Philosophical Multicore

Sometimes controversial, sometimes fallacious, sometimes thought-provoking, and always fun.

Archive for May, 2009


Posted by Michael Dickens on May 31, 2009

That: a type of creature

I heard that that That (that That that that That (that That that that That mentioned earlier) that that That was referring to) grew four inches yesterday.

That’s right. Thirteen “that”s in a row. Beat that.

Actually, it’s not that hard to beat. A simple formula can be applied to create an unlimited number of “that”s in a row. You can probably derive it from my big sentence.

Posted in Language | Leave a Comment »

There are no stupid questions.

Posted by Michael Dickens on May 31, 2009

Some people respond by saying that yes, there are stupid questions (what a clever response that is!). But in fact, there are no stupid questions. Let’s do a little scenario.

A boy is sitting in class while his teacher is talking about the mating habits of frogs. The boy’s mind is wandering, so he doesn’t know what is going on in the class. He asks, “Teacher, what are the mating habits of frogs?”

Was that a stupid question? Some would say yes. I say no. He was merely trying to increase his knowledge. Not paying attention, now that was stupid. But asking a question that he should have known the answer to was a good way for him to acquire the knowledge that he missed.

Posted in Rationality | 3 Comments »

RE: Cheney Shows the Way

Posted by Michael Dickens on May 27, 2009

Dick Cheney is giving the Republican Party a demonstration of how to fight a popular president. Stake out defensible high ground, do not surrender an inch, then go onto the attack.

Isn’t that a wonderful beginning?

The ground on which Cheney has chosen to stand is the most defensible the Republicans have: homeland security. In seven-and-a-half years after 9-11, not one terrorist attack struck our country.

Is that so? What about these? (quoted from Wikipedia)

“A small explosive device exploded out front of a Starbucks in New York City destroying a bench it had been placed on.”

“An improvised explosive device went off inside a federal prison in California during a search Saturday, according to federal authorities.”

“Woodburn police Capt. Tom Tennant, and Oregon State Police bomb technician Bill Hakim were killed, and Woodburn Police Chief Scott Russell was critically injured after a bomb exploded at the West Coast branch of Wells Fargo in Woodburn.”

“An explosion at a personal injury law firm in downtown Dalton, Ga., injured four people, including at least one lawyer, and resulted in the death of the apparent bomber in what a federal law enforcement spokesman described as a suicide attack.”

“Knoxville Unitarian Universalist church shooting, Jim David Adkisson kills 2 people and injures 7 in Knoxville, Tennessee.”

And that’s just since 2008. There were many more in the six preceding years. So great job on your research there, Human Events. It took me, what, two minutes to find five terrorist attacks?

And, unlike Obama’s position, Cheney’s is 100 percent reality based. He was there. He lived through this. He made the decisions to use the harsher techniques on the worst of the enemy who could yield the greatest intelligence to save American lives.

With all due respect (i.e. none), what the hell are you talking about? What does that even mean? It sounds like typical baseless propaganda.

“The interrogations were used on hardened terrorists after other efforts failed. They were legal, essential, justified, successful and the right thing to do.” And they “prevented the violent deaths of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of innocent people.”

Who are you quoting? Oh yeah, and I really doubt that hundreds of thousands of innocent people would have died from terrorist attacks. Oh, but you know what does cause a lot of deaths? War. For example, the Iraq War. Am I implying something? Of course not! The Iraq War was necessary to preserve the freedoms that we Americans hold dear. All those people who died during the Iraq War weren’t innocent. They . . . um . . . deserved to die. Yeah, that’s it. They were sinners. Right.

[Cheney] charged The New York Times with virtual treason in exposing the program to intercept calls from al-Qaida and mocked its Pulitzer Prize.

So Cheney mocked the Pulitzer Prize, apparently as a tactic to draw attention away from the fact that he was breaking the Fourth Amendment. I hardly see the relevance. I must be missing something, since I am so foolish when compared with Cheney the Wise.

