Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Perfect Embodiment of Christianity

In Science of Mind there is only one ultimate reality, called "Universal Mind". Because this one reality embraces all, there can be no spiritual winners & losers. There are no "damned" or "unsaved" because the unity of Being permanently connects all beings, none are lost. The goal of each person is to become a Christ.

Having invested a lot of blog space and time on negative aspects of religions, especially Christianity, it is good to focus on at least one positive manifestation.

In the 11 years immediately after I departed the Catholic Church (in 1967), I searched for other alternatives- including evangelical, Anglican, Russian Orthodox and Christian Charismatic- before coming upon one that to me embodied what Christianity and its message was all about. This was the Science of Mind, originally developed and explicated in its principles by Ernest Holmes.

My father-in-law (now deceased 25 years) was a follower of the ‘Science of Mind’ and it is what I would call “sane Christianity” since it is devoid of the demented and poisonous “Hell” doctrine. As Ernest Holmes notes in his book by the same name, on “Reward and Punishment”, p. 383:

“We need fear nothing in the universe. We need not be afraid of God. We may be certain that ALL will arrive at the same destination, that none will be missing. Every man is an incarnation of God.

The soul can no more be lost than God could be lost. We should neither be disturbed by the wailing of prophets, nor the anathemas of theology. We cannot believe that because we have subscribed to some creed, we have thereby purchased a seat in heaven, nor can we believe in any vindictive or malicious power in the universe. We believe in God and that He is Good.

What more can life demand than that we do the best we can and try to improve. If we have done this we have done well and all will be right with our souls both here and hereafter. This leaves us free to work out our own salvation without fear or trembling.”

And indeed, my father-in law went to his rest with no trepidation, no trembling and no foreboding or fear such as exhibited by those Bajan youngsters in the Jenkins asylum, referred to in a previous blog. Someone once opined, “by its fruits shall you know it”.

By Science of Mind’s “fruits” - I have at least beheld “whole and decent fruit” in a religious manifestation, as demonstrated by my father-in-law and others. OTOH, all I beheld was toxic fruit from Hell-pandering Christianity in the evangelical church I once attended. One must therefore regard it as false, and pernicious, like its “fruit”. Similarly one must regard its pastors as False Christs. Any purported spiritual teaching – as Bishop J. Sponge has noted, which employs fear tactics to garner support, can't have a real God on its side. A real God doesn’t need to play the fear card, nor do its minions.

How does Science of Mind differ from other, more toxic forms of Christianity? I think – based on my four years involvement- it comes down to its teaching principles. Among these are the following:

1) The is no single authority for truth, or source of truth. Each religion's book of revelation then is part of the total truth picture, not the only one. Thus the Hindu Upanishads, the Jewish Talmud, the Muslim Qu’uran, the Christian Bible all bring a facet of truth, and together their truth approaches a whole.

2) There is no Heaven’ or Hell, only a unified Universal Mind after death, which displays a holographic consciousness. This fully comports with the findings of quantum mechanics which disclose reality is nonlocal, not fragmented. Despite our perceptions, there is one unified whole not a "good and evil " part. These are only artifacts engendered by our deficient sensory apparatus which magnifies temporary appearances out of proportion.

3) “Sin” does not exist as an isolated act but as an erroneous mode of thought (negative faith). Once this thought is corrected, the spiritual alienation underpinning the errors is removed.

4) The Science of Mind practitioner takes literally Christ’s statement that “No one can come to the Father except through me” – not in the sense of “believing on” Christ, but actually BECOMING a Christ unto oneself. Thus, whole parts of the Science of Mind teach people how to become Christs, leading to the actual miracle working potential via a simple creation formula: Thought + Belief = Creation.

5) In Science of Mind, the Christian fundamentalist is viewed as a person trapped in a limited thought, error –based purview who is in need of spiritual healing. The fundamentalist’s cocky and arrogant stance (that he is privy to the true word of God) is actually a defense mechanism against making peace with his own mind, and thereby the Universal Mind. The fundamentalist’s caustic judgment and criticism is actually a manifestation of his separatist, apartheid -like, "we and they" thought.

6) Actions such as “witnessing” are alien in the Science of Mind context, because its practitioners believe that one’s ACTIONS speak louder than words or pandering. If one therefore lives the good life, as a spiritually whole stalwart, other people will naturally be attracted to this example and want to learn more. There is no need to intrude or trespass on another’s mental reality and certainly this is verboten if one isn’t already setting a pinnacle example of how to live.

What Science of Mind showed me is that it’s possible to have a religious manifestation which isn’t mind-controlling (via fear mongering) or cultish, but which seeks to show people how to improve their lives, their thoughts and relations with others. It proved to me that an atheist can be respectful of certain religions – or at least some of their affiliates, because they advance the progress and psychic development of humanity rather than retarding it.

The most refreshing aspect of Science of Mind to me was its benign nature, losing the yen to always separate people into “sheep” and goats” – the carryover of a primitive mind.

There don’t have to be spiritual winners and losers, those who “sit at the right hand of God” or the “left” because there is only one unified Mind and we are all a part of it. Just as the elements of a hologram make up the whole, so do we all with respect to Universal Mind.

As I remember again my father-in-law and his effort to make life better for all with whom he came into contact- believer and non-believer alike, I remember the Science of Mind which made him the decent human he was. Never ever did he condemn or harshly criticize anyone- even me after I veered away toward atheism. He merely accepted it with grace and dignity saying, I had "chosen a different path, but one that is right for me".

In how many other Christian or religious venues will one hear words like that? I warrant not a whole lot. With a mindset like that we could halt the religious hate and warfare overnight.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Is Fundamentalist Christianity a Cult?

When more than 900 people present in Pastor Jim Jones’ Jonestown killed themselves, they were referred to as being part of the “Jonestown cult”. The most peculiar aspect of Jonestown was the total control Jones exerted on what his charges thought, or believed. As documented in the book, The Suicide Cult, extreme punishments were meted out to anyone who defected in the slightest way – including expressing a scintilla of doubt in “Pastor Jones” (who was often called “Father Jones”)

The question arises: Can Fundamentalist Christianity be regarded as a vast cult, though not quite as centralized as Rev. Jim Jones’ Guyana cult?

First, what are the criteria for asserting a religious group is a cult? Generally, four characteristics can be used to make an identification:

1-A belief system that is independent of facts, logic, or even one’s own intuition. In other words an absolute and blind acceptance of literature (provided by cult leaders) as undeniable fact.

2-A pre-meditated choice to isolate from the rest of society, usually justified by the assertion that those outside of the faith are wicked, lost, etc.

3-The compulsive need to recruit others into the cult- called by different names, e.g. witnessing.

4-The complete loss of individuality, logic, and objectivity. The only reasons for continued existence becomes the serving of the cult’s raison d’etre.

Let’s look at each in turn to see how Fundamentalist Christianity meets the respective criteria:

1) All one need do to confirm this is inspect and read any online confrontation between a fundie Christian and a rationalist. You will quickly see before two responses are made that the Christian unquestioningly adopts what’s been read in biblical texts, as his own truths. Thus, he lacks any truths forged on his own, by his own brain. He simply masticates what’s in his bible (usually the corrupted KJV) and provides that as his truth.

Seldom, if ever, do Christian Fundamentalists make their own conjectures about nature, the phenomena of life and morality. They accept without question everything imparted to them by their pastors or bibles- even when the information is contradictive of science, history, logic. In its place they impose and insinuate their own corrupted and debased information, which is actually carefully crafted propaganda.

In every case that some original or initial information exhibits a contradiction to their KJV or other source, the fundie will reject the contradicting material in favor of that spouted by semi-literates in biblical texts. Never mind we live in the 21st century, some old ragamuffin, sheep-herder peasant from 2200 years or more ago has his words assume precedence. Never mind that since then, we've learned: how to conquer numerous killer diseases (smallpox, typhoid, etc.), flown to the Moon and mapped it, and engineered the modern marvels of computers and the internet- the fundie is mandated to choose his antiquated ignorance over any new knowledge or enlightenment. He is manifestly proud of his ignorance, and often displays it as a perverse badge of honor. In extreme cases, he even fancies himself a "warrior of God" decked out in armor to fight the heathens that otherwise would inundate him.

This means a Christian Fundie typically has no real ability to decide what he or she believes about the world or about life in general. In the same way, the mental captives of Jonestown became incapable of choosing their actual beliefs, even concerning their own welfare. (Many were told their infected mosquito bites were of their own making or mentality). Thus, when "Pastor" Jones ordered them to drink the (cyanide-laced) Kool aid they never complained or argued. They drank every drop down just like they imbibed his frequent quotations and preaching. (Though some did object at the last minute and were murdered for their trouble).

In addition, any attempt to challenge the Fundie Cultists' beliefs will be met with hostility. Regardless of what scientific, historical, even mathematical evidence you can produce to offset any given bible teaching, expect to be resisted or even attacked by the fundie as a pal of "Satan" or at least one of his "agents".

