New Pope Video: Ain’t The Planet Great?

Well, you can see it for yourself. The Pope, God bless him, brightly lit from below and in a voice most mellow, emphasized by environmentally friendly music, tells us that the earth is swell and, to keep it that way, you should pick up your damn trash.

Who could argue?

Video has cute fish, cute frolicking kids, cute multi-cultural faces, bikes, greenery, lovingly fondled and in abundance, some shots of what looks like New Jersey, and dangling feet blocking the son.

Then there are words; chiefly these:

The relationship between poverty and the fragility of the planet requires another way of managing the economy and measuring progress, conceiving a new way of living.

Because we need a change that unites us all.

Free from the slavery of consumerism.

I can’t make much of the economics of planetary fragility and poverty, except as it relates to the ancient wisdom of not mixing the location of the food input and output cycle, if you catch my meaning.

But I sure understand the slavery of consumerism. I despise the word with its true connotations of greed, avarice, and insatiability. Try it. Say “I am a consumer“, thinking hard about what it means to consume.

Consumerism compliments, if that’s the right word, narcissism. Everybody knows that, yet we don’t often think about it. Pace:

Fine, eliminate the word, have folks live more “in tune” with nature. Let ascetics abound. Then what? Good question, that.

There are certain advantages to a more ascetic or stoical life than many of us currently lead. These advantages aren’t only spiritual, but physical, too. Buying less unnecessary food is an excellent way to drop those extra 80 pounds—and to zap the credit card bill.

So you heed the advice to cut back—or have it heeded for you—and now you’re at fighting weight and debt free. Then what? A little planet or nature worship, maybe? Well, not worship worship, as hippy Woopie might say. Instead a kind of deep, yoga-mat-carrying appreciation that nature—rather, Nature—is alive. And maybe even looking out for you. Or maybe just a recognition that life can be so spiritual.

Care and appreciation of the thin scraping of dirt and water that forms the surface of our planet can’t be a goal in and of itself. Keeping things neat and pretty can’t be our natural end or the ultimate reason for out existence. Rather, they can be. But they surely can’t be what the Pope meant, right?

Would turning somebody into an environmentalist make them more or less likely to embrace Christianity? How about a vegetarian or even, God help us, a vegan? How about just a more caring person?

Could go either way, but I think the answer is weighted toward no for any of these categories. Lot of folks will look at this video and think to themselves that all the Pope really wants is for us to be nicer to Earth, maybe even nicer to each other. Niceness isn’t enough, though. Sometimes it’s even the wrong thing. Anyway, since most people already think themselves nice, their next thoughts will turn to those they feel aren’t so nice. Like polluters. Who are they? Capitalists? Mean people?

It takes real work to think that a person will watch this video and worry about that state of his soul. Would a person watching even know he had a soul that might be imperiled?

Ah, but what can you do in a minute-and-a-half, anyway? It’s only seed planting. Besides, the Pope said proselytism is “solemn nonsense.”

Incidentally, the Pope is wrong about global warming.


Hat tip to our friend Steve Skojec where I first learned of this video.

Infinity, (Physical) Parameters, Fine Tuning, & Probability


Via Ed Feser I was led back to Alvin Plantinga’s Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism, which has a lot about probability. I’ll not do much of that today, but there is one point about assigning probabilities to a proposition that I want to make in the context of infinity.

Plantinga was speaking in the context of “fine tuning” of physical parameters, such as the speed of light c. It is a “parameter” because we only know its value by observation and estimation, which implies there is always uncertainty in its value (which should be, but usually isn’t, considered in equations which use the parameter).

Now fine tuning is a huge topic which I’ll only gloss. Some claim the light-speed parameter could have taken any positive value. By “any” they mean any real number greater than, or perhaps bounded from below, by 0. That’s a lot of points! An infinite amount of them. And not just a counting infinite number, like 1, 2, 3, …, but the infinity of the continuum, which are all the numbers between 1 and 2, between 2 and 3, …, and which therefore cannot be counted.

There are several questions. About physical parameters, the goal is to find simpler arguments from which we can deduce the values of higher-order parameters. That means there might be a set of axioms (which we know via a version of induction) that allow us to deduce c must be this-and-such value and none other. This could be true for c and for every other physical parameter, such as Planck’s constant and so forth.

Either way, it is not true that c could be “any” value in the continuum. Something actual caused the value of c. The equations we might discover might given insight into this cause and then again they may only allow us to determine the value of c. What’s the difference? Knowing the cause means knowing essence of the active power that made c what it is and, just as important, what it isn’t. Mighty task, especially considering we’re skirting along ancient arguments about why there is something rather than nothing. This is the point at which physics and metaphysics meet.

To determine a parameter is much easier. For instance, we have several formulas that allow us to determine the value of π or of any of its digits. Now π is transcendental, meaning its digits go on forever, in the same spirit of the continuum. That means we’ll never know all the digits of π Anyway, these formulas allow us to determine, in the sense of know, particular digits, but none of these formulas tell us why π takes the value it does and not some other. In other words, we don’t know, and I’m guessing we can’t know, what caused π to take the value it does.

