Of Worlds and World-Views — a Guest Post by Peter Grant

*Peter Grant is the author of Take The Star Road and the just released Ride the Rising Tide both of which made the list for hot new releases.  Not bad for an indie author.  He talks about his writing later this week (Wednesday) at Mad Genius Club, but for now, he’ll talk about … other things*

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Of Worlds and World-Views

 Peter Grant

Sarah’s very good at highlighting differences between cultures and societies, be they Portugal versus the USA, or how populations are counted in Africa, or building fictional settings and universes.  She and I are both immigrants to the USA, and both of us have experienced many things that are literally foreign to most of our readers.  This helps us as science fiction and fantasy authors when we try to build worlds that are new and unfamiliar to our readers.  I’m sure both of us have found our foreign backgrounds useful in that regard.

Almost all authors draw upon local sources for their inspiration.  Sometimes the similarity is blatant, such as Frank Herbert’s Dune series, where the Fremen culture of Arrakis and their jihad clearly draws heavily upon the rise of Islam.  Other fictional worlds and societies are much harder to relate to their earthly counterparts, because their authors have taken great pains to disguise them;  or perhaps they’ve drawn upon elements from multiple cultures and mythologies and combined them.  One of the things I most enjoy when reading science fiction or fantasy is to try to identify the cultures and myths that have influenced its author and/or gone into its creation.  It’s a pleasant – albeit occasionally frustrating – mental exercise.

We have so many variations in societies and cultures on Earth that it’s a much stranger place than most of the worlds we can possibly imagine!  For example, I was born and raised in Africa, and spent many years traveling around the continent.  I’ve been exposed to a wide variety of tribal and ethnic cultures (including low-level initiation into some of the mysteries of the sangoma – a witch-doctor or traditional healer).  Let me give you just three examples of different world-views from my own experience.

– When lightning hits a tree, and it smolders and then bursts into flame, we understand that the transfer of electrical energy has heated the wood to ignition point, resulting in the fire. However, to one rural witch-doctor of my acquaintance (a lady in Malawi who’d completed high school education, including basic physics and chemistry), it was clear that the gods of the trees were at war, and the god of that particular tree had just been zapped.  When I remonstrated with her, pointing out that she’d been to school and must therefore surely understand that such superstition was false, she looked at me pityingly and said something condescending about how blind we Europeans were to spiritual reality!

– When South Africa achieved democratic government in 1994, many areas of society previously dominated by whites were thrown open to other races.  The national sport, which under apartheid had been rugby (a white-dominated sport) instantly became soccer (football), which was far more popular among the black population.  The national team was soon dominated by black players and coaches.  The latter immediately began to use muti (herbal concoctions and supposedly magical ‘medicine’ supplied by witch-doctors) to ensure victory.  When some players objected to finding their uniforms and boots stuffed with muti, the coaches became highly indignant, and most of those who complained found themselves shuffled off the national squad.  Muti was also a factor in the recent World Cup in that country.  (Of course, looking at the NFL and NBA, one does wonder sometimes . . . )

– During a visit to West Africa, I stayed at a remote village for a couple of days.  One morning I noticed a lizard sunning itself on a tree branch close to the guest hut.  I moved slowly over to the tree, ignored by the lizard, which clearly had no fear of humans.  It even let me stroke it gently – at which two men coming towards me broke into loud cries of amazement at the ‘white man’s courage’.  Baffled, I asked them what they meant, only to be told that the lizard was deadly poisonous to the touch, and any black man doing so would certainly die in agony within minutes.  When I looked up the lizard in the local school’s encyclopedia and showed them the entry (which stated unequivocally that the lizard was completely harmless), they shook their heads and said that applied only to white men, who were immune to the lizard’s lethal toxins.  They couldn’t be persuaded that their tribal superstition was completely without foundation.

The same problem can be found in many primitive cultures throughout the world.  No matter how much ‘modern’ education is provided to the members of those cultures, it usually takes generations for cultural presuppositions to be supplanted by informed understanding.  Sometimes it seems as if that will never happen.

Of course, our own First World cultures aren’t immune to such problems.  Consider:

– The germ theory of disease took decades to be widely accepted in the Western world, despite overwhelming scientific and empirical evidence of its truth.  Believe it or not, there are still those who engage in germ theory denialism!

– Despite overwhelming historical, documentary, archaeological and eyewitness evidence, there are many who refuse to believe that the Holocaust ever happened, or who downplay its severity or significance.  Holocaust denial remains a serious problem in neo-Nazi and neo-fascist politics.

– Communism has failed miserably in every single country where it’s been tried.  Nevertheless, there are ‘true believers’ who continue to insist that communism would be the best possible system of government, if only it were properly implemented!  We have more than enough of them right here in the USA, including some of the ideologues that have influenced the current Administration and informed its policies.

(Both Sarah and I have experienced communism – the ultimate expression of left-wing, liberal, progressive politics – at halitosis range.  Our resultant incandescent response when others try to promote such policies leads our respective spouses to try very hard to limit our exposure to them!)

Most First World people of my acquaintance – in Africa, Europe and the USA – regard primitive superstitions as arrant nonsense, without any basis in ‘scientific reality’.  I take malicious delight in pointing out to them that they live in societies and cultures where:

– the daily horoscope is essential reading for many people;

– homeopathy is accepted by millions as a valid form of medical treatment, despite it being categorically and incontrovertibly ridiculous from any normative scientific perspective;  and

– people pointlessly and repeatedly sound their vehicles’ horns in traffic jams, apparently in the belief that by doing so they’ll somehow magically make the vehicles around them start moving again.

So much for scientific reality . . .

How about you, friends?  How have different cultures, mythologies and world views informed and influenced your own development, and continue to affect how you perceive and interact with the world and the people around you?  Have you ever examined them in any depth, or is this something that’s largely unconscious and instinctive for you?  Let us know in Comments.

322 thoughts on “Of Worlds and World-Views — a Guest Post by Peter Grant

  1. I was raised in a cult, and grew up believing a lot of things that I now know to be absurd. I think that has taught me to question things that “everybody knows”. There are so many things that are generally accepted that simply have no basis in fact.

  2. > They couldn’t be persuaded that their tribal superstition was completely without foundation.

    I’ve run into tribal superstition and arrogance too. You can explain things to people over and over and over and no matter how rational they are they persist in their crazy quack pseudo scientific beliefs.

    E.g.

    – borrowing money from foreigners that we have to pay back and spending it on totemistic prayer wheels that generate less electricity than they cost to make will bring a better future
    – incorporating token holy women into our fighting forces will make our armies unstoppable
    – that an entity is a lump of cells and part of its mother one day, and then 30 seconds later is magically a human being (according to their tribal gods ‘Sanger’ and ‘Blackmun’ at least)
    – etc.

    Tribal “knowledge” and ancient “wisdom” is hard to stamp out, and science has to labor a lot harder than one might think to do it.

    1. There’s also the evil demon “radiation” that corrupts everything it touches, no matter how lightly, so that “irradiated food” is transformed from wholesome leaf vegetables into deadly poison. That said food’s cellular structure and nutrient content is unchanged does not matter: there are now no more microorganisms living on it, which is proof of how deadly it has become. Much healthier to feast on the food grown by Gaia-approved “organic” methods, which have been grown with natural fertilizer* and therefore cannot possibly make you sick.

      * Another word for which is “sh*t”.

        1. Oh, my, Wayne that article really takes the cake. Especially the part about reading distilled water.

              1. Actually, I seem to recall something stupid like that showing up in that Rhiannon casual adventure game, but sheesh! This is supposed to be real life! And even they didn’t have “water exposed to negative thoughts” or “water exposed to the word Satan.”

                1. We had a friend twenty years ago who unplugged the microwave of any place she lived in. Now I know why. (Shrug.) Sorry, life is complex enough without being afraid of boggies and filling it with arbitrary work.

                  1. I think I once read a joke about somebody holding the family cat (presumably female) in front of their microwave after seeing a news story about how that radiation causes infertility.

                  2. Hah!! Joke’s on her! Unplugging isn’t enough. You must also sprinkle with Kosher salt (the amount depends on the cubic of the microwave, but approximately 1/2 teaspoon per cubic foot.) The large crystals of the salt diffuse and denature the radiation. This is why they planned to survive worldwide nuclear destruction by taking refuge in salt mines.

                    We must not allow a mineshaft gap!

                  3. I used to have a ( notionally slightly radioactive) Mazda pickup. I had a carrot for it, in the form of a paper crane, which I would hang from its rear-view mirror when it was being good, and a stick, in the form of my Dad’s 20th Air Force patch, which I would wave at it when it was being bad, while screaming things at it like “You wanna get nuked again?” (Mazdas are built in Hiroshima.)

                    That was a really nice truck. I ran it for over 20 years. We understood each other.

        2. Teh stupid, it burns. The thing is I could explain, in detail, how radiation does or does not affect the human body and why it isn’t the sum of evil, detailing my long practical experience dating back to when I was a teenager and it wouldn’t matter so long as there was an “authority” in a book that somebody saw first. Just because I am not a doctor and I did not write a book I must not know what I am talking, never mind the fact that I have worked in circumstances where radiation exposure was a real concern.

