Monday, January 28, 2008
Rome claims that in her masses she can repeat the sacrifice of the cross and change the wafer and wine into the very body and very blood of Christ. She claims that she perpetuates the sacrifice of the cross
Christ cried on the cross, "It is finished" John 19:30.
Yes, well, first of all it isn’t plural “masses” but one Mass. Which is the RE-ENACTMENT of the sacrifice on Calvary- but also the Last Supper wherein Christ said “Do this in remembrance of me”.
Thus, the Mass follows from those words, not the ones Mike cites from John. It is astounding to me that a dozen or so years of Catholic education failed to drill one major true fact into Mike’s head about the Church and the centerpiece of its worship ritual.
It also helps to refresh Mike’s memory (which seems to escape him when most convenient – i.e. in the midst of blustering) that Christ also said at the Last Supper, “This is my Body and this is my Blood”.
The consecration part of the Mass is what features transubstantiation or the conversion of the communion wafer (and –or wine) into the body and blood of Jesus. There are TWO aspects to transubstantiation, the ‘substance’ and the ‘accidents’. In the latter, for example, one would only detect the normal appearances at the superficial physical level.
Thus, going by the accidents only, no change would be forthcoming. However, as Aquinas showed and illustrated – it is the Substance wherein the actual body and blood of Christ is manifest. When a person receives the Eucharist, he or she is therefore receiving the SUBSTANCE that has been transformed by the consecration.
Pastor Mike continues in his criticism:
Rome has elevated Mary to the place of mediation. John Paul II states that "in Mary is effected the reconciliation of God with humanity" On Reconciliation and Penance. St. Paul Editions, p. 139).
Well, this again betrays my brother’s gross ignorance. He seems not to be aware of the document ‘Lumen Gentium’ comprising one major chapter of the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation of the Church. ‘Lumen’ specifically endorsed for the bishops that although Mary retained “unique prerogatives” she was still to be regarded as a “fellow member of the Church” and not as a “semi-divine being” exalted above the Church. All impressions to the contrary caused by misguided piety nothwithstanding.. (Cf. ‘A Concise History of the Catholic Church’, p. 443, by Rev. Thos. Bokenkotter)
The reference Pastor Mike makes to John Paul II’s statement does not implicitly diverge from the doctrinal basis of ‘Lumen’. That Mary can “effect reconciliation” is not the same as asserting that Mary is the sole cause of it. Merely that appeals to her may change the heart of the supplicant more toward the Divine Will and Being. In this regard, what John Paul was really referencing is another of Mary’s “unique prerogatives”.
Even more irrational is the next claim:
No Christian can accept "The Cult of the Blessed Virgin" (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, VIII para. 66). It is idolatrous and an insult to our Lord Jesus Christ.THE INTER-MEDIATION OF CHRIST IS USURPED BY ROMAN CATHOLICISM
Here, he somehow manages to cite Lumen Gentium but not the KEY part I already referenced, to do with Mary being another member of the Church. What is it about Mike, that he can neither read properly or think?
What is it about him that he has to lie and misrepresent? He references the “cult of the Blessed Virgin” but simply extracts the words minus the context. That is, that any “cult” is to be avoided as well as the misguided piety that engenders it.
Again, the role of intermediary is not “usurped” by Mary, rather the intermediary role of Jesus is reinforced by Mary.
It is sad that, in the fervor of my brother’s conversion, he must resort to such disrespect of the religion that nurtured him in his early years., Yes, one can break away from the Church – but it is not necessary to go on a hate rampage, and sow lies, disinformation and hatred as he does on his web page dedicated to attacking Catholicism.
Mike relentlessly pursues his target:
Rome is far from being a believer in the Bible as the sole rule of faith and practice.Her rejection of the Bible as the sole rule of faith and practice has been brought about by the many additions she has made to Holy Scripture.
Now, this is interesting because in fact Protestants have made far more additions, changes to the Bible than the Catholic Church. Look no further than the King James version, created at the behest of Henry VIII.
Catholics, actually had possession of the original mss. including the “Q” text and would have the least reason to alter it. What the Church was more concerned about was that people be able to correctly interpret it. As it is, most Protestants especially of the evangelical cults, have been the most culpable in grossly misreading it, and this has largely been because they have avoided proper exegesis and textual analysis.
It may amaze those like Pastor Mike who simply assume their good book can be read cover to cover with no allowance for the word forms, the period they were written, or the multifold translations subjected to. But this naivete is at the heart of the belief in biblical inerrancy.
To the Catholics’ credit, they have been attentive to the nuances of translation, while those of Pastor Mike’s ilk have not. Let me give an example.
In Romans 12:11, Paul urges the reader to “serve the Lord”. However, as bible scholar Bart D. Ehrman nots (‘Misquoting Jesus”, p. 91): “The word Lord, KURIW, was typically abbreviated in manuscripts as KW with a line over the top, which some misread as an abbreviation for KAIRW, which means time. And so in those manuscripts Paul exhorts his followers to “serve the time””
From this it is easy to see how and why Protestant biblical inerrancy factions might get carried away by thinking the Roman Church CHANGED the word “Lord” when in fact they merely abbreviated it. But, if the latter day translator isn’t aware of the mode of abbreviation he will regard it as an incorrect change, or deliberate one.
Additions, are another matter, and it is no secret the early scribes of the Church made those -but again, the reason is no mystery (Bokenkotter, op. cit. p. 17):
“The Gospels were not meant to be a historical or biographical account of Jesus, they were written to convert unbelievers to faith in Jesus as the Messiah or God”
Bokenkotter goes on to note
“The authors did not deliberately invent of falsify facts about Jesus, but they were not primarily concerned with historical accuracy……Words were put in the mouth of Jesus, for example, and stories told about him, which – though not historical in the strict sense- nevertheless fittingly expressed the real meaning and intent of Jesus as faith had come to perceive him. For this reason, scholars have to make a distinction between te Jesus of faith and the Jesus of history”
To those like Pastor Mike, this is bare shenanigans. But they forget or are oblivious to the fact that all that one had to work with for over 40 years after Jesus’ death was an incomplete and inaccurate oral tradition. Just think of relating some fact or event to Joe Schmoe, who tells it to Betty Bopp, who relates it to her grandkids, and they to their grandkids for 40 years. What level of accuracy does anyone with half a brain think will be left after that time? Not a whole lot. Hence, the written mode described by Bokenkotter.
What we do know about the historical Jesus is known by research both from the bible and from many ancillary materials. One of the best books is John Dominic Crossan’s “The Historical Jesus: The Life of A Mediterranean Jewish Peasant”. We see from this that although Jesus was an unusual man, he was a man nonetheless, not a god-man or Savior.
It is a tragedy that latter day Evangelicals and others have collapsed the difference between the Jesus of history and faith, but that doesn’t improve their case at all. It onluy makes them look blinkered, naïve and gullible.
Most of the rest of Mike’s rants against the Church are either taken out of context, or simply recycle the misinformation and misrepresentation by Catholic hating fundie sects. They are really not much different in substance from the content I have already lacerated in the course of this article.
What they do show is that my brother is mostly a semi-literate “boob” when it comes to parsing the theological basis of the religion he left. If he wishes credibility he’d have done much better to back to his own catechetical instruction and use that – or re-research it – as opposed to lifting the words and screeds from Catholic hate mongers.
In a way the header itself is daft, since historically we know that Roman Catholicism was the FIRST manifestation of Christianity. It is somewhat amusing to behold a latter-day “saved” nouveau Protestant screeching that the original church is "not the Christian one". This is somewhat like a current day Baltimore Ravens football fan saying HIS team has the real hold and claim on the Cleveland Browns’ history and records (since the Ravens left Cleveland and the original Browns!)
In fact, as we know, the Ravens left all the Browns history and records intact. They knew - even at the mundane football level- THEY were the ones breaking away and they had no innate claim to them, By the same token, ALL the breakaway Protestant sects have no more claim to the authentic Christian message and path to truth than say, revolutionary Americans (ca. 1776) had the right to call themselves "England" and "English people".
But let’s see what claims Pastor Mike has to make. He begins by giving the reason for his page:
FIRST AND FOREMOST to expose Catholicism for what it IS NOT - i.e., BIBLE BASED CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE
This is balderdash, given that it was the Catholic monks and scribes who FIRST translated and prepared the earliest biblical manuscripts. It was also these early monks, scribes who also separated out the various books, to determine what would not be included. For example, the apocryphal books were omitted, as were the Gnostic texts (Gospel Of Thomas, etc.)
If Pastor Mike had the least grain of sense to work with he’d realize he’s complaining about a Book that the Catholics ALSO accept and originated! He’d have more basis if he defended the Gospel of Thomas, for example, and made hay about the RC Church excluding it. He doesn’t He’s carping about the original Church-religion and the SAME book that has passed down to him, only different in emphasis in its .
In his next section, the brain-addled Pastor really goes off half-cocked:
It's really no different than the hundreds of people that were taken in by Jim Jones and his " Peoples Temple " , where approx. 900 of his 'parishioners' committed mass suicide in 1978 . I'm sure that the MAJORITY of them were no different than you or I , and perhaps were 'looking' to find TRUE Salvation , AND inner Peace , with the exception that THEY were decieved by his false teachings , and BELIEVED HIM when he told THEM that HE was "Jesus" . likewise with David Koresh , Charles Manson , and of course , the (now deceased) ATHEIST cult leader , Madalyn Murray O'Hair
Well, here he’s wholesale conflated atheist (Madalyn Murray O’Hair), Jim Jones, David Koresh etc. with an established religion that has existed for over two thousand years. If the first criterion of sound mental discrimination is proportion and the ability to parse it, Mike strikes out on all counts.