2) The choice to isolate themselves is pre-meditated, because the Fundie accepts the world is evil, and only those who accept HIS version of the Christian faith will be saved from eternity in Hell. Therefore many Christians are afraid of anything and everything that is not directly condoned by their bible or their pastor. Some actually assert their bible requires that they separate themselves from all “Satanic” religions” – which of course means any religion that doesn’t share their particular code of accepted beliefs.

Christian Fundamentalist organizations and individuals often target television, movies, music, games, politicians, retail organizations, and even children’s toy franchises.(Remember how they went after Barney the Dinosaur on PBS for spreading “gay teachings”) After declaring an entity wicked and wayward, the Christian fundies will use boycott and even public protest to show disdain for a wide range of institutions.

All of this behavior is exactly the same as we have documented at Jonestown, where certain books, people, movies etc. were to be shunned. Pastor Jones declared what was acceptable and what wasn’t.

3) All cults feel they have to validate their existence by recruiting others into their insanity and mental slavery. This is the only way they can gain some semblance of feeling they are on the right track. For the Christian Fundie this amounts to a subtle terrorist tactic called “witnessing”.

Via this process, they believe god has charged them with the task of turning everyone in the world into a Christian who embraces John 3:16. After all, they must save people from the otherwise certain fate of “Hellfire’. (Odd, because their own good Book, in the New Testament (Matt. 7:1-5) enjoins them not to judge “lest ye be judged”. And in deeming people hellbound they are emphatically making their own judgements!)

Christian Fundamentalists believe it is the will of the divine that they make every effort to recruit (witness to) every other human being on the planet into their religious organization. The idea of simply letting each worship his own God, observing his traditions, and allowing the rest of the world to do the same is unacceptable. In fact the suggestion is blasphemy to a Christian Fundie cultist, and you are in danger of burning in hell for all eternity (as far as they are concerned) for having the audacity to resist their efforts to convert you.

They even go so far as to assert that the only reason to befriend a non-believer is to spread their gospel message. Otherwise, there’s no purpose or gain to it and they simply risk “burning in Hell” along with the unbeliever they truly befriend.

4) In respect of this attribute it’s easily seen that the Christian Cultists’ identity is totally vested in his belief system – which is based exclusively on the King James Version of the Bible. Criticize his belief system (or KJV) and he construes it as an attack on himself personally as well as charging "blasphemy".

Predicated on the foregoing, Christian Fundamentalism can be seen as one enormous cult. Further, its belief system can be seen as a form of fear-based mind control. These people feel that they can’t even be friends with an “unbeliever” unless the ulterior purpose enters of getting him to see “God’s word”. Apart from that, unqualified friendship is renounced as cozying up to Satan, and as one of these cultists has put it: “Why should I risk going to Hell based on some friendship with an unbeliever? The road to righteous glory and salvation is straight and narrow!”

Thus, they lack any manner of independence to even choose their friends – even if these people are family members. Their poisonous, toxic belief system prevents it.

How people choose to think, believe, and even act is completely up to them, of course, but when any group has a clear and aggressive mission of subverting and disrupting the rights of other people in an effort to impose its edicts upon the masses it ceases to be religion but becomes a cult – especially if its members are impervious to argument and logic.

When this also is imposed in terms of associations, friendships etc. the cult itself becomes the vehicle for a very powerful tyranny. Of course, because of their engrained psychosis – most of these Christian Cultists can’t see it. All they see is their own righteousness in protecting themselves from damnation.

Pastor Jim Jones was the same, and he saw enemies and an "evil" opposition throughout his life, leading inexorably to the perception that an exodus to Guyana (in South America ) was the only escape. Arguably, Jones totally lost whatever was left of his mind long before he issued the order for mass suicide in Christ’s name and his own.

Is Economics a Science?

A supply-demand depiction based on a faulty economic model for oil reserves and consumption. The time axis (t) is as shown, and the cost is given per barrel of oil - the cost graph is in red. The model erred by: a) not taking into adequate account rising population and its effect on increased petroleum consumption, and b) not reckoning in the effect of Peak Oil until too late.

In today's Wall Street Journal, Russ Roberts heads his piece (p. A13) with the provocative question: 'Is the Dismal Science Really a Science?' One of the knocks against the Economics ("the dismal science") being one is that as Roberts observes: "theories that were once discredited surge back into favor". This seldom if ever happens in the rigorously quantified sciences, such as physics, astrophysics and cosmology. The Big Bang - having been vindicated via the discovery of the 2.73 K microwave background radiation, is not going to disappear all of a sudden and be replaced by the steady-state theory again. And I can't see us chucking out Einstein's General theory of relativity to use Newton's theory of gravitation exclusively (of course, the latter remains useful for relatively small space-time domains).

More telling is Roberts relating his experience of asking economists if they could give one example of a study using applied econometrics for a controversial policy issue - such that one side had to admit it was wrong. In Roberts' own words: "I don't know of any".

My objections to economics being referred to as a bona fide science are perhaps more "in your face". To me, Economics has never been a science, it only adopts some scientific window dressing, a few of the methods (mostly statistics) and some jargon. But no serious empiricist would regard it as "science" - by which I mean it hits the normal criteria for being identified so.

For example, Economics has no true objects of inquiry - say like physics - nor does it offer any consistent, theoretical models that don't rely on statistical artifacts. Even in the realm of statistics it tends to fudge them based on political expediency. For example the BLS stat for unemployment is intentionally lowballed by dropping workers who are still unemployed off the rolls after 6 months. Quite a tidy trick that! It keeps the unemployment rate below 10% most of the time, unless wide swatches of workers are let go at once. By contrast, Barbados and most of the EU (European Union) count workers as unemployed so long as they really are. They aren't working or producing so they're unemployed - not "discouraged". This latter is an artificial category concocted by the 1994 (mainly Repug) congress to conceal more than inform. Yet Economists employ it (okay to be fair, they also employ another rate that amps the numbers up a bit and is somewhat more honest - since it includes part time employed people).

Another statistical gripe I have is the use of "core inflation" (omitting costs of food, health care, housing). This one allows political interests to deliberately lowball the inflation rate in order to keep their pet numbers jiggered in the right way - especially so that the powers-that-be don't have to cough up too much in Social Security COLAs! I mean, give me a freakin' break! Can't this country deal with reality at ANY level? Must it always be Mickey-Moused? Do you think any physicist worth his salt would contrive something like "core energy" - say by discounting all energy inputs from sound, heat, and chemical? He'd be routed out of any institute!

Nor does Economics make quality predictions based on said models, say like atomic physics. (Prediction of specific spectra - emission or absorption- using the Schrodinger equation, and the correct energy eigenvalues for the atom chosen). If it had such capabilities, it would have seen the 2008 meltdown coming well in advance and warned everyone!

And at this point let me get another point clear- even the most rudimentary student of statistics understands that distributions, etc. don't show causality, but correlations! Because you have correlation, does not mean for a moment there is causation. The confusion of these two is the single most recurrent contributor for inflating economics into any kind of "Science". (Since models must be founded on seeking out and exposing causation, not merely correlation or coincidences)

Let me give some concrete examples, from my field, of solar physics. In two 1984 papers, one in Solar Physics, the other in The Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada I provided the basis to show how a solar flare trigger is feasible, and the theoretical conditions that might apply. In the former paper this was based on using a pure statistical model, with Gaussian (normal) distributions of flares, and multiple regression analyses. In the second paper, it was based on a consistent model that incorporated actual, physical features and observations.

What I did is to show how my mechanism, embodying a flare trigger depending on multiple agents (twisted fibrils, deformed magnetic polarities, magnetic gradients > 0.5 Gauss/cm, sunspot areas > 15000 msh or millionths of a solar hemisphere) , caused flares via a magnetic shear process. And thence, I showed which agents gave rise to which class flares. The final computer model allowed one to calculate the resident magnetic free energy, the generating twist angle of fibrils, the magnetic intensity and other physical indices directly from the quantities and mathematics of the model. (I used several partial differential equations, in tandem with Green's functions - and used Laplace transforms to obtain solutions to the physical equations) Statistics can crudely describe - in a correlative fashion- some primitive aspects of an empirical system.

For example, as in my first referenced paper (noted above) I wanted to obtain the correlation between the incidence (frequency) of a certain type of solar flare (generating importance 2+ sudden ionospheric disturbances) and delta class sunspot groups. I did a linear regression to find a fit for F (flare frequency) vs. T(S) type of sunspot group. I obtain a statistical function of the form:

F = T(s) + C

where C is some quantity that intersects the particular (y-axis), in this case the one for F. This is a statistical representation of an empirical relationship. However, and this is important, the statistical relationsip (F = T(s)) + C) tells me nada - nothing, about the underlying physics that produces flares!