          1. Pshaw, what is your first-hand experience to the vaunted minds of the INDOCTRIN… er, uh, EDUCATED??!?

          2. Not only that, but if you did reference an authority – like the study that shows people living and working within 200 feet of an operating nuclear reactor on a submarine have a lower cancer rate than a similar civilian population – it is dismissed as “propaganda.”

            Some former shipmates created an “Occupy Occupy the NRC” group to counter some of these anti-nuclear activists. If you’ve never seen 40 nukes debate an idiot…it’s glorious. Unfortunately they had enough of a survival instinct to stop coming around and to ban the infiltrators we had in their group.

            1. We can have pretty high Bq/m3 in some buildings in some areas here, due to radon (>800 Bq/m3 – about 11 000 houses, >400 Bq/m3 – about 51 000 houses, >200 Bq/m3 – 204 000 houses, apartment buildings in the same areas have much lower levels), but while there seems to be slight correlation with the high level areas and lung cancer cases from the little I have been able to dig out (most papers I have found seem to be behind pay wall) there seems to be only a slightly higher risk.

              1. Okay, managed to hit the post the comment button before I had finished.

                Anyway, people can get pretty hysterical when talking about radiation and nuclear power, but most of them will still quite happily buy a house from one of those known high radon areas. One is in Tampere, a very pretty part of the city, and very popular place to live in. Expensive houses too. 😀

                1. I think it was one of Dr. Pournelle’s science articles in … F&SF? … back in the late 70’s where I first saw a chart comparing the various levels/sources of background radiation. IIRC, you were exposed to more radiation by living in a brick house or in mile-high Denver than from any likely man-made source.

                  If you live in a brick house in Denver … well, best you lay off the bananas and Brazil nuts.

                  Chart: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Background_radiation

                  1. About that Tampere high radon area, at least once upon a time it seemed to be pretty popular with the green crowd (last decades of last century, don’t know the situation now). Old, pretty houses, most built by factory workers and such in the middle of last century, lots of trees and stuff, and so on, just the ideal place to live for people who want something soulful and a bit more close to nature than most of the other parts of that city.

                    And the radon was not exactly a secret back then either. Maybe they just think that it’s just different when it’s, you know, all natural.

                    1. When I bought a house in Albuquerque in 1979, the powers that be said it had to be tested for Radon. It was, and it failed. Therefore we could not purchase the house. We talked to the tester and was told just open the windows before I come out for the re-test. We did, and it passed. We lived there for the next 12 years. AFAICT there was no effect.
                      Just so you know an abode house sitting at grade will test positive for radon in most of New Mexico. That was the only time I’ve had a house tested in the 3 houses we’ve bought in New Mexico since that single time.

                2. We deal with it in Colorado (and other US states) to the extent that some homebuyers get homes they are purchasing inspected for radon. The whole radon mitigation industry is worth a rant in itself.

                  1. I guess if someone suggested just using some forced ventilation to keep the concentration down, they would have a litter of piglets.

                    1. When we bought our current house in Colorado we could not get a mortgage without having radon testing and mitigation done. The system is just a specialized ventilation system for the crawl space with a roof top vent.

                      I wonder how long it will be before such systems are required to have backup power in case of a blackout?

          3. At one point, I visited the home of a relative-by-fiance.
            Another relative of that not-relative-yet is a dentist.

            Somehow, the conversation got on to sugarless chewing gum. (yes, seriously)
            I mentioned that we didn’t have any of the stuff that “has that X stuff in it,” because it causes a diabetic reaction in dogs and I wasn’t sure if it worked in cats.
            The (human) dentist said she didn’t believe that, and ended up pulling the “what do I know, I’m just a dentist” card.

            I managed not to say “oh, so you’re an expert in other bitches?”

        3. “Live, healthy, and nutritious foods can become dead in a matter of seconds when you use a microwave.”

          So that’s why that mouse died when I tried to warm it up in the microwave.

      1. Whenever I encounter someone expounding on the evils of irradiated food I take them aside and confide in them that I know of stores that are currently selling foods processed with thermonuclear radiation. And there aren’t even warning labels. It’s all a plot by our government and the evil corporate farms after all.
        Eventually, once they calm back down I will point out that what I’m referring to is of course raisins and any other form of sun dried food. The sun is after all a thermonuclear engine, just located a fair ways away.
        If I have not driven my victim away screaming at this point I will expand on my theme by pointing out that all energy, including and especially so called “green” energy, is nuclear in nature, with the only two possible sources being the sun or radioactive elements mined from the earth. The differences lie in the transfer mechanisms by which the energy gets to the point where we harvest it for our use.
        By this point they have usually fled or are sputtering like an overheated tea kettle.
        I am truly a bad man.

          1. Founder of the Sierra Club long ago figured out going to nuclear sourced electrical power for domestic consumption is the only rational way to get the rest of the environmental wish list. Now considered a ‘bad man’ by many in the organization he founded.

            1. … in an admirable act of self correction.

              Yet we can remain confident in the power of willful human ignorance to deny inconvenient truth.

      2. I’ve been kicking around the idea of getting around the luddites with home irradiators, a big box lined with Co-60 where you put your sealed food for a couple-few hours and then you don’t have to worry about pathogens or decay.

    2. School funding. I remember having a conversation with a liberal friend, who is now a radical leftie no surprise, about school funding. She was griping about “our unwillingness” to pay what it takes to educate children well. I pointed out that the worst academic results were in places with the highest levels of funding, so apparently money wasn’t the real issue. She nodded agreeably. And in reply said “but if we’re not willing to pay what it takes, it’s never going to get better …” <<<<>>>>

      1. … and don’t ask for people to be allowed to deduct their school taxes if they send their kids to private school. “If you want to send your kids to private school, that’s fine, but you still need to help pay for education.” (or something like that).

      2. Typical leftie rationale, it’s never that the underlying premise is faulty, it’s always: we didn’t try hard enough, we didn’t spend enough money, we didn’t care enough. And they will react violently to anyone pointing out to them that their approach is fundamentally flawed. They treat it as a personal attack against them or their religion.

        1. It is an attack on their person and religion. Which suggests that their self-perception and their faith are not well grounded. This is a common problem with those who base their personal identity on being “in with the In crowd.”

      3. Heaven help you if you ever point out that nationally we spend about as much on education as we do on defense. It’s just that most of our education spending is at the state/local level while all of our defense spending is federal.

        1. I had this discussion the other day. tMy comment was that since teachers were being paid less and less for the work that was expected, but the amount we were spending on education was going up, I wonder where that money is going?

          1. Administrators and benefits, especially pensions. There’s a reason the private sector has moved to defined-contribution plans. The public sector will eventually follow. Personally, I’d rather my employer (the US Navy) simply give me all the money they’re shelling out for my work and allow me to spend or save it as I see fit.

            1. Well, the response I got was that “the government” made so many demands on school districts. If I could just focus that…
              But yes, if my old employer had given me the money it spent on health care and my pension (that I doubt I will ever see a penny of) I would have gotten a 30% raise and I could have banked it against injury or retirement on my own.

    3. That it is possible to raise taxes — meaning tax REVENUE — by legislative action.

      No matter how often you point out that the legislature can only raise tax rates, which may increase the revenue by an unpredictable amount, do nothing, or even decrease, it doesn’t sink in.

      1. A while back in an unguarded moment a reporter posed a challenge to der Leader, pointing out that a proposed tax increase might just result in a net loss of revenue. His unusually honest reply was that it wasn’t about revenue, it was about fairness and punishing the evil rich. Naturally his world view exempts himself and all his well to do friends. Because their hearts are pure they don’t count as evil.
        Or to put it bluntly, there is no act so heinous that a liberal progressive cannot justify its commission as long as the perpetrator is one of the faithful.

  3. I grew up in a university town in South Carolina (Clemson, for any who wonder). When I was in high school back in the early ’70s (I’m a year older than you, Peter), I got a summer job as a manual laborer with the university physical plant. My father, who was a physics professor, told me the job would “be good for me.” I thought he meant I would learn basic work skills. In conversations we held years later, I found out he meant it would be good for me to be exposed to people with very different backgrounds than my own — particularly people with vastly different educational backgrounds.

    The most jaw-dropping example of that exposure came while I was helping install a new air conditioner in a dining hall. During a break, the moon landing came up in the normal chatter.

    One of the men said, “We didn’t land on the moon. It was just a trick to fool the Russians.”

    I couldn’t help myself. “So, the government managed to fool the Russians but not you guys? How did that happen?”

    “The Russians don’t read the Bible,” I was told. “The Bible don’t say nothing about man landing on the moon, so it didn’t happen.”

    Several heads nodded in agreement, so I asked, “Does the Bible mention air conditioning? Or the V8 engine in the car you drive? Or do you think air conditioning and V8 engines are also tricks to fool the Russians?”

    They just shook their heads, murmured things about me being too educated to know anything, and the conversation went in another direction. That was my first experience with an adult’s ability to believe totally dismiss anything which didn’t fit into his preconceived notion of what was true.

    Oh, and I bought “Take the Star Road” after following the link at the top of the column. I moved it to the top of my vacation beach read list.

    1. > , murmured things about me being too educated to know anything,

      Well, they were wrong in THIS CASE, but I think that there can be some truth to the concept. 😉

      “Some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them.”

