Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mutual Friendship between Atheists and Believers?

Often in atheist and believer circles the issue arises as to whether friendship is possible. On the one hand, the claim is made (usually by evangelical Christians who take their bible literally) this is simply not on. There is too vast a gulf in philosophical outlook, the bible follower confronts enough challenges in living in a sinful world as it is, and in addition, beholds a perceived deficit in morality (not really true!) on the atheist side that may somehow “corrupt the believer”.

These reluctant believers accept it is possible to be “friendly” to believers, but not actual friends. Usually, some biblical citations are given to justify this stance, and it's often taken to the level that not even a dinner invitation would be accepted (which is, frankly, kind of absurd.)

On the other hand, the actual, real life experiences of millions disclose that millions of atheists or generic non-believers can indeed be friends with believers. At the root of the friendship, however, there must be the same foundation for all generic friendships: mutual respect. In other words, mutual friendship rests on mutual respect.

One of my longest lasting friendships (36 years) has been with a believer, John Phillips. (And again, by “believer” I mean one who believes in God, period, not one who takes a certain stance on the Messiah hood of Jesus, or the bible).

Over the decades, since we founded the Barbados Philosophical Society in 1974, as a forum for philosophical and religious debate, we’ve had numerous lively arguments – some quite passionate. (One of the most ambitious was seven years ago in which John attempted to specify parameters for the existence of God, while I challenged each).

At the end of it, however, we knew there were lines that shouldn’t be crossed, and we didn’t. No amount of pride would make us do so, since else we’d have risked our mutual respect. There were too many other dimensions to our friendship (including our own wives and their mutual friendship) to risk it. Further, there were too many issues on which we totally agreed to eschew a friendship based on one area of difference.

In the venue of ‘Our Lady of the Universe’ church, in Black Rock. St. Michael, Barbados, the Philosophical Society brought all religions together – even if sequentially (in terms of various lecturers) who explained what their beliefs were about, and why they believed as they did: usually in response to questions. We encountered: Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Catholics, Jews, Charismatic Christians (Pentecostals) and even Muslims as well as small Christian sects, such as Gnostics and Religious Science.

What I noticed is that as the meeting exposure continued (and usually we had the same audience of 30-40 people each time) numerous barriers began to come down. It was as if understanding allowed a degree of concordance, and even friendship. This led me to conclude all the impediments put up to interfaith friendships were largely contrived. True, one person of faith X may not be able to convert person of faith Y (or vice versa) but why should that be a precondition anyway?

As I showed (in an earlier blog article) all god-concepts are relative as are their sources of revelation, since the human brain is only a finite processing information system. Its very finitude implies deficiency, especially in ascertaining absolute verities. Thus, neither believer nor his sacred book author can actually pin absolute truth down, only asymptotically approach it. We also know the most enduring friendships are based on self-authenticity and each being who or what he is, not sacrificing it on the basis of an appeasement.

I concluded from my experience in the Philosophical Society that if interfaith friendships were possible, especially between radically different faiths – such as Pentecostals and Catholics, or Buddhists and Muslims, then it was possible also between believers and unbelievers.

My friendship with John Phillips is testimony to that, and what I’d hope is that such a friendship would or could become a template for many others.

So, friendship (not just "friendliness") is feasible between believers and unbelievers but it does take the same sort of effort that all friendships require. First and foremost, it can’t be all on one side, there has to be “give and take” or compromise, and then again, based on mutual respect. The latter also implies the other person isn't exploited or used for a non-friendship based objective or goal (e.g. "salvation" or "conversion"). One instead pursues freindship as an end in itself.

Lions may well never lie down with lambs (in most cases) but believers and unbelievers can certainly be friends, if they have the will to do so, and don't allow the words of 2,000 year old (often mistranslated and re-translated) texts to put them off.

Inter-Blog Peace Agreement signed

Well, after months of internecine conflict between Pastor Mike's blog and my own, in which the content became increasingly personal and laced with invective and personal putdowns (including insulting images)- we decided to sign our own inter- blog "peace agreement". This agreement covers the past two months of blog-posted material and entails the following:

- no more photo-shopped or modified images posted on each other's blog, depicting the other in a disparaging, denigrating or disgusting way

- no more personal references or content that disparages the other

- no more use of friends' images to disparage or insult them via getting back at the other

To effect these a number of my past blog pieces have been deleted (as have Pastor Mike's) some of which would have had comments appended, and hence deleted with the articles. Thus, people who posted comments (such as "Secular Humanism") may well see nothing there now, but this was unavoidable. Comity trumps comments in this case!

In other cases, I will go back and re-edit some blogs I prefer not to just simply delete -such as the multi-part set on Quantum Mechanics. The re-editing will take the form of removing all references to my brother. He is doing the same on his blog.

These moves, it is to be understood, don't mean we will no longer be discussing religion, or unbelief or criticizing it- as that would be censorship. What we do vow in future, is to make such criticisms generic with no personal references therein.

Neither of us either, is claiming this is the basis of some new found friendship, but perhaps it is a "baby step" toward a more civil relationship between our blogs, and by extension between the two of us.

Who knows?

We will see!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

How I Became an Atheist

The header from my (1978) newspaper article' Science and God' in which I first defined empirical limits for testing beliefs.

Many times, people - including family - have wondered how or why I ever came to be an atheist. My dad, two years ago, said: "We've never ever had an atheist in our family, in our whole history!" I replied, "Well, there's always a first time!

Anyway - let's address this kind of bewilderment over how I became an atheist, and I emphasize here the word "becoming", because I didn't just wake up one fine morning and decide to become one. To be sure, my path to atheism was partly fueled by a reluctance to accept received words, or "authority" as is, without further explanation.

Even at an early age, at St. Leo's School in Milwaukee I gave the nuns fits. On one occasion, I evidently aroused the ire of a nun in my second grade class after she directed attention to a full color picture in our religion books. The graphic depicted a male and female trapped under a grating full of flames. A mammoth scaled demon plunged a pitchfork into their bare hides (they wore only loin cloths and their backs were presented in the text).

The lesson had been intended to focus on Hell and how little boys and girls can avoid it, and I had raised my hand to ask a question.

“Yes, Philip?” the good Sister Vivina excitedly asked.

In a deadpan, I replied: “Uh, Sister….if Hell is so hot, how come these two still have some clothing on? Shouldn’t it have been burned off along with their skin?”

The nun grew red-faced and sputtered several minutes before replying along the lines that a special place in Hell was reserved for little boys that asked such impudent questions. But to me, it was common sense, not impudence at work.

I didn’t wish to make Sr. Vivina’s work load more difficult, only to ascertain how it was that these flames didn’t do what normal flames did- burn skin and clothing. But rather than give the budding young atheist a sensible answer, she totally cut off any inquiry – bringing up the eternal fear factor to short curcuit further inquiry:

“God makes Hell much hotter for little boys that ask such questions!”

In reality, she made me question the church’s teachings even more. If the most common sense question couldn’t be answered, how or why could any others? Thus, The Baltimore Catechism and its trite parroting became more a joke to me than anything else (though I played along in order to get promoted!)

Did Sr. Vivina or any other nun, or teaching Brothers (at the later Catholic HS I attended) ever move one millimeter toward molding me into a devout Catholic? Not at all. My upstart behavior was merely repressed and held in check. I mused silently while Mass was being celebrated, and continued to pay little or no attention.

To me it was gobbledygook. I mean, ancient rituals that involved cannibalism of a man who’d been dead 2,000 years? Please! Ditto for most religion classes, unless they dropped the dogma and addressed thought provoking questions or issues. (Which they sometimes did. For example, in one high school religion class, a question posed was whether the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima was a violation of the moral precept that 'the end never justifies the means'). At one point, while still an altar boy in my junior year (and taking chemistry)

I had occasion to actually test the claim that the consecrated wafer was a real body (of Christ). On performing starch and protein tests on the wafer, I found the test tube contents turned bluish in color (positive for starch) but nothing occurred for the protein test. I later asked a teaching Brother about this, and he also grew red in the face, asserting I had committed a "sacrilege" and in any case I'd never be able to test the holy wafer because all one could do is access the "accidents" not the "substance" of transubstantiation.

On digesting this bit of humbug, I simply concluded the guy had no real answer, and that in fact, what we were being fed in Religion class was a load of ripe hogwash.

Later, on entering Loyola and taking Biblical exegesis (from a foremost Jesuit) it finally dawned on me that most of the Bible was a whole cloth tissue of tales. It was only decades later my perception would be vindicated when serious scholars scrutinized the accuracy of the New Testament and whittled the Gospels down to just a few verses that could be factually plausible, as opposed to bull pockey. (E.g. they agreed some of the rabbi Yeshua's healings were legit, but not the resurrection. It was likely copied from ancient accounts of Mithras).

Thus, my questioning and suspicious mind and approach was only confirmed and augmented with each step I took, including a series of theology courses at Loyola. I'd also gone to hear one of the foremost Existentialist philosophers in the world, Jean-Paul Sartre, who came to the Loyola University Fieldhouse in 1964. And, of course, we learned at that lecture one of the cornerstone avoidances of the Existentialist, is "bad faith".

This was the cardinal sin, if you will. The most serious transgression an authentic being or person can make. By "bad faith", Sartre meant going against your own interior barometer, to "go along to get along". It made life relatively easy (few conflicts) but ultimately led to despair since an artificial life was substituted for an authentic one.

Anyway, with Sartre's lecture under my belt, I began a full tilt twenty- year further search for truth, and "God". This again, was imbued with hundreds of questions. For example, after my Peace Corps service in Barbados, I remained to teach for the Ministry of Education there, and also wrote the occasional newspaper article.

