bookmark_border(Part 1) The Cosmological Argument; or, Blogging Through “Out of Time: A Philosophical Study of Timelessness (2022)” by

Samuel Baron (Author), Kristie Miller (Author), Jonathan Tallant (Author) Format: Kindle Edition

Out of Time: A Philosophical Study of Timelessness by [Samuel Baron, Kristie Miller, Jonathan Tallant]

I’m going to be blogging through this new book “Out Of Time” about whether time exists from the point of view of philosophy and physics, and what that can teach us about the cosmological argument.

BACKGROUND

One current popular argument by theists is the cosmological argument, and its reasoning is fairly straightforward. To explain it to a child, you might give the prompt: I am your parent, and my parents had parents, and their parents had parents, … so where does this lead us? Obviously, we keep going back in the chain of causes and effects to a first cause that did not itself, so to speak, have parents. It simply was. Now, this might be called Being, or God, or the eternal stomach vomiting up the universe into existence, but something along those lines is “obviously” the case. Now this may be obvious, but is it true? Derrida pointed out the history of philosophy has been the overturning of foundations once thought to be self-evident.

One thing that was interesting in the history of philosophy and physics in the last century is that fundamental concepts such as Time and Substance With Properties started becoming more problematic when applied to the most fundamental levels of reality: the extremely small.

In traditional Philosophy, a fundamental distinction in Being is made between “what” something is, its essentia, and “how” or the manner in which something appears to us, its existentia. For example, a tv may be brown and hard in terms of “what” it is, and badly positioned or boring (in the sense of Langeweile: the stretching out of time) in terms of “how” or the manner in which it appears to us. Initially and to begin with, time doesn’t seem to have to do with the “what” of things, since as Heidegger says, a lecture, for instance, has the same “what” or content regardless of whether it was given three days ago in our memory of it, is being given right now in our making-present of it, or will be given later next week as we anticipate it. So, initially a being’s intra-temporality or being-in-time seems to do with “how” a being appears to us.

We certainly experience “something” with time, such as a subtle drawing/stretching out and flow, and in fact REALLY experience this in certain cases like a child’s fidgety Time-Out punishment facing the corner, or Cabin Fever in a rainy cottage. The German word for Boredom conveys this: Langeweile, the stretching out of time. Likewise, we can severely alter the nature of our experience of time, such as through psychedelic drugs. This leaves unclear what we are experiencing when we encounter Time. What do all these have in common? As a starting point, let’s consider a general overview of some of the modern insights into time from contemporary Physics and physicist Carlo Rovelli, and then see how this approach may help as a framework/context to illumine the historical approach to the phenomenology of time (how time appears or shows itself) in Philosophers like Aristotle.

Perhaps one of the key discoveries of modern physics is that there is no “One Time Thing” that uniformly flows. For instance, we can measure that time speeds up the higher you go on earth, and slows down the lower you are. It reflects gravity. This had to be taken into account when they were developing GPS satellite technology. Analogously, for instance, the flow of time passes at a significantly slower rate close to the gravity pull near a black hole, as opposed to far away from it. “Time” actually seems to relate gravity, not a being in itself or structure of reality. Physicist Carlo Rovelli, in “The Order Of Time (2018)” further points out that all of the important equations describing reality in Physics before the 1960’s described how things change in time (velocity/acceleration, etc), but more recently some equations of quantum gravity (such as the Wheeler–DeWitt equation) can be written without any reference to time at all.

Rovelli explains that when traditional physics begins by describing the motion of a swinging pendulum while comparing it to a clock, it is a misunderstanding to think the pendulum is really held up to “objective time,” but rather the movement of the pendulum is held up to the movement of the hands on a clock. Similarly, saying I woke up at 8:00 am really means I woke up when the sun was at such and such a position. We seem to hold onto the belief of time as an objective entity because we fail to clarify what we mean when we invoke time as an explanation. And, at the level of the very small (the quantum level), our everyday descriptive category of time doesn’t work well any more to describe reality, because while at the macro level everything seems to move according to one time (though, as I said, it really doesn’t), at the micro level everything doesn’t.

Rovelli says time isn’t an objective thing, or part of the structure of reality, but rather a useful model for organizing our daily experiences, analogous to the spatial categories of high and low. And, just as the categories of high and low become meaningless in outer space, so too is time meaningless at the micro level. Modern physics is beginning to really see the implications of Einstein’s insight that the past and future are illusions, which makes good sense in light of Husserl’s point that we never can leave the Living Present: The past is just a past present, and the future a future present, so they may only have “being” in memory and anticipation. Physicist Rovelli argues that the hypothesis that time is a mind-independent thing, or even part of the structure of reality, will one day be abandoned as so many other concepts and hypotheses have as our philosophical and scientific knowledge has grown and progressed.

Given this basic framework of the phenomenology Time as a way beings show themselves rather than Time as a being-in-itself, or a structure of reality as many, including Einstein, thought, we will now use this as a framework to phenomenalize Heidegger’s reading of the history of the phenomenology of time with Aristotle.

In his lecture course The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, Heidegger outlines Aristotle’s philosophy of time that time is somehow with things, although not the same as them: time is everywhere (pantachou), not in one definite place, and it is not in the moving thing itself but beside it, in some way close by it. Aristotle said Motion and Time differ in how they belong to the moving thing, to that which is in Time, things we call intra-temporal. However, and importantly, Aristotle said Time is also in the soul. Time is inherently countable, and counting takes place in the soul. Heidegger explains the odd sounding point that for Aristotle without the counter to count time there is no time. This means, for instance, without the person to experience/count the stretching out of time in Langeweile/boredom, there is no boredom/stretching out of time, and in enjoyment/absorption when time vanishes a [lack of] perceiving is required. Analogously, from one point of view, I experience time as a “now” or “present” flowing forward (Monday, Then Tuesday, etc.), but paradoxically from another point of view I experience it flowing in the opposite direction, as backward flowing out of the future toward me and passing away behind me (eg Christmas is coming; has arrived; has gone).

As modern thinkers, part of the difficulty in understanding Aristotle’s explanation of time is that we have been thrown into a Philosophical framework that was foreign to Aristotle with an artificial “Self-Other” distinction. Specifically, there is Descartes’ fundamental distinction between Thinking Substance (res cogitans) and Extended Substance (res extensa), combined with Heidegger’s teacher Husserl and Husserl’s Cartesian fundamental distinction between Perceiving (intentio) and Perceived (intentum). It was precisely on this issues of Descartes/Husserl’s distinctions here that Heidegger objected that Descartes/Husserl don’t provide us with an adequate framework for understanding what Heidegger called the topic of Attunement, which is what time is, and so Heidegger, to use Derrida’s translation, deconstructed the Self/Other distinction for the sake of what Heidegger called a more fundamental being-in the-world framework/distinction, with which as we shall see, Heidegger meant to bring out the lost ancient Greek context that Aristotle operated in.

