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LAST 10 ENTRIES

A Fellow Turncoat
A Cornucopia of Stupid
The Glass is Half-Full
Motivate The Base
Happy Birthday to Me
The Return of the Retropolitan
My Sky is Blue
NaNoWriMo 2006
Yet More Dawkins
Nope, Still Not Dead




« September 2006 | Main | November 2006 »



October 31, 2006

A Fellow Turncoat

John Cole is today's required reading.

Some excerpts:

...I have come to the conclusion that the Republicans are so corrupt, so dishonest, so beholden to special interests and fanatical lobbying groups that Byrd not only looks to be the better option, but the entire Democratic party looks better.
...and...
What makes this even more frustrating is that not only do I feel like I have been duped, but I established a lot of friends in the right wing of the blogging community- and now I read their pages and I can’t believe what I am reading...and through my eyes, it looks like they are so divorced from reality it makes me question what, if anything, I ever believed in.
...and...
I still think of myself as a Republican- but I think the whole party has been hijacked by frauds and religionists and crooks and liars and corporate shills, and it frustrates me to no end to see my former friends enabling them, and I wonder ‘Why can’t they see what I see?”
OK, I'll stop now before I violate some fair use thing-a-ma-bob.

(Also worth reading: his take on the non-story that was Kerry screwing up an insult to the President today...scroll on down. That the Republicans are making such a huge deal of this dumb Kerry mistake is demonstrative of the hollow platform upon which they stand - it's time for them to go).

Update: OK, read this too.

Posted by Andy at 09:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)




A Cornucopia of Stupid

What do you get for the person who has everything, except - say - a functioning brain?

Here's a suggestion.

(via Copygodd)

Posted by Andy at 09:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)




The Glass is Half-Full

Hooray, it's progress:

Nearly half of Americans are not sure God exists, according to a poll that also found divisions among the public on whether God is male or female or whether God has a human form and has control over events.

The survey conducted by Harris Poll found that 42 percent of US adults are not "absolutely certain" there is a God compared to 34 percent who felt that way when asked the same question three years ago.

And they're all Democrats. Or gay.

Gay democrats even!

Seriously, though, this is good news... Republican Jesus may get all the headlines, but it sounds like the crowd of Doubting Thomases is growing.

I've always felt that it's near impossible to convince someone to forget the absurdity that is faith; however, we can plant the seeds of doubt that encourage one down the path of discovery.

As I've said in the past, it took me four years to catch up to the real world; four years that included lengthy chats with my atheist friend Bob over beers at the Brass Monkey, a demanding Philosophy 101 class, catching up on all the science I neglected in high school, and my own reading of the Bible (not just the pretty parts about bunnies and sunshine and can you feel the love tonight).

No one made me an atheist; I knocked and the door was opened unto me.

Come on in, oh sinners, from the hands of your angry God.

Posted by Andy at 09:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)




Motivate The Base

We are a nation at war, facing threats at home and abroad.

Maybe someone should tell the President.

President Bush has for months cast the midterm elections as a choice about just two issues: taxes and terrorism. Now, with polls predicting bleak results for Republicans, he is trying to fire up his party by decrying gay marriage.

"For decades, activist judges have tried to redefine America by court order," Bush said Monday. "Just this last week in New Jersey, another activist court issued a ruling that raises doubt about the institution of marriage. We believe marriage is a union between a man and a woman, and should be defended."

We have thousands of our servicemen and -women overseas, fighting a war that we may not be able to win thanks to Bush's adoration of Can-Do-No-Wrong-Rumsfeld.

We have tens of thousands of dead Iraqis, whose deaths will be for naught if we do not win.

We have a madman in Tehran rushing to build the bomb, speaking of the end of Israel and the defeat of the West.

We have a mad midget in Pyongyang who, despite our efforts, seems to already have a bomb. Even a small nuke kills a lot of people.

We have a worldwide association of Arab-trained terrorists and European-grown extremist Muslims looking to kill each of us when given the opportunity.

And what brings Republicans to their feet? What stirs President Bush's base to get out to the polls?

Gay people in love*.

I've already voted, and I don't regret one bit filling in a few ovals for Democrats. If the Democrats don't get out to vote, then they have no one to blame but themselves (although I suspect they'll more than likely whine that someone stole the election).

* Not to be confused with Loverboy's "Hot Girls in Love," although I think a slightly altered remake might be in order as a PR move for gay marriage.

Posted by Andy at 08:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)




Happy Birthday to Me

Where are my presents?

Update: How about a gift from me then? Through November 15, if you shop at EddieBauer.com and enter NSUNSET in the promo code box, you'll get 15% off your purchase and free shipping.

Posted by Andy at 08:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)




October 30, 2006

The Return of the Retropolitan

The thrill-a-week-or-so "Case of the Missing Retropolitan" has just wrapped up over at Nineteenthirtynine.net. Shannon and I have been guest-blogging over there for several weeks now, letting unfold a winding tale of intrigue, Chronobots, bazooms, and gams.

Do check it out.

