Sunday, December 30, 2007


With the cold season upon us, certain companies are seeing boosts in their sales. Companies that make herbal remedies, especially, see huge boosts because, rightfully so, people don't want to get freakin' sick. And because they're "herbal," they can basically claim whatever they want and can sell over the counter. This is very bad.

Since no real, large studies have been done, the effects of these remedies is frequently unknown. What you'll then find, because the companies are afraid of finding that .01% of the population that explodes when given the drug, the dose is not an effective dose. It's diluted to the point of uselessness. So even if the substance does something, the dose they recommend is too low to do it.

I have listed one of these herbal remedies, the omnipresent Echinachea. People bang this stuff back like candy every cold season and most, if not all of the people I know who have taken it, claim to feel better afterwards. Ahh, the wonders of the placebo effect.

While echinacea is the only traditional herbal medication I mention here, all herbal medications are available OTC, and that means either the dose is too small to do anything or it's effective, and if it's effective that means it's big enough to have side effects we probably don't know about. And remember, they may be herbal, but they're still drugs, and ALL DRUGS HAVE SIDE EFFECTS. If an effective dose of some herbal drug is 500mg, that means something will happen, although all the scientific evidence suggests that that will not be what you wanted.

So, for the sake of repetition, I'll list four popular cold remedies, one of which I take, another I fell for, and two others I knew were bullshit from day one.

Zicam: I fell for Zicam hard. I read an article in the local newspaper about how Zicam was the first cold remedy proven in scientific studies to reduce the duration and severity of the cold. It had all the good stuff on back: an effective dose, a study, listings of active and inactive ingredients, and a line of products behind the name that all had well-known and effective remedies for symptoms like congestion and the sort.

I felt pretty confident in Zicam, and so, over the course of the next two years, when I was feeling a bit stuffy, or got that little tingle in my throat, out came the slime-covered Q-Tip and into my nose it went. That was until not too long ago, when I got sick with what was probably a cold, basically just feeling stuffy and crappy, and I took Zicam... and I kept taking Zicam. Over and over. Fluids, fruits, vitamin C, and Zicam. And I just kept... feeling... BAD.

The symptoms would not go away. I began to get suspicious. Ibuprofin doesn't get rid of my headache sometimes. If Zicam really worked, either this wasn't a cold or Zicam didn't work. I felt pretty confident that it was just a cold, the symptoms were too mild to be otherwise, but it just kept hanging around. They're trying to tell me that these were shortened symptoms? Ha! Something was wrong. So I did what I should have done from the beginning; I researched the research.

Echinachia: Doesn't work, although a couple of studies say otherwise. I think it can be written off as the placebo effect. It does have some nast side-effects in high doses and can interact with immunosuppressants.

Vitamin C: Linus Pauling swore by it and he was really smart... he also lived to 93. The research is inconclusive, leaning towards it not doing much. Still, the research definitely shows it can't hurt you, so eat up!

Airborne: Does NOTHING SPECIAL. It's got a big, honkin' dose of vitamin C in it, so if vitamin C does something, this might, but the research showing an effect is for super-high doses, in excess of 10 grams, and sometimes intravenously.

Chicken Soup: The best cure there is. No research supports it being a real cure, but the steam, warmth, easy digestibility, and dense nutrient mix are all good for getting over a cold quick. This is the only thing that really helps. Unlike the vitamin C, don't try this intravenously.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Maybe They Should Turai a Little Harder

I'm something of a car nut. I drive a hopped-up version of an ordinary Mazda 6 called the Mazdaspeed 6 (It's full name is the Mazda Mazdaspeed Mazda 6... I'm not kidding) that comes packing 270-some horsepower with a turbocharger, all-wheel-drive, and tires that cost an alarming amount of money. I read auto blogs. I fantasize about owning a Koenigsegg, like I'd know what to do with it. And I love it when the entire auto publication industry is taken in by some marketing nonsense.

If you're into Japan at all, you know the concept of Engrish. Japanese, or traditional Japanese I should say, doesn't have a few sounds that we have. One of those is our common 'L.' They have a sound that's L-ish, but not quite. So they usually end up making a sound closer to an 'R.' We all know the 'Flied Lice' joke at Chinese restaurants. So you have Japanese people saying some inadvertantly funny things, like "crap" instead of "clap," and "love" becomes, so romantic, "rabu."

So when Mazda came out with a new concept car called "Furai," my ears, after years of Japanese cartoons and movies, immediately heard "Fly." Mazda is saying it literally translates to 'Sound of Wind." This marketing line has been repeated verbatim by countless online publications. This was just too coincidental for me. And sure enough, according to's Japanese section, "sound of wind" actually translates to "Tenrai" and, surprise-surprise, "Furai" is "Fry" or "Fly" in Engrish.

Absolutely NO ONE has looked into this? How the hell is that possible? Anime permeates our entire culture. How the hell did they miss that Mazda was basically blowing smoke up their ass. It doesn't mean "Sound of Wind." It means "We Wanted to Use an English Word That We Can't Pronounce." It wouldn't have required much checking. Google "Furai" and the NUMBER ONE listing, still, is for fried food. Way to copy and paste from the press release, guys.

In further Japanese auto-related news, make a Japanese person's head explode by asking them to say "Lexus."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

While on the Subject

While on the subject of faith, I was just recently watching The Prince of Egypt, and ignoring the trillion-or-so inconsistencies in the story, Moses has a funny line. When discussing the power of Pharaoh over the Jews. He says that he can take their freedom and their lives but he can't take their faith. I think William Wallace would disagree, but still.

I take issue with it because, with the events in the story, and especially with their representation in the movie, it's not faith! There's tons of shit that is actually happening to prove the existence of God and to prove that he's pissed off in a big way. Faith in God is basically a modern thing. Back then, God was screwing around with stuff on Earth all the time. His existence, assuming the accuracy of the events, was proved by the gateway to Zool that opened up in the clouds. Or the whole river that turned to blood. Or the stunning coincidence that all the first born sons die on the same night.

That's all pretty convincing evidence that God is out there and is good on his word. Faith is a requirement now because God has apparently given up proving to everyone that he exists. Instead of pillars of fire and oceans parting, he prefers to have various official representatives of him appear in tacos and the such.

So yeah, when people in the Bible talk about faith, it doesn't make any sense because in the context of the stories, faith doesn't exist. It's not needed. God's right there. Just say hi.

Well only say hi in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, God might just get vengeful on your ass for bugging him.

I Believe in Joe Pesci.

I just finished watching the PBS Nova episode chronicling the Dover PA. school board battle over evolution. While the result of the case is already well know (YAY!), the background that this show gave us was fantastic. It makes me feel good about humanity.

Regardless, something about the show rubbed me the wrong way. It's something about the ID debate in general, and that is the use of the word "believe."

A local journalist, talking about her personal battles with her father, recounts a question he directerd at her; do you believe in evolution? She responded with yes, that she believed we came from monkeys, and all that good stuff.

I have problems with that because I do not believe in evolution, I believe in science. I damn well should believe in it. It's what lets me write this. It's what's lighting this room. Evolution follows from science and all the other interconnected theories that support it. To reject it is to reject science, and one cannot accept science without accepting evolution.

And yes, on a brutally philosophical level, science is a "faith." I'll spare you all the technicalities, but the boils down to having faith that my own perceptions are accurate. I have no evidence, nothing testable to say that what I see and hear are what I actually see and here. There are many arguments against this, but I'll give the faith-foundation proponents the benefit of the doubt.

Still, science's goal is to strip as much faith as it can from reality. It strives to reduce it as best it can. Religion bolts on more faith; worse still, a faith that contradicts other faith. At least my faith in my own perceptions isn't contradictory on its face.

So yes, I believe in evolution. Of course I do. Because I have faith that I am not insane and the world is, roughly, as I see it.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Freedom is Unecessary.

There are many opponents to the concept of determinism. Whatever their motivations, they argue that freedom and responsibility, even humanity, cannot exist in a deterministic world. For the world to work as we see it, freedom must exist. I will argue that this is a simplistic framing of the concept and requires little work to explain otherwise. Perhaps the most vociferous groups are those with religious motivation. For, if God knows the world he has created, and we are defined by that world, he knows what we will do, even going so far as to forcing a destiny upon us that we cannot fight. This renders freedom inert. I will argue that religion does not require freedom to work and that a deterministic view of reality is compatible with a theistic universe.

I: Big Words.
Determinism and indeterminism are two philosophical theories of, effectively, responsibility. Determinism states that the state of the world now was determined by the state of the world before, and both of those predetermine the state of the world to be. Basically, like billiard balls, what comes before is what causes what happens, without question. This eliminates responsibility since we cannot be responsible for things over which we have no power.

Indeterminism states the opposite. The world is not determined and we can never know what will happen. This allows the wiggle room required for free-will to be an agent of cause, and be an undetermined variable in the grand scheme of cause and effect. Since, if things are not predetermined, we can act, free of previous events, and are thus responsible for our actions since we take them of our own volition.

