The Grand Ellipses

I listen patiently when I am waiting for reality to respond. I act impulsively when I have no idea what's going on . . .

"The Grand Ellipses … “? I love that moment when i’m thinking about something, or listening to something and i have that … moment. It’s that pause before you have your realization of clarity. So, i thought that would be a good name for this, to refer to that grand moment when we let our mind settle, let the questions and turbulence stir a bit and allow free thought to reign.

Fake News and Bad News and Biased News . . . and you.

Our constant struggles in political and social philosophies have brought out a divisiveness in this country the likes of which we haven't seen since the Civil War. That may seem extreme, but it's really not. All we have to do is turn on a news network, actually pay attention to our personal conversations, scroll through facebook or twitter. And we're all guilty of it. I am, you are, the press is, politicians are . . . EVERYONE! So, what's wrong with that? Is there something inherently wrong with having a difference of opinion? Of course there isn't, but there is something wrong in the idea of maintaining and ideology that seems more important to you than does reality. There will always be differences in opinion, but we can't just ignore facts because they contradict our bias. We should embrace them, internalize them, and amend our philosophies. This is what science does all the time; based on the facts, it updates the conclusion. Sometimes, in science, the newly presented facts completely make a mockery of all pre-existing data and assumptions. What's great about that though is that scientists love that!! They want to be correct, they want the integrity of the data, and they are not married to previous data so much that they can't see the fault and move on. So . . . why can't we be like that? Simple answer, philosophy is much more emotional than science. We have personal experience tied to our notions. We have family behind it, friends involved . . . many people have a god that dictates certain social philosophies. We also have selfishness and potentially a disregard for the concerns of others. There's so many things that go in to our beliefs. We can't ignore reality though.

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.
— Philip K. Dick

Fake news is nothing new, and it can unfortunately reach a lot of people. Sometimes, fake news can reach more people than the real news . . . and we are susceptible. A lot of times, people take the information first given to them and don't bother to fact check it. How many times have you watched something like Dr. Oz make "miracle" claim about some weight loss pill, then you picked it up the next time you saw it at the store? How many times have you listened to someone on CNN or Fox make a claim and you just repeat it? You ever listen to Infowars? DON'T!!!

We have to retrain our brains a bit. We have to be honest with ourselves. Try to get to the bottom of why you believe what you believe; in other words, use epistemology. Epistemology is:

the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope. Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion.
— https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistemology

Now, how do we deal with all of the fake news and bad news then? We have to do homework, plain and simple. Don't just believe people. Here are some tips:

 

- MEMES. If you haven't seen the quote or claim before, start from scratch. Memes are some of the most deliberate lies out there. They're short and look fun and they're easier to share as a zinger. Always check the Meme.

- Check the source. Is it verifiable? What does the data say?

- Read the entire story before you share it or form a conclusion.

- Check other material from the site and the author. The site will often times be a dead giveaway with their headlines, boasting absurd claims and definitive righteousness. Is the author credible? How're their editorial skills? Do they sound like an arrogant tool?

- When was the article written or when was the data provided for the current claim being made? People date their opinions frequently.

- What is your personal bias? CHECK YOURSELF!

We obviously gain knowledge about things over time, so if something sticks out to you . . . don't be so quick to share. Go through the steps first. It's ok to be wrong.

 

More reading: http://www.factcheck.org/2016/11/how-to-spot-fake-news/

 

President Trump. The Anti-Intellectual-in-Chief . . .

This two party system makes things very difficult, in that we immediately take the worst of the candidate who won and place it on the people who voted for them. In places, that may be true to their core, but we can't assume it. So, push back and speak out against what we know, not what we assume. I have gotten to a point in my life where I really try to know all the facts about something before I voice an opinion about it. Most of us have smart phones now, we can look up what we don't know. It doesn't make us stupid, it makes us responsible.

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ORLANDO, Guns, EXTREMISM, PERSONAL CONFLICT . . .

We cannot continue to demonize the things that are scientifically natural while continually having to rationalize the stupid shit we have made up. Hate is a part of that made up structure, whether that be though religious or social ideology. Anything can be exacerbated through bad ideas. Lets not listen to faulty rhetoric and allow it to become definition. None of us are perfect at being rational, but if people are losing their lives over things we've simply made up . . . then we can do much better.  

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The people we care for . . . .

So, I have a 95 year old neighbor that i help out a lot. I often want to write about our interactions, but don't get around to it. I also don't even get around to my own page. So, here i come again . . . 

WE USED TO WEAR DRESSES . . . 
A LONG TIME AGO. 
WE USED TO TALK
AND NOT LISTEN TO
THIS CRAP.

