The Great Divide

The day after The Election, I shared my rambling thoughts here.

Probably many of us felt like the election was an aberration, that those who voted for Trump would “wake up” and realize what unspeakable horrors he has brought to our country. That they would come to regret their vote.

This has not come to pass.

Why?

How can the rural poor so staunchly support this man, this party, whose policies seem to be in direct opposition to their interests?

Likewise, how can so many women support this man, and his party, that so clearly regard them as less than human?

On its face, it seems inexplicable.


When discussing the motivations of Republican politicians, I have liberal friends who have said that the motive behind certain policies or decisions is simply the desire to be evil, to cause harm.

Why did Reagan do so little to stop the AIDS crisis in the 1980s? Is it because he hated gay people? Is it because he wanted to cause pain and suffering? Is it because he was simply an evil man?

It may be somehow comforting to frame your opponents in this way. To explain away decisions as simply “evil”.

But it can’t be the true reason.

After all, no one thinks he is evil. Everyone is the hero in their own story. Everyone thinks they are doing the right thing.

Hitler didn’t think he was evil. He thought he was doing the right thing!


So how can so many people, who all think they are “good people”, be so divided?

I believe this book does offer an explanation: The Righteous Mind (Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion) by Jonathan Haidt.


When I have tried to explain this book to others who have not read it, I have been stymied in my efforts to convey what it says, and the implications of its message. I am writing this post in part to solidify my own understanding of the book, and to hopefully share it with others.

It challenges deeply held beliefs.

However, Haidt backs up these surprising insights into the human condition with rigorous experimental research. This book is not just a pet theory by some talking head. This is a book by a psychologist and a researcher, and is supported by many experiments in moral psychology.

It is separated into three main sections, each with a sometimes surprising and important fact about the human moral mind.


The first section’s surprising fact is that intuition comes first, and reasoning comes after.

When thinking of some moral question, we all intuit how we feel. When pressed for why we feel like we do, we come up with explanations for our initial intuition… but those are post hoc justifications, not the reason we feel or judge.

It seems surprising, but Haidt offers compelling evidence via many experiments that this is the case.

His analogy is the rider and an elephant. The mind is divided into the rider (the controlled processes) and the elephant (the automatic processes). Moral judgements come too quickly for the rider to be in control… yet it is from the rider what we hear the explanation of why the elephant is taking the path it is, even if the rider doesn’t really know.


The second section is about the underlying “tastes” of moral intuition, and how those differ in different groups. Of course, we know that those of different political stripes will have differing morals. But it’s also true between cultures… the western world versus the east, for example. What are these foundational aspects of morality and how do they differ between groups?

To put this all together: Moral Foundations Theory says that there (at least) six psychological systems that comprise the universal foundations of the world’s many moral matrices. (p.211)

They are:

The Care/Harm Foundation. We have an innate desire to help those of our family, our clan, our species. We want to protect them from harm. All other things being equal, any human is likely to want to keep another human from being hurt or killed. As they are closer to us, of course, the stronger such feelings are (I would choose to save my own son’s life over a stranger’s), but for people other than sociopaths, none of us wants to harm another for whom we have no antipathy.

The Fairness/Cheating Foundation. We live and evolved in social groups. If a member of that group is a freeloader who does not do his work to help the group, we are predisposed to shun that freeloader. Fairness means proportionality; people should get what they give. The idea of karma fits here too; we want to see cheaters punished and good people rewarded for their efforts.

The Loyalty/Betrayal Foundation. Our ancestors who worked in a cohesive group had an advantage over those who either worked alone, or worked in less cohesive groups. Being loyal to a group conferred an evolutionary advantage. This is the result; we demand loyalty to our groups. We can see this in politics… nationalism, and loyalty to a political party.

The Authority/Subversion Foundation. Demand for respect to our elders, to our leaders. Again, thinking of our evolution, we can see how a hierarchy would be helpful for group survival. Those groups which had a clear hierarchy would be more efficient than those who did not have a clear leader, or who were always fighting internally for leadership.

The Sanctity/Degradation Foundation. As omnivores, humans have competing motives. Neophilia, the attraction to new things, confers an advantage to being able to find new sources of sustenance. Neophobia, a fear of new things, protects us from potentially dangerous foods. This foundation of sanctity was driven by the need to avoid pathogens and parasites and poison. We are disgusted by certain things… fecal matter near food, for example. This repugnance helped us survive, and it also formed into complex behaviours and expectations. In some cultures it is a great affront to offer your left (fecal-covered) hand to another. And religions, with explicitly codified morality, offer some very complex ideas of sanctity (halal/kosher foods, or the many other strictures some groups have on what foods are allowed or not).

