticism, thusly somewhat precluding, by fiat, subscription to any religious idea. Therefore holding religious views alongside scientific ones (the case for a religious scientist) is to be cognitively dissonant at such an epic scale as to be laughable and worthy of not only dismissal, but outright derision.

Of course, Lawrence makes no distinctions — and is likely ignorant of the distinctions — between methodological and metaphysical naturalism. A fatal error, as we will see.

Since science is the study of nature, it is by it’s very nature methodologically naturalistic in that it needs to presuppose naturalism to work. That is because in science, for every phenomena under study, the required explanans is a natural one, and this axiomatically rules out the supernatural from the getgo. Again, that is simply how science is done, else it’ll cease to work and render us unable to build upon knowledge already acquired. Because a supernatural explanans, unlike a natural one, wouldn’t be within our ability to understand, let alone control, a scientist needs to find natural causes against which he can test and compare other natural facts about our universe. So, every scientist, to do science, needs to adhere to a strictly naturalistic methodology. That is simply what science requires — that scientists, to put it trivially, use the scientific method.

Lawrence, however, does a little sleight of hand, citing that very requirement and extrapolating it to argue for the philosophical position known as metaphysical naturalism, which is the position that only the natural, or in his case, only the physical, exists. This is, needless to say, illogical, since one simply cannot infer from study of the natural that the supernatural does not exist.

So, his conclusion that ‘metaphysical naturalism’ — atheism — is true, or that it’s a view that scientists ought to hold (making them, of course, atheists) is non sequitur.

Or to spell it out in simpler terms (let’s see if you can immediately spot the illogic): As per Lawrence, belief in naturalism is the logical entailment of presupposing naturalism to do science!

Again, here is what he’s saying, further simplified: To be a scientist, you have to believe science is the only way to describe reality.

Or here, again we can go on and simplify Lawrence’s claim until his logical misstep becomes clear to even the most moronic of individuals:

Scientist = Someone who believes science is the only way to describe reality.

Of course one could be pedantic and point out the self-refuting nature of that statement in that it is a statement that purports to describe reality but isn’t itself knowledge that was acquired through science, but let’s overlook such abstract arguments for now.

So far so good?

It is but incumbent then for us to investigate what it means to hold the view that science is the ‘only way to describe reality’. And I’d say the best way to do this is to look at the nuggets of wisdom these “militant atheist-scientists” impart.

On meaning and purpose:

the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.” — Steven Weinberg, scientist; militant atheist.

“[The world] is physical and purposeless” — Jerry Coyne, scientist; militant atheist.

DNA just is. And we dance to its music” — Richard Dawkins, scientist; militant atheist.

On morality:

Nihilism—even my “nice nihilism” is a public relations nightmare. Most of my fellow travellers think that if the scientific worldview saps morality of its truth, correctness, justification.. They might be right. It’s an empirical matter.” — Alex Rosenberg, Philosopher, Militant Atheist.

The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” — Richard Dawkins, scientist; militant atheist.

On freedom of the will:

Sam Harris says the concept of free will is incoherent. Humans are not free and no sense can be given to the idea that we might be” — Paul Pardi, on (scientist and militant atheist) Sam Harris’ book Free Will.

“..but in the end we are simply federations of molecules, tissues, and neurons whose morphology, physiology, and behavior are determined by interactions between genes and environment..” — Jerry Coyne, scientist; militant atheist.

—————————————

So, to be a “scientist“, these are, from the horses’ mouth, the logical entailments:

1. The universe is “pointless“, “purposeless“, any meaning we can derive from this “pointless” and “purposeless” universe can only be subjective (“personal” for Jerry Coyne), and ultimately as valid — that is to say, equally as “pointless” — as anyone else’s subjectively derived meaning.

2. We have no free-will — every belief we have and choice we make had been determined by temporally prior states that are essentially traceable to some initial state moments before the big-bang. In other words, it’s all an elaborate kabuki dance, as none of us are free to choose or believe anything.

3. Morality is an illusion; there is no good and evil. These feelings of right and wrong are merely illusory; sentimental predispositions that are the result of our particular evolutionary history.