In preparation for one ('Science and God', The Barbados Nation, Sept. 28, 1978- see header image) I decided to take a random sample of 100 people from the phone book, and ask each to define God in his or her words, what would result? Amazingly, no two descriptions matched in every respect. The most startling aspect was that fully 56 were Christians (as opposed to 6 Hindus, 8 Muslims, 10 Jewish, 18 no religion identified, 2 agnostics). Some of the responses I received:

"Jesus is God"

"Jehovah is God"

"God is love"

"God is our Father and the creator of the universe"

"God is an impersonal, physical energy."

"Yahweh is God: the I-AM-THAT-WHICH-I-AM"

"God is the principle of creativity and action"

The great diversity of conceptions of God led me to conclude that what people really meant when they professed "belief in God" was a personal allegiance to a particular concept. Invariably, the concept was flawed and limited because it was abstracted from a personal background of awareness and conditioning - as opposed to a total comprehension of actual being.

This was my first intimation that all people had were god-concepts, which were each relative - never absolute. There was simply insufficient information to distinguish one person's deity as the "one true God" to the exclusion of all others. This means that the Jewish concept of Yahweh, the Muslim concept of Allah, the Hindu concept of Brahmin and the Christian concept of the Trinity all stood in the same ontological relation.

From an informational point of view, none could be selected as "true" to the exclusion of the others. This was completely analogous to there being inadequate information to distinguish one religion's claims as true - to the exclusion of all others. In the case of individual religions, or religious traditions, the embodiment of the respective truth claim is found in a "sacred revelation", or holy book.

For example, the Holy Bible for Christianity, the Talmud for Jews, the Koran for Muslims and the Upanishads for Hindus. The problem was that the early writers, for each scripture, suffered from the same limitation of comprehension that their modern counterparts do. Their neural capacity was just as finite as that of present-day humans, and just as conditioned toward a particular conceptual allegiance.

I came to believe - and still do - that the acknowledged use of the term God-concept reinforces the attitude of cautious forbearance mentioned earlier. The implicit relativism acts as a restraint, backing the believer away from a militant stance of absolutism. Ideally, this should dispose him or her to be more tolerant: tolerant toward unbelievers, and tolerant toward those of different religions.

Far from being "wishy-washy", this affords humanity a hope that religious conflicts. Alas, as Michael Persinger's research shows (The Neurological Bases of God Belief) , some brains are too malignantly infected with the mind virus of absolutism to accept the limits of the god-concept. They believe their god is the real McCoy, never mind it's a confection from an ancient book, probably not worth donkey lickspittle. And so this led with some more twists and turns, including considering more carefully the issue of theodicy, as I wrote my first book, defining the relationship between Atheism and scientific Materialism (The Atheist's Handbook to Modern Materialism")

The rest, as they say, is history. The point of this is to show that a direction toward atheism is generally not an easy or simplistic choice, based on the vapid assumption we simply don't like "authority". That simplistic portrayal may sit well with people who disdain thinking, especially critical thinking, but it's false.

Indeed, WHY would one willingly choose a label and philosophical mindset so detested in this country? One that would make the person a pariah on a par with illegal immigrants, Islamic terrorists, abortion doctors and homosexuals? It would be plain stupid to make such a choice purely out of personal pique or disdain for "authority"! Yet this is the level at which many interpet another's atheism.

Hopefully, as the atheist point of view and philosophy (and especially personal stories behind it) become more known, people will not be so dismissive.

Well, at least one can hope!

Monday, June 28, 2010

More on quantum numbers

In this blog, we examine more closely the quantum numbers introduced briefly in the previous blog. To remind readers the set of quantum numbers was given as: (n, l, m_l) which are identified as: the principal quantum number, the angular momentum quantum number, and the magnetic quantum number, respectively.

There are two physical meanings attendant on n: i) it determines the energy of an orbital (specifically in the H-atom), and (ii) it indicates the average distance of an electron in a particular orbital, to the nucleus, To fix ideas, I show in the accompanying diagram a sketch of one lobe for an electron orbital associated with the (3, 2, +/-2) state in the Hydrogen atom. The key point is the orbital denotes an electron density associated with a probability of finding the electron in some defined space.

In the case shown one must also visualize a symmetrical lobe on the other side (making the whole orbital resemble a dumbell) to make it complete. As one alters the set of quantum numbers (refer to image in previous blog and the numbers on the left side) the electron densities change and so do the probability waves associated with the orbit. To fix ideas I show a second image (Fig. 2) with a series of orbitals for the hydrogen atom, and the sets of quantum numbers that specify each configuration.

Describing orbitals using the set of quantum numbers means knowing the numbering rules applied to each. In the case of the principal quantum number, n, we allow it to have INTEGRAL (non-zero) values: 1, 2, 3, 4 etc.

The physical significance of the angular momentum quantum number (l) is to convey the shape of the probability density cloud or orbital.. The numbering rule for l is directly contingent on the value for n. Thus, for any given n, l must be such that it has integral values from 0 to (n -1). This means if n = 2, then l can have (n- 1) = (2 -1) = 1. But if n =1, then l = (n - 1) = 1 - 1 = 0.

Note that the l-quantum numbers appear more than once for any n >1. Thus, for the n = 2 case, we have TWO values of l occurring: one for l = 0, the other for l = 1. If we go on to n= 3 there are three values of l, for n = 4, four values and so on. One also finds the l-value specified for lettered orbital: s, p, d, f, g, h. The s-orbital is for l=0, the p for l=1, the d for l= 2 and so on. There is no special significance to the letters (apart from the physical meaning we already gave for the quantum number, 1), and they are mainly of historical import- though still retained, for example, in chemistry. (By extension, one also often hears the term "atomic shell" used in chemistry). A collection of orbitals under the same value of n is called a "shell". Thus, for n = 4, we have l=0, l= 1, l=2, l= 3 so comprising the collecton of orbitals:s, p, d and f.

Lastly, there is the magnetic quantum number, usually designated m_l (subscript the same as the angular momentum quantum number) because it is contingent upon it. This quantum number describes the orientation of the orbital in 3-D space. For a given angular momentum quantum number, l, we have integral values of m_l specified as follows:

m_l = -l, (-l +1)....0......(l - 1), +l

Note the above set of m_l numbers is given as a SERIES, e.g. starting with (-l) and terminating at +1. Look at the simplest example for l = 0, then:

m_l = 0.

(Since all terms are zero).

What about l = 1?

Then: m_l = -1, 0, 1

What about l = 2?

We have:

m_l = -2, -1, 0, 1, 2

As a general rubric then, we can use the formula:

N(m_l) = {(2 x l) + 1} to give the total number of m_l numbers.

Netx, we'll look at electron spin and spin quantum number, m_s and where it fits into all this!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Some more quantum mechanics!

We saw in a few earlier blogs a basic intro to quantum mechanics. One of the most important equations is the Schrodinger wave equation which is usually written in the abbreviated, operator form:

H_op(U) = E_op(U)

Here H_op is what we call a Hamiltonian or special mathematical operator (combining kinetic and potential energy functions). 'PSI' (U) is the wave function. H_op operates on PSI and yields the quantity shown on the right side. Which is the product of a pure energy operator, E_op by PSI.

From the resulting computations, one can obtain a series of eigenfunctions (U_n) and from these, eigenvalues. When we examine the results- we find an energy expression of the form:

E_n = (Quantity) n^2

Here the bracketed quantity is a constant, the left hand side shows E_n or some energy E referenced to a level (principal quantum number) n. The key point here is the eigenvalues are referenced to energy levels, say in the hydrogen atom.

What this shows is the quantization of atomic energy: energy released by an atom comes in quanta - not continuously. That is, when we observe an atom - say like hydrogen- we should find "lines" of discrete energy emission corresponding to these energies.

In the accompanying diagram I show a number of the eigenfunctions obtained from the Schrodinger wave equation, and the subscripts reference the putative energy levels which can also be described in terms of the quantum numbers (n, l m_l) shown on the left side of the table.

Note that no two discrete levels display the same set of quantum numbers. This also has bearing on one of the most important quantum principles - the Pauli Exclusion Principle. It basically states that: In a multi-electron atom no two electrons can have the same quantum state.

Now, since quantum state is specified by the quantum number set (n, l, m_l) that means no two electrons can have the same set.

What are some of the implications of applying the principle?

One of the more interesting is that if one writes out the wave function for any number of particles, N, we can also write it in terms of separated wavefunctions, e.g.

U(1, 2, 3,....N) = U(1) U(2) U(3)......U(N)

Now, suppose we have some 2-electron state with one electron in state (a) and the other in state (b), such that:

U(1a, 2b)

Then, the probability density is the same whether we we say "electron 1 is electron 2", or "electron 2 is electron 1". Thus:

[U(1,2)]^2 = [U(2,1)]^2

we have here: U(2,1) = U(1,2) as a symmetric wave function and

U(2,1) = - U(1,2) as an asymmetric wave function.

Now, look at the two electrons relative to states I, and II:

U_I = U_a(1)U_b(2)

U_II = U_a(2) U_b(1)

compare now the full solution for symmetric linear combination:


U_s = 1/(2)^1/2 [U_a(1)U_b(2) + U_a(2) U_b(1)]

which for the above means a = b

then, antisymmetric:

U_AS = 1/(2)^1/2 [U_a(1)U_b(2) - U_a(2) U_b(1)]

for which we find a is never identically equal to b.

Thus, it must follow all electron wavefunctions must be anti-symmetric in order to satisfy the Pauli principle, and further all the electrons must have half-integral (e.g. n/2) spins.