      ― George Orwell

      1. We recently had a discussion with a friend of mine about the phrase “He’s too educated”. She maintained that if a person didn’t understand something, they weren’t educated enough. We tried to explain that in this case, it didn’t really mean that education itself was bad; rather that some people with a higher education think they know everything and refuse to learn from anyone who didn’t also have an advanced education.

        1. Don’t it hinge on what you mean by “educated”? For example, take your friend’s position and make one simple substitution and its truth becomes self-evident:
          “[I]f a person didn’t understand something, they weren’t indoctrinated enough.”

          As the philosopher Inigo Montoya once sagely observed: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

          1. No, WE were using the term to mean “indoctrinated”, while she was insisting on the primary meaning, i.e. “He’s too indoctrinated to understand.”

        2. It’s also the belief that now we’re smart enough for our explanations of how things work to be complete; at the edges, they mostly aren’t. Occasionally, ordinary life operates at those edges, and things happen that we can’t explain – and it turns out, nobody can. In those cases, people who treat the currently received knowledge of science as a religion start behaving as irrationally as any primitive or lefty or (choose your example).

      2. Another thing my father taught me was that a truly educated person has learned just how much they DON’T know. Having grown up around university faculty, I had plenty of chances to meet people who had learned a lot about a little without ever learning how little they knew about a lot.

          1. I was just contemplating that the second superstition most people have is that their understanding of the physical world is more than skin deep. We are only just beginning to grasp the human genome, yet we think broad statements on biochemistry are well founded?

            BTW – in somewhat related topic, this item from London’s Telegraph:

            ‘Breastfeeding reduces chance of ADHD’
            Parents warned babies not breastfed are three times more likely to develop attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to research.
            http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/10197594/Breastfeeding-reduces-chance-of-baby-developing-ADHD-according-to-research.html

            We are blindly groping a dinosaur in a dark room and pretending we know what colour are its scales.

              1. I like the dragon imagery – quite appropriate for this venue and with its associations of vastness, mysteriousness and more than natural elements well conveys the magnitude of our ignorance. Wish I had thought of it.

                1. And the fact that it may even bite you in half before you find out what it is?
                  😀
                  Okay, I’m not advocating the good old ‘there are some things man was not meant to know’ idea here. So maybe it should be a flock of dragons, some friendly, some hostile and most something in between (and would that be a ‘flock’ or something else, anyway?). Yes, I know, I can get overly pedantic at times.

                  1. What about Things Man Was Not Meant To Know, from the new author C. Thulhu of that up-and-coming house, R’lyeh Press (“We squeeze your mind!”)? I think it’s supposed to go somewhere There Be Dragons . . .

                    1. As I understand it, C. Thulhu worked for Author Solutions, Inc. for a while before starting his own press.

                  2. I am contemplating the life spans of the early chemists who thought it useful to describe the odor and flavour of various elements. For example, there was the Dutch chemist who observed* that potassium cyanide, “tastes like bi-bi-bit-argh.”

                    *Translated from the Flemish.

    2. “The Bible don’t say nothing about somebody’s faking man landing on the moon, so it didn’t happen.”

    3. It’s worse when you have to argue with your sister, who saw the landing on TV and still says it did not happen after you show her a long video of people walking around in 1/6thG. Mythbusters did us a big favor with the episode they did showing the difficulty in faking the moon landings.

  4. BTW, the text link for “Ride the Rising Tide” takes you to “Take the Star Road” instead. The cover image links to the right locationl

  5. Decades ago, a friend in graduate school was distressed and confused by a lack of direction in life (as was I, but that’s a separate matter) and was getting lured by Scientology. His skepticism couldn’t override the attraction.

    Finally I said to him, We’re STEM grad students, so we should be able to tell if somebody has a superhuman IQ. Get a half hour alone with one of their “ultimately developed” specimens and we’ll cook up a list of questions. My friend went to the local venue and made the request.

    They told him to leave and never come back.

    My life has been more self-centered than it ought, but if there is a hereafter I’ll claim that episode as a good deed.

    1. Two decades ago, a young woman who worked for me was sucked into that confidence game, and I was unable to talk her out of it. I was greatly disappointed.

  6. It’s a lot easier to see in other people that in ourselves. Like a recent screed talking about how when the powerless talk to the powerful about something they don’t want, it doesn’t register as meaningful. Which is not a characteristic of the powerful as such but as people. Just try telling some blithering blatherskite that actually, you’re not interested in his verbal vomit.

    Its funny moment was when it solemnly said, of a recent PC witchhunt, that the powerless do not conduct witchhunts, therefore this was not a witchhunts.

  7. Hi Peter– I was in South Africa in the early 80s. I fell in love with the country and still have friends there. Sadly, I have not gone back there in years and will probably not go back.

    I see the same superstition in supposedly educated and knowledgeable people i.e. if we had _____ socialism would work. Or some forms of materialism. Or even the recently overturned– animals can’t think, have emotions, or feel pain. In my humble opinion we need all sides of our natures fulfilled– curiosity (science), physical, and spiritual to be fulfilled beings. When one of these things are not balanced, we become unbalanced as individuals. My opinion only– but what I have observed around me…

    1. I have pretty much the same take, you need all aspects. And you should try not to become inseparably attached to any single idea, whether it’s spiritual or scientific or whatever, it’s not as if we know everything, and pretty much anything may still turn out to be, if not outright false at least only applicable to specific circumstances, or just part of the truth but not the whole truth. Staying flexible is good.

      So one should try to find and keep using what has the best track record in real life, but be prepared to try new (or even old) systems if it starts to seem that they may work better. Which doesn’t mean you can’t, at the same time, use whatever makes you feel good, whether it’s crystal healing or praying or sticking to organically grown veggies which have not been irradiated (somewhat higher risk of contamination and other problems, yes, but on the other hand there may be some point to the idea that staying too clean is bad for our immune systems. And who knows, maybe they at least sometimes really do have higher nutrient contents. Probably depends on the farm, soil and exact practices used.).

      Even communism can work. For something like small families. It only becomes full idiocy when people try to apply it on larger scales.

      The big point is not to forgo the system which has a good, or at least better, track record for one with bad, dubious or none. If you get cancer crystal healing won’t probably hurt, may make you feel better (at least through the placebo effect) and no chance it might hurt you (unless it costs money which you can’t afford, of course, in which case forget that and go find something cheaper or free if you still feel you need something. But if you do have the money, and can deal with the ridicule which you will probably have to face, well, why not. Entertainment budget.). As long as you also go to a doctor, and take all the treatments he describes.

      And don’t try to press anybody else to use that crystal healing even if you are convinced your cancer went into remission because of it, especially if it costs something, and if it does then especially people who probably can’t afford it.

      1. “Even communism can work. For something like small families. It only becomes full idiocy when people try to apply it on larger scales.”

        I think two factors are necessary for collectivism to work. (1) It must be a voluntary arrangement and (2) It must be small in scale. A nuclear family, an extended family if not too large, a monastery — these are a few examples where it works well and there are many particular examples to find. When the group gets too big, it starts to get creaky. When it’s not voluntary … well enough said.

        1. Yes.

          And I seem to have messed up a couple of sentences in my comment again. I still blame the migraine, I’ve been having the damn auras and bright spots on and off – a day here and there – for over two weeks now. Maybe I should cut down the coffee, been drinking a lot of that lately.

            1. Doesn’t bother me much since I have the painless version, I get most of the other symptoms but not the headache. It was diagnosed as migraine because of the migraine auras. But besides things like distortions in the visual field and sensitivity to bright light, and sometimes noises and smells, it does seem to muddle my thinking a bit too, and I get a bit more clumsy – more problems with typing and so on.

              But mostly it’s just a mild nuisance.

              1. I see– yea a nuisance… Mine are usually extremely painful… ding-dang. But I refuse to see a neurologist…:p I have so many other problems, I just don’t want to add another medicine.

                1. Have you tried maxalt? I’ve had migraines before (though thankfully they are becoming few and far between). That kills the pain when painkillers won’t within about half an hour.

                  Maxalt is pretty expensive though (at least where I’m at). I’ve had Imitrex (spelling?) recommended as well as a less expensive alternative. (Both are perscription, but they tend to work. When I get a migraine, I basically have to lay down and hide from light and try to keep my brain from escaping through my nose. Tylenol,etc doesn’t really do anything, but this stuff does).

                  (oops – sorry. Just saw your line about not wanting another medicine.)

                  1. PS: I had that recommended to me at first by my mother’s family-medicine doctor, not a specialist neurologist or anything. It might be worth asking. Migraines are horrible.

                  2. I have used no prescriptions because with my meds and immune system, I can have problems. Also anything in the painkiller category (except narcotics) will damage my kidneys more… Before I used Benadryl… I was putting a cold cloth with vinegar over my head… It did help some.

                  3. I see another problem with maxalt– I have high blood pressure caused by my disease (damaged kidneys)… Oh well… sigh… at least I haven’t had a migraine for a few months.

            1. Seconded, with the caveat that cold-brew is fine, given that you just add water to fresh coffee grounds and let it steep for about 12 hours. Which I need to start tonight, actually. As to brewing for one, I recommend either a moka pot (if convenience is the most compelling factor) or the Aeropress, by Aerobie, maker of fine flying discs, with optional metal filter for pure quality of brew.