—————————————

Yet, suddenly — suddenly! — when it comes to religion, evil suddenly can exist, as long as it’s in the form of religion, of course!

Suddenly, we have purpose; to point out religion is evil.

Suddenly, there are moral absolutes! — religion is absolutely immoral.

And suddenly, meaning can be made to be objective, as the meaning derived from religion is often said by them to be objectively wrong.

And yet, according to Lawrence, we, the indoctrinated sheeple, seem to be afflicted with some debilitating form of cognitive dissonance.

What the?!

Professional Victims Strike Again!

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The professional victims of the feminist movement strike again. Scientist, and now, hero, Matt taylor (pictured above) successfully lands a spacecraft on a comet (not an easy thing, trust me), meanwhile, and apropos of nothing at all, Chris Plante of the Verge whines about being offended by Matt’s shirt, which he argues is ‘sexist’, and “ostracizing”:

This is the sort of casual misogyny that stops women from entering certain scientific fields. They see a guy like that on TV and they don’t feel welcome. They see a poster of greased up women in a colleague’s office and they know they aren’t respected.

[…]

” This is the climate women who dream of working at NASA or the ESA come up against, every single day. This shirt is representative of all of that, and the ESA has yet to issue a statement or apologize for that.”

The problem, Chris, is that it is people like you, and not people like Matt, who are ‘marginalizing’ women, by constantly making them out to be these emotionally fragile flowers who can scarcely muster the strength to not give a rodent’s posterior about someone’s choice of textile. If you feel you aren’t able to do what you love because there are people within close proximity who choose to wear something you find offensive, then you are simply not as enthusiastic about what you do like you happily claim you are. But I suppose that’s par for the course since feminists and their band of orbiting white knights love encouraging each other to blame the ‘patriarchy’ for their failures.

It is truly remarkable, is it not, how feminists can turn any situation around and make it about their feelings. And this is why, even as a non-gamer, I stand with gamergate.

Feminists vs 4Chan. Score so far: Feminists 0, 4Chan 1,000,000,000.

It’s just funny what happened, really. I mean, sure, 4Chan is a place that’s filled to the brim with enough crazy batshit to make Charles Manson’s wrinkly and lice-infested bottom feel at home. But at least, much unlike the feminists of Tumblr who continually delude themselves that they’re doing the ‘right’ thing (like the inane crap they do to stick it to the ‘patriarchy’) 4Chan makes no bones about admitting they do it for the giggles.

Of course, the amusing thing here is that the outcome was predictable even to one who was overdosing on opioids, and that it was originally the feminists who wanted to shut down 4Chan, only to belatedly realize that they are like little bunny rabbits attempting to vanquish a velociraptor.

The video below explains much of what happened.

Stop Distorting Sam’s Views, Gosh Darn It!

Sam Harris Is Ben Stiller
Here’s the best piece about the Hitch’s, how shall we call it, ‘scholarly work’ that I’ve read thus far.

Unsurprisingly, Sam Harris, the Hitch’s fellow horseman, takes umbrage:

“I do not object to hard-hitting debate, but I do object to bad journalism and the malicious distortion of our views.[..] Personally, I will have nothing to do with Salon in the future–and I recommend that atheists and secularists who care about rational discourse boycott the website.”

Sam means he’d like for every atheist to boycott Salon because they espouse views that are opposed to his and because its writers are polemically capable of giving him ButtHurt and BadFeel. How’s that for “rational”.

While there’s been a lot of distortion of Sam’s views in recent memory, Sam seems to keep resorting to the claim that his views are being distorted whenever the bovine stink of said views are expressly pointed out.

Needless to say, the indignation over his views being distorted is also quite rich given he’s well known for distorting the views of others:

Let’s recall that, Of Scott Atran, Sam scathingly said:

“I have long struggled to understand how smart, well-educated liberals can fail to perceive the unique dangers of Islam. In The End of Faith, I argued that such people don’t know what it’s like to really believe in God or Paradise—and hence imagine that no one else actually does. The symptoms of this blindness can be quite shocking. For instance, I once ran into the anthropologist Scott Atran after he had delivered one of his preening and delusional lectures on the origins of jihadist terrorism. According to Atran, people who decapitate journalists, filmmakers, and aid workers to cries of “Alahu akbar!” or blow themselves up in crowds of innocents are led to misbehave this way not because of their deeply held beliefs about jihad and martyrdom but because of their experience of male bonding in soccer clubs and barbershops.”

