Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
September 8, 2009 - September 1, 2009

Friday, June 20, 2008

Funny Enough -- part II

Let's Talk About God.
Or, How do we teach people what life is all about fast enough for them to actually live one?

Thanks to Rachel Lucas's little fracas with her blog and InstaPunk's conviction that he can reason the atheists off of their atheism (Here and here.), I've been asked to say a few words on behalf of God.

As you may have noticed from my previous post, I'm Catholic. So, I must have something to say about God, His existence, and what that means for you.

InstaPunk's effort is laudable and noteworthy in that none of his critics address the three areas to which he confined his argument. Three areas that a rational, honest proponent of atheism would have already considered and should be able to articulate why they pose no difficulty.

I find the topic much less interesting so I'm much less apt to provide a comprehensive treatment of it. There are others who go after the whole thing with more energy and more enthusiasm. Allow me to contribute a thought that may cast a shadow of doubt over the rationalists' enterprise – both those with faith, and those without.

Lately, I've been thinking about a question. Perhaps it will shed some light here – “How do we teach people what life is all about fast enough for them to actually live one?”

Rick in the comment section gives us a chronology: 24 years of real belief in God; 11 years of searching; and seven years of contentment – as an atheist. Now he is 42.

I'm going to fictionalize him into Roger so he'll be less likely to take offense. Roger will also be given three kids and a wonderful, supportive wife. Let's take a look.

Roger got married as a real believer, began searching when the kids were born and laid the “There is no God” speech on the wife and kids just as they're getting ready for middle school.

What happens to them? Does the wife follow along? Maybe she made all the turns with the eleven year search and agreed with the shifting conclusions as they were determined. Maybe not. The kids have been watching TV and playing video games during the search so the entire enterprise was probably lost on them and the conclusion seemed really exciting or really boring to them depending upon the temperament of each.

Eleven years is really quite an insignificant time relative to geological time or even in the context of say, 6,000 years of recorded history. Hell, 6,000 years is insignificant in geological time.

Roger admits as much when he reports that his physics knowledge needs a tune-up after a 13-year hiatus. This will mean a few more years of running down the books on physics and evaluating the possibly conflicting interpretations of the theories and then incorporate the new found knowledge into his life. The result? Who the hell knows.

What about the kids? Well, now they're at the university where they are learning . . . and incorporating that into their life. They will understand – after tens of thousands of dollars – that there are no answers only questions. Questions that really shouldn't be asked if you want to make a lot of money.

The bad news of course is that Roger will be about 45 or so once the physics stuff is looked into and, let's face it, Roger's time is almost up. Maybe he can pass on his insight to the grand kids. Really, if he's honest, he'll have to tell them that he is still searching and still investigating and that there have been many new developments that must be incorporated into his views and what they need to do is to keep an open mind and keep learning and keep researching – unless they need to make a living, then they should get a job that pays really well for a minimal time commitment.

Looking at this fictional Roger let's us see what the scientific-objective-rational-figure-it-out-for-yourself crowd really has in store for everyone. A lifetime of confusion.

In this confusion, inter-generational transmission of value and direction is lost. It must begin again with the next generation because they have learned never to accept anything which they themselves have not verified and researched.

My point is that this project is extremely difficult to sustain across time. Consider passing the quest to your children. You may be a reader and a thinker and may also be willing to spend three to four hours a day reading books – eight to ten on weekends wrestling with the nature of truth and how to apply it to your life. But, most people are not. They won't read. They don't read.

For people that don't read, they get the idea that it is all bullshit anyway from the people that do.

My first thought of the juvenile nature of such a quest came to me while reading Freud. He was regaling himself over the purity of his quest and his disengagement from all that had come before him and how he set out without a single conclusion to observe the facts as he found them. It was too loud of a toot on the horn. I thought, “What utter bullshit.” What an impossible dream. Nothing? What about his language? Surely he'd take that along. And, for the readers out there, you know all the perils of value and direction found embedded in a single word let alone a sentence or a paragraph.

No. Freud wasn't going anywhere without all the conclusions already formed in his mind long before his investigation was even begun.

This hints at the nature of reality itself. The nature of truth.

Nietzsche asked, “What if Truth is a woman?”

We can wonder, “What if reality is actually created by belief and not the other way around?”