At the foundation of this Heideggerian/Greek approach is thinking more originally than the consciousness/lack of consciousness distinction (because, for instance, we can be asleep but still very aware and absorbed in a dream), with Heidegger’s distinction between Dasein (being-there = being caught-up-in-awareness) and Weg-Sein/ Nicht-Da-Sein (losing absorption and being away, eg., when one’s mind wanders). This Heideggerian distinction is time-infused, because the relative experience of time changes depending on how caught up or bored we are in a particular awareness. Heidegger tries to dissolve the rigid modern dichotomy of Self/Other with his concept of Attunement, the original Unity whereby the various poles of an awareness vibrate in tune with one another (so to speak).

The ancient Greek poet Homer illustrates and emphasizes this attunement context (which Aristotle assumed) when Homer says “the gods don’t appear to everyone enargeis,” in reference to Odysseus experiencing a woman as though she was an avatar for the presencing of Divine Beauty itself, even though the other person there beside Odysseus didn’t experience the woman in that way. Experiencing some one or thing “as sexy” is similar, and so a homosexual man isn’t aroused by a gorgeous female movie star, or someone finding a bridge or tower arousing if they have a particular kind of Objectophilia. I certainly experience/feel sexiness to be a quality of the movie star, even though it really isn’t, since there is no reason to suppose the next person will have a similar experience. Experiencing something “as beautiful” is similar, like one person experiencing a mansion as “Now that’s a House,” though the next person may not experience the presencing of the category “House” in the same way. They may experience the mansion “as” gawdy. Of course, this all is pure will to power as imposing form.

This helps us to understand Aristotle/Heidegger’s point that time is everywhere, but also in the soul, and without the counter there is no counted. We ”feel” real contact with time as Other, such as (i) in the felt stretching of time in boredom or (ii) the exciting anticipatory flow of time as Christmas approaches, or (iii) the monotonous flow as the work week inches/moves forward. The usual modern everyday interpretation of time by the common person mis-takes this “felt-contact with something” to be contact with a mind independent objective reality, and so our everyday modern understanding naturally thingifies/reifies time so we see time as a “thing,” like a chair or mountain, or a general and absolute basic feature of reality, because moderns following Descartes and Husserl simply assume as fundamental the twofold Self/Other distinction and so don’t have the framework/concepts/language to interpret the phenomenon of time in all its richness or even accurately.

So, what makes the false usual modern interpretation of time as an objective thing of nature possible to conceive? Time is experienced in many ways, and one common way is to interpret it spatially. So, we (1) experience the flow of time as a living present that marches on into the future (Monday, then Tuesday, then Wednesday, etc), which is a spatial schematization often mis-taken to be an Objective-Time-Thing of nature. But, time experienced as flowing in this way is not simply an objective feature of reality as most everyday moderns assume, but represents a way humans organize/schematize their experience, which is why (2) we can just as easily experience time from a contrary point of view flowing in the opposite direction from out of the future, to arriving in the present, to passing away into the past by (eg., Christmas is coming, has arrived, has gone). In these two contrary cases, which would be incompossible if time was a single entity that flowed uniformly, the two experienced flows of time are actually ways in which the mind organizes/schematizes spatially, but in different ways:

(1) For the first case above, we are implicitly assuming an organizing principle the likes of which I would find on a soccer field kicking a ball away from myself = consciously or unconsciously fixing the origination point of my kicking of the ball in memory, and mentally stretching from there with the ball as it rolls away from me, while

(2) in the second case above we are framing the flow like being a goaltender, with a ball being kicked at me from a distance by a friend, the ball arriving at me, and passing away through my legs and into the net.

Time schematized spatially basically means consciously or unconsciously fixing a point and stretching from that point, spatially schematized temporality being the speed of that stretch. Number 1 above is what is generally reified/thingified into being “real” or “objective” time by modern people, while in truth it is just a practical way to “calendar-ize” our life.

To recapitulate, it is extremely problematic to try to argue time is an objective mind-independent reality when it does not flow uniformly but reflects changes in gravity, can be experienced as flowing forward or backward depending on your point of view, and seems to formally include human experiences like boredom and time flying when you are having fun. Many are shocked when they go under general anesthetics and wake up an hour later in what feels like an instant. The vanishing of time in certain cases of dreamless sleep are common experiences, and the mind seamlessly creates the experience of time in dreaming.

But do we not also experience objective time in science, such as with rule governed cause and effect in going from cause to effect either from change from one place to another or from one state to another? This would lead into the question of Kant’s encounter with Hume that Kant said awoke him from his dogmatic slumbers and was the catalyst for his critical period.

NEXT TIME, CHAPTER 1 of “Out Of Time”

bookmark_borderBlogging Through Augustine/Martin’s Anthology “The Myth Of An Afterlife” Part 1

Blog Post 1 on The Myth of an Afterlife (ed Martin and Augustine)

This series of blog posts will look at the question of whether or not there is a afterlife by blogging through the Augustine/Martin anthology “The Myth of an Afterlife”

Steve Stewart-Williams (Foreword)

Stewart-Williams points to the difference between evidence consistent with an afterlife (eg., predicting one’s own death), and evidence of an afterlife.  Such evidences seem to pile upon one another across the world to apparently give credence to the afterlife hypothesis.  Stewart-Williams suggests supernatural interpretations are completely unnecessary given reasonable naturalistic ones, and we wouldn’t even have recourse to supernaturalistic explanation except that we have such traditions from our culture. 

I understand Stewart-Williams  here in the sense that we all know, for instance, it is possible to invoke an invisible, magical leprechaun to explain the mysteries in quantum gravity, but reasonable people prefer naturalistic explanations.  Even Religious Studies scholars, when they have their “historian” hats on, understand that divine explanation are bracketed in principle in historical inquiry, being articles of faith, not scholarship.  For example, liberal Christian scholar Dr. James McGrath explains the possible origin of Jesus resurrection belief in this way:

One can only speculate about what the first post-Easter experience of “seeing Jesus” may have been like. It is alluded to, but ultimately left undescribed, in 1 Corinthians 15:5, where Paul writes simply that he “appeared to Peter.” The challenge to the historian is to reconstruct a plausible scenario that could have given rise to the evidence available in later sources. Perhaps, as we have suggested above, Peter returned to Galilee and to fishing. He wrestled with the failure of his expectations, with his own failure in denying Jesus, and perhaps with questions about whether things might have turned out differently had no one drawn a sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant that fateful night (Mk. 14:47). On one particular day he goes fishing, taking some of Jesus’ other closest followers with him. They catch nothing, and much of the time is spent in silence. Then, they see a figure on the shore. The figure asks if they have caught anything, and they say no. He tells them to try again, and suggests a spot. They lower their net – and catch a huge number of fish. Peter makes a connection. Isn’t this the spot where he first met Jesus, who did something similar on that occasion? He looks up. Perhaps the figure on the shore has already vanished. Perhaps he is still standing there, and they have breakfast without exchanging many words, as suggested in John 21. In either case, at some point after the figure has departed, Peter suddenly has a flash of insight: it was Jesus. He tells the others, but at least initially, they are skeptical, and for a time they remain unpersuaded. Peter spends much of the days that follow in prayer, seeking information and advice from rabbis and experts in the Law. What do the Scriptures in fact say about what the Messiah would be like? Could the Messiah suffer? Could the Messiah return from the dead? Could the Messiah enter the messianic age of the resurrection ahead of everyone else? Were there passages that left open such possibilities, texts that had been neglected but which might allow for such an unthinkable, paradoxical, surprising Messiah? After much reflection, exploration, and soul-searching, Peter contacts the rest of the Twelve, and they gather to hear what Peter has to say. They listen, and when he is done explaining to them what he has come to believe, he leads them in the prayer Jesus had taught them.  “Father…” they begin. When they reach the words “Your will be done,” they mean it as they had never truly meant it before. “Not our will, but yours.” A sense of peace washes over them. A sense of certainty that Peter is right, that Jesus has in fact been raised. And in their dreams, and in glimpses in crowds, in mysterious encounters with unknown individuals, and even in mystical visions, they too experience this phenomenon of “Jesus appearing.” Could this be the way events unfolded, and Christian faith in the resurrection of Jesus arose? What we have written in this section is admittedly speculative. There seems to be little hope of gaining access by means of the extant written sources to the actual experiences that early Christians had, the ones that convinced them Jesus was alive. Even Paul only alludes to his own direction-changing experience, and never describes it. Perhaps this is appropriate: religious experiences are regularly characterized by those who have them as ineffable, as “beyond words.” The Gospel of Mark suggested that Jesus would be seen, but doesn’t describe the experience, at least not in our earliest manuscripts. Our two earliest sources thus leave little for us to work with at this point.

– McGrath, James F. . The Burial of Jesus: What Does History Have to Do with Faith? . Patheos Press. Kindle Edition.

And so, we have a perfectly reasonable naturalistic explanation for the birth of the easter story.  It may be something supernatural happened, but more reasonably we might simply suppose Peter was just distraught and confused.

Stewart-Williams suggests belief in the afterlife can arise from a host of causes such as

Some claim that the belief in an afterlife is wishful thinking; others that it’s a way of promoting socially desirable behavior; and others still that it represents ancient people’s best effort to explain strange phenomena such as dreams. More recently, it has been suggested that religious beliefs, including afterlife beliefs, are the handiwork of evolution by natural selection, or byproducts of various evolved psychological capacities… [and] they might fit together within the overarching framework of a memetic approach.

– Martin, Michael; Augustine, Keith. The Myth of an Afterlife . Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Stewart-Williams suggests the wishful thinking explanation is best understood in the light of an addiction analogy, not so much that it comforts us, but it’s painful to try to give up.  And, fear of hell, though widely believed is hardly wishful thinking. 

Another explanation is the social glue theory whereby good behavior is rewarded by heaven, and bad behavior with hell.  A variant of this is the social control theory, which I have written an essay about here: https://infidels.org/library/modern/john_macdonald/justified-lie.html .  Stewart-Williams says there is a grain of truth here, but religious beliefs have also torn societies apart, so the whole story isn’t here.

A further explanation for religious belief is honest attempts at explaining things like why you dream, hallucinate, or for the ancient Greeks why the sun goes across the sky.  However, Stewart-Williams reminds us that “it doesn’t explain why, if religious beliefs are primarily explanations for puzzling but commonplace experiences, so many religious beliefs are so completely disconnected from the evidence of human experience. Again, the approach may be a piece of the puzzle, but we must avoid mistaking it for the whole puzzle.”

Some point to evolution and natural selection to explain religious beliefs, but religious beliefs regarding the afterlife vary so drastically between cultures that the culture seems to be the deciding factor, not biology.

Another possibility for origin of belief in the afterlife relates to how we construe the world:

For instance, we construe physical objects, but not mental states, as possessing spatial dimensions. This makes it easy for us to imagine that minds are something distinct from bodies. It doesn’t force this conclusion, and it certainly doesn’t force the further conclusion that the mind could exist independently of the body or survive bodily death. But it does mean that these ideas come naturally to us. They’re easy for us to accept because they fit the natural contours of our minds. Thus, a curious byproduct of theory of mind is that we are prone to believe, falsely, that the mind (or soul) is something distinct from the activity of the brain, and that it could ascend to Heaven, or be reborn into another body, or merge back into some kind of collective consciousness. I’m

– Martin, Michael; Augustine, Keith. The Myth of an Afterlife . Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

After going through the various traditional explanations, Stewart-Williams explains a theory that ties the others together:

With each of the earlier approaches, thinkers have identified a psychological or cultural “selection pressure” acting on religious memes. These are: (1) selection for beliefs that comfort us or comfort the people we care about; (2) selection for beliefs that foster social cohesion; (3) selection for beliefs that help us manipulate other people’s behavior; and (4) selection for beliefs that explain (or give the appearance of explaining) the world around us. No doubt there are others as well. As with biological evolution, these selection pressures can come into conflict with one another and pull in different directions. So, for instance, we may want to believe something because it is comforting (selection pressure #1), but be unable to do so because it would clash too violently with the evidence of our own eyes (selection pressure #4). This suggests that one kind of memetically successful religious belief would be a belief that promises to provide comfort and consolation, but which is also not too readily falsified in everyday life. The belief in life after death fits this description perfectly.

– Martin, Michael; Augustine, Keith. The Myth of an Afterlife . Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

In our history, high intelligence was selected because of its usefulness, but had the side effect that we became aware of our own death, and so religious belief arose to allay that.  Afterlife beliefs may be tens of thousands of years old.

Societal cohesion tends to break down at numbers above 150 people, so societal institutions needed to be in place to fix that:

However, with the advent of agriculture, the selection pressure for memes useful for this purpose might have dramatically increased in strength. Afterlife beliefs (and religious beliefs in general) may have become progressively better adapted for fostering social cohesion in large-scale human societies.

– Martin, Michael; Augustine, Keith. The Myth of an Afterlife . Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Over history, we see an evolution of the concept of the afterlife from the tragedy of the Greeks to the bliss of the modern theist as attempts to attract and control became more and more sophisticated.

But this need not just be a decision of people, but a way the memes themselves evolved, and so:

There is no need to suppose that anyone sat down and thought up this tactic for retaining believers. Instead, it may just be that the afterlife beliefs that have survived in our culture are those that happened to get attached to such notions as that, without these beliefs, life would be bleak and unbearable.