Of course Sam wants us to think it absurd that Scott actually believes ‘soccer clubs’, ‘barber shops’ and the like are actual places of terrorist indoctrination. That would in fact be absurd. Only it isn’t what Scott actually meant. Not that anyone other than Sam needed the clarification, but Scott went on and gave it anyway, consquently showing us how Sam’s brand of silly rhetoric, as an approach to rational discourse, is only best suited to the playground:

“Sam Harris posted a recent blog about my views on Jihadis that is unbecoming of serious intellectual debate, if not ugly. He claims that I told him following a “preening and delusional lecture” that “no one [connected with suicide bombing] believes in paradise.” What I actually said to him (as I have to many others) was exactly what every leader of a jihadi group I interviewed told me, namely, that anyone seeking to become a martyr in order to obtain virgins in paradise would be rejected outright. I also said (and have written several articles and a book laying out the evidence) that although ideology is important, the best predictor (in the sense of a regression analysis) of willingness to commit an act of jihadi violence is if one belongs to an action-oriented social network, such as a neighborhood help group or even a sports team”

Of course, examples of Sam Harris “distorting” other people’s views abound. In fact most, if not all (especially The End Of Faith and Letters To A Christian Nation) his books are distortions of other people’s views. The rebuttal he lays out, if it could even be called as such, against the First Cause argument for God’s existence, even, is a distortion of the views of everyone through out history (Aquinas, Leibniz, William Craig, etc.) who’s used the argument.

Sam has mastered distorting people’s views while claiming they’re distorting his. But that is to be expected — in fact it’d be silly to expect more — from a man who makes stunningly stupid statements such as these:

“I can be even more inflammatory than that. If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of either rape or religion, I would not hesitate to get rid of religion. I think more people are dying as a result of our religious myths than as a result of any other ideology.”

Well, now, that just permeates all levels of stupid. Man’s intrinsic self-worth was a purely (mono)theistic “myth”, Sammy boy. You’d rather have zero religion than zero rape? Seriously?!

What’s more hopeless than a world that turns away from religion is a world that turns away from religion on the basis of Sam Harris’s arguments.

The Illogic Of Sean Carroll

Sean Carrol

After years and years and years (and more years) of studying physics, the dreadful reality, according to Sean Carroll, is that:

“There is no life after death; there’s no spiritual essence that can preserve a human consciousness outside its physical body. Life is a chemical reaction; there is no moment at conception or otherwise when a soul is implanted in a body. We evolved as a result of natural processes over the history of the Earth; there is no supernatural intelligence that created us and maintains an interest in our behavior. There is no Natural Law that specifies how human beings should live, including who they should marry. There is no strong conception of free will, in the sense that we are laws unto ourselves over and above the laws of nature. The world follows rules, and we are part of the world.”

Sean here is basically saying that everything for which we don’t have evidence likely doesn’t exist. (There is evidence for the lot of these things, actually, but let’s overlook this for now) Of course, to him, only that which can be detected by science counts as evidence.

And therein lies the rub. Science, for it to be science (for it to work) needs to
presuppose materialism — that’s just how it must be. Therefore to imply science proves materialism is to say that that which you need to presuppose for science to work proves science works!

In other words, Carroll presupposes materialism (to do science) and then concludes that because of science, materialism is true.

What an idiot.

Y u no accept my theory!? (Oh no, Dawkins, et al, are really mad!)

angry dennett

(I haven’t written anything in a long time. So, I’m sure, this, below, will be a convoluted blur. But I don’t usually write anything I can’t finish in 10 minutes, so.. to hell with clarity.)