She is dying to keep her memories.
as she tells me stories
(most on repeat)
and her life lessons,
(most dated)
she clings to her nostalgia;
even when the thought is
the most inconsequential
. . . she will have a tear in the corner
of her left eye.

i’d love to write more about her
and get more stories to record,
but she doesn’t give a shit about that;
she has no view outside this neighborhood
and she’s fine without the outreach.

i listen to her
and she tells me to let her know
when she’s talked to much,
but i can’t help and just watch
how happy she is to have someone
listen.
some call listening a lost art,
some people say that people don’t know
how to properly interject.

know when to shut the fuck up.

Francis is 95 now and getting worse;
the limps are looking bad,
the memory is fading and
becoming problematic,
she says i’m going to heaven all the time
and has no idea what my thoughts are on that,
she thinks the world is a much worse place
than what she grew up with;
her hearing is awful,
and i don’t care to tell her my thoughts.
those are not what matters.

i give to her all that i can
because i care.
my opinions on life and reality
would be of no comfort or use to her
when they conflict with hers.
so,
i listen,
i smile,
i understand what she has to say
even though i may think otherwise,
i have patience 
when she moves slow,
i have patience
when she yells my name in the hallway
and i’m talking to a customer,
i freak out when i hear an unfamiliar repeating noise in the building
and think it’s her calling out 
(blu tooth speaker dying) . . . 

i care.

there is no ultimate reward for my care.
there is no ultimate reward for my love.
i do it because that’s what’s right.
i do it because we are all sharing the same reality
with differed opinions 
and, even though they may conflict,
there is a step after the difference
where we will have to work together
or choose to let it go.

there are variables in that next step
that tell us whether we should speak
or fall silent and listen.
in circumstance,
we can be beautiful when we are wrong
and passionate when misinformed,
we can be ugly when we are right
and vindictive when knowledge is obtained
with bad social ethics
and poor moral practice.

while we are often better than what we were taught,
there is a transition period between
those who teach us right and wrong,
and who we become.

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If god were a better parent . . .

Been a long time since writing anything, but the schedule is finally getting a little better. Why the "better parent" title? I'll get in to that. Yesterday, I caught wind of this video of Bill Maher from his most recent episode:

First of all, Bill Maher is a comedian. We have heard rants like this from MANY comedians, but this is most i've heard people complaining in regards to such a rant. I may have missed something in the media before that was a bigger story, but I see it all over right now. It seems that this has brought up the question of whether or not ridicule is permissible. People are saying, "let people of faith be and do not publicly criticize their ideas". This is an absurd critique. If we did not have ridicule, then we would get nowhere in the idea of progress. If someone raped someone I knew and loved and I merely applied calm reason to them, that would be ridiculous: "excuse me, but I would really appreciate it if you would no longer violate the personhood of this person I love. I forgive you for already having done it once or twice, but to continue might be too much." The more appropriate reaction would be to immediately get the authorities involved and ridicule his/her behavior as immoral, and probably swear a lot. If someone tells me that they don't believe in vaccinating their children, I don't say, "good for your opinion. keep it up". I say, "I hope your ok with the death of your child and propagating poor reasoning methods". When somebody tries to tell me the glory of god's creation and explain how wonderful it is that god saved Noah and his family so that we could start over, I don't say, "yeah, that's pretty amazing". I say, "yeah, that's pretty fucked up that the creator of the universe couldn't just teach people to be good, and instead resorted to being a 'psychotic mass murderer'". 

The idea that religion should get a free pass is absurd. In our country it bleeds in to our schools, our government . . . every where! And when I say religion, I mean (more specifically) Christianity. Christianity is the majority of our nation and the majority of our politicians. Just the other month there was the bill in Arizona to be able to discriminate against homosexuals. Who the fuck do we think we are that this would be ok? Imagine a bill that would specifically make it permissible to discriminate against Christians. The difference is, Christians 100% make the choice to be Christian. Homosexuals do not make the choice to be homosexual. 

So, why is it so unacceptable to make fun of Noah's ark? I mean, the old Testament is what people most love to pick and choose from. So, why not just accept that Noah and his ark are not a real thing and chalk it up to allegory? Why is it that a flood story (Epic of Gilgamesh) existed before the Noah story, but nobody is up in arms that the ancient jews ripped that story off? Why is it that it seems acceptable to believe that a man lived to be 900. Why is it acceptable to believe that 8 people could get 2 of of each kind on to a boat in the middle east? Why is it acceptable that god is not questioned for his ridiculous behavior. The question always comes up, "what would it take to make you a believer?" The first answer is, "evidence". The second answer is, "even if your god proved him/her/it-self to me, I still wouldn't worship it." This is a figure that deserves no respect and just because he demands it in scripture, does not mean that he deserves it. 