Compatibilism asks “can’t we all just get along?” In this view, free-will, and thus responsibility, can co-exist with a deterministic universe. This is, perhaps, the most complicated of the three arguments since it tries to combine two arguments that are, ostensibly, very different. Perhaps the earliest proponent of compatibilism was Aristotle with his idea of an “un-moved mover” in Metaphysics. The world he saw was deterministic, but where did the magic of reality come from? The chain of definite causality had to have a beginning. He decided that it came from an entity that could move but was not itself moveable. This is, in a sense, the God argument that works for indeterminists as well.

A final stance that has seen some popularity with the rise of quantum mechanics is actually incompatible with all three, stating that even though indeterminacy is true on deterministic grounds, it’s totally wrong on the topic of responsibility. Essentially, the fabric of the universe is random. We can never know, we can only guess at probabilities. Thus, the universe is non-deterministic, but we cannot be held responsible for events that are the vagaries of space-time. This is seen as the “skeptical,” or defeatist stance and is ignored in this discussion.

II. Butting Heads.
Modern arguments have revealed nothing new. Many philosophers have attempted to integrate quantum indeterminacy into their theories with almost no success since randomness causes all positions to fail. In lieu of science, they continue to use the same ideas reformulated over and over again. Robert Kane, a leading philosopher in the area of free will, has formulated his concept of free will, namely “Ultimate Responsibility.” Essentially, a person is free if he is the final source of volition. The causal chain cannot be drawn back further. This is nothing more than a minor refinement of previous work by Jean Paul Sartre, and even Emanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative. While he has described what free will “is” to a finer point, he still uses the same arguments in use for hundreds of years.

Determinists and compatibilists respond with almost identical arguments formulated by Thomas Hobbes, Thomas Reid, and Baron D’Holbach. Their sometimes anti-religious bent obvious with quotes such as "If ignorance of Nature gave birth to gods, then knowledge of Nature is calculated to destroy them," as said by D’Holbach. Nothing new has been said. It’s obvious that an impasse has been reached.

III: I Just Don’t Know!
Indeterminism is perhaps the most vociferously defended position for two reasons: one, it has strong religious ramifications for western theological thought. And two, it has strong legal ramifications for jurisprudence and the concepts at its foundation.

Religion does not like the prospect of giving up their God-given free will. If determinism is true, and God exists, then we have no control over salvation and certainly no control over our actions. Only God has such power. This results in a collapse of morals since they require responsibility for an action. If we can never be responsible, how could we be so cruelly relegated to an eternity in hell?

One of the biggest failings of free will in this indeterministic and religious perspective is the basic aspect of the argument as a separation between the body and the “soul,” as it were. The source of our actions is not entirely physical. Much like Aristotle, we must be our own unmoved mover. They do not explain the nature of the connection. How does this soul know how to interact with the world, or even know about the world? How does it know how it can freely act. From where did this knowledge come? God? Then that does not make us the ultimate source of action. That source would be God. Indeterminacy requires us to be our own God, which is something the Pope would undoubtedly dislike.

Indeterminists thrash and claw at something, but they never say what. They only ever go so far as to argue that free will exists. Free as compared to what? They never explain how we are free from something. What is free will? In this sense it must be boiled down to an action. It cannot remain in the abstract realm or it is never cogent. We must be able to see and witness actualizations of abstract free will. What are we free to not do? Freedom requires that we be free from something. Are we free from stop lights? Can we decide whether to go left or right at a turn without regard for anything? I certainly hope you don’t do so by exercising your free will. The roadways would be chaos.

Our world is based on “because.” A person takes a left turn because the light is green. We are forced to recognize the existence of the light and then decide. True freedom must disregard this preceding thing in all cases. Why did you get up? “Because I was hungry.” Why did you put on clothes? “Because I was cold.” In both cases, if true freedom was real, the answer would be “because of no reason.” Not only does free will in this bizarre sense not exist, but it absolutely shouldn’t, or our world would be a very odd place.

The argument that free will is when an “agent” is the originating cause of its action makes no sense. As mentioned above, we must be the Ultimately Responsible one, in Kane’s words, or the unmoved mover in Aristotle’s, but that means that some part of us was born with knowledge of the world to allow this unmoved part of us to know what to think about. Even if this a priori knowledge is accepted, from where this knowledge came must be explained. There must be something to, for, against, above/below/behind which the agent can exercise this original volition. And if that’s the case, who’s to say the thing acted against isn’t the cause? If free will just came about, what would the content of these thoughts be if influence from anything isn’t allowed? It seems to me that true free will would be empty, itself. It would lack volition, knowledge, and as such would never be actualized into the real world.

I see other problems with indeterminism associated with the world that it entails. In this world, freedom is true philosophical freedom. Free of any influence both internal and external. We are entities floating in an abstract void. What a strange netherworld it would be if we were truly free from any influence. What part of us is “there,” in this world without cause and effect? What part of us exists? The “soul” must be free from any and all interactions with anything. It must know nothing of the world or itself. It must be something to which we are connected yet are unaware of it, or else its influence will merely become part of the corporeal system in which we live and thus become just another cause waiting for an effect.

Are we to say that this abstract “I” is us? I consider that an impossible idea. It must be a part that is somehow discrete since everything we are interacts with the world, for we are arguably at least part of the world. We have no choice but to act in accordance with the world and are, because of it, never free. For if we don’t react, what are we doing? If we had free-will merely spring from this nothingness, chaos would ensue. We must respond to our world and we must do so exclusively. Motivation, ideas, and inspiration must come from somewhere. It would actually be a bad thing if these things just sprang from nothingness. That would be dangerously similar to schizophrenia.

For example, one of the great questions of determinism: if we replayed the universe from some point in time, would we continue to get the same timeline? Many compatibilists hedge their bets on this question, but I proclaim from the mountaintop, Yes! And it would be bad if it were otherwise. What would cause such change? If it is randomness, then we are in less control than if we were machines. At least machines operate in a stable world. Randomness would strip even the stability of determinism from us. All things being equal, we would and should act the same. A rational creature must act this way.

IV: Morality Seen Ordering Steak!
The reports of morality’s death are greatly exaggerated. Indeterminism exists as a proposition to refute the elimination of responsibility, and with it many concepts of divine justice. As we continue to learn ever more about the workings of the world, I think it foolish to continue tilting against the windmill of determinism. We must not even take into account the complexities of quantum mechanics since humanity doesn’t exist on that level. We can only go as low as the nervous system and still maintain humanity. Thus, free-will and morals must exist on a macroscopic level. And on this level, our abilities to predict behavior do not even need science. Psychologists, doctors, and even stage magicians are able to predict behavior with only ostensible information about people. With scientific inquiry, that predictive capability will only increase.

So, since denying determinism seems silly, and if it is indeed true, what of morals? I think we’re fine. I have yet to run into the streets on a homicidal spree, and the many others who have thought about this have yet to do any killing, as well. Morals do not require that I be ultimately responsible for my actions; only that I be responsible on grounds that I can discern. I am responsible if I decide to do something, even if esoteric, microscopic variables a quintillion strong actually dictated that action. I decided, and that decision exists on the same level as responsibility, and thus I am responsible. Many moral philosophers would disagree with me, going back to Kant. As previously mentioned, Kant’s Categorical Imperative was about the duty to do right. He argued that a moral action done without the intent is without merit. Determinism strips us of not only salvation, in this sense, but the very ability to be good people! Again, I think the arguments fail on semantics. They fail to define intent. Intent only exists on a human level; a level above the quantum universe. It is a word connected to an idea that is an abstract entity of the macroscopic world in the same way we are corporeal entities of the macroscopic world. It can only exist with us.

Furthermore, moral responsibility itself is difficult to use as an arguing point since we still don’t know what morals are. Many great philosophers have tried and have yet to reach universal acceptance for a definition of morality. Moral responsibility must now be defined before we can say someone is morally responsible. I do not think we can safely define morals, for this or any other endeavor. Morals have proven time and again to differ from person to person. The very sense of right and wrong is subjective and, since I am attempting to achieve objectivity, I must leave it behind. So, at this point, all that must be determined is responsibility apart from morals. And responsibility is something that I think can be defined objectively.

Before I go on, I want to clarify my position on morals. Even though it sounds like I mock the moral aspect of this endeavor, I actually consider it the most important part. Right and wrong is the gray area; the area of discussion. It is so critically important because everyone’s views, discussed openly, can allow a sort of subjective consensus. But that is an entirely other matter that cannot be addressed here. Still, indirect importance to right and wrong permeates this discussion, for in more secular matters, the law and its fundamental logic and beliefs obviously have much to do with right and wrong. And the law has quite an effect on all of us.

Whether people know it or not, certain basic ideas about freedom form the structure upon which our incredibly complex legal system is formed. One of these basic ideas is free will. This pops up regularly in cases. A mentally challenged man is not held responsible for a murder because he has the mind of a nine-year-old, while another man is held responsible. A woman who, so enraged at the sight of her husband’s infidelity, runs up and shoots him, is not held as responsible as a woman who coolly calculates the murder of her lascivious mate. The very fluid and abstract concept of free will, which seems so concrete until one tries to define it, is at the root of both these examples. The retarded man and the enraged woman did not have as much free will as the normal man and the calm woman.

