Democrat and Independent Thinker..."The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself." -Nietzsche

Commenting on many things, including..."A government more dangerous to our liberty, than is the enemy it claims to protect us from." - Keith Olbermann

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Here are a few bits to chew on...

God exists since mathematics is consistent, and the Devil exists since we cannot prove it. Andre Weil, (1906 -?) In H. Eves Mathematical Circles Adieu, Boston: Prindle, Weber and Schmidt, 1977.

I don't believe in mathematics. Albert Einstein, (1879-1955) Quoted by Carl Seelig. Albert Einstein.

Suppose we loosely define a religion as any discipline whose foundations rest on an element of faith, irrespective of any element of reason which may be present. Quantum mechanics for example would be a religion under this definition. But mathematics would hold the unique position of being the only branch of theology possessing a rigorous demonstration of the fact that it should be so classified. F. De Sua, (1956) In H. Eves In Mathematical Circles, Boston: Prindle, Weber and Schmidt, 1969.

Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us consider the two possibilities. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Hesitate not, then, to wager that He is.Blaise Pascal, (1623-1662) Pensees. 1670.

The excitement that a gambler feels when making a bet is equal to the amount he might win times the probability of winning it. Blaise Pascal, (1623-1662) In N. Rose Mathematical Maxims and Minims, Raleigh NC:Rome Press Inc., 1988.

In my opinion, a mathematician, in so far as he is a mathematician, need not preoccupy himself with philosophy -- an opinion, moreover, which has been expressed by many philosophers. Henri Lebesgue, (1875 - 1941) Scientific American, 211, September 1964, p. 129.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Why I am not an atheist

I am not an atheist because I am not arrogant enough to think that I am so wise as to know that God does not exist.

Ever since I posted on Pascal's Gambit (or Wager) I have found numerous references to it in forums and on blogs, etc. Usually it is being used by atheists in various ways, always claiming it to be fallacious or easily refutable or otherwise faulty. However, in order to do so, they invariably change Pascal's assumptions to suit their purpose and then declare "Eureka! Wager disproved!"

It doesn't work that way, folks.

For it is based on certain assumptions, and one primary assumption is that God is good and rewards believers with heaven and punishes non-believers with hell.

You cannot change the assumptions in order to disprove the wager.

However, you can think of it this way:

If you believe in God, and he does exist, when you die, God does whatever he wants to do with you, and the possibilities are infinite.

If you believe in God, and he does not exist, then nothing happens, and the possibilities are nil.

If you do not believe in God, and he does exist, when you die, God still does whatever he wants to do with you, and the possibilities are still infinite.

If you do not believe in God and he does not exist, then nothing happens, and the possibilities are still nil.

Either way, the odds are always in favor of the House (or God), because our belief or non-belief in him has no bearing whatsoever on his existence or non-existence. If he exists, he holds all the cards.

If you are turned off, or disillusioned by the Christian God concept because of fundamentalists or whatever, that's fine. It doesn't matter.

It doesn't matter what form of God we're talking about here. An active, prescient God who directs us all in everything we do. An inactive, detached God who set everything in motion and then disengaged. A good God who has a nifty little heaven set up for all believers and a nasty little hell set up for all non-believers. A God who transforms us into another reincarnated being after death. A God who does nothing whatsoever with us once our time here on earth is finished.

IT JUST DOES NOT MATTER, PEOPLE. Whatever you think, whatever you believe, whatever you've been taught, whatever you've read, whatever you've envisioned or prophetized or proselytized, it JUST DOES NOT MATTER.

DO YOU UNDERSTAND? You, me, the preacher, the priest, the rabbi, the master, the bodisattva... we are all just little bitty human beings running around on a teeny tiny planet in a gi-normous, unending Universe and it does not matter what we believe.

We don't know that there is not a God. We don't know that there is a God. God doesn't flicker on and off like a neon light depending on what one little human is thinking one second as compared to what another little human is thinking the next second.

God either exists or not. What we think has no bearing on his existence. Just because you imagine there is a God does not make God materialize. Just because you think there is no God does not make God disappear.

If there is a God, when you die, God will do with you whatever he will.
If there is no God, when you die, then nothing will happen.

I've studied Buddhism pretty extensively, and the problem I have with reincarnation is that something has to set that in motion which means that there would have to be a God. And, if there is a God, then he may or may not reincarnate you because it will be his choice what to do and he will do as he will. So, you can have no true assurance of reincarnation.