Jim Jones and David Koresh weren’t so much guilty of “false teachings” as they were egomania. Jones, in fact, began much like Pastor Mike, sticking to the “straight word” of God in the Good Book. Taking it as inerrant. At some point, however, his ego grew out of all bounds and he began to regard himself as “God”. This is not at all analogous to the pope – whose “Holy Father” appellation merely pertains to being a de facto head of a flock, in these case the world’s 800 million Catholics.
Murray O’Hair had NO teachings at all, since like me she was an atheist. She accepted science and its principles, and the only reason Pastor Mike would rail against her is the same reason he rails against me – he can’t tolerate the fact that science exposes him and his beliefs as fraudulent.
Mike’s folly goes on unabated:
My Catholic 'Brothers and Sisters ' , "Ignoring " these FACTS will NOT change them !! I BEG of you all - to AT LEAST - READ THE HOLY BIBLE - AT LEAST see what GOD HIMSELF says
Here, he continues demonstrating that he’s lost all touch with even immediate reality. He tells anyone who will listen that “ignoring these facts will not change them” BUT he hasn’t presented any facts about the Church itself. He’s assembled a hodge podge of unrelated extreme examples and tried to uphold them as analogous to RC Church teachings. They aren’t! Neither Jim Jones nor David Koresh bear any analogy to the Pope. Indeed, truth by told and from an analogy standpoint, Pastor MIKE has more in common with Jim Jones than the Pope does.
The Pastor also makes a common error of rank fundies, taking the Bible as something his “God’ literallyy wrote verbatim, as opposed to very fallible humans. He doesn’t seem to get it that “”God” didn’t just zap ten thousand ancient scrolls with lightning in the English language which were later assembled into 66 books.
No. Humans had to first enter remote caves near Qumran and recover hundreds of scrolls. These were on parchments, and written in the language of the time – Aramaic. These were then translated. The parsing of the many scrolls also showed they themselves had been subject to different interpretations and re-translations. Out of a morass of competing works, a final “Bible” materialized, but it is wholesale the product of human beings, not any divine entity.
The Pastor then asks Catholics to consider a few facts.
The Pope claims the place and names that belong to God alone (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, III para. 18). God, the Father: He claims he is "The Holy Father". This is the unique name of God the Father.
This is bollocks. All the places noted existed in antiquity and were named before there was a Catholic religion. For example, the Vatican and Vatican Hill were known to the Mithraist cult. If the Pope appropriated names from anyone, it was from the Mithraists!
The “Holy Father” is no biggie. The Latin for Pope is “Papa”. The RC Church used Latin as its official language. “Papa” translated literally comes out to “Father”. Adding “Holy” before it is in recognition of the Pope’s status, as a descendant of St. Peter.
There is NO “unique” name of God – and the use of “the Father” is purely a colloquial term designed to convey some level of intimacy to an otherwise abstract entity.
Mike continues with his “facts”:
God, the Son: He claims he is "The Head of the Church". This title belongs to Christ alone
Well, as a Catholic for “53 ½ years” Mike ought to know better than this. The Pope does not claim he is “head” of the Church but the spiritual guide-leader for its teaching office, the magisterium. When doctrines are formulated and pronounced, someone – after all – must put the final stamp of approval on them. Since neither God nor Holy Spirit comes down to place a lightning imprint on any document – it is left to the human vehicle to do that.
Now, the use of “head of the church’ is more a popular or colloquial usage.
Mike rambles on:
God, the Holy Spirit: He claims he is "The Vicar of Christ". This is the office of the Holy Spirit alone.
Again Pastor Mike loses it. The word “vicar” is from the French “Vicaire” which translates to “the minister of a parish” (see also the term “vicarage”) Thus, when the Pope refers to himself as “the Vicar of Christ on Earth” (parts Mike left out) he means he is like the minister of a global parish. What’s the big deal? There isn’t any! Mike manages to convert another molehill into a mountain.
Saying it can “only be the office of the Holy Spirit” is therefore obtuse. Indeed, a non-physical entity can hold no “office”.
The Pope even takes the very name of God. The New York Catechism calls the Pope, "the arbiter of the world, the supreme judge of heaven and earth, the judge of all, being judged by no one, God Himself on earth." THE TRINITY OF GOD IS USURPED IN ROMAN CATHOLICISM!
Now with this Pastor Mike shows himself to be a deceitful instigator of hatred and division – no better than those he unctuously condemns. Indeed, there is NO such thing as the “New York Catechism” there is only the Baltimore Catechism – and unless Mike now has Alzheimers, he ought to have remembered that from his Catholic student days.
Evidently, anti-Catholic groups have latched onto this and are now circulating it around the net. Buyers therefore beware! My brother has fallen in with the Catholic haters, as well as the atheist baiters.
The assertion that the “Trinity of God is usurped in Roman Catholicism” looks like it was lifted directly from one of these anti-Catholic tracts. Seems Pastor Mike is not even able to formulate his own arguments, but has to lift them from second hand sources.
In fact, the RC Church TEACHES the reality of the Trinity in numerous doctrines and it is the ONLY religion that does so! No where in the standard Protestant religions will one find full doctrinal acknowledgement of the Trinity. (Emphasis is almost always on John 3:16 and the importance of the Son) In fact, it was a CATHOLC theologian - Thomas Aquinas – who first articulated the concept in detail. To say now, as Mike does, that Catholicism has “usurped” the Trinity is tantamount to the howlings of a lunatic or a careless plagiarist. I don’t know which.
More regrettable, the Pastor is totally ignorant of the fact that it was the Catholic Church and no other that established the consubstantiality of the (Holy) Spirit with Father and Son. This was at the Council of Constantinople in 381.
Thus, we see the Roman Catholic Church not only first invoked the primacy of the Father-Son-Holy Spirit triad, but later elaborated it (by Aquinas) hundreds of years BEFORE the Protestant Reformation. To hear the ignorant Pastor talk, it was the Protestants and latter day Evangels that discovered the Trinity. (I suppose in the same way that they invented the ‘New York Catechism”)
Protestants themselves – including nouveau Prots like my bro- have nowhere near the respect for the Trinitarian terminology refined by the Catholic theologians over centuries – which seeks a delicate balance of properties within the Trinity. Among the most important, that the Holy Spirit descend THROUGH the Son and not FROM the Son. All of this nuance is lost on Pastor Mike who can only fulminate.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
In this blog entry I am going to deal with his “Welcome to atheists” page and why it is a despicable crock that no true atheist would accept.
He begins his “welcome” with:
Dear atheist ' Brothers and Sisters ' - First of all , I DO NOT 'condemn' you !! ( ONLY the Lord can do that ). But , if you all could just 'put away' your false pride for a moment , and let me give you some constructive criticism , you (HOPEFULLY) will be able to see the absurdity of atheism .
Well, this is really charming. He informs us he does not want to “condemn us” – but he will let the “Lord” do that for him. How nice to have an invisible surrogate “hit man” to go after atheists! Right afterward, he beseeches us to put aside our “false pride” so he can impart “constructive criticism” – totally unconscious of how this comes over. And that to any cognitively functioning atheist it is Pastor Mike wielding the false pride.
He then insists he merely wishes us to see the “absurdity” of atheism, totally blind to his own whole absurd proposition from which such advice is proffered: that he possesses all the truth in the universe, and it is incumbent on him to share its crumbs with us, and reveal the error of our ignorant ways.
With this kind of “welcome” who needs a dismissal with disrespect?
Undeterred by his mammoth ego and arrogance, Pastor Mike rambles on with a reference to me:
I 'confess' , that the ONLY atheist I know PERSONALLY , is my oldest brother- and freely admit (as I'm sure you all will) that there are radicals in ALL beliefs - INCLUDING Christianity . Frankly , I believe my atheist brother is the radical type - and I base this on HIS (past) words i.e., the last e-mail I recieved from him last month , in which he stated towards the end of the e-mail the following , " This world and universe are godless and without purpose, the sooner you get that into your fat head, the better."
It’s interesting that Pastor Mike references my letter (e-mail) to him, and I will say at least he got the tone of it accurately as well as the content. Again, to remind readers, this is the reaction of a person to a missive and religious card received by a brother who broke off all contact 14 years ago, and chooses only to renew it on HIS religious-proselytizing terms.
Yes, I know I could have ignored it, and came close to doing it. But the sheer chutzpah, especially after seeing what he had up on his site about me was too much. When he was five years old and I had to baby sit him, I’d clip him around the head if he got out of line. I regarded this as a verbal clip to a grown man acting like an infant.
Notice also how he refers to me as “the radical type” – which he generously notes can apply to “those of all beliefs including Christianity”.. Charming! I ain’t alone as a "radical"! Trouble is, Pastor Mike doesn’t clue us in on exactly what a “radical type” is. Is it someone who is outspoken? Well, judging from how Pastor Mike reacted to my various guest book posting on his sit initially, I would have say YES – this is what he regards as “radical”.