Why do the latter have more free will? If it is truly something that arises from the very fabric of the universe, why do some people have it and others don’t? Where is the dividing line? These are questions that never get answered. If it is something that arises from the universe, and an enraged woman has less of it than a calm woman, that means we have the ability to block our own free will, whether it be with emotions or otherwise. Perhaps, you think, that anger does not absolve someone in a moral sense, only in a legal sense. But if raw legality were concerned, an enraged woman would simply be set free since the likelihood of her doing this again is low. Morals must come into play. The concept of justice arises from right and wrong. Justice, law, and morals are intertwined. So a declaration of legal responsibility is inherently moral in the same way morals are inherently just.

Moreover, I can’t think of a single person, philosopher or not, who would say that a retarded man is as responsible as a fully-functional man for a crime. Then it must mean a retarded person or an enraged person actually ceases being human. Thus, they lose contact with the source of free will in the same way a dog or an insect is not free. We are reduced to an animal. I think the difference between these two groups of people illustrates very well the human nature of free will. It is something of people, by people, and for people. It is a construct that exists only so far as it is human and does not leave the realm.

Many have argued that a rejection of responsibility on any level, even the microscopic, and embracing of determinism knocks the proverbial floor out from under the law. As I’ve shown, I think this is incorrect. Unlike previous arguments of Gods and movers, the law is a very real concept. It’s much more tangible. As such, the law remains in a less hypothetical realm than the philosophical arguments of determination. It must live in the real world and deal with applications. Since it cannot ever leave the human realm, even in a philosophical sense, we can safely use the ostensible definitions of freedom and responsibility. The concept of philosophically free and legally free can remain, as near as I can tell, separate without any danger. And since laws and morals are tied so intimately, being legally free has weight to argue morally free. And if legal freedom does not extend past human perception, why should moral freedom? Morality is as much a construct as legality. They must obey the same boundaries.

V: The Yellow Brick Road.
I generally consider compatibilism to be on the right track. I believe this insofar as it recognizes that free will must not die at the hands of determinism. Unfortunately, most compatibilist work ends at that thought and falls into some major ruts that I will explain.

I consider semantics to be one of the major roadblocks in the work of free will. We use vaguely defined words repeatedly in these arguments and the person doing the arguing invariably adds their own interpretation and bias. Compatibilists hedge their bets and come out with a weaker position than if they stuck to one side or the other. For example, in Freedom Evolves, Daniel Dennet argues a compatibilist stance saying that free will only makes sense in relation to “expectations.” But what is an expectation? Can a person touch an expectation? Or in Elbow Room, Dennet argues that even if we are influenced by outside variables, it doesn’t matter because we want what the variables direct us towards anyhow. Again, the usage of abstract words like “desire” weakens the position. As with freedom, justice, and legality, I see it all as words that only make sense in a human context.

A position must be made separate from such human words before a reconnection with humanity can be made. This is where compatibilists remain connected to indeterminism. This position fails because proponents insist on referring to “agents” with vaguely defined characteristics. They insist on raising them on a metaphysical platform above the rest of the world and referring to abstract strangeness as “desire” and “intent.” Arguments against indeterminism and determinism alike will fall apart if humans are referred to in magical terms. Separated from the world semantically, it will of course sound strange when compatibilists then try to argue that agents are inherently connected to it, as well. This “magic of consciousness” argument, as I like to call it, subtly implies a soul. More concrete words must be used.

VI: Welcome to the Machine.
All wide-spread stances on free-will, be it determinism, compatibilism, hard-determinism or whatnot, are wrong since they all use the idea of free will in the human sense. A sense that, I think, because of its inescapable abstractness, must be discarded. Its very humanity makes it impossible to apply to non-human systems, such as the functioning of the universe. I propose looking at the concept of free will from a semantically different point. While the basic ideas remain the same, I think a mere re-framing of the argument alleviates most problems, while also leaving religion and determinism intact.

Instead of trying to look at people as magically sentient, or as merely the result of countless atomic interactions, I think a systemic view is more accurate. A view that the world is a machine and the definitions of words must be framed within that machine to make any sense at all. Human words only make sense in relation to the “gears” that make us up, or the part of the machine that is us. While the machine that is a person would be dead without being impinged upon by other parts of the machine, it would kick into high gear upon being activated. It will then go about doing what it does best, absorbing results from other parts of the machine and then producing something which would then have an effect greater than all the variables that impinged upon the person. Humans in this sense are an amplifier of possibility. The light from the philandering man and his mistress would have merely traveled on ad infinitum, but instead it was absorbed by the machine of the wife and amplified into an explosion of murderous rage.

We can now look at all of reality as a giant system of gears. We can separate the set of gears that constitutes a human sufficiently without raising the human onto a metaphysical platform. Responsibility is the metaphysical event of external parts of the machine being impinged upon by the human and thus altering them. What may have triggered the human to do that is immaterial. While the image of the infidelity impinged upon the woman by activating the eye, it then went through the infinite complexities of the brain, and the woman then did something, the cause was not the image. It was part of an infinity of variables converging on that point in space and time and coalescing into a person’s action. Responsibility is still there, since that coalescence was only possible by the presence of the human machine. As with the image, it would have gone on flying, but the human absorbed it and did something with it.

Responsibility is a concept restricted only to the human entity. The image may have been an indirect cause, but indirect causes do not responsibility make. Responsibility and cause are entirely different things. I may have caused something, for example, a death, but not be responsible based on the context. This semantic fluidity reveals the very human level on which these ideas operate. The human is not robbed of responsibility since its very meaning is a human one. The image of the philandering is not responsible for the death, but the murderer who saw it is. The murder sprang forth from the machine freely even though the image may have had a hand in triggering that response. We may be dumb machines responding to stimulus, but we are very, very advanced dumb machines able to create definitions for their own responses without seeing the causes of those responses.

This is not compatibilism. I’m saying free will exists. I’m all for it, but it must be redefined. We’ve learned so much about the working of the world, such archaic and thoroughly abstract concepts like free will must be redefined, and they can be. I’m not a compatibilist because free will is part of the world, whether it’s deterministic or not. In fact, free will requires that we be deterministic. We need things to impinge upon us so we can then act against them. Even our very minds need objects, be they abstract or real, on which to focus. Free will and determinism aren’t compatible because that implies them to be separate. I see them as the same thing.

I also consider this as alleviating the religious argument of moral responsibility. I think the concept of God is entirely compatible with this formulation. God may fully understand what is happening on a quantum level and know the path of everything, but he would have created humans on a plane higher than quantum interactions. He created humans on a macroscopic, human level. What we do and how we act is only important on this level. God may also inject subtle alterations to the fabric of space-time to see how things will be altered on the human level. Upon changing reality, being omniscient, he would instantly be aware of the changes that would result. The universe is still deterministic, and God can still maintain control, but how people respond to these non-deterministic changes reveals how good of a people we actually are. Free will, even in my definition, can exist, defined by our responses to novel variables.

As I said, the only aspect which takes a hit in my formulation is moral and legal responsibility. Again, this is problematic in regards to acceptance by the religiously and morally minded, but the problems with merely defining morals makes any attempt to shoehorn them into my theory suspect. Still, I think an honorable effort can be made. First, we assume morals to mean right/wrong, and define those words by face value. Moral responsibility can now be attributed to an entity if that entity has been impinged upon by the ideas of right and wrong, continues to receive these ideas, and then when action takes place it acts in accordance with other received variables, for example, greed. Why the entity did this is irrelevant, since the entity has amplified previous variables thus rendering those long past events no more responsible for the entity’s moral transgression than the light from the philandering man causing his own murder. Thus, I see moral responsibility as a higher-level concept bolted on after the event by the very entities involved. Responsibility has nothing to do with the cause and effect below that level.

On legal subject matter, the discrete concept of moral responsibility is no longer involved, but the hybrid concept of legal responsibility comes into play. Again, as with other aspects of my theory, the line of demarcation between the human entity and the external causes and effects applies. Legal responsibility exists on the same level as moral and generic responsibility; the human level. It exists one level up from generic responsibility, since a mentally challenged man is, in my system, responsible for a murder, but he is not legally responsible. Legal responsibility is, like with morality, bolted on after the event. For at a lower level, the mentally challenged person does not exist, only a giant machine of interactions. A legal definition of responsibility in this system is a human entity that is capable of receiving variables from the greater system associated with legal rights and wrongs, and processing them in such a way as to effectively amplify those variables back into the system. If those variables are then disregarded by a functioning entity, the degree to which they are disregarded determines the degree of punishment. Any part of the variable transfer, be it reception, amplification, or application, renders the entity innocent of responsibility. The retarded man cannot receive the variables and the enraged woman is unable to effectively amplify the already received variables.

VII: Good Night, and Good Luck.
I feel that I have taken an effective crack at breaking the stalemate between the determinists and the indeterminists. While the ideas presented are not perfectly formulated, they are certainly different from the ideas currently being bandied about. I have attempted to combine compatibilism, determinism, and indeterminism into one overarching idea of reality. I feel confident that, even if my reframing proves non-cogent, the reframing and redefining of the words and problems at the root of this argument is what will lead to an eventual resolution. We must stop being prisoners of our own words. Only then will we be truly free.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Truth Will Set You Free.

With election season quickly approaching, I consider it now important, certainly more so than other times, to have a good grasp on the truth. While most of the candidates suck, one or two might stand a chance of being a honest-to-goodness good president. I also think that the piercing light of truth and reason is the only light that can reveal that person.