No matter how well educated you may be, or how intelligent, or how knowledgeble, you, my friend, are not all-knowing.

You can feel self-assured all you want, but you can have no assurance of anything except that one day you will die and on that day, and not until that day, you will know the truth.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Intact dilation and extraction

is what the media has allowed to become better known as "partial birth abortion" in support of those whose agenda is against the health of living women and for unborn fetuses, whose use by medical professionals has been outlawed and upheld by the Supreme Court today.

What does this mean? It means that physicians will now induce labor so that these fetuses will be expelled vaginally, or will perform cesarians.

Both of which are much more harmful for the living woman, but will achieve the same effect ultimately.

John Prine

will be on Austin City Limits Saturday night at 11pm. Just a note to myself if no one else. I love John Prine.

Artist: John Prine
Song: Jesus the missing years
Album: The Missing Years
[" The Missing Years " CD]

Jesus.... the missing years

It was raining. It was cold
West Bethlehem was no place for a twelve year old
So he packed his bags and he headed out
To find out what the world's about
He went to France. He went to Spain
He found love. He found pain.
He found stores so he started to shop
But he had no money so he got in trouble with a cop
Kids in trouble with the cops
From Israel didn't have no home
So he cut his hair and moved to Rome
It was there he met his Irish bride
And they rented a flat on the lower east side of Rome...
Italy that is
Music publishers, book binders, Bible belters, Money Changers,
Spoon Benders and lots of pretty Italian chicks.

Charley bought some popcorn
Billy bought a car
Someone almost bought the farm
But they didn't go that far
Things shut down at midnight
At least around here they do
Cause we all reside down the block
Inside at ....23 Skidoo.

Wine was flowing so were beers
So Jesus found his missing years
So He went to a dance and said "This don't move me"
He hiked up his pants and he went to a movie
On his thirteenth birthday he saw "Rebel without a Cause"
He went straight on home and invented Santa Claus
Who gave him a gift and he responded in kind
He gave the gift of love and went out of his mind
You see him and the wife wasn't getting along
So he took out his guitar and he wrote a song
Called "The Dove of Love Fell Off the Perch"
But he couldn't get divorced in the Catholic Church
At least not back then anyhow
Jesus was a good guy he didn't need this shit
So he took a pill with a bag of peanuts and
A Coca-Cola and he swallowed it.
He discovered the Beatles
And he recorded with the Stones
Once He even opened up a three-way package
In Southern California for old George Jones

Repeat Chorus:

The years went by like sweet little days
With babies crying pork chops and beaujolais
When he woke up he was seventeen
The world was angry. The world was mean.
Why the man down the street and the kid on the stoop
All agreed that life stank. All the world smelled like poop
Baby poop that is ..the worst kind
So he grew his hair long and thew away his comb
And headed back to Jerusalem to find Mom, Dad and home
But when he got there the cupboard was bare
Except for an old black man with a fishing rod
He said "Whatcha gonna be when you grow up?"
Jesus said "God"
Oh my God, what have I gotten myself into?
I'm a human corkscrew and all my wine is blood
They're gonna kill me Mama. They don't like me Bud.
So Jesus went to Heaven and he went there awful quick
All them people killed him and he wasn't even sick
So come and gather around me my contemporary peers
And I'll tell you all the story of
Jesus...The Missing Years

Repeat Chorus:

We all reside down the block
Inside at ....23 Skidoo.

In Memoriam

To life.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Oh, yeah, we're safe...

I know all the facts are not in yet, but I think the incompetence of the Blacksburg, VA police is self evident.

What a total fuck up! I wouldn't even trust them to find all the bodies.

I would say that the FBI should have been sent in by noon, at least, if I even thought the FBI were competent enough under this administration to do a decent job.

What does the Department of Homeland Security do, exactly? Our largest universities apparently haven't even gotten a memo about how to provide security on enormous campuses, even against a lone gunman.

They send emails? EMAILS???? How ridiculous is that?

How about a bloody, fucking siren?!? Just a simple, low tech siren that sounds to alert everyone to get into a room somewhere and lock the g*ddamned door! Maybe a different sounding alarm to alert everyone to vacate the buildings in case of a bomb threat?

Is that too complicated to fathom?

Not only was this act unconscionable, the response was, also.

Friday, April 13, 2007

In Defense of Hip Hop

Frank Zappa on Crossfire

Yeah, I can't believe I'm about to defend Hip Hop either. Or rap. Or any of the truly misogynist crap that passes for it. Personally, I never listen to either. Still, I gotta say that I'm with Snoop Dogg.