If this is the case, the Creator no doubt knows it. If the Creator is benevolent He most likely told us.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

No More Golf This Year

PSOMETHINGS.44. Yes, it's true. Here's the bitter bad news:

Tiger Woods has decided to have surgery on his left knee, which will end his 2008 season.

Woods said on his Web site that he will have surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament. He also wrote that he needs time to rehabilitate a double stress fracture of his left tibia, which he said was discovered just before the Memorial Tournament in late May.

And he revealed that he originally ruptured the ACL in 2007 while running at his home in Orlando after the British Open. He said he decided not to have surgery at that point, and he went on to win five of the next six events he entered (through his Target World Challenge in December).

Woods said no date has been determined for the surgery, which will be the third in five years on Woods' left knee.

Woods said doctors have assured him the outlook is positive. Doctors have told him that the stress fractures will heal with time.

Of course, the PGA is gamely trying to cope. Regularly scheduled tournaments will be played as exhibitions for the rest of the year since the results obviously won't count. There's no guarantee, however, that any of the events will be televised; the networks are businesses, not charities for sports without viewers. Otherwise, we'd see a lot more coverage of curling.

Sorry. Best wishes to Tiger. Hope you get well soon.

Planet Nerf
It's like killing with kindness. Sort of.

...OR NUTHIN. When guns are outlawed, onlyoutlaws will have gunsforgo the hassle of finding illegal guns and just use knives instead:

Britain is redoubling its efforts to stop young people carrying knives, after a volley of fatal teenage stabbings and headlines warning that the country is in the grip of a knife-crime epidemic.

Too many stabbings. That's a drag. My heart would, er, bleed for them if I didn't delight in the chance to see that famed Brit intellect go to work solving this problem. "Can't stab if you've got no knife, can you, bloke?" some Great Expectations-looking twit thinks. "Get rid of all them knives, then. Righto!"

Police have embarked on a stop-and-search operation to retrieve weapons; the government has warned of tougher sentencing for teenage culprits, and a "youth summit" has come up with a $6 million [537 British Pounds- Ed.] ad campaign to warn of the perils of carrying a knife.

Uh, shouldn't that be "the perils of not carrying a knife"? It's not as if each knife is some kind of unstoppable projectile, flying like Robin Hood's arrow toward a young hooligan hundreds of yards away carrying another knife. Unless they're referring to the risk of puncturing your scrotum with a knife in your pocket, like Mr. Bean with a Sheffield steel fountain pen.

Youth summit. They didn't make any actual young people attend, did they? Now I'm feeling pangs of sympathy.

The name sounds lofty, doesn't it? Summit. The handful of kids in the nation who don't carry knives are led to expect an event that's part think-tank, part Woodstock. What they get is closer to a goddamn DMV seminar, where the pressure on everyone to pretend they're having a good time and saving the world kills their youthful enthusiasm stone-dead. Like a load of buckshot to the face.

I'm irritated. Let's skip to the punchline:

Another medical expert, Dr. Mike Beckett, argues that it is time to remove sharp knives from kitchens altogether. He says there is no need for the pointed tips that make knives fatal. "What people want in a kitchen knife is the edge," he told the BBC. "The point on the end of the knife actually serves little culinary purpose, but it is the point that kills people."

That's some mighty big stupid, doctor. Leaving aside the idiocy of "only the point can kill" for the moment...

Or is that not taught in Brit medical schools anymore?

...can you see the implications of this "logic"? If not, come with me into the terrifying mind of Lord Bottingham, future Minister of Public Safety. Watch how his deformed, anemic morality cuts the rights of man to ribbons, like Helen Keller pushing a lawnmower through a rose garden while wearing one of those electric dog-shocking collars.

"Murder is dreadful. Simply unspeakable. Guns are used to kill. Outlaw guns. Problem solved! No further thinking required! Time for a snort at Boodles!

"Wait. Now kids [the most prominent group of murderers, evidently] are using knives instead of guns. Outlaw knives-- at least the keen ones. They don't need to be quite so keen, after all. Set a legal cap on how sharp a knife may be. Require all knife sharpeners to be rigged so they hone a knife only to an edge that can slaughter butter...

