Friday, July 21, 2006

Can Science “Prove” Religion?

Faith is the act of believing without regard for the evidence. It is hypocritical for religionists to attempt to "prove" the existence of a god or aspects of their religion using evidence and science. Religion is the opposite of science. Science is based on the principle of accepting as true only that which is proven true (using rational standards) based on evidence. On the other hand, religion involves the act of believing in something unworldly, based strictly on feelings and without regard for evidence.

Either you believe in religion or you live by reason and science. Although some try, like the “archaeologists” who recently claimed they found evidence of Noah's Ark, you can't have it both ways.

When a religious person putatively uses the methods of science to "prove" his religious point (whether it is the Shroud of Turin, Noah's Ark, Jesus's divinity or Creationism, it does not matter), what he is really trying to do is to appropriate the prestige of science to put an attractive veneer on religion. Science has a well-earned and hard-earned credibility because of its proven track record and accomplishments. It is through science that we have a nearly 80 year average lifespan, electricity, cheap food, heat and air conditioning, jet travel, computers, etc.

What is the record of religion? Its history speaks for itself.

On a small level, I respect the relative honesty of the person who simply declares his belief in god as a matter of faith; he doesn’t look for or need evidence. Compared to others who use "science" to justify their religious views, he is more honest.

On the other hand, he, like all of us, lives in a world made great through science. There is no place for religion in that world.

The Nuclear Bomb: Why We Should Be Willing To Use It

Is using a nuclear bomb justified in fighting the Muslim terrorists? Here are the reasons why I support using a nuclear bomb, if it is called for militarily. In considering whether we should use a nuclear bomb, we must examine the facts. Below I separate fact from fiction about "nukes" and why it is justifiable to use them:

**JUST A BIG BOMB. A nuclear bomb is just a big bomb, not some sort of doomsday device that will wipe out mankind. Nearly all deaths from a nuclear bomb are from its blast. Very few die from radiation. This proved true at Hiroshima and Nagasaki where the vast majority of deaths were due to the direct blast and secondary blast effects, such as fire. Relatively few deaths were due to radiation or radioactive fallout. Furthermore, the nuclear bombs used in World War II were not even the most deadly bombings that occurred during the war. More people died in one night of conventional carpet and firebombing in Tokyo and at Dresden than died in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki put together. The only unique thing about a nuclear bomb is how the blast is caused. Its cause is a fusion or fission nuclear chain reaction, instead of combustion, like a typical bomb. In its effects, a nuclear bomb is not that different than a very large conventional bomb. Using it will not pose excessive risks to anyone other than those targeted.

**SAVES AMERICAN LIVES AND WINS THE WAR. Using the nuclear bomb in World War II saved at least a million American soldiers’ lives. The best military experts of the day estimated that at least one million American soldiers would die if Japan had to be invaded and conquered by land. By defeating Japan without ever having to send a single American ashore, those soldiers’ lives were saved. Incidentally, given the likely level of resistance of the Japanese population (grandmothers and children were being trained to turn themselves into human bombs – sound familiar??), the same military authorities estimated that at least three million Japanese would have died in a land invasion by American forces. Not that it is a concern of ours in war, but those lives were saved as well.

In the current situation, using nuclear bombs would save American lives, just as it did in World War II. In simple terms, using just one or two bombs would scare the hell out of the Iranians, just like it scared the hell out of the Japanese. If that wasn’t enough, it would only take a handful of bombs to detroy whatever government, military or even civilian centers were necessary to cause Iran’s or any other country’s defeat. It is immoral to unnecessarily risk American soldiers’ lives through sporadic low-level engagements stretching over decades, which we are doing now.

**NON-PROLIFERATION. The argument that using a nuclear bomb causes its proliferation doesn’t hold water. No nuclear bombs have been used by anyone since the end of World War II, yet since then nuclear weapon technology has spread from only one country having it (the United States) to nearly a dozen countries having it, including many hostile to the United States such as Russia, China and North Korea. Ironically, by using a nuclear bomb in our defense, we would be telling the leaders of countries hostile to America not to threaten us with a nuclear bomb, or face the same fate. In all likelihood, fewer countries would develop a nuclear bomb, and those that did would be friendly to the U.S.

The bottom line is that the use of a nuclear bomb is not only morally permissible, but necessary. If such force is called for, to use anything less needlessly risks American lives, much as it would have in World War II if we had to do a land invasion of Japan. If using nuclear bombs would win the war against the Muslim terrorists (as I think it would), we should do it. Any president who pre-emptively renounces their use has failed in his responsibility as commander-in-chief.

