Saturday, 10 December 2011

The ontological argument for the non-existence of God

Most ontological claims that can be made are false. That is to say, there are more things that can be imagined than really exist. This can be demonstrated quite easily by postulating an animal with 1 eye, 2 eyes, 3 eyes...n eyes. Even if we ignore known physical constraints, we can say that the probability that there exists an animal with 1030 +1 eyes is rather low.

This can seen in the practice of science: There are more postulated entities than discovered entities. If a scientist proposes phenomenon x to explain some feature of a larger phenomenon (example: proposing that convection currents explain some feature of thunderstorms), they need to do work to show both that phenomenon x actually exists and that phenomenon x explains what is observed.

Why is evidence needed? Evidence increases the probability of something being true. This means that before evidence is found, the ontological claim that x exists is improbable. x exists in the sea of all possible ontological claims. Evidence raises claims out of this sea. The sea of all possible ontological claims is essentially infinite in size*

Because of this feature, when a scientist proposes x, the correct response is disbelief in x until evidence is brought forward to raise it out of the sea. The probability of plucking something out of the sea and being right is low - there are an infinite number of untrue ontological claims and only a finite number of true ontological claims. This position, where disbelief is the default position, is normally referred to as 'skepticism'.

Religious folk will make ontological claims as explanations for observed phenomena. Theists often argue that god exists and is an explanation for things such as

  • Morality
  • Love
  • Religious experiences
And theologians have done a lot of work trying to show how God would explain the above. I disagree that they have succeeded, I've yet to see how there is a causal link from God to any of those thing - how the mechanics of the explanation is proposed to work exactly and how it directly leads to the observation. Worse than that though, is that there is famously no evidence for the proposed entity, God. As such God, no matter how good an explanation you might think it is, remains adrift in the infinitely deep sea of all possible ontological claims. The probability that it is one of the true ones remains therefore negligible.
* It might be worth noting that applying known phsyical constraints and the assumption that we know our constraints may serve to prevent this being infinite in practice. Even so, the number is still high enough to warrant skepticism for any unevidenced claim. Of course, if we're even allowing gods and other supernatural/spiritual/magical beings to be considered 'possible' in our sea of possible ontological claims, I think examination will reveal that we're making the pool infinite in size again. After all, whose to say there is not a magical invisible pink unicorn with 1030 +1 eyes, right?

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Faith is not a reason

In debate, and whenever else a believer might be challenged on their beliefs - there is often the temptation on behalf of the believer to refer back to their beliefs as reasons why they hold those same beliefs. This is the 'faith' rebuttal. Here's an example:

A: Why do you believe that Jesus was resurrected?
T: Because the Bible says it is so.
A: But why do you believe what the Bible says?
T: I have faith that it is true.
A: I know that, but why do you have faith?
T: I just have faith.

Now, theologians practically make a living out of glamorizing faith and imbuing it with all sorts of connotations, but ultimately faith is just another way of saying 'I trust it'. Even if the theologians are correct, all they are saying is that faith is a special kind of trust.

Normally trust is something that is earned. The process of earning trust is through justification. I trust bridges won't fall down because of the observed safety protocols that are enforced, knowing that an inspector can be held morally and legally liable if they fail to detect structural defects in the bridge, I trust in the innate human tendency to want to avoid getting caught not abiding by duties and being morally culpable for the consequences. The bridge safety system has, in short, earned my trust through closing bridges at the first sign of potential trouble.

Theologians would argue that faith is a mystically unfathomable type of trust. What it seems to boil down to as far as I can see is that faith is special because it doesn't need to be earned. Indeed, faith seems to be homeopathic trust: The less justified the trust is, the stronger the faith is.

By promoting this unjustified trust, faith is seen by many to be a virtue. Con artists rely on exploiting unjustified trust. By thinking that faith is a virtue, you are creating a Trojan Horse of the mind: Clever people may successfully exploit your belief in unjustified trust, to your detriment. You may get off lightly, and merely end up believing in some strange things, but is it worth the risk?