The mathematical model for that might be written(to start):

Curl (B) = alpha (B) (Force-free field)

where 'curl' is a complex mathematical operation using partial derivatives, and it is applied to B - the magnetic induction. Or strength of the magnetic field in the sunspot, or group. (We measure B directly using magnetometers, which produce vector magnetographs for specific regions, sunspot groups) Further working through this model yields:

DIV ^2(B) = (alpha)^2 B

where 'DIV' is another math operator called the "divergence". From this, we can obtain the partial differential equation for the magnetic field (B - which applies to the sunspots in x, y and z dimensions):

B_xx + B_yy + B_zz + (alpha)^2 B = 0

which can then be solved - with the various quantities (alpha, B and currents obtained from these) compared to the actual observed properties in the sunspots. This is far, far distinct from any statistics - as it uses and incorporates actual physical properties of a particular model. Whereas exclusive use statistics omits all these details. More to the point, as my own research has disclosed, we can accurately trace variations in the Earth’s magnetosphere to plasma eruptions and changes on the Sun proper. For example, registered in terms of species of protons captured at the Earth's magnetosphere, and the variable intensity - in watts per sq. meter- of soft x-ray fluxes.

Meanwhile, in plasma tokamak devices, we can test solar flare theories directly via the kink and other induced instabilities - that shed direct light on our models and expected behavior.

Meanwhile, the illustrious economists - in their naive and incomplete statistical "modeling" -are prepared to ignore (as in dismiss from consideration) an entire raft of variables associated with what they call "externalities". How very convenient!

These glaring and inexcusable ecosystem omissions (as global monetary values), were assayed for one particular year in the study Putting a Price Tag on Nature's Bounty, Science, Vol. 276, p. 1029):

Ecosystem Area (10^6 HA), Global Value (trillions)

Open Ocean ------ 33,200 ---- 8.4

Coastal ----------- 3, 102 -----12.6

Tropical Forest ------1, 900 ----- 3.8

Other Forests ------- 2,955 -----0.9

Grasslands ------------3,898 -----0.9

Wetlands --------- 330 -------4.9

Lakes and Rivers ------ 200 ------ 1.7

Cropland -----------1,400 --------0.1

--------- Total Worth $33.3 Trillion

This tally (and that was a decade ago) according to lead author of the study, Robert Costanza, who directed the Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Maryland.

Until economists incorporate such "externalities" in terms of assessing costs, they are fooling themselves that they have any real science. And if they don't incorporate these "externalities" then what they are "tweaking" in their alleged models isn't even real. (Rather, some idealization that is fabricated in some ivory tower and disconnected from blood and sweat economics).

This exclusion of natural capital, because it is claimed to be 'unquantifiable' - means that that economics cannot possibly be objective - since it's omitting the basis of many of the resources consumed or polluted for the use of so-called production capacity.

But if one isn't aware of the total costs of production, such as how much natural capital goes into producing 300 million tons of paper, or 4.5 million vanities, then one can't possibly set a genuine price on goods, and that alone demolishes the pet concept of "law of supply & demand" (which is certainly unlike any Newtonian law of physics!) so many economists exalt. Not to mention severely undermining any rational assessment of inflation.

It’s somewhat analogous to a corporation like Enron hiding liabilities in offshore accounts, and re-naming them “assets". It temporarily helps their bottom line - but sheds no objective light on the underlying process! It would also be like a clueless solar physicist claiming he can't possibly quantify the energy released by a solar flare on the Sun - because it's 93 million miles away. (Never mind the satellite capture of the associated 1-8 Angstrom x-ray flux allows a really good estimate to be made, by integrating the area under the peak emission(s) over time t).

Granted, economists do have a pale imitation of science, and who knows - maybe in a few hundred years they'll join the full club- after their objects of inquiry and methodology acquire greater maturity. When we see their first bona fide model, as opposed to a statistical macguffin that they inaccurately call a "model".

In his own WSJ piece, Russ Roberts is more than generous when he allows that:

"If economics is a science, it is more like biology than physics"

But I wouldn't even grant that threshold! Remember that biology - though it "tries to understand the relationship in complex systems" - is actually able to flasify its own predictions, and has attained a very high pinnacle of quantified modeling - as in genetics, and population genetics.

This is something the economists aspiring to be called "scientists" might wish to further study.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Was the Zapruder Film Tampered with?

Almost since the Zapruder film emerged as a public record, suspicion has grown that it’s been tampered with. Among the original claims for tampering was one while the film was in the possession of TIME-LIFE. The putative change was in reversing the frames near 312-313 to dilute or negate the backward head snap. Later, the tampering hypothesis evolved to claiming that frames were removed in the vicinity of 311-314 in order to deliberately conflate two shots: one from the rear (TSBD) and one from the right front – striking the temple.

Not surprisingly, variant forms of the tampering hypothesis have made their way into the assassination research community – some with more heft and traction than others. One of the more enticing ones is offered by photo-analyst Mark Crouch, who proposes a subdued forging involving[1]:

“projection frame by frame onto the rear of a glass screen. The corrupted copy is then recorded frame by frame. When they reach the head shot frame they just add a little paint to the glass, shoot the frame, then clean the glass. They then project the next frame, do their little touchups to match perspective, then go on. They only have to do about fifty frames and the alterations are non-descript……it’s called aerial imaging photography”

This sounds like an awful lot of work to go through to obtain only an imperfect film or forgery, but Crouch maintains it was adequate to the task: in framing Lee Harvey Oswald for the killing. As he’s quoted[2]:

“The truth about the Z-film is that it was never meant to be micro-analyzed the way it was…The ‘real evidence’ of the Z-film is more subjective than objective. If you believe- as I do- that a trained and directed team of assassins was in the Plaza, then you must assume they observed Zapruder standing up there with his camera. The assassins would have no way of knowing if he innocently panned his camera toward them just before or during the assassination”

Crouch goes on to assert said assassins would thus have had to be “very concerned with what Zapruder’s camera recorded” …which would have necessitated the attention to manipulating the Z-film – and by extension, confiscating as many others as possible. (Since the Nix film was made from across Elm Street and may also have caught the assassins).

Author Noel Twyman asserts that he has “proven to his satisfaction” that frames were removed between Z-313 and Z-330[3]. He goes on to speculate[4]:

I wondered what the Nix film would show. I reasoned that if it had not been altered in a similar fashion to the Zapruder film it would show a slowing down or stopping of the limousine if, as I believed, the testimony of eyewitnesses was correct”

These eyewitnesses reported the limo had “come almost to a complete stop at or near the time of the fatal head shot.”

Twyman then records he “obtained a set of slides of the Nix film and made prints on a Canon laser copier”, then proceeded to compute the rate of advance of the limo- thereby obtaining a graph he represents as Exhibit 12-3[5], showing a uniform speed. In other words, using the Nix slides he had he was unable to confirm the witness’ testimony of a near –stop.

I decided to test this using my own version of the Nix film – obtained from the Italian Documentary ‘The Two Kennedys’ (1976). Toward the end of the documentary, the entire Nix film (or what is described as such) is shown a number of times, including in slow motion. Even without the slo-mo shots I was easily able to confirm that the limo did make a near stop – just after the fatal head shot, before accelerating.

A further analysis allowed me to deduce something else: that frames had been manipulated (after Z-313) in the Z-film and other Nix film versions. Note that I didn’t say the frames were removed, at least not in my version[6]. We know that Orville Nix film (as he records in his interview with Mark Lane, ‘Rush to Judgment’) had detected frames removed on the film’s return from the feds, and there have been estimates of up to six different versions circulating. I don’t know how many distinct versions I’ve seen – but I have seen several on the net (You Tube). None of them shows what my version does. This suggests Twyman’s version as well as all the net versions are manipulated forgeries and not the original Nix film. When I alluded to tampering, what I meant is that somehow the manipulators had managed to “wipe out” a small white blob hurtling over the limo trunk – obviously a skull fragment. I suspect this was done using an “aerial photography” technique such as Mark Crouch earlier described, with touch ups done to the rear view glass to remove the blob, and then the frames re-filmed.

Why did this have to be done? Because a fragment detected hurtling over the limo trunk would clearly show a frontal shot and confirm a minimal conspiracy – e.g. at least two shooters, not just one in the Texas School Book Depository. So frames didn’t have to be removed from the Nix film but the incriminating hurtling “blob” did have to go – to excise the evidence for a head shot. (The law of conservation of linear momentum clearly dictates that a backward moving skull fragment couldn’t have been dislodged by a rear shot!)

How is it that I happened to have one of the few original copies of the Nix film? I can’t answer that, but one speculation I’ve heard is that when the CIA recruited Italian mob (or Sicilian) assistance (via Carlo Marcello), their (Mafia) operatives wanted proof of the kill shot to be delivered to them intact. This came via the Nix film, and at least this same version was obtained by the Italian film maker Giovanni Bisach for his (1976) documentary. Maybe he had connections with the Italian Mafia in the film making business, who knows?

According to a computer-enhanced analysis of the (Mary) Muchmore black and white film – by Jack White- at least one assassin was caught in outline on the grassy knoll- aiming his rifle. The flash of a badge discloses he was wearing a police uniform. The interesting aspect here, is that from White’s analysis (see in episode 6 of ‘The Men Who Killed Kennedy’) the shooter was within about 1-2 m of the position assigned using the acoustic testing evidence!

