Wednesday, August 15, 2018

No Words

I am surprised and dismayed about the extent of the abuse scandal in PA, and the lies of the bishops of the USCCB. I guess I sholdn't be, looking around me. You see, we can point at the priests who did these horrible things, and the bishops who excused them or even supported them, but the fact is, the priests and laity all around us are looking excusing and supporting this as well.

Consider Fr. Feelgood, who every week gives a "Guido Sarducci" style homily "God loves you" and "Love your neighbor." There is no preaching of the Gospel. He's happy to ignore the couples cohabitation, committing adultery, contracepting, aborting, abusing themselves, each other and their children. Do you think there's a moral difference between abusing a child by rape and abusing a child by abortion, or simply neglect? He's happy to ignore the people who put Sunday games above the rightful worship due the creator of the universe. He makes football jokes off the altar, and the laity laugh, and come to mass dressing their favorite team's jerseys.

Does Fr. Feelgood even believe we need to worship the creator of the universe? He says so, but he doesn't act that way. He complains about having to say mass, and says as few as possible. He is more concerned with the appearances of holiness in shows of philanthropy than actually cultivating prayer and penance in himself and in his parishioners.

And we the laity sit in the pews and accept all this. We don't expect to hear (and are complacent not to ever hear) a homily that makes us uncomfortable. Truly uncomfortable. Oh we'll listen to the "love your neighbor" homily and realize we fall short of that, but how many times do we hear a homily on hell, sin, immorality that makes us uncomfortable? Never. And we like it that way.

When we are engaging in sterile, immoral, illicit, secret sex, and excusing it in ourselves and others, why are we surprised to find that others (including our priests and bishops) are doing the same? When we regularly violate our marriage vows, why are we surprised that our priests and bishops violate theirs as well?

The bishops are trying to rile up the people to righteously oppose immigration laws and the death penalty, when by their own actions they are keeping people out of the church and killing the innocence of those in the church.
“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
Woe to the world for temptations to sin. For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the man by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire."

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Fully Semiautomatic

This week's "Chicken Little" rant is by Chuck Schumer. According to Schumer, the decision that the first amendment allowed for someone to post schematics for a 3D printable gun makes the United States "a lot less safe." Not to be left out, NJ Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal sent a “cease and desist” letter to Defense Distributed saying that they must stop because their plans could be used to make assault weapons that are illegal in NJ.

So, what's the brouhaha all about? Should we all be hiding under our desks?

The Company

According to their wed site, Defense Distributed is a non-profit, private defense firm principally engaged in the research, design, development, and manufacture of products and services for the benefit of the American rifleman. Since 2012, DD has been headquartered in Austin, Texas.

The principle is this: the United States has always recognized the rights of the people to keep and bear arms. That has always meant that you could defend yourself without the government's permission. The best way to ensure that the government cannot abrogate these rights is to have the means of production in the hands of private citizens. To put it in geek speak, you can't stop the signal. The same principle as youtube, google, social media, etc. supposedly espouse.

To that end, Defense Distributed has two "products." One is DEFCAD, which unfortunately results in this for me.
Thanks Mr. Grewal, or whoever. However, Wikipedia says this about it:
DEFCAD, Inc. is an Austin-based startup that has created a search engine and web portal for designers and hobbyists to find and develop 3D printable and other CAD models online launched by Defense Distributed.
The other is GhostGunner, which takes its name from the term CA state senator Kevin DeLeon used in his infamous nonsensical rant on "untraceable" guns. GhostGunner is a CNC mill that can be used to machine a firearm out of a preformed metal billet. [Update: upon further research the GhostGunner can only perform the last few steps of machining - it requires what is known as an "80% lower" - a gun part which is mostly machines but requires a few holes to be drilled/milled in order to make it operational.]

What Does This Mean?

So, what does this technology give people that they didn't have before? Well, to patriots, this means their government can no longer complete stop the means of self defense, unless they block the web sites, and make it illegal to manufacture a firearm, like they have in New Jersey. But to the rest of the country, where it is already legal to make an item for personal use for lawful self defense, this is a boon, and makes lawful self defense more accessible and safer for people.

But what about criminals? Couldm't they now use this to make "untraceable" guns? Well, there are two parts to that. First off, why is it important to be bale to "trace" guns? Maryland, for instance, considered it so important that they created a "gun fingerprint" database to track every gun in the state so it could be easily "traced" to solve crimes. After 15 years using the database police were able to use it to solve... zero crimes. That's right, the ability to trace firearms did not change the outcome of a single criminal investigation in 15 years. The database was eventually scrapped as a waste of money. So forgive me if I yawn when we hear that untraceable guns will enable criminals.

The second part is, does this technology make it easier for criminals to make "untraceable" guns? Emphatically no. If you were a criminal, and wanted to make an "untraceable" gun under the mistaken impression that somehow you would be able to get away with crimes because of it, you can either: buy a GhostGunner CNC platform, download plans for a gun, purchase the appropriate types and grades of metal, fabricate the frame of the gun (which is the serialized part), purchase all the other parts you need (barrel, grips, trigger and trigger mechanism, slide, firing pin, springs, safeties, etc.), then assemble them all and hand tune the parts to make a working gun, all for a cost of about $1,500 to $2,000; OR buy an existing gun on the streets for $200, buy a file for $5 and file off the serial number.

While it is feasible to do the former, and stay within federal law (filing off a serial number is illegal), I would bet a criminal would choose the latter method, or if he is smart, not care about the gun being "traceable" because that won't affect him in any way.

So, if you really want to stop "untraceable" guns (and why you'd want to do that is questionable), the thing to ban is not the 3D printer, but the thing pictured at the top of this post.



Sunday, June 24, 2018

Not the Same

By White House [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
To all the people comparing the expulsion of Sarah Sanders from a restaurant to the refusal of Jack Phillips to bake a cake, they are not the same. Here's why.

Jack Phillips did not refuse to serve David Mullins and Charlie Craig, he refused to make a product that was against his religious beliefs to make. Mullins and Craig were welcome to purchase any product that Phillips made, this was jut not a product he was willing to make. Furthermore, Mullins and Craig were not asked to leave the premises, but were welcome in the store. According to the rules of ethics and morality, had Phillips baked the cake he would be guilty of "material cooperation with evil" in that he would have been producing a product that directly contributed to the wedding celebration. Thus, he had a moral responsibility to refrain from baking the cake, given his beliefs on marriage.

