Thursday, June 21, 2012

Looking for answers?

Are you here because you are looking for answers? Is there something missing? Message me in the comments and you just might get the answer you are looking for.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Parable of the thirsty man

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to HellCat:

And so it is that Jesus was preaching in the mount of olives when a man came up to him and asked him a question. "Rabbi", asketh the man, "why is there suffering in this world? And why does God not help those in dire need of his succor?"

And Jesus, saith:

God is like a wealthy salesman travelling in the desert who came uponeth a thirsty man. And the thirsty man pleadeth with him, "Give me water, that I may not die upon this terrible land and give myself home to my wife and children." But God replyth, "Lo, but I have no water with me, but I do have this tie that I can sell thee for the shoes upon thy feet!" And the thirsty man replied, "My lord, I have nothing else to travel with but this shoes. Without these shoes I will not be able to set foot upon the hot sands of this land and verily the vultures shall partake of my flesh before the sun sets! Surely thou asketh for too much!" And the Lord replied, "A pair of these ties for thy pair of shoes then. For these ties are magic and with it thy needs shall be replenished!"

But the thirsty man, because he is dying of thirst, became stubborn in his head. He refuseth to believe the lord and is without faith. He said, "I shall defy thee then, for thy ties are useless and are frivolous in this land. I shall turn my face away from thee for thou giveth nothing but ties while I have need of water to quench my thirst." And the Lord Salesman shooketh his head and weepeth, for the Lord always weepeth when a stubborn man turns away from God.

"My son, I have offered thee these wonderful pair of silk ties that thou mayst survive in thy travels. All I ask for in return is thy faith and yonder pair of old shoes." And the lord then continued in his travel, weeping and heavy in his heart, as he cannot help the dying man for the dying man has become stubborn and evil reigns upon his spirit.

So the thirsty man continued to travel away from the Lord and after a few days, crawling in the desert, with cracked lips and burned skin, spied upon an inn in the distance. With his remaining strength the man reached the door of the inn and, near death, pleadeth with the owner, "Please,... give .... me ... water! ..." But the owner looked upon the dying man and replied, "But sir, thou mayest not be given water, for this inn is exclusive and clients need be wearing ties!"

And the man died because he is without a tie and may not enter the premises of the inn.

And the Lord Jesus then sayeth, "And that is why there is suffering, for God the father has need to test thy faith and besides that, He also loves a good joke."

Labels: , ,

Friday, April 11, 2008

The land of the rice and sun. Part - I

In the year 1801, William Herschel, the famed musician, astronomer (he discovered Uranus) and mathematician made a curious discovery. Studying the price of wheat during the previous centuries he discovered a strange correlation between it and the number of sunspots on the face of the sun.

Digging through the records of wheat prices and the number of sunspots visible on the disk of the sun, Herschel discovered that during the years when there are few sunspots on the face of the sun, the price of wheat is high. Conversely, when there were lots of sunspots on the face of the sun, wheat prices are very low!

When we say there is a correlation between A and B, what we mean is that when A increases then B increases and when A decreases B follows and decreases at the same time. Similarly, two quantities, A and B, are anti-correlated if when A increases B decreases and vice-versa. Anti-correlation is often referred to as a negative correlation but the word negative has connotations among the illiterate of zero or no correlation at all. This is incorrect. Negative correlation is also a correlation but graphically the slope of the curve is descending from left to right.

Whenever two quantities are correlated or anti-correlated, there might be a physical connection that exists between them. For example, the average temperature at sea level decreases as one moves up in latitude towards the poles. There is a correlation between latitude on earth and average temperature. There is a physical reason for this: As one moves towards the poles, sunlight has to travel through a thicker layer of atmosphere which reduces its intensity on the ground. The correlation between latitude and temperature is thus a quantitative indication of an underlying physical cause.

While correlation is present among quantities that are physically related, not all correlations indicate the existence of a physical connection. In statistics, they say that correlation is not causation. Correlation is just a mathematical computation and it remains to be seen if one quantity indeed causes the other.

When two quantities are correlated (or anti-correlated) we do know that one of four possibilities must be true:

  • A causes B,
  • B causes A,
  • A and B are both caused by another event C, and
  • It is all a coincidence.

