Do Whatever You Want, You Have To Anyways.

The title of this piece is false advice. If you want to hurt people, don’t. If you want to hoard money for no reason while people starve to death, or work menial jobs forever to no happy end, don’t. However, if you want to move to the beach, do. If you want to open an ice cream stand, do. If you want to forget all of your debts and walk off into the woods, go for it.

Life is singular folks. Seems very unlikely that it happens again, at the very least not in the same way it is happening right now. Which means you’ve got one chance to do what you want in this world, it is this chance, it is today. Hate your job? Quit. Don’t like your neighbors? Move. Nothing gets better through inaction, no one is coming to save you. It is up to you.

I have even better news actually, it isn’t up to you. Everything you are ever going to do is set in stone. How do I know? I don’t, but I’m pretty sure. Here’s two pieces of evidence. One is just that this life doesn’t repeat itself, which means you go through it exactly once. Every time you have acted, responded, decided, it was the only time you will ever act in that particular situation. Which means questions of what you would do differently if you had the chance are irrelevant. You won’t. Furthermore, even if you did, if you were in the exact same situation again, with the exact same information, you would make the exact same choice. How do I know? Because in that situation with that information, you made that choice. Pretending you would magically make some other choice in that exact same situation is useless, as is pretending you might have been able to learn from the mistake of that choice before having made it and so chose otherwise. Spilt milk.

The other piece of evidence is just the very nature of the universe. It’s causal. X happens, causes y why every time. The pool ball analogy is a good one. If the cue ball hits the eight ball on the exact same table at the exact same speed and angle at the exact same positions, the eight ball will move the same way every time. This has been how things have happened since the beginning. Stars forming, planets, earthquakes, waves, clouds, rainbows, all just a reaction to the laws of nature and previous events. So it is with physical phenomena. You know what else is physical phenomena? Your thoughts, your decisions, your actions. Each is just a reaction to the laws of nature and previous events. Had toast this morning? That was determined by the big bang. Broke up with your boyfriend? Big bang did that. C’est la vie.

So, don’t worry about doing whatever you want, you’re going to. Don’t worry about mistakes you’ve made, you had no choice. Free will is an illusion. Since free will is an illusion and mistakes don’t matter, go ahead and do whatever you want. Of course you shouldn’t worry about doing whatever you want, you’re going to, which means you don’t have to worry about any mistakes you’ve ever made, because you had no choice, and since your mistakes don’t matter, you may as well do whatever you want. Of course you are going to do whatever you want, so don’t worry about possible mistakes, they were inevitable, because free will is an illusion, and since mistakes don’t matter, go ahead and do whatever you want. Why are you so focused on potential mistakes anyway? Maybe it’ll be awesome.

Quotes of Thomas Paine

I am not currently up to the task of either summarizing or analyzing “Rights of Man” by Thomas Paine, which I read recently.  A few quotes, very few given the number of powerful and entirely relevant passages available in this work, follow.

“It suits his purpose to exhibit the consequences with their causes. It’s one of the arts of the drama, to do so. If the crimes of men were exhibited with their suffering, stage effect would sometimes be lost and the audience would be inclined to approve where it was intended they commiserate.”

“Man did not enter into society to become worse than he was before, or to have fewer rights than he had before, but to have those rights better secured.”

“Man can be kept ignorant, but he cannot be made ignorant.”

“When it is laid down as a maxim that a king can do no wrong it places him in a similar security with that of idiots and persons insane and responsibility is out of the question.”

(Italics on that last quote are mine, I’ll tell you that I added them because it seems as though Thomas Paine was talking specifically about the insane idiot that is currently the president of the United States, just in case that wasn’t clear).



The Trolley (continued)

The brakes on the train lock up, they sound like a giant dragging his fingernails across a city wide blackboard. The man sitting on the bridge leans forward, as if he is trying to get a better look. You decide you’ll save the children, one life sacrificed to save five others, that in itself is sufficient justification. You rush forward, and the man looks over at you.

“Oh, hello Sarah.” he says.

It’s your cousin, someone you haven’t seen in years, but your kin all the same. You should have recognized him, but you didn’t. You falter, tripping over your steps, but your momentum is determined. Your cousin puts up his hands, tries to swing his legs back over the bridge, but it’s too late. You connect with him, and he topples over the side. When the train comes to stop it is with your cousin’s body edging up against the first child. The children are saved, you saved them. You also murdered your cousin.