Posted by Andy at 11:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)




October 26, 2006

My Sky is Blue

As some of you may know, I was raised Roman Catholic; however, from my non-believing vantage point of today, I can't remember a time I was quite so nutty.

Between Ms. Eden's surprise that a celebrity would graciously accept a gift, even a dinky religious trinket, and commenter Ray's assertion that he and his prayer warrior friend have been pulling the strings of Jane Fonda's life, I simply have to ask: WTF?

What a strange, strange world these people inhabit. I much prefer reality.

Update: And speaking of nutty:

UNBORN WORD ALLIANCE is an organization dedicated to honoring the Unborn Christ Child through literary and media projects, seminars and diverse spiritual endeavors. We believe all Christians can discover great supernatural hope as they reflect upon the first nine months of the Incarnation Mission and turn with trust, prayer, devotion and thanksgiving to Unborn Jesus.
It's apparently not enough to honor the myth of his life, death, and resurrection; now they're on bended knee seeking messages from the Holy Blastocyst.

What could possibly be next? Tips for righteous living courtesy of the Miraculous Gamete of God?

Posted by Andy at 09:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)




NaNoWriMo 2006

Hey, hey, yeah, yeah, National Novel Writing Month is almost upon us: those thirty days in which thousands of people, all longing to write The Great American Novel, uh... don't.

I think my last try at it was 2003; my story petered out right around 3200 words. This year, folks, I'm going to show a little more dedication. I'm going for the big four oh oh oh. Awwww, yeah.

Maybe I'll even resurrect the Blovel* page so that those of you also participating can ping it with your updates from your blogs. Now I bet you're moist, huh?

So, who's in? Nobody? Cool.

P.S. A brief note to those NaNoWriMo folks who apparently don't live on Planet Earth: self-publishing your book through Lulu does not make you a published author any more than recording yourself yodeling and putting it on the web means you have a "record deal."

* I coined this word three years ago, not Wonkette (however, she does have nicer boobies than I do). Once again, the little guy is trampled upon my the mass media hordes!

But that's ok, because "blovel" is blogger + novel with love in the middle.

Posted by Andy at 08:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)




October 24, 2006

Yet More Dawkins

Click here for streaming MP3 of Richard Dawkins on PRI's "The World."

You know, if you're into that whole rational thing.

Posted by Andy at 08:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)




October 23, 2006

Nope, Still Not Dead

I'm around; just busy doing stuff.

Soon to come: a continuation of my critique of C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity, which is bound to get BrewFan to add more of his wonderfully insightful commentary (if vacuous is the same as insightful on your world, see); a review of Joe McGuire's Brainless: The Lies and Lunacy of Ann Coulter; and much much much more.

Or not.

Anyway, happy Monday to you and yours, a couple of things for you:

And now, it's bed time for Andybud, seeing as how he's still got a cold and it's near certain that the wee lass of three and a half in the room down the hall will wake up with her own virus-laden misery soon and make for a long night (if the last 24 hours be any guide).

Posted by Andy at 10:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)




October 20, 2006

My Confidence Is Restored

After all, how could it not be after this report?

President Bush conceded Friday that "right now it's tough" for American forces in Iraq, but the White House said he would not change U.S. strategy in the face of pre-election polls that show voters are upset.

Bush met with Gen. John Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, at the White House for a half-hour Friday afternoon. The White House said Abizaid already was in town and Bush asked him over. The president also will consult by video conference on Saturday with Abizaid at U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla., and with Gen. George Casey, who leads the U.S.-led Multinational Forces in Iraq, to determine if a change in tactics is necessary to combat the increasing violence.

A half-hour? I suspect some folks have had difficult bowel movements that lasted longer than that, nevermind difficult conversations about a war strategy that doesn't appear to be working.

And, well, it's a good thing he just happened to be in town; heaven forbid you actually insist the top U.S. commander in the region to stop by for a chat.

Bush, at a political fundraiser in Washington for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, railed against Democrats who criticize the war. Calling the Democrats the party of "cut and run," Bush said voters need to ask: "Which political party has a strategy for victory in this war on terror?'"
Having a strategy that isn't working isn't very far removed from having no strategy at all: the end result is the same. Granted, the Democrats need to do a much better job of telling us their vision for Iraq and the broader war in terror, but forgive me if I am not reassured by Republicans saying "hey, at least we got us a strategy for screwin' things right up."

Can I vote for NOTA?

Update: Well, this is better news:

President Bush met with senior generals in Washington Saturday for face-to-face discussions on the war in Iraq.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld joined Gen. John Abizaid, the head of U.S. Central Command; Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and, via videolink from Baghdad, Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, for the White House summit.

However, it sounds like the Democrats may be getting a clue too:
In the Democratic radio response, Diane Farrell, who is seeking the seat of GOP Rep. Chris Shays in Connecticut, urged Bush to fire Rumsfeld and Congress to establish benchmarks for Iraqis, The Associated Press reported.

Calling for a "new direction in Iraq," Farrell said: "An arbitrary departure date could be dangerous, but real goals for the new Iraqi government and its army are necessary."

Sounds good to me.