Finally, there is something infantile about saying you believe what you believe because you have faith it is true. It reminds me of

A: Why did you punch B?
C: 'cos.
A: But why?
C: Just....'cos.


Suicide is a difficult subject for many people. This is presumably partially down to the fact that suicide seems so alien or impossible to really imagine. What person in their right mind would do such a thing?

What is suicide?

For my purposes: suicidal behaviour is behaviour whose primary goal is to end the life of the subject. This means that some things that might be considered suicidal by some, are not. There are some classic examples here. One is the example of throwing ones self onto a live grenade. This action might be suicidal, but if the primary goal is to save the lives of comrades, then by my usage here it is not.

Furthermore, suicide attacks such as Kamikaze, suicide bombing, or the September 11 attackers are not suicide by my definition. They all have alternative primary goals. The death of the subject is pretty much incidental to those goals. Sometimes it is a desired side effect, other times an undesired one.

But I'm going to be principally talking about suicide where one's own death is the primary goal.

When is it rational?

To the left is a graph depicting a hypothetical life. The x-axis is time from birth to death. The y-axis is a measure of happiness of some sort. It is a sum of all the pros and cons for being alive at that given moment. When the line is above the axis, life is good and worth living. When the line is below the axis, life is hard and not worth living.

I think everybody would intuitively agree, however, that just because life is tough at period B, suicide would not be a rational response. It is a relatively short period of time, and it is followed by an overwhelmingly positive life for an extended period of time.

However, at the start of period D, life becomes bad, and is going to get worse and worse and worse ending only at the subject's death. The most obvious explanation for this would be a terminal illness of some kind. We might argue, that if a subject knows the shape of their graph, that it might well be rational to kill themselves at or around stage D.

Is it irrational?

Our problem with suicide is one of omniscience. Or rather lack thereof. If stage B represents a depressed stage, it is likely that the subject's estimation of their graph will look more like the one to the right. Depression tends to magnify the perception of the bad, and removes hope regarding the future.

So how can it ever be rational? How can we be sure of our projections into the future to make the decision to end it once and for all? With emphasis on the 'for all'. As ever we have to turn to projected probabilities. If we are acting rationally, we need to estimate the probabilities for the future.

Obviously mental health issues will distort our probabilities, which is why mental illness can be so life threatening.

But what if the subject is very sick at stage B, with a physical illness? One that is so bad it makes one wish one was dead. The subject should work out what are the chances of recovery, and what are the prospects for life once recovery is complete. Hopefully, they will see the first graph as being a realistic possibility and will therefore not kill themselves.

But physical discomfort can be very coercive, and can affect our rational minds just as much as mental anguish.

Is it moral?

Let's re-examine stage B. At stage B it might still be rational to kill one self, though it might not be rational to commit suicide (remember my distinction?). For example, if one knew a secret that if revealed would cost many lives it might be moral to kill oneself to avoid revealing that secret if stage B represents a torture sequence (even knowing that stage C will be swell for us). This would be with the primary intention of saving lives, though, so it would not be the kind of suicide I'm discussing.

Can it ever be moral to commit suicide? Well, why is it immoral? I'm not going to entertain the 'subverting God's will' argument here. I think Hume covered that quite well. If you are curious you can search for Hume's Of Suicide to get the rebuttal to that kind of argument.

There are some obvious moral concerns though: What if you have dependents? What about your other duties and obligations?

These are all difficult issues to resolve, but I think that a moral subject can in principle put their affairs in order to minimize the harm their suicide might otherwise cause. And I think this all lies in tension with our right to life as we see fit (including its voluntary termination). Since suicide is death with consent, I cannot find it intrinsically immoral.

Society needs to adjust to account for this view, and I think it is doing - but slowly. Assisted suicide is becoming something that is accepted morally. For the immediate future, I think that people who want to die, who aren't terminally ill, will be considered mentally ill and thus society will resist their rights to die.