He charged Obama with endangering national security by “triangulating,” adopting a policy designed less to secure America than to unite and appease his political coalition.

Good for him. And I care because . . . ?

“There is never a good time to compromise when the lives and safety of the American people are in the balance.”

Safety? Ha! “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” -Benjamin Franklin

That Cheney is winning seems undeniable.

Oh, so it’s a contest now.

Not only has his approval rating risen to 37 percent, probably higher on national security, Obama’s coalition is cracking apart.

Not only is 37% still embarrassingly low, but you do not seem to understand how to speak in a coherent manner.

Harry Reid and a Democratic Senate voted 90 to 6 to humiliate Obama

That doesn’t seem very nice. We shouldn’t be humiliating each other, we should be working together!

Cheney is winning because he has been there

He has most certainly not been there. When we say “there” we’re talking about my grandma’s house, right?

Cheney deals with the concrete.

And Obama deals with the asphalt. So what?

We remember that scene

We do? Which scene? Who am I? RAWR!!

The former vice president with the crocodile grin has just shown the way.

What kind of cruddy last line was that? My last line is better.

In conclusion, we must remember the heroes of America; we follow not just our leaders, our soldiers, but the common man; when we become independent of Cheney’s tyranny, when we truly learn to lead, then we will at last be liberated.

Posted in Human Events, Politics | 1 Comment »

Why don't I commit murder?

Posted by Michael Dickens on May 27, 2009

This question was brought up by the brilliant cdk007.

Why do I not commit murder? I’m a godless heathen, so what’s stopping me?

1. The law. I’d rather not go to jail. But really, I could probably get away with murder if I really wanted to.
2. Emotional difficulty. I’m not sure I would have the willpower to murder someone. Not killing people is hard-wired into my brain.
3. My conscience. I would feel very guilty if I killed someone. This guilt probably evolved due to humans being social creatures.*
4. I live with people. When I kill people, it disrupts my connection to society. I rely on society for food, shelter, warmth, and the great majority of life’s pleasures. If I start killing people, I will be disconnected from society. Who wants to be with a murderer?

*I could talk more about morality and evolution, but cdk007 is going to release a video on that topic soon, and he will probably say it better than me.

Why don’t YOU commit murder?

Posted in Ethics | 1 Comment »

Stupid Physics Problem

Posted by Michael Dickens on May 22, 2009

(Yes, that’s right. A physics problem is categorized under “morality”. It’ll make sense when you’ve read the whole post.)

I recently heard an anecdote about the following problem, given by a supposedly intelligent college professor.

If you are driving at 25 mph and see a car approaching you 25 mph, is it better to have a head-on collision or to swerve and hit the brick wall on the side of the road?

Why exactly is this a physics problem? “Better” is not defined under the laws of physics. The laws of physics do not care what you crash into. For all that the laws of physics care, you could jump out of your car and do a little jig. So how can we possibly determine what is “better”?

First we have to establish the meaning of “better”. Are we talking about the result that is the least harmful for both people, or just for me? Let’s assume it is just for me. Now we have to determine the potential force felt on impact with a car going at 25 mph. When the cars hit each other, each person will feel a certain amount of force. But this force is reduced because the car has crumple zones, designed to take out the impact. A brick wall has no crumple zones. Your car will still crumple when you hit the brick wall, but you’ll be hitting it on the side: are side crumple zones really as effective as front crumple zones? We don’t know. So we have no way of answering this question.

But how do we even know what “better” means? Do I have to get inside the mind of the author of the question, or is there some objective definition of “better”? Maybe “better” means “causes the least harm to the brick wall”. Maybe “better” means “least harmful for the insurance companies”. How can we know?

Posted in Ethics, Rationality | 1 Comment »

Creationism in Real Life

Posted by Michael Dickens on May 22, 2009

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” -Voltaire

I spend a good deal of time dissecting quotes from creationists. I frequently disagree with creationists, but I have no problem with creationists as people. People have the right to believe whatever they want, even if I think it’s false.