Posted by Andy at 11:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)




October 19, 2006

Dawkins on Colbert

Pointed out by reader James, here's Richard Dawkins on The Colbert Report talking about his new book:

And now, as I have a minor cold (which is beautifully timed with the general rundown feeling that the annual flu shot gives me), I'm off to take some NyQuil, read some Dawkins, and then slip into the whacked-out dreams of 10%-alcohol-cough-medicine land.

Posted by Andy at 10:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)




October 18, 2006

Why Don't Conservatives Like Evolution?

Probably because, in the immortal words of Inigo Montoya, "I do not think it means what you think it means."

Well, that and the small fact that a search of The American Spectator's archives for "Intelligent Design" uncovers that they apparently allow microencephalic* twits to write for them. Go on, do the search yourself; it's good for a laugh or two - until you realize, of course, they're serious.

* How I love that word; it describes so many people so well, and that's not even counting those sadly cursed by "intelligent design" with ill-formed cranial spaces. Perhaps we should call the latter "those cursed by God for some reason or other, else they'd have a normal head."

Posted by Andy at 11:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)




Pop Quiz: How Do We Know We're Winning Iraq?

Because attacks are increasing:

At a news conference last week, Bush noted that attacks rise each year during the month of Ramadan. And he argued the violence can be seen as a sign U.S. efforts are making headway. "Attacks and casualties have also increased recently because our forces are confronting the enemy in Baghdad and in other parts of Iraq," he said.
Each day, I become more convinced that this administration is simply incapable of admitting its mistakes, of looking for new ways to achieve its aims (although sneaking in that ban on internet gambling in an unrelated bill was ever so clever, idiots).

And to think, I voted for them, twice.

There's an old saying in Tennessee -- I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee -- that says, fool me once, shame on -- shame on you. Fool me -- you can't get fooled again.

Posted by Andy at 08:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)




October 15, 2006

Calling Whitney Houston...

'Cause she believes the children are our future; teach them well and let them lead the way.

Jesus Camp.

Wow. Just... wow.

So much for teaching them well.

Posted by Andy at 01:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)




October 14, 2006

How I Spent my Vacation

by PZ Myers.

I hate him sometimes; really I do.

Posted by Andy at 11:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)




I Bet He's Frightened Now

The UN votes to punish North Korea.

he U.N. Security Council on Saturday voted unanimously to impose sanctions against North Korea in response to the country's claimed nuclear test.

The 15-0 vote for Resolution 1718 sent a "clear and strong message" to North Korea, said U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton.

Whatever will Kim Jong Il do without a wardrobe full of gray jumpsuits?

(You know, this is all Clinton's fault for the way he handled North Korea. I mean, it's not like the Bush administration has been in power for five years or so or nothin').

Posted by Andy at 01:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)




Just Stayin' the Course

From US News & World Report:

Some Republican strategists are increasingly upset with what they consider the overconfidence of President Bush and his senior advisers about the midterm elections November 7–a concern aggravated by the president's news conference this week.

"They aren't even planning for if they lose," says a GOP insider who informally counsels the West Wing.

So, it's rather like Iraq, where they didn't have a plan for if they won.

If Bush is willing to keep Rumsfeld around after his disastrous lack of foresight with regard to winning the peace in Iraq, I'm hardly surprised he'd keep advisors around that tell him his poop doesn't stink. I think this Administration needs to seriously look at the more libertarian-minded independents out there; it seems a lot of us are looking to give the Democrats some power (or, more appropriately, to take some away from the Republicans).

They've got a week or less to convince me not to vote for Democrats, as I'm voting an absentee ballot. Harry Reid's creative finances just don't strike me as as big a deal as, say, Iraq.

I'm kooky like that.

Posted by Andy at 12:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)




October 13, 2006

Dawkins Talks

Salon.com has an interview with Richard Dawkins regarding his new book, The God Delusion.

Why are we here on earth? To Richard Dawkins, that's a remarkably stupid question. In a heated interview, the famous biologist insists that religion is evil and God might as well be a children's fantasy.
I'm off to read it now; you should too.

Note: Speaking of books, today I'm looking to complete The Undercover Economist: Exposing Why the Rich are Rich, the Poor are Poor, and Why You Can Never Buy a Decent Used Car! by Tim Hartford. I'm enjoying it so far, 60 pages in, but the greatest irony was what fell out of it: it's a library book, and when I flipped through the pages, I found someone's retirement account statement, with less than $2000 in it - and a lottery ticket tucked within that.

It would appear the book didn't do them much good.

Note 2: How long do you think it will be until the ID/creationist crowd uses this quote out of context?

I think the most powerful reason for believing in a supreme being is the argument for design.
I give it until sometime next week... nevermind that he then follows with:
Living things in particular look complicated, look beautiful, look elegant, look as though they've been designed. We are all accustomed to thinking that if something looks designed, it is designed. Therefore, it's really no wonder that before Darwin came along, just about everybody was a theist. Darwin blew that argument out of the water. We now have a much more elegant and parsimonious explanation for the existence of life.

Posted by Andy at 03:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)




October 11, 2006

Primetime Playbook: 30 Rock

Caught the first episode of the new Tina Fey vehicle "30 Rock" tonight. Quirky and fun, we'll see how it fares.

