Sunday, April 14, 2013

4-8-13 HUMANITY The Ego-centric Animal  blog

If you trace human history as far back as is possible, you will find evidence of some sort of worship. While I do believe that paleo-anthropologists over-estimate the meaning of some artifacts as religious still there is no doubt that humans have always built religions. And, it is reasonable to wonder for what reason.

We originally hunted and gathered fruits and nuts for sustenance; life was a commodity that we took from animals so we could eat them. But, somewhere along the way, perhaps because of guilt, perhaps because the children loved their pets or perhaps simply because we have a highly developed sense of empathy (not enough but that's a different topic) we began the practice of apologizing for our killings. Still, that begged the question: To whom, or what was the apology directed?

The world, a mysterious place had to have spirits and godlets to make sense of things and, the self-love of humans required immortality.

Well, bodies deteriorate - no eternal life there. So, to preserve our self-esteem, to preserve the notion that we could not simply disappear from existence we argued there is more to us than the body. We postulated an essence, and a different kind of existence populated by the souls of the dead.

We a simple stroke of the brain, we had conquered death. To augment our new idea we developed a set of understandings called religion with rituals and idols and the comfort provided by a gathering place for the dead. Heaven beckoned.
The soul idea, providing comfort in harsh, unpredictable environments has lasted even until now though; in spite of the wisdom of our elders we cannot find any evidence for it. Of course, before humans learned and continue to learn to understand how the universe works there was no significant challenge to the idea. Of course, burning heretics at the stake certainly cooled the ardor for soul investigations. But, the religious had disagreements and with the reformation the disagreements became bloody. The Vatican sold indulgences so that loving relatives could get the souls of their loved ones out of purgatory. Luther put paid to that. Do you get to heaven by doing good works or because you have proper faith? Again, blood was spilled. Baptisms at birth or when the child could reason disputes provided another occasion for killing

No solutions seemed possible and after more bloody warfare, perhaps only by exhaustion things settled down . . . until science. Science is nothing but an attitude about the material world. The question shifted from why to how. It no longer was why did God make the grass grow, but what were the circumstances under which grass appeared and prospered. Did the flood actually occur? Of course, look at the fossils high in mountains where the flood deposited them. Wonderful explanation until geology described how mountains formed; they rose high carrying with them the desiderata of dead animals. Yet, the argument persists even now.

Again, many wise people have attempted to use science to prove the existence of the soul. In one experiment, as people lay dying they were weighed and after death weighed again. The religionists anticipated lost weight because of the disappearance of the soul but no matter how much they finagled, they could not demonstrate a physical difference before and after death.

So, is there a soul? It is important to understand that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. To say that differently, because we cannot find evidence for a soul is not proof that soul does not exist. The lack of evidence means only that we don't know. Of course, we can ask the believers why they believe in the absence of evidence but surely their response would not satisfy. There is a bumper sticker that says, “Don't believe everything you think.” I love it.

So, when the day comes when I die, who knows perhaps I'll be happily surprised. Nah, I don't think so.

If you want to fit in with society
Belief in soul is a necessary priority
Their mentation is lazy
So soul believers get crazy
But, as ecclesiasts says, "All is Vanity."

Sunday, April 7, 2013

NRA:  In the American Tradition

According to our history as presented by American and Italian film, this is a nation built on gunfire. John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Hopalong Cassidy, Lash LaRue, Tom Mix, the Lone Ranger and a vast number of others all fought for the American way by shooting up the bad guys. We boys (girls too?) surely identified with such American heroes and John Wayne has reached near Iconic proportions as the personification of American values. Self-reliance, impeccable ethics and quick with a gun.

And, now we have the NRA to continue the tradition. Our American heroes cleared the land of Indians with their Colts, Winchesters and Henrys; shooting it out is part of our heritage. So, it is no surprise that the NRA urges that we transform our schools into mini-forts. Of course, they are not so designated. I mean, who would wish to send their children to Fort Overland or Camp Erasmus etc. Yet, that is what they urge. Never mind banning assault type weapons, or large magazines, or creating background checks for would be purchasers. According to the NRA, such laws could never work perfectly so no law is preferable. By the standard of failed perfection, they ought to prefer school shoot-outs; after all, school guards might not be able to do the job perfectly.

Let’s not quibble and consider the ramifications. Each school would have either police officers on site, or teachers, volunteers, would receive training in the handling of hand weapons and in small arms combat so to be on a par with murderous invaders. Would there be bulletproof glass? That would seem reasonable. Would the doors be locked? Better that than permit shooters to simply walk in and start their deadly fandango. And, if someone knocked at the door asking for entrance, the armed protectors would have to gather at that site just in case the visitor would come in shooting. But, if the shooter came in with a thirty shot magazine, he or she could likely handle pistol-armed defenders . . . unless the defenders also had such rifles. What a sight that might be. The OK corral revitalized with enough heroes to go around.

The reality is somewhat different. As experts have pointed out, in school is one of the safest spots for children. Mass school killings are rare. That means the protectors would become bored with their assignment and bored defenders are not exactly what we might prefer. The cost? Millions, with thus less money for education. And, if bad guys decided that school forts were too dangerous for them, well, there are always the movies or the malls or buses or restaurants where they could do their nasty work.

What is so distressing is the sheer dumbness of the NRA’s proposal. The old saying: “If all you have is a hammer, all problems look like a nail,” describes their mental cul-de-sac.

NRA experts argue that there is no evidence of reduced gun crime after assault type weapons were banned. They don’t tell us that the congress made it illegal, that’s right, illegal, to gather any evidence of the efficacy of such banning. So, yes, the NRA is right, there is no evidence.

Let’s do it, let’s contact our legislatures and urge them to pass gun-control laws and make them work. As I’ve pointed out, there are always exceptions to constitutional mandates, how is it that our constitution loving, gun-toting zealots don’t go mad in their defense of them. Yes, let’s get it done.