Posted in Creationism, Science | Leave a Comment »

Ann Coulter is a Frothing Maniac

Posted by Michael Dickens on May 22, 2009

You may have asked yourself before, is it possible for a news person to be more idiotic than Bill O’Reilly? And the answer is yes, as Ann Coulter has proven.

“If you’re looking forward to getting under the skin of self-styled liberal “intellectuals” with me each week, you’ve got to check out my new blockbuster, GUILTY. Boy, wait until you see just how much rain I can pour onto Obama’s party!”
As though I care about making Obama look bad. Even if I didn’t support him, why should I try to make him look bad? Yes, it is one thing to point out problems with someone’s policies in a civil manner. But I do not think that that is what Coulter will be doing.

“. . . B. Hussein Obama. . . ”
Coulter is clearly under the impression that because Obama shares a name with a supposed terrorist, they are somehow related. This only serves to prove her own stupidity. I can sort of understand wanting to make Obama look bad, but this does not serve that purpose. A better way to make Obama look bad would be to point out his failing economic policies, not make fun of his name. Further proof that Coulter is stuck in the first grade (remember all that name-calling back then?).

“[My periodical entitled] HUMAN EVENTS has helped bust the conspiracy of furious spin the liberals use to keep Americans misinformed. . . ”
Coulter seems to be generalizing. One, half of Americans are liberal, so half of Americans are supposedly misinforming themselves. Two, not all liberals are conspirators. In fact, very few of them are. And if they really were conspirators, does it really count as a conspiracy when half the country is in on it?

“[Subscribe and get] A FREE copy of GUILTY — a $27.95 value.”
Why is it not a $28 value, or a $30 value? It costs $27.95, but what about tax and possibly shipping? With tax, it should really be a $30.26 value. You could argue that tax isn’t part of its value, but it really is. The buyer has to pay tax on it, so that is part of its cost and therefore part of its value, since in this case value is defined by the cost under normal circumstances. If value were determined instead by, say, usefulness, its value would be $0. Okay, maybe $1 because of all that paper that I could write notes on.

“ – Headquarters of the Conservative Underground”
This is a good slogan if you’re trying to make conservatives sound like rebels. But I’ve got news for you: they’re not. Half of Americans are conservative. Conservatives are not an oppressed but more populous lower class, as Coulter seems to think. Nor are they a minority, striving to free themselves from the tyranny of the Liberal Nazi Socialist Insert-other-word-that-has-a-bad-connotation-here government.

And if it’s really an underground movement, why does it have a public web page?

I just subscribed to Ann Coulter’s column, which I will begin dissecting next week.

Posted in Politics | Leave a Comment »

Another Fun Creationist Website

Posted by Michael Dickens on May 21, 2009

The Bible is the world’s best scientific book. This website provides 101 scientific facts in the Bible.

I won’t refute all of them; just the fun ones.

“Noble behavior understood (John 15:13; Romans 5:7-8). The Bible and history reveal that countless people have endangered or even sacrificed their lives for another. This reality is completely at odds with Darwin’s theory of the survival of the fittest.”
Evolution is not about the survival of the individual; it is about the survival of the gene pool. Organisms that help other similar organisms will become stronger as a species. They help each other out when necessary, so they survive better as a whole.

“Chicken or egg dilemma solved (Genesis 1:20-22). Which came first, the chicken or the egg? This question has plagued philosophers for centuries. The Bible states that God created birds with the ability to reproduce after their kind. Therefore the chicken was created first with the ability to make eggs! Yet, evolution has no solution for this dilemma.”
Yes it does. I actually have a post about this.

“The earth free-floats in space (Job 26:7), affected only by gravity. While other sources declared the earth sat on the back of an elephant or turtle, or was held up by Atlas, the Bible alone states what we now know to be true – ‘He hangs the earth on nothing.’ ”
So the Bible got one thing right. It is impossible to extrapolate and say that it gets all things right.

“Matter and energy do not feel.”
Feelings are chemical reactions within the brain. So yes, matter and energy can feel. This is an argument from personal incredulity.