To these ends, I recommend (STRONGLY) reading Fact Check. It's a group run out of the University of Pennsylvania and I have never, in years of reading it, ever gotten a hint of bias. They are truly, totally, beautifully by-the-numbers. They tell it like it is and will explain, with brutal efficiency, how candidates stretch the truth or outright lie. They provide an invaluable service to those who care and don't have the time to research candidates statements, themselves.

The Annenberg Political Center's Fact Check.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

I'm a Conservacratorian.

We're going to be entering into full campaign mode pretty soon. The primaries are coming up, and then the election, and then in with the new boss, blah blah. One of the things I hate most about American politics, and other countries are guilty of this as well, is the simplicity with which the populous tries to classify people and their convictions.

This person is a LIBERAL. That person is a CONSERVATIVE. In America, those terms border on meaningless since every Tom, Dick, & Harry seem to have their own damned definitions. The media has its own definitions. Religious wackos have theirs. I find myself actually getting pissed off because I will get asked what I "am," and have no reliable way to answer. Could you imagine if our job market worked this way?

Person: So, what do you do?
Me: Oh, I'm a entrepreneur.
Person: Oh, wow. Do you deal directly with the chickens, or do you hire people?
Me: ... what?

It's especially bad among people who are "political." They're actually just uninformed, dogmatic twits, but they care. This applies to any and all political stances. Democrats, Republicans, or Lyndon Larouchites. Most people who "care" willingly and happily pigeonhole themselves for easy self-classification. It allows them to quickly categorize themselves so they know who their "friends" are and who the "enemy" is. This results in the comical spectacle that is American politics. A 24/7 televised gladiatorial battle where the groups who are the most ridiculous get the air time, and the candidate who can best conform to these despicable categories gets elected. Actual problem solving is ignored.

I, for example, am very conservative. I'm obsessed with freedom, think that if the government has big guns, the people should have big guns, and love free markets. And yet, in most arguments I side with the "liberals." Man, I hate these terms. In a recent issue of The Economist, I tried to find it and failed, they discuss international confusion with our use of words. Where we should be using terms like right-wing/left-wing or progressive, we instead use, exclusively, liberal and conservative. Even worse, we take words with relatively simple politcal definitions and wrap them up in a metric ton worth of emotional and dogmatic baggage.

For example, when the hell did "conservative" get wrapped up with "bible-thumping lunatic." Or, more lightly, "religious." How did Washington, a place where everyone and their brother has been trumpeting their belief in some deity or another, get split on religious lines? Or how did it suddenly become "liberal" to care about the environment? I know many people, to whom I lovingly refer as "idiots," who are bible-thumping, gun-toting people who will scream and holler about Republicans being right, but when asked very focused questions without subtle bias, they will answer in a traditionally liberal way a surprising number of times.

I propose we go back to the actual definitions of "liberal" and "conservative." Namely, liberal would mean someone who wants big federal government and conservative means someone who wants small federal government. Hell, let's even stretch it to a difference between big and small government in general. Now, you'll hear boatloads of republicans getting on the air babbling about how they're conservative because they think government should get our of people's way, but they're lying. The Republican party has been more liberal lately than the Democrats have been since the days of the New Deal. Only with these twisted definitions that are used today can the Republican party call itself conservative with a straight face. When they say it, they are lying. Got that? LYING.

I hate to hear it because I am a conservative. A strong one. I'm not on the wild end of the spectrum, I'm certainly not an anarchist. I'm also not a libertarian, in the classic sense. I'm a, um, freedomist! I think there are many things in which the government should get involved. But those decisions must be made very, very carefully. Positions should be well-defined and restricted to GOVERNMENT. Not religion, not video games, and not whether gay people are evil. I want real liberals and real conservatives, and I want to hear their arguments. I want them to create solutions to problems with their political stances uncorrupted.

CNN isn't lying, hearing both sides of an argument is good. Too bad they're just catering to the wrong defitions, as though pitting a preacher and a gay activist against each other on the gay marriage issue is "hearing both sides." Ha. It's bad comedy intended to entertain buffoons. They usually have two people, who are equally ridiculous and equally WRONG, yell at each other in a completely unmediated bitch-fest to fill up three minutes of airtime inbetween videos of Lindsay Lohan crashing another car. Give me real debate! Give me the two sides that are both valid! Let the public know why there is an argument and explain why the two (or three or four) sides are valid. People are very dumb and they need this explanation. News once recognized that public need, and now it's idle comedy.

I think that the wildly inaccurate definitions of liberal and conservative is one of the major problems at the root of this. So please, use the words as they were meant to be used. And just say no to drugs.

Ohh, Hucky! **Laugh Track**

I figured I'd continue the Huckabee bashing, since he's the only one of the candidates I actually hate.

Huckabee wanted to isolate AIDS patients (And apparently homos) (Via The AP & Yahoo)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Are You Kidding?

I just read a short article about Mike Huckabee, otherwise known as The Huckster, bristling at questions about his beliefs. I'm sorry, but when there's such ongoing drama on a nationwide level about creationism and evolution, and you raise your hand to declare your disbelief in evolution at a presidential debate, you're either lying or are just plain dumb to think that's not going to end up being the focus of interviewer questions on a greater than infrequent basis.

Also, his assertion that it doesn't matter is insane. Of course it matters. If a person is as dogmatic, irrational, and apparently stupid as to believe in creationism, THEY SHOULD NOT BE LEADING THE FREAKING COUNTRY. I guess it doesn't matter. Huckabee might as well have an image of a flying pig on his campaign pins.

Huckabee bristles at creationism query

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Blade Runner Was Pretty Good, Though.

I was just watching Minority Report. Well, I should say I was just watching a preview for Minority Report on Starz or something. Two things come to mind about the movie, aside from the insipid final voice-over, being the cool, future-y Lexus he drives and the drug Neuroin to which he, and apparently everyone in the world, is addicted. I've been doing a lot of study about the drug war in America, and the thoughts came bubbling up in full force with a recent, long-ass article in Rolling Stone, How American Lost the War on Drugs.

The Lexus came to mind after hearing about the fall of the Moller Skycar, which got me thinking about cars of the future. And then the recent revealing of the Lamborghini Reventon and the new Nissan Skyline GT-R got me thinking about car design, and how the Lexus was a big point in the behind-the-scenes stuff since they consulted with futurists and car designers as they tried to figure out how cars would look then by tracing car design trajectories. Now, five years into the future, the car looks almost quaint.

But before that, back to the drugs. It's supposed to be the year 2054 and drugs are a major problem. At the time, that prospect was rather depressing for me. I felt that we'd surely wise up by the year 20-friggin-54 and legalize drugs. It looks like we're on that trajectory, thankfully, and that within the next decade, drugs could very well be widely legalized. Marijuana especially. Laws against a friggin' weed are stupid almost beyond description. I really recommend that anyone who disagrees with me to read the Rolling Stone article. Then, if you still disagree with me, you should take a long walk off a short... Actually, if you still disagree, I ask that you really, really think about WHY you disagree.

And back to the cars, that poor Lexus. It looks so silly, now. At least it looks much better than the "futuristic" cars from sci-fi movies in the 80's. Still, I think it shows how futile futurism is, since the acceleration of technology itself accelerates. I also think the greatest leap of futurism in the movie, the personal transit system that goes from building to building, is a hell of a lot farther off than 48 years. I actually think the technology to "record" someone's brain a la The Sixth Day is closer.

Still, I stand in awe of the speed at which we reach the "future." Even affordable cars like the new Mazda 6 looked like CARS OF THE FUTURE not too long ago. And boy howdy have we come a long way in the world of robotics. We already have small robots cleaning our floors, one that cleans your windows is apparently not too far off, and fully articulated models that look like tiny Asimos promise a future of humanoid robots doing things like building houses at high speeds 24/7 for a fraction of the cost of current building. It keeps reminding me that the future really isn't coming, it's here, and as time goes on it just keeps getting here faster and faster.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Long Live ACTUAL Freedom!

Congratulations to the Venezuelan opposition. Congratulations to seeing through what amounted to nationwide bribes to the poor by Chavez in an attempt to seize power. Congratulations to them for showing us what real belief in freedom is.

Opposition Cheers Defeat of Chávez Plan in Venezuela

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Business as Usual.

After reading a few papers on the ongoing debates, and notably how Hillary Clinton has gone from "sure-thing" to "maybe-not," I kept thinking about statements that I've said previously. Namely, I do not think politics is very important. In fact, I think politics is basically a game that the masses play to keep themselves entertained while truly great people do thing behind the scenes.

Stay with me here, try and name five grate politicians. Hell, name ONE great politician from the last one hundred years. Name a politicians who changed things. Name a politician who made things much better. Name a politician who changed the way the world works. You can't say Teddy, he was over 100 years ago. FDR doesn't count because he didn't change the world, he more or less fixed a bunch of problems caused by OTHER politicians. If you even think about saying Reagan I'll slap you.

Now try and name five great scientists. Architects. Artists. Writers. People who have a constant, lasting impact on the way we live our lives. You could fill volumes with these great men and women. I have said many times that I consider politics to have a single, critical role. Politics exists as a steward of freedom. Nothing more. I know, I know. I sound like some jack-off libertarian.