A flash of light blinds you, seems to take up the entire world, and then fades away. You are standing on top of the bridge again, your cousin sits on the edge of the bridge. The brakes have just begun to squeal.

(to be continued)

The Trolley

In your town a bridge crosses an expanse of railway tracks that lead to a terminating depot. Often people stand on the bridge, watching the trains roll into their final destination, or take off again. It is not the majestic scenery of the nearby mountains or lakes, but in the context of a city, for those appreciative of the massive capacity of humankind for producing infrastructure, it is nice to look at.

One day, early in the morning, you are walking across that bridge. It is nearly empty, a rare event, with the lone observer sitting upon the railing of the bridge, his feet dangling over the tracks. Not an entirely safe position, but the man is clearly an adult, an impressively sized adult at that. A giant almost. You edge over to the railing yourself, so as to see the tracks, and you stop. Your heart seems to skip a beat. Down there, as if in a Dudley Doright cartoon, are children tied to the train tracks. Five of them. Screaming for help.

“Holy shit!” you scream.

“I know.” says the other man.

A train is approaching, it’s horn blaring. At this stage it does not move quickly, but neither can it apply the brakes quickly enough to stop before hitting the children, and regardless of its speed the impact is going to end the lives of each child. In a blur of thoughts one seems to ring out a little more clearly. The man is sitting directly above the track, and the combination of the frantically screeching brakes of the train and the weight of the man might be sufficient to save them. Why is he sitting there anyway? Why didn’t he call for help right away? Did he tie them to the tracks? There isn’t time to ask, you either push the man, surely killing him but saving the lives of the children, or you don’t, and the children will die.

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.


(to be continued)

Smarter Than Man

The question I have today is simple. On what basis does humankind declare that they are the most intelligent animal? The question that follows is similarly simple, what would it take for humankind to determine that it is not the case?

I know not many people look at this site, which is unfortunate, because I would love help with this. I’ll be thinking about it, I hope you will too. Email me your thoughts, if you’d like, at, or comment below.


No Know.

Long ago there was a French guy name Rene. Rene wondered to himself, “What do I know?” and began to deconstruct his knowledge.

Rene realized that most claims of knowledge are grounded in sensorial input, i.e. you see the sun and so claim knowledge that the sun exists. You hear your mother’s voice and so claim knowledge of its sound. You touch burning stick, and so claim knowledge that burning your skin hurts. Rene was not convinced that his justification was sufficient for the claim however, as the senses can deceive. If you see a tornado, what ensures that you are not dreaming it? If you smell popcorn can you be sure it isn’t a hallucination? If you see your friend, isn’t it possible you’re just wrong?

To illustrate this argument forcefully Rene asks the reader to consider a scenario. In this scenario all that exists in the universe is your mind and a demon. The demon is manipulating your mind, causing it to ‘sense’ all that you experience. So the demon causes your mind to hear friends and families, to smell eggs and gasoline, see the sun, all of it, but all the while all that actually exists is the demon and your mind. Since in that universe your experiences would be identical to the experiences you have in this universe, you can’t know for sure that that universe isn’t actually this universe, i.e. you can’t know that you aren’t being entirely deceived by your senses in regards to everything, which means you can’t claim knowledge of anything. Except, Rene continues, that you exist, for no demon, no matter how powerful, could convince something that doesn’t exist that it does. So, as you can think you experience the world, that you can think at all, is sufficient justification for knowledge that, if nothing else, you exist. You think, therefore you are. Everything else? Impossible to know.

That was a long time ago, and there hasn’t really been a solid counterargument. More contemporary epistemologists suggested that knowledge of a proposition consisted of belief in that proposition, justification for that belief, and truth of the proposition. That really just moved the mystery though, what is justification anyway? Furthermore this dude Edmund Gettier blew a hole in that idea mile wide anyway.