This brings up the issue of whether there is any way to assess the effect of direct frame tampering (or frame removal) on the acoustic impulse patterns. The premise here is, irrespective of what the plotters and their assistants may have done to the Z-film (or any other) it wouldn’t have severely affected or negated the rejection of the null hypothesis for the acoustic impulses – and in particular the p-values associated with the hypergeometric set: H{M,N.n,i}.

In his paper, ('Echo Correlation Analysis and the acoustic Evidence in the Kennedy Assassination Revisited, Science and Justice, Vol. 41, p. 21, 2001) D.B. Thomas treats both the test evidence and actual data from the date. The test evidence was obtained in August, 1978 when a test shot was fired in Dallas’ Dealey Plaza to provide a fiducial mark for the putative Grassy Knoll shot – such that it could be compared with the impulse record obtained on Nov. 22, 1963 and also how this mark lined up to events recorded on the Zapruder film. Thus, the test evidence (mainly in terms of echoes and echo delay times received via an echogram from a test shot- See Fig. 1) is essentially used to confirm the microphone recording & positions for the shots made on the actual date, by resort to microphones placed at the same (or approximately so) locations.

Using Thomas’ geometry (Figure 4) relating to the sound paths for the test and actual date patterns (associated with the muzzle blasts) it’s possible to estimate the effects of removing one or more Z-frames prior to Z-313, as well as to compute any altered p-value for an altered H{M,N.n,i}*.

For the test shot, using his sonar model and the muzzle velocity for a Norma 6.5mm Mannlicher-Carcano (which is very doubtful that the GK shooter used), one arrives at a 171 msec time for the shock wave to take the defined path to the microphone, from a distance of 28.3m. One must add the time taken for the putative bullet to travel the distance and add to that the time for the shock wave. In this case: 126 msec + 45 msec. The first parameter is relatively fixed since the distance from bullet to test microphone is fixed at 44.2m and the speed of sound defined for the sonar model was 350 m/s.

The second component will alter depending on the muzzle velocity. A German Mauser, with muzzle velocity » 760 m/s will traverse the 28.3 m distance in 37 msec, so that the time will now be: 126 msec + 37 msec or 163 msec, which is some 8 msec shorter. If the rifle used is now a Remington Fireball with muzzle velocity 825 m/s then the total time becomes: t1 + t2 = 126 msec + 34 msec = 160 msec, or 3 msec shorter still.

In the “analytically determined” schema (e.g. actual data obtained on 11/22/63), all the above values change slightly. For example, the distance to Kennedy (from the GK shooter) becomes 30.5 m, and the speed of sound is 342 m/s given the air temperature was 18 o C at the time of the assassination. The distance from the assassin to the nearest motorcycle was 67 m leading to the muzzle blast arriving at the motorcycle some Delta t = [67m/ 342 m/s] = 196 msec, after the shot. When air resistance is corrected for by + 11.5% (from the shooter location) the muzzle velocity resulting becomes 748 m/s (using a starting assumed bullet speed of 672 m/s). Because of a shooter “location uncertainty” of +/- 1.5 m the muzzle velocity uncertainty is at least +/- 32m/s, so one is left with a range of: 748 +/- 32 m/s. Assuming Thomas’ parameters are correct, then this excludes a Remington Fireball as a possible candidate weapon, but it does permit either a German Mauser or a .30-30 Winchester.

Using the above analytical values and assumptions (including the sonar model and muzzle velocity, uncertainty) separate computations enabled me to conclude that if as many as three Z-frames were excised – say between Z- 290 and Z-313, then the effect would be to alter the shooter location and uncertainty, to around +/-2.0 m. This would imply for the muzzle velocity: 748 +/- 44 m/s. More critically, it would mean that to compute the p-value one would need to subtract one degree of freedom– to re-evaluate the {N,n,i} set. The reason is that now we have a situation where the shooter is essentially allowed to “move” on account of the frame manipulation. This “motion” actually translates into one lost df, as per the original NRC deductive approach.

Thus, we need to make the change from Thomas' correct p -set: {86, 10, 8, 6} to {86, 10, 8, 5} and re-calculate the hypergeometric p. We obtain:

p= 0.000333

= 3.3 x 10^-4 or about 3 in 10,000 odds against the null hypothesis.

The conclusion here is that even gross tampering with the Z-film (at least 3 frames removed between Z-290- 313) in terms or eliminating frames doesn’t significantly impact the acoustic record or the rejection of the null hypothesis.

[1] Harrison Edward Livingstone: 1995, Killing Kennedy and the Hoax of the Century, Carroll & Graf Publishers, p. 160.
[2] Livingstone, op. cit., p. 140. Crouch also goes into extensive detail on the following page to do with how minor touchups” could have conceal the extent of head damage and also “conceal the evidence of a bullet striking the forehead at the hairline”. All this would be to assist in reinforcing the perception of Oswald as the perpetrator – while hiding the key evidence that the kill shot came from the right front.
[3] Noel H. Twyman: 1997, Bloody Treason, Laurel Publishing, p. 149.
[4] Twyman, ibid.
[5] Twyman, op. cit., p. 150.
[6] Clearly, however, frames would have to be removed from the Zapruder film – maybe five or six after Z-313, to eliminate a near stop. In this sense, I do concur with Twyman.
* Note: Thomas' parameters for his p-function had to be changed since his formula as shown doesn’t work, because the “population size” (which he assigns as M) is in the wrong position (as are several other parameters). His population size for M: the number of “windows” – spanning 190msec total time, at 2msec width per window; the “sample size” n is the number of spikes (assigned impulses) in the “evidence pattern” (taken from the Dallas PD microphone tapes on 11/22/63, and N is the number of spikes in the test pattern, based on test firing from the Grassy Knoll in 1978), while i denotes the number of “coincident impulses” – i.e. those which match from the test and evidence patterns. My p-function correction of Thomas' is shown in Fig. 1 (upper left).

The Myth Of "Heaven"

"Heaven" and "Hell" ideation: two poles of brain dynamics - but they don't exist in reality, only as brain confections.

Having already dealt with the invention of the Hell Myth it makes logical sense to deal with Heaven as well. The Second Council of Constantinople as it extirpated Origen’s doctrine of metempsychosis – replaced it with the dualistic Heaven-Hell – again, in order to spur humans more quickly to embrace salvation or redemption. The reasoning was that Origen’s doctrine afforded Man too much time to seek God. Heaven-Hell meanwhile allowed only one lifetime, not multiple ones. The sinner – so-called, had to make good in this one life, garner the reward of Heaven, or the everlasting punishment of Hell.

The error of the Heaven confabulators is basically the same as for the Hell inventors – since the two are irrevocably twinned- 2 sides of the same sanity-raping coin. In any reward-punishment setting, one must offset the other. If you invent Hell to punish the unfaithful or the hardcore sinner who refuses to repent, you must have a Heaven for those who comply. Just like religionists have Dante Allegheiri to thank for his ‘Inferno’ (to supply imagery of Hell) they also have him to thank for his ‘Paradiso’ (the third book of the Divine Comedy) to describe the Heavenly dimensions.

Moving on- the reward-punishment model gained many adherents by virtue of its appeal to fatuous human concepts of justice. Note, I said “HUMAN”, since to be sure, no human can explicate (or mentally imitate) what a divine concept would be- but one thing we do know, it would bear no semblance to a finite brain’s concept. In any case, the confected reward-punishment model became widely acceptable as humans asked: “Why NOT? How can you have murderers, rapists, etc, as well as thieves being rewarded in the next life, especially if they got away with their crimes in this one? And look at Hitler!”

The fact is that "justice" is a limited human concept and invention, not a divine decree. It is also hard to make a cogent argument that the world wouldn’t be any more "chaotic" today if we did away with a lot of the so-called "justice" . Truth be told, we probably would see a saner, more temperate world - filled with fewer psychos (who had been degraded in prisons) out for blood when they leave. The hard fact is most human “justice’ retains an abominable eye for an eye atavistic undertow. You take a life, you give up yours, etc.

Comparisons to human justice also make little sense. , even the most cursory examination by a superficial observer will disclose that "justice" - certainly in the US of A, is capricious. There is no standard, and the rich are more likely to get off than pay the piper.

At another level, there is no evidence that any afterlife exists, whether Heaven or Hell. No one has returned from the truly dead- by which I mean no heart or brain activity for at least twenty four hours- and given us proof that anything exists., (Btw, this means not being on any machines that sustain or aid breathing). All we have are facsimile reports of “near death” or people briefly technically “dead” for a few minutes, or maybe a bit longer. But no one has returned from a stone cold morgue and related in detail his or her experiences.

Thus, in the absence of unambiguous empirical proof, the simpler hypothesis applies, according to the Ockham’s Razor Principle. That hypothesis is that when we die, our bodies (including brain) die and decay, there is no residual life of any type that remains- including an individual consciousness. No afterlife of any kind we’d recognize (though in a previous blog I did leave the door open to an amorphous consciousness based on scattered B-waves, But these would exhibit no individuality or personality. Essentially no “self” would remain that could be associated with the prior physical being.

For all practical purposes, once we die, the condition is little different from that experienced when we undergo total anesthesia. You are simply not “there” and when you awaken you have no recall of anything – it was a blank. The difference is that with death there is no wake up, no revival, no coming to.