Without the consequences of the Pauli Exclusion principle, no chemistry would be possible - since this is the principle which underlies why chemical elements differ!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Brief History of Early Christianity

One of the enduring myths about the Christian religion is that it effectively sprung uniform and whole as if like Zeus from Mt. Olympus. Sure, there were a few minor squabbles, but the religion that later became one of the world's largest, to all intents began as one more or less monolithic entity.

In fact this is a fairy tale that has no real scholarly support. What I'd like to do here is to provide a kind of concise history of early Christianity, up to about 300 AD. Most of the content has been extracted from some notes on Early Christian History (from Loyola) as well as the recent books: The Gnostic Gospels and Adam, Eve & The Serpent (by Elaine Pagels), and Lost Christianities, by scholar and former fundamentalist, Bart Ehrman.

The intent here is not to badmouth Christianity or diminish it, but to show it in its historic light, as opposed to the (often) fantastic, and ahistorical light many have used to portray it.

One of the aspects that most stands out is it's eclectic nature. Contrary to being a font for monotheism, early Christianity was anything but. Nor had the "god Man" claim for Jesus yet become entrenched, as it did later (mainly compliments of Paul) in the institutional religion.

In terms of the eclectic nature, Prof. Ehrman points out (op. cit.) that "some of the early Christians believed in one God, some in two, and some others in thirty". He also expressed the divergence of belief concerning Jesus:

"There were some who believed Jesus' death brought about the world's salvation (likely the precursors of evangelicals who wouldn't appear in full bloom for another 17 centuries, and others who thought it had nothing to do with it. Others said Jesus never died. We examine here some of the chief Christian voices-groups in the early centuries."

Perhaps the first were the Ebionites, and also the earliest of the banned sects, later to be called "heretics". This group believed in Christ but saw him as the Jewish Messiah, sent from the Jewish God to the Jewish people in fulfillment of Jewish scriptures. This take (of Ehrman) also comports with that of Oxford Scholar Geza Vermes, who notes (in his monograph ‘The Authentic Gospel Of Jesus’ (page 415):

“The religion revealed by the authentic message of Jesus is straightforward, without complex dogmas, mythical images or self-centered mystical speculation. It resembles a race consisting only of the final ‘straight’ – demanding from the runners their last ounce of energy and with a winners’ medal prepared for all the JEWISH participants who cross the finishing line."

Vermes goes on to observe (ibid.) that Christianity seems to "belong to another world, with its mixture of high philosophical speculation on the triune God, its Johannine Logos mysticism, and Pauline Redeemer myth of a dying and risen Son of God"

But why express surprise here? The fact is the myth of a redeemer god -Man had been in the cultural -religious zeitgeist (for example with the Mithraic pagans) for over twelve centuries. If a new faith wanted to claim exclusivity or unique gravitas and "separate from the pack" so to speak, it couldn't do better than to appropriate the same god -Man myth then weave it into its textual accounts(though not very well, as noted in the earlier Yale lecture on the New Testament I linked):


In addition, Jesus for the Ebionites was not a member of an eternal Trinity, but rather an ordinary man who kept Jewish law to perfection. As for their sacred text - accepted by them- it excluded the Gospel of John (which many current biblical historians have trouble with as well, partly for its elaborations - like on the trial of Jesus - which no other synoptic gospel discloses) while it retained most of the Old Testament and the Gospel of Matthew.

It's also noteworthy here, that the Ebionites - like the Gnostics- had a particular dislike for Paul, and also like the Gnostics viewed him as "the enemy" for his claim that all of Jewish law was rendered irrelevant by belief in Christ.

The Marcionites were another early Christian group, founded by a shipping magnate, Marcion, ca. 139 AD in Rome. Here, in this manifestation, we find the first appearance of the "double God", later circulated also by the Gnostics. The Marcionites thus accepted the world was created by an "evil God" (the one described in the Old Testament, in his various assorted genocides etc.) and that this evil god imposed a death sentence on humanity when it could not meet its impossibly high demands. In juxtaposition to the evil god was the "God of Jesus" and by belief in him, humans could escape from the vindictive wrath of the evil god. Those who did not, would remain in the evil god's clutches and join him in hell. (Again, we find exact resonances of this in modern evangelical Christianity who worship the same evil God in the OT. At least I've never heard or seen any of them reject him!)

Perhaps the most developed Christian group at the time, with the most refined philosophy and belief system, were the Gnostics. At least a few scholars speculate in fact that Gnosticism is at least partially an offshoot from early Greek philosophy. To summarize the Gnostic take:

'The world is essentially a cesspool and we're all mired in filth and ignorance. We all came from somewhere else, and salvation is finding our way back."

Like the Marcionites, the Gnostics believed an evil and inferior god ruled over the world (and also created our bodies). They called it demiurgos. Existentially, it was roughly on a par with Satan. So the evil god and Satan formed an evil twin duo. Gnostics, in terms of their scriptures and what they believed, penned their own "Gnostic Gospels". They rejected the Old Testament as antiquated rubbish about the demiurgos, while they rejected much of the New Testament because of the Pauline wording corruptions, and references to Jesus as "savior". They believed none of this was original, but the work of Paul's copyist henchmen.

Their core belief was that at the last instant of manifest existence a higher, supreme God would appear and insert into each of us his spark of divinity. At this stage, we would each attain a high enough level of knowledge (gnosis) to conquer our attachment to material reality and become Christs unto ourselves.

Thus, in the Gnostics, we see the first emergence of a totally different version of "Christ" from what Paul taught and circulated. Pagels observes ('The Gnostic Gospels', Vintage-Random House, 1979), p. 124 :

"While Pauline Catholics taught a reality of 'sin' and that 'Jesus alone could deliver healing and forgiveness of sins', the Gnostics on the contrary, insisted that ignorance, not sin, is what involves a person in suffering. The gnostic movement shared in this certain affinities with contemporary methods of exploring the self through psychotherapeutic techniques."

Also(p. 125):

"Whoever remains ignorant... cannot experience fulfilment. Gnostics said that such a person 'dwells in deficiency'. For deficiency consists of ignorance."

Perhaps the most daring, and threatening proposition of the Gnostics, was their belief in gnosis, or the 'de-localization' of Christhood. Why? Because if the (Institutional-doctrinal) Church accepted this, they'd have to surrender their coveted power wielded via intermediaries (priests, bishops, cardinals, etc.). Paul knew this full well, which he fought against the Gnostics' egalitarian Christhood with all his might. There was no way he'd accept that every human could bcome a Christ in his own right.

Pagels echoing the principle of gnosis (ibid., p.134):

"Whoever achieves gnosis becomes no longer a Christian, but a Christ."

Even today, Gnostic churches exist, despite Paul's effort to wipe them out. In Barbados, a large Gnostic church still remains not far from the Constitution River in Bridgetown. When I last visited, at least three members declared that they were nearly at the level of "Christhood".

In effect, in the Gnostic teachings, anyone had the capacity to become 'a Christ'. Pauline Catholicism, meanwhile - held there could be only one, on which all others had to depend for 'salvation'. The Gnostics, for their part, regarded the Pauline teachings of a unique god-Man as utter blasphemy. NO mere human (which they regarded Jesus) could also be God, but each human could eventually become a limited divine manifestation known as Christ. (They did allow Jesus might have reached that stage before other humans)

Pagels goes on (ibid.):

"We can see, then, that such gnosticism was more than a protest movement against orthodox Christianity. Gnosticism also included a religious perspective that implicitly opposed the development of the kind of institution that became the early Catholic Church. Those who expected to 'become Christs' themselves were not likely to recognize the institutional structures of the church -its bishops, priests, creed, canon, or ritual - as bearing ultimate authority."

For this reason, As Pagels notes (p. 102), the Catholic orthodoxy and tradition (including many Church Fathers such as Tertullian- the original theocon) saw fit to consistently denounce the Gnostics "while suppressing and virtually destroying the Gnostic writings themselves." And of course, we had the likes of the unscrupulous idiot Irenaeus calling them 'frauds'. (Pagels, p. 17) To serve his own purposes of course!

One is left to wonder, why - if the Church and St. Paul felt so self-righteous, they had to destroy and suppress the Gnostic gospels and writings. Was their Church so weak and tepid that it couldn't co-exist? Seems so. Just like today's evangelicals are evidently so weak and tepid that they can't tolerate and co-exist with other Christian groups.

In any case, by the 4th century AD the early eclecticism had nearly vanished and an institutional Pauline Chrisitianity ended up the prime descendant of the original teachings and a religion which had essentially succeeded in wiping out or supressing all groups not centralized in Rome. The major turning point was undoubtedly the "Edict of Milan" which removed all penalties for professing Pauline Christianity. The latter subsequently achieved immense strength as it became the official religion of Rome, thanks to aligning itself with many elements of the Roman Sol Invictus (Sun worship) cult including adopting the same date for Its Nativity: the Winters Solstice or Dec. 25th. The rest as they say, is history, though historians such as Edward Gibbons have linked the decline and fall of the Roman Empire to its uneasy integration with the Pauline variant of Christianity. (See Gibbons: Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire)

Readers curious as to why the Vatican sought to keep most of the Dead Sea Scrolls - including the Nag Hammadi and Qumran texts - under its control without any other inspection by outsiders, should consult: 'The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, Summit Books, 1991.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Differential Equations (Concluded)

We left off with two problems so will look at those now.

(1) Solve: x^2y dy – xy^2 dx – x^3y^2dx = 0

This is easy once one has access to a table of differentials or is able to work them out!