The Liberty/Oppression Foundation. We notice and resent being dominated. We want to overthrow bullies and tyrants. We see this foundation on the left with egalitarianism and anti-authoritarianism. We see it on the right with a desire for small government.

What is particularly interesting about these moral matrices, and what begins to explain why we are where we are politically in this country and world, is that different groups stress different foundations. Keep in mind now that these conclusions are not just hypotheses, but have been tested empirically over and over.

Everyone cares about the Care/harm foundation, but liberals tend to care more. They are more disturbed by violence and suffering than conservatives and libertarians.

All groups care about Liberty/oppression. But each group treats it differently. Liberals tend to be most concerned about the rights of certain vulnerable groups (minorities, children, animals) and look to government to defend the weak. Conservatives tend to value the right to be left alone and resist caring for one group over another.

Likewise, all care about the Cheating/fairness foundation. People believe in proportionality and the law of karma. But conservatives tend to be more concerned with proportionality than liberals.

The above may not be so surprising. But understanding the differences between groups on the remaining three moral foundations helped me understand, if a little, what we see in society and politics today.

Loyalty/betrayal, Authority/subversion, and Sanctity/degradation. These are foundations embraced heavily by conservatives. Liberals tend to be ambivalent. Libertarians care even less.

Liberals have a three-foundation morality, whereas conservatives use all six. Liberal moral matrices rest on the Care/harm, Liberty/oppression, and Fairness/cheating foundations, although liberals are often willing to trade away fairness (as proportionality) when it conflicts with compassion or with their desire to fight oppression. Conservative morality rests on all six foundations, although conservatives are more willing than liberals to sacrifice Care and let some people get hurt in order to achieve their many other moral objectives. (p.214)


Finally, in part three, he explores why humans are so “groupish”. Natural selection was a force on the individual organism. But those who were cooperative with others had an advantage over those who were not, so natural selection is a force on a group level, as well.

We are not just a collection of individuals. We have always worked in groups. We have been successful as a species because we have done so. Religion is one such group. Those who shared a moral matrix and worked in cooperation with each other were more successful.

We are both chimps and bees.

There is individual competition within groups (chimps), but also with other groups (bees). When we work for a larger group, different behaviours emerge that cannot be explained at the individual level. Altruism, heroism, war, and genocide.

Once we are in a group with a shared moral matrix, we accept that, and tend to reject others.


There is no happy ending, I’m sorry. I hope you didn’t get this far expecting one.

Haidt may offer a cogent explanation why good people can disagree so much. But there’s no magic bullet; there is no recipe for fixing this mess we are in right now.

Personally, as I have thought about this book over many months, at least I see answers and understanding where there once was simply puzzlement and dismay.


Here are just three articles I’ve read in the past year which make much more sense to me now that I’ve read this book.

From an interview with Paul Auster:

Tumultuous as those times were, they weren’t as depressing as what’s going on today,” he reflects. “How little has changed in American life since then. Race is still a very big problem. Stupid foreign policy decisions are still being made. And the country is just as divided now as it was then. It seems as though America has always been split between the people who believe in the individual above everything else, and those people who believe we’re responsible for one another.

From a post by Brent Simmons:

I try — earnestly, with good faith — to understand the Republican ideologies.

And I think I’ve figured out one of them: they want to make life harder for poor people so that they have more incentive to become rich, and they want to make life better for rich people to reward success, since it should be rewarded, and since doing so provides even more incentive for poor people to become rich.

If you look at it just the right way, you can see it’s not entirely wrong.

From George Lakoff:

[…]when Lakoff repeatedly says that “voters don’t vote their self-interest, they vote their values,” progressive politicians continually ignore him. His ideas don’t fit in with their worldview, so they can’t hear him.


It may be cold comfort to have some small understanding of why someone chose to support Trump a year ago, and supports him even now.

Surely, however, the path to a better future is a better understanding of where we are today.

Can Facebook answer whether god exists?

This was from a Facebook thread back in 2010 which turned into quite an interesting little debate on the existence of god. I’ve not asked permission from anyone to post this, so I’ve removed links back to Facebook and removed last names.