But mental anguish can be as bad as physical anguish, so if it is moral to let someone die to avoid pain, loss of dignity or other suffering - I think a case can be made to allow the mentally ill to die too. Naturally, we would want to try and help the mentally ill person have a good life instead of dying - but that isn't necessarily possible. Today, seriously mentally ill people that would rather die than continue living the way they do are forced to take suicidal actions which are uncontrolled and can result in greater suffering.

It's not an easy subject, but it is better for it to be talked about - than for it to be ignored. Lives are at stake. I recommend, as a starting point for anyone interested, to examine Stanford's Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Suicide. It goes into much greater depth than I have been able to.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Skeptics and mental health

JT Eberhard has given the talk I was hoping to give one day, rallying the skeptics to address mental health issues and to support those afflicted by them.

Unfortunately I’m a random internet asshole with no power or audience, so the chances of me being the one to give the talk was vanishingly small, but I find comfort in my delusions nevertheless. Although there is a slight bitter taste in seeing someone else do the talk one has been building in one's own head for some time, really it wasn't realistic to suppose I would get the opportunity to give it. So I'm incredibly gladdened to see that the talk was given. And to be honest, it was given in a much more engaging fashion than I could have done - so I'm even more glad that Eberhard did it. Given the reaction on the blogosphere, it seems to have achieved precisely what I dreamed a talk like this could have achieved.

He has urged others to ‘come out’ and there have been lots of skeptics coming out with with their tales (mostly of depression, which given its surprising frequency in the population is to be expected). JT suffered from depression related to anorexia, and his story is very moving.

There is a great deal of stigma for an atheist to come out about being depressed. After all: this just proves that without god, there is no hope, only despair etc. That isn't to say there is more stigma than for a theist, indeed it may be worse for some theists...much worse.

There is an additional stigma on top of this with psychosis I think (not that I’m trying to be competitive over this or anything). JT himself said that he suffered from some hallucinations, and he addressed this very point. Since I am delusional, people can simply write off whatever I say as being the ‘ravings of a madman’ and anything that I say can be explained as being symptomatic.

I haven’t written for a good while in my blog. This is predominantly because of a soul crushing belief that I am not worthy to write. Nobody knows about this blog’s existence, and there’s probably nobody that would care if they did. The despair and apathy combined are powerful factors. Just about any guide on writing blogs suggests that writing be regular/frequent, something I had hoped to attain when I started this blog but I knew it was a big ask. This of course (in my dark periods), underscores what a complete failure I am. Although I love writing, I can’t do it regularly enough to attract an audience.

By sheer coincidence (I assume), PZ posted a “Why I am an atheist” from someone with mental health issues which is also worth highlighting:

So much of my life had been spent seeking help in this invisible being, yet to no avail and to the persistence of very tangible pain. Finally, after years of delusion, something clicked and I punched myself with some brutal honesty and the fear turned into anger. A subservient to this “God” is what I had been, begging and fearing for a life that was barely worth living. That night, the “Fuck you God!” night, shed my life of the false safety net that was actually enslaving me. It was perhaps the most liberating experience of my life.

Finally, skepticism about medication is another issue that JT raised. One the things I struggle with is that I know there was shenanigans about the side effects of the medication I am on. Suffering from paranoia, this information is the kind of thing that might threaten my compliance. It was grotesquely immoral of the drug company to pull shenanigans on a drug used to treat psychotic people, given that psychotic people are very sensitive about conspiracies to drug them. That's a rant for another time.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Faith Schools

I recently wrote about a rather peculiar aspect of British Politics, that certain Bishops are given a seat by right in the House of Lords where they can vote for and against legislation that has passed through the House of Commons. Today I talk about another aspect of the British system: Faith schools.

Faith Schools are schools of a 'religious character'. About 20% of all high schools have such a religious character and nearly 40% of primary schools have a religious character. Faith schools are not like Lords Spiritual - they make up a large amount of the educational system of Britain. The question is, is having these schools justified. Is it even sane?