Well, alright, I sorta' am. Still, never has great change, when attempted through politics, succeeded. It always starts, is advanced, or finishes with great private people. Politics exists to make sure the masses don't get in the way of these advances because the masses are stupid. If the masses had their way, we'd likely still be burning witches and whatnot. The masses are usually terrified of great advancement and would try to suppress freedom to make sure they don't happen.

Government and politics should be singularly concerned with freedom and actions that have an impact on it. It should openly recognize its own unimportance and use that as a springboard for discussion on the things of great importance that can be facilitated with good politics. Sadly, as I mentioned, politics serves the double purpose of giving the masses something to do and talk about. Or I should say, about which to talk. And of course, this means any politician who actually tries and express his action's unimportance will never get elected.

I feel that I haven't made my case enough, so look at recent history and the things which are discussed in politics. Discussed with great fervor I might add. They are, semantically, identical to events that happened twenty, thirty, seventy years ago. It's the same damned words being said by different people. Politics NEVER learns from the past and is doomed to forever repeat it; drug war anyone?! The History Channel ran an interesting series of between-breaks shorts that recited a quote that sounded as though it was being said by someone today, and revealed after a few seconds that it had been said by someone some absurd length of time ago. It was then I realized that the Iraq War is Vietnam all over again, when it became impossible to differentiate the quotes. Same nonsense, over, and over, and over.

I mentioned that politics should only ever concentrate on freedom, and I think that's true. In an ideal world, or I should say a progressive world, that could be different. For example, nationalized health care. Politics should concern itself EXCLUSIVELY with the ways freedom is affected by such a system. For example, we lose the freedom to spend the money that would go to increased taxes, but we GAIN the freedom of never having to worry if we could afford a doctor or not. The job of politics is not to worry about the system, since that is scientific. Something like that could be reduced to cold, hard numbers and statistics. Systems are mechanical, freedom is not. It's biological and flexible. It can not be reduced to numbers. Would the freedom of universal health care trump the loss of the freedom to spend our money?

That is a political question. Politics should answer that question and, after deciding one way or the other, turn the entire affair over to the Mentats, or something, and have a solution. Politics should perfectly define the problem and not try to come up with a solution. Since it is easy to grind out mathematical answers to perfectly defined problems. Our forefathers obsession with freedom was well-founded. It's an obsession that's dearly needed today.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Man, That Ground is Sure Coming Up Fast.

That crashing sound you hear is the dreams of geeks and futurists the world over. Moller International, well known for saying the flying car is only a couple of years away for about twenty years, has announced that is has doubt it can continue its operations after blowing through about $40 million and accruing a boatload of debt. Seeing as they were the only operation of any gravitas actually working on a flying car, it seems that the idea is finally dead.

I've been known to rant about how the flying car is never going to happen. I don't consider this a victory, though. I wanted Moller to actually finish his product and THEN fail. This provides me with no satisfaction. I look forward to the next entrant into this competitive market, so I can sit on the sidelines and make fun of them.

Moller Expresses "Substantial Doubt" About Flying Car Future (Via

Thursday, November 01, 2007


After my long break from blogging on both of my blogs, my interest in coming back was sparked by a conversation I had about genius. I'll be the first to admit it. I once considered myself a genius. I'm arrogant. I know it. Still, my thoughts on this subject were sparked by an overview of Aristotle's work. An example that came up in, ummm, I can't remember. I think the final conclusion was in Nichomachian Ethics, but its roots extend back into his discussions on potentiality and actuality.

Basically, Aristotle says, virtues are not a state but an actualization. A man is not virtuous if he does not actualize that virtue into an action. And a man who is more virtuous than another man, but never acts upon those virtues whereas the other man does, is not, in fact, more virtuous. Aristotle uses the example of an Olympian. There may be a man or woman in the audience who is stronger/faster/quicker than the competing Olympians, but it doesn't matter. They do not deserve praise since they are not actualizing their potential.

This idea of actualization of a potential had a big impact on me. He's saying that there is no such thing as a virtuous person, only virtuous actions. And a person is only as virtuous as their actions. I took this and applied it to genius, and then the concept exploded.

I had never given too much thought to genius outside of a simmering disgust for IQ tests. But, I thought, what is genius? Is it something someone is? Kant didn't think so, for in his "Judgments About the Beautiful", he says that "fine arts must necessarily be regarded as arts of genius", Then saying that genius is "a talent" for doing something that can't be explained rationally and methodically. Still, Kant stresses the talent, regardless from whence it came, as the key to genius.

But, I ask, how do we know who is a genius? I don't think that talent is good enough to explain genius since talent cannot be held, touched, analyzed, or even extrapolated. We only ever know that someone is a genius when they actually get up and do something. And many is the time when calling them a genius is pointless, since people who can barely feed themselves can produce paintings or music of wonderful beauty. Most people who have thought about genius have at least separated the person from the genius, saying that people are not "geniuses" per se, instead they have a skill or talent which is genius. I think this still doesn't go far enough in the separation.

As Aristotle said, it doesn't matter if a person is faster than an Olympian, since they aren't competing. The Olympian is great because he/she is actualizing his/her potential. As such, it isn't the person who is great, it's the actualization. Genius is only as good as what it does. Doing well on an IQ test proves exactly diddly since you haven't actually done anything worth praise aside from some pitiful attempt to prove that you could do something worth praise if you cared enough to. (I'm looking at you, you Mensa shit heads.)

A great painting isn't a work of genius, it IS genius. A great composition, building, or machine. All genius. I don't think genius exists in people at all. As countless mentally retarded people have proven, genius can flow from any fountain. No person has any greater access to genius than another. Be it divine afflatus or the result of dedicated analysis, many people that no sane person would call a genius nevertheless produce genius.

I guess what I'm getting at is that genius is not a talent, since that implies something more than a flash of inspiration, which can certainly be genius. I don't think it has anything to do with the person outside of what they produce. Genius is an actualization. A product. IQ tests and any other discussion of genius outside of what it does is abstract nonsense that goes nowhere.

Complete Works of Aristotle (Via Internet Classics Archive)

Friday, October 05, 2007

At Least You Don't Have to Bring an Apple

I'm sure many of you remember a number of years back when MIT announced Open Course Ware. It was MIT's effort to get their education to the masses. I thought it showed a great belief in the value of education outside of what the degree can earn you in an economic sense, which is how I feel most Ivy League schools are run.

I also think that one of the best uses for new internet technologies aside from entertainment is education. Education is one of the purest forms of information, which is basically what the internet is. Video, audio, text, and interactive Flash applications open up near-limitless possibilities for those who think that the value of education is spreading it outside the walls of academia. MIT isn't alone.

U-Cal Berkley has recently begun putting videos of its lectures on YouTube and offering them as Podcasts. It's not as robust as MIT's offerings yet, but give them time. They currently have 8 courses available online, compared with MIT's 1700+. They're also having the site do double-duty as open education and, smartly, as advertising for the campus. I hope more schools follow this lead.

University of California Berkely YouTube campus (Via YouTube)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Freedom for Myanmar

As the rise of dissent continues in Myanmar, I would like to express my hope that the military does not again repress these calls for freedom with violence. I value nothing more intently than freedom and I deeply feel for those who don't have it. I really, truly hope this leads to change in the poor little country.

Three killed as Myanmar troops battle protests (Via Reuters)

Gotta' Love MIT

Them geeks never fail to impress.

Finish the Degree

Monday, August 27, 2007

Justified! Part Deux.

A few days back, or maybe a few weeks. I lose track these days... weeks. I wrote about justification for a belief. In recap, there are two positions, the coherentist and the foundationalist.

A coherentist thinks that beliefs are true/justified if they fit coherently with a larger network of beliefs. I think that 'coherently' exclusively means without contradiction. I believe A because it does not contradict beliefs B, C, D, ad infinitum. Foundationalists think that a belief is true/justified if it based on other true/justified beliefs. I believe A because of B. Foundationalism has the problem of the infinite regress, where you just go on into eternity basing beliefs on others. So they think there must be a foundation that is a belief which is self-evidently true. The only one of these which has ever been found is "I think, therefore I am."

For many, myself included, coherentism seemed to be winning since modern coherentism dropped truth altogether and focused on justification. It doesn't matter what is actually true, only what we are justified in believing. Foundationalists are less happy with separating justification and truth, since they think that real justification can only ever come from truth.

But then came along meta-beliefs. Namely, a belief about a belief. This type of conjecture spans a number of areas, but for today's subject, we'll focus on beliefs about beliefs and not beliefs inferentially inherent to other beliefs.

The argument basically goes, if I believe that a system of my beliefs is coherent, and I am justified in believing them, is my belief in the very coherence of my belief system included in that system? And if it is, and it seems it must be, since a coherentist assumes the totality of all beliefs, isn't supreme confidence in my beliefs about my beliefs a foundationalist stance? MANY have been swayed.

I have not. I think that this argument is correct if some underlying assumptions are accepted, but I do not think one of those assumptions is anywhere near correct. I think that to assume a belief about my other beliefs as separate is foolish. My beliefs are not coherent because I believe them to be, they are coherent because they are. This argument recreates, to a degree, the homunculous, which is a fallacy. We cannot separate ourselves from our beliefs. We ARE our beliefs. I do not hold beliefs about my beliefs, I hold beliefs about my memories of beliefs, which are fallable since they are memory. I only ever hold beliefs at a given moment, which are part of me. I cannot separate myself from them.