              1. And moderation is what I get for sounding like an advert. So be it. Other things I like coffee-related: my prefered grinder, a hand mill Mrs. Dave gave me for a birthday a few years ago. Take that, WordPress! I REGRET NOTHING!

                1. You’re in moderation? I don’t see it. I bought Robert the coffee press thing, so he can stop making 12 cups and leaving half of it to mildew, which can’t be good for the coffeemaker.

                  1. As a Professional Lazy Person, I have to be in moderation. I do everything moderately. Writing, publishing, housework, husbandry, cooking, finances, etc. Nothing to excess, and nothing with more effort than necessary.

                    The trouble is I’m trying to do all of it . . .

                  2. His first post had two links in it, which meant WordPress automatically sent it to moderation. His second post had just a single link, which WordPress considers to be fine.

            2. I make it in a pot half of the time. Which may be the problem, even if I usually make only about two cups worth, the second cup will usually stand in the pot for quite a while before I get around to drinking it.

            3. Get an insulated carafe or thermos bottle, precondition it with hot tap water to take the chill off, then decant your coffee as soon as it finishes brewing. Last cup or two might be tepid, but beats the heck out of scorched or burnt.
              I buy cheap store brand whole bean and grind as needed. I know a hand burr grinder is superior, but an electric spice grinder works just fine for me. I have tried fancy Gevalia beans and even popped once for mail order Kona straight from Hawaii, but discovered my taste buds cannot detect enough of a difference to justify the vastly greater prices.

              1. I have an Ikea a nice brisk walk away, so I tend to buy their coffee, it’s good enough if not great. As beans, mostly. Besides liking freshly ground better I also like darker roasts, and their darker version they have only as beans. Darker roasts sells less here, most Finns prefer light or medium when it comes to normal coffee.

              2. Y’all are getting a bit over complicated with all this. Why not just go to an IV drip? Remember: in all things, simplify!

                Why do you always have to make such a big production out of everything?

                  1. I watched a thread on a forum turn from, “what works for me”, to “how I’m more OCD Technonerd than you” to “burn the heritic!” in 56 pages. Then I got bored. The discussion on calibrating your thermometer to determine actual temperature of your boiling water, for example, was extremely….technical.
                    I like to boil my coffee in a saucepan. I drink it with brown sugar. It makes me happy.

                    1. drat. I meant I learned to boil my coffee in a sauce pan. Now I use a moka to keep me from drinking it by the quart.

                    2. The actual temperature of boiling water? Uh, don’t need a thermometer for that. Just knowledge of your altitude.

                      Physics – its works, bitches.

                    3. IIRC, Niven and Pournelle dismissed this kind of OCD pissin’ contest in The Mote In God’s Eye when levantine trader Horace Bury, who used lectures on coffee as an “in”, ran up against the tea fetishists aboard the Lenin, a Russian originated ship.

              3. I boil my coffee on the stove because a) it tastes better, and b)I like my coffee hot, electric coffeemakers just don’t make it hot enough. If you boil your coffee and you have a good thermos the only reason to preheat it with hot water is if you have left your thermos outside in your car overnight in freezing weather. On a related note I have never found a reliable way to know a thermos is a good one except for to test it. No brand I have known of reliably has good thermos’s, you can get two of the same brand off a shelf side by side, and one will keep coffee hot for 48 hours, and the other will have it lukewarm in 4. (I get my thermos’s from a friend who is retired with too much time on his hands, he goes to thrift stores about three days a week, and when he picks up thermos’s he tests them by filling them with hot water and checking to see how long they will keep it hot, then labeling them. Any that won’t keep it hot for at least 24 hours he gets rid of, and when I need a thermos he usually has twenty or thirty to choose from that have been tested and I know are good)

                Oh, and even though I don’t shop at Costco (long story) I drink Kirkland coffee, I have friends or family pick it up for me, because I like it. Some of the whole bean coffees are as good or possibly a shade better, but for a combination of flavor, convenience and price I have found nothing I like better than the Kirkland Colombian.

        2. I think two factors are necessary for collectivism to work. (1) It must be a voluntary arrangement and (2) It must be small in scale.

          The experience of the early Christian church seems to back this up. They were doing “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” centuries before Marx coined the phrase: Acts 2:44-45 says “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” But it was getting rather large — several thousand people — and indeed, it got “creaky” as you put it. A couple chapters later (in chapter 5), the author of Acts records the incident with Ananias and Sapphira, who tried to obtain the social benefit of being generous, while not paying the full cost — they sold a field and claimed they were giving the whole of the proceeds to the church, when in fact they held part of the money back. That gets slapped down HARD. (Not the partial sharing — Peter tells them “The field was yours to do with as you wanted” — but the dishonesty.)

          And then several years later when the church has spread, Paul writes to one of his protégés, who is now leading a church of his own, to say that the church’s welfare fund should be reserved for those who truly need it and have no other alternatives; widows who have grown children should be taken care of by their own children, and widows who are young enough to remarry should do so. Only widows who have no relatives able to take care of them, and who are too old to remarry, should be added to the church’s welfare rolls. And he writes to another church to say “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and earn their own living.”

          From which we see that even when communist / socialist systems are voluntary, they can still lead to people getting lazy and refusing to take care of themselves when they have the ability, which in turn removes resources from the system that could have gone to the truly needy. If you have someone in charge who’s willing to apply some “tough love” as Paul does, and say “You can work, so we won’t help you” then your system won’t become overloaded with the lazy and fake-needy. But if you put someone in charge who listens to their feeeeeeeeeeelings, the welfare system will quickly become a feeding trough for freeloaders, rather than the helping-the-truly-poor system it was intended to be.

          None of which is news to this crowd, of course. But I thought it was worth pointing out that it’s all been tried before, a couple thousand years ago, and the lessons learned from that experiment still apply today. Technology may change, but human nature never does.

      2. Yes… plus sometimes re-thinking is good. There was a young man with our disease who loved to do competition fishing in all types of weather. Every time he did it in the cold, he would end up in the hospital and lose another lobe. Last I heard he was on less than one lung. BTW he and his family just kept asking for money and refused to think that maybe he should forgo fishing in the cold seasons.

  8. >>>When lightning hits a tree, and it smolders and then bursts into flame, we understand that the transfer of electrical energy has heated the wood to ignition point, resulting in the fire. However, to one rural witch-doctor of my acquaintance (a lady in Malawi who’d completed high school education, including basic physics and chemistry), it was clear that the gods of the trees were at war, and the god of that particular tree had just been zapped. When I remonstrated with her, pointing out that she’d been to school and must therefore surely understand that such superstition was false, she looked at me pityingly and said something condescending about how blind we Europeans were to spiritual reality!<<<

    What you're missing about this is that there is nothing logically incompatible about those two explanations of cause, because they are different levels of cause. It's as if she had said that the rifleman on the grassy knoll killed JFK, and you remonstrated with her telling her that JFK was killed by bullets which were little pieces of lead propelled by burning gunpowder etc. The point is completely missed. She didn't think lightning wasn't electricity – she thought warring tree gods directed the electricity.

    I certainly don't believe in tree gods, but I certainly do believe that arguing against strawmen from our own imagination is a waste of time.

    1. How true. If, on the other hand, the argument was that there is but one God, the Father Almighty, Whose ways are inscrutable, but Whose purpose might have been reminding all about of their mortality. . . then we would have an argument.

      1. Well as a Christian, I often find myself being treated as the same strawman Mr. Grant is addressing with his witch-doctor friend. Let’s imagine for a moment that someone found very strong evidence for a geological fault shift right when the earthquake released Paul and Silas in Acts 16:26. I’ve found a lot of atheists would act as if that’s evidence against the Biblical account, whereas to Christians it would of course be evidence for it. It doesn’t occur to us that when an omniscient God who created the universe wants certain results at a certain time, He would be unable to shape it to produce the desired results through the physical laws He wrote and doubtless likes. However others have been taught to assume we believe in magic done by an invisible bearded sky wizard, and so they argue against that strawman positition.

        I think a great deal of political argument from the right to the left is directed at the same sort of strawmen, and thus just makes the right look stupid. I know for sure that a great deal of that from the left to the right is that way, because being libertarian-right myself, I know that they are addressing no one real.

        1. My favorite such example focuses on the 10 Plagues leading to the Exodus. For centuries skeptics dismissed the miracles as impossible, then a scientist figured out the mechanism, after which skeptics dismissed them as not miracles.

          For those not familiar with the causal chain, complete with dismissal as not an exercise of Divine Will (by a “volcano god”):

          The Plagues happened at the same time as a massive volcano eruption. The volcano Santorini sent ash in to the air effecting the surrounding area. The ash is found in Cairo and the Nile River, proven by testing the composition of the ash. This volcanic eruption happened between 1500-1650BC while the Plagues happened between 1400-1550BC. So it fits there.

          1st Plague. River ran red LIKE blood. But there is a common algae plume called the Red Tide. This makes the river, or any water, look red like blood. Why did this happen? The ash changes the PH level of the river allowing the algae to bloom.

          2nd Plague. Frogs. The algae is killing fish. Fish eat frog eggs. No fish, record number of frogs. Frogs can’t live in polluted water and so leave the river.

          [SNIP]

          10th Plague. Death of First born. In Egypt the first born was king. They would be the one to lead the family after the father died. When food was scarce the first born ate first and some times was the only one to eat. After locusts ate every thing there was only grain locked in vaults. The hail got it wet, locust feces, it made it moldy. And so when only the first born ate, they were the only ones killed by moldy grain.

