Friday, March 30, 2012

Dinesh D'Souza and the Problem of Evil

The Problem of Evil, also referred to as the "Problem of Suffering" has been a huge difficulty for theists for quite a few millennia.  It's quite the problem because no one can possibly refute the foundational aspect of the dilemma since no one can possibly claim that there is no such thing as evil or suffering in the world.  As such, it's something that comes from non-believers and it is just as well something that believers themselves have to wrestle with in the throes of doubt.  A lot of times, theists seem to think that atheists use this argument as a strong refutation against their god's existence, which I don't think is the case.  It's really not much of an argument against any god's existence so much as an argument against the extant theology of most current religions.  It shows that the proposition of a benevolent god as is the framework of most modern religions is really not consistent with the nature of reality.  It still leaves room for an uncaring god or a malevolent god.

Dinesh D'Souza seems to think this is a solved problem, so I was curious if he'd uncovered some new mode of apologetic that no one had noticed.  Given that it was Dinesh D'Souza, though, I really shouldn't have expected much.  Indeed, there was nothing new.  It was little more than a series of bald assertions that old arguments made hundreds of years ago and still parroted today are solid proof that there is no problem in the first place.

Seriously?  All those brainless platitudes about God working in mysterious ways or placing the greatest trials on those he loves the most and so on solve the problem of evil & suffering?  Is there a brain in there, Dinesh?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Californian

I'm going to go a bit off the rails here for once.  Normally, when I take on creationists, alt-med hipsters, general stupidity, there is a smoldering grumpiness that is both fueled and tempered by the dogmatic adherence to reason.  This time, however, while reason exists, there will be an overflowing rage with which I write this.  As such, I will preface this posting with a note that what I say here will be dripping with disdain and anger and should be taken with more grains of salt than the usual fare.

That said, it bears being uttered with all the road rage I have at my disposal.

I can't say that I've lived everywhere in this country, and whatever I have to say about the drivers here in the U.S. is in an entirely different league to the abject lawlessness of India.  But currently, I live in California, and I find a rather egregious incompetence to the drivers here.  I mean, I've seen people in Texas go the wrong way on an exit and actually U-turn onto a highway (feeling as well that they have the freedom to do so because they're in a Hummer), and yet somehow, this state does it worse.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

On Indian Classical Music (part 6) -- with a digression

One of my music theory professors once commented on a common "complaint" he tended to receive from many of his students.  The complaint was that after learning a little bit about music -- even a single semester of theoretical training, they could no longer listen to music of any kind in the same way.  They could no longer listen to some pop tune or a symphony without ending up analyzing it to some degree.  To which, he replied, and I agree -- "well, that's a good thing!"  It means they're appreciating it on a higher level than ever before.

Think of all the creationists who chastise scientifically literate people that they have no sense of wonder; no appreciation for the awesomeness of "God's creation."  Real scientists have a far superior sense of awe at the universe than any creationist because they actually understand it rather than simply bask in the mystery.  They take greater awe in it than any creationist ever could because they are able to connect what they see with the naked eye with everything from the microscopic dance of superposed quantum fields all the way up to the bright and brief lives of supermassive stars in galaxies hundreds of thousands of light years across knowing that's only a fraction of the way.  Not only is there more that they see (or for that matter, can see because it's not all a mystery), but the dazzling visions that flood their minds are things that are actually there!

I take the same viewpoint on music, because people who actually understand music have the ability to not merely let it wash over them like some ethereal experience, but they also pick up on the way the composer created those effects.  Why does this tune sound sad?  Why does this tune sound ominous?  Why is this riff catchy?  The deeper you study, the more details you pick up on.  And then the real genius of the musicians actually comes into view.  That doesn't happen when you don't have the knowledge.  Knowledge is power.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Atheists in America

In the comments of an earlier post, a little point came up about nonbelievers who are not so direct and "out there" about their atheism.  Indeed, there is some value in choosing the right time and place to "come out", and there are those who wear their anti-religion stance on their sleeves like myself.  In addition to those who are merely being cautious, there are those who simply want to avoid telling anyone or just say the word "agnostic" in lieu of "atheist" order to save face and/or avoid confrontation entirely.

It kind of begs the question as to why there is such a conflict in the first place?  Here in the United States, especially, you have people who view atheists as being among the most loathsome of all creatures.  In the episode of Family Guy where the dog (Brian) reveals his lack of belief, a news report brands him as "Worse than Hitler?"  The sad part of this is that such a reaction is hardly an exaggeration.  Why should it be that way?  This is supposed to be the country that has more Nobel Laureates than any other.  This is the country where people come to to get the best healthcare on the planet (assuming you have the enormous wealth required to get it).  This is the country which has put men on the moon and created the friggin' Internet.

And yet, this is also the country where state legislatures propose that women who have been raped should be raped one more time by an ultrasound machine so that she can be guilt-tripped out of an abortion.  This is also the country where people paid to provide us with an education believe that the universe has only existed for 6,000 years and man and dinosaurs lived at the same time.  This is also the country where the state which is generally considered to be the most socially liberal in the entire nation still passed a law to outlaw gay marriage.  This is the country where the Constitution demands that no religious test be required for any office in government, and yet there is not a single elected official in government who can avoid a religious test at the hands of its populace.

So what the friggin' hell is America's problem?