Stephanie Wilkinson refused to serve Sarah Sanders a product that she was happy to serve others - the difference between Sanders and other customers was that she didn't like Sanders. Sanders was not welcome to receive any service. Under the rules of ethics and morality she had no grounds to deny Sanders because her product was not related to any evil Sanders might commit. For that matter, Sanders is not the instigator nor does she have any control over that evil.

In other words, Phillips took no action against a person, but refused to perform an action that he legitimately had to refuse to do because of his beliefs.

Wilkinson took an action against a person, refusing to perform her normal service, with no justification other than her personal feelings.

Yet Phillips has been demonized for standing firm to his legitimate conscience objection, and Wilkinson is lauded for her bullying.

While I believe any business has a right to deny service to a customer, the reasons given by Wilkinson are petty, and her insistence that she did it out of a spirit of "compassion" is laughable. It is, in fact, intolerance, bullying, virtue signalling, pettiness, looking for her 15 minutes of fame. She should be ashamed of herself, and so should we.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Thoughts on gun violence Part 7: The Second Amendment

There are an endless supply of other solutions to the "gun violence" problem, such as age limits, mental health requirements, etc. but there are two important points that have been ignored. First off, there is no gun control law that has ever been implemented that has shows to be effective in reducing crime. The star in the crown of the anti-gunners' argument is "Australia." Australia banned guns and there has been no mass shooting, crime is low, etc.  The fact is, crime in Australia was already low, before guns were banned. When the gun ban went into effect, the crime rate went up. Likewise for the UK and every other place where guns have been banned. And Australia has had mass shootings since their gun ban, such as the Wright St. Bikie Murders in 1999, the Monash University shooting in 200, the Hunt murders and Wedderburn shootings in 2014.

The US has the highest rate of gun murders, except it doesn't when compared to all other countries, instead of the hand picked ones used in anti-gun propaganda. It has the highest number of mass shootings, except it doesn't have the highest rate.

Nobody needs an AR-15, it can't be used for hunting (except it is) and can't be used for home defense (except it is great for that). In fact , the government considers the M4 (the full auto version of the AR-15 that's not available to civilians) a "personal defense weapon".

In fact, the answer to every anti-gun argument is the same - "that's not true." Every single "fact" used to ban guns is the result of guesswork, emotion and cherry picked data.

But let's suppose for a minute it's true, that we could save thousands of lives guaranteed if we ban all guns. Can we? I think the answer to that question has two parts. First off, can we logistically pull it off? And secondly, can we legally/morally do it?

For the first part, consider that perhaps one in three Americans owns a gun. That's over 100 million people, who own an estimated 450 million guns. Let's say we want to buy back all the guns (this is America, you can't just seize private property without compensation). Let's assume fair market value is $500 per gun. That's almost a quarter of a trillion dollars to be spent, not counting overhead of running the program (this is, after all, a government program). Now consider that some Americans may not want to sell their guns to the government. Let's assume 3% of gun owners believe it is their right to keep and bear arms (where would they get that idea?). That's 3 million armed citizens who will shoot back when the SWAT team comes to break down their door. That is 2.5x the size of the entire US armed forces. The casualties would far outweigh any savings of lives the gun ban would accomplish.

For the second part, consider the second amendment. It states:
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
You can claim it means anything but a grammatical analysis, as well as the clear words of the founders indicates that it means that the people have the right to keep and bear arms, and that its purpose was to support a militia of the people in order to resist an army, either foreign or domestic. I can provide links to this, but that would be a series of posts in itself. Suffice it to say that the Supreme court has ruled that it is an individual right and it protects specifically the right to bear arms suitable for use in serving in a militia. And that it protects arms commonly in use.

Since the AR-15 is the most common rifle in the US (as noted earlier it may account for up to 20% of all the rifles in the US), it certainly should be protected under the second amendment. And since anti-gunners claim it is a military weapon, again it should be protected (it is not a military weapon, but the full auto version, the M4 is, and if you really want to go down that route then the M4 should be available to civilians).

In fact, none of the proposed "common sense" gun control laws meets constitutional scrutiny, each of them violating one or more of the first, second, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, or tenth amendments.

What other Constitutional right can be abrogated without demonstrating a proportionate need? The right to vote has arguably resulted in more deaths than the right to bear arms, yet we consider even asking for ID to vote being too much of an infringement to allow. Free speech and the right to assemble can result in deaths, looting, riots, and yet we would not allow limits on the right to assembly or what books we can read or what we can say.

The fact is, if we create a "loophole" where the legislature or the courts can stifle the second amendment , what recourse do we have when the legislature or courts decide to stifle a different Constitutional right? Especially since, at that point, the government will be armed, and the people will not. The second amendment is truly the guarantor of the entire Constitution.

I could go on with other arguments, more data (and I probably will in the future), but for now, think about that last bit.

Thoughts on gun violence Part 6: Background Checks and "The Gun Show Loophole"

Another oft-proposed solution for the gun violence problem is closing the alleged "gun show loophole." The hype is that you can go to a gun show and buy a gun without going through a background check.

For the record, the background check laws in the USwere proposed by and supported by the NRA! The current system, called NICS (National Instant Criminal background check System) was implemented by the FBI in 1998. The system is mandated for FFLs (Federal Firearmss License holders) to use at the point of transferring a firearm to an individual. The system determines whether an individual is a "prohibited person."
A prohibited person is one who:
  • Has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
  • Is under indictment for a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
  • Is a fugitive from justice;
  • Is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance;
  • Has been adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution;
  • Is illegally or unlawfully in the United States;
  • Has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;
  • Having been a citizen of the United States, has renounced U.S. citizenship;
  • Is subject to a court order that restrains the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of such intimate partner;
  • Has been convicted in any court of a "misdemeanor crime of domestic violence"
A prohibited person cannot buy a firearm. So criminals, people with serious mental illness, substance abuse issues or domestic violence problems are prohibited. In general the system works well. Let's talk about the corner cases, though.

First off, the "gun show loophole." It doesn't exist. At a gun show all federal and state laws still apply. If I wanted to go to a gun show and buy a firearm, I would have to go through the same NICS check as if I went to the local gun store or any other firearms dealer. Furthermore, I cannot purchase a hand gun in a different state, and if I want to buy a rifle or shotgun in a different state, the seller must follow all of the laws of his own state plus all of the laws in my home state.

Private sales (for instance, if I want to sell my rifle to my hunting buddy) do not require a NICS check. So in theory, a person could go to a gun show and sell a rifle to another individual without a NICS check taking place. Why a person would want to go to a place crawling with cops to conduct a sale to a criminal I don't know, but I guess it's possible.