Funny enough, many foundationalists have also not been swayed, since they are in search of truth, and even if we assume my metabeliefs to be evidently true, that says nothing of my beliefs actually being true, or my perceptions. We are just as fallable as we were in the beginning. We just know that we know, which is strangely similar to thinking, therefore I aming.

Even if you don't accept that, there are two other major problems which are incontrovertible. One of them involves those ever-pesky infinite regresses..

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Law & Order.

One of the coolest areas of philosophy is the philosophy of law, aka, jurisprudence. It's so damned interesting because it's one of the few areas of philosophy that has real-world applications. Metaphysics is quickly being absorbed into traditional physics (Just look at the increasing attention to parallel universes and Boltzmann Brains), and epistemology is mental masturbation at its best.

Since law is so abstract itself, philosophy applies easily as a form of real analysis. When a lawyer analyzes the law, it's usually on a research basis. They have a situation, they look up a statute, and apply it. But this could be considered high-level law. This is the final, application stage. The creation of the laws goes one step lower, then the concept behind those laws, and finally what a law actually is. Philosophy of law pretty much ignores the first two and pays almost exclusive attention to the lowest two.

The fact that pure thought is so tantalizingly close to application makes law a real wonderland for a philosopher. It takes into account what laws are, what humans are, what a mind is, and almost every other aspect of deep, pot-induced thought that you can think of. It's different from other areas of investigation because they are bound by the laws of physics (pun not intended). I can think about, and apply law and be done with it. But if I think about a building, then I better build it. And that's the tough part. Thought is far removed from application. Law's nature makes it interesting, accessible, and yet totally inaccessible at the same time since trying to determine what it is has proven vexing.

For example, you, try and define what a law is. Is it a rule? What's a rule? Is it a dictate of action accepted by the population? Does that mean that those who don't follow the law aren't bound by it? Criminals don't recognize the authority of law, they recognize the authority of large men with guns and night sticks. Yet, the law applies to them. How are we to call a law a law, or something that is obeyed not because of fear of men with guns. We do it because we know it must be done. That sounds kind of like a law. But there are tons of laws I do only because of fear of cops. I don't drive at 120mph because the police will pull me over and, most likely, give me a very large ticket. So is that a law, or merely a command I am forced to follow?

It sounds a bit mamby pamby, I know. But these concepts must be nailed down. They are the very foundation of our society's makeup and if we ever expect our laws to be clean, transparent, and perfectly written so as to be truly just, the concepts which must be adequately defined.

America the Brave.

After writing my earlier post about America denying climate change, I seemingly by fate read a number of articles talking about how America is turning its mind around. I think that America deserves credit for casting aside propaganda and pre-set beliefs in barely a year to see different poll results. Bravo, I say. Bravo.

Growing Number of Americans See Warming as Leading Threat (Via Washington Post)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Why I Don't Belive in God.

Reason: Probability. Since God is faith, and faith is belief without evidence, that means any and all doctrines are equally probable. It is just as probable that a hamster in a top hat is ruling the universe as is God or Allah. Since any story is likely, that means there is an infinite number of possible stories, all equally likely.

One divided by infinity, well, is not actually a number. So the probability of God existing in any definable way is absolute zero. Obviously, this does not mean that A god does not exist, just one that, even if it does, we can never approach any reasonably close understanding of it. So why bother?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

My Geek Score is Well-Earned.

I just got a 33 on the "Web 2.0 or Star Wars Character" test. I swear to god I actually have a life.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Justified! Part II.

A few days back, or maybe a few weeks. I lose track these days... weeks. I wrote about justification for a belief. In recap, there are two positions, the coherentist and the foundationalist.

A coherentist thinks that beliefs are true/justified if they fit coherently with a larger network of beliefs. I think that 'coherently' exclusively means without contradiction. I believe A because it does not contradict beliefs B, C, D, ad infinitum. Foundationalists think that a belief is true/justified if it based on other true/justified beliefs. I believe A because of B. Foundationalism has the problem of the infinite regress, where you just go on into eternity basing beliefs on others. So they think there must be a foundation that is a belief which is self-evidently true. The only one of these which has ever been found is "I think, therefore I am."

For many, myself included, coherentism seemed to be winning since modern coherentism dropped truth altogether and focused on justification. It doesn't matter what is actually true, only what we are justified in believing. Foundationalists are less happy with separating justification and truth, since they think that real justification can only ever come from truth.

But then came along meta-beliefs. Namely, a belief about a belief. This type of conjecture spans a number of areas, but for today's subject, we'll focus on beliefs about beliefs and not beliefs inferentially inherent to other beliefs.

The argument basically goes, if I believe that a system of my beliefs is coherent, and I am justified in believing them, is my belief in the very coherence of my belief system included in that system? And if it is, and it seems it must be, since a coherentist assumes the totality of all beliefs, isn't supreme confidence in my beliefs about my beliefs a foundationalist stance? MANY have been swayed.

I have not. I think that this argument is correct if some underlying assumptions are accepted, but I do not think one of those assumptions is anywhere near correct. I think that to assume a belief about my other beliefs as separate is foolish. My beliefs are not coherent because I believe them to be, they are coherent because they are. This argument recreates, to a degree, the homunculous, which is a fallacy. We cannot separate ourselves from our beliefs. We ARE our beliefs. I do not hold beliefs about my beliefs, I hold beliefs about my memories of beliefs, which are fallable since they are memory. I only ever hold beliefs at a given moment, which are part of me. I cannot separate myself from them.

Even if you don't accept that, there are two other major problems which are incontrovertible. infinite regress.

Funny enough, many foundationalists have also not been swayed, since they are in search of truth, and even if we assume my metabeliefs to be evidently true, that says nothing of my beliefs actually being true, or my perceptions. We are just as fallable as we were in the beginning. We just know that we know, which is strangely similar to thinking, therefore I aming.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Time is Gone.

I just saw the trailer for the upcoming enviro-documentary by Leonardo DiCaprio, Eleventh Hour. So many of these things, especially Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, tacked on a message of hope amidst all the dire prognostications. I personally think this is silly.

As I think any environmental scientist will tell you, the delay in cause and effect on global scales, save things such as volcanic eruptions, is large. Decades. If we are seeing the effects of our behavior now, that means these are the effects of causes back in the 1980's.

Basically, this means we're hosed. There is nothing we can do to stop things. We need to start preparing for a very different world in a very short time. I still think all the feel-good environmental stuff is good and important, but it's no longer the most important. That time was 1980, and it's long since past.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

No, Seriously. I Didn't.

And furthermore! The most important aspect of all this is overlooked. We've fallen into this ridiculous position about arguing whether drugs are safe or dangerous or have "legitimate" uses. Using marijuana to get high IS a legitimate use.

The whole planet is somehow missing the point that it's not of if drugs are safe or not. I'm here to tell you right now, they're not. But that's just it. It's my right to ingest anything I damn well please, dangerous or not. That's the way freedom works.

Hell, I'm free to drink paint thinner. Alcoholics do that. There's no laws stopping me. And don't even get me started on the mind-blowing stupidity of arguing that sniffing glue is somehow illegal, and that Wal*Mart won't sell most of its model-making supplies to people under 18. Actually, Wal*Mart is on the forefront of retarded practices meant to satiate idiot parents seem to prefer to have major corporations parent for them. Wally World now requires ID for lithium batteries. Yep. Batteries.

Or something that nearly made me choke on my own spit, when I was asked for ID to prove I was 18 for NON-ALCOHOLIC BEER. If the drinking age is 21, and the beer is non-alcoholic, where the hell did they get 18?!

Now, If Wal*Mart wants to be stupid, that's fine. Free country. Free company. It's an entirely different ball of wax when the government gets involved in the same game with the same idiot people. IT'S MY RIGHT. I can do whatever I please. That is the only argument that needs to be discussed since anything else is beyond that point. The safety, the logic, the drug-war. Everything is rendered moot because regardless of it all, it's my right.

I also want to point out that I have never done any drugs in my entire life. I also think people who do drugs are morons and should be mocked and berated by those intelligent enough to not do drugs. But it is not my right to tell them they can't. It's one of the founding principles of this country, and one that seems sorely forgotten.

I was drunk once as anesthetic during a poorly planned self-performed surgery on an in-grown toenail. Yes. It was as disgusting as it sounds.

I Didn't Inhale.

In the pantheon of drugs, marijuana gets a lot of coverage because of its popularity. In fact, in some anti-drug circles, a drug's danger is directly related to how popular it is. So for them, mary-jane is the work of Satan.

Pro-drug people like to point out how harmless marijuana is. I always knew that was a load of crap. Any substance that alters your neurochemistry can be dangerous, no matter how little it does so. And anyone who has had a friend who's done a LOT of pot knows the full effects of "burn out."

I've also been loathe to talk about how marijuana is still dangerous because the last thing I want to do is give any kind of credence to the drug-hating, alarmist twits that usually make up the anti-drug movement. But I think it's time people started laying some scientific smack down on the drug-loving, hippy twits who make up the pro-drug movement.