But he’s not content to leave it there, so he munches forth with more of his swill:
The FIRST thing that came into my mind when I read that was what the Bible says in Matthew 10:33 ; " But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. "
Here, the Pastor again demonstrates his abject ignorance of atheism and atheists. No atheist “denies” the superfluous creations of supernaturalism and religion whether they be “God” or Jesus. Indeed, most atheists DO accept JC as a historical personage, albeit NOT a god-man. He was rather transmogrified into godhood by over-zealous scribes, followers and a Church that needed someone to pin its heavenly future on – by way of his “Second coming”.
Nor do we deny “God” (despite the fact believers continue to refuse to define it) any more than we do Zeus, Odin, or the tooth fairy and Santa. We simply – as implicit atheists- refuse to invest mental resources in accepting them as relevant in any way to us.
Implicit atheists do not actively disbelieve in a deity, they simply withhold belief.
As I noted in an article published in the Mensa Bulletin, March 1994:
"Let's be clear about what constitutes Atheism and what doesn't. The Atheist - to put it succinctly, absolutely withholds investing intellectual/emotional resources in any supernatural claim. Indeed the word Atheism itself embodies this definition”
What is happening here is not denial or active disbelief, i.e. making a statement 'There is no god', but rather simply passively withholding belief/acceptance in a statement already made. Hence, the deity believer has made the positive claim. The ontological atheist’s is the absence of belief in it. No more - no less.
The same, of course, applies to Jesus as God –man. All the work of the Jesus seminar, as well as of numerous biblical scholars (e.g. John Dominic Crossan, Geza Vermes etc.) shows he was a fiery rabbi with vast charisma, a “Jewish Peasant Cynic” in Crossan’s parlance (see his: ‘Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography”) but no God-man. Hence, I am not “denying” Jesus so much as following up on the most current research.
But I digress. Pastor Mike rambles on in his own inimitable fashion:
Now , I would be less than honest if I said the latter didn't "bother me" - because , YES , IT DID . Actually , it didn't so much as "bother" me , as it hurt me ' inside ' , but I just recalled the words of Jesus HIMSELF , in John 16:20 ; " Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. " But I just put it in the Lords hands , and had to ' Let him (my brother) go ' - although I have NEVER , NOR WILL I EVER , stop loving him as a brother , or stop Praying for his Salvation , and YES . . I HAVE FORGIVEN HIM !!You see , I KNOW that HE did not say those words , per se , but that SATAN is 'alive and well ' inside him. And make no mistake about it - SATAN IS REAL !!
Here, he responds after quoting another part of my e-mail to him where I informed him I didn’t want to hear from him again . What's the big deal? Because he is family or blood-related I am obliged to have a relationship, or try? No, don’t think so. Family – siblings are the luck of the draw, nothing more. Sometimes, magically, one will also be friends with one’s siblings, but this is by no means a given. Most people I know in the atheist realm left their (intolerant) families long ago and created new ones among close friends with the same mental disposition and mindset.
In any case, again, it was Mike who broke off contact with me the first time. This was in an e-mail in February, 1994 where he bluntly stated he wanted nothing more to do with me, after I felt I had to decode an encrypted letter he sent to me about our brother Johnny – since it contained within it an implicit threat. I accepted his decision just as he now accepts mine, and thought nothing more of it, nor did I lie awake nights fretting.
Then, suddenly, in December last year I hear from him when he is in hyper-Jesus mode out to “save the infidels”. I am now supposed to accept it, and him and relate only on HIS “Jesus saves” level? Er.,….ah, don’t think so!
Dragging in “Satan” and demons is a new low, even for Pastor Mike. Since he refuses to accept I simply don’t like his odious and obnoxious self, the only alternative is to blame a mythical evil being, ‘Satan’. But again – this is soooooo typical of Christers in general who invoke the “Devil made him do it” wherever they can, since they lack the intellectual or emotional resources to process it any other way. Yes, to them "Satan IS real" because they lack the intellectual resources to process any alternative to someone that has the audacity to dismiss their pseudo-reality!
We are then informed by the irrepressible Pastor:
He (satan ) can get into ANYONE !! Additionally , I GENUINELY feel sorry for my brother , as (evidenced by his own words) he obviously has an ' empty and unfullfilled ' life - one that apparently has no meaning , love , goals , dreams , aspirations , etc . . He IS , I'm sorry to say , for all intents and purposes " Dead " !!
Oh, Satan can “get into anyone”! Wow! What a stunning revelation! And does he have proof or psychiatric evidence that another entity is sharing this body with me? No – he simply makes the assertion and expects the brain-jacked to accept it without comment of question.
And he “genuinely feels sorry for me” ….BWAAAHHAAHHHA! Boo hoo hoo and cry me a river.
WHY does he feel sorry for me? Because (in his parlance) I am “empty and unfulfilled”. Obviously because this little Jesus –freak is not in my life pestering me incessantly. Therefore, as we see from this it is HE that is empty and unfulfilled! He has no one to bring to the altar of salvation and proselytize to fulfill his pathetic destiny.
Of course, I am happy and relieved that he has gotten out of all those net scams – like peddling “sure fire gambling tricks for $5” and adult toys and videos- having now found Jesus. I am elated his life has new purpose. But because it does, he has no business dissing others’ lives, especially when he hasn’t kept himself current over 14 years. (If he had he’d note I have published three books in that time, with a fourth nearing completion.) Somehow I do not think this is being ‘useless” and “empty” though I wager it consoles Pastor Mike to believe it.
Not content with his initial chutzpah in relegating me to “uselessness” the sanctimonious sap goes on to relegate me to lacking “meaning, love, dreams,. and being “for all intents dead”.
How nice! Since he can’t have me in any sibling relationship he can control, he kills me off! As for meaning, unlike Mike, I forge and craft my own each day of my life. I do not need an invisible Daddy figure to do it for me, or to make me feel better. Nor do I need the invisible super Daddy for “love” - I have my wife of 32 years for that. As for dreams, of course I dream of attending the next conference of the American Astronomical Society and presenting my next paper there. What is more to dream? Oh, well I can also dream of a projected trip to Alaska (by wifey and me) in two years to see the Northern Lights during the Solar Maximum!
The last part of the Pastor’s lame welcome is the most appalling:
I also have no problem with ANY 'debate ' , ' opposing viewpoints ' , etc . . as long as it's done with a mutual respect of one another , and we can ALWAYS " agree to DISagree".
In fact, Pastor Mike has a serious problem in debating opposing viewpoints. This was in evidence last month when we exchanged (briefly) guest book entries, and even my younger brother Jerry quickly saw he was coming up short of rational answers. His response? He removed all of my comments, arguments – including an article he initially let stand – and merely claimed he was “protecting innocent victims from the demons of deception”
What I do hope is that he eventually draws the courage to put his actions where his digital mouth is – right on this blog, in the “comments” section. Since he will not permit exchange of comments on his site, without “filtering” (read: screening), then I invite him to come here and do it.
I understand two fellow atheists have already sent him the url for this blog via his guest book. (Which he still reads though he only posts entries from “true Christians”).. If he has any cojones he will take up the challenge and be willing to debate and even agree to disagree.
But I believe Mike lost his cojones a long time ago.
Friday, January 25, 2008
"You might say, If God is there, let him prove it to me. I don't want to take an irrational leap of faith. Fine. In Isaiah 2:18 God says: come let us reason together. He wants us to reason and He certainly wants us to be be rational, but He will not submit himself to human scrutiny; to do so he would need to stop being God! He will not bow to our perverse judgements. Ask yourself, Would I ever be willing to believe God is there, however strong the evidence?"
The above could have been penned by a shizoid locked up in a sanitarium some place. Look at the claim: God “wants us to reason and be rational” BUT “he will not submit to human scrutiny” Of course, this is contradictory and also cognitively dissonant. (But that appears to be the domain in which brother Mike best operates).
One of the first precepts of intelligent, rational thought is its ability to scrutinize. If I am disabled, or am not allowed to scrutinize, then how shall I be able to discern a false claim from a true one?
For example, my neighbor visits and asserts that “extraterrestrial aliens have colonized is attic”. Can this be rationally assessed? Yes, provided the neighbor allows me to visit his attic and check it out for any faint signs of evidence. In other words, I must be ab initio able to scrutinize his claim from any first hand evidence. If he disallows this, my first reaction is: “What does he have to hide?” Why won’t he allow scrutiny? The only reason must be a fear of being found out and exposed as having made a fraudulent claim.
Now, look at Pastor Mike’s next howler: If God permitted such scrutiny he would “need to stop being God”. How so? If this Being is “infinite” and moreover amenable to rationality (as the good Pastor insists) then it ought to welcome rational scrutiny. Why should it need to stop being God? That is tantamount to saying that if I – as a rational human – allowed scrutiny (say from my physics students, when I was teaching) then I would cease being me. This is pure insanity!
One’s identity in terms of reason can only be augmented if one uses reason and it is a cornerstone of his being. In the same way, every attribute of the almighty – if it exists- would augment any given aspect it already possesses. Thus, a rational deity, or at least one susceptible to rational inquiry, would welcome every individual inquiry since as each mind engages it, it increases its stature (rationally) for that mind. As it does so, it also enhances its relationship.