You have the idea by now. Fine tuning arguments about parameters will say nothing about what caused any parameter value. That means fine tuning arguments are about our knowledge of parameters and not their cause. This is important. If we knew what was causing the values of parameters, we wouldn’t need to, and shouldn’t, speak of the “chances” parameters take certain values. We could just speak of causes.

But if we don’t know the cause(s), then probability is appropriate. Since probability is always conditional of the premises assumed, we have to figure which premises are useful in fine-tuning arguments. Which premises are “best”? I don’t know. Which premises are good or useful? Let’s examine one. Is the premises that, for example, c can take any value in the continuum north of 0 a good one? I don’t think so. Here’s why.

The first problem is the end point, which is infinity. Are we right, in our premise, to entertain that light speed can be infinite? What knowledge do we have that makes this assumption plausible? Well, I don’t know of any but that’s far (far) from proof there isn’t, so assume that some exists. All right, so c can be “any” number inclusive between 0 and infinity. Wrap your mind around this. Try. You can’t. Nobody can. It is impossible to think of the continuum in the sense that you can think of all the numbers in it. Since probability is a matter of epistemology, i.e. our thoughts, we can’t then know all the probabilities of all the numbers in the continuum. We are left in a state of mystification. That being so, probability is of no help to us.

This is why assigning probabilities to the continuum when infinity is involved doesn’t work (or work without lots of provisos), and is the reason (cause) of any number of paradoxes that have been discovered.

Here’s another way to think of it. Suppose we knew (somehow) c could be any number in the set {s_1, s_2, …, s_n}, where s_n can even be infinity (don’t argue with me that infinity isn’t a number), but where n itself is finite. Given just that premise, and none other, the probability that c takes value s_i is 1/n. No problem.

Now let n grow, but remain finite. Let n = googol, or let n = a googol tetrated a googol times. You don’t have to understand that except to realize this number is hugeous. It’s big, baby, big. But as big as it is, the probability that c takes value s_i is still 1/n (now a teeny tiny number, but not 0). Let n grow as large as you like, but keep it just this side of infinity, and again, probability is not damaged.

Large n obviously are no practical limitation, at least as far as measuring values of any parameter. If we create instruments that allow us to peer closer at c, then however large our n, the probability is still computable. This is important because we need some kind of measurement to inform us of c.

Without understanding the finer mathematical details, you can see that large numbers are no trouble, but the continuum is. Infinity (at either end) isn’t the real problem, but the uncountable nature of the continuum is. Think: how many numbers are there between 0 and 1? More than a countable infinity. We have another continuum! And if we try and assign probabilities to all the numbers in [0,1], paradoxes arise just as if we had [0, infinity].

That means we have to think of these things in a different way. We can’t in probability start with infinity or the continuum. We have to start with something finite and comprehensible, and then head off to infinity. But it turns out the path you take to the continuum or infinity matters. Infinity is a big place! You can end up in different corners of it depending on the road you use to get to it. This is why we can’t glibly speak of probabilities of parameters taking “any” value. There’s just too many values!

Incidentally, I have a greater discussion of all this in my upcoming book, Uncertainty.

Update Had a good question about measurement from Geert de Vries on Twitter.

Length (a meter) is defined as a function of c. If we take c = some definite value (with 0 uncertainty), then meter will be fixed because the value of c is also fixed by assumption. There is no problem with this because “meter” is arbitrary. We can define any number of things based on assuming a fixed c or any other parameter.

But if we really want to know the actual distance from here to there (and light is involved), then we must take the uncertainty in c into account because meter inherits that uncertainty. Simple as that. Of course, for many applications this uncertainty will be negligible. But negligible does not mean non-zero. It only means that in this decision the true inherent uncertainty does not change any decisions we make based on the distance.

This brings up a whole other discussion of how to decide. But one thing should be clear: decision and uncertainty are not the same thing.

On The Freedom Of Religion And Satanism

Egalitarian justice.
Egalitarian justice.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Satanists to give prayer at city council meeting:

Members of a satanic group are set to give the prayer at an upcoming meeting of the Phoenix City Council…

Satanic Temple members Michelle Shortt and Stu de Haan are expected to give the invocation at the council’s Feb. 17 meeting after the group submitted a request in December. Despite the objections of some council members, the city has decided to let the satanists speak as scheduled.

Phoenix City Attorney Brad Holm released a statement Thursday evening, defending the city’s position. The city typically holds a short invocation at the start of formal council meetings and has included members from a variety of faiths, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Sikhism.

“Consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s direction, the city cannot dictate religious viewpoints or the content of a prayer,” Holm wrote. “In addition, government may not exclude a denomination or a religion from praying under these circumstances.”…

Meanwhile, Mayor Greg Stanton and Councilwoman Kate Gallego said they support letting the satanists speak. Stanton released a statement, saying, “the Constitution demands equal treatment under the law” even though he disagrees with the group’s message.