No, when someone says "gun show loophole" what they really mean is banning all private sales of firearms. And this is a problem for a number of reasons. It means, first off, that a citizen needs government permission to dispose of his own private property. It also means that the government would be illegally compiling a complete registration of all firearms in the US. It also would stifle the gun market, economically. For instance, if I buy a rifle for $200 and want to sell it, I have to pay FFL transfer and NICS fees (which are on the order of $75), meaning my $200 rifle is only worth $125, even brand new in the box.

But let's step back. What problem is this trying to solve? In November 2017 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published this memo outlining how GAO agents attempted to purchase firearms illegally. On the dark web they were able to purchase illegal firearms that had been illegally modified illegally two times. On the "regular" internet, out of 72 attempts to buy guns, they were completely unsuccessful. This points to the fact that law abiding gun owners (the majority) are unwilling to sell guns to a shady person.

This is backed up by an analysis of how criminals get guns. A study on how criminals acquire guns concluded that criminals do not legally buy guns anyway. According to the article it is important that they "trust" the seller. From the study:
In discussing the underground gun market in their neighborhoods, most respondents emphasized the importance of connections—prior relationships that could create sufficient trust to reassure the seller that the transaction would not create an unacceptable legal risk.
So it is unlikely that expanding background checks would have any effect on crime. Criminals are already going around background checks. On the other hand it wold have a big impact on legal firearm owners.

There are some problems with the existing NICS system that should be addressed, however. At a recent FBI senate hearing, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) asked about a rumor that some 500,000 fugitives were deleted from the FBI’s NICS database.
Dianne Feinstein: “It’s my understanding that under federal law fugitives cannot legally purchase or possess guns. We’ve heard from local law enforcement that the Justice Department has issued a memo that forced the FBI NICS background check database to drop more than 500,000 names of fugitives with outstanding arrest warrants because it was uncertain whether those fugitives had fled across state lines. Mr. Bowdich, can you describe why this determination was made by the Justice Department?”

David Bowdich: “Yes, ma’am. That was a decision that was made under the previous administration. It was the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel that reviewed the law and believed that it needed to be interpreted so that if someone was a fugitive in a state, there had to be indications that they had crossed state lines. Otherwise, they were not known to be a fugitive, under the law, and the way it was interpreted.”
Another issue recently focused on is that some states and federal organizations (like the US Army) are not submitting complete data to the NICS system. For instance, the murderer in the Sutherland Springs Church mass shooting was a prohibited person, but the Army never submitted that information to NICS. This is not a new situation either. The NRA has been calling for years for this situation to be fixed.


Of course background checks sound like a good idea, and they are "common sense", but one could ask, do background checks even affect the firearm homicide rate? If you look at my last post in the series at the data from 1998 to the present the firearm homicide rate dropped from 4 to 3.4 in those years. It is hard to say whether any of that was due to background checks. So why are we talking about expanding a system that may or may not have any effect, in order to solve a problem that doesn't exist?

To find the rest of the posts in this series click here.

Thoughts on gun violence Part 5: More on Assault Weapons

The following statistics are taken from the CDC "National Vital Statistics Reports, Volume 66, Number 6, Deaths: Final Data for 2015" published November 27, 2017. In 2015 there were 36,252 firearm related deaths. Of those, 22,018 were suicides. 487 were unintentional.  For 2014, the same report shows 33,594 total firearm related deaths, 21,386 firearm related suicides and 461 unintentional deaths. I am giving both years because although 2015 is the latest data published by the CDC, 2014 is the latest data published by the FBI and I want to match data from the same year.

According to the FBI "Expanded Homicide Data Table 8" for 2014 (this is the latest data available at this time) there were 248 homicides committed with rifles in the United States. An additional 1,959 homicides did not report the type of firearm used. Assuming the same breakdown of firearm type for these records we'd have an addition 79 homicides with a rifle, for a total number of homicides by rifle of 327 for the entire year.

We don't know what kind of rifles, as the data isn't broken down by type, but let's assume 100% of those deaths were by "assault weapon" style rifles. So an "assault weapon" ban could save at most 327 lives out of 33,594, or under 1% difference. According to this article using the highest estimate of the number of AR-15 style rifles sold in the US, at most 20% of rifles are AR-15 style. So we're looking at maybe affecting 65 homicides, per year,  a difference of 0.2% or less (assuming the murderers decided not to commit murder rather than using a different weapon).

That does not look like we are solving the "gun violence" problem, does it?

In 1994 the US federal government passed an assault weapons ban - nation-wide. In 2004 it expired. Reports analyzing the homicide rate over those ten years determined what we just did above (and we didn't have to spend billions and violate people's rights to do it) - the ban had no effect on homicides. Of course, the anti-gunners were quick to point out that we needed to do it more to see any effect - because apparently when something doesn't work, it's not really not working.

Fourteen years after the ban expired, the firearm homicide rate is even lower than it was in 2004 when it the assault weapons ban was in effect. So why are we even discussing re-implementing one?

At the top of this article I mentioned suicides. If we look at the the number of firearm suicides, not just homicides, since 1990, we see that although the overall firearm death rate is down (from 15.2 to 10.6 per 100,000), and the firearm homicide rate has gone way down more than 50% (from 7.0 to 3.4) the suicide rate has remained relatively steady (and is actually on the rise).

Since most firearm deaths are suicides and since the rate is increasing, wouldn't it be more logical to focus on mental health and suicide prevention than on banning AR-15s? Even a small impact on the number of firearm suicides would save many more lives than an assault weapons ban could ever hope to save.

To find the rest of the posts in this series click here.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Thoughts on gun violence Part 4: Assault Weapons

One of the biggest most popular "solutions" to the gun violence problem is to ban "assault weapons." This is problematic on a number of levels.

First off, what is an "assault weapon?" It's whatever the people banning it want to say it is. The term "assault rifle" was a Nazi propaganda name for the MP44 machine pistol in World War II. It was basically a weapon that could fire lots of small, low power bullets. Machine guns had very limited effective range, and full power military rifles, while they had great range, had heavy ammunition. The idea of this weapon was to make the ammunition smaller and lighter so a soldier could carry more, and use it at intermediate distances, less than 300 yards.

The Russians came up with a version in 1947 called the AK-47 (for "Avtomát Kaláshnikova" or "Kalashnikov's machine gun"). In 1959 the US finally followed suit with the AR-15 (for "Armalite model 15" - Armalite was the manufacturer). The army renamed it the M16. In 1964 Armalite sold the name and design to Colt. Colt used the name to market a semi-automatic rifle (note, this was NOT a military rifle and NOT an assault rifle). After the patent ran out, the term "AR-15" began to refer to any rifle that looked similar to the Colt AR-15 and was compatible with some or most of its parts.