The start of the whole thing was a post about a PEW survey showing that agnostics scored higher on a survey about religion than the religious themselves:

Beth

Yup, if you want to know about religion, ask an agnostic…

U.S. Religious Knowledge Quiz

How much do you know about religion? And how do you compare with the average American? Take a short 15-question quiz from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life to find out.

Shelly Or a Jewish person — they did the best overall as far as religious affiliation goes. Did you take the quiz? I thought it was pretty easy — I got an 87%. I think how well one does has more to do with their level of education than anything else. They recently had a dude on WPR talking about this poll – good show.

Erik I thought Jonathan Edward was that guy who talked to dead people?

JoshR Naw…I got a 100% so ask a anti-denominational Christian. With a Bible degree. And a minor in Philosophy. Never mind, probably wasn’t the affiliation then eh? 🙂

JoshM I got the last one wrong. Weren’t there more than 15 questions in the original survey?

Beth I was disappointed to get 2 wrong, thought it would be perfect. I don’t know how many Qs there were! You’d think, Joshes (hee hee), that it would be longer than 15 Qs. And, as you may have read by breakdown of religious types, you all are the exception scoring so highly.

JoshR I think its just such a taboo subject these days that few learn about anything other than what they were raised with.

John Stewart ‎87%. Atheist (and, technically agnostic). I never went to church; all self-learned. The more I learn about religion, the more I want no part of it.

JoshM

Several years ago my hot water heater died and I needed to get a new one. I researched all about the different types, sizes, brands, prices, ect… I learned a lot and was very knowledgable about hot water heaters. I bought the best one for the size of our bathtub and the number of bathrooms, and cost, ect… It’s been reliably providing us with warm showers for years and I haven’t even thought about a water heaters since it was installed. Today I couldn’t tell you the first thing about water heaters. I would do bad on a water heater survey.

Beth Religions factor so much into cultural norming and cherished art through the centuries that even we non-practitioners are touched by it. I think it’s good to have a comparative understanding of religion. I agree, Josh, that too few do. That just seems most egregious when the ignorance is on the part of someone who would label themselves as devout. Like, one should know the landscape before proclaiming to own the best part of it.

JoshR

An atheist who has rejected all religion on its face without thorough understanding is as close-minded, if not more so, in my mind than a person of faith who hasn’t made a study of the alternatives.

Its not really valid to make conclusions concerning any party on the basis of data such as this. I think its fair to say that there are as many close minded bigoted practitioners of Atheism as their are Jews, Christians etc.

Josh M. makes a very good point I think. Surveys such as this really do have very limited application.

JoshM Yep. Self righteous hypocrites suck. Thank God the vast majority of religious folks and Athiest aren’t that way. 😉 I think if people are happy with their religion and it works for them, they have no practical reason to learn any more about it or any other religion for that matter.

John Stewart

That atheists are at the top, or near the top, of this list shows that their beliefs are NOT based on limited information, but rather they have a much more complete understanding of religion and its history than most.

This is in stark contrast to a huge swath of the American population, who very fervently believe their theirs in the Only True Way, with no other evidence than their parents told them so.

JoshM The belief that a huge swath of the American population, who “very fervently” believe that their religion is the Only True Way is in itself a belief based on limited information. I think it’s very hard to know what people truly believe. It’s not something you can tell from church membership numbers.

John Stewart

Every belief is based on limited information. Some people continually revise their worldview as they gather new information. Some people reject new information that contradicts their worldview.

The former are scientists. The latter are the “faithful”.

I base my belief that America is religious not on faith, but fact (60% self-identified Christian): http://www.americanreligionsurvey-aris.org/2010/02/

I base my belief that Christianity preaches exclusivity on its scripture (this is not, of course, a unique property of the cult… every successful religion claims to be the only correct one).

http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=exodus+20%3A2-20%3A17&version=nrsvae

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

JoshM I’m a self-identified Christian who doesn’t believe that Christianity is the One True Way. Based on this new information, will you revise your belief that Christians fervently believe theirs is the Only True Way?

John Stewart

I certainly accept what you say about yourself. However, a sample size of one is an anecdote, not evidence, so I think it has relatively little bearing on the population as a whole.

I do still believe that most self-identified Christians (and Muslims, for that matter… Jews are a slightly different case) believe that theirs is the only correct religion, and that theirs is the only true god. We have a much larger sample size than 1 showing this to be true.