The only way this would not work, is if said entity is incapable of any knowledge by humans. In that case,. and since knowledge is the foundation for application of logic, it is not so much God would “cease being God”, but that no human could KNOW God. If so, then why even pursue it? This is exactly the agnostic position. We can never muster enough knowledge to even approach the entity.
Yet, the biblical Christians like Mike insist we can know God from his good book. If so, then this constitutes a knowledge base which can be surely scrutinized.
The Pastor asks: “Would you ever be willing to believe God is there, no matter how strong the evidence?”
But the true fact is that he’s placing the cart before the horse. Up to now he has given NO evidence. SO how can we answer the question? This is a tack repeatedly used by god-mongers, arguing in circles and inserting assumptions and a posteriori claims when they haven’t addressed the more fundamental questions!
Mike talks about “evidence” – but up to now, he’s not given any definition of his deity. (See Part I). How can one advance or propose evidence for something for which there is no standard definition? If an entity has not been defined, at least to within some limited epistemological standard, then how would one even RECOGNIZE evidence for it?
One wouldn’t, because a preliminary definition is required before one can proceed. For example, today many physicists are searching for the Higgs boson. If and when they find it – it will be because it’s already been defined with properties such as spin, charge, mass etc. Thus, when one uncovers some particle, one can compare the properties it possesses with those that the definition of the Higgs embodies..
But up to now, we’ve received no similar definitions for Mike’s God. Let the Pastor again say his spiel:
"You see, your problem may not be in your head as much as in your heart. Perhaps you've already taken a leap of faith. To assert God cannot exist, despite the impossibility of proving that statement, is the ultimate irrational leap!"
Here Pastor Mike bites off way more than he can intelligently chew. Having already admitted that appeals to rationally approaching his God are a waste (since his God refuses “human scrutiny”) he appeals for the “heart” chords and “leaps of faith”. Again, typical of the religious Sophists who constantly alter their positions to try to gain ground.
He also maintains we assert God “cannot exist” but we don’t do that. So he also resorts to putting words into our mouths like so many straw men, then attacking them. What atheists (implicit atheists) say is that given the clear lack of efficacy, the lack of clear cut evidence for an ultra-Being (other than that which is read like a cosmic Rorschach blot) then the probability is almost exactly nil that such a being exists.
It is somewhat like my 5 year old niece who asserts that an invisible elf inhabits her fireplace and smokes an invisible pipe. If I simply ignore this “being” will it alter my life in any basic ways? No it will not. So I don’t have to “deny” it exists, nor do I need to come out and assert it “cannot exist”. I simply conduct my life as if it doesn’t exist.
And indeed, the corollary to this is that for those scientists who DO believe, it is found the inclusion of the belief does nothing to enhance their scientific work. They make no more predictions than non-believers, nor are they any more accurate because some god belief is behind them.
Pastor Mike continues his tract:
Atheism tends to exalt reason, but it is actually irrational. One cannot disprove God exists. To dogmatically assert something unprovable is hardly rational! You might reply: But I can t disprove a giant purple frog on Mars controls the universe, either. Granted, one can never disprove any given thing exists, but the existence of God is not only logically possible, it is philosophically essential. (We'll get to that later.)
Here, it is interesting that Pastor Mike is hoist on his own petard. Note his second sentence: “To dogmatically assert something unprovable is hardly rational”
But this is EXACTLY WHAT HE IS DOING! He’s asserted without any proof or evidence (other than the mistranslated passages of his bible) that a God exists. He is the one making the positive claim, and as such, it is HIS responsibility to support it, not mine as the skeptic to disprove it.
In the same way, if a person comes to me claiming 12 dimensional alien ghosts exist in his house, it is not my job to disprove his claim, but for him to prove it. He even acknowledges the correctness of this position when he writes: “Granted one can never disprove any given thing exists”. Which is the same as proving a negative.
Thus, it is always the POSITIVE claimaint who has the job of validation. What Mike says in his first sentence should actually read: “Theism tends to exalt reason, but it is actually irrational”
Pastor Mike continues:
"The atheistic position, on the other hand, is logically impossible. Why do I say that? In order to prove the assertion No God exists, one would need to comprehensively know all of reality. Comprehensive knowledge of reality is called omniscience. One would need to be omniscient in order to prove there is no God, but if one were omniscient one would, by definition, already be God! So, logically, the only one capable of disproving the existence of God would be God himself! Atheism is inherently self-contradictory"
Here we see the good Pastor ends up contradicting himself, and big time. He already acknowledged (in the earlier quoted paragraph) that disproving the existence of a thing is NOT possible, but now reverts back to saying this is what atheists are attempting! (“The only one capable of disproving the existence of God is God himself, so atheism is inherently self-contradictory) NO, Mike, your brand of pop theism is self –contradictory. You can’t even made the basic decision of whether disproving the existence of an entity is viable or not!
Now, let’s look at his other tactic introduced at the beginning of the paragraph. He claims that one would need to comprehensively “know all of reality” and therefore be God or “omniscient” to “prove there is no God”.
But again, atheists are not trying to prove there is no God, because, number one, that is equivalent to proving a negative, which is impossible. And number two, it is the GODISTS’ job to prove his positive claim, not the atheist’s to disprove it. So Pastor Mike has it exactly back –asswards.
Nor does the atheist have to “comprehensively know all of reality” to be confident that the probability of the existence of an all –knowing, all-powerful entity is essentially nil. All he need do is look in the external world of humans for any evidence of efficacy of the divinity and behold there is none. (See Pastor Mike’s Education (I))
Cosmic laws and principles themselves don’t have to be known everywhere. We know from the cosmological principle that the same law of entropy that applies on Earth, also applies in distant galaxies. Thus, one can argue from the same laws that there is little evidence of a deity manifesting in nature. (See for example the superb book by Ilya Prigogone and Isabelle Stenger, “Order Out of Chaos”)
It is clear thus far that Pastor Mike’s main failing is that he hasn’t a clue of what constitutes atheism. He has confected some sort of half-baked idea or notion of what it is, but it bears no resemblance to the real thing.
In the same manner, it’s interesting that Rev. Jim Jones confected his own ideas of socialism and Christianity and the result was an aberrational place named Jonestown. People flocked to it because they believed they would find an abode of peace, love and unity, but what they found instead was madness.
Having exhausted his brain reserves on futile attempts at geniune reason, where it counts, Mike reverts to the hackneyed quotes again:
The evidence for the existence of God is there for all to see, only we refuse to see it. King David wrote: The fool says in his heart there is no God. (Psalm 14:1) In other words, Atheism is irrational.
Note that, though he mentions this evidence is “there for all to see”, he never spells it out. Which evidence? Where? How is it evidence? Again, go back to the necessary and sufficient conditions!
IF it is evidence then what are the necessary conditions it evokes that unambiguously show God? What are the sufficient conditions? Methinks Pastor Mike has no clue – none at all. Then he goes back to invoking the old “fool hath said” canard, from the bible.
Here is a character who hasn’t provided any evidence whatsoever, takes words and puts them into atheists’ mouths, can’t even avoid contradicting himself (in terms of matters of disproof of a claim) and he wants us to take him seriously, as anything other than the drunks “Joe” and “Jack” referenced in Part I, suffering from delirium tremens.
Let’s continue with Pastor Mike’s farrago of misinformation, deceit and codswallop:
Apart from God there is no basis for truth or ethics. For the sake of brevity, let's simply consider ethics.
Beyond dispute there are moral atheists. I ve known atheists who are more ethical than some people claiming to believe in a god. This is not the issue. The question is, why be ethical? Can an adequate basis for morality be found given atheistic premises? Think about it. Unless God exists, there is no eternal and transcendent standard for right and wrong.
This is interesting because in truth and fact there is NO need for an “eternal standard for right and wrong” only a practical one.
Go back to part one (Pastor Mike’s Education), and examine the arguments closely. Note that not even the great God displays any “eternal standards” of right and wrong. After all, he simply allowed 6 million of his innocent children to be gassed and burned in ovens! SO, he does not even meet the minimal standards of decency that a human parent would follow.
But there is hope, and there certainly is the feasibility of an ethics non-contingent on any God. Please check out:
‘Without God how can you be moral?’
Mike goes on:
If God did not give the Ten Commandments to Moses at Sinai, thereby establishing a moral standard above human creation, we are merely left with humanly devised scruples. If humanity is left to create its own ethical standards, we are left with only three options to base ethics upon: 1) collective tradition, 2) human survival, or 3) personal preference.
The Ten commandments, as I believe Comic George Carlin once observed, can really be rolled into one: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”
But that is not a Christian edict! That was part of Hammurabi’s code a thousand years before Jesus Christ.
Mike lists as one of his objections to human forged morality-ethics, 3) personal preference. But how about “divine preference” in choosing who to save and who not to? Does the good Pastor register that? Not at all, so it’s left to me to do so for him.
God-ists seem quite happy to let their deity off the hook, when and where it suits their fancy. Start then with the standard deity template, say espoused by most Christians. This entity is posited as both omniscient and omnipotent (all knowing and all powerful).