So an AR-15 is NOT an assault rifle. An assault rifle is defined as follows:
The U.S. Army defines assault rifles as "short, compact, selective-fire weapons that fire a cartridge intermediate in power between submachine gun and rifle cartridges." In a strict definition, a firearm must have at least the following characteristics to be considered an assault rifle:
Select fire means firing a burst of shots with one trigger pull - less than a machine gun but more than a semi-automatic, which shoots one round per trigger pull. Under the gun control act of 1930, revised in 1968 and 1986 American civilians cannot buy new assault weapons, or any kind of automatic or select fire rifle, and the antiques that are out there are strictly regulated, requiring special permission from the government and expensive fees and taxes.

So, assault rifles are already banned, but some people want to ban more weapons. Best way to do that is to create a new term "assault weapon" and define it to mean anything that they can get the public to confuse with a military weapon. The term "military style" is thrown around, which basically means things like being black, having plastic or aluminum parts instead of wood and steel, and "evil features" (not my term) such as a removable magazine, a barrel shroud, a pistol grip, a bayonet lug, a threaded barrel, an adjustable stock or a flash hider.

Why choose these features? Because they are the most common features found on the most popular guns made in the last 60 years. None of these features affects whether the gun is used by criminals or law abiding citizens. Rather, because people have been fed "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" style propaganda in movies for so many years, they can be confused into thinking these rifles are somehow extra bad or extra deadly. Several politicians have issued statements to the effect that assault weapons can bring down commercial aircraft, can blow up rail roads, can turn a deer into hamburger and cook it, can fire 700 rounds in a minute, and other such nonsense.

What do I mean by Chitty Chitty Bang Bang propaganda? If you ever saw the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang you know it's about a magical car that can think, and turn into a boat, and even fly. We know that real cars can't do that, but if we never saw real cars, and only saw the movie, we might believe that that's what real cars did. So it is with guns. We see movies where people do impossible things with guns, and since most people don't have any real contact with guns they believe what is shown to them.

Now I've gone and talked so much about what an "assault weapon" is I will leave the discussion of them to the next post...

To find the rest of the posts in this series click here.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Thoughts on gun violence Part 3: magazines

One of the proposed "common sense" gun laws is the restriction of magazine size. First off, what is a magazine? A magazine is a box, usually made of plastic or metal, with a spring in it. Cartridges are loaded into the magazine, and the magazine is used to feed the cartridges into the gun's receiver. When the magazine is empty it is reloaded or in some cases can be replaced by another magazine. Virtually all firearms that fire cartridge ammunition have magazines.

What is a "high capacity." In the military or firearms industry this means a magazine that holds more than the standard capacity magazine the weapon was designed to use. In the case of the Colt 1911, for instance, a high capacity magazine would be one that holds more than 7 rounds. For a Colt AR-15 a high capacity magazine would be one that holds more than 30 rounds. Various states define "high capacity" as being any magazine holding more than 15, 10 or 5 rounds, regardless of the firearm. So the state's definition of "high capacity" is an arbitrary term.

Now onto the law itself. I would like to list the pros and cons of this law, but I honestly can't find any pros. There are claims made that the law would save lives by allowing people to rush a mass shooter while he is changing magazines, but there are no instances of this occurring in practice. On the contrary, many mass shooters (such as the recent Parkland murderer) have chosen lower capacity magazines because they are more readily concealed. In fact, a case can be made that it is better if mass shooters have large capacity magazines because they are more prone to malfunction and because they relied on a single magazine they can't replace it with a working one, as they could with multiple smaller magazines.

The only concrete statement on justification I can find is this statement by William B. Ruger:
"The best way to address the firepower concern is therefore not to try to outlaw or license many millions of older and perfectly legitimate firearms (which would be a licensing effort of staggering proportions) but to prohibit the possession of high capacity magazines. By a simple, complete and unequivocal ban on large capacity magazines, all the difficulty of defining 'assault rifle' and 'semi-automatic rifles' is eliminated. The large capacity magazine itself, separate or attached to the firearm, becomes the prohibited item. A single amendment to Federal firearms laws could effectively implement these objectives."
So the real goal is to ban firearms in a simpler way. This magazine ban was implemented in the US in 1994 as part of the federal "assault weapons" ban. In 2004 the law ended, after it was determined it had no effect on crime. Despite this, anti-gunners consider this a big part of fighting gun violence, and sadly there is a lot of public support for it, even in the face of evidence otherwise.

Here is a video worth watching, as it shows actual experiments on the effects of magazine capacity on a shooter.


To find the rest of the posts in this series, click here.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Opposite violence

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Thought on gun violence part 2, red flag

One of the proposed solutions to gun violence are "extreme risk protection" aka "gun violence restraining order" aka "red flag" laws. Sounds good on the surface. If you see your neighbor or anyone whom you think is a risk to themselves or others you can have the court take away their firearms and put them on a list to be barred from purchasing more. Who would be against that? Let's look at what such laws actually change.

Currently, if you see someone who is acting in a way you think puts themselves or another person at risk you call 9-1-1. The police arrive as quickly as they can and assess the situation. If they determine that the individual is a danger they can seize any weapons involved, arrest or detain him or her, and start proceedings to have the person declared mentally unfit or begin criminal proceedings.

Under the red flag laws, if you see someone who is acting in a way you think puts themselves or another person at risk you file a motion with the court. A hearing is scheduled, where you present your evidence and if a judge feels the person is a danger, the police are issued a warrant to forcefully enter the person's home, fully armed, and force them to turn over firearms.

Do you see the problems?
  • The person has several weeks in which to do themselves or others harm, while the wheels of "justice" turn.
  • The police, the person involved, and their neighbors are all put at risk by the "no knock" warrant.
  • The person loses their firearms, but they are free to kill themselves by another method (likewise for the criminal). The order doesn't address the problem, merely the gun.
  • Presumably, the standard of evidence is lower for this than for police intervention. This creates a process which denies the person due process. They cannot present their side of things or defend themselves.
  • The police typically don't have the proper environment to store guns without damage to personal property.
I'm sure a lawyer could think of more problems with it, but that's my take. The process, by focusing merely on guns, does nothing to stop the person from doing harm, merely from using a gun to do so. Since the "evidence" is the say-so of a neighbor or other witness, it seem tailor made for abuse when a family member or neighbor has a dispute, or just doesn't like guns.

To find the rest of the posts in this series click here.

