TheoreticalBullshit on morality in absence of a deity

Well argued, TheoreticalBullshit. An excellent summary of the argument between religious folks and secular folks about where morality comes from, and defines my position pretty much to a tee.

Morality is entirely a social construct, for the benefit of that society and the individual members therein. This is not a difficult concept to grasp.

The New Fascists

You ever notice how often the right-wing authoritarian types, e.g. Glenn Beck, misuse the word “fascist” as a generic smear to mean “I don’t like the left’s ideology”? PalMD has put together possibly the best modern example of an actual fascist movement.

There are good reasons to use this term more carefully, to apply it judiciously. But to do this, we have to understand what it really means. The term itself arose out of Italy and described a totalitarian regime that had little else in common with Nazism. That doesn’t mean it cannot be applied to other political systems. As Eco has pointed out, many of these systems share common features, or share common ideals or origins. But recognizing these, especially in the early stages of a movement can be difficult. It was not so difficult in Nazi Germany, with its explicit inculcation of the entire population beginning at birth, but Nazism is not the only type of fascism.

Fascism, while populist in a sense, does not have to originate in “the people”. As Eco noted of Italian Fascism:

The Fascist Party was born boasting that it brought a revolutionary new order; but it was financed by the most conservative among the landowners who expected from it a counter-revolution.

And you really need to read it to understand how dead-on he is. Who’s he talking about? The socialists? The rampaging horde of immigrants? The “pseudo-Muslim” in office? The “most conservative among the landowners” ought to tip you off (especially now that I’ve also linked the words to some proof of such), but you really need to read the whole post to get an idea exactly how airtight a case PalMD makes for his assertions.

Well done sir.

Furniture-based Tetris heresy

This is an interesting and attractive take on the idea of a sectional couch, in this design entitled Tat-ris. Looks rather comfy, too. Who wouldn’t want a Tetris-inspired living room theme, anyway?

I do have to take issue with it, however.

Something seem a bit off about the pieces? If you said “no”, get the hell off this blog. The answer should be obvious — the pieces are not all tetriminoes. The original game only ever had the seven tetrimino shapes, and while some heretical variants or ill-advised sequels have added special pieces like bombs, allowed for non-connected blocks, or included non-tetriminoes, any Tetris player worth their salt knows damn well you can’t call something “inspired by Tetris” when you take such a huge departure from the source material.

So who’s with me on boycotting the designers? Or more importantly, who’s against me… SO I CAN IP-BLOCK BAN YOUR SORRY ASSES?

Hat tip to Our Lady, bringing us all this little piece of fail despite being the patron saint of internet win.

Some code showing how the Mars Effect actually works

Found some interesting code in an old edit (excised for being “original research”) in the Wikipedia article for the “Mars Effect” discovered in one of astrology’s centerpiece studies. I note that Robert Currey has not moved from the astrology thread that won’t die, nor has he deigned fit to respond to my charges that he is repeatedly steering the conversation away from his arguments’ weak points. The fact that, when he came out swinging, he didn’t mention the Gauquelin study that produced the purported Mars Effect is interesting. It suggested to me that he felt it was weak. I can see why now.

The Perl code in question:

#This perl script calculates the number of associations with a significance level equal to or greater than the Mars Effect on a random sample in a number of studies (iterations)
#==variable parameters==
my $numiter = 10000; #number of iterations to perform: more is precise but slow
my $sample = 535; #size of sample
my @planets = ("Venus", "Mars", "Sun", "Moon", "Neptune", "Saturn", "Jupiter", "Pluto", "Uranus", "Mercury"); #list of "planets"
my $keysector = 119; #this much or more need to be born in "key sectors"
my $numberofsectors = 12; #number of sectors
my $output = "output.txt"; #output file
my $encounter = 0;
open OUTPUT, ">$output";
for(my $iterations = 0; $iterations < $numiter; $iterations++) {
  my %planets; 
  my $sector;
  for(my $k = 0; $k {$sector}++;
  foreach my $p(@planets) {
    for(my $sector1 = 1; $sector1 <= 12; $sector1++) {
      for(my $sector2 = 1; $sector2 {$sector1} + $planets{$p}->{$sector2};
          if($sample >= $keysector) {
print OUTPUT "$encounter encounters in $numiter iterationsn";
close OUTPUT;

The code generates, once per iteration, a totally random selection of 535 natal charts with each of the common heavenly bodies (the planets, sun and moon), and places them each in one of the twelve “key sectors”. The natal charts are then summed, to see how many of them have a specific planet in a specific sector, in order to try to identify a “Planet Effect” similar to, and as statistically significant as, the one shown in the Mars Effect study. In fact, the number required to call it as statistically significant is identical to that of the Mars Effect study.