I also wonder what it means to you to be Christian, if you don’t follow the doctrine laid out in the scriptures that form the basis of the religion. One of the most infuriatingly common elements I have witnessed in religious people is their insistence that their particular bible is the only truth.

Does the Christian Bible lay out the one true word of God, or doesn’t it? If it does, then see above (Exodus 20:2); all non-Christian views are, ipso facto, wrong.

If it does not, then on what basis can you claim to be Christian?

I’m not just trolling here; I am actually interested in the answer. I have also enjoyed this thread, so please don’t take offense that I’m calling your beliefs a bunch of hooey.

JoshM

I’m not offended at all and also welcome the discussion.

I agree, the account of one person is poor evidence of the beliefs of the whole population. All I can say is that nearly every Christian I’ve discussed this subject with thinks the same way I do. Including my priest. I admit that’s still a relativly small number, but I don’t think there is evidence that shows that most Christians believe lock step in the dogma of their respective churches.

I just don’t think it is necessary to know, understand, or believe in church doctorine to concider yourself Christian. In the middle ages when a king converted to christianty, so did all of his subjects. I don’t think they suddenly believed in the trinity.

John Stewart Well, I am heartened, whatever the sample size, that not all self-avowed Christians are zealots. Good talking to you; peace be with you and your family.

JoshR

Well, if being convinced I’m right and, for example Radical Islam is wrong, I’m a Christian zealot. But I’m no more a zealot than a comitted atheist is. No more arrogant either. Why bother taking a position if one isnt conviced theirs is right? The real question is can you listen, understand and share community with people with differing opinions to yours. And I have seen as much arrogance, bigotry and “hooey” from the follwers of so called science as I have the worst Christians. I dont have time for either variety. An ashat is a asshat regardless of the faith.

Science can’t answer every question. In fact it cant answer most of the questions that are the most important. Philosophy is as much a valuable academic pursuit, or endeavor of the mind, as science.

JoshM Thanks John. I’ll take a blessing of peace from an %87 Athiest any day. Peace to you and yours.

John Stewart

Well, I don’t represent all atheists, as Josh doesn’t represent all Christians. However, I consider myself an atheist and (importantly) an agnostic. In other words, if presented evidence that there is a god, I will happily change my tune. I believe I’m right (thus atheist), but am open to evidence that I am not (as I am agnostic).

And thus the difference between religion and science. Science attempts to explain the world around us by testing it. Religion attempts to explain the world around us by invoking the supernatural.

Some people believe they can reconcile religion and science. Stephen Jay Gould claimed they were “Nonoverlapping Magisteria”.

I disagree. The very question of whether there is a god or not is a question of science. Either god exists, or god does not. That is a question about the universe in which we exist. Answering questions about the universe is the fundamental purpose of science.

Furthermore, if we’re talking about the evidence about whether Islam or Christianity is “right”, where is it? If you have some, I really am all ears; I am eager to hear evidence that god exists, or that the precepts of Christianity are somehow more “right” than those of Islam (or vice versa). So far all I’ve heard anyone do is point to a holy book and claim that is evidence of something supernatural, be it the Bible, Koran, or Torah.

The belief in something without actual evidence that it is so is called “faith”. Faith seems, sadly, to be considered a virtue by many.

Faith is what allows, eventually, someone to be so convinced they’re right in the cause of an imaginary being, that they’ll crash an airplane into the twin towers… or blow up a government building in Oklahoma, or murder a doctor in an abortion clinic.

I’d prefer my world to have a bit less of that stuff.

JoshR

Well, John, humanists have had their share of horrors to cite. Marxism, some of the environmental extermists, etc. Consider for example how DDT was largely banned based on faith that scientists knew what they were talking about, and nearly all of the claims made about it have been refuted, resulting in millions of unessecary deaths due to malaria. Sensless, unreasoning faith in science as a institution has killed people as readilly as senless, unreasoning faith in God. George Washington had the very best doctors and science treating him, and they litterallly bled him to death. Its not religion that is responsible, it is the evil tendancies evident in Mankind, and science has no explination for that.
Everyone excercises faith to one degree or another, the question is what you put yours in.

Science cannot prove nor disprove a lot of things. For example, strictly speaking, science cannot prove Abaram Lincoln was president. History does that. Science is but one tool in a rational man’s tool box, and insisting that one use only it is as foolish as a man attempting to be a handiman using only a hammer. To try to limit the discussion of God to the realm of empirical science is as silly as trying to cut a board in half with a hammer.