And, wow, who knew Tina Fey had that kind of cleavage?

(Seriously, I think she's incredibly attractive, and even told the wife so, which would explain why I'm writing this from out in the doghouse - hallelujah for Tina Fey and 802.11g wireless).

Posted by Andy at 11:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)




Democracy, Russian Style

What do OJ Simpson and Vladimir Putin have in common?

Hmmmm.

President Vladimir Putin vowed on Tuesday to hunt down the killers of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, saying he had information they wanted to whip up anti-Russian feelings across the world.
I wonder if Putin will look for the real killers on the golf course too. Maybe they could buddy up and play a round.

It's only too bad that we didn't get to see Putin involved in a low-speed chase, putt-putting around Moscow in the backseat of a Lada.

Posted by Andy at 08:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)




Kids Today

OK, maybe kids some 15 (or more) years ago. And maybe I was one of those kids, although I probably shouldn't take any credit for this, even though - if I was involved in its making - I only did the sounds for R2D2 in this scene.




And, as long as I'm not taking any credit for this, maybe I shouldn't mention that, yes, this was done to the entire movie. Yes, all two hours of it.

Note: I never said those kids were very mature at the time.

Other note: I'm told the entire movie got a showing at some artsy event in Gainesville a few years ago and was written up in a local alt weekly as the funniest thing the writer had ever seen. Genius!

Posted by Andy at 06:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)




October 08, 2006

Heh

Stolen Auburn Playbook Returned with Spelling, Grammar Corrected.

Posted by Andy at 10:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)




Make Me An Offer I Can't Refuse

Using Network Solutions' WHOIS function, and their associated domain name "offer to buy" service, it seems that the World Wide Rant is valued at:

$9,475 - $11,975

Not to crush your lil' hearts or anything, dear readers, but if someone offered me ten grand to turn WWR into a linkfarm, I'd have the hot tub installation crew onsite the next morning.

Posted by Andy at 09:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)




October 07, 2006

Foley Fall-Out: Fabrications of the Faithful

Well, this is hardly a surprise:

Some conservatives have reacted to former Rep. Mark Foley's sexual messages to teenage boys and announcement he is gay by suggesting that homosexuals are more likely to molest children, a link that psychiatric groups say has no basis in fact.
Some of the article is much ado about nothing at all:
A columnist for the Wall Street Journal suggested that homosexuality exists on a continuum stretching from "just another gay guy" to "a compulsive, predatory sex offender."
...which isn't much different from saying that heterosexuality exists on a continuum stretching from "just another dude" to "a compulsive, predatory rapist." Granted, it shows a remarkable ignorance of human sexuality, rape, and pedophilia, but it's not like conservatives are dumb enough to fall for that. Well, some of them.
...and Ben Stein wrote in the American Spectator that "I hope it won't come as a surprise to anyone that a big part of male homosexual behavior is interest in young boys. (Take a look at anyone renting 'Endless Summer' next time you are at the video store.)"
Young boys or young adults? I, personally, haven't known any homosexuals that have told me that they really think that 10-year old kid on the monkey bars was a hottie... but maybe they were hiding it. And perhaps all of my straight friends are really digging on some prepubescent tykes... I mean, they haven't told me, so how can I know for sure??

Now, if we're talking young adults, say 18 onward, the kind that walk across college campuses around the nation...I have to ask: can you blame them?

I'm well-aware that when I turned 30 (some 5 years ago), I officially became invisible to any woman under the age of 25, but that doesn't mean that I don't find young adult women attractive. I have no interest in them other than thinking "Hey, she's pretty," but I am very much a male of the species.

Anyway, where were we? Ah, yes, Lying for the Lord:

...Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council wrote in an e-mail to supporters that "neither party seems likely to address the real issue, which is the link between homosexuality and child sex abuse." Perkins went on to assert that 86 percent of child molesters are identified as gay or bisexual.
They don't like to address the real issue because, well, it's not a real issue. However, when you believe in fanciful tales in dusty old tomes, does the truth really matter?
A Family Research Council spokeswoman said that figure came from an October 2001 article in the journal the Archives of Sexual Behavior. However, that article included no such data and instead reported that "most men who molest boys and most men who molest girls are heterosexual in their adult sexual preference."
Whoops. So much for "reading for comprehension."

But wait! They have science on their side!

The researcher who has done the most to find links between homosexuality and child molestation is Paul Cameron, chairman of the Family Research Institute -- a group with a stated goal of "stopping gay rights...."

Cameron's major argument is that while gay men make up a small percentage of the overall population -- he uses a figure of 3 percent -- they account for between a fifth and a third of all child molesters....

But Cameron has a broad definition of who counts as homosexual. If a man who is married, has children and identifies as heterosexual molests a male child, Cameron counts that man as gay.

Whoops. So much for "honesty and integrity."
Greg Herek, a UC Davis professor of psychology who studies prejudice and stigma, has written extensive critiques of Cameron's studies. He said Cameron has a reputation for producing questionable studies.

