Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Alcohol Overdoses Kill 37 in Colorado

Jan 29, 2014

Colorado is reconsidering its policy of allowing the sale of alcohol in the state after a horrific number of alcohol related deaths.

According to a report in the Rocky Mountain News, 37 people were killed across the state during the president's State of the Union address last night. Several more are clinging onto life in local emergency rooms and are not expected to survive.

"It's complete chaos here," says Dr. Jack Shepard, chef of surgery at St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver, "I've put five college students in body bags since breakfast and more are arriving every minute.

Apparently the students were playing a game in which they took a drink each time the president told a lie or said something stupid during the state of the union address.

[Update: it appears the students had to take 2 drinks each time the president plagiarized a line from a Bush State of the Union address.]

Monday, January 27, 2014

Monday Joke

A scruffy looking man walks into a classy restaurant and orders a steak. The waitress says: "I'm sorry, but you don't look like you can pay for your meal."

The man admits, "I don't have any money, but if I show you something you haven't seen before, will you give me my supper?" 

The waitress, replies, "Only if what you show me isn't obscene."

Friday, January 24, 2014

Guns & Autos

New Jersey has some of the most restrictive firearms laws in the country. I never realized how much until a friend told me some of it and I started to investigate. The law is so strict, in fact, that the citizens are appealing to the Supreme Court for relief. I hope the Supreme Court will take up the case, as it is pretty clear that the Constitutional rights of the citizens of New Jersey are being infringed, in a big way. We'll find out if the court will hear the case in the next two to three months.

Last night I was thinking about what would happen if NJ gun laws applied to cars. After all, the second amendment affirms our right to bear arms, but there's no right to drive, so it would be perfectly legal and just as reasonable for the NJ state legislature to apply the same principles to cars, and then some. I'd like to include references to the NJ gun laws, but of course, the laws are arranged in such a manner that they can't be linked to, only the whole criminal code. So you'll have to look through a bunch of stuff or search piecemeal for non-authoritative descriptions of the laws.

As you read these, I'd like you to think about three things. First off, realize that this is a Constitutional Right (the right to keep and bear arms as defined by the second amendment) that we're talking about. Imagine another right, like voting, or practicing free speech or religion, being subject to such laws.

Secondly, note that none of these laws has anything to do with using the car for something illegal (like robbing a bank). They apply to all honest, law abiding citizens who merely want to use a car in a safe, legal manner.

Lastly, violating these laws is a felony, and for most, not just a felony, but a serious felony with a mandatory 10 year prison sentence (judge or jury has no ability to reduce the sentence), and no possibility of parole for 7 years. In other words, a perfectly good person (who passed criminal and mental health background checks) can find himself in prison, losing his job, family, and a good part of his life by doing something as simple as stopping at a gas station to get gas on the way home from the gun store with a legally owned, safe, unloaded, locked up gun in the locked trunk of the car.