Ill tell you what, you dont hold me responsible for the crusades and I wont hold you responsible for Stalin.

JoshM And looking for natural evidence of a supernatural god is like looking for polar bears in the canopy of the Amazon rain forest. I don’t think that’s a comfort to many Atheist or Christians, but non the less true in my view.

John Stewart

That people have blind faith in anything is not a valid criticism of science. The whole point is not at all that science is always right; the point is that science is self-correcting.

While Washington may have been bled to death by the best scientists of the day only shows how far medical science has come in 200 years. Contrast that with the progress of church doctrine.

You wouldn’t want, when you have a medical emergency, for your doctor to be using science from the middle ages, right? Yet you accept this from your church? It’s mind-boggling to me that transubstantiation is still the dogma of the Catholic Church. It’s beyond silly, and shows a terrifying ability to believe in magic, by those that accept it.

And to the idea of looking for god with science, means looking in the wrong places, I see three possibilities (please let me know if I’m missing something here):

– God does exist and had an effect on our world and universe (an “interventionist” god).

or

– God does exist and has no effect on our universe (which would include the “afterlife”). Perhaps also the “gaia” god.

or

– God does not exist.

To me the two are indistinguishable. If god doesn’t affect the universe in any way, then why do we call him God?

If god does exist, and does affect the universe, then he does exist in the rain forest, and the arctic, and the real world in which we live. To say he is unmeasurable and impotent and unreachable is tantamount to saying that he’s nothing more than an invention of our very human minds, and to that, I can agree.

And to the Stalin thing, that’s a straw man argument. Stalin had a mustache. Hitler had a mustache. Does that mean all people with mustaches are evil totalitarian mass murderers?

Contrast that with the crusades, which was mass murder/torture, explicitly in God’s name!

JoshR

There’s a whole lot of things that are currently undetectable to science yet are accepted based on the effect they have on the world around them. Just because God is beyond science’s capactiy to measure, it does not follow He does not exist. Science has spent billions on discovering the Higgs boson with no more proof that it exists than I have proof of my God. Personally, i have no issue with believing either.

Of course the Stalin thing was a straw man…as is your using bad acts in the name of religion as a argument against God. Stalin was certainly acting in the name of science, as was the practice of Eugenics in Hitlers Germany (and in the US and Europe before that actually). Didn’t make the science wrong, just its interpretation.

Just because a belief in God can be manipulated and misused does not make it invalid, anymore than a reliance on empiricism is proven wrong by its nutcases and sociopaths.

I will say it seems you think science and faith cannot both be embraced, and that is quite demonstrateably false. The vast majority of the basic scientific discoveries of modern science were discovered by men who were at the minimum deists.

John Stewart

The vast majority of science was developed by deists is undeniably true, but that’s because the vast majority of everyone has been deists. The more people know about the universe, the less likely they are to believe in a supernatural cause.
I don’t have any actual stats to back me up off the cuff, but I’ll bet that you can see a steady, continuing decline in the percentage of “scientists” who also believe in god.

This is not a coincidence.

That something is currently undetectable by science does not mean that it will never be. You’re dancing around the question, but I ask again – do you believe that the god you believe in has an impact on our universe?

If so, then this means the existence of god is a question of science, and that there is no reason his effect can’t be measured, even if we don’t yet have the tools to do so.

This is not without precedence, many times over, in the history of science… something is predicted which cannot be verified until much later (Einstein versus Newton, for example).

If you don’t believe your god has an effect on the universe, then it seems you believe in a god that doesn’t matter in any real way.

JoshM

The very fact that Christians did so poorly on the question of transubstantiation in the survey shows that it is not being taught by the church even if it is still on the papal books. And don’t forget that there are a variety of Christian denomonations – all with their own interpretation of scripture. Nearly all of them don’t say the bread and wine become the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ.

I don’t think there are any scientific efforts focused on looking for effects of God’s work. Today’s science is not in that paradigm. There’s a book called The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn which makes the arguement that it is nearly impossible for scientists in a particular paradigm to work outside of that paradigm.

JoshM Also, regarding the idea that religion causes people to do evil, I would direct you to the podcast of my church’s sermon this week. It a message that I think represents the sentiment of today’s religion. http://www.saintmarysepiscopal.org/sermons/Love_Your_Enemies–The_Hard_Part_of_the_Message.mp3

JoshR

Of course I believe that God has a impact on the universe. That is not the same thing as believing a scientist in a laboratory using the scientific method could prove or disprove His existence. Heck, I cant even prove or disprove Abraham Lincoln’s existence using the scientific method. Wrong discipline. Back to using a hammer to cut a board in half.