Going back to the discovery of William Herschel, is there a physical connection between sunspots and wheat prices? For almost two centuries solar physicists have sought to find the physical connection and found nothing. There does not seem to be any real physical connection between sunspots on the sun and the price wheat. How can an event on the surface of the sun affect how much people are paying for their wheat? While sunspots are indeed darker than the rest of the sun, they are only darker relative to the very bright sun. Indeed, the temperature of sunspots is still almost as hot as the rest of sun itself. No correlation has been found between the immediate temperature of the earth and the presence or non-presence of sunspots. Sunspots may be cooler but they apparently do not affect the instantaneous temperature on the earth.

Conversely, how can the price of wheat on earth affect the number of sunspots on the sun? Sunspots seem to follow an 11 year cycle and this 11 year cycle is certainly not caused by wheat prices on earth! Besides, the prices of wheat do not follow an 11 year cycle. Where did Herschel find his strange correlation, then?

He found it during grand minimums in the solar cycle. As I have said before, sunspots follow an 11 year cycle. During the minimum of such a cycle, the number of sunspots on the sun drop to zero or near zero but rise to over 100 during a typical maximum. However, twice during the last 500 years, the maximum sunspot number did not exceed the smoothed sunspot number of 50.

During the Maunder Minimum of the 1500s there were no sunspots on the face of the sun for several decades! It was also during the Maunder Minimum when the Little Ice Age gripped the earth and it was possible to walk from Manhattan to Staten Island because the water was frozen. During the Dalton Minimum of the late 19th century, it was almost the same with bitterly cold winters, mild summers and consequently high prices of agricultural goods.

The above brief about solar grand minimums is now relevant because at this very moment we are in a period of very few sunspots! We might be in a grand minimum again.

Solar cycle 24 is already more than a year late! It should have started to climb March of 2007 but as of today, April 2008, only two sunspots of solar cycle 24 have been spotted.

Some solar physicists are now fearing that the sun may be entering another grand minimum and consequently we should be expecting a return to the colder climate of the late 19th century (the Dalton Minimum) or even worse, a return to the little ice age.

Already, Russian scientists are making the bet that it will be bitterly colder during the next few decades and advice citizens to stock up on fur coats. Obviously, you haven't heard of that prediction which was made last year because the news agencies today are filled with dire predictions of global warming!

According to these Russians, anthropogenic global warming is bunk and the real crisis is the coming global cooling. They are saying that by 2012, there will be no doubt that the climate has shifted again (just as it always had in the past) and it will be colder again.

William Herschel's correlation has struck again and we are now in the regimen of an extended solar minimum (I won't call it grand minimum just yet) of very few sunspots and of a rising cost of agricultural goods.

China just experienced a bitter winter last December and January. I am not following agricultural news but if the rice harvest of Southern China was affected by the unusual cold of last winter then rice will definitely continue to be costlier as China scrambles to fill its deficit.

I had a chat with an officer of the Department of Agriculture office in our place and she told me that harvests this year are as good as last year's but that, surprisingly, some traders are buying rice from farmers at a higher than usual price! Hmmmmmn, I wonder if those buyers speak chinese?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Robert Green Ingersoll

I realized that I haven't properly introduced my favorite atheist yet. He is Robert Green Ingersoll and his biography can be found here.

There is also a wikipedia entry for this great orator and thinker here. Ingersoll was man with ideas ahead of his time. He was an opponent of religion and superstition, a supporter of human rights, of women's rights and of science back in the days when the world was entirely superstitious and imprisoned by religion. He was not a philosopher in the mold of Ayn Rand nor of Bertrand Russel but his writings carried the force of logic and reason and can be hard hitting and concrete. He is a lawyer, after all.

A collection of his oratories and writings can be found here. If you can read only one of Ingersoll's speeches you can do no better than to read his famous assault against religion: The Gods.

Rice and Reporter Education in the Philippines.

The news tonight are headlining the rise in price of rice (what a distracting alliteration!) and how it is affecting the majority of the population. According to the reporter, this increase is making life difficult for the country and the government must do something about it or risk an uprising from a hungry population.

I am a real filipino and I am in the majority and I tell you, this is not true. Stupid reporters from Manila are always wrongly assuming that Manila is the entire Philippines! If you know this reporter, please tell her that the majority of filipinos are rice farmers and that an increase in the price of rice benefits them. Please tell her also, that when prices are forced down so as to enable the population of Manila (who cannot feed themselves) to have their cheap rice in Chowking and Jollibee, it is the poor farmers of the provinces who are being immolated.