It is musical artistic expression. I don't like it, but I recognize it as art. It is profoundly anti-American to censor art in any way, shape or form. It is a violation of the First Amendment, clearly, to censorship art.

Don Imus, Glenn Beck, or any other political, cultural or other commenter does not qualify as artistic expression. They do have Freedom of Speech, but Freedom of Speech does not allow defamation, libel or slander of specific individuals. Which is what occurred in the Imus situation. Too bad, so sad. I would not have accepted his apology until I received a check from my libel suit.

Music lyrics which do not defame, libel or slander specific individuals are protected under the 1st Amendment. One can speak out against it, one can boycott it, one can protest it, but one cannot censor it.

Otherwise, I'll let Zappa have his say.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut

November 11, 1922 - April 11, 2007

Goodbye and rest in peace, my favorite contemporary author.

As a memoriam, of sorts, below is re-published poputonian's post from Digby's Hullabaloo:

"Last year, Vonnegut published another best-seller, this one called A Man Without A Country. Vonnegut's humor will make you laugh, but his fatalism will make you cry. In typical Vonnegut fashion, the points he makes throughout the book are woven together with the flair of a creative writer. The two main complaints he emphasizes are unmistakable: the senseless killing being perpetrated by America, and America's addiction to fossil fuel. America is destroying the planet, which leads Vonnegut to reject the country he once fought for.

Overall the book is about politics, government, and philosophy, but on its sweeter side it is about people and family, about community. It might well be his best work ever. At one point in the book, Vonnegut describes how children learn to be creative, or how they came to use their brains to think and imagine; no sounds, no pictures, just thinking and imagining:

We are not born with imagination. It has to be developed by teachers, by parents. There was a time when imagination was very important because it was the major source of entertainment. In 1892, if you were a seven-year-old, you'd read a story--just a very simple one--about a girl whose dog had died. Doesn't that make you want to cry? Don't you know how the little girl feels? And you'd read another story about a rich man slipping on a banana peel. Doesn't that make you want to laugh? And this imagination circuit is being built in your head. If you go to an art gallery, here's just a square with daubs of paint on it that haven't moved in hundreds of years. No sound comes out of it.

The imagination circuit is taught to respond to the most minimal of cues. A book is an arrangement of twenty-six phonetic symbols, ten numerals, and about eight punctuation marks, and people can cast their eyes over these and envision the eruption of Mount Vesuvius or the Battle of Waterloo. But it's no longer necessary for teachers and parents to build these circuits. Now there are professionally produced shows with great actors, very convincing sets, sound, music. Now there's the information highway. We don't need circuits any more than we need to know how to ride horses.

(snip) Have you ever served in a war? Have you ever been held captive? Vonnegut was an American prisoner of war, held in captivity in Dresden, Germany on February 13, 1945. That was the night the British intentionally massacred 135,000 people. Killed them all dead, in one night.

It was pure nonsense, pointless destruction. The whole city was burned down, and it was a British atrocity, not ours. They sent in night bombers, and they came in and set the whole town on fire with a new kind of incendiary bomb. And so everything organic, except my little POW group, was consumed by fire. It was a military experiment to find out if you could burn down a whole city by scattering incendiaries over it.

Of course, as prisoners of war, we dealt hands-on with dead Germans, digging them out of basements because they had suffocated there, and taking them to a huge funeral pyre. And I heard -- I didn't see it done -- that they gave up this procedure because it was too slow and, of course, the city was starting to smell pretty bad. And they sent in guys with flamethrowers.

Why my fellow prisoners of war and I weren't killed, I don't know.

I was a writer in 1968. I was a hack. I'd write anything to make money, you know. And what the hell, I'd seen this thing, I'd been through it, and so I was going to write a hack book about Dresden. You know, the kind that would be made into a movie where Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra and others would play us. I tried to write, but I couldn't get it right. I kept writing crap.

So I went to a friend's house -- Bernie O'Hare, who'd been my pal. And we were trying to remember funny stuff about our time as prisoners of war in Dresden, tough talk and all that, stuff that would make a nifty war movie. And his wife, Mary O'Hare, blew her stack. She said, "You were nothing but babies then."

And that is true of soldiers. They are in fact babies. They are not movies stars. They are not Duke Wayne. And realizing that was key, I was finally free to tell the truth. We were children and the subtitle of Slaughterhouse Five became The Children's Crusade.

