Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Playing "God's Advocate"

One of the arguments I have been faced with is the notion that to be as much of a dogged rationalist as I aspire to be, one must be prepared to take the position of the adversary in a rational way as well.  So a challenge came forth to me to put out the most rational and thorough argument I can make in favor of religion and faith in general.  As much as it might give me pause to support religion in general, I still have to say that this makes for an interesting intellectual exercise, so I'm actually quite pleased to go through it.  And indeed, the one who dared challenge me to do so is fair in doing so, but simultaneously expects me to fail.

I will say, at least, that this cannot possibly consist of any arguments for the truth of a religious belief system.  Such arguments cannot possibly be made while still maintaining full intellectual honesty.  Rather, this would consist of arguments that posit that religion is, at least on some level, a positive thing.  A large part of this is going to rely less on intrinsic qualities of religion and more to do with human nature and the practical outcomes that connect these two.  Furthermore, I am leaving out such arguments as the ways in which religion has molded the fine arts (something I've mentioned in the past with respect to music) or the way it served humanity in ancient times -- these, I would consider elements that outline historical value, which although passable, are not entirely relevant in a qualitative way today.  I will refer to these as examples, but only in reference to a larger point. After all, this is supposed to be about the idea that religion is, not was, a positive force.

So you can go check outside your window for flying pigs, and then proceed below the jump.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dialogues With Hopeless Delusional Idiots ep. 1 epilogue

Before I continue with the primary content of this little series, I wanted to include some particularly hilarious responses I got from the first one.  Since the Google+ feed of comments/responses is directly visible at the original posting, I'm more or less not including anything from there.  Instead, I'm including some of the direct messages I get here and there (such as on Facebook, where anybody can message anybody).  Some of them are truly amazing, and I feel it is only right to include them so that everybody gets a good laugh.  Note that I'm only including the responses from delusional idiots in order to keep up with the theme of the series. I will say that I got a lot more positive responses than ones from crazed religious morons, but there is clearly a great deal more entertainment value in reveling in the inane stupidity borne of faith the world over.

So without further ado, I submit to you some truly magnificent morons.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

In Where I Hammer Thor...ium, Again

So, once again, I am being sent links from advocates about thorium.  This time, though, it's not about the LFTR or breeder reactors or anything related to that.  This time, it's a little weirder...  it's about a Thorium-powered car.  Now, I am not strictly ruling out the theoretical possibility of such a car just based on that description alone.  One of the nice things about thorium is that you can breed U-233 out of it with relatively low-energy neutrons.  Also, the part about making a thorium reactor small enough that it can fit inside a car is conceivable in principle, although what you'd have is many times more massive than a traditional ICE.  However, there are practical barriers to using it in a car, not the least of which include the public fear of nuclear anything (and no amount of reason or factual knowledge can possibly weigh in).  More than that, the mechanism by which nuclear actually does its thing is tremendous heat output, and it's a fairly huge challenge not just to carry that heat away, but in a car, you also have to prevent the transmission of all that heat to the passengers and also to just about anywhere else within a few inches of your core.  That's not easy.

Using steam to generate power in a car is not an entirely new concept, mind you.  BMW toyed with the idea of using a water-alcohol (vodka?) coolant to draw excess heat away from the ICE's exhaust gases to drive a small steam turbine.  Although it was providing power assist and not generating electricity, it worked in practice, but current hybrid technology probably yields better results overall.  With a nuclear source, though, you pretty much have to generate electricity, and you can generate lots of it on relatively little fuel.  The actual press release as well suggests that start-up times are around 30 seconds, which sounds reasonable to start superheating steam from a dead cold state.  Nonetheless, as you read into it, it's pretty obvious that it's a big fat hoax, and it turns out that all these claims go back a few years as it is, and they've unsurprisingly gotten nowhere.

So what was the obvious problem with it?  Well, that comes when you get a little more specific about the actual claims made.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Dialogues with Hopeless Delusional Idiots ep. 1

Yeah, I get email.  I also get PMs over various networks and forums, and so on, and there's a general rule about the internet -- No, I don't mean rule 34...  I mean the rule that only stupid exists on the internet.  In this case, it was a PM on a forum some years back where I was the as-yet-unassigned-as-a-name-but-essentially-filling-the-role-of "grumpy anti-theist" in a crowd full of people.  But although the blog may be relatively new (it's only been around a few years), being a grumpy anti-theist is not at all new for me.  Perhaps 10-12 years ago, when I was a naive undergraduate, I might have been more of an apatheist, and identified at least culturally as a Hindu, but I really couldn't help but call religious nutbars on their bullshit nonetheless.

So this particular message I got was a PM I got in response to some activity on a forum thread...  in fact, it was on a forum for which I was an admin.  The thread was mainly about religious indoctrination and the forceful instigation of religion on people.  And of course, one delightfully delusional idiot comes along and pretends that it's not true...  at least not of his religion.  Well, the fellow happened to be Muslim, but what I had to say as far as the issue of forcing beliefs on people really isn't exclusive to Islam.  Just so happened that the conversation was on that topic.  I feel that this particular exchange is a pretty good example to illustrate the degree to which religious nutbars can have an inordinately distorted view of reality.

Below the jump are his claim and my response inline.  Names are hidden, but not really significant in any case.  All the original grammatical and spelling errors are preserved (including my own).  In yellow are his words, and mine in white.