It really saddens me when I eat at Chowking in Manila and observe diners munch on their chicken legs and then barely touch their cheap rice. This leftover rice is then thrown away by Chowking. How can I explain to these people that for each sack sold, the farmer is getting less than a third of the market price? From that meager share the farmer has to pay for transportation, for drying, for irrigation, for the seeds, for labor, and for the fertilizer. Is it any wonder that the typical filipino rice farmer is poor and heavily in debt?

Unfortunately, none of the so-called intelligent reporters in Manila are aware of this. They eat at their high priced restaurants and never stop to ponder that everything they are consuming is produced outside of Manila. They never stop to consider the fact that Manila is not the Philippines. All they care about is that the vegetables in Munoz Market increased and that the government or some trader has to be blamed for this. It never enters their concern that a higher price will benefit the real but invisible majority of the country: the farmers.

Years ago, I read of a journalism student from the University of the Philippines who graduated Magna Cum Laude. This student was featured on the Philippine Daily Inquirer because he happened to be a scholar of the newspaper. In the article, this student bragged about how he was able to graduate from the supposed premier university of the country while having borrowed and read less than twenty books from the university library! The UP library has thousands upon thousands of books. Yet, this person is bragging about not having taken advantage of this vast intellectual resource. Instead, he bragged that he has learned more by joining protests and listening to some random loser vent his frustrations on the streets of Manila.

I was aghast when I read about the limited reading of this graduate of UP Diliman. Even if one only reads the Harvard Classics Library without reading any other required textbooks, one will have already read over 50 books! How can this student graduate magna cum laude while borrowing and presumably reading only 20 books in his entire student career? Has UP become a diploma mill also?

UP is known for its leftist ideology and I am sure that scores of UP professors and UP students will castigate me for my contrarian view of what constitutes a proper education. An education in the streets of Manila is enough for most of these UP intellectuals.

That may be good enough for a liberal arts major but this is a journalism student we are talking about. There is a good probability that this student will become a reporter and may even be a reporter of ABS-CBN, GMA or PDI right now. His reports will be read by thousands or maybe even hundreds of thousands of readers. He will write as if he understood what he is writing about and readers will believe him. But due to his limited intellectual maturity he will make the same tunnel-vision mistakes that Manila-based reporters are making now.

  • He will be persuaded that Manila is the entire Philippines. As he swims in the murky concerns of the capital city, he will have the conviction that the concerns of Manila are the concerns of the entire country!
  • He will listen to only one side of a story and will not entertain the possibility that interviewees can have agendas and can lie.
  • He will be ignorant of economics and will believe that hoarding is the primary cause of price increases. He will be for keeping the price of commodities so low and he will be oblivious to the plight of the impoverished farmers outside of Manila.
  • He will be ignorant of history and philosophy and will be prone to influence from the nearest pseudo-intellectual. That pseudo-intellectual is invariably a male dressed in robes, wearing a cross, and spouting nonsense about economics, marriage, human morality, ethics, medicine, biology, the judicial system and other difficult topics for which he only has very limited knowledge.
  • And most egregious mistake of all, he will believe the premier and most exclusive university in the country is the University of the Philippines. (Can you guess the honest-to-goodness most exclusive school in the country?)

Now that I have written the above rant-list, it suddenly struck me that most of the reporters known nationally are graduates of UP! Maybe that is why there is so much drivel on TV news reports today.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Atheists Creed

I wrote the following letter to a girl lamenting the loss of someone very dear to her. She is a borderline agnostic and, being lesbian, was also suffering from the bigotry of society. I wrote this letter to her because, as an atheist, I felt I am receiving identical treatment from the same god-fearing society.

I had a similar problem when I first became an atheist. Previously, everything I did was guided by what I believe God wanted. I have to behave like this because God wants us to behave like this. I did not necessarily agree with many of God's regulations and standards (eg. proscriptions against pre-marital sex, stem-cell research, etc.) but I did make it a point to try and follow them as my soul will pay the price for my perfidy in this world.

Immediately after I became an atheist, it was a very trying period for me. There is no God, therefore there is no soul, and therefore there is no eternal punishment. We are alone in this universe. There is no meaning to life, life just is. What is my purpose in life then?

I pondered long and hard about my previous actions and attitudes. I asked myself questions:

  1. If there is no God, then what is the point of following Church laws?
  2. If there is no life after life, what am I going to do with the life I am living now?
  3. Was I a good neighbor because I feared the wrath of God?
  4. If the entire world is atheist, would it be a pleasant place to live in?

After weeks of thinking and weeks of sleepless nights I arrived at the conclusion that

God does not exist, therefore I shall not follow the laws of God.