Thoughts on gun violence

I have been debating whether to write this post because (a) there are so many posts out there, written by people so much smarter and more eloquent than I am and (b) people seem recalcitrant on the issue - everyone has made up their minds. Still, there is a lot to be said on the subject, and I never expected people to actually read what I wrote anyway, so here goes.

First off, I get it. It is a tragedy that young men and women go out of the house in the morning and don't return home alive. The point has been made that more children go off and die in texting accidents than from school shootings, and that is true. To the parent, the effect is the same - a life gone, a love gone. But to society they are different because one death was intentional and the other was not. Whether people admit it or not, intention matters.

Secondly, I get it. School shootings are likely, by common sense, to be more deadly than school stonings. The very thing that makes guns effective for self defense is that they can kill more effectively than a rock or a knife.

But let's look at causes, and solutions, that work. And let's consider all the causes. Would the Parkland murders still have happened if the murderer had used a different weapon? Yes. Would more student have died? Maybe. Although a rifle is deadly, so is a car driven through a group of students as they leave the building, or a gallon of gasoline and a match, or a machete. Any of those weapons, and many many others, could have killed 17 people (or more) in 7 minutes.

A number of "solutions" have been proposed to the problem of school murders, some of which make sense, but the vast majority of which do not address the problem at all, and many would exacerbate the problem. Here are some of them [N.B. it is telling that in a google search for the data for this article I was unable to find sources and methodologies, as they were hidden by page after page of anti-gun propaganda. As usual, I have done my best to provide data that is backed by an original source and a known methodology rather than just a claim].

I had intended this to be a single article, but it turns out that I have more to say than I thought, so I will make a series of posts, each discussing one of the proposed solutions, weighing the pros and cons. First of all, a few points that will be common throughout.

1. There is evil in the world. Any claim that if we got rid of guns people would stop killing people is at best naive, and probably disingenuous. History has shown that banning guns does not reduce murders, but increases them. This may seem counterintuitive, but consider that the strong will prey on the weak. The weak, even if they want to, cannot prey on the strong, as they lack the means. A gun is an equalizer, in that a 90 pound 70 year old woman can use a gun as effectively as a 300 pound 25 year old man. Take away the gun and the 70 year old has no defense.

2. There are more "good" people than bad people. By good people I don't mean people who never sin, but rather people who have a moral compass, people who would rather not harm another person. Thus, if everyone were equally strong and equally capable, there would be more people who would stop violence than would start it. "But we're not all equally strong," you might object... see point 1, above.

3. You need to use your brain. The media, Hollywood elite, big business, and incumbent politicians all have an agenda, and that agenda right now is to perpetuate their power. Part of that is making sure nobody else has power, and the best way to do that is to take away the rights of people who don't agree with them. I don't just mean second amendment rights. I mean all rights. Like making sure certain viewpoints aren't allowed on Youtube or carried by cable companies. Like using the IRS and banks to target the finances of organizations with certain viewpoints. Like selectively enforcing laws against people with certain viewpoints. You get the point yet?

4. Why don't we treat this topic like any other topic. When bees are dying do we listen to children who have been stung by bees? No, we turn to bee keepers. When we are worried about the climate, do we listen to children who have been in floods? No we turn to climate scientists. The point is, in every crisis there are experts who should have a say, yet the whole impetus has been to shut out the voices of gun owners and listen to people who have a heartfelt desire to can guns, but know nothing about what guns are, how they work, or what they do.

Case in point, the NRA. Let me tell you about the NRA, then about what's been going on with respect to the NRA.

The NRA, or National Rifle Association, is a civil rights organization, one of the oldest in the United States. It was formed in 1871 by two Union generals. They realized that the war to abolish slavery would have been quicker and less bloody had their soldiers been better with a rifle. From the beginning of the organization, it's main emphasis was on the protection of the Constitution, and that meant promoting the rights of blacks to defend themselves against the Ku Klux Klan.

The NRA is also the largest organization in the United States to support civil rights. It has over five million members. It has always promoted the safe ownership and use of arms for defense, but only got involved in politics in the 1970, after the government began infringing on our rights in a big way. Even so, the organization is non-partisan, supporting both Democrats and Republicans. It is a single issue organization, and its members fall all over the map on other issues.

The money that was spent by the NRA in the last few years on non-partisan lobbying dwarfs in comparison with the amount spent lobbying by Planned Parenthood, big pharma, or even just google in the same time period. Any political clout that the NRA has comes not from money but from the votes of its members.

The NRA does not sell guns, nor promote the sale of guns, but focuses on education and safety. It's  programs, such as Eddie Eagle for children, and programs for youth, sports, recreation, hunting and law enforcement,   are designed to promote safe and legal use of firearms.

How is the NRA connected to mass shootings? To my knowledge, no NRA member has committed a mass shooting (and I imagine if there were such a person there would be headlines about it). On the other hand, in 2017 the Sutherland Springs church mass shooting was ended when Stephen Willeford, NRA member and instructor, used his personal AR-15 to neutralize the shooter. In the recent Parkland shooting, Coach Aaron Feis gave his life to shield students, putting himself in between them and the shooter. Although the NRA doesn't disclose it's members, Feis was at least a fan of the NRA, and was running an NRA sponsored group at the school.

As a result of all this, the NRA has been demonized, had its partner companies harassed, its members attacked, had its voice in the public square squelched, and more. How is attempting to shut down a gun safety organization supposed to make people safer?

To find the posts in this series click here.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Evidence Part 7: What is claimed and not claimed

In the previous part we covered existence. Let's take a break and go over some things, because the following posts will be different in nature.

So far I have talked about basically two of the arguments - existence and contingency. That is "something exists" and "things are dependent on other things." Each of those claims, as demonstrated, becomes an argument for the existence of "God." But in each case all we have "proved" is that there is one thing upon which the universe depends for its existence. We call that thing "God" by definition, but what is it? Could it be simply a force, rather than a person? Well, perhaps force is the wrong term, because for there to be a force we have to have pre-existing laws etc. But could this "God" be a concept? Some would claim that concepts only exist if there is a mind to contemplate them. So is God pure mind?

We haven't gotten to the nature and attributes of God yet, merely the existence. I will be going into more proofs in future posts, and they will include constraints on the nature and attributes of God, but for now let's just say that by using logic and reason we can come to the conclusion that something we call God exists, without saying "what is God like?"

One of the arguments atheists use is "there are many religions, and they can't all be right, therefore why follow one that has only a 1 in N chance of being right?" However, it's not a random choice of what religion to pick, or what religion is true. Furthermore, two religions can be right on all the points on which they agree. It's only on points where they disagree that either one is wrong or both are wrong. The goal is to find out which religion is provably wrong and look at the remaining ones. Among the ones which are not provably false we then need to look at differences and see which of those are supported by evidence.

