A middle-aged man dreaming of the day when he can stop begging for scraps and write for a living.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Empirical Evidence

I got sucked into a philosophical discussion on reddit.com, and two people effectively brought up the same issue regarding the lack of evidence for God. I was therefore inspired to write the following. Here it is for you to consider and tear apart.

We have the language to describe what we see, feel and experience; in other words, everything that we can tangibly define and share. I know my hand because I can see it, feel it, taste it, smell it (even if I'm not cognizant of its scent) and hear it as it interacts with other objects. I can relate these experiences with other people who come into contact with me and confirm with them that they have similar experience with their own hands and with mine. Thus we have the basis of common understanding.

It's possible to question our experiences even further, but such metaphysical discussions are pointless for this conversation to the degree that the question of God becomes meaningless.

Now we turn to the world around us. We can describe water and trees in such a way that everyone understands what we mean. Even if we don't share the same language, we can still make ourselves understood for simple concepts like that. We are sufficiently rooted in a common reality that communication becomes possible at high levels until abstract concepts become possible. This, then, gives us the foundation for establishing what satisfies the criteria for empirical data for our physical bodies.

Furthermore, every culture on earth has the foundation for mathematics to some degree, which is largely abstract, and all mathematical concepts thus discovered have been compatible. This means that our common reality is not restricted only to the physical world, but also the abstract.

Then we turn to the concept of God. Every culture on earth has some sort of supernatural creation myth, although not one of them shares common elements when developed in isolation. Thus, the common reality model fails. None of us share a common reality with regard to the supernatural, creating an impossible situation with regard to empirical data. In the millennia, probably eons of human experience with thousands of disparate cultures, we've discovered evidence of a multitude of common discoveries, but not one god or creation myth in common.

This is not proof of anything, nor does it disprove anything. It only suggests that we are a species that instinctively seeks patterns in the world around us, and we try to fill in the gaps when we have incomplete data. This is where the role of the supernatural enters our lives.

This lack of a common frame of reference for God or the supernatural creates severe problems when trying to justify our beliefs. Commonality only arises when we start indoctrinating cultures into our own beliefs; thus people become predisposed and any empirical evidence becomes tainted. Since we know that we have no problems with independently developed abstract concepts, there should be no reason for the human race to have developed such disparate concepts of God and creation. So we cannot compare the difficulties of establishing empirical evidence for physical bodies with empirical evidence for God. We are literally speaking of apples and oranges.

Friday, November 2, 2007

The Return of the Do-Nothing Congress

An unusual event happened this week. Bush and Pelosi agreed that this Congress hasn't done anything. The difference, of course, is who they blame. Pelosi seems to blame the Senate, referencing "the obstructionism of the Republicans in the United States Senate." Naturally, our Glorious Leader just blames the Democrats for essentially not obeying his imperial decrees. What I find highly ironic is that he criticizes them for trying to increase domestic spending. They want to stop his war, currently running at a cost of $30 billion per week, so they can fund health care for a small fraction of that cost. In theory, this denouncement makes sense to conservatives.

The final verdict is that Congress has been a failure. Conservatives are angry that Congress hasn't done enough to appease their demands. Liberals are angry that Congress has done too much to appease conservative demands. Pretty much everyone except the neocons are angry that Congress has provided only a token resistance to the Bush regime. So yes, the Congress elected with the mandate to bring an end to Bush's tyranny is an abject failure any way you look at it.

I don't expect anything different from Bush. He's a mediocre President thrown into extraordinary circumstances, and used them to push every single policy that ever made a conservative drool. The resulting disaster was, in my opinion, inevitable. But Republicans have long learned the blame game, shifting responsibility away from themselves and onto "obstructionist" Democrats even when the Democrats had been effectively shut out of the process of government.

I did expect different from Reid and Pelosi, leaders for the majority in the Senate and House respectively. There are all sorts of things they could have done to block the conservative agenda, even if they didn't have a prayer of accomplishing much with the Decider using his veto as if making up for lost time. Reid, on his part, doesn't even want to. Pelosi just whines that she doesn't have the supermajority she needs to block conservative bills from passing in Congress. Both of them have been complicit in passing a variety of bills that further compound the crimes being committed by our government since the beginning of the year, and both of them just shrug and say it isn't their fault.

Leaders need to lead. I don't care if "Blue Dog" Democrats are voting like Republicans, or the Democrats haven't passed any good legislation because of Republican obstructionism. These people know why they were elected, and they know what is expected of them. Still, they're determined to continue the traditions handed down to them from the days of the Republican majority. I blame both Reid and Pelosi for not doing what they can to fulfill the mandate handed to them by the voters, for caving in to Bush's demands at every opportunity and for buying into the Republican propaganda when they really ought to know better. I've said before that it's less important for them to pass good legislation than it is for them to try to pass it and make sure the media reports exactly why that legislation isn't getting passed. If it's the Blue Dogs, name them individually. If it's the Senate Republicans, shout it from every rooftop. If it's Bush's veto, plaster it on the television to remind the people exactly who is flouting their will.

Instead, we have corrupt politicians who took the mandate handed to them and decided they knew better. Now they're paying the price, and they have only themselves to blame. For the next election, I'm going to urge everyone to vote against every incumbent in office, be they Democrat or Republican, even if it means voting for a third party. I don't see any other way to fix our very broken government.

Addendum: Since Pelosi acknowledges this Congress hasn't done much of anything, maybe she'll consider allowing an inquiry for impeachment? That's also something a significant number of American people want, and the excuse that it would "distract" Congress from doing their job no longer cuts it. It could help bolster flagging popularity polls, but that's just a side-benefit.