– Martin, Michael; Augustine, Keith. The Myth of an Afterlife . Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

bookmark_borderThe Problem of Easter

If we go back to the earliest statement of Jesus’ resurrection, in the letters of Paul, we find something very problematic. Paul quotes a creed or piece of poetry that says:

That Christ died for our sins

in accordance with the scriptures.

and that he was buried;

That he was raised on the third day

in accordance with the scriptures,

and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

Why is this a problem? The New Testament thinkers were in the habit of inventing material about Jesus copying Old Testament scriptures. So, for instance, Mark copies material from the story of Elijah to present John the Baptist as the new and greater Elijah. Likewise, Mathew’s story about Jesus recapitulates the story of Moses to present Jesus as the new and greater Moses. That is what the above “Corinthian Creed / poetry” that Paul is quoting seems to be doing with the Old Testament story of Jonah and the huge fish. In Matthew regarding the resurrection we read:

The Sign of Jonah

38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:38-40)

So, far from being historical, the Easter resurrection claims are much more likely hallucinations or lies inspired by the story of Jonah.

bookmark_borderSome Good Friday Reflections

One thing I try to argue against is the sin debt/penal substitution interpretation of the cross.

When we think of the wooden cross in Mark, we think of the easily enraged crowd, corrupt religious elite, and indifferent to justice Pilate. When these people saw Jesus on the beams of the cross as a criminal, what they should have been seeing is their own deep rooted flaws for executing him. Matthew and Luke express this sentiment in the following way invoking the image of the wooden beam/plank/log, making us think of the cross:

  • Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)
  • 37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” 39 He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. 41 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. (Luke 6:37-42)

Perhaps the issue here is not in seeing the criminal Jesus hung on the beams of the cross, but the people seeing the beam in their own eyes. The one who attempts to regulate his brother often displays the greater blindness and hypocrisy.  A proverb of this sort was familiar to the Jews and appears in numerous other cultures too, such as the Latin proverb of later Roman days referenced by Athenagoras of Athens, meretrix pudicam: Generally translated “The harlot rebuketh the chaste.”

bookmark_borderHi, I’m John MacDonald: Welcome To Secular Frontier

My name is John MacDonald, and I am the President of Internet Infidels/Secular Web.  I am one of the bloggers who will be posting here at the new Secular Frontier blog.  So, some initial thoughts:

The God of the Bible is reported to have done such a poor job in creating mankind that not only did He have to wipe out evil humanity with the flood, the end result of the second attempt was God’s chosen Jewish people were inescapably under the Roman imperial thumb.  In a world of pestilence, famine, natural disaster, etc, which is to say a world so obviously not the effect of a benevolent, wise creator, the Gnostic Christians proposed that the world was created by an evil or stupid demiurge, not the true God.

But there was hope.  In Gnosticism, the Divine Spark is described as the fragmented portion of the divine that resides within each human being; it is the light contained in each individual, the potential of their illumination. Gnostics believe the purpose of life is to illuminate the spark through a process called “gnosis”, the Greek word for “knowledge”

The divine spark is a kind of gnosis or knowledge that Jesus was a catalyst to awaken.  And so lacking knowledge, such as a dog with the intellect of a 2 year old or certain mentally challenged people, they can’t be held accountable for their actions.  Similarly, the capacity for evil is our distinctly human freedom, since a dog can be bad, but not evil.  As Schelling pointed out, only a human can sink below an animal in terms of depravity.

In Gnosticism, the divine spark is the portion of the true God that resides within each human being.  The purpose of life is to enable the Divine Spark to be released from its captivity in matter and reestablish its connection with, or simply return to, God, who is perceived as being the source of the Divine Light. In the Gnostic Christian tradition, Christ is seen as a wholly divine being which has taken human form in order to lead humanity back to the Light.

Jesus was the truth, (a-letheia), the one who dis-closes.  For instance, the disciples knew the Hebrew scripture, but Jesus un-hid or “opened up” the scripture for them to see it foreshadowed him:

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:44-49).

Similarly, Jesus’ death awoke what Paul called the Law written on people’s hearts, the Divine Spark of the later Gnostics, by dis-closing their hidden vileness to them.  Bart Ehrman comments

It is easy to see Luke’s own distinctive view by considering what he has to say in the book of Acts, where the apostles give a number of speeches in order to convert others to the faith. What is striking is that in none of these instances (look, e.g., in chapters 3, 4, 13), do the apostles indicate that Jesus’ death brings atonement for sins. It is not that Jesus’ death is unimportant. It’s extremely important for Luke. But not as an atonement. Instead, Jesus death is what makes people realize their guilt before God (since he died even though he was innocent). Once people recognize their guilt, they turn to God in repentance, and then he forgives their sins. (Ehrman, 2017)

So, in Luke, as in Mark, we have the soldier at the cross claiming in realization “Truly this was God’s son / an innocent man.”

I don’t think any of this is real, just ancient superstition, but perhaps it is a new way to begin to think about Christian origins.

So, I hope you join us on this journey.  If you’d like to read more by me, here are a couple of related peer reviewed essays that I wrote

The Justified Lie By The Johannine Jesus In It’s Greco-Roman-Context:

The Justified Lie by the Johannine Jesus in its Greco-Roman-Jewish Context

A Critique Of The Penal Substitution Interpretation Of The Cross of Christ:

A Critique of the Penal Substitution Interpretation of the Cross of Christ

Also, come visit us at Secular Web Kids where new material is being posted all the time:

Secular Web Kids

bookmark_borderWhy This Skeptic is Secular Blogging – It’s a (Fairly) Long Story

My religious history that led to yours truly becoming a skeptical intellect doing research and commentary is complex. And rather interesting. Not my father’s side of our (rather dysfunctional) nuclear family. Indiana Hoosier from corn country, a Cold War United Methodist Republican to whom atheism was Godless Bolshevism. Yawn. To his credit when he found out I was an atheist in 2002 he was not happy, but did not make too much of a fuss, and did not reraise the subject prior to his death last year at 94.
 
Ye Olden Times
 
Over on my mother’s side is where it was very interesting. Some of her folk where associates of the Joseph Smith who made up Mormonism, one being a body guard, they made the trek to Utah, and had multiple wives (check out https://gatheringgardiners.blogspot.com/2010/03/noah-guyman-1819-1911.html, it’s pretty cool). Ah the good old days. My grandmother Zella who I knew very well, and was a quietly devout believer, was born in a central Utah desert town out of the old west and lived to 2002. She wrote an account of her life in which she as a teen she longed to be married in the Temple – very important in Latter Day Saint theology. She may have come close to doing so, gleaning from her autobio and what she told a relation she almost married a churchly distant (via polygamy) cousin, but he suddenly died in the Great Flu Pandemic. Then for reasons obscure she married a man who was never especially observant – I suspect my grandfather was not into paying that critical 10% per year tithe – and they never had that Temple ceremony. None of their five offspring remained in the church. My teen mother became something of a wild child in Salt Lake City during the world war, she was drinking and smoking heavily then and would only stop the former at fifty because her alternative was death. After both my parents ended up in the Virginia burbs of DC because of the war, in the late 40s they married and had two sons.
 