"The idea of sexual orientation being linked to child molestation is such an old stereotype that no one takes it seriously. A consequence of that is it is not a topic that is heavily researched," he said.

Alas, when he says "no one" is taking it seriously, he means "no one that knows what they are talking about." Sadly, the world is full of chumps, idiots, dingbats, and bigots; and the closest they've come to a scientific journal was watching Mr. Wizard at age 12 (now, thinking back, he sure did spend a lot of time with little kids...).

Perhaps they'd do well to read former WWR contributor Jon Darby's lengthy rebuttal to Cameron and others on their anti-gay idiocy.

Note: What are the Republicans thinking letting this high-school debate class reject be their talking head on the Foley matter?

(link to this story found via Angie)

Posted by Andy at 08:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)




October 06, 2006

Truthiness

9News in Denver, during the 2006 election cycle, is doing something that more stations, papers, and other venues for political advertising should do: applying a "truth test" to attack ads run on their station.

For each claim in the ad, they state whether it is opinion or fact, and when it is a fact, they provide a citation to the source material that supports it. It's shocking, I know, but it seems that both Republicans and Democrats like to... umm... be creative with the truth.

Posted by Andy at 10:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)




Mere Christianity: A Critique, Part One

"And what you promised to do for old So-and-so and have never done - well, you never would have promised if you had known how frightfully busy you were going to be," - C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Many moons ago, but not quite so far back as when my people called corn "maize," one of my readers suggested I, the unrepentant and sometimes militant-in-attitude atheist, should read some of the works of C.S. Lewis. To tempt me further, he even agreed to foot the bill, and I - being no dimwit when it comes to dosh - accepted. So, kind contribution in hand, I ordered a few books and had every intention of reading them and offering my thoughts.

But, well, I never would have promised if I had known how frightfully busy I was going to be.

Now though, I find that my schedule and my conscience have colluded against me, and thus I give you - in installments - my thoughts on the book Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis. Within its pages, Lewis lays out his reasoning for why the Christian faith should be embraced. As you can imagine, I find myself less than convinced.

So, let us begin with Book One…

In attempting to lay the groundwork for his pro-Christianity arguments that will follow, Lewis sets out to establish that there is, as he calls it, a Law of Human Nature, a standard outside of man by which he may measure right and wrong. Alas, he fails.

He first hints at this “law” by introducing human quarrels, in particular those that involve a situation in which one party has taken offense to the action of another. For example, someone taking a seat that we believed to be ours, such that we say, “That’s my seat, I was there first.” Lewis correctly asserts that, in saying it, we are appealing to a standard we hold, a standard we believe the other person should understand and appreciate. But, so what?

And the other man very seldom replies: “To hell with your standard.”

He pretends there is some special reason in this particular case why the person who took the seat first should not keep it… or that something has turned up which lets him off….

Lewis says the other person must be “pretending” that my standard (and the one which he secretly understands) does not apply, for whatever reason. However, this is mere assertion; perhaps the person really did not see anything wrong with taking my seat – that is, “to hell with your standard.” In stating that the other person is necessarily and dishonestly attempting to rationalize their behavior, he assumes what he has set out to prove: that an objective standard exists outside of man.

Why would someone have to pretend? Because he knows there’s an objective standard. And how do we know that standard exists? Because people pretend it doesn’t.

As they say, if you believe elves make rain, then every time it rains you have more proof of elves.

For inexplicable reasons, other than to demonstrate that he knows how to use the logical fallacy of association, Lewis proceeds to compare his “Law of Human Nature” to scientific laws, with the exception that while a man cannot choose to ignore the effects of gravity, he can choose to ignore the law that should guide his behavior. In summary, it’s a law, but it’s not really a law, but – man! – didn’t putting it in the same paragraph with gravitation, heredity, and chemistry make it sound legitimate?

Not only was man free to disobey this “Law of Human Nature,” but also there was a chance he might not even know it exists:

This was called the Law of Nature because people thought that every one knew it by nature and did not need to be taught it. They did not mean, of course, that you might not find an odd individual here and there who did not know it, just as you find a few people are colour-blind or have no ear for a tune.
Let’s put aside the fact that being “colour-blind” and tone-deaf are actually resultant from the unfolding of scientific laws (e.g. genetics, visual degeneration, brain development), and not examples of where the law is not present or not known. We have to put it aside, of course, because Lewis obviously did, knowing that to acknowledge it would simply speed his argument further into the land of That-Makes-No-Sense.

So, at this point, Lewis is going to base the rest of his argument on a “law” that isn’t really a law and that everyone knows about except for, well, those people that don’t.

Powerful stuff.

Continuing, Lewis then suggests that this Law has been known to all men (despite saying above that it might not have been) because:

There have been differences between their moralities, but these have never amounted to anything like a total difference….

Men have differed as regards what people you ought to be unselfish to – whether it was only your own family, or your fellow countrymen, or every one. But they have always agreed that you ought not to put yourself first.