For instance, one of the things that popped out of our reasoning is that there is ONE God. Right away we have trimmed down our list of religions to six: Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism and Bahá'í. All other world religions, to my knowledge teach that God is not one thing. So I would claim that only those six have the possibility of being true, the others being false by contradicting reason.

It is a given that no religion has "complete" understanding of God, since a created being is not capable of comprehending everything (but maybe that claim is getting ahead of myself). It could also be true that no religion has a completely correct understanding of God. They could be correct on ninety nine points but misunderstand God on point one hundred. But even that doesn't support the atheist claims that there is no God, or that there is no evidence for God. Even if every popular religion is provably false, there is provably a God (which I guess would mean deists are the most correct because they acknowledge the existence of God but make no further claims). However, there are further claims we can safely make in reasoning about God.

The reason why I stopped to ponder this in the middle of my "proofs" is that the arguments to come all point to the nature of God. In other words, up to now, God could just be a concept or a mind or whatever you want to call it, but in the next arguments we see that God doesn't just exist, God has to have certain properties.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Self Interest

I'm fed up! The latest trope that keeps getting trotted out is that "at least liberals care about kids getting shot." By implication, and sometimes explicitly, others do not. Those others are called out as conservatives/gun owners/pro lifers.

But let's get past the rhetoric and think about it. What do gun owners, et. al. have to "gain" by kids getting shot? Nothing less than the loss of their rights. Now you can accuse gun owners of a lot, but being so selfless that they would act in the interests of liberals against their own rights is not one of them.

On the other hand, who stands to gain from kids getting shot? Now the glib answer of liberals would be the NRA. And it is true, NRA membership took a jump recently. But that isn't a result of kids getting shot - it is a defense against attacks by liberals. Likewise gun sales (especially AR-15 sales) are probably up (I didn't check, this is speculation). But again, it is not because of kids getting shot, but because of attacks against gun owners by liberals. In other words the NRA and gun companies don't benefit from mass shootings, they benefit from liberal attacks. If the liberals really wanted to reduce the power of the mythical gun lobby all they'd have to do is stop attacking gun rights.

No, the real answer to who stands to gain from kids getting shot is the liberals themselves. Who scored massive political gains from the recent massacre? Liberals. Who had bill already written and ready to go to a vote within days of the event? Who had professionally designed web sites ready to be activated, "grass roots" campaigns, letter writing and phone campaigns all ready to go? Liberals.

How long does it take a company to roll out a new web site nationally. How long does it take to get a political campaign running? How long does it take to organize events in all 50 states? How long does it take to get a boycott campaign going? How long does it take to write a bill and bring it to the point of a vote? Quora says 267 days, on average, and that's after it is written, which can take quite a while.

Face it, there is no way this kind of effort was done in a few days and by school kids and even their parents. This was a coordinated effort with a lot of funding and work that had been done beforehand. The liberals were just waiting for kids to be shot so they could move forward and achieve their goals. And not just any kids... couldn't be one where an NRA member was the good guy, or lower income kids, had to be upper middle class white kids because that gets people interested. Did they care about kids getting shot? You betcha - without that they would not have been able to get their way.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Opposite Ageism

Another story from the Opposite Files. For newcomers, the opposite files are my record of double standards and hypocrisy. You can click on the link to see the whole list - and more are being added all the time.



Friday, February 23, 2018

Opposite Communion

Another story from the Opposite Files. For newcomers, the opposite files are my record of double standards and hypocrisy. You can click on the link to see the whole list - and more are being added all the time.






Saturday, February 17, 2018

Evidence Part 6: Existence

In the last post we covered contingency. This time it's existence.

OK, so having dispelled some myths about science and cosmology, let's get philosophical. Why is there something rather than nothing? As shown earlier, science can't answer a "why" question, although that doesn't stop people who believe in Science™ from trying. People like Richard Dawkins will say that the laws of physics require that the universe spring from "nothing" - and then famously go on to define "nothing" as "something." If you haven't watched it yet, go back to part one and you'll find his ridiculous remark in the video.

"But Mike, didn't you just spend the last post talking about how the universe needs a creator? Isn't this the same thing?" The argument from existence isn't about how things came to be, but about why they exist. To use an analogy, the light in the room came on because I flipped the light switch, but the light exists in the room now because the power company is producing electricity. This question is not did things get created, but why do they exist, even now?

Or, more generally, if there is something, why is there something? There could as easily be nothing. If there was nothing, how is there something now?

There are only two possible answers to the question of "why something rather than nothing?" The first is that everything that could be, is. Sounds crazy, but this is a viable answer to the problem of existence. The second answer is that there is one thing that is existence itself, that gives rise to the universe. That second thing is the thing we call God, by definition. If you try to say there are two (or more) things that gave rise to the universe, then you have to ask how there could be two or more things. We don't have that problem with one thing, because there is nothing to distinguish that one thing from itself. If we have two or more things, then they have to be distinct from each other in some way (otherwise they'd be one thing). And that distinction is something that needed to exist apart from the two things. For instance, if there were a "male" and "female" god, then there would have to be such a thing as "maleness" and "femaleness" existing apart from these gods, and the issue of existence is not solved.

So, what is existence; one thing, or everything? Occam's razor states that if there are multiple hypotheses, the simplest one tends to be the correct one. One thing is infinitely simpler than everything... but Occam's razor isn't the only thing pointing to one thing. Saying "everything exists" leads to a number of problems. First it is another "turtles all the way down" kind of answer. Secondly, we have the self-contradictory notion that if everything that could be exists, since God could be, then God exists, and therefore not everything exists. But perhaps even more convincingly, if everything exists then we have an inescapable conclusion that God exists when we look at the argument from design (which is the topic of another post, for now take my word for it).

This is far from a rigorous treatment of the argument from existence, and I am not a philosopher, but I hope it gets you thinking about the issue, maybe enough to learn more about it.

In the next post, a retrospective and on to more evidence.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Opposite Sitting

Another story from the Opposite Files. For newcomers, the opposite files are my record of double standards and hypocrisy. You can click on the link to see the whole list - and more are being added all the time.



Friday, February 9, 2018

My second favorite season!

Lent starts next week - on Valentine's Day - early this year. Lent is a (nominally) 40 day period leading up to Easter. It is a time to spiritually prepare oneself for Easter, and that preparation consists of three practices - Fasting, Prayer, and Almsgiving. Let's go over the rules:

Fasting

The Catholic church uses two terms, abstinence, which is avoiding meat, and fasting, which is avoiding food.