Monday, July 17, 2006

No God Exists

No god exists, or ever did exist. Do pink elephants exist? The answer is no for two reasons. First, it is contradictory in the nature of an elephant for it to be pink. The properties of living skin, and especially that of mammals, are such that it can have certain shades, such as beige or brown, but not pink.

Second, the existence of a pink elephant has not been proven. In the absence of such proof, it does not exist. The burden of proof always lies with the person who makes an assertion. One can only accept as knowledge, or even potential knowledge, that for which some evidence has been provided. If I say, "There is an elephant behind that door," it may be true if there is corroborating evidence such as: the door is the size of a garage door; you are standing at a zoo; there are animal smells in the air, etc.

If the burden of proof did not lie with the person who asserts the positive, then there would be cognitive chaos. Anyone can make any arbitrary claim, and that claim would have the same status as something actually known. For example, with regard to pink elephants, I would have to carefully check every door to see if there was an elephant behind it, before I could walk by. But, what about evil dwarves, or aliens with death rays, or any other demoniacal entity someone could dream up? In life, I give no thought to such possibilities, BECAUSE NO EVIDENCE HAS BEEN PROVIDED THAT THEY EXIST. So, in the absence of evidence, I act as if THEY DO NOT EXIST. In other words, THE ARBITRARY DOES NOT EXIST. The concept of god is just such an arbitrary concept, on par with pink elephants, or evil green dwarfs, etc.

I am an atheist because the concept of god is contradictory (point no. 1 above) and because there is no evidence for the existence of a god (point 2 above). There are many contradictions in the concept of god. To name just one, "Who created god?" If god is omnipotent and created the universe, then who created god? Another god? If so, then who created that god? God either has an infinite series of predecessor gods, or simply exists with no cause. But, if god can exist with no cause, than so can the universe. One does not need a god for the universe to exist.

Point no. 2, there is no evidence for a god. If there were, what would it say? Could the god be omniscent and omnipresent? For example, I see beauty in the world. Does that mean there is a god? If so, does that god extend beyond this world? Does it include me? Does it include ugly things and malformed things? But if it does not, then it is not omnipresent, which is one of the characteristics of god.

Defining god means delimiting god, and when god is delimited, he is WITHIN the universe, no longer the creator of the universe. He just becomes another entity within the universe, for example, an old man with a beard. However, if he is within the universe, he is no longer god. Which brings us back to point no. 1. Not only is there no evidence for god, but the concept of god is contradictory.

For these reasons, I say, "God does not exist."

But if God does not exist, how do we get meaning out of life? How do we establish morality? These are important questions, and I will save them for a future post. Let me just say now that I am an atheist whose life has meaning, and I believe in a definite right and wrong. I did not need any god for that!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Hezbollah: "The Party of God"
The only way to end terrorism is to destroy the root of it: the states that sponsor it. The No. 1 state sponsor of terrorism is Iran. The United States and Israel should together destroy Iran's ability to support terrorism. One estimate is that that country gives $250 to $500 million per year to support Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran ships explosives into Iraq that kill our troops. Iran is trying to develop the nuclear bomb, and is close to succeeding.

These are only the current threats to civilization from that country. Nearly 30 years ago, Iran declared war on the United States by invading our embassy and taking American citizens hostage. The U.S. response was nothing. Iran aggravated that action through the years by organizing numerous terrorist actions, such as the killing of over 200 U.S. marines in Lebanon.

Today, thugs organized by the Iranian regime regularly shout, "Death to America" and "Death to Israel". The "prime minister" of Iran calls for Israel to be "wiped off the map". The government of Iran makes common cause with sundry dictatorships around the globe, such as that of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

America must decide that it will defend itself from this rogue state. Nothing less than "regime change" in Iran, accomplished by whatever military means necessary (up to and including the use of the nuclear bomb), is called for in defense of our country. We have common cause with Israel, not because we agree with all details of that government's actions, but because Israel is the only civilized state in the region, and is an even greater victim of Iran's depredations than we are.

Cutting the twigs of terrorism, such as arresting its leaders, or pursuing peripheral actions in Iraq and elsewhere, will not win the war. Only by going to the root will we win the war. As goes Iran, so go the lesser sympathizers and supporters of terrorism: Syria, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan. If we root out the mother source of terrorism in Iran, it will probably not be necessary to confront these lesser, albeit deadly, enemies of the United States. They will have gotten the message.