But ...

  • My country exists, therefore I shall follow the laws of my country.
  • Society exists, therefore I shall be a decent and honest member of society.
  • My fellowmen exist therefore I shall live my life beside my fellowmen.
  • My family exists, therefore I shall be loyal to my family.
  • I exist, therefore I shall be true to myself.

I rose from that paradox that is theophobia "fear of God" and became a changed man. I have unshackled myself from superstition and hatred. Hatred? Yes hatred, because was it not God or His Church that taught that the enemies of God must be hated? Was it not the church that hurls epithets against those who do not believe in God and does not follow his laws?

The irony is, I think I became a much more decent member of society as an atheist than when I was a religious man.

As an atheist,

  • I give to charity because there is no God who shall take care of my fellowman. Isn't it therefore imperative upon me, a supposedly decent member of society, to provide this succor?
  • I do not agree with the beliefs of the Mormons but I do admire their sacrifice and their dedication. Who am I to say that one belief is better than another? As a decent member of society, shouldn't I be tolerant of different beliefs for as long as they don't break any laws?

The Roman Catholic Church seeks to impose its will upon civil society conveniently forgetting that there is separation of church and state. Why should a group of contented and wealthy celibates seek to dictate how society should act? Why should we listen to the dictates of a group that is holding up an ancient and barbaric book (the bible) as the standard of decency? Was Solomon, with his wives and concubines, a decent man? When Solomon proposed to cut a baby into two so that two women shall have a piece of the disputed, was he being wise or barbaric?

You are in the same situation. You are confused because your beliefs do not agree with the beliefs of the majority of society. You know you will be judged. I know I will be judged too.

What did I do? I didn't care. I did not shout my atheism from the rooftops because shouting from the rooftops will not do me any good other than making my throat sore. But I no longer cared for what others think. I only asked myself whether I am breaking the laws of the society I lived in. I only asked myself whether what I shall do shall do someone harm. Thankfully, I discovered Robert Green Ingersoll during this time and I said, "Finally, a humanist thinker I can agree with."

We live in a society. Whether we like it or not, it just is. There is nothing that can be done about it. God did not put us here, biology and chance did. Society may be crazy and it may be foolish, but it is a human society and humans were made to be social animals.

No longer care how other people shall judge you because their judgements don't matter. For as long as you strive to be an honest and decent member of society, then the judgement of a few matters not. What only matters is whether, near the end of your life, you can lie down in bed, think about the years of your life and say with satisfaction: I have lived a wonderful life.

Friday, March 21, 2008

How to be an evolutionist without knowing it.

A reader named Masterpiece of God (MOG) left the following comment in my essay entitled Does Evil Come From God?

Your examples successfully prove that [1] bacteria can develop immunities, and that [2] moths that are adaptable and/or more suitable to certain environments tend to flourish, while those that aren't, tend to diminish in numbers (they might even become extinct eventually). They, however, do not prove the Theory of Evolution.

Ask any sane Christian and he/she will agree that people can develop immunities and that some animals become extinct (and even more will be so, unless global efforts of wildlife preservation is more aggressively pushed). Evolution is just one of a number of theories than seek to explain the origin of man (and, perhaps, of the universe as well). Different people have different people why they believe or disbelieve certain theories. Personally, I do not believe in Evolution, but not because "the professor has no brain." I believe in the Creation theory, and I have my rational, logical reasons for doing so.

Refuting the Christian explanation by dissecting selected and isolated anecdotes is tantamount to no less than a straw man argument.

Obviously, this Masterpiece of God misunderstands the Theory of Evolution. The theory of evolution essentially says that

  • Living organisms evolve and that
  • The driver of this evolution is natural selection.

Note that the theory of evolution applies only to living organisms. It does not apply to non-living things. Questions about the origin of the universe is not covered by the theory of evolution but is instead covered by the subject of cosmology and the theory of the Big Bang. (Curiously, fundamentalist christians believe in the theory of the Big Bang --- a theory whose observational support is imperceptible --- while dueling with the much more visible theory of evolution.)

The second point of the theory of evolution says that nature selects for survival the specie which has evolved to adapt to its environment. A brutish term for natural selection is survival of the fittest.

Masterpiece-of-god essentially agrees that bacteria and moths evolve. Evolve and evolution are both derived from the same Latin root evolutio. He also agrees that organisms other than bacteria and moths evolve and that they adapt to their environments. Masterpiece of God therefore agrees with the two salient points of the theory of evolution. He supports the theory of evolution without being aware of it.