Factor to obtain:

xy(xdy – ydx) – x^2 y^2 dx = 0

Now, multiply by (x^-2y^-2):

(x dy – ydx)/ xy – x dx = 0

Then by the property of the differential d(ln y/x):

d(ln y/x) – xdx = 0

Integrating: ln(y/x) – x^2/2 = c

(2) Solve using any method for integrating factors:

x (dy/dx) - 3y = x^2

Put the equation into the form: dy/dx + Py = Q

Then: dy/dx – 3y/x = x

So: P = (-3/x) and Q = x


r = exp(INT Pdx) = exp (-3 ln x) = 1/ e ^3lnx = 1 /x^3


(1/x^3) y = INT (x /x^3) dx + C = -1/x + C

So: y = -x^2 + Cx^3

Now, we’re going to finish off this introductory view of differential equations by looking at a word problem:

A ship weighing 64,000 tons starts from rest under the impetus of a constant propeller thrust of 200,000 lbs. If the resistance of the water is 10,000 v lbs. find the velocity v in feet per second as a function of time, t.

The thrust = ma = 200,000 lbs. = kv at outset.

200,000 lbs. = 10,000 (v)

So v = 20 f/s initially.

The equation of motion needs to be as a function of time so:

mg – ma = kv or m(g – (dv/dt)) = kv

so: dv/ (g – av) = dt

-> -ln(g – av)/2a = t

the weight mg = 64,000 tons = (64,000 tons)(2 x 10^3 lb/ton) = 128 x 10^6 lbs.

so: m = W/g = (128 x 10^6 lb.)/ (32 f/s^2) = 4 x 10^6 sl

a = k/m = (10^4)/ (4 x 10^6 sl) = 2.5 x 10^-3

And: v = g/a[1 – exp(-2at)] = g/a[1 – exp(-0.0050t)]

Since g/a= 20 f/s:

v = 20[1 – exp(-0.0050t)]

This is the velocity in f/s as a function of time t

A problem to solve:

Find the x and y-coordinates of the points on a trajectory of a rocket shot at an angle of 80 degrees with an initial velocity v(o) = 100,000 f/s if the air resistance is 0.01 mv. Find the value of x and y after ten seconds.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Yes to "Dystopic Sci-fi!"!

Above: Sci-fi author Paulo Bacigalupi. One of his recent novels portrays humans reduced to bio-engineered artifacts able to eat sand - because that's all the planet has to offer.

Several weeks ago I was astonished to read an interview in The Denver Post Book Review section with science fiction author Paulo Bacigalupi, concerning his Nebula-award winning novel and how critics perceived him as a "downer" - his vision "too dark and pessimistic". To which the author responded:

"Well, if that's your dominant data point, then all the stuff I'm writing is bull!"

What stuff?

Well, his 2009 novel "The Windup Girl" set in a future Bangkok in which denizens huddle in a post-war world ravaged by global warming, heartless corporations and pollution. Then there's "The People of Sand and Slag" in which bio-engineered humans are more enabled to survive a long -since degraded and pillaged Earth, i.e. by being engineered to eat sand- and gradually come to accept their fading humanity.

At some point in the interview, the author is pressed for where exactly he gets his ideas, and inspiration. Especially which sources feed into this miasma and downer dystopia that it seems only a depressive would relate to.

Bacigalupi is forthright, and doesn't waste words via distracting malarkey or humbug:

"Every time you read the news and look at the data, they don't lead anywhere good. None of it says this is going to be better, there will be more energy and more species...I'm not going to write something to console the reader and say everything's all right. We aren't doing anything that's even remotely sustainable"

He goes on to cite "today's adults" for "waging generational warfare through resource depletion, global warming and pollution".

As he notes:

"We're enjoying all the benefits of our highly industrialized society and passing the costs along to our children. It's a giant, extended middle finger to the next generation".

How spot on is Bacigalupi?

The recent lead investigative story on over-population in Mother Jones ('The Last Taboo', May-June, p.25) shows he isn't that far off at all and the dire forecasts of Paul Ehrlich ('The Population Bomb') may only be off by a generation- making Ehrlich a "premature prophet not a false one".

As I noted in an earlier blog, over population is real and a major threat. It underlies all our problems from inadequate energy sources (making risky deep water drilling necessary) to global warming, to inadequate potable water and scarcer foods. Readers who may not have seen the blog can link to it here:

At the comments end of the blog a number of naysayers shared their misgivings and I responded to each in turn. I'd now like to cite more aspects in the Mother Jones piece that reinforce everything I wrote earlier.

First, the much-ballyhooed "Green Revolution" also disguised ominous truths about the limits of our planet. We know this because:

a) the chemical fertilizers that enabled it are destined to run out as Peak Oil hits, and all priorities go to using oil running the industrial machine- as opposed to generating chemical side products like fertilizers, plastics.

b) All the pesticides, fertilizers, weedicides issuing as enablers to the Green Revolution manifested as "enormous downstream costs" in the form of polluted land, air and water. In some cities, the careless runoff - especially of fertilizer- has fueled dangerous outbreaks such as of the cryptosporidium organism that sickened over 400,000 Milwaukeeans in 1994.

In effect, the Green Revolution was duplicitous, providing life supporting bounty with one hand and robbing life support with the other.

Geomorphologist David Montgomery, quoted in the article and author of Dirt: The Erosion of Civilization, has computed that human activities now are eroding topsoil at ten times faster than can be replenished. As he warns:

"Just when we need more soil to feed the 10 billion people of the future, we'll actually have less, only a quarter of an acre of cropland per person in 2050, versus the half-acre we have today, on the most efficient farms"

Of course, many people make much ado over the projected numbers. The UN, for example, projects the planet's population will "stabilize" at 9.1 billion in 2050. But this makes a monster assumption: that the global fertility rate will drop to 2.02 ofspring per woman in the years between 2045-2050, down from 2.56 today. The bugbear is that there are very narrow margins for error. If the world's women average just 0.5 child more in 2045, for example, all bets are off and the world population peaks at 10.5 billion five years later.

Second, as we know farming also requires vast supplies of water, plus growing populations need water to survive - potable water free of parasites and diseases. This is simply not happening. In the ‘State of the World’ report (2000, pp. 46-47), it was noted that the ever increasing water deficits will likely spark “water wars” by 2025.As they note (p. 47):

"When a country’s renewable water supplies drop below 1,700 cubic meters per capita (what some analysts call the water stress level) it becomes difficult for the country to mobilize enough water to satisfy all the food, household, and industrial needs of its population.”

The same State of the World’ report notes at present rates of decline and even without factoring in the worst global warming influences – the number of people living in water-stressed countries will rise from 470 million to 3 billion by 2025. More than a sixfold increase. Add in projected new climate change data and likely effects (see. eg. recent issues of Eos) and the stressed populations increase nine or tenfold. This means even as the topsoil required for adequate crop growth is rapidly declining, so also will be the water to sustain the crops.

Some nitpickers queried this aspect in the comments in the prior blog, and asserted that sea water conversion could be used. But they ignore two things here: i) That assumes enough oil is available to provide the energy needed to execute the conversion to fresh water, and (ii) the water used isn't full of deep sea oil gunk - such as we see gushing from the BP Deep Horizon fiasco. (And some people are even predicting a possible worst case scenario with this - that the whole well and support structures are blown out and all the ocean reserves at that location spew into the Gulf - and beyond).

Barbados currently has at least one sea water conversion plant, but the energy utilization is enormous and an ongoing drain on the island's balance of payments. Just to drive the conversion for a week takes more kilowatts than, for example, the whole city of Denver uses in a day. Thus, extrapolating these devices world wide is something of a pop fantasy, and certainly I can't see it for agriculture.

Other commentators suggested some "technological fix" or other which we can't see or forecast right now. But this to me, is just more 'pie in the sky' - not too different from Pastor Mikey expecting to be born away by angels to his heavenly mansions after he passes. I'd more expect advanced aliens from Tau Ceti to land and distribute free vacuum energy generators to every community in the world!

The hard fact is that the only plausible solution to population overshoot is to decelerate the population growth faster than it's decelerating now, and ultimately reverse it. The success in this will also resolve our most pressing and pathological problems, from food scarcity to water supplies to increasing CO2 and global warming to biodiversity loss.

How can this be expedited? Most efficiently by a combination of mammoth birth control- real artificial contraception - not just the foolish ("rhythm") method of Ogino-Kaus, and coupled with government disincentives to have more children. The first can be expedited by mammoth donor nation support of contraceptives and ancillary devices to all the "third world" nations, but to effectively orchestrate this, the resistant backbone of certain religions has to be broken. That must start with the Roman Catholic Church. Fortunately, in this regard, the recent priest sex abuse crisis has caused millions to fall away - but that is mainly in the UK, Ireland and Germany. We also need it to happen throughout Africa and South America. (India and China have already done remarkable population control in their own nations, though one may fault them for some draconian methods)

In terms of government disincentives, parents must no longer be rewarded for having kids, but penalized. First, there should be NO tax credits at all, especially not now with multi-trillion dollar deficits. Second, every child after two is actually taxed at the rate of $1500/ year. This will make people think once, twice and beyond before going past that "replacement rate".

What we have seen, just looking at the overpopulaton mess, is that scifi author Paulo Bacigalupi is on solid ground in his dystopic vision. I'm sure there might come a time when he becomes more optimistic in his story telling, but I'd believe he'd say "Show me the changes" before he jumps onto that saccharine Pollyanna bandwagon!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Differential Equations (IV)

First, previous problems to solve:

(1) State whether the DE:

dy/dx = (2x + y^2)/ -2xy is exact

We first re-arrange to obtain:

(-2xy)dy = (2x + y^2)dx

And: (2x + y^2)dx +(2xy)dy = 0

Then: M = (2x + y^2) and N = (2xy)

Take partial derivatives:

@M/@y = 2y

@N/@x = 2y

Since the two are equal, the DE is exact.