Richard Dawkins has tried to raise our conscience regarding telling children what religious faith they are, and faith schools may serve to reinforce the notion that the children are of a particular faith. Dawkins has produced a documentary called "Faith School Menace?" in which he sets out his problems with Faith Schools. It contains an infamous scene where he speaks to pupils and teachers at a Muslim school and exposes their ignorance of the theory of evolution and the obvious indoctrination that takes place there.
Richard Dawkins Visits a Muslim School by blindwatcher

The schools are allowed to teach their own religion syllabus which is not subject to Ofsted inspection. While some schools may teach other faiths, and even about secular moral stances such as humanism, there is no obligation to do so and so there are plenty that don't and instead just teach the dogmas of the particular religion that sponsors the school. This seems to me to be a great way of shielding young children from challenging viewpoints - not giving them a fair opportunity to make up their own mind. Which religion, if any, that is correct is a genuine controversy to be taught, and many faith schools don't teach that controversy. Furthermore, in classes which are designed to discuss ethics and social issues, faith schools tend to teach these issues from the perspective of the faith behind the school.

As a way to further shield pupils from dissenting views, the schools can even hire people based on their religion. This means they can refuse to hire someone based on their religion, or lack thereof!

In short, there are potentially bad consequences of faith schools. They can serve as propaganda machines for a given faith, and instead of controls and balances put into practice to defend children from this propaganda, the faith schools are given legal passes to avoid scrutiny in this regard. I'd like to be able to trust them to adhere to the curriculum, but I know there will always be those that don't. And without any inspections, they are given free access to some of the most vulnerable minds in our society.

Not only that, but they are inherently discriminatory and biased. They discriminate on the religious views (or lack thereof) of both the pupils that can be taught there and the teachers that can work there. Their selectionism means they can pick the children who are more likely to do well in education (but saying it is on grounds of religious views, and even doing it unconsciously) to bias their results versus the average as a means to persuade us they produce better educated children.

All of this might possibly, maybe, be forgiven if they were private institutions. But they are mostly funded by taxpayers, and I don't think we should be paying to have children given less than the best information about each other and their religions. As it stands, a sound majority of the British public are against making new faith schools, 64% going as far as to agree with the statement, "the government should not be funding faith schools of any kind"

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Male circumcision

Ed Brayton brings up male circumcision. - reporting that California has banned banning circumcision! I am somewhat surprised that this is an active discussion in skeptical circles. Or should I say, an active discussion in American skeptical circles.

After all, there are no actual good reasons to do it, and some good reasons not to do it. So why is it even a serious question?

The Pros

Medical benefits
The medical benefits are minute, or non-existent. Furthermore, the benefits can still be obtained by not circumcising unless specifically medically advantageous. The scatter-gun approach of circumcising before any problems arise seems a little unjustifiable to me.

To make son's penis look the same as Daddy's
This argument would mean we should pierce or tattoo infants penises if the father has had that procedure done. Not only is the argument generally creepy, but it is fallacious.

Women find it more attractive
I don't think this is true. And even if it was true - it will only become relevant when the boy is a teenager.

The Cons

Because it is a non-consensual permanent body modification
And that's really all that matters, surely? The fact that it is of the penis strengthens this argument. The only argument against this is that doing it when the person is very young, means they don't remember the pain and bloodshed. But that argument can be applied to tattoos, piercings or even outright sexual abuse.

I get a very strong sense that people are uncomfortable accepting that a non-consensual body modification on a child's sexual organ is problematic because it paints their family, their friends in a negative fashion. If I suggest that in any other context, divorced from the cultural association, it would be considered sexual assault to cut pieces off a child's penis - it makes people very uncomfortable.

But sexual assault can be done in ignorance and even in love. It isn't that the people that do it are BAD BAD people, but we should really look at the procedure from an objective point of view. Given what the procedure is, the reason for doing it has got to be damned good. And the arguments really aren't even slightly good.

I have no problem with people that choose to circumcise their child, but maybe I should. Nevertheless, since it is an operation that can be deferred until the person reaches an age when they can give their informed consent. I'd wager that most people given that opportunity would turn down circumcision, so what right do we have denying this choice to people just because we have the power to do so?