He further says that if you ask any sane christian, they will agree with the salient points above. And why should they not? It is very obvious. Assuming that Adam and Eve are the parents of the entire human race one is then faced with the question as to why one person can look like Kobe Bryant while another can look like Britney Spears. Shouldn't all human beings look alike? Like peas in a pod? We are siblings, after all.

It is obvious to even these christians that the Kobe Bryants of the world evolved to adapt to their environment (hot and tropical Africa) while the Britney Spears and the Paris Hiltons of the world evolved to adapt to theirs (cold Northern Europe). There is no other sane explanation.

So why does Masterpiece of God and his christian ilk adamantly refuse to believe in evolution while essentially agreeing to all its tenets? In other words, why are they prime examples of theoidiots?

Well, the reason has to do with the consequences of the theory rather than its principles!

If bacteria, birds and bees evolve, is it possible that humans evolved also? The theory of evolution, as part of its consequence, says YES! The theory of evolution applies to all living organisms and since man is a living organism it stands to reason that man is ruled by the theory of evolution also.

This is the conclusion that theoidiots are unwilling to accept. They have hidebound biblical reasons for this:

  • If man is ruled by the same rules that apply to all organism in the planet then there is nothing special about man. This contradicts what the bible says about man being the masterpiece of God and man being special among all living things.
  • Since God created man in his image, then God must look like an ape because man evolved from ape-like creatures!

No sane christian would agree to a god that looks like a gorilla and so, contradicting what their eyes and minds tell them, they refuse to believe the truth. This is another reason why excessive bible reading is anathema to the proper functioning of reason and logic. Bible reading is the origin of theoidiocy!

Unfortunately for these superstitious christians, the conclusions of science are subjected to much much more stringent ordeals than the conclusions of religion. Having survived this ordeal, the conclusions of science are imbued with more truth than the stories of the bible. (I will have more to say about this (I hope) in a later discussion when I compare religion and science.)

For now it suffices to say that Mister MOG believes in creation theory for the simple reason that he has, he claims, rational, logical reasons for doing so.

Logical? Maybe MOG meant to say emotional or maybe the theoidiotic definition of logical is different from the rest of the thinking world. Far from being rational, religion is ruled by the same touchy-feely tests of truth which leads to conclusions such as god loves the world because he loves to subject it to tests and punishments! All it takes to make a conclusion right by religion is that it feels right and that it touches the soul in the right way. (And like most theoidiotic precepts, don't ask them how they know that the feeling is right and that their soul is touched. Like a dictionary that defines happy to be gay and gay to be happy, the touch-feely definition is an exercise in circular reasoning.)

In science, one does not use the word prove because that word has connotations exclusively reserved for mathematics. When scientists say that one cannot prove anything about the conclusions of science they are using this term in its mathematical sense. Instead, scientists prefer the more modest term support as in The available evidence supports the conclusion that man evolved from lower animals.

Digression: This refusal to use the term prove in science is construed by theoidiots to mean that scientific theories are unprovable unlike the talking donkeys and snakes with legs of the bible. It is unfortunate indeed that scientific modesty is used as an alibi by theoidiots to undermine science.

Paleoanthropologists have found numerous support for the evolution of humans. The lineage of humans has already been traced to as far back as 7 million years ago to an ape called Sahelanthropus tchadensis. This ape is the common ancestor of humans, chimpanzees and gorillas. Unfortunately for the members of the cult of Yahweh, genetics have also lent support to the common ancestry of apes and humans through genetic analysis. It turns out that humans and chimpanzees share as much as 99% of their genes.

In other words, only a little over 1 percent of our genes distinguish us from the chimpanzee. I find this conclusion awe-inspiring. Far from demeaning humans, it makes us more special by emphasizing just how far our lineage has gone and, since evolution is continuing process, it is exciting to think how much more we can be.

Being reminded of their common ancestry with the apes will be hard to swallow for the religious. As our knowledge of human origins and of science expands, they will have much much more unpalatable truths to swallow. Mr MOG and his ilk have nothing to worry about however, they are used to it. Their kind have been swallowing vasefuls of this kind of truth for than 2000 years.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Dear Friends

I really do need to update this blog and I will. There have been many questions posed to me and I feel that I must reply. I will do that. The coming Holy Week (so called) will afford me the time to compose my replies. Please wait.

I'm coming back.