          Simple right? Back then they never would have known. Back then lightning was His wrath. Back then a disease was His punishment. Back then nature was unknown. But when you look at it with science… not that big a deal.
          [MORE: http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread412917/pg1 ]

              1. I like that one, too. It doesn’t trigger the gag reflex.

                Speaking of which, these have been trying to formulate themselves into something usable and I need to expel them before they take root. Those of tender humour take heed.

                My favorite newspaper is the Procrustean Times: “all the news that fits, we print.”

                An old prospector was caught out in a blizzard one winter night, just him and his donkey. With no place to take refuge from the biting winds the prospector realized that, even though he had on a thick coat his exposed head would risk him freezing. Thinking quickly, he dropped his donkey onto the narrow mountain trail, slit his friend’s throat and then, slicing open the donkey’s belly, he thrust his head inside so that the donkey’s warm entrails would keep him from frostbite. And that’s where, after the blizzard had finally ended, they found him two days later, lying on that trail with his head up his ass.

            1. I am sure that I ought see that movie, despite my instinctive misgivings about what does some guy named Spielberg know about Jewish tradition? (Besides, for some reason I had it in mind that it was somehow Disney’d and long experience with Disney faithfulness to original material …)

              And I even liked that clip, but it makes me want to quip: Les Exodus?

  9. My area of southern Appalachia is usually behind the times in some way or other. Not nearly a third world country or any such thing, but I was born in 1980, and I remember outhouses and washtubs being common while television (black and white, not even color yet) being rather un-.

    One of the common myths I grew up with, told time and again, was that “hospitals is where you go to die.”

    I come from a large family, on my mother’s side. They lived just the next town over. My great grandmother went to her family doctor when I was still exploring how far I could crawl before momma hauled me back. She was told she had five months to live, start getting her affairs in order. Great grandma said back, “I’ll see you again in five months.” Repeat for several years. She finally died about five years later, but this story figured a lot into how I viewed hospitals, doctors, and the medical profession for a long time after.

    Now in my thirties, I know better. Many folk (most) with “Doctor” in front of their names have a lot more education than I do, and are likely a lot smarter besides. If I’m told to go get a test, I do it.

    But things learned early in life and repeated over and over seem to have worn grooves around the subject. I still don’t take pills I’m prescribed (took all of 3 when I had my wisdom teeth taken out, rather than 3 a day for a week). Even recognizing the facts for what they are, instinct always gets through the door first, then takes some stiff mental remonstration to give way for common sense.

    1. I grew up with same belief. Maybe it’s just prescient. If Obamacare takes hold, hospitals MIGHT be where you go to die. Does anyone have the link to all the unnecessary deaths caused by the National health care in Great Britain?

          1. True– although I learned right quickly that sometimes meds that don’t look prudent are the only thing to knock back some types of diseases. *sigh Still I do argue with the docs when they want to try something that doesn’t make sense.

            1. Doctors are practitioners – someplace between technicians and engineers specializing in a mysteriously complex biological machine. They know more than I do, but I still challenge what they tell me if it doesn’t make obvious sense!

        1. My family had the opposite myth; doctors knew how to fix you. Alas, that one didn’t survive long when my sister had her first episode with, well, we’re still not sure what it is sixteen years later…

          1. My grandmother saved her daughter who had a compromised liver (during WWII) by using dandelion tea. The medical fields were not as sophisticated as today, plus they were more interested in keeping the military men healthy. She learned her herbal craft from her grandfather. Unfortunately, it did get passed down to the rest of us.

              1. I remember some of what my father taught me, but not everything. I recently astounded one of my uncle’s grand-children with a simple cure for something one of his children was afflicted with. The stuff Dad tried to teach me had been passed down through generations from our Native American ancestors — stuff that worked, time and time again. Wish I could remember more!

                1. When we had mouth cankers, we would pack them with ground goldenseal. It worked really well. That’s about all I know… except dandelion tea is really good for the liver. Ummm… I remember things like aloe vera gel is great for burns (better when it is from the plant)… oh yea and comfrey leaf when ground and mixed with water will act like a plaster and draw out bacteria from the wound. –total of what I remember now 😉

                  1. About the only remedy I learned, from my aunts, was that a plant which seems to have the English name broadleaf plantain is good for blisters. You put the leaf over the blister. Or several leaves, if there is nothing to hold it in place except for a sock and shoe they will, of course, not stay on that spot very well. I used to do that as a kid, even if my mother didn’t like it all that much, she didn’t like what the leaves did to my socks. 🙂

                    I do know quite a bit more now, all book learning but there have been a few good collections of old Finnish folk remedies.

                    1. Foof. there was some byplay in a book, I think by Dorothy Sayers, where a characher was talking about puting banana peels in her shoes to protect from chafing or hot pavement or something. I bet there was some confusion on “plantain”.
                      I never understood that since Sayers usually was so particular about her facts and information she provided, but I expect she was showing the character to be slightly detached from actual reality while doing the Greek crosswords in the paper .

                2. The fact we don’t understand the mechanism of a therapy does not impede its effectiveness. Poor understanding of theory does not preclude effective practical employment of a therapy.

                  1. Corollary to that is this: medicine does not require belief to work. If you have to believe in it, that is not medicine, whether it works or not.
                    I have acquaintances and family who buy into some ridiculous pseudo-science, and that’s made it something of a soapbox-prone subject.

                    1. There is a certain amount of need in belief in medicine. While it will probably have effects whether a person actively believes or not, it is possible that a sincere disbelief will mitigate against it.

      1. Stuff the unnecessary deaths in Britain, Wesley J. Smith at NRO’s Human Exceptionalism recently noted that under developing “ethical standards” your doctor can decide when your life is too much bother to allow continuation, your and your family’s opinions be damned.

          1. When done by a professionally licensed medical practitioner according to government formulated and approved guidelines, it is not murder. It is recognized medical procedure.

            Really, if you are going to insist on using outdated emotion laden terminology no progress will ever be possible.

            Remember, Kermit Gosnell was operating in open, public fashion for decades.

            1. The doctors in Nazi Germany were merely told by the government that they had permission to consider the matter. They wiped out thousands of disabled Germans before the first Jew ever suffered. Furthermore, they went on and on and on doing it, with ever lowering standards for disability, until they were stopped several weeks AFTER the surrender.

              The doctors in the Netherlands stood strong against this, starting with refusing to consider that their duty was to the state as well as to the patient. But since then they have slipped. An anonymous survey found that many admitted to murdering conscious, competent patients who had not asked for it — and many said that they would not comply with any legal regime whatsoever.

              1. Some physicians hurt themselves fighting death.
                In euthanasia countries, some physicians invite death to move in, sleep with him, and get him beer and three square meals.

        1. If the resources to treat you are available and you can afford them, refusing treatment strikes me as outrageous and unconscionable, to put it very mildly.

          I don’t consider myself heartless. I am open to the idea of government aid, ideally as a last resort, to those who need (yes, there’s the rub) it, but wrenching decisions may be necessary when limited resources must be allocated among too many petitioners.

          1. Garrison Keillor in one of his broadcasts stated openly that conservatives should not get health care so they could find out what it was like when he was arguing for the morality of a national health care program. For this call for violation of basic human and civil rights he was roundly applauded.
            To this day I will not listen to any broadcast he has touched.

            1. I quit listening when he said evangelical Christians should be disenfranchised because they voted wrong in 2004. I also let his sponsors know that I would no longer support them.

      2. Not so much… but there’s a good number of reports that seem to make out that NHS weeds the fit enough to survive from the soon-to-be-dead – and it would seem f you don’t have family to help take care of you your chances decrease.

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-23315869

        Then, the NHS says mortality stats don’t really prove anything.

        http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/jul/16/report-nhs-hospitals-claims-care

        I’ve heard enough stories over the years to make me very dubious of the idea, not to mention I spent 10 years+ under military health care. (Which is fine if you’re young and healthy, but I wouldn’t recommend otherwise.)

        I’ve always thought the simplest/cheapest solution would be a ‘health care card’, an EBT card with $2k/person in the family loaded on to be used for health care needs if you were below a certain income level. Doctor, dentist, optometrist, prescriptions – and any amount not used would be rolled over to the next year and topped up to $2k. Single? $2k. Mom & Dad w/4 kids? $12k. If you need more in a year, you’d get it.

        And have it administered at the state level. Apply for ADC? Get a card. Apply for Welfare? Get a card. Unemployed? Get a card.

        But that would be both too simple, not federally controlled, and not enough opportunity for graft. Instead, we take a mostly-working system and mess it up in the name of ‘fairness’.

        1. So my cousin broke his neck/upper back thanks to falling off his moutain bike at hgh speed on the downs near Eastbourne.

          Plus point. he was rescued and taken to hospital still alive and without losing nerves below the fracture (there’s a lot of the world where probably wouldn’t happen).