Why had it taken me twenty-three years to write about what I had experienced in Dresden? We all came home with stories, and we all wanted to cash in, one way or another. And what Mary O'Hare was saying, in effect, was, "Why don't you tell the truth for a change?"

Ernest Hemingway wrote a story after the First World War called "A Soldier's Home" about how it was very rude to ask a soldier what he'd seen when he got back home. I think a lot of people, including me, clammed up when a civilian asked about battle, about war. It was fashionable. One of the most impressive ways to tell your war story is to refuse to tell it, you know. Civilians would then have to imagine all kinds of deeds of derring-do.

But I think the Vietnam War freed me and other writers, because it made our leadership and our motives seem so scruffy and essentially stupid. We could finally talk about something bad that we did to the worst people imaginable, the Nazis. And what I saw, what I had to report, made war look so ugly. You know, the truth can be really powerful stuff. You're not expecting it.

Of course, another reason to talk about war is that it's unspeakable.
I can sense the brain circuits of the right-wingers, or the flag conservatives, or the authoritarian followers, as they try to process Vonnegut's words: Just how courageous was he in battle? Prove it. Did he have any serious injuries, or just superficial ones? Did he have the right attitude, that of a soldier dedicated to his country? Does Vonnegut think any war is worth fighting; is the Constitution worth fighting for?

It so happens that idealism enough for anyone is not made of perfumed pink clouds. It is the law! It is the U.S. Constitution.

But I myself feel that our country, for whose Constitution I fought in a just war, might as well have been invaded by Martians and body snatchers. Sometimes I wish it had been. What has happened instead is that it was taken over by means of the sleaziest, low-comedy, Keystone Cops-style coup d'etat imaginable.

I was once asked if I had any ideas for a really scary reality TV show. I have one reality show that would really make your hair stand on end: "C-Students from Yale."

George W. Bush has gathered around him upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists, aka Christians, and plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities, or PPs, the medical term for smart, personable people who have no consciences.

To say somebody is a PP is to make perfectly respectable diagnosis, like saying he or she has appendicitis or athlete's foot. The classic medical text on PPs is The Mask of Sanity by Dr. Hervey Cleckley, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the Medical College of Georgia, published in 1941. Read it!

Some people are born deaf, some are born blind or whatever, and this book is about congenitally defective human beings of a sort that is making this whole country and many other parts of the planet go completely haywire nowadays. These were people born without consciences, and suddenly they are taking charge of everything.

PPs are presentable, they know full well the suffering their actions may cause others, but they do not care. They cannot care because they are nuts. They have a screw loose!

And what syndrome better describes so many executives at Enron and WorldCom and on and on, who have enriched themselves while ruining their employees and investors and country and who still feel as pure as the driven snow, no matter what anybody may say to or about them? And they are waging a war that is making billionaires out of millionaires, and trillionaires out of billionaires, and they own television, and they bankroll George Bush, and not because he's against gay marriage.

So many of these heartless PPs now hold big jobs in our federal government, as though they were leaders instead of sick. They have taken charge. They have taken charge of communications and the schools, so we might as well be Poland under occupation.

They might have felt that taking our country into an endless war was simply something decisive to do. What has allowed so many PPs to rise so high in corporations, and now in government, is they are so decisive. They are going to do something every fuckin' day and they are not afraid. Unlike normal people, they are never filled with any doubts, for the simple reason that they don't give a fuck what happens next. Simply can't. Do this! Do that! Mobilize the reserves! Privatize the public schools! Attack Iraq! Cut health care! Tap everybody's telephone! Cut taxes on the rich! Build a trillion-dollar missile shield! Fuck habeas corpus and the Sierra Club and In these Times, and kiss my ass!"

Outrageous, I say!

Secretary of Defense Gates is outraged at the "hardship" that was caused to servicemen and their families by someone leaking the Iraqi tour extension to 15 months.

Yeah, right. It was the leak of the information that causes the hardship.

Not the 3 month extension.

The hypocrisy of this administration knows no bounds.

The inhumanity of this administration knows no bounds.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Why? Please tell me.

I came across the following at Alicublog and I had never read it before. It's amazing how the tears return even now, 45 years later, when I was not yet even in pre-school when it happened. Perhaps that is why. Perhaps it was so traumatizing for me because I was so young. I don't know.