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Religious Representatives in the House of Lords

The House of Lords is a controversial thing. It is an unelected second house that is part of the legislative process in the UK. Seats are appointed, or in 26 cases given to senior Bishops in the Church of England. The senior Bishops are: The Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishops of Durham, London and Winchester are the first five, the remaining seats are occupied by the longest serving bishops.

Most people outside of the UK who live in a secular society will probably think this is absolutely crazy, and they'd be right. Lords Reform has been on the agenda for some time, with promises of making it a democratic house being bandied around, as well as the notion of just getting rid of the thing entirely.

The most recent reform ideas contain controversy of their own. Although it proposes to basically half the number of bishops, it also reduces the number of Lords resulting in a net increase in the proportion of bishops to Lords (or rather Lords Spiritual to Lords Temporal). Other suugested ideas include getting rid of the privileged status of the CofE and having Lords Spiritual from other religious denominations (for instance, there are no representatives from the Church of Scotland, let alone any Imams at this time).

Most people who have thought seriously and read widely about the intersection of religion and politics will be able to anticipate the reasons for having Bishops given temporal power over legislation. Place your bets now...

The winner is: Bishops offer unique insight into ethical matters. Of course this reason is bollocks. I would suggest that dogma serves to blind Bishops of a range of ethical and moral considerations that makes them less insightful, not more. Take for example: assisted suicide for the terminally ill. Although most people (including the religious) in Britain are generally supportive of the idea given suitable protections etc, but bishops voted against it (the Lords as a whole did, in fairness).

The part that I find most shocking is that in the most recent Reform proposals the Bishops would find themselves exempt from the serious offence provisions. I cannot find details of what the serious offence provision is exactly, but it is proposed that instead of the procedure that applies to all other Lords, the Bishops will be expected to discipline their own. And we know how poor religious institutions are at doing that.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

lying about the European Humans Rights Act

I wrote yesterday of Theresa May's dodgy reasoning for pulling us out of the European Human Rights Act. That reasoning was simply that politicians felt there were some problems with the way it has been applied, and the lengths people have gone to to avoid falling foul of it. Now, she has been caught in what very strongly appears to be a lie.

"We all know the stories about the Human Rights Act... about the illegal immigrant who cannot be deported because, and I am not making this up, he had a pet cat."

When someone says "I am not making this up", it is meant to imply that the person has done at least due diligence in assuring that what is being said is factually correct. Unfortunately for May, it appears that something has been made up. The case it appears she is referring to does not seem to have been decided on the basis of ownership of a cat. The Judicial Communications Office has released a statement that said:

"This was a case in which the Home Office conceded that they had mistakenly failed to apply their own policy - applying at that time to that appellant - for dealing with unmarried partners of people settled in the UK,...That was the basis for the decision to uphold the original tribunal decision - the cat had nothing to do with the decision."

Politicians lying about easily checkable facts as a means to argue citizens out of hard fought for rights? Seems like business as usual. Maybe she was referring to some other case, but she has not clarified her comments but has simply reiterated that she stands by them. The funny part of the story is that another Conservative politician, Ken Clarke, has put a small wager down that she will be unable to provide a single documented case where the ownership of a cat was the reason given for refusing deportation. She is confident that Ken Clarke will owe her a meal at the end of all this.

The BBC has kindly provided a link so that we can see the judgement that appears to be in question. The cat is mentioned, but I see nowhere where it is pivotal in the decision to not deport.

So either she was misleading us about having done due dilligence in checking her facts, or she was misleading us about the case, or both. My vote is both, and there can be no excuse for the xenophobic fear she is peddling in any rational discourse.