          Minus point. After surgery etc etc. he’s placed in a ward on a bed where he has extremely limited mobility (with a spinal fracture that’s par for the course) and a button on a string that he can press if he needs help. Said button falls off his bed/bedside table in the middle of the night while he’s still in extreme pain. Also thirsty … After some time in this situation he realizes he can reach his crackberry. So he gets the crackberry uses the internet to find out the phone number of the hospital he’s in and calls. After a certain amount of voicemail navigation hell he gets the nurse on duty for his ward. Who hung up the call with a “press the buzzer you idiot!”. However a few inutes later nursey does come along to see what’s wrong and retrieve the button and give him some more happy juice.

          He is now back on hs feet and essentailly fine (though not moutain biking) but I don’t think you’d count him among the NHS’ admirers

          1. Recently saw an article that said that NHS hospitals had allowed 1500+ patients to die of starvation. While in the hospital.

            He’s luckier than you know.

      3. There are some things our healthcare won’t do for my father because of his age. Some point with some of them, I guess, like not trying to fix the hip replacement which has gone bad because he is 90 now, and might not handle the surgery well, but there have been some smaller stuff too, and the reason seems to be the idea that he is not going to live all that long now anyway.

        It might be worse except for the fact that the two daughters of his wife are nurses, and one married to a doctor. I have the impression that they have been cutting through quite a bit of red tape. His wife doesn’t like me (mutual now, of course, but the initial dislike was hers, she never particularly tried to hide the fact that she would have much preferred a situation where I didn’t exist, or had moved somewhere far away. I managed to be somewhat neutral for a little while :/) but I have to say I’m quite grateful for that part.

        1. Did you know that both Poland is now a destination for medical tourism? Germans and and Brits go to Poland to get orthopedic procedures done at really competitive prices.
          (People go to Colombia and Poland for plastic surgery. I’d try Colombia myself: better beaches.)

          1. I don’t think he’d go. The bad point with the nurse daughters and son-in-law of his wife, the old couple both think it’s better to be treated in that hospital, even if there might be some better alternatives.

            1. A friend’s relative is in a similar spot in Germany. For them it is a cost issue as well, but I suggested Argentina too, since the exchange rate was good.

            2. Yes, this was an issue in one of my fandoms a while back. There was a guest coming from the UK to a Boston con, and it happened that his dad was in bad medical straits and on a long waiting list. So of course all the Boston folks are telling him they’d be fine to include the dad in his free tickets, and that they’ll get him appointments with all the top people (some of whom were relatives) at reasonable cost or even free, and they’d get him all fixed up within a week or so. Boston! Hospital town!

              But it didn’t happen. The dad didn’t want to “jump the queue,” even when the queue was ridiculously long.

        2. …but I have to say I’m quite grateful for that part.

          Congratulations. It is a symptom of character to be able separate from a personal animus sufficiently to accord credit where due.

          [Redacted political observation]

    2. This belief may have been a holdover from the time (not all that long ago) when doctors didn’t believe in germs, didn’t think it necessary to wash their hands between patients, etc. Someone who went into the hospital already sick with a weakened immune system already fighting something, was likely to pick up more bugs and become even sicker.

      1. Not to mention that you can catch diseases from other patients, surgery could kill you from blood loss or shock as well as infection, and the medicines might be worse than the disease.

      2. When my Mom had her immune system knocked out as part of a self stem-cell transplant, she stayed out of the hospital for the very reason that she was immune suppressed. Only when she needed IV fluids for 48 hours was she admitted, and then her primary care oncologist was very, very careful to make sure she was isolated until she could go home. So yeah, in some cases being around all those sick people really could kill you.

        1. One of my problems. I don’t go to the hospital unless I am so sick I can’t walk. Even then I am worried. Bad stuff for anyone who has a lowered immune system.

    1. No. Even then it’s anti-human. What I mean is “even if it could be made to work indefinitely without causing massive poverty, it is an evil philosophy because it would corrupt humanity.” (writes down topic for blog.)

      1. I have a running debate along the same lines with my gay communist associate .. what kind of changes to human nature would be necessary to implement communism?

        The usual answers involve either heavy doses of nootropics (see Wikipedia) or some sort of religionistic (USSRian?) state-worship.

        (while you’re at Wikipedia anyway, search up “Christian Communist” .. but use a computer you don’t particularly like as you may end up throwing it across the room)

        Mew

        1. A few years ago I read a review of a collection of stories on utopias apparently with a side theme of “how do the utopias get started”. The reviewer was very disturbed about the writers who approved of “mind control” being used to create the utopias. I don’t think he realized that the use of mind control was a reflection of how unbelievable utopian societies are.

          Unfortunately, I don’t remember the reviewer or the book he reviewed.

        2. Miajacat wrote: “… what kind of changes to human nature would be necessary to implement communism?”

          Turn human beings into bees or ants.

          1. Magic – for a given value of Clark’s 3rd Law – biological engineering? I for one, hope that should we ever get to that point (and I waffle on wishing for it) we manage to not fall into that particular trap.

      1. Nonsense. All we need to do is break a few million more eggs and create our omellette at long last . . .

            1. and when it does, it will leave exactly the sort of stink behind that you’d expect from a few million eggs…

              1. A friend of mine once forgot a pancake in the oven for a couple of weeks – she miscalculated how much time she had when she was leaving for a couple of days so left it there (very hot and not quite done) with the idea she’d take it out and toss it into the trash when she came back, didn’t remember it when she did and didn’t need the oven for a while after that. I was present when it was discovered. Very interesting colors, and very furry on the surface (looked almost inviting, made one want to pet it), and removing it from the pan (not to mention scrubbing the pan afterwards) was also very interesting.

                I think that would also make a good analog for that system. 😀

  10. Mr. Grant,
    You write very engagingly. By the end of the first paragraph (of your guest post here) I was hooked. Your words flowed over me as easily as fiction. I really liked your post. I bought Take the Star Road. I appreciate that you priced it at $2.99. Are you (frequent poster) Dorothy Grant’s husband?

        1. Makes note to put Peter Grant on to-be-read list; anyone who had the good sense to marry you must have something to say worth listening to.

  11. Try telling a government employee how futile it is for them to pay taxes at the level of government they work for (I did this once at the IRS), and they will get indignant and tell you, “I pay my taxes like everyone else!”

  12. The gal from Malawi reminds me of my (Irish) pastor. He says he and his fellow Micks are in between the stodgy beef-headed Sassenachs like me and the SSAs in the ability to notice the Spiritual side of things.

    1. As quantum physics teaches us, both possibilities (basic science and warring gods) might be true.

      After all, what is electricity if not supernatural process? Just because we call it “movement of electrons” and can reliably predict its macro behaviour does not mean we understand it, merely that we’ve developed a sophisticated nomenclature.

        1. Apology accepted, of course. To err is human, and so on.

          But don’t do that to me…

          Besides, quantum mechanics is sooo 1920s and has been tested by ewww experiments. Nowadays the deep thinkers are thinking deep thoughts about string theory.

            1. Afaik there is no realistic prospect of doing an experiment which verifies or invalidates string theory. Hence the title of the Not Even Wrong blog and book, which first shouted that the emperor has no clothes, and hence the XKCD cartoon.

              IMHO the blog is accessible to the persevering general reader, but a quick read it is definitely not.

              Caveat: I am not, repeat not, an authoritative source of information about string theory.

              1. String theory reminds me of epicycles: layer upon layer of complexity added on to an underlying theory to explain the observations that don’t quite align with that theory. Epicycles were eventually discarded when Kepler figured out that ellipses, not circles, were the fundamental shape of planetary orbits: this change to the underlying theory made the layers of complexity completely unnecessary. My gut feeling is that string theory will prove to be the same: there is some fundamental mistake we’re making in one of our underlying theories, and if that mistake is ever identified and corrected, all the complexity of string theory will prove to have been as unnecessary as epicycles were.

                1. I thought an epicycle was a vehicle consisting of a light frame mounted on two wire-spoked wheels one behind the other and having a seat, handlebars for steering, brakes, and two pedals which rips the hair from your legs.

                2. I saw an article on someone who has a different approach, recently, but I can’t figure out how to find it again. I’ll see what I can find.

                  1. Are you talking about the recent Scientific American article that suggested that waves are artifacts of the mind to make QM work?

                    1. I’m certainly not talking about that article, but I don’t know if that is the same person, though I doubt it. The article I read didn’t have any specifics on exactly what the person it was about had come up with, but rather the fact that it was an alternative which sounded plausible, at least to the writer of the article.

                    2. Perhaps you were referring to the article in Science News of 13 July this year about Niels Bohr, entitled When the ATOM went quantum?

              2. I will not get on my soapbox about science and start ranting about the true threats to science, but when “scientists” are coming with theories that can’t be tested and working to undermine repeatable experiment as the primary tenet of scientific inquiry, I see it as more of a threat than a literalist interpretation of the Bible.

        2. Proton detectors have souls.

          We know this because if you turn off the display that tells you, the detector on one of the slots still causes the wave function to collapse.

      1. If you think about it just a bit, and one of the explanations for QM is true then there has to be a God.
        Consider Multi Universes. According to MU the current universe splits when a decision is made to observe a quantum event. If that’s true, then a sentient entity must have existed since the Big Bang. Otherwise, there would be no MV’s until humans decided to look at quantum events. i.e., anthropomorphic dependent theories. And that sentient being would surely be at least God like.

        1. “If you think about it just a bit, and one of the explanations for QM is true then there has to be a God.”