"What's this? Kids are using rope to strangle each other now? Guess we have to get rid of rope, too. II know, I know. I don't like the idea either, but we have to protect the beastly little bastardskids, don't we? From the other ghastly, common larvaekids, all of whom want to kill each other so frantically that inventiveness in homicide is the only sort of creativity they express anymore. The only way to stop them is to inhibit them, to render them physically unable to enact their fervent bloodlust. So rope's right out of the picture. Bungie cords too. You'll have to use something else, mate. But nothing that can ever harm a human being in any way. That's why we replaced all the real motorcars with dodgy electrified golf carts a few years back. Getting out and walking across every road with a greater than one-degree incline is a small price to pay for keeping the repellent low-bred spawn of cockney verminkids safe. Isn't it? Brilliant.

Why are the kids so homicidal when they have this to look forward to?

"Bollocks! Now the monstrous semi-human hooliganskids are using cricket bats, paperweights, and grandmama's objets d'art to bludgeon random passers-by to death. We've got to ban EVERY OBJECT WEIGHING MORE THAN A KILOGRAM! Excluding, of course, nature and whatnot. (After all, igneous rocks have more right to this planet than we do, being way more natural. By far.) We'll have to put spool after spool of razor wire around each tree-- to protect them, as well as us. From their heavy limbs and pokey branches. And it's high time to finally take down all those public sculptures of the "heroes"-- Ha!-- of Brit military imperialism...

"Bugger! Now every bloody bastardchild under 18, without exception, is pushing his closest relatives into the razor wire! Bugger our war-mongering, imperialist heritage! We've got to cork all the razor wire... except we can't make corks anymore, because most of the equipment is illegal and our cork colony is right down the drains. Bugger the universe's random, cruel wit! Bloody hell.

"But... WHAT WHAT! We can still make Nerf. The Nerf works converted to all-Nerf production some time ago.

"We could Nerf everything! Nerf police boxes, Nerf carriageways, Nerf pencils and office cubicles, even Nerf kitchen bits!

"And everything we can't make out of Nerf will have Nerf padding, applied with super glue, so it can never be removed, for any reason! Brilliant!

"Finally, a consequence-free Britain! Utopia! An orange-coloured paradise! Island Nerf!"

Bloody brilliant. Brits...

Of course, it can't happen here.

P.S. Hey, Mal: There's a sliver of hope. You know the great thing about people with no stomach whatsoever for a fight? They have no stomach whatsoever for a fight. Thank GodAllah.


G-R-R-REAT. Something important has gotten lost in the American experiment. Something we used to know deep down but seem committed to forgetting. What triggered my own memory was Mark Steyn's last post before he went on hiatus to mount a new offensive against the forces which no longer believe in freedom of speech. He wrote this about Obama and McCain:

Sen. Obama has learned an old trick of Bill Clinton's: If you behave like a star, you'll get treated as one. So, even as his numbers weakened, his rhetoric soared. By the time he wrapped up his "victory" speech last week, the great gaseous uplift had his final paragraphs floating in delirious hallucination along the Milky Way:

"I face this challenge with profound humility and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people … . I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal … . This was the moment – this was the time – when we came together to remake this great nation."

It's a good thing he's facing it with "profound humility," isn't it? Because otherwise who knows what he'd be saying. But mark it in your calendars: June 3, 2008 – the long-awaited day, after 232 years, that America began to provide care for the sick. Just a small test program: 47 attendees of the Obama speech were taken to hospital and treated for nausea. Everyone else came away thrilled that the Obamessiah was going to heal the planet and reverse the rise of the oceans: When Barack wants to walk on the water, he doesn't want to have to use a stepladder to get up on it.

There are generally two reactions to this kind of policy proposal. The first was exemplified by the Atlantic Monthly's Marc Ambinder:

"What a different emotional register from John McCain's; Obama seems on the verge of tears; the enormous crowd in the Xcel Center seems ready to lift Obama on its shoulders; the much smaller audience for McCain's speech interrupted his remarks with stilted cheers."

The second reaction boils down to: "'Heal the planet'? Is this guy nuts?" To be honest I prefer a republic whose citizenry can muster no greater enthusiasm for their candidate than "stilted cheers" to one in which the crowd wants to hoist the nominee onto their shoulders for promising to lower ocean levels within his first term. As for coming together "to remake this great nation," if it's so great, why do we have to remake it?