The problem with this statement should be obvious: if you do not put someone else ahead of you in all situations, then there are situations in which you find it perfectly acceptable to put yourself first. To say that the Jainist who abhors the taking of any life, and Hitler, who really loved his dogs but didn’t mind killing Jews, share a moral standard with regard to killing is absurd.
Men have differed as to whether or not you should have one wife or four. But they have always agreed that you must not simply have any woman you liked.
Odd that, in a book entitled Mere Christianity, Lewis would display such a weak knowledge of The Bible.

Why, look, there’s old Exodus 21, in which man is instructed in the laws for dealing with a female slave he may purchase and take as his wife. In addition, in Numbers 31, we see virgins being taken as spoils of war, at the behest of the Lord.

In other cases, a man may not simply have any woman he liked: it could be the woman that his parents liked. Or maybe the tribal elders. Tomato, to-mah-to, potato, po-tah-to, let’s call the whole thing off.

Realizing that his train of thought just crashed through the “Bridge out ahead” barrier, Lewis then says that, well, people can be mistaken about the Law of Human Nature; thus, it continues to exist even if we do not realize it. Convenient – the same could be said about Binky the Magic Space Clown, creator of all and everything. He exists; you’re just wrong in saying he doesn’t.

Blessed be his big, floppy shoes.

To summarize, Lewis’ faith is built around the belief in a Law of Human Nature that isn’t really a law, that everyone knows about (except for those that don’t know about it), and that even those who do know about it may just bungle completely and they’ll never be any the wiser (unless, I suspect, someone like Lewis sorts them out, because – after all – he knows this Law exists).

Note that I am not saying that we do not have a sense of right and wrong; nor am I claiming that such a Law of Human Nature does not exist (although I do not believe it does, in the sense Lewis does). I am, however, saying that Lewis has done nothing to demonstrate that this inclination toward socially beneficial behavior arises from and exists objectively outside the flesh and blood of men (and other animals).

Anticipating objections to his belief in this Law of Human Nature, Lewis provides three pre-emptive counterarguments:


  1. The Law is not the herd instinct, rather the Law informs our decision making when instincts come into conflict. For example, if we see a man drowning, we may be driven to help him while at the same time feeling reluctant to risk our own lives in doing so.

  2. The Law motivates us to strengthen the instinct that leads to right behavior (which, really, is not a much different argument than that provided in number one above, but having three counterarguments is ever so much more convincing than just a measly two – and maybe Lewis was paid according to his word count).

  3. The Law does not always point to the same instinct as good or bad, but varies according to the situation and informs us accordingly. OK, fine, this really isn’t very different from the first two counterarguments, but – you know – sing with me, people – “three is the magic number!”
What we’re left with is essentially one counterargument: the Law cannot be an instinct because it is the internal pressure we feel when we must choose between competing instincts. Unfortunately (for those who find this book convincing), Lewis has not demonstrated that our decision to pursue one instinct over another comes from anywhere other than within the individual (his mind, his genes, whatever).

Indeed, we do make choices, but so what? If I imagine my house on fire and my daughter trapped in her room, I have little doubt that I would give small concern to my own wellbeing and would instead try to save her. If I imagine my neighbor’s house on fire, I suspect my willingness to save them, while somewhat strong, would pale next to that for saving my own children.

If Lewis were to ask me, I’d say that seems a rather odd hierarchy for an all-loving deity to establish via a “Law of Human Nature” – but it seems perfectly reasonable when one thinks of natural processes, game theory, and selfish genes.

Lewis then addresses other concerns the public has with his arguments. For example, they ask if the “Law” is really just social convention, something learned. Lewis states:

I fully agree that we learn the Rule of Decent Behaviour from parents and teachers, and friends, and books, as we learn everything else. But some of the things we learn are mere conventions which might have been different [e.g. driving on the right]… and others of them, like mathematics, are real truths. The question is to which class the Law of Human Nature belongs.
As you might imagine, Lewis believes that this “Law” belongs to the realm of “real truths,” like mathematics. The only thing this tells us is that Lewis should have spent more time studying the philosophy of mathematics.

Each branch of mathematics has, at its core, a series of a priori assumptions that cannot themselves be proved true (e.g. a line can continue straight on indefinitely). As a result, multiple branches of mathematics have been developed, many of which may not define reality, but all of which are internally consistent based on initial assumptions. Perhaps some of these abstract concepts are true representations of reality, and perhaps further exploration will demonstrate such – and perhaps we will one day reach the ultimate mathematical explanation for life, the universe, and everything. Amen.

This search, however, bears little resemblance to Lewis’ search for “better” and “worse” moralities:

When you think about these differences between the morality of one people and another, do you think…one… is ever better or worse…? Have any of the changes been improvements? If not, then of course there could never be any moral progress. Progress means not just changing, but changing for the better…

The moment you say that one set of moral ideas can be better than another, you are, in fact, measuring them both by a standard, saying that one of them conforms to that standard more nearly than the other. But the standard that measures two things is something different from either. You are, in fact, comparing them both with some Real Morality….

What Lewis overlooks, and where his argument again fails, is that the interpretation of “better” is a wee bit subjective.