Gettier was a professor of philosophy somewhere who hadn’t published anything, or at least not in a while. The admin said he should, so he wrote a three page paper showing that true, justified belief was not sufficient for knowledge. Imagine you come hoime, you see your mom standing in the kitchen ,and so you think, “My mom is home.” As it turns out, what you are looking at is a hologram, however, your mom is home, just in a different room. So you believe the proposition that your mom is home, it’s true your mom is home, and the belief is justified by the fact you see your mom, but it sure doesn’t seem like you know your mom is home. Another scenario like this, you are driving through farmland, barns everywhere. What you don’t know is that there are way more barn facades than actual barns, just movie set barn faces being propped up from behind with sticks. As you drive you catch a glimpse of one of the very few actual barns and think, “That’s a barn.” You believe it’s a barn, it is a barn, and it is, again, justified by having seen it. Again though, doesn’t seem like a barn.

So what the hell? How can you know anything? No worries my friend, I got you. As long as your cool with not knowing whether you know anything, I think you might know all sorts of stuff. Or maybe nothing, but who cares?

I propose that you have knowledge of a proposition when the proposition is true, you believe it, and your justification is grounded in the truth of the proposition. By the last bit I mean your evidence could not exist unless the corresponding proposition was true. This solves the Gettier issue and Rene’s whole deal as well.

Let’s look at Gettier’s examples first. In the mom scenario, you don’t know your mom is home, because the evidence isn’t grounded in your mom being home. She is, but that’s just a coincidence, you saw a hologram and so you don’t know your mom is home. You would have believed she was home anyway. In the barn scenario you do know that that is a barn because you saw the barn, and it is a barn. If you hadn’t seen that barn you would not have believed it was a barn, because you didn’t see it. If you had seen a barn facade you might have believed it was a barn and you would have been wrong, but that’s irrelevant. You see a barn, it is a barn, you believe it’s a barn, and so you know it’s a barn.

In regards to Rene and his whole thing, well if it is a demon making everything up, then you don’t know anything. Not much of a surprise there. If you see something and it is a hallucination, a dream, a mistake, then you don’t know that thing, but if it isn’t, you do.

The cost of this position is that you never get to know that you know. It has to be the case that not only is the relevant proposition true, but that your justification couldn’t exist without that proposition being true. How do you know if your justification is grounded in the truth of the proposition? You don’t. So you can say, “I know blah blah blah” about whatever, and you might be right, and you might be wrong. C’est la vie! That was already the case anyway.

So, as to an epistemological problem you probably didn’t know existed, it’s solved already. You’re welcome.

(I’m probably wrong though).

Black and white photo with some words underneath it.

Woke up this morning
Put on my slippers
Walked in the kitchen and died.”

-John Prine

I think I’m about as ok with dying as a person not immediately facing it can be. I’m definitely ok with the prospect of dying when I’m old. I love my life, it’s been uncannily good for the most part, but I imagine in 50 years the prospect of the long nap won’t both me much at all.

The euphemisms for death should go though, including the one I just used. Death is not sleep, no matter how much we might like to believe it’s so. The most current pedagogy regarding death is that one should never conflate the two concepts in the minds of young children, as they seem to less find comfort in the idea of dying as sleep than find terror in the idea of sleep as death. There is another issue to this analogy of course, it attempts to rob death of its status as something completely unknowable. We know what sleep is, but we can’t even imagine being dead.

I talk to my class about different theories of the origin of the universe. In regards to one version of the Big Bang the universe comes into existence through a perturbation of nothing. I ask them to try and imagine nothing, and how nothing is not the same as empty or blank. I ask them to imagine no color, no direction, no space, no beingness whatsoever. It comes to light that it’s not really possible. We’ve never experienced anything outside of space and time, where the origin of the universe takes place, and so we can’t reconstruct it in our minds. So it is with death, it is defined by the absence of experience, and nothing we’ve experienced is that. We’ve had gaps in our experiences, but they seem to not exist at all, and are defined solely by the experiences they occur between.

We can’t imagine death then, because we can’t experience it, but that’s strange because we’ve all been not alive before. By ‘we’ I mean ‘everything alive at the moment’ of course. There’s nothing alive that has been alive since the beginning of the universe, which means all living things were not alive for at least some amount of time. Me personally, at my age, given that the Universe is 13.7 billion years old, have been not alive for roughly 13.7 billion years. Makes my alive years seem kind of irrelevant to be honest, I’m way more experienced at being not alive.