Uh, yeah. Obama's a great talker. McCain's a great self-promoter. But is either of them great in the sense of the word that we all know underlies its constant overuse? No. They're not great. They're politicians. Both of them. Which is mutually exclusive with the real meaning of the word 'great.'

That's what Steyn is reminding us about. He explains in a later paragraph:

Speaking personally, I don't want to remake America. I'm an immigrant, and one reason I came here is because most of the rest of the Western world remade itself along the lines Sen. Obama has in mind. This is pretty much the end of the line for me. If he remakes America, there's nowhere for me to go – although presumably once he's lowered sea levels around the planet there should be a few new atolls popping up here and there.

What is American exceptionalism? The notion, the conviction, that we're different from every other nation in history. On what was this conviction founded? In terms of politics, it was founded on the brand new idea that a nation's political leaders were not to be blindly followed but continuously suspected. Indeed, our best presidents have been those who were self-consciously plain, keenly aware that their power was largely an accident of timing and circumstance, that they themselves were merely reflections of a national mood that could have been exemplified by many others. They did not see themselves as messiahs. And if they suspected other people did, they worked to disabuse the majority of that impression. Washington set the precedent of retiring after two terms in office, after having turned down a proffered crown. Jefferson was too shy to play a charismatic executive. Jackson was too human, too flawed to play at being a savior. Lincoln probably came the closest to being truly great, but his press -- the world over -- was every bit as bad as Bush's, and he never knew he was being groomed for sainthood. And the record of the "phantom amendment" proves that the Great Emancipator was also a sly and potentially unscrupulous politician.

It's only since the advent of mass media that we have begun to see presidents as mythological figures -- Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and now Obama -- as larger than life figures, larger even than ourselves. It's all hogwash. The partisan critics of these icons have all been right to some degree. TR was a cartoonish personality, a blustering braggart making up for a sickly youth with oceans of overbearing bravado. FDR was an arrogant, ignorant snob, dumb as a brick about economics and blind to the sedition and treason in his own inner circle. He never did directly what he could do by stealth and sneaky tactics. Truman was a lifetime politician who lucked into the biggest political deal ever. JFK was a sex- and drug-addicted Irish mobster, heir of a ruthless clan that accumulated power with no thought about the values of democracy. Reagan was an actor who found a different way to be the star his talent couldn't achieve in Hollywood.

I've been thinking about such not just because I'm concerned about the cult of Obama. I've been watching the new attacks on Winston Churchill by Pat Buchanan and others, for example, which was at first surprising because I grew up in the generation which deemed Churchill the "Man of the Century," and then not so surprising as I remembered that Churchill was a politician, meaning that at least part of him was low, mean, unscrupulous, and self-obsessed.

It is an American act to challenge the putative greatness of the so-called great, especially when they're politicians. That's how we've avoided monarchy and aristocracy for close to a quarter of a millennium. It got me thinking. About greatness. Nobody who aspires to so much power and control can ever be truly great as a person. How do I know that? Because I've had the privilege of knowing -- in my entire lifetime -- two truly great human beings. I've known many more good human beings, but greatness is its own category. It's the kind of human quality you find yourself measuring yourself against, even when it doesn't seem relevant, and the measurement always makes you feel inferior. You know what I'm talking about. None of the excuses work when you're talking about real greatness.

So I've known two. My paternal grandfather. And my wife. Which makes me blessed among men. I've had the honor of knowing two people who were always who they were, without doubt or apology, and whose singular goodness survived every temptation and became, instead, an example of how one should respond to life's trials. Interestingly, the quest for power and authority never figured into their life plans. Instead, they managed somehow to do things for others, serve as un-self-conscious examples of virtue in its purest form, and enjoy the simple pleasures of a life that could not be summarized in a bumper sticker. I've known good men who were good executives, but greatness is always an impossibility. They make choices the great ones would never make. Because when it comes down to it, the career matters more than, well, other things. I'm not accusing. I've been there. But I don't like to think I could go there again. When life gives you a second opportunity to learn, you're worse than a fool if you don't try to take in the lesson.

If you want Obama or McCain, cast your votes accordingly. But please do it the American Way. Knowing that they're both damned dirty politicians who can't be trusted any farther than we can throw them.