Monday, 3 October 2011

European Humans Rights Act in question

"I’d personally like to see the Human Rights Act go because I think we have had some problems with it,"

says Theresa May. (the Home Secretary) On its own this seems absolutely crazy. It sounds even crazier when the justification is given:

I’d personally like to see the Human Rights Act go because I think we have had some problems with it

So because the government has had some problems with the Human Rights Act, this is a reason to to 'let it go'! This is the worst justification for abolishing guarantees of human rights I've ever heard. Of course, it isn't quite as crazy as it sounds because David Cameron does at least propose to "replace the Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights". The primary problem they seem to have with it is that it protects some foreign criminals from being deported. This usually comes under section 8 of the Act:

1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

They are concerned because some criminals have used this act to avoid being deported because it interferes with their right to have a family life. Of course, the second section says "except such as is in accordance with the law...for the prevention of disorder etc.". This is like the Americans who have a right to 'life, liberty and happiness' which can be undermined by the due process of law (imprisonment, for example, denies a person's right to liberty). Therefore the problem isn't with the European Human Rights Act, but in the way it has been interpreted/put into practice. The solution to the problem is in clearer guidelines for the Justice system acting within the Act.

Even more shocking is that some of the arguments for doing away with the Act are because it means people behave in fear of being in breach of it. As David Cameron says:

The Human Rights Act doesn't say that's what you have to do. It's the sort of chilling effect of people thinking 'I will be found guilty under it'

The example given of this fear is of a prisoner being driven 100miles on a roundtrip rather than walking a short distance to court. This seems to have been done because the company doing the prisoner transport was contractually obliged not to walk prisoners down the road in handcuffs. This is presumably to avoid getting mobbed by the press, or other members of the public. I'm not sure if this was out of concern of falling foul of the Act or if it was just common decency to not frogmarch people up the road in cuffs. Either a person has the right to avoid this or they don't, and once this has been established the relevant parties (the contractors in this case) can act appropriately.

In the US, teachers are not allowed to hold prayers but pupils are free to pray. Sometimes a principal might be overzealous or acting out of fear of the establishement clause and forbid a pupil from praying or expressing their religious views. The solution is not to abandon the Constitution, but to educate the relevant parties in the proper way to act.

Furthermore - if you are planning to replace it with a Bill of Rights, there will be the same fear of being in breach of that which will lead to the same strange circumstances that Cameron is complaining about now...his position seems entirely self-defeating.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Hearing voices

A mother, suffering from psychosis has murdered her child to exercise the djinn from them at the request of Allah.

Shayma Ali, 36, who was suffering from psychosis, stabbed the four-year-old up to 40 times and took out her liver...."...a voice told me 'if you love Allah you should sacrifice your daughter."'

I'm not going to jump on this as an example of the religious causing harm, as I'm sure many critics of atheists might think we'd do.

Instead, this is the primarily danger of psychosis. I don't think I'd do this, but I can understand. perhaps better than others, the motivation for doing it.. One possible issue, in my opinion, is that this woman didn't adequately defend herself against erroneous thought patterns ahead of time. She believed in Allah based on no evidence, she believed in Djinn on no evidence (probably, like other Muslims I have spoken to, she relied on stories about a neighbour of an Uncle who met a Djinn or some such. I've not met a Muslim who did not believe in Djinn).

Believing in things without evidence doesn't necessarily lead to harm, but dropping critical thinking in areas where the stakes are as high as they often are in religion, you open yourself up to doing terrible things under the influence of sudden onset mental health issues. 5% of people will suffer a psychotic episode in their lives. That sounds small, but when we realize that this means 1 in 20 of us, it may well drive it home as quite a common thing.

So much of the evidence in favour of Allah, Yahweh and Jesus etc is based around 'personal relationships', 'personal religious experiences' and so on. Is it any wonder that people that hear voices sometimes attribute them to these characters. After all, what else are people that say they have experienced the loving presence of God doing?

And this is why I have adopted a skeptical position. I know I occasionally believe weird things, but if any belief that I hold that is life-and-death important, I run through the skeptical mill before acting. Any belief, I insist to myself, is subject to change based on further information.