The Wonder Years
 
The result of all that was an incoherent religious upbringing. Until I was 9 we regularly attended the Alexandria ward grandmother went to. Why my father was into that I do not know – Mormonism is extremely heretical relative to Christianity, he probably did not know that. He was considering joining until his smoking prevented that, but he did not reconsider after he quit soon after. I hated church like Tom Sawyer (I was a much better behaved kid though). Boring. I was baptized at 7 in a water dunking ceremony that meant nothing to me. I believed in God there being no alternative that I knew of. I looked down on other churches from what an old friend much later told me. But problems arose. In a Sunday school class the young female teacher informed me I was wrong about the existence of the dinosaurs I already adored. What the…. Did not believe such a stupid thing for a second. She was an idiot, all the more so because LDS dogma has nothing to say about dinosaurs and deep time, they being matters of choice what one thinks about them, and a number of competent paleozoologists and geologists are active LDS.
 
In my preteens and into my teens I was learning about prehistoric beasts and humans from the likes of the cheap How and Why Wonder Books and lavishly illustrated Golden Books for children (for an account of my paleo upbringing see http://www.gspauldino.com/autobiography.html). They discussed an item called evolution discovered by Darwin as a matter of course. Made sense to me. After all, we were living in a new and exciting age of science, driving in autos when my grandmother had rode horses and buggies as a child, jetliners for long range travel, able to talk remotely via telephones, watching the new wonder of TV (The Flintstones!, Star Trek! The Avengers!), antibiotics. I sort of noticed they were not the wonders of some remote gods, they were the human result of science.
 
It is logically common for those who are deep into deep time astronomical and earthly, and bioevolution, to become atheists if not already raised that way. With a scientific explanation of the origins of the universe and us on hand supernatural alternatives become redundant and flippant. Evolutionary scientists and paleozoologists who have become prominent atheists (as I define below) include Thomas (Darwin’s Bulldog) Huxley (who also proposed a later verified link between dinosaurs and birds, one of my areas of research), Louis Leakey, Stephen Gould, and Richard Dawkins. So my course is not unusual.
 
Sunday June 21st 1964 was my day of sweet freedom. From church. Continuing the white privilege flight of the time made possible by the automobile we moved further out in the burbs, to just beyond the then new DC beltway. There were no nearby wards, none of the rest of the extended family except Zella were LDS churchgoers, my mom probably reeked of embarrassing smoke smell when attending, my dad was not churchly, and we stopped going in June. Freedom!
 
I spent some summers with relations in the Salt Lake Valley. Loved it. The big skies, the snow-capped Rockies, the dinosaurs. My Great Aunt Laurel. An artist-naturalist who when I think about it showed no signs of being religious, she encouraged my interests, including dinosaurs. When I was 13 a 11 year old distant cousin took a shine to me. Awww. She really liked my dinosaur drawings. I do not remember exactly why the subject came up, but at her place we were chatting and casually I mentioned how humans evolved from apes. Suddenly her eyes widened, she started backing away saying her parents had told her that was not true, and the rest of the day she would not stay in the same room. Apparently I was under the influence of that rebel against god Satan. I was amused. And theism was going downhill. Fast.
 
Back in the Church – Sort of
 
Things got more complicated. As I was turning 14 Brother Evans dropped by. A hyper evangelical Mormon (and as I later learned a beater of his sons), his trying to recruit me back into the church was going nowhere until he said the magic words. Boy Scouts. So I was a sort of LDS church attending slacker during my teens. I took none of it at all seriously. When I said a curse word in front of one of the Evans sons his silly warning that I could be struck by lightning did not help my theism. But I had fun Scouting et al.
 
Next summer was another in Utah, and by then I was an de facto atheist. When one of my nonLDS cousins discussed his interest in the occult I rolled my rationalist eyes.
 
Then something very important happened.
 
Although they were both intelligent – dad scored an IQ of 140 in 1944 – my parents were intellectually vacuous. All my dad really cared about was making it big in business. He subscribed to pulp magazines like Argosy and True Tales. They featured articles on alien visitations. I took those seriously – with their detailed descriptions of events that appeared inexplicable by earthly standards they seemed scientific, and of course adults would not publish items that were demonstrably untrue. Right? I loved the TV SciFi drama Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea which I would later realize was an example of the clunky boiler plate SciFi pablum offered up by cheap skate Irwin Allen. A first season episode featured the Sea View encountering a flying saucer!!!! I was thrilled. Of course they would not do that unless it had been okayed by the authorities. Right? At the same time the likes of Frank Drake and Carl Sagan were saying that extraterrestrial were statistically probable. Yet they were denying aliens visiting earth. Hmmm.
 
The Book
 
First time into the high school library I saw on the shelf a book titled UFO’s Explained. Like wow! Finally a big grown up book that would settle the question, maybe showing that extraterrestrials were the real deal after all. Checked it out and read it. Written by aviation expert Philip Klass, it is renowned as the first skeptics book. Case by case Klass debunked every classic UFO story up to that date. I got it. That is how scientific analysis is done. Cold, hard, objective, rational yet flexible and nondogmatic examination of the available data. Go where the data goes, not on what your opinion favors. Have been a skeptic ever since.
 
Including of the gods. Religion is not as is often claimed a search for the truth, or to be moral or altruistic. It is looking for boons supernatural – al theists are expecting stuff in return ofr adherence. It’s the prefect recipe for waving away awkward counter evidence.
 
There was nothing dramatic or agonizing about my going science-based, it was fun knowing that most folks were being absurd in believing in matters magical. I did not have much in the way of deep discussions with my parents who while they had their positives – including being largely supportive of my science interests and art — were too dysfunctional and nonintellectual for me to admire, seek their approval, or care what they thought. Moderate-liberal suburban northern Virginia was not especially churchly like the SE tidewater Virginia where and aunt and uncle lived, and this was before the rise of the religious right, creationism was not much of an issue. So theo talk was not all that common. Somehow the God subject came up with a young substitute teacher I think in art class. She and another student derided my nontheism, the teacher demanding I offer up a single great thinker who was an atheist. Could not come up with one – this was long before the atheist flourishing of more recent times – awkward. Did not change my mind though. Senior year in English the apparently nontheist teacher was for reasons I do not recall discussing issues godly. The student counter arguing happened to be the daughter of the ward bishop. Because of that I kept my mouth shut. As she was being shot down – at one point she was queried as to the physical condition old people would be in in heaven — she looked to fellow Vienna ward attendee me (but not a friend) with a facial appeal for support which I was not about to deliver. With the Boy Scouts thing winding down, the Evans having moved away, my interest in Mormonism still nil, LDS services as always excruciatingly dull – stay away from them for your own sake — and the ward bishop pressuring me to tithe while warning me to stay away from the atheist University of Utah I was toying with attending, I eased myself out.
 