Marijuana's New Reality: More Potent, More Risky (Via

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Devilution... Get It?! It's Like Evolution, but with DEVIL In It!

I don't know if I'm late to this party or not, but if you haven't seen this page, you really need to. I got to it from a article about some happy-go-lucky guy who's apparently threatening to kill some professors. Seriously, first having to actually teach college students and now this. Professors aren't paid enough.

Still No Warrant for Evolution Foe and Alleged Purveyor of Death Threats (Via
Evolution is Evil (Via wack-job central)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Evidence Just Piles Up.

Like some criminal case where someone is innocent until proven guilty, Americans seem to continue raving that human activity has nothing to do with global warming. Well, the evidence has swayed the bulk of the planet and it just continues to increase, further highlighting how stupid we, and our mind-boggling stupid President, are.

The Journal Nature recently published a study linking human behavior to rainfall. It's worth a look to anyone interested in the future, survival of the human race, and good, old Mother Earth.

Rainfall changes linked to human activity (Via

Saturday, May 19, 2007


I have noticed that I rarely post things of a philosophical nature. I'm always posting stuff about science. I think it's because science is very much in the public eye, recently, and philosophy is, well, not.

Well that all changes today! For my first trick, I'll discuss these happy little things called theories of justification and truth. The two theories are called foundationalism and coherentism. In a nuthshell, the theories both try to set out a system by which one can determine if the knowledge they have is either true or at least justified.

Both theories have been around for, well, as long as philosophy has been around. Which is, ummm, a really freaking long time. Foundationalism holds that all of our beliefs are based upon basic beliefs which need nothing else to explain why they are true. For example, I know A to be true because of B, and I know it true because of C, and I know it true because of D, and so on, and so forth. Foundationalists theorize that there must, eventually, be basic beliefs which are the "end" of the chain.

These basic beliefs must be self-justifying. They must be true/justified by them self and it must also be apparent. The most famous of these basic beliefs is Rene Descartes "I Think, Therefore I am." If you analyze that statement, it is undeniably true. It says nothing about you. You could be a giant brain in the Matrix. All it does is confirm that you exist, since you couldn't be thinking about this if you didn't exist. A perfect, basic belief. In foundationalism, truth and justification are intertwined. Since you have ultimate justification to believe something if it's true, finding something that is true is also finding justification.

The opposing view is that there are no basic beliefs, and that the chain of justification would actually never end. This isn't a very nice position to argue since it falls into what's called an infinite regress. Basically, that means your line of logic carries on ad infinitum, allowing no conclusion. In the world of philosophy, this is bad. We want conclusions. We yearn for them. We dream about them at night. So two options pop up, you can loop the logic chain around, e.g. A>B>C>D>A. That's circular logic and only works in religion. So our last choice is Coherentism.

Coherentism solves the infinite regress problem by linking beliefs together in a coherent web. A is not explained by B, instead, it is explained by a complex, interconnected system of beliefs B, C, D, E, F, and so on. As long as things "hang together" in the system of beliefs, one is justified in believing things to be true. Well, maybe not TRUE, since modern coherentism isn't too concerned with truth. Whereas Foundationalism has truth and justification linked, Coherentism splits up justification and truth into two, distinct pursuits, and all the better for it.

From this point on I shall be using my own views, as opposed to explanation. It may seem that foundationalism has something going for it, considering how famous Descartes little catch-phrase as become. Unfortunately for the foundationalists, that's the only basic belief they've found, thus far. Going on four hundred years later, you'd think they would have found something else.

Coherentism has taken on a view very similar to that of mathematical positivism. In it, we can never "know" what reality actually is, we can only develop theories that best explain the empirical data we have. This makes a lot of sense to me since it also jives with theories of cognitive psychology stating that we never "know" anything. We only know what our senses allow us to know, and that is not reality. Thus, truth is irrelevant. Since no matter what we think truth is, we could be a brain in the Matrix, and that truth is an illusion. As such, arguments dealing with the coherence theory of truth will be ignored, since I think truth can never be obtained, and trying to obtain it through coherence is, by its very nature, contradictory.

This modern coherentism has answered, I feel, almost all of its detractors sufficiently. Classic arguments are usually truth-centered, and do not involve justification. Such as, Bill can have a system of beliefs, "The sun is made from yogurt, grass is purple, and all dogs have eight legs." In coherentist theory, this is coherent and Bill is justified in believing all of those beliefs. They are obviously false, but that is no argument at all. It is false and incoherent in OUR system of beliefs, not Bill's. This is known as the isolation objection, and I think it's without merit. Bill is fully justified in his beliefs, since he only has three and none of them contradict.

How the system of beliefs "hangs" together has also been a point of some contention. I again see no problem. The system of belief hangs together based on contradiction. We are justified in believing something until another belief enters our system that either directly contradicts or implies a contradiction with other beliefs. If one contradictory belief coheres with more of the system than the other, it is taken as justified and the other belief is discarded or analyzed as unjustified. If both beliefs cohere equally well, we are at a dilemma, which requires more beliefs to enter the system to solve the problem.

Earlier, I mentioned that coherentism cannot be used to determine truth, and that's pretty accurate. The "Matrix" problem, once known as the "brain in a vat" problem before Neo came along, looms like a cloud over coherentism. This is known as skepticism. Don't confuse this with scientific skepticism, which simply calls for evidence to back up statements. Philosophical skepticism is, in a nutshell, the argument that statement "A" may not be true because we are actually in the Matrix. It was in an effort to escape this philosophical dead-end that Descartes formulated "I think, therefore I am." He was a foundationalist, but also a rationalist. He believed that ultimate truths could only be achieved through rational thought, and that no matter how deep a deception (The Matrix) goes, we can think our way out of it to attain truth.

Descartes was also an espouser of innate ideas, also known as a priori knowledge. It was through this that he believed that we could gain knowledge of truth. For example, he believed that God was innate to every human being. We are born with a readiness to know God. This innate knowledge is the basic tool we must use to escape skepticism. He would later use this to formulate one of the most universally derided statements of modern philosophy, otherwise known as the "Light of Nature" argument, since his own skeptical arguments ripped it apart. He was most likely doing this since he was desperate to re-prove the existence of God to himself.

Descartes failed to find truth, and he eventually fell into an argument that was eerily empiricist. He relied on what he saw, not what he deduced, which psychology, physics, and even cheap magic tricks show us, is totally unreliable. I say there is no truth, only coherent beliefs.

But, alas, these are rather old arguments. There is a brave new world of foundationalists vs. coherentists, the world of meta-beliefs. I will continue that discussion next post. I will also discuss my own views on truth, and theories of justification within specific systems.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Year of Our Fucking Lord.

I can't stand the recent push to change the chronological system that we all know and love, namely B.C. and A.D., to something more P.C. and B.S.

It's a movement by a bunch of politically correct, self-righteous twits who seem to think that it's insulting to non-Christians to recognize dates as based on the A.D./B.C. system which stand for Anno Domini, or Year of the Lord, and Before Christ.

Yes, this is obviously referencing Christian ideology, but at this point, who cares?! The usage of A.D. and B.C. isn't some tacit recognition of the superiority of the Christian faith. It's absurd to think it is. And if you do think it is, I have almost no doubt that you're an idiot since only an idiot would bother to be insulted by such a cataclysmically inconsequential subject. It's like being insulted because the metric system of measurement is based on the Latin language, and that we should make one based on ALL languages because those poor Chinese scientists who must use the system are tacitly recognizing the superiority of the Latin language.

More over, I would be far more likely to be insulted by the idea that simply playing the name game would be nearly enough to assuage any insult I might feel. It's semantics! A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet. It doesn't matter what we freaking call the years, they're the same thing. 100 A.D. is the exact same thing as 100 C.E.

Are you going to try and tell me that the C.E. (Common Era) system of naming isn't based at ALL on Christian history? That the silly gits who came up with the system did so completely on their own and just, coincidently, started their system on the exact same year as the Christian system? It's absurd.

The origins of the system are meaningless. No one cares and a lot of people don't even know. It's arbitrary, just as the change to the ridiculous and vaguely insulting idea of B.C.E and C.E. promulgated by retarded P.C. advocates is arbitrary. I've been using B.C. and A.D. my whole life. I'm a violent, vitriolic atheist. And yet, I don't care. If someone as anti-religion as me doesn't care, no one should. I shall continue to use A.D. and B.C. for the rest of my life.

Long live the Lord.

Monday, March 19, 2007


One of the things I hate about philosophy is that it takes forever to write nothing.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Mix It Up.

I've been pretty good, I'd say, in staying focused on my blog in the few months it's been alive. I've avoided falling into the traps of so many bloggers who start a blog about a particular subject and immediately begin writing about other things. I would like to point out that this is INSANELY difficult for me because I love a variety of other things. I just wanted to vocalize this. Not sure why. I think I'm feeling self-righteous. Go me!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I, Doofus.

I never brought it up in my previous post about the Discovery Channel show 2057, primarily because it wasn't mentioned all that much in the show itself, the prospect of robots. Now, considering how fantabulously cool robots are, the fact that robots were barely mentioned, I think, betrays how non-viable robots are as a real aspect to our near future.