On Fridays in Lent Catholics must abstain from meat. No, this is not because the Pope's brother owned a fish store, but because meat was considered a more luxurious food. Since the whole idea behind Lent is to master one's appetites I would suggest that, although lobster fulfills the letter of the law, we should try to live the spirit of the law and eat simple plain meals on Fridays. Children under 14 are not required to abstain from meat.

There are two days on which Catholics must abstain and fast. They are Ash Wednesday (the beginning of Lent, which is February 14th this year) and Good Friday, the Friday before Easter and the day on which Christ died.

Fasting does not necessarily mean avoiding all food. One can have one "normal" meal and two small meals and avoid all snacks, and that is considered fasting. People under 18 or over 58 are not required to fast, nor are people who are sick (for example, diabetics who need to keep blood sugar constant), pregnant, or who perform manual labor. The idea is to master your body, not do damage to it.

Those who cannot or are not required to fast or abstain are still encouraged to perform some other penitential or spiritually beneficial act. That could mean things like abstaining from television, reading the Bible, or volunteering at a charity.

Note that these are the minimum requirements. You wanna go the whole "bread and water" route for 40 days, you are welcome to, provided you do not endanger your health or well being.

Prayers

There are no specific requirements for praying. Catholics are required to receive Holy Communion worthily at least once during the Easter season, but we're talking Lent here. The idea is to up the ante on your spiritual life. Here are some ideas:

  • Almost all parishes hold Stations of the Cross services on Fridays in Lent - check with your local parish. Stations of the cross consists of praying at the 14 stations set up in every Catholic church commemorating fourteen events during the Passion and death of Jesus Christ.
  • Attending a weekday mass is a good way to get closer to Christ. Most parishes will have extra masses during Lent. A web site like MassTimes.org can help you find one near you at a convenient time.
  • Many parishes will also hold Bible studies or faith sharing groups during Lent. Again, check with your local parish.
  • All parishes have extended times for Reconciliation or Penance services during Lent. Check with your local parish. Catholics are required to go to Confession at least once a year, or when aware of having committed a grave sin. Lent is a great time to get yourself right with God. 
  • Many parishes have Adoration at certain times, or a dedicated Adoration chapel where you can go any time day or night to spend time with Our Lord in prayer. MassTimes.org has an option to find them. 
There are many more options. The important thing is to do something.

Almsgiving

Again, there are no specific instructions for almsgiving. You should not give away necessities but you should give "until it hurts" or at least give something. Your almsgiving can be monetary or you can donate your time and goods in other ways. The important thing is to support charitable work to care for the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the suffering. This is part of a Christian life.

Other stuff

You may look at the above and say "18-58? Seriously? Why can't we all just love Jesus?" Why do we Catholics spell out all these rules? Several reasons.

First off the Catholic church has a mandate to govern the faithful. The church does not see herself as a collection of like minded believers, but as the fulfillment of the Davidic kingdom on earth. As such, there needs to be a system of laws. Christ gave His Apostles the power to "bind and loose" and as the successors of the Apostles the bishops have the right and the obligation to make rules for the well being of their flocks.

Secondly, having objective standards guarantees that when people fast they can tell objectively that they have done what they set out to do. Otherwise one person's idea of fasting is skipping the second piece of pie and another is going 24:00:00 with no intake whatsoever. Things get even worse when someone asks their parish priest what to do. Without some standard people in one parish would be treated differently than people in another. That's why there are so many rules and definitions.

Lastly, what do you have against rules? Ever try to play a (pretty much any) game without rules? Try to drive a car without rules? We are not alone on this planet, or in the church, and we need rules to live together in harmony.

There are all sorts of other traditions people follow around Lent. In the early church it was common for people to abstain from all animal products for the entire 40 days. This is the origin of the Easter egg (since nobody had been eating them, eggs were a treat, and were in abundance.). There is Mardi Gras (fat Tuesday) when everyone would eat the foods they were abstaining from for Lent, in order to get them out of the house. In recent years it has grown int something of an excess - not in the spirit of the thing at all. Hence the need for objective guidelines.



Sunday, February 4, 2018

Evidence Part 5: Contingency

In the last post we covered cosmology. This time it's contingency.

The argument from contingency is an attempt to get around the "turtles all the way down" problem of infinite regression (see the previous post int this series for a definition of turtles all the way down). The argument is pretty simple, and goes like this:

I exist, but I didn't have to exist. If my parents had not gotten together I would not exist. Likewise they didn't have to exist. If their parents had not gotten together... you see where I am going with this? Likewise for the clouds, moon, sun and stars; they are all contingent upon something else bringing them into being. The thing that brought them all into being is what we call "God."

Here's a video where Bishop Robert Barron explains it far better than I can.



"But Mike, why does it have to be God? Couldn't it be 'the universe' that brought everything into existence?" What we are talking about here is something or someone that is not contingent on anything else - does not depend on something else to bring about its existence. This is not a proof of an old guy sitting on a throne, this is proof that something exists - be it a force or a person.

But all of matter space and time are contingent, according to physics. It can't bring about itself without being "turtles all the way down." So no matter what "God" is in this instance, it is not the universe or anything in it.

Stephen Hawking famously declared at one point that "gravity" created the universe. Think about that. The two currently accepted ways of thinking about gravity are that it is a curvature of space-time (Einstein) or that it consists of particles called "gravitons" (quantum theory). If gravity is an effect of space-time (Einstein) it can hardly exist without space-time. If gravity exists withing space-time (quantum physics) it can hardly have created space-time. Either way, and though Hawking may be a brilliant man, this statement is nonsensical.

Next up, existence!

Opposite Pain

Another story from the Opposite Files. For newcomers, the opposite files are my record of double standards and hypocrisy. You can click on the link to see the whole list - and more are being added all the time.

 Cruel because creatures can feel pain without a cortex.
What we think is just a reflex is really pain.




OK to dismember, because cortex not developed enough to feel pain.
What we think is pain is just a reflex.





Opposite Colonization

Another story from the Opposite Files. For newcomers, the opposite files are my record of double standards and hypocrisy. You can click on the link to see the whole list - and more are being added all the time.









Sunday, January 28, 2018

Evidence Part 4: Cosmology

In the last part we covered the big bang theory, and what it really says, and what it does not say. Before the big bang theory cosmologists believed that the universe was eternal, having no beginning and no end. The big bang theory changed all that. It showed that the universe had a beginning, and it looks like science may never be able to tell us if it has an end (of course, if it does end we will have an answer - reminds me of the halting problem in information theory).