Bottom line, nothingness is the end point of life. There is no Heaven or Hell, these are fairy stories invented by Church Fathers determined to employ a not so subtle means of psychological coercion to get their flock to heave to and follow orders. The irony of it is that all that’s happened is people have been as amoral or immoral as they ever were. Even more butchering has been done (per capita) since the Council decree was passed in 553. Thus, rather than humans responding to the “one life to live” model by seeking more rapid redemption, the exact opposite has held ….and vastly more iniquity and abominations, including the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the Holocaust.

Philosopher Joseph Campbell ('The Power of Myth') gave the best direction on where to seek Heaven if one wishes to:

“Heaven is everlasting, not eternal, and you find it in the here and now, the present”

But once you’re gone, there won’t be anything, So the message is, enjoy your Heaven now! Or whatever you can do in earthly life to make it as close as possible to the heavenly ideation our brains entertain.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Venom? You Must be Kidding!

The Dalai Lama addresses the South Florida media. Will a certain "pastor" avail himself of this opportunity to gain some small nanobyte of enlightenment?

It's absolutely incredible how some people (like a certain “pastor” ) can exhibit perceptions so deformed and distorted that they border on lunacy. To be specific, this pastor has taken extreme umbrage at the Dalai Lama visiting Florida Atlantic University and giving a talk. He declares that he’d prefer the Dalai Lama “not spread his venom.”

WOW! Talk about classical psychological projection! The only venom I see and on a nearly day- to -day basis exudes from Pastor Mike’s illustrious website. Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama is a man of peace who seeks peace and tolerance wherever he goes. This is why he inspires most of the human race – excluding the most extremist, bigoted zealots.

In his terrific book, ‘Many Ways To Nirvana’, the Dalai Lama shows humans how they can be at peace with themselves and thereby attain a relative Nirvana – which is the Buddhist state of final bliss embodied as a kind of nothingness. Achieving this state also translates into achieving Buddahood.

The glory of Buddhism is that the potential exists for every Buddhist to attain Buddhahood. Meanwhile, Christians (most – not including the Science of Mind) insist only Jesus attained Christhood.

The Dalai Lama’s insights could also be of use to narrow-minded haters (who justify their hate based on their “good Books”) in showing them how to open their minds and hearts to others. According to the Dalai Lama (op. cit., p. 38):

“In Buddhist practice one thinks about the infinite sentient beings and their problems and suffering …..Because of this, one becomes more understanding and concerned and one’s mind becomes more spacious. One’s problems thereby become insignificant”

Thus the problems of an intolerant, self-righteous person – who brooks no acceptance of anyone or any beliefs apart from his own – reside in his own deliberate isolation from the rest of humanity. He cannot be friends with Buddhists, Atheists, Jews, Mormons, Muslims or even fellow Protestants – who don’t believe exactly as he does.

The problem is that by isolating himself in this way, he subjects his mind to derangement, and that includes being insensitive to the suffering of humanity at large. Instead, he is focused on the suffering of one human 2000 years ago, who is long since dead. A very charismatic rabbi but not a “Savior” by any means. In Buddhist terms, as Alan Watts has pointed out ('This Is It', p.50) any religion that descends to mere formualaic prescriptions (e.g. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you are saved”) risks “an empty formalism with no heart, the very Pharisaism against which Christ railed”.

In such a “Pharisaism”, the self-righteous can call out others for opprobrium and “venom” – but never ever see their own. They are rendered blind by their derangement, which interprets the world as fractured into "things": disparate entities- one against the other. This localized (or separatist) form of thought is alien to the Buddhist.

As Watts observes (op.cit., p. 48.):

“Their (Buddhists’) goal is a state of inner feeling in which oppositions have become mutually cooperative instead of mutually exclusive, in which there is no longer any need for conflict between the individual man and nature, or between intelligence and instinct. The view of the world is unitary and in such a world there is no absolute urgency to be right rather than wrong or to live rather than die”

This is a momentous quote because it encapsulates so much of Buddhist philosophy. Of course, it will appear alien to an evangelical for whom the “urgency to be right” trumps almost all other aspects of existence. The fact that evangelicals find they can only be right if they denigrate and dispel all other beliefs, shows they exhibit a pathology which the Buddhist compares to psychological blindness.

Since in the unitary Buddhist view there is only ONE reality, and we are all part of it, there’s no need to combat anyone or any other belief.

Interestingly, the extremes of separative perception come close to psychosis. We know, for example, that the basis for psychotic experience is an extremely agitated hyper-vigilant awareness and “fight” stance. The individual locked into this orbit perceives external enemies everywhere and they are interpreted as opposing his existence – or what is construed as such - in his belief system. Thus, those who in any way oppose his belief system are seen to oppose his existence and identity. The only response for him: to make war on them, call them out, defile them and insult them.

The confirmed psychotic goes even further than perceptual isolation to a state of enmity and dislike, wherein he transforms his opposition further via demonization. Thus, he renders them so alien and hateful they are no longer even human. They become detached noxious "things" in his reality, and so can be hated. The Atheist, the Jew, The Black, the Mormon, the Muslim…all become secondary objects of vilification as one associates each with demoniality and less with humanity.

This person, if Jungian analysis is attempted, will be found to actually suffer from severe ontological doubt. He’s actually uncertain of the validity of his beliefs, but he finds that by persecuting others – other faiths, other beliefs or others’ non-beliefs- he artificially raises his own stock. Or, at least his perception that his stock and capital is as good as anyone else’s.

The Buddhist has a word for what he is enduring and it’s called suffering or 'dukkha'. It emerges because the Earthly wayfarer has gone off the tracks in becoming fixated on middle-order reality (though the wayfarer is like a drunk and won’t see that!). This reality is the one attendant on “things” and separation, therefore dualities: good and evil, beauty and ugliness, black and white, God and Satan, Heaven and Hell, etc.

But for the unitary thinker these dualities cease to exist. Indeed, the ultimate concept – "God", is for the Buddhist one that dispels and removes separation between God and Man. There is only a unity, hence one (God) cannot be above or removed from the other (Man). As the Dalai Lama puts it in his ‘Many Ways to Nirvana’(p. 71):

“What is God? The word in one sense means ‘infinite love’. I think Buddhists accept that. But Buddhists do not accept God in the sense of something supreme, in the center, or something absolute…a creator. Buddhists find a lot of contradictions regarding that concept.”

And indeed, we’ve explored many of these contradictions already in two previous blogs on “Truth, Existence Claims and God Talk:

A final point bears emphasis: when the semi-educated attack Buddhism they usually don’t make the distinction between its differing schools of thought: Vaibhashika, Sautantrika, Prasangika Madhyamika and Cittamatra.

I do not intend to evaluate or examine all of these in turn, only to make the following observations (as one who has studied Buddhism in concert with a Comparative Religion course taken at Loyola in 1966-67, and later in independent reading):

1- All the Buddhist schools refute and reject the “soul” as an independent and separate entity – e.g. from the physical body. (Dalai Lama, op. cit. p. 16)

2- All agree that the inability to locate or discover such a separate entity means it cannot exist (Dalai Lama, ibid.)

3- The Prasangika Madhyamika and Cittamatra schools go even further and assert that “no autonomous and substantially existent person” exists (Ibid.)

The fantastic conclusion – especially of the last- comports intensely with the findings of non-locality in quantum mechanics. Indeed, if at the quantum level all barriers vanish and no separability exists, then we are all one unitary wavicle or maybe “human wave function”

Perhaps if more Christian fundamentalists seriously studied Buddhism – as opposed to discarding it as “venom”' they’d help to mute some of their more overt psychotic perceptions.

To see His Holiness’ meeting with the South Flordia Media, go to:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Curing the Hell-Belief Psychosis

Locating the centers for Hell-Belief Psycho-Pathology in the human brain.

Amongst the most degenerate and evil concepts ever spawned by the human brain is the Hell Myth. This despicable psychic embolism has not only severely delimited lives of millions of humans (out of sheer fear) but it has also allowed degenerate “Satanic” religions to control masses of minds even as others are driven into delirium and psychosis.

Ironically, the colorful, artistic renditions of this abode (obviously, since there is no empirical proof at all it exists) didn’t commence until after Dante Alleghieri’s Divine Comedy and ‘Inferno’. Prior to the imaginative Dante, Christian writers only rarely depicted Hell, though writers and artists depicted Purgatory almost ubiquitously.

As the fables of Hell and its denizens metastasized, it became ever more obvious that Christians (like the Zoroastrians and Manicheans et al before them) required these nasties to help instill fear in their minions and sustain mind control. What use is a religion if it can’t hang on to its flock? And the best way to do this is threaten them with the worst torments imaginable if they leave (or to outsiders, if they never embrace their beliefs!)