Having lived, no, experienced the Kennedy assassination, segregation, the civil rights movement, the King assassination, the race riots, desegregation, the Cold War, the Bobby Kennedy campaign and assassination, the Vietnam War, the peace movement, the Manson murders, the hippie movement, the Black Panthers, the Weathermen, the Soviet invasion of Poland, the Olympic Israeli massacre, the women's liberation movement, the sexual revolution, Watergate, the oil/gas shortages, the Iran Hostage Crisis, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the fall of the communist Soviet Union, the greed/speed/coked out 80's, massive inflation, recession, the near collapse of Wall Street, and now the rise of global terrorism targeting the western world, and heaven only knows what else I've left out due to sheer exhaustion of thinking about and living the above, there is one thing I know.

I know that we are experiencing the worst Presidency in my lifetime, and, I think, in the history of the country.

My mother is in her 80's. She has experienced all of the above, plus The Great Depression and World War II.

She is absolutely certain that we are experiencing the worst Presidency in the history of the country.

What was media obsessed with today? The parentage of a 7 month old infant and the rantings of a foolish old radio personality.


Breslin and the Gravedigger

Digging JFK Grave Was His Honor

Jimmy Breslin

Newsday's Jimmy Breslin wrote the following article for the New York Herald Tribune in November 1963.

Washington -- Clifton Pollard was pretty sure he was going to be working on Sunday, so when he woke up at 9 a.m., in his three-room apartment on Corcoran Street, he put on khaki overalls before going into the kitchen for breakfast. His wife, Hettie, made bacon and eggs for him. Pollard was in the middle of eating them when he received the phone call he had been expecting. It was from Mazo Kawalchik, who is the foreman of the gravediggers at Arlington National Cemetery, which is where Pollard works for a living. "Polly, could you please be here by eleven o'clock this morning?" Kawalchik asked. "I guess you know what it's for." Pollard did. He hung up the phone, finished breakfast, and left his apartment so he could spend Sunday digging a grave for John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

When Pollard got to the row of yellow wooden garages where the cemetery equipment is stored, Kawalchik and John Metzler, the cemetery superintendent, were waiting for him. "Sorry to pull you out like this on a Sunday," Metzler said. "Oh, don't say that," Pollard said. "Why, it's an honor for me to be here." Pollard got behind the wheel of a machine called a reverse hoe. Gravedigging is not done with men and shovels at Arlington. The reverse hoe is a green machine with a yellow bucket that scoops the earth toward the operator, not away from it as a crane does. At the bottom of the hill in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Pollard started the digging (Editor Note: At the bottom of the hill in front of the Custis-Lee Mansion).

Leaves covered the grass. When the yellow teeth of the reverse hoe first bit into the ground, the leaves made a threshing sound which could be heard above the motor of the machine. When the bucket came up with its first scoop of dirt, Metzler, the cemetery superintendent, walked over and looked at it. "That's nice soil," Metzler said. "I'd like to save a little of it," Pollard said. "The machine made some tracks in the grass over here and I'd like to sort of fill them in and get some good grass growing there, I'd like to have everything, you know, nice."

James Winners, another gravedigger, nodded. He said he would fill a couple of carts with this extra-good soil and take it back to the garage and grow good turf on it. "He was a good man," Pollard said. "Yes, he was," Metzler said. "Now they're going to come and put him right here in this grave I'm making up," Pollard said. "You know, it's an honor just for me to do this."

Pollard is 42. He is a slim man with a mustache who was born in Pittsburgh and served as a private in the 352nd Engineers battalion in Burma in World War II. He is an equipment operator, grade 10, which means he gets $3.01 an hour. One of the last to serve John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who was the thirty-fifth President of this country, was a working man who earns $3.01 an hour and said it was an honor to dig the grave.

Yesterday morning, at 11:15, Jacqueline Kennedy started toward the grave. She came out from under the north portico of the White House and slowly followed the body of her husband, which was in a flag-covered coffin that was strapped with two black leather belts to a black caisson that had polished brass axles. She walked straight and her head was high. She walked down the bluestone and blacktop driveway and through shadows thrown by the branches of seven leafless oak trees. She walked slowly past the sailors who held up flags of the states of this country. She walked past silent people who strained to see her and then, seeing her, dropped their heads and put their hands over their eyes. She walked out the northwest gate and into the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue. She walked with tight steps and her head was high and she followed the body of her murdered husband through the streets of Washington.