Gallego also pointed to First Amendment protections, adding, “I just believe we’re a diverse society and if we have prayer, we welcome all points of view.”

The men who approved the words “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”, while they knew, or rather acknowledged, more about the insanity of man than we do, their education being genuine and not as propaganda-laden, they did not anticipate the lunacy we moderns would slip into. Only an insane person would construe the policy of forbidding the central government from establishing an official religion as logically implying that local governments must entertain all religions.

Logically, of course, you can’t get there from here. No valid, sound argument exists connecting the two propositions. I invite the reader to try, but please don’t cite the “law”, which would be circular; it is the law which I am disputing. If you say the government allowing a particular religion a venue is tantamount to endorsing that religion, thus making it at least part of the State’s official religion, then because government must allow all religions a venue, all religions are thus part of the State’s official religion, which is absurd.

Anyway, since that path is blocked, some other explanation must exist why Mayor Greg Stanton and Councilwoman Kate Gallego and others support allowing degenerate Satanists to preside over official ceremonies.

Well, there is no drama, the answer is obvious and given by Gallego herself: “we welcome all points of view.” Half effeminacy, half egalitarianism.

Only a fool “welcomes” all points of view. The charitable interpretation is that Gallego was speaking loosely, where all doesn’t mean all, but only most or many. But, no. Because she said “all” with the understanding that Satanists were coming on over to city hall with a fresh spell to cast, or whatever.

Egalitarianism is, as I’ve often said, corrosive. At the very least it rots the minds of those who entertain it; at the worst, it destroys the society which embraces it. Gallego is no longer able to say, and perhaps even unable to think, that this religion is bad or this religion is worse than that religion. That kind of reasoning is so judgmental.

Not only is it judgmental, it implies there is an objective standard by which religions can be weighed. And if there is an objective standard, then reason demands it must be sought out, understood, and referred to. And if it is to be sought out, understood, and referred to, then it is possible to conclude a particular religion is so debased that it should be proscribed.

And if it is concluded that a particular religion should be proscribed, then it becomes the duty of the government to proscribe it (at government functions; publicly is another matter).

That logical conclusion frightens many because they worry this duty to proscribe will become a weapon. It is a rational fear. But the weapon can only be misused when the objective standard is misunderstood, willfully or accidentally. If accidentally, then there is hope for correction. If willfully, then it doesn’t matter if we allow proscription or instead seek egalitarianism, because we are then dealing with liars seeking power, and in both cases we meet a bad end.

Stream: Olympics Might Allow Men Pretending to be Women to Compete as Women


Today’s post is at the Stream: Olympics Might Allow Men Pretending to be Women to Compete as Women.

If you are a true egalitarian, if you actually believe in the equality of sexes and are not lying, exaggerating, or signalling your cultural holiness, then you must advocate for the complete and utter removal of all distinctions between the sexes.

Take for instance the Olympics. It currently enforces inequality, dictating that men and women compete separately. Come, now, all you true equalitarians: agree and state that this inequality must cease forthwith. (Say so in the comments.)

If you do not agree that this manifest unequal status should cease, then you are not a true egalitarian or equalitarian; it means that you hold that there are fundamental, ineradicable differences between the sexes. Further, it means that others are right to ascribe a lack of equalitarian earnestness in you. That being so, it is then rational to not only notice sex differences, but to make decisions about and to treat people differently based on their sex…

Here is the twist. There are predictions the International Olympic Committee will allow, with one small proviso, what they consider a version of the equalitarian ideal in its upcoming contests. The proviso is that the contests will still be separated by sex, but that men pretending to be women will be allowed to compete as women, and vice versa…

Chris Mosier is a woman pretending to be a man, though discovering that takes work. For instance, this left-wing ESPN article buries the fact deep within. That article also mentions Mosier’s “transition to physically becoming a man.” This is, of course, scientifically and biologically impossible. Not unlikely, mind you. Impossible. That ESPN says otherwise is a clear indication that this once-prestigious network has lost its mind.

But never mind that. The curious thing is that the Frankenstein-like treatments that good lady Mosier had included “doping”, which is to say, being drugged with testosterone, among other chemicals. Now it used to be the Olympics cast a dim view on these kinds of artificial enhancements. But Outsports thinks they will now look past this in their strive toward Equality.

This would appear to be good news for athletes who want to cheat…

Go there to read the rest!

Updates See the comment from MattS and my reply first. MattS brings up the good point of males who are born with an extra X chromosome. Now these men are typically less physically capable than XY-men. XXY-men are thus disadvantaged. Should they, like women pretending to be men (WPM), be able to use chemically or surgical enhancement to bring themselves to the same levels as male Olympian athletes?

If so, why not alter everybody so that all are equal? A true level playing field.
50 Years of Sex Changes, Mental Disorders, and Too Many Suicides