In his book, ‘The History of the Devil’, Dr. Paul Carus observes that “demoniality, or Devil-worship, is the first page in the evolution of religion”

Now, religions and especially their assorted fundie believers, won’t relish being called “Satanists” or “Devil worshippers” but that’s exactly what they are if they uphold belief in Satan and Hell. And though they can insist their (corrupted-KJV) bible scriptures lend credence to their beliefs, in the end those text references are fraudulent later additions, exploited to enhance control via the use of an alleged “authority”. But make no mistake this “authority” is useless, especially the KJV which is descended from a corrupted and mistranslated miasma due to a flawed 12th century text copied by Erasmus.

Why are Hell-believing religions Satanist? As Lauran Paine has noted (‘The Hierarchy of Hell’, Barnes & Noble, 1972, p. 140), the erosion of Church power almost exactly paralleled the demise of the long –enduring “orders and hierarchies” of Hell. These had been put together by clerics and Church authorities from the time of Aquinas- and made use of dozens of Satanic entities including: Asmodeus, Belial, Asiel, Gaap, Raum, Sitri, Focalor and dozens of others – each presiding over an order or level of Hell. The Satanic belief system with its ordered hierarchies was so entrenched by 1484 (when the Malleus Maleficarum was written), that indeed – one was regarded as a heretic or atheist if one didn’t accept it! Hence, the belief in Hell and its denizens amounted to Satanism.

The generic standard belief (ibid.) was that “there was God and there was Satan”, the latter had dominion over the Earth and the former over everything else.

The tragedy is that few rationalist Christians could see the contradiction here. For while they insisted God was “omnipotent” or all-powerful, they allowed that an evil entity (“Satan”) could drive this Being from control of one planet! But obviously, if It could be weakened on one planet or its power curtailed there – even on a little one like Earth- it couldn’t be all-powerful by definition! In addition, if it allowed a “Hell” to be manufactured (and one wonders by whom) then it could no longer be OMNIPRESENT. The very attribute of omnipresence would mean that IF a Hell existed, it could only do so as part of God. If, on the other hand, Hell existed separately – then this marked a place or condition where God wasn’t, and hence God was therefore limited, no longer omnipresent!

The trouble is that none of this rational argument works on a brain that is seized and diseased by core Hell belief. The reason is that the disease affects those regions of the brain (see diagram) based largely in the limbic system and reticular formation and hence least susceptible to logic or rational argument.

To fix ideas, in the summer of 1973 in Barbados, two late teen girls – who I will call “Myra” and “Maura”- were hospitalized in the island’s Jenkins Asylum in Black Rock. Both had been days in a state of catatonic fear – unable to even feed and clothe themselves. As further investigation proceeded, it was revealed that their one commonality was having both attended a hellfire sermon (based on quotes in the KJV) from a Sunday night service at the Berean Bible Church.

According to the psychotherapist (Dr. Pat Bannister) who worked with both girls, they had been terrified out of their minds by the fear of Hell. They both had become so pathologically frightened of ending up there- despite being good Christian teens, that they had effectively retreated from life and sealed themselves into a hermetic other world.

Psychotropic drugs like largatyl only brought them out part of the way, and as it turned out prolonged electro-convulsive therapy – administered at least once a week- had to be used. Myra finally climbed back to reality after almost a year of treatments, Maura took nearly a whole extra year to re-acquire some semblance of mental health.

While these are admittedly extreme cases, they highlight the depths to which the corrosive and cancerous Hell belief can wreak havoc in minds – especially young ones. According to Bannister, some of her preliminary studies actually showed most young Hell believers were more prone to schizoid personality disorder, as well as schizophrenia. (Of course, some authorities have juxtaposed this and maintained the schizophrenia was already there and paved the way for hyper-Hell belief).

Bannister’s primary conclusion, however the etiology of the psychopathy developed, was that Hell belief was pathological for a human brain. Holding such a destructive belief over time, even if the person sincerely believes his “scriptures” validated it, was toxic for a brain. She also was convinced that early dementia could be one offshoot- if it wasn’t brought under control.

Bannister’s later work (she died before it could be completed) separated the victims of Hell belief from the perpetrators of it. While “Myra” and Maura” were its victims, it was the Minister who delivered the scorching Elmer Gantry –like sermon who was the infectious agent. Thus, Hell belief is like a viral meme or mind virus that had to disseminate from one highly infected source.(Much like the God meme is disseminated from one infected brain to another, as Persinger showed in his ‘Neuropsychological Bases of God Belief’)

What nature of source might this be? According to Harvey A. Hornstein in his terrific book Cruelty and Kindness: A New Look at Aggression and Altruism (Prentice-Hall, 1976, 'We and They', p.13.), the dogmatic belief mindset is germinated in the authoritarian personality type. This personality is pathologically rigid, absolutist and displays little or no flexibility. In the words of some, “It’s my way or the highway”.

The seed of this germination probably inheres in one or more incidents in the early life especially if the person was dominated by an authority figure, perhaps paddled by a teacher or threatened in some way. The experience then buries itself in the subconscious and though this person may spend most of his adult life exorcising his demons in alcoholism, gambling or whatnot, he eventually will come back to the "equilibrium" of the authoritarian mindset that originally dominated him and adopt that as his model or experiential template.

Not surprisingly, as Hornstein notes, many of these authoritarians become either military commanders, cult leaders (like Jim Jones and David Koresh) or ministers in extreme fundamentalist religions. They find that in these venues their exercise of control is maximized to the hilt and there are few people with the moxie to challenge them. Further, they try to amplify their authority by basing its exercise on an independent external authority in which they invest absolutely. For the military commander it may be the Joint Chiefs, and for the minister – his KJV. Never mind either might be corrupted at the core, their word is “gospel” and more than enough for the authoritarian to spread his noxious material.

From reading Hornstein’s chapter on the nature of the authoritarian personality it isn’t likely that any of the usual treatments reserved for Hell-belief victims (such as ECT or psychotropic medications) would do a thing to alleviate the “religious dictator” Hell-pushing syndrome. Obviously, reason also has limited use, since the authoritarian simply dismisses all appeals to reason or logic and falls back on his corrupt bible- spewing out deformed quote after quote to convince himself he is in the right. Asking daft questions such as: “And what will you do, Mr. atheist, when you find yourself in Hell?” Well, obviously nothing since there IS Nothing! Since there is no Hell other than in this character’s febrile imagination and his defective scriptures. What HE will learn, is that when he’s dead, he’s dead. There won’t be so much as a wayward fairy to sniff at his "soul".

To me, therefore, the only way to remove the insidious Hell virus is to implant quantum dot electrodes in the authoritarian’s brain – probably in both the temporal lobes and the reticular formation (near the amygdala). Quantum dot scales are now such that these could easily fit in numerous places, and if done correctly, act as a supplemental neural network to regulate thoughts.

Given quantum dot neural control systems in maybe five years, we may finally be able to cure the Hell-bender megalomaniacs and get them back to reality. To solve real world problems, as opposed to fabricating the pseudo-problem of “Hell”.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Meeting Our Extended Hominid Family

Some of the members of our imme diate hominid family line: including Ardi, Lucy and Homo Habilis. Seeing them ought to remind us we are animals without any "souls".

After dealing with the nonsense of "Hell", it's always nice to get grounded again via attention to our extended human family - as shown by evolution. (See image). As we all know, and can be grown-up enough to say, neither the descendants of apes, or apes themselves possess "souls". There is only a brain, but it is ample to generate consciousness as I already showed in my 'Materialist Model of Consciousness'. Thus, when a human (or ape) dies, that's it. He is gone and there is nothing left - nothing to "punish" and nothing to go on. This hard fact may be why so many evangelicals refuse to accept evolution: they don't want to accept: a) they have no souls, and b) when they're dead, that's it, finito.

As can be seen in the diagram, while dozens of hominid species were produced in the course of a 5-7 million period, only one: Homo Sapiens, prevailed in the survival game.

Much of this picture was recently completed with the incredible discovery of Ardipithecus kadabba or 'Ardi' as noted in a previous blog. The research that went into the composition of Ardi's fossil strcuture took nearly 15 years before it could be published.

Even before that extensive pre-publication preparation, diligent work at the particular digs had to be completed. In the words of one Ardi worker:

"You crawl on your hands and knees, collecting every piece of bone, every piece of wood, every seed, every snail, every scrap".

So, much for the fundie simpleton belief or assumption that one just walks out into a closed canopy or escarpment and pulls out complete fossils at will, as if the dynamic Earth itself would cooperate with this.

Even with dozens of fossils excavated the work wasn't finished, since CT scanners then had to be used on them and advanced computer imaging employed to digitally restore the crushed skull. The good news is that the effort was worth it.

The researchers, who published their findings in a series of 11 papers in Science this past year, showed Ardi wasn't a one of a kind but was located along with 35 other members of her species, in the Middle Awash. The other exciting aspect is that she represented a new type of early hominid, different from a chimp, gorilla or modern human. This came as somewhat of a surprise since the prevailing consensus was that any such early find should look and act like a modern chimpanzee. (Given chimps share 96% of human DNA).

As for Ardi, she was compiled based on finding 125 pieces of her skeleton. In total construct, she appears to be a female nearly four feet in height, weighing 110 pounds, with a body and brain the same size as a chimpanzee. She also walked basically upright, as deduced from her upper pelvic blades. As inferred from the diagram, she goes back from 6-7 million years.