When will we act?

Sunday, July 09, 2006

To the Moon and Beyond, the Capitalist Way

As laudable as the goal of going to the moon is in and of itself, going there should not be the task of government. Remember that the tremendous resources consumed by the moon effort were resources taken (i.e., stolen) from every American. Nothing justifies theft of property, especially if it is by the government.

As for whether we would go the moon or Mars or another star strictly through private enterprise, we would... if there was a profit in it. That is the only way we should go there because if there is a profit, that means there is a net creation of value. A simple definition of profit is simply that the benefits exceed the costs. What is left over is profit. So, if the benefits of going to the moon exceeded the considerable costs, it would be profitable and private enterprise would do it.

Finally, on a practical level, observe that the principle of bureaucratic wastefulness that applies to all government efforts even applies to our space programs. Today, private entrepreneurs are developing space vehicles at tiny fractions of the cost of the Space Shuttle or the Saturn V rocket. These are innovative designs, quite different than the rocket technology used by NASA which is not that different from the German rockets developed in World War II by Werner von Braun.

I am fully confident that if simply left alone by the government, private, for-profit companies will exploit the solar system for tourism, materials production and sheer exploration. Government can stay out of the way by eliminating silly FAA-type restrictions on rocket flights, reforming the courts to prevent specious lawsuits that retard technological innovation (e.g.: asbestos paranoia), and simply reducing spending and taxes so that the money is there to finance something as glorious as space flight.

On a personal level, I intend to be a space tourist. I am glad that I am likely to see a vital (private, for-profit) space tourism industry emerge in my lifetime.

President Bush -- Big Talk and Little Action, A Dangerous Combination

I would prefer an avowed pacifist as president, instead of President Bush. At least, when the pacifist fails, he would go down in history like Neville Chamberlain of Great Britain who claimed he was establishing "peace in our time" as he signed away Czechoslovakia's sovereignty to Nazi Germany on the eve of World War II. Chamberlain thought he would achieve peace by appeasing the Nazis. Instead, his policy of appeasement emboldened the Germans and helped bring on World War II.

Chamberlain became a symbol of the evil of appeasement. As an exemplar of how NOT to deal with dictators, he helped strengthen the spine of the world as it fought the Nazis and later the Communists.

What is the danger of Bush? First, in actual practice, he appeases no less than any other administration. He is now offering oil, nuclear plants and other goodies to the Iranians and North Koreans to persuade them to stop their programs to develop nuclear bombs. Yes, he did invade Iraq, but he does nothing against the greater enemy Iran, even as that country, for example, ships bombs into Iraq to kill our soldiers. In Israel, he authorized the Europeans to send more money to Hamas, the same terrorist group that has killed many Americans. Indeed, Bush's actions to defend us from Muslim terrorists are likely not that different than what we could have expected from a Democratic administration.

But, despite his little actions, Bush is (at times) a big talker. He refers to the "Axis of Evil". He pontificates loudly against the Iranians and North Koreans, against Syria, etc. (that is, when he is not holding hands and kissing the crown prince of Saudi Arabia -- yes, Bush did that a few months ago in case you missed the photos in the newspaper).

By talking big and doing little, Bush disorients and alienates those who want the United States to properly defend itself against the terrorists. Through his big talk, Bush gives the "appearance" of strong action, while his actions are incredibly weak. Bush operates on the premise: "If words could kill, my enemy would already be dead."

Unfortunately, while Bush talks, the enemy prepares for his next move.

A pacifist as President (such as John Kerry), would give us the same actions, but none of the same phony talk (although we would get different phony talk). And when another attack occurs on his watch, it is pacifism and appeasement that gets a black eye. Under Bush, when we are attacked again there will be no clarity as to why Bush's policies were unsuccessful in preventing that attack. Was it because we were too weak against the Muslim terrorists? Or, maybe we were too strong by calling them too many names and supporting Israel too much? Maybe Bush should have more actively cut ties with Israel and offered that country up as appeasement to the inflamed Muslim masses?

If a pacifist fails, it is pacifism that gets blamed. Then maybe next time a truly strong leader like a Winston Churchill could step in and win this war. I hope that when it happens, it will not take something as horrific as the nuking of an American or Western city [I live in New York]. And I hope that Bush hasn't muddled things up so much that all the Winston Churchills out there who could step up would be silent.