          Sharp reasoning about a subtle mathematical physics theory based on fuzzy pop science soundbites is perilous.:-| You would probably know to be careful about building a logical castle on the foundation of a few sentences of knowledge if you were reasoning about something easy to test, like whether fluid mechanics explains why those winglets at the end of modern airliner wings are a good idea. You should probably be careful reasoning about QM too. You want to conclude roughly “if there are multiple universes, then the observer who collapses wavefunctions must be God.” But a common reason to resort to weirdness like “multiple universes” is to avoid the poorly defined weirdness (such as collapsing wavefunctions) which follows from allowing poorly defined weird boundary conditions (such as an outside observer) on a quantum system. So very likely whatever “multiple universe” system you’re thinking of has *no* outside-observer-who-collapses-wavefunctions, by construction, because it is largely about avoiding outside observers who collapse wavefunctions. Instead, roughly, it tries to treat known observers (e.g., photodiodes or humans) as swarms of electrons and nuclei within the scope of the QM analysis, rather than as unanalyzed black boxes peering in from the edge of the system.

          “According to [multiple universes] the current universe splits when a decision is made to observe a quantum event.” More nearly multiple universes are often a way to get away from this kind of confusion by expressing abstractions like ‘observe’ in terms of things which can be precisely understood, like the motion of individual electrons in the retina and the cascade of events up into the brain. If you treat an observer as an external black box, you need to resort to things like ‘the wavefunction collapses’. If you analyze an observer as a swarm of elementary particles, instead you tend to get more and more quantum entanglement, so systems of realistic complexity (e.g., a photodiode detector) get exceedingly remote from anything that’s easy to talk about in ordinary English.

          For an example of something nonquantum but still vaguely entanglement-like which you can reason about without the machinery they teach you in a year of calculus and a year of quantum mechanics, see http://terrytao.wordpress.com/2011/04/07/the-blue-eyed-islanders-puzzle-repost/ . Get your mind around the puzzle, think about how to respond to the statement “but they didn’t learn anything they didn’t already know before” is true, and you might get some of the flavor of some of the difficulty in talking about QM (or indeed any highly correlated system) in colloquial English. The issues for observers and multiple universes are all tied up with issues of exceedingly high correlation (plus the wrinkle that quantum correlation is more subtle and less intuitive than classical correlation), so expect to get misled by colloquial English statements about them, even if you’re honestly trying to learn and the speaker is honestly trying to explain the truth.

          “surely be at least God like”

          If you like thinking about how to arrive at that sort of conclusion by that kind of logic, do be sure to read Hume’s _Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion_ (easy to download, e.g. on Project Gutenberg). It’s a set of arguments by example and analogy and counterexample in the style of various classic dialogues (e.g., Galileo’s) and it’s pretty readable (indeed, sometimes wickedly funny) rather than the dry obfuscation people tend to associate with unnatural philosophy.

          1. While I don’t want to try to analyze your assertions above, as I don’t think I am qualified, you did hit on one of my pet peeves of QM: The use of the term, “Observe” to indicate that which collapses the wave function of a wave/particle. While the physicists who originally used the term were using it precisely, it has been misinterpreted by the masses until it is understood as something completely different than it was meant to imply.

            The vast majority of people do not understand that it was originally meant as being related to the scientists’ attempts to determine position and velocity of particles, by causing them to directly interact with other particles. It is that interaction which causes the wave function to collapse (at which point it begins to expand again), and it is this which makes it virtually impossible to view QM fluctuations in macroscopic objects, because objects made up of large numbers of particles interact with other particles on a continual basis, causing localization of their wave functions constantly, whether anyone is actually looking at them or not.

            1. This is why if you put a proton detector in one of the two slots, it will cause a wave collapse EVEN IF you turn the display off so no one observes it.

  13. I’ve had more sympathy for superstition since I watched myself develop one on the post hoc ergo propter hoc model and then learned better.

    I rushed to put a nice programmable (needed programming to work) 2 way radio in my car for including getting the antenna trimmed and all the rest.

    The installation needed an ignition switched lead for the power hungry operation so the car battery wouldn’t run down and an always on power lead for the programming memory. Sadly it had a good power supply so when I checked the always on lead I didn’t wait long enough. Shocked to find both connections were key switched and programming was lost every time I turned the car off. For my sins instead of putting the manual in the jockey box (same as glove box but a regionalism I use as a shibboleth) I put it someplace unknown.

    On the road faced unexpectedly with quickly reprogramming the radio the first time I shut the car off I made it work – totally unaware that I had included a null operation sequence of do this/cancel that. For the duration of the trip I had faith in the sequence. Later I learned the faith was misplaced; it was a superstition much like the induced superstition of lab animals.

    For fairly brief time there was a logic flaw in programming for the Minuteman launch console that could be triggered over insecure phone lines. The console could be shut down to a hardware reset and reboot. Science brings its own superstitions – maybe there is a gremlin shaped hole at the heart of man

    Such is life.

    1. The reason that we need double-blind experiments is that human beings are prone to leap on any patterns we think we see. If you fish under the willow wearing a blue shirt and catch fish, and under a oak wearing a red shirt for none, you will be back under the willow with the red shirt because you can not risk that the red shirt is not important, or you may go hungry.

  14. The pre-reservation Comanche believed that fish was bad for you and refused to eat it. Well into the 20th century many Comanche avoided eating fish if they could. Why? Fish were cold and slimy and would make the eater cold and slimy as well.

    As it turns out, there may have been a good dietary reason for avoiding low-fat fish, given the usual diet of most Plains peoples, and some anthropologists think the combination of spiritual belief (things living in running water might have an affect on a person’s spirit power) and observation (he ate it and bad things happened) led to the taboo.

    1. …some anthropologists think the combination of spiritual belief (things living in running water might have an affect on a person’s spirit power) and observation (he ate it and bad things happened) led to the taboo.

      Pretty good; that actually isn’t far from the scientific truth. There are things living in water (germs) that affect your life force.

      1. In one of her state of the art medieval medicine books, St. Hildegarde of Bingen disapproved of people eating eggs and milk, because they were cold and slimy in their humors, and very often made people sick. They might be okay if you cooked them thoroughly, thus adding hot humors and driving out the cold.

        And if it was medieval Germany in the summer, or if your chickens and dairy cows had diseases, you probably wouldn’t trust your eggs or milk raw, either.

        1. Thanks for the interesting fact. I don’t know a whole lot about medieval Germany (or rather, the “Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation”), but sometimes, even these people get it right just by observation.

          1. Hildegarde had some pretty good stuff in her medical books. The problem was that it was mixed in with a lot of stuff that probably wouldn’t be super-effective (or work at all), and some things that would hurt you.

            On the bright side, you would probably enjoy being treated by her if you liked the taste of licorice and fennel. 🙂

            1. Not one, but two Pokémon references! Pretty good. (I know fennel is an actual plant, but still…)

              On a related note, when the Japanese isolated themselves after their unification war, they kept a small port open where people could keep abreast of what was going on in the rest of the world at the time. It was called “Dutch Learning,” and one of the things they learned about was Western medicine — which was quite a different animal from the Chinese medical texts their scholars were used to.

        2. Crap! My bad! The “German nation” bit didn’t come in until after the 16th century, well after the medieval period.

          1. Napoleon actually was instrumental in making a German nation– so much later than 1600…. Before Napoleon… it was all city states, small landowners, and churches. In fact you couldn’t take goods across the Germany today without paying taxes from every small castle on the river.

            1. I remember seeing a political cartoon from the time that made fun of that very situation. Can’t find it anywhere, though.

              1. Yea– I had the opportunity to learn German history of that period with a German professor… it was quite an interesting twist to see it from his viewpoint. Plus he was a child during WWII… that was really interesting to hear what he remembered as a child. He liked to teach American students (through UMUC Europe) because we were more curious and interested.

                1. Must’ve been quite an experience. I hope he made the period come alive for you. I’ve seen maps of pre-Bismarck Germany, and I wonder how anyone kept track of all the little statelets without a computer. Then again, travel times were far slower without railways and motor vehicles, so perhaps it was obvious where one state ended and another began.

                  1. Think robber barons actually. We lived in Germany for six years and the ruins (little castles mainly and a Roman ruins) littered the landscapes. Before Napoleon there were 100s of them… I think (you would need to look it up) Napoleon turned it into 35 (more or less) principalities.

                    1. Of course he did. The Holy Roman Empire was on its way out anyway, so he just did away with the thing when he established the Rhine Confederation.

              2. Oh yea– he considered Hitler a banal evil– and Hitler gave his support base everything they wanted, which kept him in power…(I keep getting flashbacks to German history whenever I listen to or read our political leaders)

                1. People like to consider Hitler a monstrous evil because if you don’t consider him an anomoly, you see all sorts of similarities. Most applications of Godwin’s Law are people having vapors because they have propounded a rule that would indeed justify the Holocaust, and they are too arrogant to withdraw it and too incoherent to define it more narrower — or possibly it just doesn’t work

                    1. “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

                  1. Indeed. When you look at the grand sweep of history, you’ll see how utterly banal ethnic hatreds and mass killings are. Even during the time, Stalin had Hitler beat when it came to mass murder. And then there’s Nanjing…

                    I say this not to downplay the Shoah, but to indicate that Hitler was not some otherworldly monster; he was a human being like you or I. With the right justifications and the right amount of desperation, any person could do what he did with the full approval of their own conscience.