I'd say the same thing if Abraham Lincoln were running again. So help me.


FAREWELL. She was the best. Ever. Now she's gone. But you can read about her here.

But this is all you need. There was a time when young women were sexy.

Long gone.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Grave Questions:

Does Tiger have a playoff color?

It's the only question left about the greatest athlete of our age.

THE TIGER GALLERY. As a resident of the Philadelphia area, I'm pretty much stuck with the lame-brain sports analysis of Howard Eskin and SportsTalk Radio at WIP. I can't tell you how many times I've been masochistic enough to listen to dumb-jock deejays opining about how race car drivers and golfers aren't really athletes. They devote hours and hours of their call-in shows to it, and their experts are usually ex-NFL players who are certain that bloated offensive linemen are athletes while wiry Grand Prix drivers aren't.

I'm pretty much sick of it. I won't name names. Uh, come to think of it, I will. Ex-Eagle Hugh Douglas is willing to stipulate that Tiger Woods is an an athlete, but no other professional golfer is, unless Hugh knows for a fact that he works out. You see, what they do is not athletic. They're not in shape the way the NFL and NBA define it. According to Hugh and the other armchair jocks of WIP radio, golfers are merely privileged gameplayers. Hugh's sidekicks are eager to chime in with the opinion that race car drivers may have a certain knack but aren't athletes, either.

Which beerbellied oaf is tougher? Butkus or Foyt?

Nicklaus had a gut. But so did Munson.

So did a 100 mph flamethrower named Goose Gossage.

I'm calling foul on all of them. Athletes are people who make a living with their bodies, what their bodies can do, and what their bodies can withstand. Their 'shape' is what it has to be for them to excel at what they do. It may not conform to standard ideals of beauty or athleticism. Sumo wrestlers don't look like male models. Neither do most shot-putters, marksmen, or dressage champions. Race-car drivers and golfers are athletes. Perhaps the best of them all. Because they can only win by using their minds as well as they use their bodies.

Race car drivers bet that their reflexes and physical endurance are sufficient to keep them alive and competitive in situations where you or I or talk radio hosts would fail from fatigue or loss of focus or lack of skill. The penalty for failure is death, much more so than in any other sport. No 'athletic' sport has a list of players "killed in action" with talents of the caliber of Wolfgang von Trips, Graham Hill, Mark Donohue, or Dale Earnhardt.

Golfers play the greatest and oldest sport of all -- its players are always alone, challenged to keep striking the smallest target in any sport the longest distance with the greatest accuracy over the longest period of time -- one against hundreds for days rather than hours.

Occasionally we get a glimpse of the fact that it is an athletic event, in the starkest terms. Like today, with Tiger Woods. Golf is a game? Nothing more? Chess players don't wince or double-up when they make a move on the board. They don't have to fight to the finish against fifty opponents and a wall of pain.

Tiger Woods proved the idiots of SportsTalk wrong this week. Playing golf and winning at it does does involve physical commitment and all kinds of suffering. Knees, shoulders, backs, necks, hands -- the same list you'll find in every other sport.

And, Hugh, Tiger wasn't the first to battle agony for a victory in golf. Before him were other greats. Ken Venturi. Ben Hogan. Bobby Jones. Look them up. They were the most poignant of many.

I'm tired of your whole prejudiced act.

Go, Tiger. Win or lose, we're with you.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Global Warming is a scam.
Pass it on. To Everybody.

PSAYINGS.5Q.46. The founder of The Weather Channel has delivered the most stinging condemnation of the Global Warming frenzy ever reported in the media. Here is a link to the text of a speech by John Coleman to the San Diego Chamber of Commerce. I'm providing a few teaser excerpts below, but that's no substitute for reading the whole thing. I urge every reader of this site to email the link to 10 other people and urge them to do the same thing. Because the impossible has happened. Our present economy and our future as a civilization are being seriously sabotaged by a con job. This state of affairs can't be permitted to stand.

You may want to give credit where credit is due to Al Gore and his global warming campaign the next time you fill your car with gasoline, because there is a direct connection between Global Warming and four dollar a gallon gas. It is shocking, but true, to learn that the entire Global Warming frenzy is based on the environmentalists' attack on fossil fuels, particularly gasoline. All this big time science, international meetings, thick research papers, dire threats for the future; all of it, comes down to their claim that the carbon dioxide in the exhaust from your car and in the smoke stacks from our power plants is destroying the climate of planet Earth. What an amazing fraud; what a scam....

