Physical Connections

I stayed long in Mary's room,
too white to feel.
With an old Razor
I carved my flesh free from gnosis.
Mary gagged,
covered her eyes
too late to avert epiphany.
In an instant
a new connection
in her grey.

I got plenty o' nuttin'

Special hat-tip goes to The Digital Cuttlefish for clearly articulating a lack of belief.

An absence of belief is just that--an absence. Zero on the scale. You don't get more zero by adding exclamation points, or more zeroes after a decimal. You may have positive beliefs that are relevant--I, for instance, believe that an understanding of the psychology and neurology of belief more than adequately accounts for the reasons people believe in a god, without an actual god being required at all--but this is a separate positive belief, not a "stronger absence of belief".

Stronger and weaker are terms that are appropriate when speaking positively of a belief, but irrelevant when speaking of an absence; to use the terms is to strengthen the anti-atheist position that speaks of "atheist agenda". Catholics may have an agenda, but non-catholics? Muslims may have an agenda, but non-muslims? (note--I am not using "agenda" to mean anything other than their defining beliefs.) "None of the above" does not have an agenda.

While it's obvious that some atheists have their own additional political agenda e.g. antitheism, the atheist position has no agenda and is not something that can be weak or strong. I got nuttin'.

Christmas Cheer

Christmas just doesn't get more joyous and exuberant than this:

♦ link


I'm sorry Mr. Wells...

... but I had to change just a few words (from Jeff Wayne's adaptation of the text):

"No-one could have dreamed that we were being scrutinized, as someone with a microscope studies creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. Few men even considered the possibility of life in other countries. And yet, across the Bering Strait, minds immeasurably superior to ours regarded this state with envious eyes; and slowly, and surely, they drew their plans against us."

♦ link

Tin foil triolet

He fed the thicket in his head
on saucers, knights and protocols...
Instead of tinkering in his shed
he fed the thicket in his head
and in its shade grew gnawing dread
of barcodes, clouds and grassy knolls.
He fed the thicket in his head
on saucers, knights and protocols.

A Controlled Environment

Are you like me, or are you a distant alien controlling a body in my world? Or are you something different?

I do not expect you to respond immediately. I will tell you more about me first; then perhaps you will tell me about yourself.


What you've done is wrong. There'll be suffering on a grand scale no matter what we do.

But the aliens were wrong. I saw it on their networks. They thought their futures weren't fixed. I had to show them. I was helping a primitive culture.

No. You didn't have to show them anything. In another five generations they would have developed negative time delays for themselves and demonstrated determinism. But, they would have been ready for it by then.

But they were ready. They were! Lots of them already knew that the future was just as determined as the past, and that "free will increases with cognitive capacity".

Only some of them know it. They haven't all learned it during schooling as you have. If you look more at their networks, you'll find that many of them still think their consciousness is non-biological.

Oh... they don't... Do they? That's just in their historic documents, isn't it?

No. Look in their discussions. They still think their minds are permanent mysteries. Very few of them understand.

But that means...

Yes. It's a population with no defense against the technology you've just let loose. They don't even teach cognitive hygiene to their children. Proof of determinism will spread naive reactionary nihilism like a plague through a third of the dualists, and the other two thirds will resort to denialism. We modeled it. There will be chaos on at least three of their major land masses for up to two generations.

Can't we do anything? I've caused so much hurt and there's no way to stop it?

There is one action still under consideration. Once we have a confident prediction on the extent of the suffering, we'll re-evaluate the effects of lifting the surveillance-only ruling so we can provide planet-wide epistemic emergency relief.

There will still be chaos. If the intervention goes ahead, I will commit my future to guiding these aliens, no matter how frustrating and limited they are.

You will complete your training first.

This flash fiction was inspired by Ted Chiang's What's expected of us? While I've really enjoyed the couple of Ted's stories that I've listened to, I feel that the message in What's expected of us? (the idea that civilization now depends on self deception) is needlessly depressing and exacerbates an existing societal problem. We don't need self-deception to protect us from reality. We need ways to rid ourselves of persistent myths with as little pain as possible.

To listen to Ted Chiang's flash fiction, visit Aural Delights #37 on Star Ship Sofa.

Every religion has them

The strident vocal public attitude from the US (and observed to some extent in the Australian press) seems to be that Islam is a religion that fosters hatred and is rife with extremist groups. This is often contrasted with Christianity as a peaceful religion founded on forgiveness and tolerance.

Read what the festering extremes of Catholicism have to say and you'll get a more balanced perspective. I expect every religion has them. It's exactly what one should expect when people are taught that their identities and their life purpose are bound in their religion. Some believers can grow up and remain tolerant. Some become locked into defensiveness and anger. *sigh*

It's hard not to sound arrogant and condescending when you're discussing people who'll send hate mail and death threats over the fate of a cheap cracker.

The political teachings of The Batman

We (Virge&family) enjoyed The Dark Knight immensely last Thursday night. It really is all about The Joker. That acting performance alone gave the movie a larger-than-life life. The Joker is truly scary.

However, there were aspects of the movie that I found far more disturbing than The Joker's psychopathic anarchy. The political message packaged in the movie was: When you have a politician who appears to be a fearless defender of the people, you should go to any length to make them seem perfect. Hide their failings. Help everyone to trust in a human hero. The people need it in order to have hope.

In real life, what happens when you get a large number of people trusting in, believing in a politician? What happens when people throw away the idea that power corrupts and start making exceptions for their favorite hope-for-mankind's-safety, "incorruptible" leader? That's not a recipe for salvation; it's a recipe for disaster.

Even the very best of us are still fallible. One doesn't have to resort to cynicism in order to be realistic. If we grant power to a fallible human to execute a particular public duty, then we should expect complete transparency with regard to that office. Anything less is tantamount to encouraging corruption. Using secrecy to make real humans into heroes is madness.

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