Let’s say, as occurred back in the spring of 1994, It knew from before all time a twister was headed for its "house" of worship in Alabama. Being omnipotent, it also had the power to deflect said twister and let it tear up some nearby forest or woodsheds- as opposed to its church with people inside. Did it? No it did not! It permitted the tornado to demolish the Church and many of those children within it. All innocents. All dead.
Those (like Pastor Mike) who would defend such a deity - but who would hold a human parent accountable for negligence or manslaughter by allowing their child to perish in a house fire (when the child could be saved) - disclose inchoate ethics. To wit, demanding a vastly lower ethical standard of behavior for their deity than for fellow humans.
Those who beg the question with theo-babble ("we cannot fathom the ways or mind of God") are no better, and do no better. In many ways, they're worse, because they lack even the courage to face their own logic. And the consequences of their definitions! They either invoke the escape clause of "faith" or the impotence of human logic beside the alleged Divine Mind. (And surely, if humans sprung from such a mind, comprehensibility of its ways and modes must follow. Else he, she or it could as well be a Demonic clown who allows humans - innocent children- to be slain for sport)
Thus it follows, even from the most generic examples (presupposing a supernatural, omnipotent force) that human ethics trumps divine ethics on its face. If it does so, then it must also trump any and all human extensions of divine ethics. Whether in the ten commandments, canon law or wherever.
Interestingly, again, the first step in the permutation of Rev. Jim Jones to a deified tyrant was in taking the apparent basis of divine “personal preference” (as evidenced in all the mass destruction meted out to various peoples in Genesis) and applying it to himself. And why not? Try to get inside Jones’ ravaged mind: “If the God of the bible could exterminate all his enemies why not invoke the same rubric for me?” (This is what led directly to the mass slaughter at the Jonestown air field, just prior to the mass suicide)
Thus, the insanity of a crazed, psychopathic lunatic in the bible is applied to the human person – as a charge to do anything. And so, over a thousand people flocked from the United States to Jonestown, Guyana to seek solace and friendship when in fact they landed under the control of a madman with God delusions. A self-absorbed maniac who insisted the only real and lasting interpretations of the deity were his own. And that he also had a telepathic connection to Its wants, and order.
Such is the danger of all religion that places faith in sources, books and people that are unwilling to undergo critical scrutiny – such as Pastor Mike and his charlatan god.
More to investigate of Pastor Mike’s comments in Part III.
In is open letter to atheists, now on his forum, he writes:
I would LOVE to have an 'open discussion topic' board on this site , but would have to 'screen' ALL submissions (as I now do with my "Guest Book " , for fear of the 'radicals' posting their tirades (after all , I can't sit by my computer 24/7 'screening' posts ), as opposed to staying on topic - with MUTUAL RESPECT , as well as respecting my ' ground rules' of no profanity , blasphemy , personal attacks , etc . I do not think that is 'asking too much .
This is pure bunk. In fact, in my first and only “submission” to his guest book, I appended a column I’d written for a local newspaper entitled “The Savior Template”. The article explored the background and history of God-Man mythologies, such as Mithras and Horus – and noted that since these predated Christianity, the Jesus story was most likely plagiarized (by Christian scribes) from the earlier ones.
One day after my addition, “Pastor Mike” posted a rejoinder comment, saying he at first considered removing it, then decided against it. He wanted everyone to “see first hand the hold Satan had on his brother”.
A day later the article was removed and a fulminating additional comment from him materialized, to the effect he was not about to permit the “demons of deception” to have their way. So, in truth and in fact,. he wants no part of any open discussion. He is then, a coward, and not even as brave as another such I-net character who calls himself “Pastor Jim”. At least this Pastor has the nerve to post e-mails sent to him. See:
Pastor Mike then rambles on:
Some atheists think they've taken a heroic stand, but could it be that they really don't want to face up to the possibility that God is indeed there? I hope you'll be intellectually honest enough to consider what I have to say and see if it makes sense.
This is bare bollocks. In fact, atheists don’t interpret their position as a “stand” – heroic or otherwise- but rather a natural outcome of decades of parsing through what “evidence” is on offer from their religious, god-believing brethren At the end of the day, then, they conclude (mostly on the basis of a lack of efficacy) there is no deity that conforms to omni attributes: “all-knowing”, “all-powerful” etc.
Now, given that most god-believers have not defined what "God" is, far less put forth any necessary or sufficient conditions for it s existence (contingent on the definition) then the atheist is at liberty to say that any given believer’s "reasonable grounds" are no more compelling than my reasonable grounds for asserting that alien experiments are being conducted at Area 51, or that a 22-dimensional essence is at the root of cosmic evolution.
Another example: Many god-believers describe themselves as deists. This means they interpret the divinity as some kind of "watchmaker" who completes his cosmic fancy work then abandons the cosmos to its own devices, unfolding. The point? It clearly radically diverges from the God of Pastor Mike - which is judgmental and personally involved at multiple levels with humans, or so we are informed. The problem? How to reconcile via standardized definition, or attributes, that the “God” claimed by either deist, Catholic or fundagelical is the SAME entity?
A first start toward rational inquiry is therefore for Pastor Mike to say how and in what ways his "God" diverges from say the typical deist’s, or Einstein’s (“Spinoza’s God”) or Sir Fred Hoyle's. Then one can perhaps start getting somewhere, as opposed to forever being faced with generic "God" statements or arguments, which end up being meaningless because no clear distinctions can be made.
What I’m saying is that before one can assert one has "reasonable grounds" for accepting a proposition or claim he must understand that that claim means, or the underlying entity. A first step to understanding, is to define it. (Preferably in 50 words ors less) A second step is to articulate necessary and sufficient conditions for its existence.
Here's a start: Every manjack agrees "intelligence" is a necessary condition for a deity. (A condition such that its absence means the entity cannot exist). Now, what are some sufficient conditions? (Those conditions by their presence mean the entity MUST exist)
Let us return to the irrrepressible Pastor Mike:
No one who has prejudged an issue can be convinced of anything contrary to what he wants to believe. There are still those who insist the earth is flat and no one can convince them otherwise, no matter what the evidence. There are always folks, no matter if religious or atheistic, who stubbornly believe what they prefer, no matter if reason and fact show otherwise. Someone like this has the unspoken philosophy: Don't confuse me with the facts. My mind is already made up. Ask yourself: Am I open-minded or narrow minded? Am I willing to change my mind if I can be shown atheism doesn't make sense?
Again, the good Pastor has it all wrong. No one is “prejudging” anything to do with this issue. If anything is being “prejudged” it is the absence of compelling singular and standardized definitions for the claimed entity. If none of these mesh, or there are numerous contradictions (say between the deist’s God and the fundie’s) what are we (atheists) to think? Well, if you can’t even agree on your own basic definition, why should we even take the claim seriously? It is somewhat like two drunks in the throes of delirium tremens, each arguing about a giant spider coming after them. “Joe” asserts it’s eight feet high and has a pair of red horns, while “Jack” asserts its ten feet high and with mandibles as big thick as telephone poles.
What is the casual, rational passerby to make of their claims? Well, that they are both delusional.
Using the “earth is flat” as the basis for an argument – especially to defend an approach to an invisible entity that can’t even be measured, is just plain daft and egregious. Yes, uh…..we KNOW the Earth is not flat because from the time of Aristotle it was concluded the Earth was a sphere, based on the shape of its shadow projected on the Moon during a lunar eclipse. Later, Eratosthenes actually managed to compute the Earth’s diameter to be 13,400 kilometers – from which its circumference could be found.
What my brother is asserting or proposing, is that there is a perfect analogy between what was done (by measurement) to conclude the Earth’s sphericity, to the existence of an entity that can’t be remotely measured. Thus, he is guilty of false analogy.
Thus, asserting that “there are still those who insist the Earth is flat and no one can convince them otherwise” is NOT the same as saying that a reasonable, rational man is not convinced by an empty claim for an invisible entity that can’t even be measured the way the Earth can for “flatness”. Chalk and cheese. Oh, and an entity that can’t even be given a uniform, standardized definition.
It is hilarious that he uses the example of someone who says “don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is already made up” – when he hasn’t even provided any base facts! ALl he gives are sundry dozens of biblical quotations, which do not qualify as facts. Indeed, as biblical scholar Bart D. Ehrman notes (“Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why”) it is essentially impossible to obtain one consistent narrative between all the synoptic gospels – because competing interests, or scribes had different agendas at different times, resulting in numerous serious mistranslations, retranslations and plain script butchery to force a perception.
What we need from the likes of Pastor Mike are prima facie, independent facts of the world that unequivocally point to a deity. Without the need to cite endless bible bunkum.
The true narrow-mindedness inheres with him, for not being able to parse or consider more than one narrow, anthropomorphized version of a deity. At least my good Christian friend John (yes I do have them) has embraced the nuance of the Sociinian deity – since he now recognizes an “omni” attribute one is a fantasy.
Let’s explore this in more detail to see why.
In reply to my contention this “infinite” deity is useless and impotent, one commentator on the AARP message forum (“Life After Death”) retorted:
Are you sure you want the Almighty to be stepping in and interfering in our affairs every time we're about to screw it up? A little reflection might indicate that perhaps that might not be such a good thing
However, he misses the whole point. It isn’t that we are asking for active intervention, but rather PASSIVE, minimalist response to pleas and prayers from its own followers. Is that asking too much? No one expects the omnipotent thingie to come out and take care of everything. And certainly not to take "marching orders" from an itty bitty atheist It could turn into brainless protoplasm if it so desired.