Now allow me to talk a little about the science behind the global warming frenzy. I have dug through thousands of pages of research papers, including the voluminous documents published by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I have worked my way through complicated math and complex theories. Here’s the bottom line: the entire global warming scientific case is based on the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from the use of fossil fuels. They don’t have any other issue. Carbon Dioxide, that’s it.

Hello Al Gore; Hello UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Your science is flawed; your hypothesis is wrong; your data is manipulated. And, may I add, your scare tactics are deplorable. The Earth does not have a fever. Carbon dioxide does not cause significant global warming....

All the computer models, all of the other findings, all of the other angles of study, all come back to and are based on CO2 as a significant greenhouse gas. It is not.

Here is the deal about CO2, carbon dioxide. It is a natural component of our atmosphere. It has been there since time began. It is absorbed and emitted by the oceans. It is used by every living plant to trigger photosynthesis. Nothing would be green without it. And we humans; we create it. Every time we breathe out, we emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It is not a pollutant. It is not smog. It is a naturally occurring invisible gas.

Let me illustrate. I estimate that this square in front of my face contains 100,000 molecules of atmosphere. Of those 100,000 only 38 are CO2; 38 out of a hundred thousand. That makes it a trace component. Let me ask a key question: how can this tiny trace upset the entire balance of the climate of Earth? It can’t. That’s all there is to it; it can’t....

I suspect you haven’t heard it because the mass media did not report it, but I am not alone on the no man-made warming side of this issue. On May 20th, a list of the names of over thirty-one thousand scientists who refute global warming was released. Thirty-one thousand of which 9,000 are Ph.ds. Think about that. Thirty-one thousand. That dwarfs the supposed 2,500 scientists on the UN panel. In the past year, five hundred scientists have issued public statements challenging global warming. A few more join the chorus every week.... No I am not alone and the debate is not over...

The battle against fossil fuels has controlled policy in this country for decades. It was the environmentalists' prime force in blocking any drilling for oil in this country and blocking the building of any new refineries, as well. So now the shortage they created has sent gasoline prices soaring. And, it has led to the folly of ethanol, which is also partly behind the fuel price increases; that and our restricted oil policy. The ethanol folly is also creating a food crisis throughout the world – it is behind the food price rises for all the grains, for cereals, bread, everything that relies on corn or soy or wheat, including animals that are fed corn, most processed foods that use corn oil or soybean oil or corn syrup. Food shortages or high costs have led to food riots in some third world countries and made the cost of eating out or at home budget busting for many.

So now the global warming myth actually has led to the chaos we are now enduring with energy and food prices. We pay for it every time we fill our gas tanks. Not only is it running up gasoline prices, it has changed government policy impacting our taxes, our utility bills and the entire focus of government funding. And, now the Congress is considering a cap and trade carbon credits policy. We the citizens will pay for that, too. It all ends up in our taxes and the price of goods and services.

So the Global warming frenzy is, indeed, threatening our civilization. Not because global warming is real; it is not. But because of the all the horrible side effects of the global warming scam...

Now get busy with those emails.

Friday, June 13, 2008

More on Atheism

You sci-tech-atheist nerds really think you're smarter than William Blake?

THERE IS NO GOD. The argument for why atheism is an absurd philosophical position is simple in its basics. Most of the complications that arise in the debates between atheists and non-atheists are due to assumptions made by atheists. How many of them begin making their case, for example, by attacking the Bible and the supernatural beliefs of Christianity? The decisions people make to accept individual religions are, indeed, matters of faith and largely irrelevant to the principal question. But religious faith is not the sole alternative to atheism. There are at least two more alternatives that allow the subject to be framed more precisely.

The agnostic position is an acknowledgment of not knowing. There might be a supreme power of some kind, and there might not be. The agnostic accepts that he doesn't have enough evidence to be certain one way or the other.

The second alternative is what I will call the deist position, which I know has various connotations of its own, so I will define my use of it as precisely as I can: The deist is one who subscribes to no particular religion or specific incarnation of divinity, but he rejects the premise that something can come from nothing and that a universe governed by myriad natural laws could exist at all without some precipitating higher intelligence, even if that intelligence is intrinsic to every particle (or string) of the universe.