Mark Twain spoke to all of this in his autobiography, his words were, “Annihilation has no terrors for me, because I have already tried it before I was born—a hundred million years—and I have suffered more in an hour, in this life, than I remember to have suffered in the whole hundred million years put together.”

There does seem to be a difference between dead and not alive though. A rock is not alive, but it is not dead. Science has words for this distinction, which is fortunate. Biotic things are things that are or have been alive or exclusively part of a living system. So a stick is biotic, hair and blood is biotic, a koala is biotic. Abiotic things have never been alive, even if they have been part of a living system. So the sun is abiotic, water and air are abiotic, rocks are abiotic. Biotic things depend on abiotic things, water and air in particular, but abiotic things don’t depend, period. They just are.

The interesting thing about biotic and abiotic categorization is that all biotic things are made, ultimately, of atoms, which themselves are abiotic things. So if you took any biotic thing, like, for example, your grandmother, and took her apart atom by atom, you’d have a pile of tiny little things that are not themselves alive nor had ever been alive.

So, μέν, we cannot imagine death because life is defined by experience and death by the permanent cessation of it, yet, δέ, we are long practiced at being not alive, and in fact, are in some fundamental sense, not even currently alive. So much for being worried about being dead, that’s pretty much our permanent state of being!

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m missing the point. The scariness of death is the part where we are having conscious experiences and then stop having them. If you believe in the basic materialistic appearance of the universe, in which matter and energy act according to certain laws which seem to prohibit the existence of supernatural phenomena such as migrating souls, extra dimensional resort villages, or fiery pits eternal despair, then you stop having them permanently.

I’m just saying, it’s been a fairly relaxed way to coast through the last 13.7 billion years, doesn’t seem like the worst option.

If you are not convinced the universe operates exactly as it seems to, and perhaps is a stage on which to audition for future lives, then you’re just off to some other kind of conscious experiences I guess, which seems pretty good. Kind of the whole sales pitch on those belief systems isn’t it? Eternal consciousness on various planes of existence? What is interesting is that the materialistic argument against this kind of supernatural reincarnation is an argument for the possibility of an actual reincarnation. So actually that forever above is qualified.

The argument, taking as a subject Eva, goes like this:

  1. Material reincarnation exists is someone can die and then later become alive again.
  2. Eva is alive if she is having conscious experiences.
  3. Eva dies when she stops having conscious experiences and her body then decays.
  4. Eva can die and then later become alive again.
  5. Eva is someone.
  6. Therefore material reincarnation exists.

Premise 4 of this argument rests on the belief that your consciousness is a product of your brain. The state that Eva’s brain is in causes it to experience the world in a way that Eva, and the rest of us, identify as consciousness. Eva remembers things, considers alternatives to reality, makes predictions based in prior experience, all sorts of neat things, and collectively those things constitute Eva’s consciousness. The state Eva’s brain is in changes over time, but Eva’s consciousness is a standard output during the duration of its life. If it is the case that Eva’s consciousness is the result of her brain’s structure then if she were to die, all that would have to happen for her to be reincarnated is that material in the universe would have to once again take on that structure. A materialist ought to agree that if Eva’s brain is producing Eva’s consciousness at t1 then, given that it has an identical structure, Eva’s brain will also be producing her consciousness at t2, even if there is another 13.7 billion years between t1 and t2.

So, the point is, we can never fully understand death, we are dead and always have been, and we will never die forever. Time for lunch.


Religion? What the hell is Religion?


At 7:30 this morning I wrote the following:

Religion is a big deal to a lot of people. The majority of world leaders severely impacting the lives of their citizens invoke it as justification. The overtly Islamic governments the Middle East do so in restricting women’s rights, while the government of the United States, secular by law, founded by atheists and skeptics, but recently some kind of Christian in practice, invokes it in ripping small children away from their mothers and fathers. So, with women being stoned to death and little kids crying themselves to sleep, alone on a cot in an old Wal-Mart,  because of religion, we should probably try to figure out what the it is. 

Religion seems to be a particular set of beliefs. If you believe a, b, and c then you are a Catholic. If you believe b,c, and d, then you are a Protestant. If you believe c,d, and e you are Muslim, and so on. 

It is now 7:30 in the evening. 7:34 anyway, about 12 hours later. I spent today cleaning out the shed in my backyard, I actually started yesterday. I took everything out of it, swept and vacuumed, put aside a pile to garage sale next weekend, threw a ton of stuff away, and then put everything back in a way that is logical and maximizes the space well.