So several of the world’s leading atheist intellectuals decide to have some kind of soiree to discuss how to, in there words, “Move Naturalism forward”. ‘Naturalism’, to those who don’t know, is the metaphysical (although the historical data suggests that nary a scientist there, scientific acumen notwithstanding, is familiar with what the word ‘metaphysical’ even means) commitment to the idea that whatever science can’t understand doesn’t exist. Just like those thoughts in your head; your consciousness, yeah, those, they’re not real. Well, they’re only as real as — they only are, in fact — particles (neurons, perhaps) bouncing around your head. ‘They’re ‘illusions’, I think, is the eliminativist catchphrase. Of course, that raises the question: they’re illusions to whom!? An illusion presupposes a consciousness to perceive it, doesn’t it? So consciousness is an illusion to.. gasp.. consciousness? How morbidly incoherent! But, ah, I shouldn’t be getting ahead of myself, or anyone else.

At one corner is Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist (extraordinaire!) and author of  The God Delusion (available at fine book stores everywhere!). In another is Daniel Dennett, philosopher of science, and author of Consciousness explained. In another corner.. well, let’s just say that just about every neo-Darwinist with an I.Q. above 140 was there — from Alex Rosenberg to Jerry Coyne, to Almighty Darwin knows who else.

So they discuss and discuss, as intellectuals are wont to do, and then discuss some more.

At one point in the ‘soiree’, Dennett amusingly admonishes his colleagues, saying that if they repeatedly tell people that free-will (and, therefore, moral responsibility) and the objectivity of morality (the idea that some things are *really evil*) are really nothing but illusions, then that conclusion, should it be accepted, has the potential to, in Ferguson’s words, “undermine civilization itself”. So Dennett says, well, that they shouldn’t be telling people those things — even if, in what would seem to be the mother of all ironies, it’s what he  actually believes!

Dennett, at another point, bangs his fist on the table (well, not really [I mean the banging part]) and lambasts contemporary philosophers who still refuse to accept the conclusions of naturalism — you know, the idea that we’re really, from top to bottom, meaningless gobs (or particles, if you prefer) of goo:

“I am just appalled to see how, in spite of what I think is the progress we’ve made in the last 25 years, there’s this sort of retrograde gang.[..]They’re going back to old-fashioned armchair philosophy with relish and eagerness. It’s sickening. And they lure in other people. And their work isn’t worth anything—it’s cute and it’s clever and it’s not worth a damn.”

Suddenly, but not unexpectedly, Danny (can I call him Danny?) Dennett, of Thomas Nagel, says: “and then there’s some work that is neither cute nor clever!”

Mr. Nagel, who authored ‘Mind and Cosmos’, has of course been in their cross hairs ever since. I mean the guy, who is a self-professed atheist by the way, concluded in his book that materialism, and by extension, naturalism, is almost certainly false. Nagel makes the argument (the complexity of which makes me unable to get into details) that strict materialism, and therefore, strict naturalism, is so implausible, and in fact so self-defeating, that the universe, or consciousness — or both (actually, both) — can only be explained with recourse to some kind of teleology. The more philosophically astute will understand that to mean that the universe was somehow ‘designed’ or was meant to be the way it is. Now, of course, Nagel, the atheist that he is, suggests this without reference to God. But he probably knows, too, that there cannot be — logically, there cannot be — teleology (design or meaning) without a designer or meaning-giver.

The guys at the table know this too. So they say Nagel is crazy. “How dare he! How dare he not accept naturalism!” O.K., they didn’t actually say that, but they did others to that effect:

“Tom, oh Tom..How did we lose Tom..”

“What has gotten into Thomas Nagel?”

Steven Pinker, another atheist intellectual at the round table of sorts, the guy who wrote this book that claims everyone’s turning so nice and friendly, and that we’ll all be singing kumbaya in no time, contrary to all the evidence we see at youtube comment boxes, or all the evidence available to us in real life, once linked to, through twitter, a negative review of Nagel’s book, and said that it “exposed the shoddy reasoning of a once-great thinker.”

“Thomas Nagel is of absolutely no importance on this subject..”

“He’s a self-contradictory idiot..”

So what has Nagel — who is, again, perhaps the most eminent philosopher still living — actually done to deserve all this negative attention from, of all people, his fellow atheists?

