Thursday, September 30, 2010

Where Rush is Wrong

I was listening to Rush yesterday and heard him go on a tirade about evolution, and it just drives me nutso to listen to someone who is just brilliant in some areas, spout off utter nonsense when talking about something he so obviously knows very little about.  And it's such a sad thing too, because it's not that complicated.

  • Evolution is not faith, it is science.  Creationism/Intelligent Design/etc... are not science, they are faith.  This does not mean that one is right and the others are wrong, what it means is that evolution can be disproved, where as the others cannot.  The attribute of a thing that places it in the realm of science is not truth, but the ability to hold it up to scrutiny and methodically attack it.  If an idea survives repeated attacks and attempts to disprove it, then it may eventually be considered a theory.  If, on the other hand, an idea is constructed in such a way that it cannot be scientifically attacked, then it is not science.
  • Next thing he got wrong - the theory of evolution describes a mechanism, it says nothing about any purpose, it says nothing about how it got started, it merely attempts to describe how members of a species can change over the course of generations into a new species, or into several new species.
  • Next thing, evolution has nothing to do with the "Big Bang" theory.  As I mentioned before evolution describes a mechanism for the differentiation of species, not the origin of this universe.  I have no opinion about the merits of the "Big Bang" as I have not studied it, I know even less about astrophysics than I do of biology, and I fear that any attempt to even comment on it would out me as being a bigger idiot then is probably already apparent.
  • Finally, evolution does not deny the existence of God.  Charles Darwin was a Christian when he wrote On the Origin of Species and while he did eventually come to be an agnostic, as far as I am aware he never did claim the non-existence of God.

It may be true that there are those who use evolution to argue against the existence of God, just as there are those who use God to argue against the existence of evolution.  I have not personally heard God's explanation about why evolution is nothing but lies, nor do I see anywhere in any mainstream theory of evolution that says anything about God.  That unscrupulous people will misrepresent unrelated things to bolster their point of view should surely come as no surprise to someone who lives their professional life in the arena of politics.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Good Fences......

 Disclaimer: I am about as un-authoritative as one can get to comment on scriptures with which I just barely familiar.  I am also fully aware (and wish to alert the reader) that some of my logic here is circular - I accept this as being necessary given that faith and religion specifically deal with those things which are beyond the reach of experimentation and proof and therefore outside the scope of rationality.

Eventually Krishna left Vrindavan for Mathur.  As he was leaving, His path was blocked by the gopis who refused to allow Him to pass until He assured them that He was coming back just after finishing His business there.  Krishna never returned, and the people of Vrindavan were left in constant longing for Him.

As Krishna explains in his letter (delivered by Uddhava):
"My dear gopis, in order to increase your superexcellent love for Me, I have purposely separated Myself from you. I have done this so that you may be in constant meditation on Me."
So I got to thinking about what this really means.  I prefer to ignore questions related to literal interpretations if historical events - it may or may not be as recorded, my interest is in the reason why it was recorded and how this can be applied to understand our lives.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

The poet Sextus Aurelius Propertius expressed in one of his elegies, "always toward absent lovers love's tide stronger flows."  This seems to be a curious sentiment, but there seems to be some intuitive truth to it.  So I wonder if the explanation for Krishna's leaving of Vrindavan might also serve to explain why we do not see God physically manifested here in our daily lives, running our Earthly affairs for us.

Since it is asserted that the way to return to God is through the cultivation of love and devotion towards Him, it would make sense for Him to assist us in the cultivation by whetting our appetite and then allowing our hunger to increase and using that to pull us back to Him.  Like the smell of freshly baked bread that seems to draw one to it by smell alone.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

starting on the first of never

I recently heard our dear Leader speaking the other day, complaining that keeping our current taxation rates at their current level for the wealthiest people will cost the U.S. Government 700 Billion dollars. These are the people who own businesses and provide jobs for the rest of us.  If we accept this 700 Billion figure as true, then it follows that raising the tax rates on these people to their pre-Bush levels will cost the private sector of our economy 700 Billion dollars.  I think that the private sector has suffered quite enough in this downturn, and the government sector has suffered not at all.

