The God Question

Bible on bookshelf.jpeg

During my 4th period class today, I got asked one of my least favorite questions by one of my students: “Do you believe in God?”

It’s a science class, and I want us to stay on-topic. Discussing my views on the existence or non-existence of a deity isn’t going to help with that. I sighed, and said what I always say in this situation: “That’s a personal question, and I don’t answer personal questions.”

The students then remembered that I have a Bible on the bookshelf in my classroom, and concluded, on the basis of this single shred of evidence, that I am, indeed, a believer. (The Bible is there as one of many options for my students to read during their designated reading time, just before lunch.)

Since then, I’ve been to Amazon, and ordered an English translation of the Qur’an, which I will place on that same bookshelf — probably right next to the Bible. I wonder what my students will make of that? 

Is This What’s Going On? A Set of Questions of Global Concern.

Is This Whats Going On

I have a set of conjectures, and want input from my friends and blog-followers about them. How much of this has actually happened over the past months, weeks, and days?
 
1. The Chinese have been buying huge amounts of silver, thus driving up its price, because…
 
2. The political and business leaders in Greater China are, themselves, sick of living in an environmental nightmare based on decades of high consumption of oil and dirty coal, and are working on building enormous numbers of solar panels to get away from fossil fuel consumption, using lots of silver, which has the highest reflectivity of any element. China’s silver buying-spree is being misinterpreted, globally, because China is not well-understood, outside China.
 
3. These leaders of China have to breathe the same air, for one thing, as many Chinese people with much less power, and going green is the pragmatic thing to do. It is quite Chinese to be pragmatic. Living in Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Taipei, or other population centers, air quality is a major issue, as is global warming and other environmental concerns — all issues which many Americans are in the habit of ignoring.
 
4. As the Chinese phase themselves out of the human addiction to fossil fuels, total global oil consumption drops. Evidence: gasoline prices fell. I was buying for under $2 a gallon a week ago.
 
5. Falling oil prices have led to severe economic problems in the oil-producing countries of the Middle East. Higher-than-usual amounts of political stability have rippled through the Middle East through the last five years, and this has intensified further in recent months. The latest such development has been in Turkey, often seen as the most politically stable country in the Muslim world, is going through an attempted(?) coup, on the far side of the Middle East from China.
 
6. In the USA, one of the people running for president is a reactionary xenophobe, as well as a populist demagogue, and is running against an opponent with little to no ethical principles who is winning by default because she’s running against Trump. Donald Trump and his people (and he has a lot of people) have been spewing Islamophobia and Sinophobia, and they’ve been doing it loudly.
 
7. Many people all over the world are reacting to the Trump Trumpet o’ Hate, and freaking out. Various end-of-the-world scenarios are been floated publicly, especially in cyberspace. People are getting “off the grid” if they can, either because it’s a good idea, or because they’re panicked. In some places, efforts are actually being made to use the force of government to stop people from weaning themselves off the services of utility companies.
 
8. Few people realize that a lot of this is a set of unintended consequences of China (of all nations) leading the charge to do the right thing regarding oil addiction, from an environmental and ecological point of view, plus having a lunatic run for the White House.
 
9. The rising price of silver, panic-in-advance about a widely-expected coming collapse of fiat currencies, and the pronouncements and predictions of Ron Paul and his ilk, are all feeding off each other, in an accelerating spiral. In the meantime, the political instability in Turkey is capping off a slight rise in gas prices over recent lows, just in the last week.
 
10. Most Americans don’t know much about a lot of this because we’re at a point in the current, nasty election cycle that America as a people has simply forgotten (again) that the world outside the United States actually exists. Ignorance about the Middle East, economics, environmental science, and Greater China is widespread in the best of times. Thanks to (a) the “Donald and Hillary Show” playing 24/7 on cable news, (b) civil unrest at home (brutality on the part of some, but not all, police), and (c) a backlash against Black Lives Matter, with horrible behavior from some, but not all, of the protesters on all sides, and (d) an anti-or re-backlash against BLM is in “full throttle” right now, and (e) unrest abroad (Turkey, etc.), these certainly aren’t the best of times.
 