Again, a good comparison is the Higgs boson. They have never found direct evidence of its existence, yet it is considered a near certanty it exists, simply because it is the best explanation for a number of questions. Thats still considered rational.

Point is that one can have a rational belief in something and still not have that something be provable/disprovable in a laboratory. I have no issue with a person who chooses atheism/humanism, but I do have a problem with the position that belief in God is not rational.

I think you’s be wrong on the decline of people who believe in God in science. I have found academia in general is hostile to religious faith and therefore its a good idea in those circles to keep ones mouth shut about their religious affilitation. Thus any data if it were even available would be skewed.

Purely anecdotally I know a couple dozen or so research scientists in various fields and only one of them is a true athiest, a couple would consider themselves agnostic. Half a dozen buddhists, and even a pagan. The rest are Christians of various denominations or Jewish.

John Stewart

You completely make my point by analogizing God to a Higgs boson.

Yes, it hasn’t been directly observed. But it has been predicted, and now we’re looking for it.

We’ll never be able to put our hands on it, smell it, see it, or hear it. But if it exists, there is some chance the LHC will show its existence.

If God is a part of our universe, and affects it, then you can’t also say there can exist no evidence for him in this universe.

Or, you have to define him so narrowly, as the spotlight of science keeps brightening the dark corners of our world, that he can’t possibly really be a part of our existence.

A thousand years ago, he had lots of places to hide. In fact, it is very human to come up with a supernatural explanation for the unknown in a dark and scary world. But as the known grows, and the unknown shrinks, the places he can exist (in the sky? before the Big Bang?) grow smaller.

It would be brave to admit that he might be provable. But instead you seem to be avoiding the issue by arbitrarily defining him as outside our universe (but you’re also avoiding doing that).

JoshR

I think your not understanding my position. Im sure I’m not explaining clearly.

I think theres plenty of evidence for God’s existence. Just not “scientific” in the traditional, hard sciences sort of way.. I don’t think science currently or for the forseable future has the capability of having an empirical, experimental demonstration of Gods existance. Any observances one could chalk up to God are as easilly explained by random chance or something else. For example, the observable fact that the universe is expanding and that its expansion is accellerating ( a apparent violation of Newton’s laws). My explanation in a nutshell…God did it. Can I prove it? Not really. Can you disprove it? Probably not anytime soon. A opinion not provable nor disprovable belongs not in science but rather in philosophy, where the standard is not provableness but reasonableness.

Its not that I dont think He has a effect on the universe. I just don’t have a high enough opinion of science to believe it is capable of dealing with such a problem. Science is stretched to answer much simpler problems.

This is the realm of philosophy. And there is a place for philosophy in the entirety of human knowledge. Hard science will only get you so far.

And Beth, youare awesome at starting Epic threads 🙂

JoshM

I think John’s criticism regarding evidence of God in the universe came from my silly statement about polar bears in the rain forest, which I admit was not well thought out.

John, why are you concerned that people have beliefs that are notscientifically based? I think archeological evidence shows that religious belief in one form or another has been with us since the beginning of our species, and yet we continue to progress. Have you considered that religion could be an important part of the evolutionary process?

And Beth, I agree with the other Josh. You are awesome but I don’t want to wear out my welcome so I probably will be done with this thread. 🙂

FSM Misidentification

The Flying Spaghetti Monster costume made another appearance on State Street this Halloween.

While the FSM meme has faded into the mists of time, I still get strong positive reactions from those who recognize it. Those who don’t usually guess I’m spaghetti and meatballs. However, often, people have some crazy wild-ass guesses.

This year, I decided to record some.

All of these were actual guesses from people wondering what in the hell I was. I didn’t record them all, but these are all genuine:

  • Lady Gaga (what, really?)
  • Shit with eyes
  • Fallopian tubes
  • Intestines
  • Daniel Johnston (not bad! See here.)
  • Bug
  • Alien
  • Giant cumshot
  • Adam and Eve
  • Balls and spaghetti
  • Mos Eisley spaceport
  • Men in black
  • “Those are tits”
  • Coconuts
  • Balls
  • Sperm donor
  • Octopus
  • Ahh! Real monster
  • Pans Labyrinth
  • Sperm
  • Cock and Balls
  • “Sci-fi show from the 80s”
  • “I don’t know but you got big tits”
  • Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
  • Crab

Homeopathy is not a Victimless Crime

Homeopathy. It’s a religion masquerading as science. Basically you take some chemical and dilute it, and dilute it, until you have a solution that is, for all intents and purposes, simply water.