And to restate the obvious: The true atheist is certain that there is no supreme intelligence present in or behind the creation of the universe. All that is simply is.

To be fair, there are also what I call pragmatic atheists. Their position is more lawyerly than philosophical (and there are more of them than admit to it). They believe that even entertaining the question philosophically is an irrelevant distraction, because the answer can't possibly matter in the here and now. Therefore, atheism is for them simply a working assumption that enables them, they think, to keep a clearer, more objective mind in matters of real life than those afflicted with speculative fancies about life, the universe, and everything. Importantly, these are not true atheists. They are merely the incurably incurious left-brained know-it-alls who have always been impatient with matters of deep philosophy. It's conceivable that their approach is an efficient one, but it is entirely disconnected from the subject of truth and meaning, about which they are obsessively scornful and dismissive without ever being responsive. Interestingly, they also tend to be the population of self-styled atheists who are the quickest to attack when atheism is questioned as a position. Because they don't ever ponder the underlying philosophical issues, they are the most outraged when someone points out just how thoughtless and mundane their mental processes are.

Doesn't this simplify the legitimate scope of disagreement? Now, the atheists love to take the position that any perspective but their own is the one that bears the burden of proof. Prove to me that there is a God. If you can't, I win.

What should be obvious to fair-minded rationalists is that the most defensible, if least risky, position is that of the agnostics. I don't know. The question is a lot bigger than I am. This is the only person in the debate who has a right to demand proof without accepting a reciprocal demand for same. When an atheist demands proof that there is a God, he does so secure in the knowledge that the agnostics are right about the difficulty of doing so. But he almost universally rejects the notion that he has an equal obligation to prove there is no god. Because contrary to popular belief, it is possible, under certain conditions, to prove a negative. The problem is that atheists are not operating under those conditions. The field of potential sources of refutation is not the finite box of intellectual experiments; it comprises everthing that ever was, is, and will be. So when they attempt the feat of proving their position, they almost invariably engage in the same kind of argument by anecdote they decry in the foolish sectarian religionists who sally out to do battle with them. Their arguments are generally preoccupied with a false premise -- that to prove individual instances of so-called miracles natural instead of supernatural, they have stripped the universe of divinity. What they disregard is that the natural universe and its workings are, ipso facto, the best possible rebuttal of their position, not an endorsement.

Even if one could prove to a certainty that there is not, and has never been, an interventionist divinity at work in human affairs, it would not prove the absence of divinity from the workings of any part of the universe, including human affairs. Scientific deists may take comfort in positing a supreme intelligence capable of devising laws of physics and a field of mathematics that set the universe in motion like some clinical experiment never to be interfered with until it winds down of its own accord, but they have no solid philosophical basis for doing so. They have simply chosen, like the ancient Israelites, to cast god in their own image, as a remote and superior observer behind the screen. There is nothing -- no principle of science whatever -- to rule out the possibility that an intelligence capable of generating the universe, from string or quark to multi-galactic infinity, would not also be capable of observing or participating in everything, in perpetuity, without ever violating the laws of his own creation and yet accomplishing his will in everything. It's not that the scientific archetype of divinity is impossible; it's just that it's typically anthropomorphic and lacking in any kind of evidence.

Now if we posit the agnostic sitting on the judicial bench between the two sides who might reasonably be asked to produce proof of their positions, we can begin to assess the scale and quality of the arguments that might be made on each side. It is here that the relative frailty of the atheist position versus the deist position begins to be obvious.