I invite anyone to weigh in on the subject of which of the above conjectures are valid, and which are invalid. I have deliberately cited no sources, yet, because I am asking for independent peer review, and so do not wish to suggest sources at this point. In addition to “Which of these statements are correct, and which are wrong?” I am also asking, “What am I missing?”

“What’s Your Favorite Color?”

It’s a mystery to me why this happens, but the parallels between different conversations which start with this question are simply amazing. First, I don’t get asked this question unless talking to a teenager . . . and then, nearly every time this happens, the rest of the conversation follows the same pattern.

First, I answer the question honestly, with a single word, by simply naming my favorite color.

black

After telling this one-word, five-letter truth, I then get a response which has become utterly predictable: “Black’s not a color!”

Even stranger: such inquisitions only seem to come from teenagers who are dressed in such a way as to let the following response work: “What color is your t-shirt?”

Sometimes they even look down at that point, presumably to check, which lets them see the answer to my question for themselves:

black

After that one question from me, for some reason, they tend not to say much more. 

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Oh, really?

I have observed that many people often stop thinking about a phrase, and simply accept it, if they hear it repeated enough times. Since I don’t want to make this error, I’ve developed a habit of questioning such phrases. This quote, from Friedrich Nietzsche, definitely qualifies a phrase which many believe because it’s repeated a lot, and it is certainly questionable. More than that, in fact: it is utter nonsense — and I can prove it.

The method I will use for this proof is reductio ad absurdam, in which one temporarily assumes the statement is true, then shows that it leads to a conclusion which is pure nonsense, which, in turn, shows that the original assumption of truth was a faulty one.

So the Nietzsche quote, purely for the purposes of this proof, is now (temporarily) assumed to be true. Since being stronger is beneficial, it now follows that we should actually seek out things which damage us, but without killing us. It isn’t hard to think of examples of such behaviors.

SONY DSC

If a person were to drive to a hospital’s emergency room, and, while standing just outside the entrance with a hacksaw, started using one hand to attempt to saw off the other one (warning: do not try this yourself!), damage would certainly result. This hypothetical person probably wouldn’t completely lose his hand, for (a) hacksaws are not fast, and (b) someone else would no doubt notice, and take action to stop the self-damage, in time to get him medical attention. He is, after all, already in the perfect place for it.

Another, much more common example:

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It’s possible for a person to drink these boxes of inexpensive red wine at a rate of five a week, but it’s an incredibly bad idea. Alcohol will do serious damage, consumed at that rate, given enough time, as can be verified with virtually any physician. Surviving prolonged binge-drinking is possible (but not guaranteed), even if done for a few years; I know this to be true because I have witnessed it. It wasn’t a pretty thing to watch, and the binge drinker could not be persuaded to stop. The binge drinking finally ended, but with an emergency trip in an ambulance needed, for immediate medical care, to prevent imminent death.

In each case, (1) the hypothetical person who tries to saw off his own hand while standing outside an emergency room, and (2) the real person (an adult whom I will not name) who consumed dangerous quantities of alcohol, something happens which damages them, but doesn’t kill them. Does it make them stronger? The first person could easily lose some functionality in his hand, and could also end up in a psychiatric institution. The second person suffered numerous forms of permanent damage to multiple systems of the body, resulting in permanent disability. Both rack up huge medical bills. These aren’t good things, for either person, and they are quite unlikely to “make one stronger.” A far more likely outcome is the exact opposite — each person is weakened, in the sense that are are rendered less able to deal effectively with the rest of their lives.

The proof is now complete. It turns out that those things which do not kill you can, quite possibly, weaken you, and expecting them to make you stronger simply makes no sense. So, world, please stop repeating this insipid Nietzsche-quote. Not only is it logically invalid; it’s also become one of the most annoying clichés in existence.

Fortunately, for those who want advice which actually makes sense, there are many sources available which are not Friedrich Nietzsche.

[Note: I did not create the images in this post, but simply found them with Google image-searches for “hacksaw” and “box of wine.”]

A Conjecture About Dark Matter and Dark Energy

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A Conjecture About Dark Matter and Dark Energy

If inflation moves point A so far from point B right after the Big Bang that you can’t get to A from B now, then could the matter and energy in all the parts of the universe that we can’t access (because they’re too far away) provide the missing 90+% of the universe that we can’t account for?