Since the big bang gained enough evidence to be irrefutable, cosmologists have continued to look for ways to get back to an eternal universe, that does not "need" God. Understand that none of these hypotheses are the result of trying to explain observations (like the big bag theory, and like how science is supposed to work), but are proposals to come up with a ways to explain the universe without needing God. They can, in general, neither be confirmed nor refuted because they do not make any claims about our universe, just ideas that maybe there is no God.

All of them are some variation on the multiverse. Our universe is one of an infinite numbers of universes, either parallel in time (parallel universes), or serially in time (bouncing universe). The claim is that since there are an infinite number of universes, any argument for God from design can be refuted by saying "all possibilities exist, it just so happens that this one is this way" (parallel universes) and any argument from existence can be refuted by saying "the universe arose from the previous universe (bouncing universe).

Of course, the bouncing universe suffers from what Stephen Hawking describes as "turtles all the way down." An infinite regression still doesn't explain its own existence. There is a lot more that could be said about parallel universes except I'll leave you with these two thoughts, either of which invalidates the use of the multiverse to get around the need for God.

The first is this. If there are an infinite number of universes and they all work differently, what's to say that the fundamental laws of physics are the same in all of them? If they are, then where did those laws come from? And if not, then what laws are the same in all universes, and where did those laws come from? Or, if you want to admit no fixed laws, and everything that could conceivably exists exists somewhere, then God exists, QED.

But if you don't like thought experiments, consider the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem, which has, for the most part, been unnoticed, but is largely unrefuted as well. It states that any universe or multiverse in which any member universe has a Hubble constant greater than zero (in other words is expanding), has a beginning. The Hubble constant of our universe is greater than zero. Therefore our universe, or the multiverse, if our universe is part of one, had a beginning. Vilenkin says of this theorem:
A remarkable thing about this theorem is its sweeping generality. We made no assumptions about the material content of the universe. We did not even assume that gravity is described by Einstein’s equations. So, if Einstein’s gravity requires some modification, our conclusion will still hold. The only assumption that we made was that the expansion rate of the universe never gets below some nonzero value, no matter how small.
It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape: they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.
OK, so the universe had a beginning. So what does that have to do with proving God's existence? We'll take that up in the next post, starting with contingency...




Sunday, January 21, 2018

Evidence Part 3: The Big Bang

This is a continuation of a series. Part 2 can be found here.

Modern day Science™ considers itself triumphant in the existence of the "Big Bang" theory. Because of this theory science was able to explain away all the nonsense about God creating the earth in six days. Thanks to Science™ we now know that the universe formed itself, and took about 14 billion years to get to where we are today, and it is still expanding and changing.

But is that really true? Not really. First off, let's get rid of some straw men. Christians by and large do not now, and never have believed that the earth was created in a literal six days, or that the earth is 5,000 years old. Yes, there is a small minority of people who believe that, but claiming that is part of the core of Christianity is false.

Secondly, what is the big bang theory, and how did it come about (the scientific theory, not the TV show)? Let's see what Wikipedia has to say about it. Note that I am using Wikipedia in part because it can not be said to be biased towards the existence of God.
The Big Bang theory developed from observations of the structure of the universe and from theoretical considerations. In 1912 Vesto Slipher measured the first Doppler shift of a "spiral nebula" (spiral nebula is the obsolete term for spiral galaxies), and soon discovered that almost all such nebulae were receding from Earth. He did not grasp the cosmological implications of this fact, and indeed at the time it was highly controversial whether or not these nebulae were "island universes" outside our Milky Way. Ten years later, Alexander Friedmann, a Russian cosmologist and mathematician, derived the Friedmann equations from Albert Einstein's equations of general relativity, showing that the universe might be expanding in contrast to the static universe model advocated by Einstein at that time. In 1924 Edwin Hubble's measurement of the great distance to the nearest spiral nebulae showed that these systems were indeed other galaxies. Independently deriving Friedmann's equations in 1927, Georges Lemaître, a Belgian physicist and Roman Catholic priest, proposed that the inferred recession of the nebulae was due to the expansion of the universe.

In 1931 Lemaître went further and suggested that the evident expansion of the universe, if projected back in time, meant that the further in the past the smaller the universe was, until at some finite time in the past all the mass of the universe was concentrated into a single point, a "primeval atom" where and when the fabric of time and space came into existence.

Starting in 1924, Hubble painstakingly developed a series of distance indicators, the forerunner of the cosmic distance ladder, using the 100-inch (2.5 m) Hooker telescope at Mount Wilson Observatory. This allowed him to estimate distances to galaxies whose redshifts had already been measured, mostly by Slipher. In 1929 Hubble discovered a correlation between distance and recession velocity—now known as Hubble's law. Lemaître had already shown that this was expected, given the cosmological principle.

In the 1920s and 1930s almost every major cosmologist preferred an eternal steady state universe, and several complained that the beginning of time implied by the Big Bang imported religious concepts into physics; this objection was later repeated by supporters of the steady state theory. This perception was enhanced by the fact that the originator of the Big Bang theory, Georges Lemaître, was a Roman Catholic priest. Arthur Eddington agreed with Aristotle that the universe did not have a beginning in time, viz., that matter is eternal. A beginning in time was "repugnant" to him. Lemaître, however, thought that
If the world has begun with a single quantum, the notions of space and time would altogether fail to have any meaning at the beginning; they would only begin to have a sensible meaning when the original quantum had been divided into a sufficient number of quanta. If this suggestion is correct, the beginning of the world happened a little before the beginning of space and time.
Note the emboldened text above. Every major cosmologist actually opposed the theory, because they thought it supported religious ideas about the origin of the universe. So far from being a triumph of science pushing out silly religious ideas, it was an idea, proposed by a priest, which pushed out dilly scientific beliefs.

Religious people at the time did not and do not now have a problem with the big bang theory. It does not in any way disprove God or provide an alternative beginning of the universe. It merely confirms Judeo-Christian beliefs about the universe.

The big bang theory does not say anything about what caused the big bang, or how or why the universe came into existence. It does describe what happened in the early universe. For the how or why of the start of the universe, in some sense it is not a scientific question. First off, "why" questions cant' be answered by science. But even the "how" involves pure speculation.

In that sense, theories about the "how" of the big bang are all based solely on faith, not on observation (since we can't observe anything outside the observable universe, by definition). In the next post I'll go over some of the ways Science™ has tried, unsuccessfully, to eliminate the "need" for God.

Next part is cosmology, here.

[N.B.: I use the term "Science™" to denote, not actual science, but the false idea of science "worshiped" by adherents of scientism.]