But how about just minimal passive manifestation to protect innocents that never did him anything and are praying, begging for deliverance? Is that a huge stretch?
Those two young girls killed by a crazed lone gunman at the New Life Church a month ago in Colorado Springs were pleading for mercy, where was Pastor Mike’s great God to deliver it? All they got was mortally-wounding lead shots (one in the chest, the other in the back) for their trouble. Was it expecting too much we at least ask Pastor Mike’s great God to cause the gun to misfire? Or the safety to freeze? Not to actually cause the killer to disintegrate, mind you, but …you know….a little minimal passive mischief here and there to stop what it had to know would cause hurt, and yes, lack of faith to many.
And how about all those six million Jews gassed horribly - packed by the hundreds in 200 square meter rooms, naked and assaulted in the most vile and abhorrent way. Too much to at least ask Pastor Mike’s God to make the gas chambers fizzle out? Or the Zyklon B not to work for once? Or render all Zyklon B useless? Or ...;.how about simply causing the Jews to have insight into what would befall them so they could at least fight back as opposed to going like lambs to the slaughter?
THIS is where the bear sits with his buckwheat, and where the chip-on-his shoulder “pastor” – who has the nerve to compare unbelievers to flat-Earthers can make his stand. Give a defensible argument to support even minimal inaction!
Re: the analogy to human parents and “allowing a kid to screw up” – one needs to be more discriminating here. Yeah, parents ought to let a kid grow and learn. Thus, if little Joey keeps goofing off in school,. he’ll eventually learn the hard way he may have to flip burgers for most of his life.
BUT - if little Joey is playing with a loaded .44 Magnum (from daddy's drawer) and little sister Suzie is playing with her Barbie nearby, it would be a useless excuse for a parent, indeed, who didn't step in and take the gun away! What exactly would a parent prove by standing by like some imbecile while Johnnie took the safety off and commenced play firing?
This is all I am expecting the deity of the god-mongers like Pastor Mike to do, by analogy. At least ACT like a decent human parent would in a comparative situation. If it won't, why should we respect it? What makes it useful to retain as a concept or belief meme in the absence of efficacy? Why the hell should we put it anywhere the near the same epistemological level of a spherical Earth obtained by geometrical measurement?
In the end, all of Pastor Mike’s complaints are basically frivolous, useless, and to no avail, unless he can elucidate necessary and sufficient conditions for the operations, existence of whatever god he proclaims or posit. If he can't he’s merely wasting time retorting or posting more codswallop about the “atheist cult”.
What we have then, is a pastor who is actually a premier example of a cultist like Jim Jones of Jonestown. Never let his flock think (censor every bit of knowledge passed between them), never question and always find some bunkum in his “good book” to advance his agenda.
Is Pastor Mike another Rev. Jim Jones? I don’t know – but in the next instalment, I will examine closely more of his claims about atheists (from the same tract on his website), with a view toward exposing what they say about him.
For those who want to see the details of how all Pastor Mike's claims of biblical truth are shattered, please go to:
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
But, is the central premise of 'Contact' valid? Is it plausible that astronomers should spend innumerable hours listening for radio messages from ET? Are there advanced extraterrestrials pummelling our atmosphere with their coded messages even as these words are written?
The assumption of the plausibility of radio contact with ETs led to SETI ('Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence'). In its early stages, millions of radio channels were scanned nightly for any sign of intelligence. Now known as Project Phoenix, its scope has expanded to the radio coverage of some billions of channels to search for some sort of alien calling card. In particular, an incontrovertible intelligent calling card - left by an advanced race of beings.
Is the Phoenix group wasting its time and money? My contention is that they are, but the reasons are somewhat different from others that have gained wide currency. For example, some, like physicist Frank Tipler, assert that no intelligent aliens exist, because if they did they'd have already visited us by now. They haven't, ergo they do not exist!
However, I don't necessarily preclude alien existence, merely their communicating with us. I believe the two premises must be treated separately. Unfortunately, the standard assumption made by most humans conflates them: if intelligent extra-terrestrials exist, they must want to contact us.
But why? What if we are little more than a galactic 'ants' nest'? Why should they even care about our existence? The fact is, it is we who inflate our own self-importance by believing we deserve this much attention. But I am getting a bit ahead of myself.
Let me refer to a basic physical law, to show how and why I believe ET messages are improbable. I am referring to the so-called 'entropy law', also known as the 2nd law of thermodynamics. What is entropy? Basically, a measure of the disorder in a physical system. For example, gasoline that has undergone combustion has more entropy than gasoline which has not. Firewood which has been burnt has more entropy (states of disorganization) than firewood that is stacked next to the fireplace.
Entropy is not restricted to our planet. It applies throughout the universe. This is part of the fundamental principle known as 'the cosmological principle'. It says that the same exact physical laws apply throughout the cosmos. There is no region that behaves differently, in a physical sense, from the region we inhabit.
For example, in the case of the whole universe, maximum entropy (disorder) will be reached if it continues to expand forever reaching a final 'heat death'. (Where all parts of the universe eventually have the same temperature - so there is no flow of energy to any other part, say from a star to a planet). If the universe turns out not to expand forever, it will still reach a maximum entropy - this time in the 'Big Crunch', in which all the galaxies collide with each other, after reaching maximum expansion.
The entropy law simply says that - for a closed system - the total entropy is always increasing, never decreasing. People cannot help but use food, process chemicals, and burn fuels. The effect is that the total amount of disorder in the world is increasing. To slow this down (or try to stop it) more energy must be expended from the outside, than the closed system uses in generating entropy. (A simple way to put this is that if you leave your house, and never apply energy to clean it up, the resulting disorder will soon occupy all existing space.)
The tendency for entropy to increase is invariably accompanied by a loss of useful energy. When an amount of disorder is produced, say in burning gasoline, it is at the expense of the useful energy that was originally in the tank. One might write a simple expression to represent this:
Ten gallons gasoline -> 1 gallon useful energy + 9 gallons waste energy
This means that 90% of the initial energy is converted either to heat, or to effluent (carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide etc.). Is there a way to get ten gallons worth of energy, from ten gallons of gasoline, without waste? No. It is impossible. It goes against the entropy law and the nature of the physical world we inhabit. The first commandment of the entropy law is 'The universe provides no free energy lunch.'
So what does all the above have to do with the ability of ETs to communicate with us? (Assuming they would wish to) As it turns out, everything. In order to communicate, say over thousands (or even hundreds) of light years' distance, information is transmitted. It requires energy to do this. Interestingly, a relation between energy and information is available. It can be written as:
E = 0.693 kT
Here, E is the energy associated with transmission of 1-bit of information. T is the temperature of the environment in which it is sent (say the radio transmitting antenna) and k is a physical constant known as the Boltzmann constant.
Imagine an alien civilization sending the equivalent of a small novel to humans. This would be approximately 10^20 bits of information. The associated energy would be about 0.3 (three tenths) of a Joule. The energy required, from a practical standpoint, would be much, much larger - maybe 100 million times larger. Why? Because in the process of pure transmission (over light years distance) a significant fraction of signal dilutes. So, at least 30 million Joules would be needed, to have it get to Earth in a useful form.
Arguably, aliens genuinely interested in contact would not waste time or effort with anything so puny as a small novel. It is more probable, if they went to the trouble of first contact (as in the film 'Contact') they'd send a lot of information. Say, equal to an alien encyclopedia of mathematics, or their most prevalent language. In this case, the information content soars to millions of megabytes, and the energy accordingly. For one million megabytes (10^12 bits) the aliens are looking at an energy for transmission on the order of 3 x 10^19 Joules.
It is well to realize that time factors into this as well. If the aliens kept the transmission going for at least one hour (Earth time), 3 x 10^19 kilowatts of power are needed (assuming the aliens are ale to sustain a rate of energy conversion of 1 Joule per second). In the civilization classification scheme of the late Russian astrophysicist I.S. Kardashev, this would put them at a bit beyond Type I, but not quite Type II. Kardashev's three-class scheme is:
I: Able to harness the equivalent power of the planet Earth
II: Able to harness the power equal to a typical star (10^23 kw)
III: Able to harness the power equal to a typical galaxy (10^33 kw)
The question is: To what extent have the ETs circumvented the Entropy law? This is important, in terms of how much their energy use (say to transmit powerful radio messages) compromises their own world's environment.
For reference, consider a terrestrial example: the United States. It is currently reckoned to have as many cars as people: about 250 million. Say one half of those are being driven at any one time: 125 million vehicles. Each one consumes on average 1000 Joules of energy and 1 kilowatt of power. That is 125 million kilowatts of power. If each vehicle runs 1000 hours per year, that is 125 billion kilowatt-hours of energy. Nine tenths ends up as waste heat, and effluent. The effluent contributes dramatically to The Greenhouse Effect. (Last year EPA statistics showed that the carbon levels in the country rose 3%).
What about the alien civilization which I hypothesized above? Well, their energy/power use would be absolutely enormous. Just for the purpose of interstellar communication, I would estimate 3 x 10^19 kw. This is nearly a quarter of a trillion times more than what the vehicles in the U.S. generated last year. Imagine the pollution, atmospheric damage and other ills triggered on the alien home world! (And we are not even looking at all their other possible energy expenditures - whether for agriculture, domestic energy use, transportation, or whatever.)