Well, because, in a nutshell, Nagel, their fellow atheist thinker, who just happens to be much more of a ‘freethinker’ then they can ever claim to be, says that “certain things are so remarkable that they have to be explained as non-accidental.”

In other words, it’s that word again; it’s the word ‘teleology’; the word that logically entails the hypothesis these intellectuals have spent considerable time and effort attacking; it’s the word that entails a creator, a designer — a God.

Of course, Nagel spends hundreds of pages in his book exfoliating this conclusion — presumably zero pages of which Dennett had been able to read.

Sam Harris tries, and fails, to critique Eben Alexander’s ‘Heaven Is Real’ piece.

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This is what happens when you rail on about that which you know exactly zilch.

Sam Harris, with the usual tone of condescension we’ve come to expect, mocks Dr. Eben Alexander’s Newsweek piece Heaven Is Real: A Doctor’s Experience With the Afterlife, and then ends up looking like an ass — a big one.

Sam writes:

“But Alexander’s account is so bad—his reasoning so lazy and tendentious—that it would be beneath notice if not for the fact that it currently disgraces the cover of a major newsmagazine. “

It’s not that Sam, in the above, makes a stupid point (although that’s exacty what it is) but rather that he prematurely — and dim-wittedly — made incendiary pronouncements against Dr. Alexander without even having read the book. That’s just downright lazy, incompetent and telling of how much of a knee-jerk his reaction was, making him (Sam) seem not in the least bit way over his thick little head.

Dr. Alexander, in his book, and as confirmed by Sam’s fellow skeptic who’s read the book — and who has, I would presume, every incentive to agree with Sam (being a skeptic and all) — goes in precise detail how he gets to his conclusions on the nature of consciousness.

So Dr. Alexander’s “reasoning” would only seem “lazy and tendentious” to those who are too “lazy and tendentious” to actually read them before critiquing it.

Sam also downplays — no, actually, he blatantly attempts to discredit — Dr. Alexander’s qualifications by saying:

“Neurosurgeons, however, are rarely well-trained in brain function. Dr. Alexander cuts brains; he does not appear to study them.”

[in other words “Oh noes! An after-life can’t be true! Noes!”]

Which was absolutely juvenile of Sam. Does he seriously believe Dr. Alexander, a practicing neurosurgeon and professor at Harvard Medical school (for 20 plus years), merely “cuts brains” while precluding any study of them? Dr. Alexander’s CV is easily accessible online, and the fact that it’s close to 5-pages-long immediately tells us who, between him and Sam, is blowing the smoke.

(Besides, is Sam really attempting to give us the impression that his index card-sized CV trumps the arm-length one of Eben? Hahahahaha! )

This is the problem with Sam and his ilk — they are just as fundamentalist as the religious fundamentalists they devote their attention to railing against. If it goes against the naturalist orthodoxy, it must be false, and those who argue otherwise are being irrational.

Bullshit, I say.

We have every reason to believe, unlike what people like Sam would have us believe, that mind cannot be reduced to brain — the hard problems of consciousness like intentionality and qualia make it such that it cannot in principle be done. So it really isn’t a huge leap (a leap it is, but not a huge one) to go from there to believing mind can survive the brain’s death.

To say nothing of how nauseatingly ignorant people like Sam are of the data we have on NDE experiences. He obviously hasn’t looked at the data and probably even thinks doing so would be beneath him. The fact that each is eerily similar should’ve already told us something.

What’s unique about Eben’s experience, however, is that, unlike the others, and despite Sam Harris’s playground tactic of implying otherwise, he’s actually aware of the workings of the brain, and, again, despite Sam Harris’s tonal affectations of incredulity, is therefore also qualified to give us his opinions — whether or not they are right — on why the materialist account of consciousness is untenable.

Alex Tsakiris from Skeptiko.com emailed Sam about a possible debate with Eben, to which Sam replied:

“There’s nothing to debate either. He can’t reasonably claim that the relevant parts of his brain (not just the cortex) were “completely shut down.” It’s just not a factual statement.”