(2) Show that the DE below is exact and find the solution:

(3xy^4 + x)dx + (6x^2y^3 – 2y^2 + 7)dy = 0

First, take the partials to make sure it’s exact:

M = (3xy^4 + x) and @M/@y = 12xy^3

N = (6x^2y^3 – 2y^2 + 7) and @N/@x = 12xy^3

So, exact.

Now, let:

f(x,y) = INT_x (3xy^4 + x) dx + C(y)

= 3x^2y^4/ 2 + x^2/ 2 + C(y)

Then: dC/dy = 6x^2y^3 -2y^2 + 7 – 6x^2y^3

= -2y^2 + 7


INT dC(y) = C(y) = INT (-2y^2 + 7)dy = -2y^3/ 3 + 7y

So the general solution is:

f(x,y) = 3x^2y^4/ 2 + x^2/ 2 -2y^3/ 3 + 7y

(3) Consider the differential equation:

(3x^2 y + 2) dx + (x^3 + y)dy = 0

Determine whether it is an exact DE or not. If it is, find the general solution and then the particular for an initial condition such that : y(1) = 3.

This is straightforward, having solved the previous example.

We have: M = (3x^2 y + 2) and @M/@y = 3x^2

And: N = (x^3 + y) and @N/@x = 3x^2

So, the DE is exact.

We have then:

f(x,y) = INT_x (3x^2 y + 2) dx + C(y) =

(x^3y + 2x) + C’(y)

INT dC(y)dy = C(y) = INT (x^3 + y)dy + c1= y^2/2 + c1

This solution satisfies: f(x,y) = c2

Or: x^3y + 2x + y^2/ 2 + c1 = c2 = INT_x (3x^2 y + 2) dx + C(y)

So the final general soln. is: : x^3y + 2x + y^2/ 2 + c = 0

To satisfy the condition y(1) = 3:

(1)^3 + 2(1) + (3)^2/ 2 + c = 0

So: c = -9 ½

Therefore: x^3y + 2x + y^2/2 = 19/2

Integrating factors:

The differential equation:

M(x,y) dx + N(x,y)dy = 0

Can always be transformed into an exact DE by multiplying it by some suitable factor, call it r(x,y). This makes the DE exact and is called an “integrating factor”. Usually an appropriate r(x,y) can be found on inspection of the DE and visualizing how it might be most directly simplified, say if both sides were multiplied through by some expression.

Example: Find an integrating factor for the DE:

xdy + ydx = x^2y^2 dx and solve.

We can rewrite as:

xdy = [x^2y^2 –y]dx

and with M = x and N = [x^2y^2 –y], we easily see it’s not exact.

Leaving the equation as is, one can see (if one is perceptive) that multiplying both sides by r(x,y) = 1/(x^2y^2) , will work wonders.

First, the right hand side simply becomes dx. E.g.

r(x,y)[xdy + ydx] = dx = 1/(x^2y^2)[ xdy + ydx]

Second, the savvy DE whiz kid (or calculus whiz kid) will quickly spot that the more complex side of the DE is easily reducible via the exact differential form* :

1/(x^2y^2)[ xdy + ydx] = d(- 1/xy)

Then our DE is quickly reduced to:

d(-1/xy) = dx

and integration yields:

INT d(-1/xy) = INT dx + c

For which we obtain:

-1/xy = x + c

Another more “refined” way to work with integrating factors starts with writing the typical first order linear DE as:

dy/dx + Py = Q

And the name of the game is to account for P and Q and also find the integrating factor, r.

Thus, one method for solving the DE shown is to find some function, usually r = r(x) such that if the equation is multiplied by r, the left side becomes the derivative of the product ry. That is:

r(dy/dx) + rPy = rQ

and we then make the effort to impose upon r the condition that:

r(dy/dx) + rPy = d/dx (ry)

which is not always easy, but often can be if one is clever enough!

Expanding the right side of the previous eqn. via differentials:

d/dx (ry) = (rdy + y dr) / dx

and adding to the left, gives:

r(dy/dx) + rPy + (-r (dy/dx) – y (dr/dx)) ->

dr/dx = rP

Then, if P = P(x) is a known function, we can solve for r:

Viz. dr/r = Pdx and ln r = INT Pdx + ln C

So: r = +/- Cexp(INT P dx)

And C can be taken as +/- C = 1

Then the function: r = exp(INT Pdx)

Is called the integrating factor


dy/dx + y = exp(x)

P = 1, Q = exp(x)

Then r = exp(INT dx) = exp(x)

So: exp(x)y = INT exp(2x) + C = exp(2x)/ 2 + c

And y = exp(x)/2 + Cexp(-x) or:

y = e^x/2 + Ce^-x


(1) Solve: x^2y dy – xy^2 dx – x^3y^2dx = 0

(2) Solve using any method for integrating factors:

x (dy/dx) - 3y = x^2

* Tables of differential forms are available in most Calc texts.
Good luck!

"Super-Weeds" Highlight Another CO2 Threat

With pollen production from ordinary plants amping up 300-500% over normative levels from increased atmospheric CO2, sending people running for their Claritin, one could (I suppose) have also predicted we'd eventually see the emergence of super weeds. Well, according to two recent stories in The Wall Street Journal (June 4, p A16, 'Superweeds Trigger New Arms Race'; June 21, p. D1, 'Least Welcome Sign of Summer') that time has more than arrived.

According to the first account, by the middle of this decade at least 40% of U.S. corn and coybean crops will "harbor Roundup resistant super weeds". Roundup, and especially Monsanto's Roundup -ready seeds, have been amongst the biggest "success stories" in the domain of weed control, primarily because of its primary constitutent - glyphosate- which is one of the least toxic around. As one farmer cited in the first article put it: If glyphosate isn't the safest herbicide, it's damned close".

Today Roundup and generic competitors are used on nearly 4 times as many acres as any other herbicide, but true to evolutionary dictates and principles - the weeds are adapting, and new, hardier variants are emerging resistant to the weedicide. Many believe that enhanced CO2 plays no small role in faciliating this adaptation, since stronger, larger weeds are the result.

Currently, nine species of weed have developed total immunity to it and spread to millions of acres in more than twenty states. In the article, one farmer from Osceola, AR is quoted who says he spends hundreds of thousands of dolalrs on herbicide, but can't control the pigweed which now runs rampant over his 8,600 acre field.

The variant of pigweed on his property grows to six feet in height on a stalk the width of a baseball bat's wide end. The weed is so tough, it damages mechanical parts of his cotton picking equipment and must be rooted out by hand. The farmer had to hire 20 labor hands to attack the weeds using hoes, even then breaking a number of them.

The emergence of these super weeds, especially as threats to farm productivity have convinced many farmers they must resort to much more toxic weedicides to get the job done. That includes using such infamous carcinogenic agents as: 2, 4- D, dicamba and paraquat. But critics have warned given the uncontrolled factors afoot, such as ever increasing CO2 concentrations (now tipping at nearly 400 ppm) all that will happen is that even more super weeds will emerge, resistant to even those arch-herbicides.

In the second story, attention is on the accelerative growth of poison ivy and the increased tribulations of people (mainly gardeners, but some hikers) coming in contact with its irritant chemical urushiol. Gardeners quoted in the article attest to "many more seedlings observed" in their gardens.

The article also references a study published in the journal Weed Science, in 2007, which indicates poison ivy is getting bigger and spreading faster, plus producing more urushiol as a result of increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Lead researcher, Lewis Ziska, a plant biologist at the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, exposed poison ivy plants to different carbon dioxide concentrations- mirroring those that actually existed in the atmosphere at various times, over decades. He found that as one reached increased exposure levels bigger, hardier and more irritating plants were produced.

Will the weeds inherit the Earth if humans continue to punt in attending to global warming and the CO2 threat? Well, from looking at the rate at which "super dandelions" have taken over my front lawn, I wouldn't be too surprised. Generally, dandelions exhibit seed heads of maybe 4-5 cm diameter at most, before shooting out their parachute seeds. The ones now occupying my lawn have seeder heads in the vicinity of 7-8 cm in width.

Go figure. Or maybe not!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Differential Equations (III)

We left off with several problems. Let’s look at the solutions:

(1) Find the differential equation which has: y = c1e^2x + c2e^-3x + sin(x) as the general solution


Differentiate twice:

y’ =dy/dx = 2c1e^2x -3c2e^- 3x + cos (x)

y” = d^y/dx^2 = 4c1e^2x + 9c2e^-3x - sin (x)

Set the determinants of the coefficients of c1 and c2 and the constant terms = 0 (refer back to blogs on matrices, and determinants)

(y - sin (x) e^2x e^-3x)
(y’ -cos(x) 2e^2x -3e^-3x) = 0
(y” + sin(x) 4e^2x 9e^-3x)


e^2y(e^-3x) *

(y – sin(x) 1 1)
(y’ – cos(x) 2 -3)= 0
(y” + sin(x) 4 9)

-> e^-x[-5y” -5y’ +30y -35sin(x) +5 cos(x)]= 0

Leading to the DE: y” + y’ – 6y + 7sin(x) –cos(x) = 0

(2) State the degree and order of the differential equation:

xy(1 + y^2) dx - (1 + x^2) dy = 0

and find the general solution.