When I moved at 20 I was careful to not let the church know my new address. I got a call from a church official at the work number I had earlier gave them silly me. They use the insidious techniques of salespeople. Start out nice and if that does not work ramp up the pressure until the mark caves just to stop the unpleasant situation. When the manipulative ass realized I was holding my ground he got nasty and threatened excommunication. Like I cared. This century one of my uncles deliberately got excommunicated to stop LDS operatives from pestering him. Another uncle had converted to the Greek Orthodoxy of his wife – those are the cool people I visit when in Utah;) Aside from a couple of missionaries who thought it cool I had ancestors who knew Smith while politely deriding their faith, I have not had contact with an active Mormon for decades. Yay!
 
The Book II
 
At 20 another book had a big and conclusive impact. A personal life item was going so well I imagined it must show the favor of a deity – classic theogullible superficial grade thinking mistake. When that situation did not work out I thought it discreditable to now abandon the belief – another classic theogullible superficial grade thinking mistake. I do not recall how I learned about it, but I purchased a copy of Mark Twain’s theonotorious Letters from the Earth to see what he had to say about the God thing. Like most Christians I had never read the damn Bible (I did much later as a research project, I survived). Twain was the first person to with his brilliant literary wit tell me the appalling truth about the book of horrors and its barbaric god, while attending to its cruelty to humanity. Here is a brief sample.
 
The human being is a machine. An automatic machine. It is composed of thousands of complex and delicate mechanisms, which perform their functions harmoniously…. For each one of these thousands of mechanisms the Creator has planned an enemy whose job it is to harass it, pester it, persecute it, damage it, afflict it with pains, and miseries, and ultimate destruction. Not one has been overlooked….  It is the Creator’s Grand Army, and he is the Commander-in-Chief. Along its battlefront its grisly banners wave their legends in the face of the sun: Disaster, Diseases and the rest…. It is wonderful the thorough and comprehensive study which the Creator devoted to the great work of making man miserable…. All of the Creator’s specially deadly disease-producers are invisible.  It is an ingenious idea. For thousands of years it kept man from getting to the root of his maladies, and defeated his attempts to master them. It is only recently that science has succeeded in exposing some of these treacheries.
 
(I strongly recommend LFTE to all — be cautioned that a lot of the book is criticism of literature by the inventor of modern non/fictional literature Clemens, not that that is a problem.)
 
I realized that I had been lied to by the churches. I hate being lied to, propaganda is vile and I try to avoid deceiving others. By the time I finished the sections on theism I said “I get it Twain,” and I have never had reason to modify my atheism since.
 
What is Rattling Around Between My Ears
 
So what is my atheism? I am not a theist, a person who has a belief in one or more deities/gods. Broadly and correctly etymologically defined, a-theism is the lack of theism, ergo I am an atheist. I am not an absolute atheist who is completely certain there are not any gods because that cannot be entirely proven – such folk are rare, a hot Hopkins undergrad I knew back in the day who was quite ticked when I denied absolute disproof of deities is the only one I have met. In that sense I am an agnostic as defined by the person who coined the term Thomas Huxley. So by his own statements so is Dawkins, we are both agnostic atheists. My position is based entirely on data analysis. I always follow the data as best I can, and if it supported the probability or certainty of some form of deity or deities being around and about I would opt for that and would not be writing this – as I will discuss in a later blog, if god/s existed there are many circumstances in which it would be obvious and not a matter of debate. As it is the evidence for the presence of anything supernatural is pathetic, and the possibility of their existence is about as close to zero as one can get without quite getting there.
 
Although the basic existence of a god and many other items supernatural cannot be entirely disproven, the existence of a decent, loving, benign moral creator that has the best interests of his human creations can be scientifically tested. I am the person who literally has done the most to prove that a Good God simply cannot exist because of the deadly nature of our planet to children. And that worshipping a creator god in search of boons is inherently immoral. I am also the leading researcher when correlating the relationship between levels of popular a/theism and socioeconomic conditions, which leaves no statistical doubt that the more atheistic democracies are, the better off are their citizens, and for inherent reasons it is not possible for highly religious societies to be highly successful. I am therefore anti-theism, similar to say Dawkins. As such I am not like many atheists tolerant of religion and belief, it is bad idea in terms of truth and for societies. That does not mean atheism cannot have its own downsides as I shall discuss in these blogs. I try to be fair and objective, and am often vexed when other atheists are not that. Or well informed. I am often aghast at the limited knowledge base of attendees at atheist groups. Lots of them don’t know that our planet is 4.5 billion years old. Sheesh.
 
I am an equal opportunity skeptic. Our society is deeply, cynically hypocritical, that being true of most of the majority who are theists here and abroad. Belief in supernatural deities for which evidence of their existence is extremely weak and their goodness is readily disprovable is widely seen as normal if not noble, while a host of other paranormal beliefs that are no better founded are commonly derided and condemned as baseless and mere superstitions. These days I have people asking this dinosaurologist if it is really true that aliens killed off the dinosaurs to pave the way for humanity, an item they picked up from cable and online “documentaries.” That outlandish notion lacks any actual evidence, but it is no more or less plausible than the conceit that a transcendent entity created our universe and planet. I am not a hypocrite when it comes to matters paranormal godly and secular, they are all bogus as far as can be determined. Faith is not truth, it is sheer opinion.
 
Becoming an Atheosecular Researcher
 
Having meme evolved into a strongly convinced but not absolutist agnostic atheist by 20 and not having seen anything close to suggesting I should change my mind since, I spent the mid 70s to the mid 90s focusing on my paleozoological research and art. Including doing the primary design work for the Tyrannosaurus in Jurassic Park (do not blame me for the flawed appearance of the rest of the JP dinos, and the original King Kong is a way better dinosaurs and other monsters on an island movie, albeit typically racist per the times). Although not the very first I was among the very few illustrating smaller dinosaurs with feathers and fuzz which would be verified in the 90s, was the first to note that some dinosaurs might also be secondarily flightless birds, was the first to calculate that the bigger flying pterosaurs were massive monsters weighing as much as lions and tigers and bears, and named a number of dinosaur groups and genus-species (some of which remain in force) – you can check out my paleo work and art at www.gspauldino.com. Being an iconoclastic polymath is my thing. Did little about the nonreligion thing even as I was appalled by the anti-scientific religious right and its perverted consort creationism. In the mid 90s I started attending local atheosecular groups, partly for social reasons. On the positive side of matters in those days of post cold war optimism I was pleased to see the poll data indicating that the USA was in fact becoming increasingly irreligious, as I documented in my first atheism themed article in a 2002 Free Inquiry.
 