Everybody watched her while she walked. She is the mother of two fatherless children and she was walking into the history of this country because she was showing everybody who felt old and helpless and without hope that she had this terrible strength that everybody needed so badly. Even though they had killed her husband and his blood ran onto her lap while he died, she could walk through the streets and to his grave and help us all while she walked.

There was mass, and then the procession to Arlington. When she came up to the grave at the cemetery, the casket already was in place. It was set between brass railings and it was ready to be lowered into the ground. This must be the worst time of all, when a woman sees the coffin with her husband inside and it is in place to be buried under the earth. Now she knows that it is forever. Now there is nothing. There is no casket to kiss or hold with your hands. Nothing material to cling to. But she walked up to the burial area and stood in front of a row of six green-covered chairs and she started to sit down, but then she got up quickly and stood straight because she was not going to sit down until the man directing the funeral told her what seat he wanted her to take.

The ceremonies began, with jet planes roaring overhead and leaves falling from the sky. On this hill behind the coffin, people prayed aloud. They were cameramen and writers and soldiers and Secret Service men and they were saying prayers out loud and choking. In front of the grave, Lyndon Johnson kept his head turned to his right. He is president and he had to remain composed. It was better that he did not look at the casket and grave of John Fitzgerald Kennedy too often. Then it was over and black limousines rushed under the cemetery trees and out onto the boulevard toward the White House. "What time is it?" a man standing on the hill was asked. He looked at his watch. "Twenty minutes past three," he said.

Clifton Pollard wasn't at the funeral. He was over behind the hill, digging graves for $3.01 an hour in another section of the cemetery. He didn't know who the graves were for. He was just digging them and then covering them with boards. "They'll be used," he said. "We just don't know when. I tried to go over to see the grave," he said. "But it was so crowded a soldier told me I couldn't get through. So I just stayed here and worked, sir. But I'll get over there later a little bit. Just sort of look around and see how it is, you know. Like I told you, it's an honor."

Posted: 16 November 2003

Misogynist racist ass

I understand the racism aspect of Don Imus' statement, but what would really piss me off is the misogynist libel. He called these women "hoes". Which means, he called these women whores.

If I were one of the Rutgers team, I would hire an attorney and sue his fucking ass for defamation. After I'd hunted down the damned lizard and beat the ever living shit out of him.

Okay, I'd definitely do the former and definitely want to do the latter, anyway. For sure, the cretin would be looking over his shoulder for the male members of my family for the rest of his pitiful little life.

Imagine hearing your college age daughter called a whore, broadcast nationwide, just for being an outstanding basketball player?

Ye gods.

Just my little comment on the matter.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Experience Designer Network

I've just discovered this very intriguing site and thought I'd share.
The ultimate mystery of being is beyond all categories of thought.
- Joseph Campbell

Pascal's Gambit (or Wager)

"Pascal's Pensées sits among the most profound and beautifully written masterpieces in the history of the world. When commenting on one particular section, Sainte-Beuve praised it as the finest pages in the French language. Will Durant, in his 11-volume, comprehensive The Story of Civilization series, hailed it as "the most eloquent book in French prose." In Pensées, Pascal surveys several philosophical paradoxes: infinity and nothing, faith and reason, soul and matter, death and life, meaning and vanity—seemingly arriving at no definitive conclusions besides humility, ignorance, and grace. Rolling these into one he develops Pascal's Wager.

Pascal's Wager
Pascal's Wager (also known as Pascal's Gambit) is Blaise Pascal's application of decision theory to the belief in God. It is one of three 'wagers' which appear in his Pensées, a collection of notes for an unfinished treatise on Christian apologetics. Pascal argues that it is always a better "bet" to believe in God, because the expected value to be gained from believing in God is always greater than the expected value resulting from non-belief. Note that this is not an argument for the existence of God, but rather one for the belief in God. Pascal specifically aimed the argument at such persons who were not convinced by traditional arguments for the existence of God. With his wager he sought to demonstrate that believing in God is advantageous to not believing, and hoped that this would convert those who rejected previous theological arguments.

It states that if you were to analyse your options in regard to belief in Pascal's God carefully (or belief in any other religious system with a similar reward and punishment scheme), you would come out with the following possibilities:

  • You may believe in God, and God exists, in which case you go to heaven: your gain is infinite.
  • You may believe in God, and God doesn't exist, in which case your loss is finite and therefore negligible.
  • You may not believe in God, and God doesn't exist, in which case your gain is finite and therefore negligible.
  • You may not believe in God, and God exists, in which case you will go to hell: your loss is infinite.