If an Islamic fundamentalist argues with me that oppressing women is “better” than letting them vote, drive, and show their ankles in public, I don’t think he and I are really talking about “better” in any way other than “it comes closer to my own conception of what is morally appropriate.” The standard to which he appeals, and the standard to which I appeal, are astronomical units apart. And that’s, like, really far and stuff.

In the same way, if the Rule of Decent Behavior meant simply “whatever each nation happens to approve,” there would be no sense in saying that any one nation had ever been more correct in its approval than any other; no sense in saying that the world could ever grow morally better or worse.
Again, perhaps this ultimate standard of Right and Wrong really does exist, but Lewis has not shown how he can be a better determinant of its specifics than anyone else, Islamic terrorists included. The a priori assumptions from which Lewis begins and from which bin Laden begins are different, yet both unquestioningly accept the truth of their own. As a result, we are no closer to understanding this “Law of Human Nature” nor to having evidence of its objective existence.

It’s not only theists that make this leap, though. In his new book Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris says that we can have morality without gods by determining if there are better or worse ways of seeking happiness in the world. At the core of his definition of morality, then, is that moral behavior is that which increases the likelihood of happiness. Such is Harris’ understanding of the “Law,” but does that make it the right one?

Personally, I find it simplistic (i.e.. if one could make Warren Buffett disappear mysteriously and then distribute his wealth to 100,000 poor people, I think you’d have a lot of happy people and one missing person report).

Once again, let’s recap: Lewis’ faith is built around the belief in a Law of Human Nature that isn’t really a law, that everyone knows about (except for those that don’t know about it, apparently because their mom and dad never taught them), that even those who do know about it may just bungle completely and they’ll never be any the wiser, and that we really can’t ever be sure we’ve gotten quite right anyway.

Gosh, where do I sign up for this mere Christianity?

After once again dredging up comparisons between rocks and people, physical laws and “laws” of behavior, a tactic that continues to add nothing of value or substance to his position, he attempts to address the question of “why ought a person do [the right thing]?”

If we ask: “Why ought I to be unselfish?” and you reply, “Because it is good for society,” we may then ask, “Why should I care what’s good for society except when it happens to pay me personally?” and then you will have to say, “Because you ought to be unselfish” – which simply brings us back to where we started.
Or we could take the approach of seeing altruistic acts as inherently selfish, from a number of perspectives: future reciprocity (that is, it does not pay me immediately, but receiving the same treatment from others later would), a sense of fairness, empathy and resultant positive feelings from altruism, etc. Just look at the phraseology society uses when a “good Christian” dies: he’s gone off to his final reward. That is not to say that it is all a simple, rational cost-benefit analysis done before each act, but rather inclinations bestowed upon us by generation upon generation of evolution.

Lewis could not have known what animal research would discover in the years after he gave these speeches, although given the theistic propensity to ignore inconvenient science it probably doesn’t matter. Many primates, not just humans, exhibit societal structures with moral codes, social norms, and expected behaviors. They illustrate empathic behaviors and consolation of other members of the group (dolphins as well in this case). Morality, at least in its most basic sense, then, isn’t just for Man.

But, who knows? Perhaps apes and dolphins have their own gods and someday they will tell us all about it, and how they have the “Law of Dolphin Behavior” and how very thankful they were when tuna became “dolphin-safe.” If only they had opposable thumbs, perhaps they would have invented scissors for cutting the nets.

Perhaps anticipating such a rebuttal, Lewis then argues that what we know most intimately is Man, because we (men and women) are part of mankind. He argues that an outsider watching mankind could not know that he feels this sense of moral obligation, only that sometimes men do X and sometimes men do Y.

In a way, he’s right: an outside observer cannot know the mind of man. However, by that same token, Lewis cannot know the minds of other men – all he can know is his own. Perhaps every other person is just an automaton that talks about “having a moral sense,” but really is empty inside, essentially a sociopath. Perhaps everything in the universe, including the Law of Human Behavior, was made by God just for C.S. Lewis.

Of course, our experience of other people leads us to believe that they have minds, that they share certain feelings and thoughts and instincts with every other human on the planet. Even if they do not, they behave like they do, so the difference is essentially meaningless. But, let’s accept for the sake of argument that humans have minds.

Why, then, is it such a fanciful notion that some other animals with large brains and complex social structures should be that different? They exhibit all of the behaviors that indicate some sense of self-awareness, some understanding of individuality and reciprocity and active altruism. The evidence of our connectivity through evolution, the true great chain of being, is undeniable (except to the willfully ignorant). I would venture that the greatest obstacle to denying these primates and dolphins some acknowledgement of mind and morals is that it flies in the face of the “humans were made special by god” line of thinking. In other words, Lewis is preaching to the choir and the converted.

Lewis also argues that there must be Something other than matter that is dictating proper behavior to him, some kind of mind. This assumes that the conscious mind does not arise from the interplay of matter. In short, he has once again assumed his conclusion – something he continuously berates the opposition for supposedly doing.

In closing out Book One of Mere Christianity, Lewis states that once you realize you are sick, you willingly seek the doctor (unless you’re a Christian Scientist, I suppose). So, once you realize there exists a Moral Law, and a Someone or Something outside of yourself that encourages you to follow it, you seek a means of absolution for your transgressions of the law. All fine and dandy, but given the weakness of Lewis’ arguments up to this point, I’d say it’s not so much like being sick as it is being a hypochondriac.