But I was a very frustrated fellow. About the scientific investigation of the societal impacts of religion and nontheism. In order to understand that and many other things you have to have the comparative stats on hand. Duh. Lots of people were claiming mass deity belief is critical for societies to be well run, others denied it. But where were the objective, large scale statistical comparisons needed to test who was right? When I realized the correlations had not been produced which was an enormous failure of the sociological community, I went ahead and did them my little self, establishing a new field of research without really trying in the process. I was being innovative in this arena as I had in paleo. It was a fairly extensive project, but there was plenty of data available and the results were fascinating. I published them in the peer reviewed J Religion & Society and Evolutionary Psychology (http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/147470490900700305), as well chapters in academic books. The research – which has never been refuted because it is objectively not possible to do so — got a fair amount of media attention. Including being labeled the church’s public enemy #1 by MSNBC (https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna10351693) which I am quite proud of, and an appearance on FoxNews which I parried the sleazy reporter fairly well. The work, bolstered by the efforts of others, has done a fair amount to shift the public discourse more towards the favor of atheism.
 
In a statistics tells us a lot about morality parallel line of analysis, I had known since reading the first sentences of Arthur C. Clarke’s book version of 2001 A Space Odyssey that around 100 billion people had been born. I also knew that juvenile mortality rates are around 50%, so that meant some 50 billion children had been tormented to death by the diseases as outlined by Twain, and even greater numbers have miscarried. This was another ground breaking look at the old problem of how a perfect God and our imperfect planet do not go along with one another. I published an analysis in Philosophy and Theology (http://www.gspauldino.com/Philosophy&Theology.pdf) – no other atheists have scored the coup of publishing anti-theistic works in mainstream religious journals – that was the first publication to ever present the number of deceased children, and showed how theologians have bent over backward to evade the problem for ages that because mass death of youngsters directly refutes the belief that God is Good and deserves admiring worship, and that such is not at all noble. Very frustrating is that my efforts to get media attention for the core refutation of religion, and a response from the theists who have no means of producing a plausible counterargument, went nowhere. In order to tale another shot and that while updating the analysis I am publishing a two-parter on the subject in Essays on the Philosophy of Humanism (https://americanhumanist.org/what-we-do/publications/eph/journals/volume28/paul-1). So far that has not been more successful at getting wide attention, with Religion News Service cynically rejecting my press release the theocads.
 
A major achievement was in 2011. I kept sending op-eds to major venues without success. Then it occurred to me to do one on the chronic discrimination against atheists, and do it in association with others. That worked, the Washington Post carried it. The piece garnered 1500 comments before those were timed out, and 80,000 likes. Nice. But that was the end of such major consideration of my work in the mainstream media and press. Dozens of efforts to place pieces in mainstream opinion venues have gone nowhere. And it is not just me. A big running problem is the stunning lack of attention paid to atheists by the mainstream news media, my next blog will be on that issue.
 
My atheo frustrations do not end there. Fact is that institutional atheosecularism has not been as effective as it needs to be. Basic means for promoting a world view include setting up think tanks to generate data driven information, and a news service to help distribute it. For reasons obscure to me this has not yet happened, despite my and others efforts to get such going. The lack of financial support had severely hindered the research and analysis by myself and others that would likely improve the situation for atheists around the globe. More about that later on this site.
 
Starting in 2017 I have had a regular column in Free Inquiry. That’s a major audience, but one can read my tomes only if one subscribes to the magazine which I suggest people do, and only nontheists subscribe. This blog expands the audience for my popular articles beyond FI. Also, those columns are limited to something over 1000 words, which is too short to fully address many issues. Things are complicated. One of the reasons why we are in the global discourse pickle we are in is because many pieces are more propaganda presentations than well thought out arguments backed up by solid data.
 
Coming Features
 
I will be covering a lot of cool topics. How the failure to develop fusion power has greatly slowed down the decline of theism and bettering the global economy – the former is dependent on the latter — while aiding theoradicalism. How the giant New Zealand moas and elephant birds of Madagascar disprove the contention of William Lane Craig that the good God has to allow predators to mug and chow down on other creatures – don’t get me started on how theists say animals do not really suffer because they are too dumb. Why the scandalous failure of nontheists to vote at the same per capita rate as theoconservatives is why the religious right minority is still a major political power in this country. How about how conservative Christianity is backing the right wing autocratic forces of Europe. Then there is how Dwight Eisenhower was the president who initiated modern government promotion of religion. Did you know that Yosemite Valley is one of the best disproofs of the Biblical creation story, and why – think granite. Here’s a goodie. Few realize that the establishment of the national parks was to a great extent an effort to promote god belief among White Americans at the expense of the Original Peoples, that’s a reason why park ranger uniforms are based on old US Army garb. Bet you did not know that. You may know that the antiabortion movement is really an effort to return the nation to its godly traditional ways of the 1950s, but if not I shall explain.
 
What virtually no one knows is that it was the Catholic Church that did more than anything else to put Hitler into power, largely to ensure the stream of tax revenue they still enjoy. Everyone knows about the pedophile scandals that have rocked and damaged the church, but not about the incredible links between the Vatican and mob elements that used to generate international headlines and inspired the Godfather III, but have been shunted aside. Do not forget how the Manifest Destiny that drove the ethnic cleansing of the America’s was a Godly project made possible by the diseases of Twain’s God liquidated most of the population.
 
Ever wonder why the American religious right is all for fossil fuels oil especially? I’ll explain that one. And don’t you believe that nonsense that while Jesus was probably not divine, he was a man of peace. He was not. If he existed.
 
And there’s a lot more.
 
Since I got into active atheism the good news has been how theism has been declining way faster in the USA than even I hoped, with nonreligion soaring by an astonishing 10% of the population each decade, and atheists as broadly defined now making up perhaps a fifth or a quarter of nation (for the stats see http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/art-1-Paul-The-Great-and-Amazingly-Rapid-Secularization-of-the-Increasingly-Proevolution-United-States.pdf). Gallup found church membership was at 70% in 2000, now is only 50%. On the disappointing side the atheist movement is not expanding in tune with the population dynamics, perhaps because of the general decline is social organizations. On the very bad side theoconservatism has, despite losing some demographic ground – even white Republicans are less religious than they used to be – retained a much more powerful grip on much of the government than I predicted. And in their fury to maintain their power are going increasingly bizarro world toxic and autocratic here and abroad. Meanwhile other versions of paranormal thinking are doing all too well, especially concerning alien visitors and even flat-earthism which is a religious movement if you don’t know. But don’t blame everything on the theists. The virulent Chinese government is atheist.
 