And to which Eben responded (and thusly proceeded to kick Sam’s behind — actually, ass):

Of course, it was premature for him to speak out based on the Newsweek article — he needs to at least read the book if he wants to avoid making embarrassing statements that he later regrets. Isolated preservation of cortical regions might have explained some elements of my experience, but certainly not the overall odyssey of rich experiential tapestry. The severity of my meningitis and its refractoriness to therapy for a week should have eliminated all but the most rudimentary of conscious experiences: peripheral white blood cell [WBC] count over 27,000 per mm3, 31 percent bands with toxic granulations, CSF WBC count over 4,300 per mm3, CSF glucose down to 1.0 mg/dl (normally 60-80, may drop down to ~ 20 in severe meningitis), CSF protein 1,340 mg/dl, diffuse meningeal involvement and widespread blurring of the gray-white junction, diffuse edema, with associated brain abnormalities revealed on my enhanced CT scan, and neurological exams showing severe alterations in cortical function (from posturing to no response to noxious stimuli, florid papilledema, and dysfunction of extraocular motility [no doll’s eyes, pupils fixed], indicative of brainstem damage). Going from symptom onset to coma within 3 hours is a very dire prognostic sign, conferring 90% mortality at the very beginning, which only worsened over the week. No physician who knows anything about meningitis will just “blow off” the fact that I was deathly ill in every sense of the word, and that my neocortex was absolutely hammered. Anyone who simply concludes that “since I did so well I could not have been that sick” is begging the question, and knows nothing whatsoever about severe bacterial meningitis.

I invite the skeptical doctors to show me a case remotely similar to mine. My physicians, and their consultants at UVA, Bowman Gray-Wake Forest, Duke, Harvard, Stanford and beyond were astonished that I recovered.

In an effort to explain the “ultra-reality” of the experience, I examined this hypothesis: Was it possible that networks of inhibitory neurons might have been predominantly affected, allowing for unusually high levels of activity among the excitatory neuronal networks to generate the apparent “ultra-reality” of my experience? One would expect meningitis to preferentially disturb the superficial cortex, possibly leaving deeper layers partially functional. The computing unit of the neocortex is the six-layered “functional column,” each with a lateral diameter of 0.2–0.3 mm. There is significant interwiring laterally to immediately adjacent columns in response to modulatory control signals that originate largely from subcortical regions (the thalamus, basal ganglia, and brainstem). Each functional column has a component at the surface (layers 1–3), so that meningitis effectively disrupts the function of each column just by damaging the surface layers of the cortex. The anatomical distribution of inhibitory and excitatory cells, which have a fairly balanced distribution within the six layers, does not support this hypothesis. Diffuse meningitis over the brain’s surface effectively disables the entire neocortex due to this columnar architecture. Full-thickness destruction is unnecessary for total functional disruption. Given the prolonged course of my poor neurological function (seven days) and the severity of my infection, it is unlikely that even deeper layers of the cortex were still functioning in more than isolated pockets of small networks.

The thalamus, basal ganglia, and brainstem are deeper brain structures (“subcortical regions”) that some colleagues postulated might have contributed to the processing of such hyperreal experiences. In fact, all agreed that none of those structures could play any such role without having at least some regions of the neocortex still functional. All agreed in the end that such subcortical structures alone could not have handled the intense neural calculations required for such a richly interactive experiential tapestry.

There are 9 hypotheses discussed in an appendix of my book that I derived based on conversations with colleagues. None of them explained the hyper-reality in any brain-based fashion.

In other words, spank you very much, Sam — spank you very much!

Religion Killed All Those People?

The hilarious thing about radical atheists nowadays is their pathetic, shallow, and ridiculously paltry understanding of not only religion, to which their attention is devoted, but also of history, from which they draw the conclusion that religion is evil.

Take this poorly informed chap, Poch Suzara, for instance, over at some other blog, who starts off his post with such remarkable drivel:

“Throughout History many people have been killed for, or in, the name of someone’s God. Most Religions ‘know’ that their Religion is the only one true and correct Religion and that all others are a threat to their ‘God’, or at least to their Religion, and should be done away with, or ‘converted’ to their Religion.”

