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.