So, if NJ gun laws applied to cars...
  • Car are illegal to possess, period. The only exceptions would be in your garage, driving to or from the dealership or a repair facility, or to and from a test track. On these trips, no unnecessary deviations or stops are permitted. If stopped, you are presumed guilty. It it up to you to prove, in court, that you fulfilled the requirements for one of the exceptions mentioned.
  • In order to get a license to drive a car (any other place except the dealership or test track) the potential driver must apply at his local police station and demonstrate "justifiable need." This means an immediate, urgent need to drive to prevent serious injury or death. He must show that there is no alternative to driving. If this case is successfully made to the local police, the potential driver must appear before a judge and make the case again. Due to the high barriers involved, almost nobody can get a driver's license, including emergency workers and retired police. Over 99.9% of citizens are forced to live within the "exceptions" noted above.
  • Each person who drives must have his own car. In order for someone else to drive your car, you must be sitting in the front passenger seat.
  • "High capacity" gas tanks are outlawed. Legal gas tanks must hold ten gallons or less.
  • When not in use, the car must be stored in a locked garage with the tank empty. Fuel must be stored in a separate locked tank in a different part of your home. (Yes, I know these apply to a gun in transport, but a car can't be locked up during transport - the analogy is that the car is locked up when not "being used").
  • "Assault" military cars, such as all Jeeps, Hummers, Ford Mustang, Ford Expedition, Dodge Viper, Dodge Challenger, Chevy Suburban, Toyota Corolla, motorcycles, and a host of other scary intimidating vehicles are banned by name.
  • Cars may not have any of the following "evil" features: dual exhaust pipes, "hemi" style carburetor, "mag" or oversized wheels, chromed or stylized hub caps, spoilers.
  • In addition, cars are limited to no more than two of the following features: "high capacity" engine (more than 100 HP), automatic transmission,"high capacity" seating (more than 3 people), GPS, satellite radio, ABS, courtesy lights.
  • No one can work on the engine of a car without a license to manufacture.
  • In order to go anywhere in a car, a driver has to fill out a form and submit it, in person, at his local police station, along with approximately $57. He must be fingerprinted and undergo mental health and background checks. If all goes well, in 30 days he will be issued an "Automobile ID" (AID) card.
  • In order to purchase a car, a potential owner has to have and AID card, and fill out a form and submit it, in person, at his local police station along with $60. He must be fingerprinted, and undergo mental health and background checks. If everything goes well, in 30 days he will be issues a "permission to purchase" card good for 90 days.
  • The federal "COPA" (Car Owner Protection Act) serves to allow out of state drivers to pass through New Jersey legally, but the state claims the right to a warrant-less stop and search of out of state vehicles if it believes your car might violate NJ law, and will prosecute for violations of NJ state automobile law anyway, even if your car is legal in the state where you are coming from and going to.
No doubt I'm leaving out some parts of the law, or someone could come up with better analogies, (for one thing, I don't have an analogy to the hollow point ammunition ban) but I thought this was a good start. I also haven't mentioned the 57 new gun laws proposed by the New Jersey legislature for 2014, some of which make the above laws look permissive.

If this upsets you, write your representatives about it, or consider joining an organization that supports your second amendment rights in New Jersey, like the New Jersey Second Amendment Society or the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, or a national organization like the Second Amendment Foundation or the National Rifle Association.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

X Rated Posters

By now you've probably read about the "X-Rated" sex-ed poster that upset parents at Hocker Middle School. For those who can't see anything wrong with it, I made an alternative poster.

Consider if, instead of sex-ed, this was a poster to teach kids about dealing with anger. Here's the sex-ed poster along with my poster for anger management for children. See if you would want your children to learn about anger from my poster.

The problem isn't just "bad words" - it's that it's teaching kids that there is no difference between acceptable moral acts, and unacceptable, immoral acts.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Monday Joke

Little Tim was in the garden filling in a hole when his neighbor peered over the fence.

Interested in what the cheeky-faced youngster was up to, he politely asked, "What'cha doing, Tim?"

"My goldfish died," replied the boy tearfully, without looking up. "I've just buried him."

Monday, January 13, 2014

Monday Joke

Something a little different for a change. Inspired by my son's jokes I present this series of "Did you hear..." jokes. I'd love to read your comments with your favorite "Did you hear..." jokes.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

How NOT to persuade an atheist to become a Christian

Saw this video on social media. It is clear that the "Christian" in it thinks he has "won" the "debate." However, I would call this a text book example of how to affirm to an atheist the non-existence of God. As the video points out, the atheist "left swearing." God bless him, I would too. Feel free to skip through the video if you want - you won't miss much.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

How to persuade a Christian to become an atheist

It is with both sadness and amusement that I came across this piece, on "how to persuade a Christian to become an atheist." Sadness to see people spreading yet more misinformation on the internet (surprise, surprise) and amusement to see how they have simply taken the pages from "how to persuade an atheist to become a Christian" and turned some things around. The graphics are kind of creepy and the logic is, well, absent, but the methodology is generic "how to persuade person X of argument Y."

One has to wonder why an atheist would want to convert a Christian to atheism, other than for the sake of meanness. A Christian is charged with spreading the Gospel - not so the atheist, who has no gospel. A Christian is charged to help his fellow man by educating him and correcting him when he is in trouble - not so the atheist who has no duty to his fellow man. The Christian can argue that more Christians in the world makes the world a better place in terms of peace and taking care of the poor. The atheist make desire company, but historically atheists have not known to be the most charitable peaceful people. So any reason the atheist has for evangelization would be personal preference based on an unconscious "Christian" desire to "help" others based on cultural surroundings or upbringing, rather than a tenet of his "faith."