Could aliens be sufficiently advanced to beat the entropy law? Hardly. For example, even if the alien civilization had perfected its technology to the point that it obtains 50% energy efficiency (totally unheard of in any practical terms) they still have 1.5 x 10^19 joules of energy ending up as waste every hour they attempted radio transmission! (Given the same set of assumptions made earlier). And remember, this is not reckoning all the other energy conversions, for their own needs!
Since the cosmological principle shows the law of entropy is applicable everywhere, it must apply no less to alien species and alien worlds. These other civilizations, in some form or fashion, passed through the same reckless, energy consumption phase humans are confronted with on Earth. In other words, they were threatened by a similar global warming effect, or some other manifestation of entropy (like ozone erosion). At some critical junction, they made similar calculations, and were forced to make a profound decision. To expand energy use for a temporary higher life quality, or curtail it for the greater planetary welfare.
My contention is that they chose the latter path: they rejected the imperative for ever increasing energy consumption. This includes all mammoth energy-consuming projects, such as transmissions to other worlds, re-shaping whole planets and solar systems into imitations of their own planet, constructing black hole-based energy devices, and space faring to other worlds.
Like us, they may have long conjectured about 'ETs', and perhaps listened for a time. But eventually, they realized someone needed to 'break the ice' in respect of transmitting. However, seeing the exorbitant energy cost, they decided they would not be the first. Thus, in my conjecture, they backed away from any grandiose schemes of interstellar contact. This is exactly why no signals are being picked up from ET - because frankly ET isn't talking. 'He' is not willing to pay the cost, in terms of disastrous energy change on his own planet. He is not prepared to purchase a dream at the expense of suffocating in pollution, or roasting slowly in a Greenhouse type inferno.
Our disbelief or non-acceptance of this is a reflection of exaggerated human self-importance, and an inability to accept the harsh limitations imposed by the entropy law. Most humans prefer, in their boundless energy naivete, to believe in an ever more bountiful future, chock full of new energy devices: self-powered robots, anti-grav jet cars, rocket trains, and ion-propelled spaceships. In the end, all childish fancies in which entropy never rears its ugly, limiting, pessimistic head.
In such a fantasy world, engendered by overblown expectations, humans can afford to entertain such grand concepts as 'Dyson spheres' and harnessing whole stars for communication purposes. Such visions will recede into oblivion as the effects of entropy buildup are more perceptibly felt on Earth. Only then will humans appreciate why such reckless and profligate energy scenarios have been studiously avoided on others.
These considerations inevitably lead to my own classification scheme for alien civilizations: alphas and omegas. The alphas are the energy spendthrifts like us, who have not yet been taught the error of their non-conserving ways. They have yet to feel the heat as their global temperatures warm ten or more degrees Fahrenheit, or see diseases spread out of control with Greenhouse warming, or watch helplessly as their coastal lands are reclaimed by rising seas (from their melting polar ice caps). Their visions of energy appropriation have not yet been tempered by harsh realities.
Then there are the omegas. At some point in their development they were confronted by an imminent energy-entropy crisis (such as we are now approaching with the combination of Peak Oil and accelerated global warming). This forced them to make hard choices. Consume energy, and extract a higher 'quality' life - but at the cost of exponentiating entropy, or conserve, and tolerate a life with fewer amenities?
The prospect of compromising their dreams was surely painful, but they recognized that their survival depended on it. As their unrealistic energy aspirations vanished, so did their visions of interstellar communication, and of course, interstellar travel.
As total accommodation to the priority of entropy control took hold, new directions were set. New imperatives defined. Fierce competition for, and reckless use of limited resources was curtailed. Population growth was curbed, by means of forced birth control, or optional inducements. Travel or consumption, without purpose, was inhibited. Agriculture was converted to the least energy-demanding forms. External, consumptive preoccupations gave way to internal ones: art, music, meditation, self-education - the cultivation and maximization of the interior universe.
If my conjecture is valid, as I believe it is, then other alphas are our only hope for extraterrestrial contact. However, I place the probability for this at near zero. For contact to succeed, they need to be at our same stage of technological development, give or take 25 years. This is because all energy spendthrift phases are extremely transitory. At the same time, consider that Earth is at least 50 light years from the nearest plausible alpha planets. At this distance, a minimum of 100 (Earth) years would elapse between sending a first signal and receiving a response. Because of the spendthrift phase limits, either one or both communicating civilizations would never get a chance to make contact. Either one (or other) would have emerged from the alpha stage (becoming embryonic omegas) or gone on to exterminate themselves in a planet-wide ecological catastrophe.
Without waiting further, terrestrial radio telescopes ought to be directed toward more productive pursuits. We’ve had our fling with fantasy, and we’ve dreamed of conversing with ET. It’s been a pleasant diversion, but now it is time to return to reality. For while we indulge in fantasy a whole universe begs further discovery: colliding galaxies, massive core black holes, and sundry distant space phenomena such as cosmic masers.
In every interstellar atom, dust grain and cloud are embedded clues to our history, and ultimately our own identity. Human destiny is to ferret out these clues, and disclose ourselves and our planet in the process. We cannot truly do this as long as we are obsessed, and distracted, with a dream that can never be. So, if ET isn't talking - why should we? The answer may well hold the key to our future, and whether we survive as a species.
 Tipler, F.: 'Extraterrestrial Beings Do Not Exist', in Frontiers of Modern Physics, Dover Publications, Inc., p. 155.
 Pierce, John, R: 1980, An Introduction to Information Theory: Symbols, Signals and Noise, Dover Publications, Inc., p. 204.
 Boltzmann constant: A well-known constant from physics: k = 1.38 x 10^-23 Joule/Kelvin.
 You use 1 Joule of energy lifting a 100 gram golf ball 1 meter (or 3.3 feet).
 Shklovskii, I. and Sagan, C.:1966, Intelligent Life in the Universe, Dell Publishing Co., p. 394.
Monday, January 14, 2008
For example, a spacecraft with three astronauts sent to the Moon has enough food & oxygen supply for a five day round trip. For those specific conditions, ‘3’ is the carrying capacity of the craft. ‘Three” is the maximal population that the craft can sustain given its food, water, fuel supply. Double the number of astronauts and you must double the resource supply for the craft, or you have to reduce the time of the journey by a factor two. There is NO other way! (And bear in mind for a spacecraft redundancy of resources is built in just in case of an emergency - e.g. a micro-meteorite puncturing the shell of the craft and causing oxygen loss).
In many ways, Earth is like a self-contained “space craft”. It's isolated in space, not infinite in extent, and its resources (fuel, water, food supply) are also finite and set for a certain maximum consumption, unless the inhabiting species radically alter in their respective resource needs or numbers or both.
In determining this, one must bear in mind that a planetary population’s impact extends vastly beyond immediate space, living habitat. Recently some studies (e.g. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Project) have translated impact into hectares consumed over a lifetime. The average – when all humans are factored in – amounts to nearly 2.3 hectares per person reckoning in crops and meats-cattle etc. consumed over a life not to mention water, other resources.
No high population density scheme that doesn’t factor acreage impact in can be taken seriously. Yes, Americans consume an exorbitant amount in planetary hectares – around 10 per American – which is exactly why the planet can’t afford “two US of As”. It also means the distribution is that much less for other nations, peoples. In general then, the base relationship defining carrying capacity for Earth is:
Carrying capacity = (usable land-water resource base providing water + food + fuel) / (individual food, fuel + water requirement)
Now, if the numerator is ~ 11.4 x 10^9 hectares of usable aggregate equivalent land-water resource base and if 6 hectares is the ideal mean individual requirement over a lifetime (e.g. meet all basic needs and have a few private luxuries) , that means: CC = (11.4 x 10^9 hectares) / 6 hectares/person ~ 2 billion.
Obviously, this can be increased if the numerator can be increased or the denominator (each individual's ecological footprint) decreased. The problem is how to achieve it? (Especially if the total population continues to increase at 2 to 3% per year). As we know, all three land base contributors to the numerator (land base for food supply, land base for water supply, land base for fuel supply) are decreasing.
By 2025, for example, non-contaminated potable water hectares is expected to be roughly halved. This means, according to ‘The State of the World’ (2000) (and at present rates of declining watersheds, and increased population) the number of people living in water-stressed countries will rise from 470 million to 3 billion.
This is more than a sixfold increase in about 17 years. Add in projected new climate change data and the expanding drought, desertification regions - and likely effects (see. eg. recent issues of Eos) - and the stressed populations increase nine or tenfold.
Similarly, arable land hectares are diminishing owing to drought from climate change and encroaching development on previous farmland (in Colorado, for example, farmers have sold nearly one-fourth of their lands to developers). True, people could make do with less – especially Americans- but WILL THEY? Short of major political pressure there is no reason at all to become optimistic Americans will change their piggish ways on their own.
Technology is great BUT: 1) Technology means nada if the political will to put the money where gums are flapping doesn't exist. One could as well be talking about zero point energy as savior. And 2)Technology is not an energy source but energy consumer and often an energy use accelerator as Matt Savinar has noted in his excellent online text, ‘Life After the Oil Crash’. Thus again, technology and even maximal brain power to develop it means nada if the energy sources aren't there for its expeditious use and distribution.
