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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Rick Warren: A Victim of Solvent Abuse?

Below are some excerpts from Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life and some of my comments.

"If there was no God, we would all be "accidents," the result of astronomical random chance in the universe. You could stop reading this book, because life would have no purpose or meaning or significance. There would be no right or wrong, and no hope beyond your brief years here on earth."

-PDL, p. 25

When I read things like this, it makes me wonder if fundamentalist Christians just sit around all day eating paint chips and watching reruns of Davey and Goliath. Life is not less valuable because it doesn't last forever, if anything, its impermanence makes it more precious. True, the odds of any particular person being born are remote in the extreme, which means that if you are alive at all, you are fortunate beyond description.

Then we have the old "no god, no morality" argument. Many societies have existed with all kinds of religious beliefs, and yet the moral codes of these diverse groups are surprisingly similar. Practically every single group prohibits certain actions (theft, rape, murder) and encourages others (generosity, forgiveness, self-sacrifice). These rules exist because they make easier for people to live together and thus helps the group survive. It's as simple as that.

"If your time on earth were all there is to your life, I would suggest you start living it up immediately. You could forget about being good or ethical, and you wouldn't have to worry about any consequences to your action. You could indulge in total self-centeredness because your actions would have no long-term repercussions."

-PDL, p. 38

There are always consequences for your actions. Even if you successfully rob a bank, you'll have to go through a lot of effort to avoid getting caught, and even then you'll have to spend several years worrying about it. Contrarily, if you believe that the most powerful being in the universe is on your side, you'd probably wouldn't have much trouble rationalizing any action- say flying a plane into a building full of people.

"In heaven we will be reunited with loved ones who are believers . . ."

PDL, p. 39

That sorta sucks for the non-Christians or Christians who had non-Christian friends and family.

"First, Noah had never seen rain, because prior to the Flood, God irrigated the earth from the ground up."

PDL, p. 71

Rick, you've really outdone yourself here. May I ask what happened to that water once it reached the surface? The sun would shine on it and cause it to evaporate. After a while, it would gather into clouds and fall back down as rain. To prevent it from raining, god would have to continuously keep magically retransferring that water back underground again, which seems a bit inefficient. And the Christians say evolution is too crazy to be true....

"God is not a cruel slave driver or a bully who uses brute force to coerce into submission."

-PDL, p. 79

The 10 Plagues? Hell? What about them?

"Pray as often as possible so it is rooted deep in your heart. Just be sure your motive is to honor God, not control him."

-PDL, p. 89

Isn't the purpose of prayer to try to get god to do something you want?

"It [wrestling with god] is also a passionate activity, and God loves it when we are passionate with him."

-PDL, p. 97

God also enjoys candle-lit dinners and long walks on the beach.

"The Bible must aways have the first and last word in my life."

-PDL, p. 187

I think the following quote best phrases my thoughts on this:

"Whatever you do, don't use the Bible as a moral code. It advocates prejudice, superstition, and murder." -Penn Jillette

"Sometimes while you are praying, Satan will suggest a bizarre or evil thought just to distract and shame you."

PDL, p. 206

Rick, people who hear voices from nowhere are called "crazy." Do not listen to the Talking Dog.



I've noticed that when Rick Warren wants to make a statement look profound, he writes it in italics and puts a little border around it. OK, let me try:

*----------------------------------------------------------------------------*
Do not give money to anyone who talks about god for a living.
They are all morons and crooks.
*----------------------------------------------------------------------------*

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Genghis Khan: Evil?

Genghis Khan had a lot of blood on his hands to be sure, but that is but saying in other words that he was about as violent as most of the other rulers in history. I think Genghis does not get nearly enough credit for the instances when he offered mercy to his foes or tried to negotiate with them. Here are two incidents which I think are particularly noteworthy:

1) In 1206, as Genghis Khan was completing the unification of the Mongol tribes, his last rival was his childhood friend, Jamuka. After Genghis defeated him, he offered to be his ally again, but Jamuka said that just as there there could only be one sun in the sky, there could be only one ruler of the Mongols. Jamuka did not want to live with the shame of defeat and asked Genghis to have him be executed. Genghis granted his request.

2) Khwarezm was a Muslim empire which occupied much of what is now Iran. Tired of war, Genghis decided to send a trade caravan to establish a trade route. The caravan was ambushed and many of its party were killed by a govenor of Khwarezm, who believed it to be a covert attack. Genghis later sent another delegation, this time directly to the Shah of Khwarezm. The Sultan beheaded the Mongol emissaries and sent back the heads to Genghis. Genghis ordered an invasion of Khwarezm, killed the Shah, and obliterated the capital, Samarkand.

Genghis Khan, I think, did not want to spend his whole life at war, but simply recognized that violence, if used properly, can be extremely effective. To demonize him because he was a violent warlord is unfair, because authority is almost always gained and maintained through violence. Genghis was just better at it.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Here comes my Ig Nobel

I may end up getting an Ig Nobel for this, but here goes.

According to various surveys, a typical American male has 6 sexual partners in his life and typical American female has 2. I don't see how that's possible, unless there are 3 times as many women as men, so I decided to investigate the matter a little further.

Let's consider a simple model. Suppose we have 5 men and 5 women. We make a table to show who has sex with whom by marking with an "X." How do the averages work out under various scenarios?

Scenario #1: The Stud

In this scenario, 1 man has sex with all 5 women while the remaining men have 1 sexual partner each.

..........W1.....W2...W3...W4....W5
M1.....X........X......X......X........X
M2.....X
M3...............X
M4........................X
M5.................................X

The average for the men is (5+1+1+1+1)/5 = 1.8
The average for the women is (2+2+2+2+1)/5 = 1.8

Scenario #2: The Slut

In this scenario, one woman has sex with all the men while the remaining women have one partner each.

............W1...W2...W3...W4...W5
M1.......X......X
M2.......X...............X
M3.......X........................X
M4.......X..................................X
M5.......X

The average for the men is (2+2+2+2+1)/5 = 1.8
The average for the women is (5+1+1+1+1)/5 = 1.8

Scenario #3: The Shy Guy

In this scenario, one man has no partner while each man has at least one partner.

........W1....W2....W3....W4....W5
M1
M2...X
M3.............X
M4......................X
M5................................X.........X

The average for the men is (0+1+1+1+2)/5 = 1
The average for the women is (1+1+1+1+1)/5 = 1


Scenario #4: The Plain Jane

In this scenario, one woman has no partner while the other women have at least one partner.

......W1....W2....W3....W4....W5
M1..........X
M2..........X
M3....................X
M4....................X
M5..............................X.........X

The average for the men is (1+1+1+1+2)/5 = 1.2
The average for the women is (0+2+2+1+1)/5 = 1.2

We could add more people or fill the chart differently, but that wouldn't change the result. The average number of partners for both groups must be the same, because each X adds the same amount to both groups.

This leads us to a rather unsurprising conclusion: many people lie about their sexual behavior.