The degree is 1, and the order is 1. Separating variables one gets:

x dx/ (1 + x^2) - dy/ y(1 + y^2) = 0


½ ln (1 + x^2) - ½ ln y^2/ (1 + y^2) = c

Inspection of the equation shows that if we choose the constant c = ½ ln c
We can make the solution very easy since multiplication by 2 then simplifies it immensely:

ln (1 + x^2) - ln y^2/ (1 + y^2) = ln c

We now just need to apply the properties of logarithms to obtain:

ln (1 + x^2)(1 + y^2)/ y^2 = ln c

and further:

c = (1 + x^2)(1 + y^2)/ y^2

or: cy^2 = (1 + x^2)(1 + y^2)

(3) Show that 5x^2y^2 - 2x^3 y^2 = 1

is an implicit solution of the differential equation:

x (dy/dx) + y = x^3 y^3

over the interval (0, 5/2)(also sketch the graph)

The graph here is sketched in the accompanying diagram: the shape shows why the interval must be so rigidly confined.

We differentiate implicitly to get:

10xy^2 + 5x^2 2yy’ – 6x^2y^2 + 2x^3 2yy’ = 0


2yy’ (5x^2 + 2x^3) = 6x^2y^2 – 10xy^2


y’ = y^2(6x^2 – 10x)/ 2y (5x^2 + 2x^3)

= y(6x^2 – 10x)/ 2(5x^2 + 2x^3)

But: y(6x^2 – 10x)/ 2(5x^2 + 2x^3) = x^2y^3 – y/x

= (x^3y^3 – y/ x = dy/dx

So: x(dy/dx) = x^3y^3 – y or x(dy/dx) + y = x^3 y^3

Intro to Partial derivatives- Exact Differential Equations:

Alas, we have to introduce a bit about partial differentiation here, to make sense of what we call exact differential equations.


Given some differential equation: M(x,y)dx + N(x,y)dy = 0

If there exists a function f(x,y) such that:

@f/@x = M(x,y) and @f/@y = N(x,y)

Then the differential equation is said to be exact. (where @f/@x, @f/@x are the partial derivatives of f with respect to x and y, respectively)

A necessary and sufficient condition that the DE is exact is also that:

@M/@y = @N/@x

As an example, we want to find out if: dy/dx = (x + y)/ xy^2 is exact

Re-arrange to get: (x + y)dx – xy^2dy = 0

Then: M(x,y) = (x + y)

N(x, y) = (-xy^2)

Now, the partial derivative with respect to x is taken by differentiating with respect to x, and holding y constant. Similarly, the partial derivative with respect to y is taken by differentiating with respect to y, and holding x constant.

Thus: @M/@y = x and @N/@x = -2yx

So this DE is not exact since @N/@x is not equal to @M/@y

Example (2) Show that the DE:

2xydx + (1 + x^2) dy = 0

is exact and find the general solution

As before: M(x,y) = 2xy and N(x.y) = (1 + x^2)

Then: @M/@y = 2x and @N/@x = 2x

So yes, the DE is exact!

To obtain the general solution, let:

f(x,y) = INT_x (2xy dx + c(y) = x^2y + c(y)

where INT denotes integral and the subscript implies with respect to x

since @f/@y = N we have:

@/@y [ x^2y + c(y)] = x^2 + d/dy [c(y)] = 1 + x^2

(Since: @/@y [ x^2y + c(y)] = x^2 and @c(y)/@y = 0)

We see: d/dy [c(y)] = 1 and c(y) = y (e.g. INT dc(y) = c(y) = INT dy = y)

The function (or general solution) is then:

f(x,y) = x^2y + c(y) = x^2y + y or x^2y +y = c

Some problems:

(1) State whether the DE: dy/dx = (2x + y^2)/ -2xy is exact

(2) Show that the DE below is exact and find the solution

(3xy^4 + x)dx + (6x^2y^3 – 2y^2 + 7)dy = 0

(3) Consider the differential equation:
(3x^2 y + 2) dx + (x^3 + y)dy = 0

Determine whether it is an exact DE or not. If it is, find the general solution and then the particular for an initial condition such that :
y(1) = 3.

Solutions next time, and we look at integrating factors!

The Christian Fascists Are Growing Stronger

This is a most disturbing article out of '' by Chris Hedges who also writes for The Nation. I won't elaborate on it, other than to say I also have fretted over the Obama Administration leaving in place Bush-era civil liberties' end around mechanisms and violations- that may well come back to bite us all in the butt- should a Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck ever find their way into power (given how stupid the electorate can sometimes be). Obama assures us that all is well and nothing like a military dictatorship will transpire with him in the White House, but we can't be sure whether those who follow him will be so generous. Anyway, read on:

By Chris Hedges

Tens of millions of Americans, lumped into a diffuse and fractious movement known as the Christian right, have begun to dismantle the intellectual and scientific rigor of the Enlightenment. They are creating a theocratic state based on “biblical law,” and shutting out all those they define as the enemy. This movement, veering closer and closer to traditional fascism, seeks to force a recalcitrant world to submit before an imperial America.

It champions the eradication of social deviants, beginning with homosexuals, and moving on to immigrants, secular humanists, feminists, Jews, Muslims and those they dismiss as “nominal Christians”—meaning Christians who do not embrace their perverted and heretical interpretation of the Bible.

Those who defy the mass movement are condemned as posing a threat to the health and hygiene of the country and the family. All will be purged.The followers of deviant faiths, from Judaism to Islam, must be converted or repressed. The deviant media, the deviant public schools, the deviant entertainment industry, the deviant secular humanist government and judiciary and the deviant churches will be reformed or closed. There will be a relentless promotion of Christian “values,” already under way on Christian radio and television and in Christian schools, as information and facts are replaced with overt forms of indoctrination.

The march toward this terrifying dystopia has begun. It is taking place on the streets of Arizona, on cable news channels, at tea party rallies, in the Texas public schools, among militia members and within a Republican Party that is being hijacked by this lunatic fringe. Elizabeth Dilling, who wrote “The Red Network” and was a Nazi sympathizer, is touted as required reading by trash-talk television hosts like Glenn Beck.

Thomas Jefferson, who favored separation of church and state, is ignored in Christian schools and soon will be ignored in Texas public school textbooks. The Christian right hails the “significant contributions” of the Confederacy. Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who led the anti-communist witch hunts of the 1950s, has been rehabilitated, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is defined as part of the worldwide battle against Islamic terror. Legislation like the new Jim Crow laws of Arizona is being considered by 17 other states.

The rise of this Christian fascism, a rise we ignore at our peril, is being fueled by an ineffectual and bankrupt liberal class that has proved to be unable to roll back surging unemployment, protect us from speculators on Wall Street, or save our dispossessed working class from foreclosures, bankruptcies and misery. The liberal class has proved useless in combating the largest environmental disaster in our history, ending costly and futile imperial wars or stopping the corporate plundering of the nation. And the gutlessness of the liberal class has left it, and the values it represents, reviled and hated.

The Democrats have refused to repeal the gross violations of international and domestic law codified by the Bush administration. This means that Christian fascists who achieve power will have the “legal” tools to spy on, arrest, deny habeas corpus to, and torture or assassinate American citizens—as does the Obama administration.Those who remain in a reality-based world often dismiss these malcontents as buffoons and simpletons. They do not take seriously those, like Beck, who pander to the primitive yearnings for vengeance, new glory and moral renewal.

Critics of the movement continue to employ the tools of reason, research and fact to challenge the absurdities propagated by creationists who think they will float naked into the heavens when Jesus returns to Earth. The magical thinking, the flagrant distortion in interpreting the Bible, the contradictions that abound within the movement’s belief system and the laughable pseudoscience, however, are impervious to reason. We cannot convince those in the movement to wake up. It is we who are asleep.

Those who embrace this movement see life as an epic battle against forces of evil and Satanism. The world is black and white. They need to feel, even if they are not, that they are victims surrounded by dark and sinister groups bent on their destruction. They need to believe they know the will of God and can fulfill it, especially through violence. They need to sanctify their rage, a rage that lies at the core of the ideology. They seek total cultural and political domination.

They are using the space within the open society to destroy it. These movements work within the confining rules of the secular state because they have no choice. The intolerance they promote is muted in the public assurances of their slickest operators. Given enough power, and they are working hard to get it, any such cooperation will vanish. The demand for total control and for a Christian nation and the refusal to permit any dissent are on display within their inner sanctums. These pastors have established within their churches tiny, despotic fiefdoms, and they seek to replicate these little tyrannies on a larger scale. Many of the tens of millions within the Christian right live on the edge of poverty.

The Bible, interpreted for them by pastors whose connection with God means they cannot be questioned, is their handbook for daily life. The rigidity and simplicity of their belief are potent weapons in the fight against their own demons and the struggle to keep their lives on track. The reality-based world, one where Satan, miracles, destiny, angels and magic did not exist, battered them like driftwood.

It took their jobs and destroyed their future. It rotted their communities. It flooded their lives with alcohol, drugs, physical violence, deprivation and despair. And then they discovered that God has a plan for them. God will save them. God intervenes in their lives to promote and protect them. The emotional distance they have traveled from the real world to the world of Christian fantasy is immense. And the rational, secular forces, those that speak in the language of fact and evidence, are hated and ultimately feared, for they seek to pull believers back into “the culture of death” that nearly destroyed them.

There are wild contradictions within this belief system. Personal independence is celebrated alongside an abject subservience to leaders who claim to speak for God. The movement says it defends the sanctity of life and advocates the death penalty, militarism, war and righteous genocide. It speaks of love and promotes fear of damnation and hate. There is a terrifying cognitive dissonance in every word they utter. The movement is, for many, an emotional life raft. It is all that holds them together.

But the ideology, while it regiments and orders lives, is merciless. Those who deviate from the ideology, including “backsliders” who leave these church organizations, are branded as heretics and subjected to little inquisitions, which are the natural outgrowth of messianic movements. If the Christian right seizes the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government, these little inquisitions will become big inquisitions.