Did Ardi or Toumai or even "Lucy" (see diagram) have any kind of mental lives? Did their consciousness extend to considering their own mortality? Not very likely! From the plausible structure of their brains (and the under-developed neocortex) the only items that dominated their attention were getting food, avoiding large predators, and maybe caring for their offspring.

Crude thoughts of mortality, possible rituals for the dead, probably didn't arise until Homo Habilis, 1.5 to 2 million years ago. Of course, with a still underdeveloped neocortex, there would have been no thoughts of an afterlife. No "heaven" or "hell". A near-ape doesn't have the brain architecture to invent such.

Even our immediate Cro-Magnon forbears wouldn't have developed any concepts of "Hell" or "Heaven" because these sort of notions (arising from a split consciousness) weren't on the radar. The first emergence of a split consciousness (see: Julian Jaynes' 1976 work, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind ) didn't come until about 100,000 years ago.

as Jaynes put it:

"...the brain activity of ancient people...lacked the sense of metaphor and individual identity that characterizes a more advanced mind...some of these synaptic leftovers are buried deep in the modern brain, which would explain many of our present-day sensations of God..."

As further noted, a base concept of "God" (or meme) was needed before a reward-punishment model could he proposed.

Okay, good news and bad news.

The good news is that our brains have "jumped ahead" in their conceptualization and abstraction capacity. The bad news is that most of it is based on gibberish, and doesn't exist. Because of Jayne's "synaptic leftovers" the human brain is a hostage to nonsense as well as mind viruses that bear nonsense (such as "Hell", or Nazism or racism). What plays into this pernicious dynamic is the brain's ability to forge nonsense words for which there need be no parallel in reality. If someone says "the bat-winged elephant-baboon jumped over the eight dimensional Moon" that doesn't mean that anything real has transpired, other than in the firing synapses of the afflicted person's brain.

How does one check that something claimed has actual validity? Would any of our earlier hominid ancestors possessed such ability? Hardly! That would have to await the development of empirical science starting arond the time of Galileo barely 450 years ago. Until then, superstition reigned.

Science and reason have cleaned out most of the superstitious rubbish, but stubborn corners and residues remain- particularly in the enclaves of extremist religions.

The good news - brought to us by our neighbor ancestors in the hominid family- is we know all the claims of soul demise and death-punishment are portentous rubbish - since we, as the "naked apes" we are, no more possess souls than Ardi, Toumai, or our other (chimpanzee) ape relatives.

It is time people grow up and ditch this crutch once and for all. The fact of human ape-hood (meaning our common descent, with chimps & other great apes) excludes soul. Never mind any and all language delusions that fabricated such a fiction, or invested it with false validity and specious rationalization. Once humans renounce the childish concept of soul, they simultaneously extirpate the tandem concept of hell. Have our ape cousins or hominid forbears ever exhibited such worries? No, because their brains have precluded forging such delusions.

As soulless Materialists, we (naked apes) look forward to mere nothingness at death, just as our hominid cousins have experienced for nearly 7 million years.

The Invention of "HELL"

Above: One of the early renditions of Satan and "Hell" used to drive people into the Church's arms. Most intelligent people today know Hell is a dastardly myth designed for mind control.

In the 21st century one would have thought that the last vestiges of toxic superstitious mind rot would have long since expired. But evidently this is not the case. The desire for control and enslavement of minds is too powerful and too attractive to let go. Rational arguments to simply adopt a position of belief acceptance don’t go nearly as far as needed, when strong counter arguments negate them. So …the only thing left for assorted extremist “Christians” to invoke is the fear of Hell.

Oh, “HELL IS A REAL PLACE!” they screech, “Make no mistake!” However, the folly of it all is they’re making a colossal mistake. Hell was never real, and NEVER the original teaching of the early Church. It was an invention, devised at the 2nd Council of Constantinople and then elaborated on through history – using actual literary works (such as Dante’s ‘Inferno”)

One of the things we had to study as students of Theology 200 at Loyola (in 1965) was the origin of Hell. Today, this is mostly glossed over and while millions hear or see the word “Hell” blathered about (as by ignorant ministers and “pastors”) they are unaware of the origin. But people need to understand that merely because a word appears in print doesn't mean it has any validity behind it. Sir Bertrand Russell, in his book Why I Am Not A Christian, precisely identifies ‘religion’s source of terror’ to account for the hold it has on so many. He notes how fear has been ‘dignified’ by use of this source: the demented hell concept to the point people no longer think it disgraceful[1] . Russell correctly points out that by dignifying fear as a coercive tool to drum people into the fold, religions lose any claim to credibility.

Unknown to most is that the common afterlife teaching (by Clement of Alexandria and Origen of Adamantius) in the early centuries after Christ’s death was metempsychosis. Unlike reincarnation, which metempsychosis is often confused with, the same soul exists and is resurrected in a succession of different human bodies in an evolutionary process. (Ordinary reincarnation, meanwhile, allows for reincarnation also into animal bodies –even after a human incarnation- which metempsychosis does not. The inability of MacDonald's to market beef burgers in India is a direct result of the Hindu proscription against killing cattle- believed to be reincarnations of their ancestors. Daft belief? Maybe! But "Hell" is even more daft, plus derelict!)

The Christian metempsychosis teaching probably endured for at least 500 years before later Church fathers decided that it gave men too much time to seek God. Thus, a device had to be used to spur on redemption and put the pressure on. The device decided on was “Hell”.

Now, recall this was around 400 A.D. and there were NO evangelicals skulking around with their KJVs in hand back then. There was only ONE Church, one religion – the Catholic one. So anything that later accrued or occurred had to have been COPIED from these early times, Church teachings, Doctrines. Thus, any claims by evanglicals to being "original" in anything - especially their acceptance of "Hell" - is pure lies and balderdash.

The tack for inventing Hell was to take certain passages in the then Latin Vulgate that referred to “Gehenna” – which was really a dump for burning offal outside Jerusalem, and amp that burning pit into an everlasting abode for punishment. What better way to punish than by fire, which is about the most painful – as anyone who’s ever touched a red hot frying pan or stove knows!

Thus, Gehenna became the putative basis for eternal torment at the Council. All teachings to do with metempsychosis were ordered expunged, and any transgressors were to be listed as "heretics". In a firm outline of the properties of Hell, the Council further mandated:
- It become the final abode of eternal punishment for all who rejected the Church's teachings or the Pope's authority
- It include the agency of fire and this fire never be quenched - and further it have the capacity to burn the soul without destroying it permanently (else there'd be no "eternal" aspect)
- Hell be under the governance of "Satan" or Lucifer, with a hierarchy of sub-Devils (Asmodeus, Belial, Pazuzu et al) to administer other punishments
- All non-Catholics because of they're being outside the state of sanctifying grace, to be destined for Hell

The other job mandated by the Council was to insert the words and references to “Hell” into the scriptures and this job was charged to various transcribers, translators. At key points also Jesus had to make the odd reference to it, and to the threat of punishment for those who refused to believe – specifically “accepting” him as Savior (e.g. the bogus John 3: 16) . (This is skewered by Oxford Scholar Geza Vermes - The Authentic Gospel of Jesus- who points out any such belief on Christ's part would have been interpreted as self-idolatry. He never ever referred to himself as "Son of God" only as "Son of Man", nor did he dictate any belief in him. All such references were fraudulent later additions)

In the context of the Hell invention, it was also necessary to erect a whole fantasy story about the background.

The faithful were thus led to believe an actual spiritual war was going on. Beautiful angels are at constant odds with cunning devils, demons and creatures too horrible to imagine. God and his white-feathered friends on one side are battling Satan and his leather-skinned devils on the other side. (Atheists are still waiting for a clip of these battles to be aired on CNN. )

Add in assorted “demons” – largely copied wholesale from ancient pagan legends and beliefs (e.g. Zoroastrianism) – and you even had the basis to populate Hell with its assorted tormentors. Later, diabolical “possession” (and exorcism) was also invented to enhance the fear factor, and other biblical passages altered to reflect it – leaving to the gullible believers to buy into this too.

The stage was set! But was or is it real? NO!

As noted by Rev. John Shelby Spong, former Episcopal Bishop of Newark, NJ

Hell was invented as a control tactic to control minds. As Sponge notes “people don’t need to be born again but to GROW UP. “ The Hell myth is used as a cudgel to drive people into a control system where no one may question any elements of the beliefs.

As Bishop Sponge aptly put it on why certain religions resort to "Hell"

Some Churches don’t like people to grow up because you can’t control grown ups. But People need to accept responsibility for themselves and the world
So true!
[1] Russel, R.: Why I Am Not A Christian, Touchstone Books, p. 54, 1957.

Next - How to Cure Hell Belief

Monday, February 22, 2010

Games Fundies Like to Play

In a 1993 essay for The Baltimore Sun, entitled ‘Games Fundies Like to Play’ I presented the whole gamut that the enterprising atheist can expect in any debates. The piece was originally done for the Washington Area Secular Humanists (WASH) Magazine-in the hope that more atheists and humanists would take on debate challenges from Christians- especially of the fundamentalist stripe.