By default, it runs 10,000 such simulations. The more you run, the more accurate the number you’ll get. Every time I’ve run it, I’ve had over 60% of the “studies” come back as significant. Frankly, that means this “effect” is a statistical happenstance that’s very likely to happen given any random sample of data. The fact that the natal charts were completely generated at random should work against such a possibility, as if astrology has anything to it, this random generation should not work nearly as often. This means there’s a very good chance of finding such an effect with ANY randomly selected group of people. And the other fact salient to this discussion, the fact that Gauquelin threw out basketball players, suggests to me that he saw the basketball data as not showing the effect, so he went ahead and threw it out to make a stronger case than he had.

Fascinating stuff.

The Universe Cares Not for Us

You’d think with a post title like that, the post behind it would be completely devoid of hope, inspiration, or forward-thinking. You’d think the combative theists’ claims that atheism leads to nihilism are well-founded. You’d think that atheism equals giving up on humanity.

You’d be wrong.

In a rather flippant final paragraph I wrote:

“We need to look at humanity to see how to fix it, not to look skyward and pray for intervention, or worse, the end of days. And I really do think we can do this; we have the knowledge, we have the means, let’s make this thing work for all of us.”

I really think this future is possible. And there are several important things I think we need to understand before we can achieve the kind of future we want to see. Keep in mind this is not everything, but these are the things I see as key to the way humanity survives into the future. And it will not be easy. Each and every one of us has to undergo a psychological change in understanding for this to happen. I am not suggesting any kind of manifesto for the future, as I do not have all the answers. But I see this as a starting point, and we have to start somewhere.

What follows in Atheist Climber’s post is a series of paragraphs identifying humanity’s failure to look out for ourselves, and how to rectify that fact. It is eloquent, it is soaring, and it expresses faith in humankind’s innate value and ability to overcome all obstacles, even those self-imposed by previous short-sightedness. Nobody’s going to come save us in our hour of need. Nobody, that is, but ourselves.

It’s for that reason that I am a science booster, primarily and without reservation. Science will save us, or doom us all, depending on the better natures of who wields it. There are no deities, no father figures to look out for us. Time we grow up and take responsibility for our own fates.

Exoplanets galore

Outside our solar system, there are perhaps as many exoplanets as there are stars in the heavens. Since according to astrology, distant Kuiper objects evidently have as much effect on human fates as the nearer objects like the moon or sun, one must wonder what kind of effect on our fates all these other planets would exert. (Protip: if you guess “zero”, in accordance with the null hypothesis, you’re nothing but a damn dirty skeptic and must now show the one single paper you feel knocks out astrology.)

The astrology conversation that DIDN’T happen

I would guess Robert looks something like this while posting any comment on astrology.

In the endless non-debate on astrology, I had held some measure of hope that, when Robert Currey resurrected the thread two weeks after it had abated, that there might actually be some discussion of the positive evidence for astrology. Robert has attempted to steer the discussion over the past 230 comments with little regard for the multiple attempts made by myself and my regular readers to redirect discussion in a manner more productive. (Mind you, others rejoined the field, including Jamie Funk and Marina, and there was a sidebar on rectification astrology by James Alexander, whom George W is dealing with elsewhere, so not all the 230 comments came from that discussion.)

Robert has, numerous times, flogged a piece he wrote on his own space claiming astrology to have an empirical grounding, though much of the content on the page seems like butt-hurt over certain skeptics’ tactics in arguing him and other astrologers in the past. There’s a hilarious passage about the “vested interests” line that skeptics use frequently that deserves addressing, mostly because (as is evident elsewhere in this conversation) Robert’s lack of reading comprehension skills causes him to miss the point of it by a very wide margin:

[Read more…]

Remember Zdenny?

Remember our favorite pet troll’s prediction that I’d be shut down within a month? Remember how that happened on January 24th? Well, I just celebrated my 8-month anniversary of having not been shut down. Meanwhile, what’s his site look like now?

I have to admit, it’s a huge improvement. Shame he didn’t even last long enough for the Internet Wayback Machine to have archived a copy though, so I could prove what a difference the new site design is, both in terms of relevance and aesthetics.

Antivax is bullshit

Penn and Teller show, in simple terms, exactly why.

Even granting for the sake of argument alone that the vaccines will “knock out” a person as autistic (which can’t happen) or will have other deleterious effects by some other happenstance, it’s far better to lose a very few, rather than a very large, number of people. Isn’t it?

Jesus Christ: In the Name of the Gun Book 2

That’s right, you’ve waited over a year for it, but Jesus Christ has finally returned… this time to put a stop to the Spanish Inquisition! Which he manages in the second panel of page 1, actually. Queen Isabella surfaces to provide a new challenge immediately thereafter, but is NOT WHAT SHE SEEMS. I know you need to read this. And buy it as soon as it’s out.

The art is significantly different from the first book I pointed you all to ever-so-long ago, thanks to the series getting a new ongoing artist. I’m okay with it. It’s not as gritty as the first book in its art stylings, but I’ll be damned if I don’t love the deadpan expressions Jesus makes when he is confronted with the Cloverfield-style monster in his first fight right out of the gate. There’s something absolutely epic about the idea of Jesus as action hero. If Christianity were half as cool, I might have stuck around for longer than I did.