I took a break in the middle of it, went to Lowe’s with my wife and son. I got some perennials for the yard, a table saw, pretty excited about that, and a big tub to put all my camping gear. Not all of it, actually, it doesn’t hold the sleeping bags and whatnot. Instead I filled it with all the stuff I forget whenever I go camping. I just went camping, and forgot everything, so that what made me think of it. Actually, now that I’m thinking of it, it was my friend saying he was going to get a tub for all of his camping stuff that made me think of it. Thanks Adam. Anyway. Chairs, coffee maker, pan. I also put the tent in there, so that I don’t forget to bring the tub.  On the way home we stopped at a garage sale, a couple was moving to Honduras so they were selling everything they owned. We got a good sized picture frame, a pole saw and a weed whacker, both battery powered and we we got a couple batteries and couple chargers as well. My wife got a dress, then as we left they threw in a Stephen King book that I haven’t read in a long time, and a Dean Koonts book. I’ve never read Dean Koonts, he has kind of the same reputation as Stephen King though, so I imagine it might make for some decent laying in the hammock about to take a nap reading.

Anyway, we got home, and I got back to it. Listened to the Mariners game as a I swept and vacuumed and piled and sorted and reorganized. They lost, but that’s ok, it’s just baseball. I’m not even on the team.

This morning, before I started really getting into it, my wife made me an omelette and hasbrowns for breakfast. It’s Father’s Day after all, though she does often make breakfast regardless. I make breakfast when she does not. Omelettes are pretty hit and miss for me, but this one was a major hit. Everything about it, the texture and degree to which the ingredients coagulated with the egg, just beautiful. For lunch, nachos. A Thai restaurant made us dinner, which was nice of them, all we had to do was give them money. It was delicious. The coffee was bountiful all day long.

As we ate dinner my wife and I played a game of cribbage. Our son finished and put him in the bath. He has a little portable tub, so he took a bath right there in the kitchen while we kept playing our game. On the table was a board printed with several photos of my son and I, as well as a little handprint art project my son made for me at daycare. We haven’t finished the game yet, our son wanted to get out of the bath and go to bed. My wife is in with him right now, reading books. (He isn’t acting sleepy anymore, cheeky monkey. Not really though, the monkey part. He, like you and I, presumably, is an ape. It is evidenced by the fact he resembles a monkey in many ways, but lacks a tail. That’s pretty much how you tell. It’s an important distinction. We really are very similar to gorillas, orangutans, especially bonobos. It might be harder to drive them into extinction if we, the human subspecies, recognized that, and, perhaps, subsequently, more difficult to destroy the existence of every other species as well). I have a pretty good hand sitting on the table too.

Anyway, I had a great day. Spent time with my boy and my wife, ate good food, accomplished a fairly laborious task with an aesthetically and pragmatically satisfying result.

So then I came into finish this sermon. I missed it last week already, and if I ever invent a god to accompany this religion I don’t want it to get mad at me, so I figured I ought to bang it out. I read what I wrote.

Religion seems to be a particular set of beliefs. If you believe a, b, and c then you are a Catholic. If you believe b,c, and d, then you are a Protestant. If you believe c,d, and e you are Muslim, and so on. 

Fine. I mean, it means that. Words are defined by use, and that is the way the word is used. I could spin an argument showing it means this or that, but it’s getting late and I’m tired and frankly I don’t care that much right now. I had a good day, I just want to sit on the couch and end it in peace.

The relevant fact is that religion doesn’t have to mean which building you go once per week to everyone. I mentioned Jack D. Hughes defines it as  something like the sum of your actions, which I like. I like that definition a lot actually. For some, their religion is separating children from their parents, both of whom are fleeing possible death in their own countries, in order to prove a point about law and order or something. I didn’t save any lives today, didn’t even try. But I feel good about what I did, and so I will try to have more days like this. That, being productive while spending time with my own family, for the moment, is my religion.

Or was it the word ‘feckless’ that was the problem?