I thought it would be interesting to see two people who have read these respective instructions go "head to head." So it occurred to me it might be fun to take this to the next level. "How to persuade an atheist who is trying to persuade a Christian to become an atheist to become a Christian." With that in mind, here are my responses to the responses to the questions in the Christian -> Atheist article. I've copied some of the text, and edited or paraphrased it for brevity. The question part (in bold) is what is asked by the Christian. The normal text is the suggested response, and my rebuttal is in bold italics).
  • What existed before the big bang?
    • We don't know yet.
    • Another theory is that our Universe exists as part of a much larger multiverse.
    The question and answer both beg the issue. We can't properly speak of "before" without time, which as far as we know requires the big bang to have occurred. However, we can ask the metaphysical question, "is time required for causality?" Clearly it is not, since the big bang happened. So the question is not what existed before the big bang, but what caused the big bang? And if you say "the laws of physics" what caused them? And if there's a multiverse, what caused that?
  • Order can't come from chaos, entropy wouldn't allow that.
    • Chaos and entropy describe different things. Entropy can be locally reversed.
    But entropy can't be globally reversed. If you're going to claim it can you have to show me which the laws of physics you wish to suspend for your argument, which undermines your scientific claims. The example used of order coming from chaos is not in fact, order from chaos, but an experiment designed to locally produce order. If the intent of the atheist was to show that an intelligence can design a system which produces order, then yes, I agree, an intelligence can design a system which produces order.

  • Life couldn't come into existence by mere coincidence.
    • It didn't.
    So the atheist concedes the argument, and adds words which make him think he has "won." So be it.
  • Life is too complicated to happen through mere coincidence and random events.
    • Evolution provides a mechanism that is anything but random or coincidental.
    Another concession. And I guess evolutionists who talk about random mutation are wrong as well. Thank you for agreeing.
  • If people don't believe in God, where do they get their morality from?
    • It should scare you to think that the fear of Hell is the only thing stopping the Christian from committing atrocities.
    It would if that were true. However, this shows a lack of understanding of Christianity, since Christians do not claim fear of hell as the source of morality (or even the source of moral behavior). It also ignores the question (irrelevance fallacy). Where do atheists get their morality from?
  • If God doesn't exist why does most of the world believe? (Argumentum ad populum}
    • Just because a majority of people in a group or the entire world believe something does not make it automatically true.
    Correct. The Christian has asked an irrelevant question. However, this says nothing about the truth or falsehood of the claim "there is a God."

  • Something can't come from nothing. (Cosmological Argument)
    • If it is possible for a god to be uncaused then it is possible for the universe to be uncaused.
    Correct. However, Occam's razor demands we choose the simpler proposition. Which is simpler? That one exception exists, or that everything is an exception to the rule?

  • The Bible proves God exists. Why would so many people write about God if it wasn't true? (Argumentum ad Verecundiam, Circular reasoning, Tautology)
    • Any critical examination of the Bible will clearly show it to be full of inaccuracies and contradictions.
    They're both wrong. The Bible doesn't prove God exists, it asserts it. Even if the Bible were perfect in every other way it still wouldn't be a proof. On the other side, where are the inaccuracies and contradictions? Because I have yet to see one which wasn't easily refuted if one looks at the actual text and context, rather than reading isolated misleading claims.
  • The universe and life show clear signs of design.
    • Life reproduces and mutates by itself. The same cannot be said of an inanimate object.
    False. Life does not reproduce and mutate by itself. It needs material and energy outside of itself to do so. The atheist is using the same argument to show lack of design by claiming (without proof) that the universe is not designed. The atheist cannot show evidence of something complex created without intent (or design, but I think intent is a better word to use here), but makes the claim that "everything" is anyway. Intention is not something which can be measured scientifically.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Soul of a New Machine

...or why I love computer science and religion. And it's not often that I get to write about both in the same blog post.

One of the big epiphanies in my life was in high school, when I really grokked numbers. I was learning about computers, and number bases, and it hit me - numbers are like, well, like God. Immaterial, unchanging, eternal. Realizing that numbers, like "3", were not squiggles on a piece of paper, or even a group of apples, but a concept, an idea blew my mind. I knew then that I was going to be a math major and go into mathematics as deeply as I could.