One problem with a progressive income tax is that there is, built in to the underlying assumptions of it, the idea that a person who makes less money needs what money he does have more than the person who makes much more money.  May be this sounds like common sense to you, it did to me before I really thought about it, and thought about what it implies.  To see the moral corruption one must first examine the premise behind this axiom, mainly that a person's "needs" can be evaluated by anyone other than that person.  Only the person in question has the most up to date and through information for determining this.

I don't even entertain arguments that somehow "needs" can be determined by a majority vote.  It is a fact as to whether or not a person has a particular need, and facts are determined by reality, not democracy.  Much like the ratio of a circle's circumference to diameter is a fact, and no vote in the Indiana General Assembly can alter it.

To argue that "progressive" taxation rates are compassionate is to attribute compassion to the act of reaching into a pocket that is not one's own. To assert this is to cheapen genuine acts of compassion and charity.

A "progressive" tax can only be seen as moral if you accept the premise that someone's needs can be determined in advance by someone else, AND you accept the premise that this person making the determination is justified in taking the "unneeded surplus" from whomever is determined to have more than his "fair share."

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Milton Friedman and Phil Donahue

Ya know, I find it interesting to look back at what TV talk shows used to be, and what they have become.  What follows is a part of an interview of Milton Friedman by Phil Donahue from, I think, 1979.  Now a days the apex of the talk show seems to be Maury's "Who the baby daddy?" DNA tests.  Which, of course, I've never seen... "I did not have television relations with that show, Maury Povich, not a single time...."

Phil Donahue: When you see around the globe, the mal-distribution of wealth, a desperate plight of millions of people in underdeveloped countries. When you see so few “haves” and so many “have-nots.” When you see the greed and the concentration of power. Did you ever have a moment of doubt about capitalism and whether greed is a good idea to run on?

Milton Friedman: Well first of all tell me is there some society you know that doesn’t run on Greed? You think Russia doesn’t run on greed? You think China doesn’t run on greed? What is greed? Of course none of us are greedy, it’s only the other fellow who is greedy. The world runs on individuals pursuing their separate interests.
     The great achievements of civilization have not come from government bureaus. Einstein didn’t construct his theory under order from a bureaucrat. Henry Ford didn’t revolutionize the automobile industry that way.
     In the only cases in which the masses have escaped from the kind of grinding poverty you’re talking about – the only cases in recorded history – are where they have had capitalism and largely free trade.
     If you want to know where the masses are worst off, it’s exactly in the kinds of societies that depart from that. So that the record of history is absolutely crystal clear that there is no alternative way so far discovered of improving the lot of the ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by a free enterprise system.

Donahue: But it seems to reward not virtue as much as ability to manipulate the system…

Friedman: And what does reward virtue? You think the Communist commissar rewarded virtue? You think a Hitler rewarded virtue? You think – excuse me – if you’ll pardon me – do you think American Presidents reward virtue ?
     Do they choose their appointees on the basis of the virtue of the people appointed or on the basis of their political clout ?
     Is it really true that political self-interest is nobler somehow than economic self-interest? You know, I think you’re taking a lot of things for granted. Just tell me where in the world you find these angels who are going to organize society for us? Well, I don’t even trust you to do that.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Traditions, customs and prisoner's

I think that one of the advantages to following social norms as opposed to always doing the "rational" thing is that there are some problems where the ability of members of a group to rely on the coordinated behavior afforded by their customs and traditions can provide greater benefits to most if not all members of that group than if they each pursued their own rational self-interest.  Consider the Prisoner's Dilemma, for example when foisted upon members of a culture like the Sicilian Mafia.  If they all abide by their cultural values and keep their mouths shut, then they beat the game.  The use of cultural norms and peer pressure here is so effective and powerful that our government had to resort to extreme measures (like passing the vague and often over-reaching RICO laws, property seizure and property forfeiture laws, many of which poke their thumb in the eye of the U.S. Constitution.)