Here’s the deal, calling a person a cunt is rude, and it definitely isn’t fair to vaginas to insult people by calling them one. For so many reasons, it is not a progressive term to use. However, there is a substantial difference between referring to a two faced, lying, hypocritical, racism and misogyny enabling piece of shit Trump apologist as a cunt, where cunt is used in place of that long list of descriptions, and referring to a black person as the offspring of a Muslim group and a gorilla like creature. On the one hand, you used a rude term to describe a despicable person, on the other hand you dehumanize billions of human beings because of the color of their skin. The first is rude, the second is racist. Rude people can be irritating, but rudeness is often intwined with honesty and so rudeness can often serve an important purpose, whereas racist people are vile idiots who are destroying this country. Clear?

The real problem is that these false equivalencies our idiot president constantly leans on (that the people protesting the celebration of old morons who fought to the death to keep people enslaved, and the racist morons who killed one of those people, are of the same moral standing, for example) are catching. Nobody who actually thinks critically about them could possibly construct a meaningful argument justifying the claim, but who cares about critical thinking? That piece of shit in office says they’re the same, which means a significant percentage of the US population believes they are the same, and so the media, which exists primarily to make money and so cannot offend so large a share of the potential market for their advertisers, has to pretend that it might be. Same shit with climate change, the direct link between human suffering  and for-profit healthcare, the incredible success of the Obama presidency, the fact that our nonstop state of global warfare is tied directly to maintaining control of the global oil supply, the supplication of the civilians in the United States through alcohol and sports, and so on and so on.

The supposed objectivity of the media is a facade hiding the fact that journalism is completely subjective to the amount of money the owners of media companies can make. The news tells both sides of every story, because what matters is not truth, but being able to advertise to as great a number of people as possible. There are exceptions, Fox news picked a market, to a lesser extent so has CNN, but in the vast majority of newspapers, evening and morning news programs, radio shows, etceteras, you will never find a duck being referred to as a duck, if there is even the slightest argument that it might be a flamingo.

The media provides idiocy a voice, in order to protect their bottom line, but the fact is that idiocy is contagious. A huge percentage of people are highly susceptible to arguments from authority, and the people on television are the authorities to most of those same people.

The media is never going to be truly objective because that word barely means anything. Every viewpoint, every belief, every claim to knowledge, is subject to outside forces. The media is meant to be driven by investigative journalism, so it ought to be subjective to the goddamn evidence.

But we all have silly dreams of unicorns, no reason to every expect them to come true I guess.

And Then There Was Cucumber

In the beginning there was nothing but nothing shivered and there became something. That something was about the size of a tennis ball. This tennis ball contained within it all that would ever be, the sum of all matter in the universe, the material of which we are made, and the time it would take to make us. Every sun, every planet, every idea, wrapped up in a little ball.

And the pressure was incredible. It seethed and frothed and exploded. No, this was not an act of destruction, it expanded. 

And it created distance as it spread, begetting tens of millions of miles of space, billions, hundreds of billions. Action itself emerged from this expansion, and, as a consequence, time.

And the energy expressed in this massive and sudden expansion manipulated material into being through heat and pressure. Hydrogen emerged, alone until begetting helium, then nitrogen, and the oxygen, and then carbon.

And from the gaseous dust a more massive amalgamation of this new existence coalesced and sunk a little deeper in the emerging fabric of the expansion, and by doing so did attract more material, and so sank a little deeper, and so attracted more material, and so grew.

And great swirling masses of gas and dust grew, and in these great swirling masses the gases ignited and they became great flaming balls of light and heat while simultaneously inventing them both. These beacons weighed heavily upon the fabric of the expansion and so the dust of the material created by the expansion and by the stars fell into the depressions the stars created, and they this dust spun around the stars in nearly perpetual orbit. As the dust connect they made their own depressions, and more dust fell in, until these balls of dust became the size of planets.

And on at least one planet, dancing its circle around a sun surrounded by billions of other suns, the dust upon this planet performed a trick. It replicated itself. And the progeny of the progeny divided and divided. The single celled organism became plural and so the beasts and plants did grow upon the Earth. The light from the sun did strike the developing bodies, and changed them in ways large and small. And those random mutations that did result in superior abilities to survive and procreate did drive the life upon the planet, the grass, and the buffalo, and the grape, and the algae, and the spiders, and the escherichia coli, and the rabbits, and the iguana, and the cucumber, to a state of abundant diversity.