Atheism's holy cow

To be atheist, as opposed to agnostic, is to find predictability and comfort in the belief that the prime constituent of the universe is matter. In this view, consciousness is an emergent phenomenon that arises from matter that has accidentally been organized sufficiently.

Belief in a materialist universe offers an illusion of metaphysical certainty. There's comfort in believing that our current scientific understanding is substantially complete, and substantially correct. That all that's left to work out are kinks and details. The belief suggests what is to be valued, and provides purpose: science, knowledge, technology, experimentation. The atheist points to the many successes of this process as evidence that brightness lies this way.

What the atheist gets from the materialist hypothesis is much the same thing that the Christian gets from God: answers of a firmness that otherwise could not be obtained; a metaphysical framework on which to build life, and find meaning. Much like Pascal rationalized the irrational using Pascal's Wager; or like Thomas Aquinas did the same with his five proofs; so the atheist does this using Occam's Razor - an excuse to believe that which has no proof. Like with a person who is religious, what compels the atheist to defend materialism so ardently is not ultimately reason; it is fear of losing the entire foundation of that which he's built.

The atheist fears that allowing investigation of a non-materialist hypothesis threatens to undermine science, and to impede the holy grail of technological progress, which the atheist believes is our main worthwhile goal. Anything doubting the materialist belief is seen as supportive of the religious; and anything religious is seen as a source of evil, backwardness, suffering, and darkness. Therefore, any suggestion of a non-materialist hypothesis is met with extreme prejudice, since it's perceived as threatening to the one thing which the atheist considers holy.

The atheist values investigation - but a non-materialist hypothesis is the one area he will not willingly investigate. You are either with us, or against us; and if you doubt the universe is made primarily of matter, you are against.


The water-efficiency of dinosaur foods!

I'm happy to find out that dinosaur foods - eggs and chicken - are actually by far the most water-efficient sources of protein! Way more calorie-water-efficient than mangos and asparagus, too! Yay!

(Now if only the poor dinosaurs weren't put through lives of absolute torture by the meat industry :-/ )

Source article in LA Times:

From steak to mangoes, here are some water-hogging foods



I invite you to read this post by Anna, a sex worker in Portland, Oregon. Excerpt:
Before I started escorting, I often just didn’t eat on my days off (I worked in a kitchen and was allowed to eat whatever I wanted at work, so that was helpful). I often didn’t have $2.50 to ride the bus. I don’t mean I just didn’t have any cash on hand, I literally didn’t possess two dollars and fifty cents, nothing in the bank or anything. One time my bike got a flat tire and I didn’t have the $4 to buy a new tube and I didn’t have $2.50 to take the bus to work even just one way so I had to walk the 12 miles round trip to work and back for a couple days until I got paid.
This is an adult woman; gainfully employed, in a minimum wage job; without children; without apparent alcohol troubles, or drug habits.

After doing lovely work like scrubbing toilets all day, 90% of her income would go for rent and taxes.


Lack of fictional distance and American insanity

I beg your indulgence for being a bit tongue-in-cheek.

It stands to reason that most Americans are partially insane. Everyone, except Americans, agrees on this. (For Americans themselves, it is of course just "normal". As anywhere, their insanity is their Tuesday.)

Far be it from me to suggest that the US is the only, or the most, insane country in the world. That's probably Saudi Arabia. Or lately, ISIS, if anyone recognized them as a country. But the US insanity is peculiar. It is so markedly different, in a hard-to-nail-down way, from insanities we see elsewhere.

The question is the nature and cause of this insanity. And of course, I wouldn't be writing if I wasn't itching with a theory.

For most people in the world, who consider Americans to be generally crazy, the stories in TV and movies happen in a clearly different, far-away land. For people in the US, though, those stories happen at home. There's no distance.

Due to this reduction in fictional distance, everything that appears out of the ordinary is immediately suspected by Americans to be, potentially, like the worst thing you've ever seen on TV. For citizens, this leads to paranoia about serial killers lurking around every corner. For cops, it leads to trigger-happy behavior we're reading about constantly.

It is of course impossible to talk about American irrationality, and not mention the brainwashing aspect of American "news". But I suggest it's not just the "news". It's the fiction. All of this stuff that America exports, that makes up $500 billion of US GDP.

Our subconscious doesn't distinguish between fiction and news. And it's the fiction that's constantly creating the association between typically American living and working environments, and images of gun fights, car chases, sociopathy, drugs, rape, and murder. These images affect how we perceive real risks.

Citizens of most other countries have the privilege of not having their living and working environments marred with associations like this on a daily basis. We watch the same stuff, but it happens elsewhere. The Bates Motel resides in a fictional California, not potentially down the road I drive by every day.

Americans don't have this privilege. They are being primed every day, in every way, on every channel.

When a big budget movie is showing a city being destroyed - whether by nature, or aliens, or zombies - it's hardly ever Shanghai. It's almost always New York, or LA, or Chicago, or San Francisco. Does that not suggest why a larger fraction of Americans than probably any country in Europe seem to constantly be contemplating total social collapse in a handful of years as something to plan for? As a real possibility?

Have you seen much of Breaking Bad? What's your first, immediate thought about Albuquerque?