The cult of masculinity pervades the movement. Feminism and homosexuality, believers are told, have rendered the American male physically and spiritually impotent. Jesus, for the Christian right, is a muscular man of action, casting out demons, battling the Antichrist, attacking hypocrites and castigating the corrupt. This cult of masculinity, with its glorification of violence, is deeply appealing to those who feel disempowered and humiliated. It vents the rage that drove many people into the arms of the movement. It encourages them to lash back at those who, they are told, seek to destroy them. The paranoia about the outside world is stoked through bizarre conspiracy theories, many championed in books such as Pat Robertson’s “The New World Order,” a xenophobic rant that includes attacks on liberals and democratic institutions.The obsession with violence pervades the popular novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. In their apocalyptic novel, “Glorious Appearing,” based on LaHaye’s interpretation of biblical prophecies about the Second Coming, Christ returns and eviscerates the flesh of millions of nonbelievers with the sound of his voice.

There are long descriptions of horror and blood, of how “the very words of the Lord had superheated their blood, causing it to burst through their veins and skin.” Eyes disintegrate. Tongues melt. Flesh dissolves. The Left Behind series, of which this novel is a part, contains the best-selling adult novels in the country. Violence must be used to cleanse the world. These Christian fascists are called to a perpetual state of war. “Any teaching of peace prior to [Christ’s] return is heresy…” says televangelist James Robinson.Natural disasters, terrorist attacks, instability in Israel and even the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are seen as glorious signposts. The war in Iraq is predicted, believers insist, in the ninth chapter of the Book of Revelations, where four angels “which are bound in the great river Euphrates will be released to slay the third part of men.”

The march is inevitable and irreversible and requires everyone to be ready to fight, kill and perhaps die. Global war, even nuclear war, is not to be feared, but welcomed as the harbinger of the Second Coming. And leading the avenging armies is an angry, violent Messiah who dooms hundreds of millions of apostates to a horrible and gruesome death.

The Christian right, while embracing a form of primitivism, seeks the imprint of law and science to legitimate its absurd mythologies. Its members seek this imprint because, despite their protestations to the contrary, they are a distinctly modern, totalitarian movement. They seek to co-opt the pillars of the Enlightenment in order to abolish the Enlightenment. Creationism, or “intelligent design,” like eugenics for the Nazis or “Soviet” science for Stalin, must be introduced into the mainstream as a valid scientific discipline—hence the rewriting of textbooks.

The Christian right defends itself in the legal and scientific jargon of modernity. Facts and opinions, once they are used “scientifically” to support the irrational, become interchangeable. Reality is no longer based on the gathering of facts and evidence. It is based on ideology. Facts are altered. Lies become true. Hannah Arendt called it “nihilistic relativism,” although a better phrase might be collective insanity. The Christian right has, for this reason, its own creationist “scientists” who use the language of science to promote anti-science. It has fought successfully to have creationist books sold in national park bookstores at the Grand Canyon and taught in public schools in states such as Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas. Creationism shapes the worldview of hundreds of thousands of students in Christian schools and colleges.

This pseudoscience claims to have proved that all animal species, or at least their progenitors, fit on Noah’s ark. It challenges research in AIDS and pregnancy prevention. It corrupts and discredits the disciplines of biology, astronomy, geology, paleontology and physics. Once creationists can argue on the same platform as geologists, asserting that the Grand Canyon was not created 6 billion years ago but 6,000 years ago by the great flood that lifted up Noah’s ark, we have lost.

The acceptance of mythology as a legitimate alternative to reality is a body blow to the rational, secular state. The destruction of rational and empirically based belief systems is fundamental to the creation of all totalitarian ideologies. Certitude, for those who could not cope with the uncertainty of life, is one of the most powerful appeals of the movement. Dispassionate intellectual inquiry, with its constant readjustments and demand for evidence, threatens certitude. For this reason incertitude must be abolished. “What convinces masses are not facts,” Arendt wrote in “Origins of Totalitarianism,” “and not even invented facts, but only the consistency of the system which they are presumably part. Repetition, somewhat overrated in importance because of the common belief in the masses’ inferior capacity to grasp and remember, is important because it convinces them of consistency in time.”

Augustine defined the grace of love as Volo ut sis—I want you to be. There is, he wrote, an affirmation of the mystery of the other in relationships based on love, an affirmation of unexplained and unfathomable differences. Relationships based on love recognize that others have a right to be. These relationships accept the sacredness of difference. This acceptance means that no one individual or belief system captures or espouses an absolute truth. All struggle, in their own way, some outside of religious systems and some within them, to interpret mystery and transcendence.

The sacredness of the other is anathema for the Christian right, which cannot acknowledge the legitimacy of other ways of being and believing. If other belief systems, including atheism, have moral validity, the infallibility of the movement’s doctrine, which constitutes its chief appeal, is shattered. There can be no alternative ways to think or to be. All alternatives must be crushed.Ideological, theological and political debates are useless with the Christian right. It does not respond to a dialogue. It is impervious to rational thought and discussion. The naive attempts to placate a movement bent on our destruction, to prove to it that we too have “values,” only strengthens its legitimacy and weakness our own.

If we do not have a right to be, if our very existence is not legitimate in the eyes of God, there can be no dialogue. At this point it is a fight for survival. Those gathered into the arms of this Christian fascist movement are desperately struggling to survive in an increasingly hostile environment. We failed them; we owe them more: This is their response. The financial dislocations, the struggles with domestic and sexual abuse, the battle against addictions, the poverty and the despair that many in the movement endure are tragic, painful and real. They have a right to their rage and alienation. But they are also being used and manipulated by forces that seek to dismantle what is left of our democracy and abolish the pluralism that was once the hallmark of our society.

The spark that could set this conflagration ablaze could be lying in the hands of a small Islamic terrorist cell. It could be in the hands of greedy Wall Street speculators who gamble with taxpayer money in the elaborate global system of casino capitalism. The next catastrophic attack, or the next economic meltdown, could be our Reichstag fire. It could be the excuse used by these totalitarian forces, this Christian fascism, to extinguish what remains of our open society.

Let us not stand meekly at the open gates of the city waiting passively for the barbarians. They are coming. They are slouching toward Bethlehem. Let us shake off our complacency and cynicism. Let us openly defy the liberal establishment, which will not save us, to demand and fight for economic reparations for our working class. Let us reincorporate these dispossessed into our economy. Let us give them a reality-based hope for the future. Time is running out. If we do not act, American fascists, clutching Christian crosses, waving American flags and orchestrating mass recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance, will use this rage to snuff us out.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Historical Jesus: Do People Want Facts or Fiction?

This is an easy enough question to address: Do people want the FACTS concerning whether there is any historical basis to the gospel stories, or are they going to fall for tall tales that would stretch even the imagination of a Disney animator?

The problem with many people is they relish tales, and prefer to avoid harsh reality. Fantasy always has a much greater appeal, primarily because there are regions of the brain (temporal lobes) that have been found to be conducive to triggering fantasy religious ideations under the right conditions.

We can thank J.M. Persinger for his work in this area, and his great book, The Neuropsychological Bases of God Belief

Book review:

As noted in the review:

"We cannot, on the basis of the cumulative experiments, rule out the strong possibility (I would even say probability) that the human brain is fundamentally defective, and may even be hard-wired to predispose uncritical humans toward religiosity and god belief. Also, it is important to note - Persinger's meticulously presented hypothesis and experimental support meets the requirements of the Ockham's Razor Principle: to wit, that theoretical existences are not to be increased without necessity. Hence, it is begging the question for critics to assert that 'not all religious experience can be explained by temporal lobe stimulation'. "

During Persinger's temporal lobe simulation work at Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario - it became clear that brain defects situated in or near the temporal lobes could play a significant role in generating religiosity. Persinger found that when he used a specially designed helmet to stimulate these regions of a subject's brain - they inevitably experienced religious visions. For example, one seeing Christ on a cloud, another seeing angels, others the 'Blessed Virgin' and another experiencing 'cosmic oneness'.

Less well known, is that the original stimulations made subjects more vulnerable to heightened religious fervor and belief of all sorts, including taking the gospels literally as historical documents (rather than legends), and the belief that Jesus as a "Divine person" has actually been established. (It hasn't been, despite decades of phony stories about assorted claimed artifacts like the Shroud of Turin (now known to be probably a 13 th century fake), and fake ossuaries.)

Most intriguing in Persinger's results is that believers (especially newly minted converts to evangelical cults) appear to suffer micro-seizures in their brains (temporal lobes) similar to small epileptic seizures. As their convictions and verbalizations of them enhance, the micro-seizures also enhance - and occur more frequently. The experiment has never been done, even by Persinger, but I'd wager if one attached suitable(EEG) electrodes to the brain of a diehard evangelical punching in a blog entry about his Jesus, one would find large amplitude spikes betraying micro-seizures.

This leads to a critical question: If the brain can become hostage to its own belief dynamic, is there any way to afford self-protection? We already know that the Dalai Lama (see earlier blog) advised "logical reasoning" and "careful analysis" to avoid the pitfall of egoistic delusion and anger-attachment in faith.

But I think one also needs to use outside resources to actually spur such reasoning and careful analysis.

Sure, books qualify, but let's face it - too many people are not too prone to reading these days. For many, even blogs such as appear on 'Brane Space' may be a challenge.

Another way is by the use of video courses, taught by experts - especially in Theology, and particularly the field of New Testament analysis.