You’d think that after the bait he’s given above he’d be subsequently swarming us with sound evidence to support his claims, yet we soon find out, however, he neither does any of that, nor does he even make an attempt to. Rather, he gives us a list which he matter-of-factly names as one that is of “people who probably or actually have been killed in the name of Religion.” (I removed the non-Christian related):

“1. All who were killed by the Inquisition, which was operated by the Catholic Church and also by some governments.

2. All who were killed by God as shown in the Holy Bible (I have seen reference to over 2 million people who were killed by or under the supposed orders of God. I did not add them up, yet. The so-called bad guy Satan is only credited with killing a few people, at least in the Holy Bible. Makes one think, if you are a Freethinker.)

3. All who died in the “Crusades” (Hundreds of thousands if not millions) (Christians and Muslims)

4. American Indians killed for being Pagans by the so-called Freedom of Religion loving Christians (Millions to tens of millions of people)
5. Christians killed by Hitler even thought Hitler was a Christian (Catholic).

6. Freemasons killed by Hitler

7. Hatuey killed by Christians right after the discovery of the New World.

8. Huguenots killed by Roman Catholics in Florida in 1565 in the First Battle for Religious Freedom in America.

9. Irish Catholics and Protestants killed in their fight for whatever they were fighting over.

10. Jacques DeMolay and other members of the Knights Templar murdered by the Catholic Church.

11. Jews killed by Hitler (Said to be over six million, but who knows. Perhaps more, perhaps less)

12. Knights Templar members who were Burned at the Stake by the Catholic Church.

13. Salem Witches

14. Snake handlers who expect God to protect them from rattlesnakes. (God may look after fools and drunks but He only goes so far. Use you God given brain.)

15. Witches who were hung or Burned at the Stake by Christians and perhaps other Religions.

16. Others were not killed but were merely imprisoned and tortured in the name of God. Galileo is an example.”

The really sad — or amusing (whichever the case may be) — thing about what Poch said above is that it’s not satire; no, he’s actually serious. That slab of words I’ve quoted from him above, that was — he was — serious. My estimation of him would be higher in fact had I simply thought him to be disingenuous, as some are wont to be, but no, that’s not the case; he really, truly, believes that shit.

1. Let’s grant him the common tropes, fine; the Inquisition — the medieval, Spanish and Portugal one — the deaths of which we unfortunately find out amount to only 6,000, despite that we are usually told — by atheists mostly — it amounted to millions upon millions.

2. Our ill-informed historian, Poch, goes on to count the one’s “killed by God in the bible”, despite presumably believing in exactly zero of what’s written there. O.K., fine, let’s grant him that, shaky as it may be.

3. Then the Crusades. Ah, one of the usual tropes which nobody — nobody who knows something about history, that is — should grant to our historian given that it was done more for material, rather than religious, considerations. And it would be utterly futile to argue otherwise. The impetus for the Crusades to the East was even the Muslim’s aggressive conquests of Christian Land — it was a response to it.

4. American Indians were killed for their land not their paganism, so shoot that.

5, 6 and 11, are hilariously all about Hitler having killed someone or some group of people, which should apparently be counted against religion by some convoluted logic about Hitler being Catholic. This is, of course, outright idiocy, and therefore, unfortunately for our historian Poch, not counted. If there were any evidence indicating Poch to be an impartial historian, these delusions about Hitler having killed in Gods name subverts them.

7. Hatuey was killed, again, not because of religion, but because of his anti-colonialism. Not counted.

8. Presumably the St. Bartholomew’s day massacre is of what he’s speaking here, where the Catholic church had about 10,000 Protestants killed, seeking to rid the city of them. While I’m tempted to defend this one as just another case of power-hungry ruling elites behaving badly, what the heck, I’ll be generous and give our historian the 10,000.

9. The Protestant and Catholic wars of Ireland were not religiously motivated, although they were often justified in those terms to unite people. The war was scarcely about a theological disagreement on transubstantation, despite that that’s what the radical atheists would have us believe, and was mainly about British colonialism, which the Protestants supported and the Catholics opposed.

10 and 12. Jacks Demolay and the orders of the Knights Templar were arrested and killed because France’s King Phillip was an asshole who happened to be financially indebted to them. Not counted.