To put it another way, Prof. Z may design a super-duper automatic crop creator to use in deserts. However, if the energy E isn't there to: a) run the damn thing (say 10^7 Joules per month), and the water W (hectares) isn't available to irrigate the result, his device amounts to a waste of time, effort and more resources. And Prof. Z could have an IQ high enough to qualify for the 'Triple Nine Society' and it still wouldn't matter. Without the resources to enable and sustain his invention, it's dead on arrival.
Isaac Asimov in one of his early essays (in his anthology ‘The Stars in Their Courses’) on population and carrying capacity, put it bluntly:
“Humans have a simple choice: they can either decrease their numbers on their own to live within the Earth’s carrying capacity or they can let nature do it for them”
With the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria such as c. diff. and MRSA in recent years, it more and more appears the latter is what is transpiring.
Incredibly, despite the increasingly parlous situation, many pundits continue to advocate for higher birth rates (or much higher immigration) in order to provide the labor capital to sustain benefits for native elderly populations. Alas, that is emphatically not the solution - since it merely tosses gasoline onto the fire. In order to sustain elderly populations in the industrial world, the vast amounts spent for wars, specious "defense" need to be cut and by substantial amounts. Further, supply side tax cuts need to either be repealed or not extended. That revenue is required for future investments, for example in repairing crumbling infrastructure or sustaining medical, social security needs.
The egregious "war on terror" cannot continue to be exploited to provide vast sums for asymmetric warfare when native populational and infrastructure needs are unmet. THIS is the real recipe for further strife!
Isaac Asimov in one of his early essays (in his anthology ‘The Stars in Their Courses’) on population and carrying capacity, put it bluntly:
“Humans have a simple choice: they can either decrease their numbers on their own to live within the Earth’s carrying capacity or they can let nature do it for them”
With the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria such as c. diff. and MRSA in recent years, it more and more appears the latter is what is transpiring.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
The last – or ‘civic space’ – occupies the mid ground between government and the rapacious private sector. In terms of set theoretics, imagine circles for ‘government’ and ‘private sector’ respectively – with large intersection of commonality between them. Civic space or the ‘set of civic society’ lies apart from the influence of these two.
It is neither where we vote (more and more influenced by ad-ism and PR, soundbites) or where we buy and sell. It is rather where neighbors, say in New England, converge for public meetings to decide on the location of a homeless shelter, or neighbors pool resources to care for children of low-income workers. Without any government ‘benediction’ or expectation of commercial sector ‘return on investment’.
The tragedy of the 20th (and now 21st ) century is the tragedy of the civic commons. The gradual erosion of civil society is largely eclipsed by corporate and market interests. Either in pursuit of state (or corporate) power, profits or both. Thus, political influence is purchased via the power of the purse (for example in lobbying) and laws enacted to favor these special interests.
Now the confluence of government –market interests has forced those wishing to live within non-coercive spheres of influence to make a Hobson’s choice: Either to side with state power and ‘commandeering of individual rights’ or private power, and its extirpation of what remains of government and its advocacy for the non-elite segment of the populace (i.e. those unable to purchase political influence).
Choose to be passively serviced (and servile) by a massive bureaucratic state wherein the word citizen has little or no resonance (until it’s election time) or submit to the selfishness and barbaric, radical individualism of the private sector – which extols the Social Darwinist refrain of ‘survival of the fittest’.
But what is needed here is to recognize and appreciate that the erosions of civil society didn’t just suddenly begin in the last few years, or even the last decade. No, the seeds were sown long ago.
As George Santayan once noted: "Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it".
If we don't understand the past and its influence on our present, it'll make little difference what happens if and when the current 'Neandertals' and reprobates are given the heave-ho. Another set, with perhaps more sophisticated strategies, will just replace them. The people remaining as clueless as ever, since they remain unable to tie current events (i.e. the rise of the global corporate state) to the past.
Thus, the original importance of preserving a global trade network without sacrifice to private monopoly or multi-national power was first recognized by President John F. Kennedy in late 1962 and 1963. He made enormous efforts to stave off incipient private control of the globalization process. As Donald Gibson observes in his must-read monograph(‘Battling Wall Street – The Kennedy Presidency’, Sheridan Square Press, 1994, p. 113):
"John Kennedy declared the 1960s the decade of development. The Alliance for Progress, development aid, low interest loans, nation-to-nation cooperation, and some measure of government planning were some of the ingredients of that policy. Within a few years of Kennedy's death most of this had been abandoned. By the early 1970s, this type of effort and the optimism associated with it had vanished altogether."
The effect was that the task of implementing and governing economic adjustment was assumed by private markets. Power which has grown exponentially since the extripation of the Bretton Woods agreement in 1973. The causal undercurrents and ideology of corporate-state global domination have been well articulated by Gibson, even from before its emergence within ten years of the Kennedy assassination (which many astute observers tie in with financial elite interests) (op. cit. P. 75):
"Kennedy's ideas.. .his view of foreign aid and foreign policy, and his recommendations and actions in a variety of specific areas disrupted or threatened to disrupt an established order. In that established order, in place for most of the century, major government decisions were to serve or at least not disrupt the privately organized hierarchy."
Gibson goes on to point out that the vested interests within this hierarchy were similar to, "if not direct imitations of those of that older British elite rooted in inherited wealth and titles, and organized in the modern world around control of finance and raw materials." (ibid.)
It seems very plausible then, that the slaying of John F. Kennedy set the stage for a global Corporatocracy in which these same elite imperatives would be allowed to subordinate and dominate the interests and welfare of the masses. Imaginary? Take a gander at columnist Jay Bookman's view from his article "New World Disorder - Evident Here and Abroad", in The Baltimore Sun, 1998):
"The global economy has been constructed on the premise that government guarantees of security and protection must be avoided at all costs, because they discourage personal initiative. In times of crisis, however, that premise cannot be sustained politically. In times of trouble it is human nature to seek security and protection and to be drawn toward those who promise to provide it. That is how men such as Adolf Hitler, and Vladimir Ilyich Lenin came to power, with disastrous consequences. "
It is also plausible that JFK's death was crucial to the eventual success of the overall plan. Indeed, Gibson notes that these elite banking and financial interests (ibid.) "would have little tolerance for a president who interfered with their decisions or made their interests secondary to the needs of nations or of people in general."
So, one could say that by the time of JFK's assassination, the global tableaux had been set for eventual market domination of the world. With no other fearless national leaders to stand in the way (the last ones assassinated) the goal of worldwide subjugation of national interests to speculative capital, trans-national corporate control and personal debt could proceed apace. One merely had to await the right constellation of pro-market interests, and this was incepted in the Reagan years - reaching its culmination in the early 1990s via bi-partisan support of "neo-liberalism". A philosophy that Jay Bookman's earlier quotation embodies succinctly.
The plan was long range to be sure, but the elites had always been patient. Now they would exercise that patience and sense of noblesse oblige. Again, the payoff being a world of serfs delivered to them by their own governments. These governments themselves hamstrung by the unequal power of differing accords (i.e. GATT, NAFTA) over which they had little option other than to 'sign on'. Accords which could disembowel labor, its pensions and benefits, and lay waste to all social safety nets to protect the more vulnerable citizens. At the same time reckoning hard-won environmental laws as 'trade impediments' to be challenged in a world trade court (WTO).
How many of our currently voting electorate are aware of even a small subset of the above when they cast ballots? Not one in one hundred I'd wager. And if they aren't, if they're so devoid of historical perspective - all the practical appeals in the world won't make a dime's worth of difference. People will still be electing as venal a bunch (who give themselves automatic $4900/yr. wage increases in the dead of night while millions are jobless) as they already have.Egotistical, Overclass hypocrites who engage in word play for the benefit of the people who elected them, then turn around and cop to corporate money. While pandering and assisting the same market -fascist imperative that JFK fought, and which probably cost him his life.
The overall imperative of the market being the ultimate abolition of all governmental, national social insurance systems - whether these be Medicare or Social Security in the United States, or the analogous systems in Germany or Barbados. In each case, the particular system to be replaced by a privatized entity able to generate individual debt, corporate profit and further income inequality. (It is very interesting in this regard that the "Bankruptcy Reform Act" was passed by a majority in 2005, while a legal loophole that permitted creation of CDOs and their diffusion through multiple financial products (e.g. SIVs or "structured investment vehicles") was passed the next year. As we know the last has led directly to the current sub-prime meltdown)
The point is that unless people perceive the historical pattern of consolidating corporate power, tied to events 45 years ago, they will be unable to map a future course that preserves any semblance of civil society. Rather, they'll more than likely be swayed and mentally manipulated into conferring ever more power on the commercial-corporate-government nexus. As this mandate becomes ever more entrenched it is inevitable that those without will challenge the ‘haves’ at some point and demand a rightful piece of the pie.
It will by then become intolerable to do without critical health insurance (because it is either denied or too costly) while some rich dilettante (who inherited his millions) tries to decide whether to drive his Rolls, Lexus or Lamborghini to the Country Club.
To go where we want to go, we need to know where we have been. This includes the inherent lessons in political assassinations such as JFK's. If we don't - then like the proverbial Israelites wandering in the desert- we shall never get to the civic 'promised land'.
You can make book on it.