Somehow the molecules of water you have left "resonate" with the chemical you originally put in, and cause an effect the opposite of what the original chemical did. Really. It makes no sense on so many levels.

It’s total, utterly quackery and bunk. Unfortunately, it seems to resonate with the hippy-dippy crowd in Madison. Whole Foods fucking sells this stuff!

I’m all for the free market, but when something is openly a fraud, I think that should be illegal.

Some I’ve discussed this with in the past have felt that while it may be true that homeopathic "medicine" is no better than a placebo, at least it causes no harm

I think that’s true, in the literal sense. You’re never going to get sick drinking a bottle of homeopathic solution because it’s just water! However, if you’re one of the idiots who is fooled into thinking that it’s the best thing you can do to heal your children, then your child may die.

Sadly, this has has happened:

The parents of a baby girl suffering from eczema ignored the advice of doctors and persisted with homeopathic treatment for their daughter until she died from infection, a court has heard.

Homeopath, Thomas Sam, and his wife Manju Sam are accused of the manslaughter of their nine-month-old infant daughter, Gloria Thomas, by gross criminal negligence.

It is not always a victimless crime to believe in stupid things, from tarot to homeopathy to god.

 

Halloween 2008

As I did in 2006 and 2007, I hit State Street with the FSM costume.

Once again, it garnered quite a bit of attention, both from those clueful in the ways of Pastafarianism, and those who just wanted to know what in the hell I was.

All of the pictures in the 2008 photo gallery with me and other folks were people coming up to me to ask to pose with me… except for the Ask Me About Jesus guy, with whom I had a long conversation. Neither of us seemed convinced in the end.

I think he was a bit mystified to see both Moses and a rabbi come up while we talked to offer their worship to me as the One True God.

  2008 Halloween Photo Album

Faith and Atheism

This is a video from a call-in show on cable access in Austin about atheism.

One of the hosts here, Matt Dillahunty, calmly and reasonably has a long discussion with a caller who is trying to make the point that atheism is a state of faith. He really clearly lays it all out… the difference between belief and knowledge, the different "types" of atheism.

And the call also engages in reasoned discourse. Both are polite… until the very end when the theist caller gets a little frustrated.

[youtube]qs3RKZjSzYg[/youtube]

There is No Deeper Meaning

There is no sense in it. There is no deeper meaning.

All those who talk of and to the grieving (including the chimp in the Oval Office) can’t help themselves but to speak of god and his greater purpose for the 32 slain.

Dudes, there is no higher purpose. That anyone would claim that somehow this is all part of a master plan from a higher being who knows better… it’s all just nonsense. If there is a god, he is not a benevolent one. No such god would allow this.

And yes, Virginia, there are still atheists in foxholes and bloodied classrooms, including this Virginia Tech professor:

We atheists do not believe in gods, or angels, or demons, or souls that endure, or a meeting place after all is said and done where more can be said and done and the point of it all revealed. We don’t believe in the possibility of redemption after our lives, but the necessity of compassion in our lives. We believe in people, in their joys and pains, in their good ideas and their wit and wisdom. We believe in human rights and dignity, and we know what it is for those to be trampled on by brutes and vandals. We may believe that the universe is pitilessly indifferent but we know that friends and strangers alike most certainly are not. We despise atrocity, not because a god tells us that it is wrong, but because if not massacre then nothing could be wrong.

Good and evil don’t need a god to be.

You Stupid Fucking Hicks

Nice job, Wisconsin. You overwhelmingly voted for the amendment to ban gay marriage (and civil unions).

In 1895, South Carolina amended its state constitution to prohibit the “marriage of a white person with a Negro or mulatto or a person who shall have one-eighth or more of Negro blood.

In one hundered years history will look back at this moment and recognize that what was just done in Wisconsin was just as abhorrent as what South Carolina did in 1895 (and didn’t fix until 1998).

You are a stupid fucking hick if you voted for this ban. You probably also think we shouldn’t let the n*****s marry our pure white folk.

Shame on you.

Shame on the small minded, dogmatic, hateful religion which inspired your vote.

I’ll bet it was Christianity.