13 and 15. The Salem Witch Trials — while we’re led to believe thousands upon thousands of witches were hanged, the actual number is 35.

14. Snake handlers who expect protection from God but get bit instead, have apparently died, if Poch were to be believed, in the name of God. Again, nothing to see or argue against here, just more logical dim-wittery.

15. Galileo was tortured by the Catholic Church, he says. Fine, plus one for you.

What are we left with?

Well, even after being much too generous to him, all in all it amounts to about 2,016,036 deaths — that’s even granting his 2 million biblical deaths, which I don’t even think for one moment is accurate in the slightest.

First, some trivia from Scot Atran, who, according to his Wiki page, “is an American and French anthropologist who has studied violence and interviewed terrorists” — in other words, somone who, unlike Poch Suzara, actually knows shit:

“The Encyclopedia of Wars surveyed 1,763 violent conflicts across history; only 123 (7 percent) were religious.[…]Indeed, inclusive concepts such as “humanity” arguably emerged with the rise of universal religions. “

In other words: sorry Poch 😦

Now, for comparison, let’s take a look this time at the deaths that are causally connected to an atheistic worldview:

For fun, let’s take what University of Hawaii political scientist Rudolph J. Rummel claims is the number of all people that have been killed in history — 284,638,000.

Now, for more fun, let’s take the number of people who’ve been killed only within the last century — 151,491,000.

Now, to make it REALLY fun — gobs and gobs! — let’s take the number of people who’ve been killed by atheistic communism — about 110,000,000!

That would, very amusingly, make 1 out of 3 people that’s been killed in history, killed by an ideology that actively promoted atheism and aggressively subverted religion — and that’s only in the LAST 100 YEARS!

Poch thusly ends his post with this little gem:

“Religions are very effective in enforcing population control. Perhaps they encourage ‘be fruitful and multiply’ so that there will be more people for them to kill.”

Uh, right.. pfffttt..buwahahahahah!!

Sorry, Mr. Poch Suzara, but you lose. Play harder next time.

Sam Harris Peddles ze Straw Men

Religion tells us that sin is what justifies eternal punishment in the next life…this is, to my mind, the mother of all cultural war issues. This is where science really pulls the keystone out of religion.

If you recall the general picture, we’ve all inherited original sin because Adam and Eve misused their free will. And then for eons, God gave us no guidance whatsoever. And then he wrote a few uneven books that were filled with rumors of ancient miracles.

And then he holds us responsible for the slightest doubt we have about his existence on the basis of these books — though he has stacked the deck against us by giving us a faculty of reason and strangely, an ability to write better books than the ones he has supposedly written.

— Sam Harris, author of The End Of Faith and Letters To A Christian Nation.

(Although Sam must’ve said this particular tripe years ago, I just encountered it now — from nowhere else but Facebook, of all places. Of course, I’ve been able to read all sorts of garbage from Sam for many years now, so not that it matters.)

Although much can be said about it, let’s overlook for now, to keep ourselves from breaking out in hearty guffaws, Sam’s implication that his books are better than the bible.

The above quotation is a clear example of how far removed Sam Harris is from that which he continually devotes his attention to attacking. He peddles these strawmen of religion, waxes incredulous about how ridiculous they are, then he, as if he hasn’t shown enough dim wittery on the matter just yet, self-aggrandizingly calls himself a “bright” after so doing. Priding himself in his ‘reason’, however, is the big irony here that will unfortunately be lost on him as he keeps epically failing to see how understanding religion (Christianity in particular) is a requisite to having credibility in whatever offensive you’re mounting against it.

Sam, in this instance — in every instance he goes on about religion, actually — gets the Sunday school version and says “Oh! Look how silly that is!”

Of course it’s silly, Sam — almost anything will be once you oversimplify it in the way you have.

You know what else is silly, though?

You — that anyone is still actually listening to you.

Especially after you’ve, uh, rather moronically, suggested this in your book about people of religion: “Some beliefs are so dangerous that it may be ethical to kill people for believing them”.

Now that is silly.

You are aware that, using your logic, it would be entirely in keeping with your own ethical standards to kill you for believing it would be ethical to kill others for their belief, right? Right.