Does this render me immune from committing a terrible act? To be honest, I don't know. How could I know? I suspect that a powerful psychotic break could occur and my critical reasoning will be irrelevant for that time. That said, I've heard voices and they have told me to do terrible things. Fortunately I know the human mind can play tricks on you and this is always the evidentially supported hypothesis and thus the preferred one over unverifiable theories about commands from supreme beings.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Happy blasphemy day!

The Holy spirit is a stinking shitbag of puss and Mary was a lying whore (but she's dead now).

Mohammed was a child abusing warlord with a small dick and bad breath and his imaginary friend Allah is a sociopathic bloodthirsty tyrant with bad taste in fashion.

Lord Ganesha is a big-nosed wanker.

Happy Blasphemy Day International! Apologies to those of faiths that I didn't blaspheme, maybe somebody else will have you covered, keep looking - you can be offended if you try hard enough. Jain is a girls name.

David Mabus/Dennis Markuze (aka GOATS ON FIRE!)

In some ways, David Mabus was my inspiration to start a blog. Perhaps as a way to combat the negative stereotypes that psychotic people have to deal with. You see, if you weren't aware of Mr Mabus, he gives us crazy people a bad name. He was recently the subject of a legal intervention after years of posting increasing incomprehensible gibberish (including various things which could be construed as death threats or other threats of violence: CLOBBERING TIME!!) to forums, blogs, on twitter and email in Herculean volumes. Here is some of later work

why would anyone tolerate you intolerant sh&theads? the REAL WORLD!


for lying intolerant sh*thead "wiseman" - we even use YOU!




even Goebbels would not dare use such techniques to brainwash children....



And so on. This would interspersed with surreal pictures like

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

It didn't used to be so incomprehensible. Just a few years ago it was practically Shakespeare in comparison:

For over 40 years James Randi Zwigert (is this even a REAL NAME?) has
had total control over who and how the testing was conducted, yet
despite all this he has terminated the challenge.

The ONLY REASON why the challenge was stopped is because he lost and
refused to pay.

Apparently, Randi likes to break the rules when it serves him



PS: Almost Forgot: Love the IRONY of the *BULLSHIT* sign over Randi's
ugly head...

Who knows, maybe I'm already on the downhill slide into gibbering mania like DM, in which case this blog might serve as an interesting case study for someone. For the curious, more information can be found strewn about the interwebs, but I'll link over to PZ Myers for convenience. After thousands upon thousands of complaints he was arrested and given a psych evaluation. The results of this evaluation have been reported as saying he suffers from bipolar disorder, compounded by substance abuse. The actual report says 'alcohol and substance abuse' I know, but I am fairly sure that alcohol is a substance.

And that's where DM had at least one advantage over me. His manic episodes meant he got a lot of work done. Unfortunately, it was all crazy work, but nobody doubts that he was prolific. For now he is receiving treatment, and the atheist blogger community is happy with that outcome.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Skinner's Dilemma

Also: Pascal's Wager rehashed.

Frank Skinner is a comedian and a one hit wonder, and he's recently expressed his opinions to the Archbishop of Canterbury:

Atheists we might see as people like those who deny global warming. You might celebrate their right, and defend their freedom of speech, to deny global warming – but if they're wrong, and millions of other people have taken their view, then it could end in a terrible, terrible disaster for a lot of people.
At a time when secularism is a threat to the salvation of millions, believers should get together, find what we have in common, and sell that

OF course, there is a bit of problem here Mr Skinner. The problem is that you could substitute any belief-position for atheism and the argument would be as exactly correct as Skinner's. Imagine, for example, a Muslim Imam saying:
if Catholics are wrong, and millions of other people have taken their view, then it could end in a terrible, terrible disaster for a lot of people.

And since the argument applies equally to Catholics, Muslims, Hindus, Atheists and well...everybody, it actually applies to nobody. It's just Pascal's wager re-worded and suffers the same flaws. If it turns out that there is a God but that God punishes us for believing in him without sufficient evidence, then it is the believers that are in for terrible disaster. Indeed, if there is a God and his demands are in anyway contrary to the practices of Catholics or specifically to Skinner - then a lot of people are going to be screwed. No matter which way you put it, someone is going to be screwed if a God exists.