From these possibilities, and the principles of statistics, Pascal deduced that it would be better to believe in God unconditionally. It is a classic application of "game theory" to itemize options and payoffs and is valid within its assumptions."

Via Theopedia, for those who have apparently never heard of such reasoning until just recently.

Intellectual vacuity is not a term I've heard used in relation to anything ever put forth by a mind such as Blaise Pascal, albeit paraphrased by a somewhat lesser mind, no doubt, in this particular case.

More at Wikipedia:

"The Wager posits that it is a better "bet" to believe that God exists than not to believe, because the expected value of believing (which Pascal assessed as infinite) is always greater than the expected value of not believing. In Pascal's assessment, it is inexcusable not to investigate this issue:

Before entering into the proofs of the Christian religion, I find it necessary to point out the sinfulness of those men who live in indifference to the search for truth in a matter which is so important to them, and which touches them so nearly.[1]."

I have no further comment to add, especially in regard to the preference of the Christian God to any other concept of God. I am aware of many of the criticisms of the Wager, but none that I consider wholly valid as counterpoints to the bare bones of the argument itself.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Need a good bellylaugh or a hundred?

Until you've read Harry Hutton's congregation...errr... conflagration of commenters over at Chase me, ladies, I'm in the calvary on Malkin's imbecilic "I am John Doe" nonsense, you really haven't lived.

What I wouldn't give to see her in a room full of them for five minutes.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

And far reaching

When I wrote about the Blogroll Amnesty and expressed my opinion that Atrios should exemplify diversity and link to more minority blogs, this is not exactly what I had in mind.

Linking to "one of the most compelling arguments against purging blogrolls" made by a decidedly minority blogger, as described at Faux Real, by titling the post "Things Which Make Me Want To Shoot People In The Face" illustrates that Duncan Black just does not get my point at all. To put it mildly.

From reading his blog, I take it that Atrios blogs in order to make an impact. Well, my my my. He certainly is doing just that. Influencing public discourse? Unh. Not so much. At least, not so much as he thinks and not in the way he would surely choose, I would think, especially on this subject.

Perhaps Mr. Black would prefer to lynch all of those of us whom he has offended by his (and others) actions which basically did nothing but "rend the network asunder" as Demothenes so aptly puts it in his comment at Faux Real, and who have the temerity, the absolute gall, mind you, to comment upon it.

Methinks the gentleman doth protest too much.

Perhaps it is time to admit that all he and Kos and others did was stir up a shit storm that may, should no such admission be forthcoming, drown out their own voices in the end.

For what have they become? To my mind, more and more, some of the powerful A-listers have become nothing more than political "insiders", much like what we are fed daily by the MSM. Coverage of actual politics is non-existant already. What is deemed "coverage" is nothing more than pundits and "insiders" making opinionated comments about politics and politicians, and, ever more increasingly, about other pundits and "insiders" and their opinions. Is that not Atrios' forte?

Thanks, but, no thanks. Give me the words out of the horses mouth, or ass, whatever they may be, and I will form my own opinion, thank you very kindly.

We little blogs may be tiny, but yea, are we not mighty also? For, collectively, we are vast. The A-listers may be powerful, but they are few, and quoth as they may be by offline media outlets, we wee ones are vox populi. In the end, it is we who will not be ignored.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Not really, and yet...

Summer makes me drowsy.
Autumn makes me sing.
Winter's pretty lousy,
But I hate Spring

- Dorothy Parker

Actually, I've always loved Spring. It is the season of my birth, and every year since it has seemed like the season of my own rebirth. Until, that is, I developed a disease where my immune system is on overdrive all of the time. And until Spring no longer springs but pounces like a lion with everything, and I do mean everything, blooming all at once!

I've never seen a Spring like this that I can recall. A few daffodils peeked out and seemingly the very next day, every tree, bush, bulb, and flower burst forth like a beautiful, yet deadly (to me) volcano of color and pollen.

We've had three 80 degree days already with another on the slate for tomorrow. Yet, it's likely to be freezing on Easter Sunday a few days from now.

Nothings happening to the climate, my ass. Way to go, (surprisingly) Supreme Court.

Meantime, as you can probably tell by both the quantity and quality of my posts, I'm living on double doses of Clariten and constant doses of Benadryl on top of everything I have to take already.