As it turns out I wound up in computer science. But I had the same sort of epiphany when I took theory of computation classes in grad school. It turns out a computer program isn't characters on a printout, or even bits in memory. It is an idea, like the number "3," but better. Because, unlike the number "3" the program actually did something. And what's more mind boggling is that, unlike the number "3," before someone thinks of the program, it doesn't exist. Oh one could argue that it existed somehow as a possibility until it was "discovered" but that doesn't really fit the way we think about a program, and there's no evidence of it (unlike mathematics, which can be shown to exist throughout time and space).

This may sound trite or perhaps grandiose, but trust me, if you learn enough computer science (not just programming) and think about it, you get there.

I recently read an article about a man who was in a vegetative state for 23 years and is now able to communicate and tell his story. He says he was conscious the whole time, but unable to communicate. Wesley J. Smith says in the article:
"We hear constantly that people diagnosed as being persistently unconscious should be dehydrated to death because they are not ‘persons,’ or are actually ‘dead’ — and so should be available for organ harvesting," he said.
Smith says "there are abundant reasons to treat people with profound cognitive disabilities as fully human beings."
"First and foremost, because they are us. Second, because we don’t know enough about how the brain works to know that there won’t be some regeneration to permit eventual restoration of some function. But also, because there is always hope," he said.
"Houben is here today only because he wasn’t dehydrated to death," Smith concludes.
In the case of Houben, either he was misdiagnosed, or he was conscious without a functioning brain. That may not be as far fetched as you think. There are numerous studies of patients who have been clinically brain dead and yet claimed to be conscious. Evidence of this is their ability to describe things that happened while they had no brain function. One of the most interesting facts is that most blind people who have these experiences could see while they were brain dead.

Scientist today make the assumption that the brain "generates" consciousness somehow, but there is no evidence of this (and believe me, they've tried hard to find it). Certainly brain damage can affect a person's ability to think and reason, and can cause personality changes, but correlation does not imply causality. What if the body is like the computer hardware and the consciousness (or soul, if you will) is the program?

There is a joke that goes something like this:  There once was a scientist who studied frogs. One day, the scientist put the frog on the ground and told it to jump. The frog jumped four feet. So the scientist wrote in his notebook, "Frog with four feet, jumps four feet." So the scientist cut off one of one of the frogs legs. The scientist told the frog to jump. Frog jumped three feet. So the scientist wrote in his note book, "Frog with three feet, jumps three feet." So the scientist cut of another leg. He told the frog to jump. The frog jumped two feet. So the scientist wrote in his notebook "Frog with two feet, jumps two feet." The scientist cut off one more leg. He told the frog to jump. Frog jumped one foot. So the scientist wrote in his notebook, "Frog with one foot, jumps one foot." So the scientist cut off his last leg. "He said, "Frog jump. Frog jump. FROG JUMP!" So the scientist wrote in his notebook, "Frog with no feet, goes deaf."

Breaking a key in your keyboard or having a faulty memory chip will certainly cause your computer to misbehave, but the program is fine. The computer hardware is not the cause of the program, it is just the way in which the program interacts with the physical world, and if the hardware is broken it is cause the program to interact improperly. The program itself exists whether or not it is running on a computer, it just requires thought. Why can't the soul and body work that way? And if it does work that way, how does the soul come into existence? That implies a consciousness who thinks it into existence. [Spoiler - His name starts with "G" and ends with "d".]

Today this might be considered a wild theory by many scientists, but it's been the way the human person has been considered for thousands of years, and (as I mentioned) there is no scientific evidence to the contrary. Certainly there are corresponding examples of the old displacing the new in science. Take the scientists' insistence in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that the universe had no beginning or end. Along comes Georges LemaƮtre and suddenly the universe has a beginning and an end, just as those poor ignorant Christians and Jews believed for thousands of years. The question is, could one devise and experiment to prove or disprove the theory that the brain doesn't generate consciousness? Oh wait, we already have, in the cases I mentioned above where brain dead patients are conscious.

Don't get me wrong now. I'm not saying we are robots, programmed by God. What I am saying is that computer science provides us with an existence proof that things like the soul can be real. And in some small way, computer and information theory is just another look into the amazing complexity of how God has created the universe, giving us a tiny window into the world of metaphysics, just as Newtonian mechanics gave us a tiny window into the world of physics.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Monday Joke

One day a florist went to a barber for a haircut. After the cut, he asked about his bill, and the barber replied, 'I cannot accept money from you, I'm doing community service this week.' The florist was pleased and left the shop. When the barber went to open his shop the next morning, there was a 'thank you' card and a dozen roses waiting for him at his door.