So, all together now, let’s wrap up: the basis of Lewis’ faith is built around the belief in a Law of Human Nature that isn’t really a law, that everyone knows about (except for those that don’t know about it, apparently because their mom and dad never taught them), that even those who do know about it may just bungle completely and they’ll never be any the wiser, that we really can’t ever be sure we’ve gotten quite right anyway, that appears to be, to some degree, in possession of other primates and dolphins (or maybe we’re all just automatons and everything was made for Lewis’ entertainment), and a love of assertion that something exists outside of matter is proof that something exists outside of matter (see: elves, rain).

Forgive me, Father, if I remain a skeptic.

More to come…

Note: I am not arguing for materialism, atheism, moral relativism, or anything of the kind. I am simply pointing out that Lewis' arguments are not (or should not be) convincing to anyone other than those already inclined to (a) not detect logical fallacies and (b) accept a moral code similar to that held by Lewis.

Posted by Andy at 07:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)




October 04, 2006

"Wild Bill BlametheVictim"

Huh... maybe next, this right-wing genius, "Wild Bill," can go out and reveal the identities of rape victims hidden behind the blue circle on televised court cases.

Mark Foley is a scumbag! Mark Foley is a scumbag! Mark Foley is a scumbag!

Now that that is out of the way I will reveal how I (and a few others) discovered Jordan Edmund was one of the former house pages that participated in sexually explicit instant messages with Rep. Mark Foley. Also I will explain to you why I believe it necessary to reveal Jordan Edmund's identity. You may not agree with my decision, but I hope to explain my reasoning by the end of this story.

Yes, he of the uber-original e-moniker telegraphing to us his hirsute masculinity, took it upon himself to use his mad Google skillz to out a victim of Rep. Foley's sexual advances. Given that the judge in the anti-intelligent-design Dover decision got death threats from the lunatic right just for pooping on their creationism parade, I dread to think what awaits this young man for daring to rat out a Republican in power.

At first glance, el Senor Wingnut doesn't appear to give his reason for identifying a victim in a potential Federal investigation, but I think he actually does:

I have more to say about this, but I am posting this now because it is already out. I have been contacted by the media and I might be on TV soon.
...and then, maybe, just maybe, he'll win his mommy's love.

P.S. Many of the comments, comprised of idiot-bashing from the left and right, are a joy to read.

P.P.S. Michelle Malkin is, I kid you not, being the voice of sweet reason.

(note: I did change the title of this post roughly 4 minutes after posting it, as I like to lead into my insulting language rather than jump right into it. I notice that Memeorandum has the original.)

Posted by Andy at 11:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)




October 03, 2006

The Commissar Hangs Left

At least in 2006.

I must hand it to Bush … I never would have thought there would be a Republican president that could ever persuade me to vote for the Democrats. When the choice is between a party that promises NOT to deliver what you want versus one that manifestly hasn’t, that is not easy.
It's today's required reading.

A lot of thoughtful comments and trackbacks over there as well, with the usual sprinkling of wingnuts treating the Commissar like an infidel and moonbats shoving their heads into the mouth of his gift-horse.

Posted by Andy at 08:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)




October 02, 2006

Tales to Astonish!

Or perhaps just to make you raise an eyebrow and shake your head, and then walk away muttering something about "those meddling kids."

That's right - I'm guestblogging at The Retropolitan's place.

Oh, yeah, so is Shannon. Which, you know, is cool. I guess.

(Awww, c'mon, don't be like that; you know I dig you).

Posted by Andy at 10:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)




In The Mail

Brainless: The Lies and Lunacy of Ann Coulter, by Joe Maguire. Thanks to William Morrow / HarperCollins for the review copy. I'll review it soon, but first I have to finally begin to address a certain book (gifted to me by a reader) by C.S. Lewis...

Note: PZ gets all the really cool books, full of autobiographizing.

Posted by Andy at 05:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)




October 01, 2006

He Said (A) Word

Ever since July 20, 1969, there's been a belief that Neil Armstrong, for whatever reason (weariness, joy, alien mind probes from a secret lunar base), misspoke when he first set foot on the moon, saying "That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind." While it superficially sounds profound, that missing article "a" between "for" and "man" renders it a rather meaningless phrase.

New research, though, shows Armstrong probably didn't goof.

High-tech detective work apparently has found the missing "a" in one of the most famous phrases ever spoken.

Astronaut Neil Armstrong's first words from the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969, now can be confidently recast, according to the research, as, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

It is the more dramatic and grammatically correct phrasing that Armstrong, now 76, has often said was the version he transmitted to NASA's Mission Control for broadcast to worldwide television.

Found via Pharyngula. For additional fun, if you want to see what dropping all vowels from text can look like, check out PZ Myers' site for a fundamentalist commenter named Jason. PZ has his commenting software set to remove all the vowels (oddly enough, just like that internet chain letter, it's still readable).

Posted by Andy at 11:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)






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