So, if god were a better parent . . .

- he would care to tell his writers about science, you know . . . since he created it.

- he would know that light cannot exist before the sun and the stars.

- he would not plant a tree for two stupid people not to touch and leave them to themselves.

- he would have known where they were when they were hiding and would not have had to ask.

- he would not have created an imperfect people that he couldn't properly communicate with.

- he wouldn't drown his children . . . ANY OF THEM!

- he wouldn't allow his one righteous man to condemn his children because he passed out drunk and naked.

Alright, I think you get the point. This is a short list . . . very short list. I may make this a new section to the web page actually. 

I have every right to ridicule these things because these beliefs bleed in to my life and the public sphere . . . and they should never be in it. The god of the bible is an awful figure as far as I am concerned. I am a big fan of mythology and finding the moral implication of a story, but most ancient stories are very detached from contemporary morality. They are primitive and uninformed. They exist in these small bubbles of a very old world that was finally communicating thoughts in a written language. These are not stories for us to live by.

I know i'm taking this thought more directly from someone else, but it's ok to ridicule. I will rarely ridicule the person. Sometimes, in the case of a Fred Phelps it is necessary. It is completely ok to ridicule an idea though, and a religion is an idea. It is not a scientific theory. It is not a historically validated truth. It is an idea and, at best . . . a story. 

Last post of 2013!!!

I wanted to crank this one out real quick today 'cause I saw an article and a video this morning that go hand in hand. First, I saw this:

Here is the complete study:

What's worse is that if we were able to poll the entire population, i'm sure the numbers would be even worse. I'm not an Evolutionary Biologist, so I can't explain it as well as one can. However, the science has been in for a long time and evolution is a proven theory; it is fact. That people try to use an ancient text that has little understanding of science and no understanding in today's technology, is maddening. 

What lifted me up a bit though was this 20 minutes of Carl Sagan being brilliant:

He says a number of brilliant things in that video, but my favorite may be this:

Let’s look a little more deeply into that. What is faith? It is belief in the absence of evidence. Now, I do not propose to tell anybody what to believe. But for me, believing when there is no compelling evidence is a mistake. The idea is to withhold belief until there is compelling evidence. And if the universe does not comply with our predispositions, okay, then we have the wrenching obligation to accommodate to the way the universe really is.

Religion has nothing compelling to say about science or the way the universe works. It occasionally has an insight on morality and how to treat one another, but I even find that to be scarce. 

Ok! That's all I have to say for now! This was just a quick entry before I go off and celebrate what the year was and look forward to what is coming or not coming. Let us keep learning and always remember to love one another. 

Prophets . .

They're not real . . .

I have been absent from voicing my opinion in a while due to vaca and having to learn a musical show in a short time . . . . and work. So, I missed writing about how I feel about Columbus Day and Thanksgiving, and it's too early to justify writing about the jesus birth, so I thought i'd just take a current topic in the skeptic world. 

SYLVIA BROWNE . . . SHE GONE!!

Is it moral to have celebration in a persons death? If we look to the Bible, or the Quran, or any other mythological text about man vs man via their god(s) . . . the answer is YES. And, it is usually the god(s) alone that hold responsibility for death and its celebration when we look to religious myth within ancient text. 

Sylvia Browne was a charlatan that went on in our culture for far too long. She lied and deceived many people who were mourning their dead and were looking for answers. She offered nothing good with her services. In the end, she was an awful human being that made other peoples lives worse. She had no truth to offer, as "psychic truth" is a truth that does not exist. 

The James Randi Educational Foundation challenged her numerous times and she failed to live up to the challenge. The most damning evidence against her is that she was 11 years off her own death prediction. However, the thing that damns her history most is that she lied to countless families about their loved ones and gave them false comforts. She was so inaccurate and vague in her readings, that it is arguable that she never read anyone with truth behind it. Read this article: http://www.csicop.org/si/show/psychic_defective_sylvia_brownes_history_of_failure/

When people claim these extraordinary things, we have every right to hold them to their claims. Whether it be Sylvia Browne or Joel Osteen . . . or anyone. They are people that deserve no respect . . . in life, or after life. These are people that make a living on the misfortune and gullibility of others. These people are not what they say they are and what they say they are has never existed. The more we read in to their lies and the historical claims of these people, then the better educated we are about it. 

I do not rejoice in the fact that Sylvia Browne is dead for the sake of her family or those she was actually close to, however, I am enjoying the fact that one of the most absurd and deceitful human beings that we have known is gone and no longer able to make false claims for people to attach to.