Of course, most choose not to do this because as one WASH member put it, “It’s too damned easy like shooting fish in a barrel. They’re all idiots!”

Well, he may have a point, given the best and most sophisticated, wide ranging and intellectual debates I’ve had were never with fundagelicals. The two best were with an Anglican priest in Barbados, in 1983, and with a Christian colleague at Harrison college in 1991. The best ever online exchange I ever had was with a self-proclaimed Deist – “SJR” – on the AARP Message boards over 2007-08. In all these cases, intellectual knives were sharpened but were based on standard logical rules, accepted manner of debates – not just ad hominem, or changing the meaning of words or use of REAL strawmen.

But as I pointed out to the WASH member, despite the fact he may feel the fundies are “idiots” the fact is they are gaining more and more converts every day. In some places in Latin America their rates of conversion now exceed that of Roman Catholics – who historically had the biggest hold on the populations. Hence, even if we consider them “idiots” – we need to show their tripe is irredeemable rubbish – not just say it is.

Now, let’s look at some of their games:

1) The “Real Scientists” gambit

This one simply discloses the abject ignorance of most fundagelicals in respect of how little they know about the differing scientific disciplines:: Who makes them up or what they publish. In a way, it’s a tragedy, because this sort of information on quality of research- including cross-citations- can be found anyplace with merely minimal effort.

The lead-in is fairly standard and generally ensues when the debating atheist notes the statistical incidence of atheists in various disciplines – from biology to physics to astronomy. The Fundie then responds that HE has them too on HIS side, and proceeds to reel off assorted names like Duane Gish, of the Creation Research Institute, and the assorted ideologues at Discovery Institute, and odd "astronomers". (Like one who recently challenged the Big Bang)

As if merely naming these jokers levels the playing field. In fact, not! Because all the atheist need do is point to the different quality of research – and ask the Fundie opponent exactly WHICH major peer-reviewed journals has the “scientist” been published in? As far as I have been able to ascertain they are published in ZERO. They are published in their own internally circulated magazines, but these are not peer-reviewed, professional journals (e.g. The Journal of Theoretical Biology, or The Astrophysical Journal)!

Of course, the Fundie hopes his scheme will work based on the ignorance of his audience. (Which is why in an earlier blog I noted that the success in a debate often depends on the quality of the audience) . This implies an audience: a) unaware of the diversity of scientific research areas, and b) unaware of the extent to which practicing scientists in these areas are atheist or agnostic.

2) “I know your evidence but you don’t know mine”

This one is almost laughable, and probably one reason why most secularists take Fundies to be morons. The general theme is this: “We (Fundies) are familiar with YOUR Old Earth evidence but you guys aren’t au fait with our YOUNG Earth evidence”

The truth of the matter is most Fundies are NOT familiar with our evidence! What they do is read one or two books in which OUR evidence is interpreted by THEIR writers (like Michael Behe or William J. Dembski). They do NOT obtain our books or scientific papers, and hence don’t truly understand where we are coming from. (I doubt that one fundie in 1 million, for example, has actually sat down and READ Charles Darwin's Origin of Species, as opposed to reading a book by another fundie about it!)

Further, most Fundagelicals aren’t equipped to understand the evidence because they’ve never even taken a basic high school physics course.

A simple basic question in radioactive dating proves it, and all one need do is present it to a Fundie opponent. IF he can work it out he at least knows enough to be able to see how radio-isotope dating works, if not, he knows nothing.(Because IF he did know radio-isotope dating, he’d realize that it disproves the “young Earth” hypothesis)

Thus: let a 1g sample of a radioactive isotope decay in 150 days to 1/8 gram, what is its half life:? A person who understands the principle would be able to work it out in his head within two minutes, or less: 50 days.

Thus, the half-life determines half the amount left after that time T(1/2). In 50 days, ½ gram is left, after 100 days one half of that is left, or ¼ gram and in 150 days 1/8 gram – or half of ¼ gram.

3) Equal Strokes (of time) for Different folks

This one is fairly clever, but in the end easily punctured. The ploy is to tell the evolutionist or atheist that the creationist would be “overjoyed to have creationism taught alongside evolution." Well, of COURSE he would! Just like a Holocaust denier would love to have his material taught along side the Holocaust!

If the atheist or evolutionist protests, he’s asked the specious question: “Well, what do you have to fear if your theory is so great?”

The answer is: LOST TIME!!!!!

As it is, teaching in the U.S. has been gutted and disabled – at least in the public schools, what with all the standardized tests and having to “teach to the test”. Teachers in high schools are barely able to do justice to most of the curricula in the time afforded, after testing drills are subtracted, teaching the material for the basic tests, e.g. English, Math (leaving other subjects like bio unattended)

A standard biology course doesn’t just include lectures and theory but 3 hour LABS! Remember, where you dissect frogs, or do genetic experiments etc.? The semi-educated creationist – who probably never took a full high school science course, has no inkling of this so doesn’t appreciate the intensity and time constraints. To now add an equal dollop of class time for what is essentially pseudo-science would be intolerable and certainly come at the expense of student grades and understanding of standard biological principles.

The claim that “students will hear all the facts” is, of course, baseless, since the creationists have no true facts of their own – only what they’ve found fault with in evolution.

Robert Shapiro, in his book: Origins: A Skeptic’s Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth (p. 257) makes the excellent point:

“All manner of creationists spend their time collecting anomalous results that they believe refutes all or part of evolution- and criticize faulty procedures or logic used by scientists. .. Anomalies, artifacts and deficiencies exist in every scientific field. A certain level is expected, as part of the normal practice of science. However, their existence doesn’t mean the entire field or theory is expendable. Nor can the collected anomalies support the Creationists main idea”

The reason is that simply nit-picking at the perceived defects of a theory does not bestow the nitpicker's complaints with counter-theory status. It would be like me collecting all the faults together for Einstein's general relativity theory but not arriving at my own theory - say using tensor equations that show a different solution.

4) “Believe my ‘balloon boy goofy stories or be called a fool”

This game (also a mind game) is one of the fundies’ faves. Creationists often will try to support the literalness and inerrancy of their good Book by asserting every citation and passage is true such as that pertaining to Noah’s Ark. For example, when questioned on how an Ark could possibly save all the extant animals in the world at the time, they will simply reply “well, they pre-determined out the size of the Ark, based on what kinds of animals would be boarded (sea-creatures didn’t, for example), the average size of the animals, and the number that could fit. Most people are surprised to discover how huge the Ark was”

Maybe, but given that even 6,000 years ago there were 12 million species of land animals, for a collective weight of over 14 trillion pounds, it is begging the imagination to visualize ANY Ark that could accommodate them all. (Note we aren’t talking about the 45 or 60 odd creatures shown in fantasy productions, such as ‘The Bible’) Thus, given a needed displacement of 7 billion tons, an ARK would have to be about the size of the state of Mississippi with height half of Mount Everest to contain all the land animals at the time! Just to build such a monstrosity –even assuming all the trees, resources needed were readily available, would consume at least 1 million years – given Noah’s small band of family etc.

In other words the Ark wouldn’t be built in even 20,000 lifetimes! So, it couldn’t be built at all.
The savvy atheist who knows their tactics, will also quickly realize how fast their interpretations are no longer literal when it suits their fancy. For example, when you pull them up on not really espousing "absolute ethics" because they condone the state killing of criminals - they will reply: "Oh, but that 6th commandment can't be literally interpreted to mean "Thou Shalt Not Kill" but "Thou shalt not MURDER!" Thus, they themselves disprove the absolute nature of their ethics, plus the need to literally interpret their precious KJV - all in one fell swoop!

4) Changing language

This is a favorite tactic, but one the atheist easily sees through. For example, asserting that evolution is a “popularity contest” meaning we claim its validity based on how many people accept it. Of course, this is arrant rubbish – but typical of the ignorant claptrap we’ve come to expect. In fact, evolution is accepted because it has famously passed all its falsification tests (though most creationists wouldn’t recognize a falsification test if it bit them in the behind). For example, Evolution has predicted that the cytochome-c protein sequence ought to be nearly the same in chimps and humans to support common descent and it does.

The creationist also uses terms indiscriminately, like saying “evolution is just a
when a theory is precisely the highest attained pinnacle in the scientific process – which implies a hypothesis has passed its essential falsification tests and made new predictions that have been confirmed.

The clumsy fundie insists that we (atheists) maintain “evil is good” and “good is evil” but his ignorance has made him so blind and impervious to the foundational principles of atheism – he has no more clue than he has about radio-isotope dating. What we say is that moral truth can be neither absolute nor relative. See also my blog on this issue:

showing a middle way is available via provisional ethics!
In the end, all fundie debate antics and games are easily recognized because they fall more in the realm of circus tricks and entertainment than serious debate. This doesn't mean we ought to ignore them, but at least we give them some passing attention before exposing them for the tomfoolery they are- the domain of the semi-educated, and largely untutored.