“The first three verses of Genesis accurately express all known aspects of the creation (Genesis 1:1-3). Science expresses the universe in terms of: time, space, matter, and energy. In Genesis chapter one we read: “In the beginning (time) God created the heavens (space) and the earth (matter)…Then God said, “Let there be light (energy).” No other creation account agrees with the observable evidence.”
This is a loose interpretation. I would interpret it like this:
“In the beginning (God was created along with time, and is therefore not omnipotent) God created the heavens (space) and the earth (space)…Then God said, “Let there be light (human perception of a single type of energy).”

“Sexual promiscuity is dangerous to your health (1 Corinthians 6:18; Romans 1:27). The Bible warns that “he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body,” and that those who commit homosexual sin would “receive in themselves” the penalty of their error. Much data now confirms that any sexual relationship outside of holy matrimony is unsafe.”
Actually, I haven’t seen any data confirming that any sexual relationship outside of holy matrimony is unsafe.

“At a time when less than 5,000 stars were visible to the human eye, God stated that the stars of heaven were innumerable.”
Even if only 5000 stars were visible (which I somehow doubt), it still looks like a lot. And that’s what matters. Not how many there actually are, but how many it looks like there are.

“The number of stars, though vast, are finite (Isaiah 40:26). Although man is unable to calculate the exact number of stars, we now know their number is finite. Of course God knew this all along – “He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name” (Psalm 147:4). What an awesome God!”
Something can be countable and also infinite. Whoever wrote this does not understand set theory. And anyway, if God is omnipotent, he has the power to name infinitely many stars, right?

“Amazingly, gross estimates of the number of sand grains are comparable to the estimated number of stars in the universe.”
Compare that with this quote:
“Today, astronomers estimate that there are ten thousand billion trillion stars – that’s a 1 followed by 25 zeros! Yet, as the Bible states, scientists admit this number may be woefully inadequate. [i.e. they have no idea how many stars there are]”

“Rejecting the Creator results in moral depravity (Romans 1:20-32). The Bible warns that when mankind rejects the overwhelming evidence for a Creator, lawlessness will result. Since the theory of evolution has swept the globe, abortion, pornography, genocide, etc., have all risen sharply.”
Obviously. Abortion and pornography are far easier in the modern day than they were 150 years ago. Genocide is due to population increase. None of these things have anything to do with the popularity of evolution. And anyway, it is arguable that abortion and/or pornography are not morally wrong. And anyway, evolution and God are not mutually exclusive.

“DNA anticipated (Psalm 139:13-16). During the 1950s, Watson and Crick discovered the genetic blueprint for life. Three thousand years ago the Bible seems to reference this written digital code in Psalm 139 – ‘Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect [unformed]; and in Thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.’ ”
Why can’t the Bible just say “there’s this thing called DNA which is a genetic coding for the production of proteins in your cells”? Oh yeah, because that’s not what it’s implying. The Bible is too easy to interpret.

“God has created all mankind from one blood (Acts 17:26; Genesis 5). Today researchers have discovered that we have all descended from one gene pool. For example, a 1995 study of a section of Y chromosomes from 38 men from different ethnic groups around the world was consistent with the biblical teaching that we all come from one man (Adam)”
It is probably true that all living men descend from one man. But that man was not the first man, as Adam was. His genes were simply the fittest, and eventually filled the entire gene pool.

“Evolution teaches that we all evolved from a common ancestor, yet offers no mechanism to explain the origin of the thousands of diverse languages in existence today.”

“God has given us just the right amount of water to sustain life (Isaiah 40:12). We now recognize that if there was significantly more or less water, the earth would not support life as we know it.”
1. I see no evidence of this.
2. It may support life as we don’t know it.

“We now know that radio waves and light waves are two forms of the same thing – electromagnetic waves. Therefore, radio waves are a form of light.”
(This is a side point, but it’s fallacious so it’s worth pointing out.)
This is saying that if A is a member of C and B is a member of C, therefore A = B. This is false. For example, I am an American and George W. Bush is an American, therefore I am George W. Bush.