Hope you find my coming pontifications of interest, and even better of use.

bookmark_borderOff-Topic: Three Proposed Amendments to the U.S. Constitution to Decrease Government Dysfunction

The four years of the Trump administration, but especially the events of January 6, 2021 and the ensuing impeachment by the House and acquittal by the Senate, have caused me to go into problem-solving mode. After giving this a lot of thought, I have concluded that various flaws, oversights, and loopholes created structural flaws which contributed to federal government dysfunction. Sadly many of these flaws can only be fixed by amending the U.S. Constitution. The text of these amendments, as well as supporting rationale, may be found offsite at my political blog, Data Over Dogmausing the following links.

Because amending the U.S. Constitution is so difficult (to put it mildly), I have only written the amendments which I believe have any chance at all of bipartisan support. I support other, additional amendments, but have not bothered to document them because I believe they have no realistic chance of ratification anytime soon, if ever.
Please post your comments, if any, on the other blog.

bookmark_borderOFF TOPIC: Fallon’s Fallacy

I wrote and published a post recently in which I argued there is a good chance that someone (including possibly Donald Trump) will attempt to shoot, kill, or seriously harm Donald Trump in the next year or two. I also commented that I would NOT mourn such an event but would instead CELEBRATE such an event by popping open a bottle of champagne.  (Note: I have no plan or intention to shoot, kill, or physically harm Donald Trump.)
This upset a die-hard Trump supporter who, along with millions of other IDIOTS, bought Donald Trump’s BIG LIE that Trump actually won the November 2020 presidential election.
Along with various other rantings, Cheryl Fallon offered an ARGUMENT for her clearly mistaken belief:

To NOBODY’S surprise, Fallon’s argument contains a basic logical fallacy, a fallacy that we see frequently here at The Secular Outpost in arguments for the existence of God: the fallacy of EQUIVOCATION.  Because of this fallacy, her argument FAILS.
Here is the core of Fallon’s crappy little argument:

1. President Trump received 74 million votes in the 2020 presidential election.

2. 142.5 million people voted in the 2020 presidential election.

THEREFORE:

3. Joseph Biden received no more than 68.5 million votes in the 2020 presidential election.

This core argument is UNSOUND, because premise (2) is FALSE.
But Fallon supports premise (2) with the following sub-argument:

4. There were 216 million Americans who were registered to vote in the 2020 presidential election.

5. 66% voted in the 2020 presidential election.

THEREFORE:

2. 142.5 million people voted in the 2020 presidential election.

Fallon provided ZERO EVIDENCE in support of the factual claims made by premises (4) and (5).  So, she FAILED to provide a good reason to believe that premise (2) was in fact true.
According to The Washington Post (and other sources as well) the TURNOUT for the 2020 presidential election was 66.3%:

So, it appears, at first glance, that premise (5) is TRUE.  But this is NOT the case.  Statistics on voter TURNOUT are usually given in relation to the number of people who were ELIGIBLE to vote, and what that means is the number of people who were of voting age at the time of the election.  In other words, TURNOUT statistics are usually NOT based on the number of people who were registered to vote.
Premise (5) is stated in an UNCLEAR way.  It has at least two different possible meanings:

5A. 66% of the people who were OLD ENOUGH to vote, voted in the 2020 presidential election.

5B. 66% of the people who were REGISTERED to vote, voted in the 2020 presidential election.

Claim (5A) is TRUE, but claim (5B) is FALSE.  Statistics for TURNOUT (such as the 66.3% figure in the Washington Post) are relative to the number of people who were OLD ENOUGH to vote at the time of the 2020 presidential election.  There were MANY MILLIONS MORE people who were OLD ENOUGH to vote than there were people who were REGISTERED to vote in the 2020 presidential election.  This is because many people who are OLD ENOUGH to vote were not REGISTERED to vote (duh!).
If we interpret premise (5) to mean the claim made in (5A), then that premise would be TRUE, but the argument would FAIL because there would be a logical disconnect between premise (4), which talks about the number of REGISTERED voters, and premise (5A), which talks about people who are OLD ENOUGH to vote.  So Fallon’s sub-argument for premise (2) would be logically INVALID.
On the other hand, if we interpret premise (5) to mean the claim made in (5B), then that premise would be FALSE, because the percentage of REGISTERED voters who actually voted in the 2020 presidential election was significantly higher than the percentage of people who were OLD ENOUGH to vote who actually voted, and thus was significantly higher than 66%.   So, if we interpret (5) to mean (5B), then Fallon’s argument is UNSOUND because it rests upon a FALSE premise.
Therefore, on either interpretation of premise (5), Fallon’s argument FAILS.  It fails because it commits the fallacy of EQUIVOCATION, based on the UNCLEAR and AMBIGUOUS meaning of premise (5) of her argument.
Trump did NOT win the 2020 presidential election, except in the confused minds of the fools who were gullible enough to believe the constant lies and bullshit pouring out of the mouth of Donald Trump.
 

bookmark_borderOFF TOPIC: Farewell Donald Trump (UPDATED 9pm)

The past four years have been a time of division and anger and finger pointing.  It is now time to set aside our differences, and to come together in love and harmony and to once again become the UNITED States of America!
Excuse me, I just threw up a bit in my mouth.
Now that Trump’s fat orange ass is out of the White House, I have just a couple of things to get off of my chest:
1. There are 3 guns circulating in this country for every American.
This gives me great hope, because surely one of the million or so Americans who lost a loved one to COVID-19 will realize that the death of their loved one probably could have been avoided except for the fact that we had a shithead narcissitic con artist as our president this past year, and thus some grieving person who lost a loved one to COVID-19 might decide to pick up a gun and go put a bullet through the head of Donald J. Trump.  Note that I am NOT advocating that anyone do this.  I am merely pointing out that there is a good chance that someone will in fact attempt to kill Donald Trump in the next year or two.
2. Donald Trump is mentally ill and cannot stand being a loser.
This also gives me significant hope, because Trump is just now realizing that he is a BIG FUCKING LOSER, and as criminal cases and lawsuits pile up against him, he might well start to see that his future is one of poverty, imprisonment, and disgrace.  If so, there is a significant chance that Trump will become seriously depressed in the next year or two and pick up a handgun, put the barrel into his mouth, and pull the trigger, splattering his brain matter on the wall behind him.
I have NO plan or intention to shoot or kill or to physically harm Donald Trump in any way.
However, if somebody else does shoot or kill or seriously harm Trump, or if Trump becomes deeply depressed and shoots, kills, or seriously harms himself, I will NOT feel sad or sorry for him; rather, I will pop open a bottle of champagne and celebrate the occasion.
TODAY IS A TRULY HAPPY AND WONDERFUL DAY!!!