1. First Causes. The atheist is constantly bedeviled by the question of "before"? If he subscribes to the Big Bang Theory, that the universe begins with a tiny speck and explodes into the reality which has obtained ever since and whose laws and effects we study, he has not answered the question of the beginning. What put the speck there? A black hole from yet another universe? Perhaps. But that only puts the question of origins at one more remove. It does not resolve it. If he accepts the laws of physics he uses to understand the function of the universe, he is also accepting that energy is neither created nor destroyed but merely changes form. Here's the ugly paradox. The atheist has a greater responsibility to account for the origin of the energy that makes and drives the universe than the deists do. The deists accept at some level that the energy which has continually changed form since the beginning of our universe arose, much like the probabilistic multi-states quantum mechanics describes for electrons, from a kind of unreal potentiality we might describe as the energy of intention. The history of quantum mechanics is rife with the unsolved ramifications of the apparent role of consciousness in the behavior of electrons. It is the atheists who have to explain all this away in other terms. They have to accept a universe that has no beginning -- an eternal law-driven universe with no originating or architectural intelligence of any kind (uh, a philosophical paradox), or they have to posit a universe which violates a fundamental law of physics, i.e., that a universe-sized field of energy can spontaneously arise from nothing at all (an, uh, scientific paradox). In comparison, the deist position is common-sensical, even a demonstration of Occam's Razor. Before there was matter, there was an intelligence which imagined matter and the laws governing it; then there was intention; and then there was a manifestation in reality. Which is not a paradox. It's a process seen many many times in our own experience. Ontogeny recapitulates philogeny. Except that the atheists have to reject that easily verifiable truism as well.

2. Mathematics. This is its own universe. It overlaps our physical universe very substantially but is not identical with it. One could, I suppose, belittle the aspects that don't overlap (i.e., unreal numbers, which have no counterpart in the reality we can apprehend through the senses), but since they have proven vital to innumerable technological breakthroughs which demonstrate their utility and consistency with the rest of the universe of mathematics, Occam's Razor would again suggest that mathematics is its own universe, a conceptual one that straddles the worlds of physicality and intellect, suggesting that the universe itself is at least part intellect. For the atheists this is another fatal paradox. They must postulate the existence of algorithm and principle without originating intelligence. When I see a house, I am also seeing evidence of an architect. And here, the existence of math prodigies is also valid evidence. Pascal's tutor gave his young student the first postulate of Euclid. That same day, Pascal recreated the rest of Euclidian geometry. There is an order and consistency in math which betrays the deep order of the universe, and because it is not purely physical, it entirely refutes the phantasm of a brain-dead, designerless universe.

3. Human Intelligence. We are all stuff of the universe, created from the same particles and atoms and laws as every other part of the universe, and thus we are part of an entity which is capable of asking questions about itself. What are we? Where did we come from? Where are we going? What does it all mean? The atheist position -- that we are a pointless emergent property of a soulless, mechanical universe -- is still another hopeless paradox that defies the observations of science and even the theory of evolution upon which so many atheists depend for their foundation, like Atlas standing on the free-floating tortoise of Greek mythology. How much of their scientific certainty rests on their belief in the prescriptive power of DNA, that what we are is what the process has made us? How diligently have they sought to demonstrate that what we are is an adaptation of what we have been before, that hands come from fins and abstract thinking from synergies of reptilian, avian, and mammalian brains? But where lies the precedent for any of this in the geology of stars and planets? The brute fact is that higher intelligence, as we conceive of it in ourselves, does exist. On what basis do we rule it out as one of the principal properties of the universe in which we live? Whence the observed phenomenon that matter inevitably complicates and complexifies itself until it is capable of asking philosophical questions? So that a handful of arrogant Philistines can declare themselves superior to the universe itself, which as we must remember in the atheist model, is undesigned, unintelligent, directionless, purposeless, and amoral.

Here's what the true atheist is declaring to the rest of us. He is superior to the entire universe, explored and unexplored. Because there is no intelligence involved in its cause, design, development, and current incarnation. Which makes him, who has not yet penetrated that universe's most arcane secrets of physics and biology, capable of declaring that universe a meaningless but wholly unexplained accident of an existence he does not yet possess the vocabulary to define in terms of a beginning, an end, a scale, or an outcome.

QED. Atheism as a philosophical position is a rank absurdity. An act of extraordinarily conceited and conveniently narcissistic faith. Agnostics are philosophical cowards who probably haven't looked at the facts much more than "pragmatic atheists." Deists are like non-practicing Vegas card-counters; they know the math but don't have the guts to take a risk. And the faithful are the army of gamblers at every game in the casino. They know the odds are hopelessly against them, but they have learned that the reward is in the playing, not in the cold-blooded automatons who deal the cards and handle security.

I haven't looked at comments from the last post since the first one or two. I don't think I will (although I might). Fact is, I'm still laughing at atheists assaulting Rachel and then taking my bait. You're all tools.

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