And if God doesn't exist, then people are just screwing themselves by wasting their time and efforts right now. And worse, they are often screwing others over since religious beliefs tend to exact moral demands on the followers which necessarily impacts the lives of other people. Surely, if we are going to try and prevent a 'terrible disaster' we should only make guesses that are in line with the corroborated evidence that we have (or perhaps guesses that go slightly beyond the corroborated evidence, in ways that might be possibly corroborated in the near future).

I agree with Skinner's larger point, however: Comedians are nowadays more regularly taking potshots at religious views. But they can do this in increasing numbers because it is become increasingly safe to do it. More importantly, the audiences find jokes mocking religion to be funny. And comedians are nothing if not opportunists for extracting laughs.

Skinner might lament anti-religion routines becoming the 'in thing', but that's because religion is so absurd just about anyone can say something funny about it.

At any rate, even if the Catholics and the Protestants ganged up against atheism and even if they won - they'd be back to bickering over which fuddy-duddy is in charge of the church and what opinions we should hold about Mary in no time. And then, eventually, people would start taking the piss again.

The enemy of motivation

Of course, one of the dilemmas of having a blog and being psychotic is the tendency towards not making regular updates.  In psychosis there are positive and negative symptoms.  Most people are aware of the positive ones (delusions, hallucinations etc), but the negative ones are the ones that are more regularly present.  Except in some cases like schizophrenia, the positive symptoms are occasional or minor.  The negative symptoms include avolition. From

Avolition is the reduction, difficulty, or inability to initiate and persist in goal-directed behavior; it is often mistaken for apparent disinterest. (examples of avolition include: no longer interested in going out and meeting with friends, no longer interested in activities that the person used to show enthusiasm for, no longer interested in much of anything, sitting in the house for many hours a day doing nothing.)

 Nevertheless I will attempt to press on and continue writing. Even if  it appears I am addressing naught but the aether.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

I'm the psychotic atheist

Hello there, I'm the psychotic atheist!

I didn't choose this name to be provocative or to appear especially interesting.  I really am an atheist (who suffers from psychosis).  I have no idea if my input into the collective blogosphere will prove welcome or of interest to anyone other than me, but I figure I should just start writing and see where it takes me.

Of course, it needs to be disclaimed: I cannot know for sure that I am psychotic.  Two medical professionals and a social worker have come to that conclusion based on a series of interviews with me, and thus the evidence certainly supports the notion.  I can find correspondences with my symptoms and the symptoms of established psychotic disorders.  So I'm going to accept that it is true for the time being. 

Of course, it could (as sometimes I suspect) be a conspiracy to discredit me.  Unfortunately however, thinking such possibilities is exactly what a psychotic person would do.  The only thing that seems to set me apart from many other psychotics is that I am quite aware of many of my delusions (though there are probably some I am not aware of). 

Nevertheless, I have not been formally diagnosed yet. My doctor says they have no intention of diagnosing either.  Apparently its the new thing to treat the patient and not stigmatize them with labels or some hippy nonsense.  It kind of makes sense, but it means trying to explain my condition to others is very hard since 'psychosis' conjures up such negative stereotypes.  For the record: I'm magnitudes more likely to hurt myself than anyone else...and this is generally true of other of my fellow psychotics.

Furthermore, I'm an atheist. I reject religious beliefs entirely: I might be crazy, but I have limits!  When I became aware of my first psychotic episode, I realized I needed to instigate certain mental safeguards to prevent things from getting out of hand again.  No system is perfect, and it took a long time with lots of mistakes along the way, but I eventually settled on skepticism as the best defence against delusions.

This blog will be a place where I will try and throw my thoughts out there about the news of the day, mental health issues, and whatever else strikes my fancy.  I choose to remain anonymous for reasons that should hopefully be obvious.  That said, I get confused or have 'brain farts' more than the average person might so I may inadvertently leave a trail to my true identity.  Please respect my anonymity, and if you find such a trail please alert me to it so that I can remedy things.