“Evolution cannot explain the origin of music.”
That’s because EVOLUTION IS NOT ABOUT MUSIC!!!!!! That’s like saying, “gravity cannot explain peanuts”, or “thermodynamics cannot explain rainbows”.


In conclusion, this site loosely interprets the Bible, misrepresents evolution, and in general makes a bunch of crap up.

Posted in Creationism, Science | Leave a Comment »

Rumpelstiltskin Is A Horrifying Tale That Should Not Be Anywhere Near Our Children

Posted by Michael Dickens on May 21, 2009

Read a rendition of Rumpelstiltskin here:

How immoral is this terrifying tale? Let us examine its intricacies.

The miller declares that his daughter can turn straw into gold. He lies and deceives for his own ends, but his daughter is the one who faces the reparations. The miller, for all we know, lives a happy life of crime and deceit.

And what about the king? What sort of horrible man would execute this girl, simply because she is unable to perform an impossible task promised to the king by the girl’s immoral father?

Rumpelstiltskin is not a nice man. He exploited the girl in a time of peril in order to get her child. Regardless of his motives, this action was morally reprehensible. But our friend Rumply was made out to be a bad man, so it’s okay, right?

Wrong. The hero of the story is the very worst of them. She is a liar and a thief. She may have been under stress, but she still agreed to fulfill her contract with Rumpy and give him her firstborn child. But then she did not, and is made out to be a hero. Why? She broke her vow! Under what twisted morality is this despicable act idolized?

And that last sentence is not only gruesome, but unrealistic. We should not teach children that it is possible to rip oneself in two. It is simply not possible.

Posted in Ethics | Leave a Comment »

Global Warming Resources

Posted by Michael Dickens on May 20, 2009

I have a list of some of the best resources for global warming. They are ordered by category, then from least to most complex.

This page is subject to frequent editing.

A project by an amusing science teacher. Self-described as not about what to think about global warming, but about how to think about global warming. Not only a series of videos, but also a book.
Another series of videos, entitled “Climate Denial Crock of the Week”. This guy has a bunch of videos, each with a detailed refutation of a single argument put forth by climate change “denialists”.
A series of videos by the YouTuber who goes by the name of Potholer54. He has some no-nonsense information on climate change. “No, I’m not going to give you the latest pronouncements from Al Gore on the subject of climate change . . . and the same goes to climate prognosticators like Rush Limbaugh and Paul Harvey. This video is about science, and the debate between climate scientists.”

A blog on climate science that I am rather partial to. It’s fairly new (as of 5/19/09), but may grow more complex in the future. The posts themselves have very good information, but at the same time are fun to read. Particularly useful is the post on the credibility spectrum, which I think should be required reading to pass high school science.
A fairly simple site with coverage of the most important topics. As an interesting and useful feature, it lists skeptic arguments in order of popularity.
Some general information on climate change, but richly informative.
A great series of articles about the most common arguments from global warming skeptics. They also have links to some good resources. I recommend this site to anyone who is serious about learning about climate change.
A blog run by a team of climatologists. Very detailed information on many topics. Good for someone who really wants to learn a lot; can also be used to learn a lot about one specific area of climatology, as it has detailed posts on many subjects.

A site that pulls together data from multiple articles and sources to create graphs, diagrams and other “art” that relate to global warming. The data here is well-organized and easy to read and understand.
Climate data from NASA. They have a wide range of information in a fairly simple format.
This is the source for ice core data. Be warned: it is rather technical.
A more comprehensive listing of data resources.

If there are any other good resources that you think I should add, post them in the comment section below.

Kate’s Climate Change Reading List is an excellent list of resources moving from simple to more complex.
A handy list of good resources, written by a cool climate change blog called DeSmogBlog. These resources tend to be more scientific in nature than most of mine. I recommend it for anyone who wants a good introduction to climate change or wants to delve deeper.
A series of videos, links, and more advanced resources. A very good list.

Posted in Global Warming, Science | 1 Comment »

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