One of the best available right now is currently on the Open Courses site of Yale University, taught by Prof. Dale B. Martin and entitled: Introduction to New Testament History and Literature, and roughly on a par with my Introduction to the New Testament course taken at Loyola in 1964-65. (The Loyola course was somewhat more difficult)

The compilation of course sessions, all on video, can be accessed via this link:

And the one I recommend most for those short on time is No.13, dealing with the "Historical Jesus" (link below):

In approaching these sort of issues, like Jesus' historicity, inquiring students and curious others need to ask themselves whether it more serves their interests to follow the rants of numerous evangelical bloggers or follow someone with authority and actual insight, experience.

Of course, credentials alone don't make the man or validate the issue. But as those who elect to follow this lecture will see, one can definitely see a superior mind at work in formulating his insights and examples.

Back off, Deficit Hawks!

17% unemployment, 24 million out of work, bread lines wending their way from 10- 20 blocks in every major town and city, food riots in some places, rampant increases in crime (mainly robberies) and strapped police departments that can't keep up - especially having had most of their manpower cut in half. Banks closing down, and virtually no credit to speak of.

1933? Great Depression?

Nope, more like March, 2012, and the 2nd Dip of the Great Recession- but NOW a 2nd Great Depression, because too many people were too stupid to see the writing on the wall and act in an intelligent way.

Here's the skinny, which is not that hard to follow even for non-economically versed folks: we are still in a dicey economic environment and by no means "out of the woods" in terms of recovering from the Recession that started in late 2007. To put it in the most summary terms - the demand side of the economy is still on life support. That means people aren't buying, banks aren't lending, and employers aren't hiring.

People aren't buying because there are still 15 million out of work - who - if congress doesn't get of its ass and pass the unemployment benefits package (to extend benefits), will have to begin going onto welfare. This is even as states begin major cost cutting of benefits. Now, if millions of these folks can't get jobs, can't get unemployment benefits extensions, and are unable to get onto welfare rolls- just where do you think they will turn? (Well, to give you a clue, as Barbara Ehrenreich put it quaintly in her latest book, "at least there's some place they can get three hots and a cot")

Other people, still working, see their wages still stagnant and many benefits slashed, and are logically pulling in their pocket books. They don't know if they'll still have a job next week or next month, so the smart thing (for them) is to reduce spending. The problem with that is that companies that sell goods and services can't make any money, not even a minimal profit - so they can only stay afloat by either not hiring new workers, or laying off existing ones (with the remaining workers taking on the jobs of those dismissed, along with seeing benefits sliced).

Into this demand vacuum we have the choice of a bit of government stimulus to keep things going until the economy revs up enough that the private sector begins hiring again. The problem is there are Nervous Nellies in the Senate, who don't want to sign off because well,.....this is an election year and (as we know) all American pols care first about re-election as opposed to their nation's welfare, and second,...they don't want to be seen adding to that $1.7 trillion deficit. Not even if it means extending a hand to millions of drowning citizens (by the end of this month, 1.2 million more will be cut off from unemployment benefits, unable to pay bills, or feed their families)

Bear in mind now, this is occurring in an environment for which we have FIVE job seekers for every job. That means even if the 1 in five get the jobs available, 4 in 5 will still be left without and need help.

Where does this mentality come from? It has issued from so-called "deficit hawks" - probably driven by the Tea Partyers' "concern" about the exploding deficits, never mind the average Tea Partyer (despite claiming to have a university education) couldn't pass Econ 101. These nitwits are all het up on canceling any extension of unemployment benefits, but they're perfectly okay with giving at least as much to wealthy hedge fund operators in tax breaks, even as they're perfectly happy to keep piling on $40 billion every few months for that useless adventure in Afghanistan.

John Maynard Keynes, one of last century's greatest economists, was probably the first to explicate what's been called "the paradox of thrift". Contrasting to the (then, in 1931) British version of today's deficit hawks who insisted that continued government spending sucks money from the private sector, Keynes noted that demand can fall far short of supply. He added that if and when this manifested, governments ought to increase, not reduce deficits - to compensate for the deficit in private spending.

This is exactly the same situation we behold now. But that deficit spending for a constructive cause (the unemployment benefits, as well as extended Medicaid benefits to the States - which nearly 30 governors have called for, including 13 Republicans) is being held hostage by a ruse known as a "supermajority rule" wherein Senators no longer have to stand for hours on the Senate floor and filibuster - they merely have to say "I will filibuster if you allow such and such ...bill"

This is why we see even 56-40 in favor of votes unable to pass the legislation. What is needed is to kill that supermajority idiocy and force those obstructionist deficit hawks so concerned about exploding deficits, to get their asses on to the floor of the Senate and read those whole bibles and telephone books for hours. Let C-SPAN then televise the spectacle of these selective deficit imbeciles to the displaced workers, denied a lifeline!

History records that rather than respond to Keynes, the British Labor government in 1931 passed an emergency budget, replete with austerity, which caused Britain to founder even longer in the economic doldrums. As Keynes was quoted as saying to an American observer:

"This budget is replete with folly and injustice! (It's backed by) every person in this country, of super-asinine propensities, everyone who hates social progress and loves deflation, feels that his hour has come and triumphantly announces how - by refraining from every form of economic activity- we can all become prosperous again"

But this is what the fudge-filibustering, Senate selective deficit ninnies are all about.

One just hopes they're also aware of the coming meltdown of the economy as all sorts of tenpins go down in order.

Meanwhile, we have other idiot cutters-deficit hawks sitting on Obama's "Entitlement Commission" who insist they aren't about cutting Social security at all- oh no, just "stabilizing it". The chief among them is the Wyoming blowhard and former Senator, Alan Simpson, who was buttonholed after one session with congress - pressing him for possible SS cuts. Readers can catch the youtube version here:

In a previous blog, I drew attention to Simpson's folly so won't belabor it again, but those who missed it the first time can catch it here:

We have to hope that any final decision on "adjusting entitlements" doesn't go in any direction on offer from this clueless miscreant moron, who never should have been placed on any commission designed to examine budget cuts (and especially as co--Chair!)

Leave those Strippers Alone!

According to the latest issue of TIME and its cover story article ('The Other Financial Crisis') on the economic crisis in the states, 48 states have large deficits that will have to be addressed by cost –cutting necessary services (including Medicaid) and 14 states are essentially living “hand to mouth”.


In one of the states, Missouri, the Governor foresees the need for some $301 million in budget cuts as the state seeks to get its finances in order. At the same time, a Republican drive in the state seeks to clamp down on “Strip clubs” and female strippers with one of the most draconian laws in the nation (‘Showdown over Strippers’ in The Wall Street Journal’, June 21, p. A3)

This, despite the fact that strip clubs are a legal business that currently employs nearly 3,000 people and brings in some $4.5 million in state sales tax revenue. According to Dick Snow, the owner of one all nude cabaret in Kansas City (WSJ):

The law was written to close us down.”

He added the proposed legislation “makes no sense” given the state’s unemployment and its struggle to get free of the recession.

However, let’s be clear those sort of concerns have never stopped moralist, puritanical Repubs before. Their whole shtick in fact (see Thomas Frank’s ‘What’s the Matter with Kansas’) is to forever entice the slower folks of the populace to take their eyes off their own self-interest and be distracted by moralistic puffery – whether by playing the abortion card, the gay card, the porn card…or now, the strip club card.

The bill proposed by these 21st century Mizzou Puritans has a number of horrific, business-slaying components, but the worst are probably:

- All Adult entertainment clubs must close at midnight (the clubs – according to statistics, do 60% of their business after midnight)

- All alcohol is to be banned from the clubs (a major reason people go there is for alcohol)

- Prohibit nudity at all times (Nudity is what brings the customers in!)

The main “champion” of the bill (according to the WSJ article) is one state Senator, Matt Bartle, who claims:

“You’ve got very vulnerable people who are coerced into being the fodder for some of these places”

But that malarkey doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. In fact, the history of women working at strip clubs (or in porn) is that they do so because they earn much better wages – many to support their families – than they could flipping burgers at Mickey D’s. While the latter offers a minimum wage and some minor benefits – often at the expense of having Medicaid cut (because the amount earned is too much) in many states, at least the "skin jobs" provide stability and a basis for greater freedom.

According to one Women’s advocate, Colleen Coble, quoted in the article:

“One of the ironies is that for many young women, it is the best way they can support themselves , maintain custody of their children or escape an abusive relationship”

This is confirmed by reference to one of the dancers in the article, a 24 year old suffering from bipolar disorder. The young woman receives about $900 a month in government disability checks – and earns another $700 – by dancing 2-3 weeks. (That balance is the maximum she is able to earn without losing her benefits, and it delivers a time dividend she wouldn’t have if she had to work at Mickey D’s flipping burgers)

The young woman was so incensed at the prospect of losing her job she actually prepared a video message for the Governor, Jay Nixon, stating:

“I really feel safe here. It’s really going to mess up a lot of people’s lives if the law completely passes”

So, the question again becomes: Will a senseless – show morality trump human welfare and needs?

Of course, the zany religionists will scream: “well there are OTHER needs besides economic”

But generally they aren’t in those dicey situations, so can afford to shoot their mouths off and self-righteously pontificate and preach to others.

In fact, this isn't even a genuine morality but rather moralism. Moralism, unlike genuine morality, constructs a false behavior code predicated on the unsubstantiated belief in a uniform human response to external stimuli. They then generalize this codex to ALL in their purview. If they are shamed or mortified into insensibility by a nude female performing a strip tease, they believe 100% all others must be too, so seek to legislate their moralist neurosis. Via such legislation, any group can thereby exploit moralism to garner more political or economic power than they'd otherwise have.

One hopes Gov. Nixon, who claims to “count job creation among his priorities” won’t now destroy jobs in order to appease the moralism of halfwits.