Most of our visions of near-future robots were created decades ago, but great sci-fi writers. What's funny is that their near-future musings placed us IN the near-future. We are in the age of robots, as futurists so many moons ago so thought. Where are the butler-bots, Rosies, and Datas? They're not here, that's where. The best we have is a robotic vacuum cleaner that doesn't do a very good job.

As far as futurists go, the age of robots doing everything under the sun is always just a few years away. The pinnacle of our achievement is still Asimo, who is now seven years old, and his abilities are extremely limited and costs nigh on a million dollars to make. Would you pay a million dollars for a robot with limited abilities or three years for a maid/butler with vast, adaptive abilities?

Robots are not viable today and will not be viable for a long time coming. For the far-foreseeable future, robots will be very expensive, which means that they will be the exclusive domain of people with money, who will be much better served with human servants. Think the prices will come down and allow the working stiffs who could actually use the help to buy robots? Think again.

Crap in today's economy is cheap. It's only getting cheaper, too. Unfortunately, this doesn't apply to mechanics. Cars are getting more expensive, not less. Things like computer printers, lawn mowers, and bicycles all cost the same as they did years ago or more. It's because mechanical products cost a fixed amount to make. You can make manufacture more efficient, you can reduce labor costs, and you can find cheaper materials, but you can only go so far. Our crap is getting so hideously cheap because of a move towards inexpensive, easy-to-make, solid-state devices. This only applies to robots to a degree. What we can easily make cheap in robots has been cheap for a decade; the computer parts. The other parts, the motors, gears, servos, sensors, and the like, are expensive now, they were expensive ten years ago, and they'll be expensive ten years in the future.

Robots will not be cheap for a very, very long time. By 2057, they may only cost multiple thousands (In today's money), but for what end? Will people actually decide that they should get a loan to buy a robot to help them around the house so they can work more to afford the robot? I seriously doubt it. I can imagine a market of lazy people with few financial obligations buying a cleaning robot. Or perhaps robot janitors who can clean 24/7 for corporations who have run out of Mexicans. These are very speculative ideas about small markets. Regardless, the idea of a future full of robots doing things is bunk. It was bunk with Asimov, and it's bunk with Asimo.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Well, What About an A-Bomb?

I know that in certain movies, you can not invade them with certain systems of logic if they function on other, distinct systems of logic. For example, a movie about magic (or majiiiqcck as new-agers say) can not have science brought into it or it all breaks down.

Unfortunately, movies about magic are frequently brought together with modern times. Harry Potter is a good example. Yeah, yeah. All the wizards at Hogwarts are very powerful, but, could they stop an A-bomb? Or, again, any one of the 93,476 modern-day vampire movies where vampires are loaded with bullets and knives and whatnot but keep coming. Well, what about an A-bomb? Like the Grand Poobah vampire in John Carpenter's Vampires, what would have happened if he got nailed with Fat Man.

I'm sorry, but this is actually a knock against movies, for me. If the movie is set in modern times it must be subject to the rules of modern times. Like the bus that picks up Harry Potter in the third book/movie. It frantically dodges people on the road as it drives around at warp 5, and it's explained that people don't see because they choose not to see. Well, yeah, but the bus is still physically there, in some way. So whether they can see it or not they could still walk into it. And what about the tracks that carry the train? Do people just not notice them?

My favorites are still vampires, werewolves, and other such ergot-inspired delusions. I guess ol' B-Dogg Stoker didn't imagine A-bombs. What's more, he didn't need to. But now, if you're writing a movie about magic, vampires, or perhaps magical vampires, I beg you to ask the question, "what about an A-bomb?"

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

My God Man! Do You Sleep?!

Interestingly, Discovery Channel is pairing the "2057" series with another series, the first of which premiered tonight, called Futurecar. It's convenient since my previous post was about nothing BUT the cars. Lo and behold, Michio Kaku is in that too! This guy is everywhere!

In general, I was pretty happy with the show. There was no real fanciful prognostication going on. It was pretty well grounded in actual advances taking place in the world of cars. It didn't offer any commentary on those advances, which would have been a nice touch, but it was entertaining and informative enough.

And, sure enough, Moller and his Skycar tied up the end of the show. The show said, and I quote "[Moller] isn't a realist. He's a futurist." Ok. That's a good thing? A futurist who isn't a realist is an idiot. I could say that in 100 years we'll all have our legs removed and replaced with cybernetic Segways. That makes me a futurist. It also makes me about as far from a realist as you can get. You need to be both a realist and a futurist to make predictions with any weight at all. Without it, you're just blowing smoke out your ass.

It's a Message From the Future-ture-ture-ture!

How many of you saw the show "2057" on the Discovery Channel a few days ago? I knew it was going to be pretty tripe-y, but even I was surprised. I thought we had given up this silly, super-futuristic prognostication back in the days of the World's Fair.

I was blown away by how absurd it was. And also, is Michio Kaku in EVERYTHING nowadays? It seems a documentary can't be made without getting him involved. Does he have any time to teach? Does he have any time to EAT?

Ok, maybe my earlier sentiment needs to be tempered. It was a decent bit of sci-fi/educational stuff. Still, I think it would have been a much better show if the predictions had been less based on how cool the prediction looks with CGI effects and how feasible the prediction actually is.

On that note, I would like to bitch and moan about that dude and his flying car. It sounds like a children's book. A Boy and His Dog, a Man and His Flying Car. Ahhhh. Regardless, I am here to tell people now, and for a very long time, WE WILL NOT HAVE FLYING CARS. Much like Michio Kaku, I see that blasted flying car in every damn documentary about cars or the future I see.

They always hold it up as though it's some kind of proof that we will, indeed, be buzzing around in the stratosphere in fifty years. No. We won't. That guy has been hawking that contraption for years and it's just as unfeasible now as it was when he first got the idea.

Let's look at it and see why. First, the argument that there's TONS of sky up there, and our traffic would never get bad enough to cause air traffic jams is stupid. Yeah. There's a boatload of sky up there, assuming even distribution over an area. But much like traffic now, people will all be going to the same place.

Imagine taking LA's clusterfucked highways and just putting them in the air. Yes, the jam wouldn't extend out as far, but the jam at the actual point of arrival, namely, the city center, would be one thousand times worse. All the people taking off and landing would cause jams and accidents the likes of which we've never seen.

And speaking of accidents, there is one advantage to the flying car. It gets rid of a statistic. We would no longer need to distinguish between fatal and non-fatal accidents. All accidents would be fatal. Much like airplanes, there's really no middle ground. You're either perfect or dead.

And yes, every now and then, airplanes enter a zone that is less-than-perfect, not-quite-dead. But, and this is a big but, they survive because of the immense skill of all involved. Planes that should have gone down land because the pilot is great, forged by thousands of hours and flight and training time.

The average, every-day driver has none of those things and there is no way that we could institute a mass, training program for flying car pilots. Just think about the idiots you meet on your morning commute. Would you actually want those people driving /flying a 3,000 pound bullet at 200mph? It's a recipe for disaster.

Now think about the way people manage their cars. The only reason we don't have planes dropping like flies is because of intense care and maintenance. Large planes are overhauled every set number of miles, and small planes are usually owned by enthusiasts who love to work on their ride. And even then, what kind of plane do you usually read about crashing? The small planes. We have a few small planes go down every year. Multiple that by one million and you begin to grasp the problem.

Imagine all of the broken down cars you see on the side of road. If those had been planes everyone would be dead. And unlike jets or small planes, flying cars would spend almost ALL their time over heavily populated areas like cities. So when a flying car "breaks down" and then "crashes down," it turns into a bomb. Cars are great precisely because they're so forgiving.

There aren't just two states, fine and dead, in a car. Car's can run safely with low maintenance. Look at all the junkers putting down the road. Those are not cars you would want in the air. You can make emergency stops in a car. If you get into an accident, you simply get out and assess the damage. No, 99% of people need that middle ground. It's a buffer between them and dead. The extreme care required for a true flying car is just not feasible. For now, and long time coming, we're stuck on the ground.

Now, that isn't to say we won't have low-level flying mass transit. I think that's very feasible. All of the problems mentioned are gone. A flying bus would have a highly trained pilot, extreme maintenance, and would be forced to fly over specific routes as to prevent mid-air accidents. In fact, a flying bus would be a great idea. Why doesn't that guy get on it?!

On a note about the Skycar specifically and not just a hypothetical flying car, it's a death trap. We have a hard time keeping our cars one engine running. The Skycar has multiple engines, ALL of which must run perfectly to keep the car in the air. Even better, they're rotary engines. Yep. The same rotary engines in Mazdas (Well, not the exact same engine). And yep, the same Mazda engines that have a tendency to blow up under heavy load. Moller's website says

"Wankel-type rotary engines in general are very reliable as a result of their simplicity. The number of moving parts in a Moller rotary engine (dual-rotor) is approximately seven percent of those in a four-cylinder piston engine."

That is a blazing simplification. Go down to the local garage and ask them about the Mazda RX-7's reliability. They'll laugh.

And also, the Skycar, but, as any flying car would probably be, is a Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft. Think about that. In the military, what kind of aircraft goes (Blackhawk) down all the time? And in airplanes, which extant airplane has the worst safety record in the military? Correct! The Harrier. The only plane with VTOL capabilities (well, it and that absurd looking Osprey).