                2. And I keep having Kipling flashbacks:

                  His vows are lightly spoken,
                  His faith is hard to bind,
                  His trust is easy boken,
                  He fears his fellow-kind.
                  The nearest mob will move him
                  To break the pledge he gave —
                  Oh, a Servant when he Reigneth
                  Is more than ever slave!

                  1. One wonders if the Hoyt’s Huns on Goodreads should have a shelf just for the works for Kipling.

                    1. It’s there. Folks may fill in at leisure.

                      I suppose the next step is a huns bookshelf to tout our own. Except for Sarah.

                      That’s ’cause she’s already got a shelf of her own.

                3. That’s the trick that bad guys use — give the people everything they could possibly want, especially when they’re in profound pain. The people would follow any order, tolerate any outrage, just to make the pain go away and never come back.

                  You cannot get a Hitler or a Lenin when everyone is comfortable and happy.

                  1. Agreed– the lower classes in Germany still remember that he brought them paid vacations, better work hours, better roads, and even a Volkswagen (people’s car).

  15. I heard a similar story about Bomarcs. Sometimes the launch sequencer would start itself up, open the bunker doors, and erect the missile. Fortunately it always stopped at that point, which is good, as those things had nukes on them.

                1. I recommend a nice marinade of seasoned rice vinegar, ginger and garlic. Sear lightly before serving.

        1. Tut, tut, tut.

          Running away over bridges is unwise when there are trolls about. And there’s a bridge that way.

  16. Didn’t, somewhere .. I think “Dawn Treader” .. C.S. Lewis write “That may be what a star is made of in your world, but that isn’t what a star is.” or something similar? Not gonna go look it up, but .. it’s a clear parallel.

    The idea that science exists separately from spirituality and spirituality separate from science is silliness, of course.

    It’s bad enough, these days, how many “scientists” condemn and reject any spirituality but their own, but what’s far, far worse is how few actually *look* at, how many *fail to analyze* what they believe, and seek to understand how their beliefs may be shaping their findings.

    Mew

    1. “In our world,” said Eustace, “a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.”
      “Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is, but only what it is made of.”

        1. Much, much later, I found out about the “morning stars singing together” was supposed to be angels in the appearance of stars, and that made it make sense more.

          Although I’d say Diana Wynne Jones’ luminaries in _Sirius_ are also pretty darned hot.

  17. While a fun discussion is being had as usual, I think we may be skipping over Peter’s point, that trying to see the world as people in other cultures do is great for writing SF. Egregious Charles makes a very good point that the lightning explanations are not contradictory just distinct.

    Immersing yourself in another culture is good for the writer in you, and at the heart of creativity.

    1. Times in reading speculative fiction I didn’t know the cultural source but I was pretty sure Hall mentioned it in The Silent Language I’ve even seen that book mentioned as a source.

    2. Worlds shape people, just as people occasionally shape parts of worlds for their own personal use. A good writer tries to reflect that, as his characters interact. “DUNE” is a good example: the freemen had a hard life, and how they adjusted to it made them what they were. Sarah’s own “EDEN” is another example: a people who live INSIDE a world, instead of outside it, and constantly on the defensive against possible outside detection. That’s one of the reasons why writing about aliens is difficult: you not only have to create a population of people, you also have to create the world that both gave them life, but also shaped them. You have to create a society, populate it, and show how it works. That society has to fit the world it inhabits. It’s very easy to leave things out, to mess things up, and leave readers scratching their heads and tossing your books against the wall, or sending them to the bit-bucket.

      1. Hal Clement in “Whirligig World” (afterword to Mission of Gravity) described SF as a game played between writers & readers. Writers move first, creating a world and populating it as believably and as scientifically-correct as they can. Readers move next, “finding as many as possible of the author’s statements or implications which conflict with the facts as science currently understands them.”

      2. Herbert said that in DUNE he was exploring how environment shapes a peoples culture and religious beliefs especially in the development of messiah mythologies. He said, “I invented Paul Atredies so that I could kill him.”

        1. I meant to type “specifically” instead of “especially”, don’t know what happened there. :/

    3. Stepping into another culture is also helpful for providing perspective on this culture, the better to describe it, lampoon it or critique it.

      Another example of the benefits of such perspective may be derived from C.S. Lewis’s advice:

      Every age has its own outlook. It is especially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books…. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them.
      https://dbts.edu/blog/c-s-lewis-on-reading-old-books/

  18. What has always fascinated me is the people who pride themselves on their skepticism, who find it outrageous that anyone would challenge what they accept as beyond doubt.

    Case in point – the lipid theory of heart disease: dietary saturated fat causes heart disease. There was never any actual scientific data to back this idea, only observational studies that showed a significant correlation only by throwing out contradicting data (French paradox, anyone?) As everyone knows, correlation is not causation. Still, that didn’t stop the NIH from holding a “Consensus Conference”, stacking the members of said conference, then declaring a consensus that did not exist. A consensus that has since been proven to be flat-out wrong, and is the primary driver of the massive increase in obesity, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions caused by the poor diet that the government has been recommending us, for the last 30 years. It was, most likely, the single most significant error in the history of mankind. Tens of millions have died, or suffered lives of lingering illness, because of it.

    And a second case in point – anthropogenic global warming. Somehow people who pride themselves on their skepticism refuse to be skeptical about it.

    One thing I’m certain of – whenever people yammer about “consensus”, they are certainly wrong about the existence of a consensus, and they are probably wrong about the underlying science.

    1. You misapprehend the issue. Their skepticism, about such ancient superstitions as religion, family, respecting the elderly and protecting the value of the fisc is evidence of enlightened ability to see past inherited shibboleths. Your skepticism is just plain old meanness and resentment of their cleverness..

        1. Ayup. It is pure blind resentment of the specialness that is them. If you had a glittery hoo-hah* like they do you would appreciate how hard they are trying and how much their empathy for the poor, oppressed and downtrodden means more than your actual providing goods and services to the victims because you just don’t feel.

          *Applies doubly to males with GHH

                1. If I just remembered the article that refers to the GHH and GR, I wouldn’t have had to do the internal dialogue of, “Flowers? Making tea? Oh, right, never mind.”

  19. So far, none of the commenters have said anything about religious superstition, Which somehow seems that most people have to one degree or another. For example: My grandmother died because of religious superstition. She had the Devil beaten out of her and died from her injuries.
    To my mind religious superstition is probably the worst kind because what ever is done in the belief that G_d ordained it makes it OK. Much like the murderers of my grandmother, they declared it a part of their religion and were set free.

    1. The original post touched on “religious superstition” and others have mentioned it; they just didn’t commit the genetic fallacy of thinking things are bad because they’re “religious,” rather than because they’re bad.

      1. If it hadn’t been for a religious belief my grandmother would not have died at the age of 54. So, I don’t think it’s a genetic fallacy to consider bad things bad because they’re religious. YMMV

        1. It is tautological to assert that bad things are bad because they are bad, but the only useful purpose of retaining the “religious” modifier is that it is a reason for bad practices to remain in use; it is not a prima facie source of their badness.

          Many good things, for example, are religious (marital sex, for one) which does not in itself make the things good, just as being religious does not make a good thing bad nor a bad thing good.

          1. Why would religious views on marital sex necessarily by good? When I got married (34 years ago), I promised to remain true to only my wife. And I have. Religion had nothing to do with it. We were married by a preacher only because that’s what my new in-laws wanted.

        2. I’m a little unclear on this, so I’d like to clarify. Are you saying that being religious makes something bad, or that religious things can be bad? You mostly sound like you’re saying the first – which would be a genetic fallacy – but your statements have been somewhat ambiguous, so it occurred to me that you might be trying to say the latter, which isn’t controversial in any way.

          1. I think the answer to “Some religiously inspired actions are objectively bad” is “What is 9-11?” Yes, indeed. They can. So can scientifically inspired actions– no? For a while there we thought radiation was a cure all. So can poetically inspired actions (Wagner!) etc, ad nauseum.

          2. I’m saying “religious things can be bad.” I myself personally don’t adhere to any religion because it’s not apparent given the size and complexity of the universe that any god would notice and prohibit or proscribe any action by a human. Therefore good and bad things inspired by religion are all inventions of humans.

            Sorry, a bad habit. I generally assume that someone I’m talking to can fill in the blanks. For most of my 70+ years of life I have been associated with very intelligent people and I seldom need to expand anything I say in explanation. In some cases, like this comment, the explanatory remarks were apparent to me, but I was wrong. It’s one of those things my wife keeps my fully informed about and just as I appreciate her request for further information, I also appreciate others offering the same.

            Thank you for asking for clarification!

            1. I am presuming that your second paragraph was a case of inept phrasing, not an insinuation that the people in this forum are less intelligent than you are accustomed to addressing?

              Your arguments certainly seem to be that religious things can be bad because they are religious rather than in spite of their being religious. The second formulation is so glaringly obvious as to obviate any need to say it, akin to observing that fire is hot and water is wet.

              It is a fundamental error to attribute to religion the cause of a thing being good or bad; religion mainly applies only to motive and in such instances (as Foxfier notes elsewhere) the perpetrators are a-holes because they are a-holes, their being religious a-holes is as irrelevant as their being white-, yellow-, brown- or black-skinned a-holes. A-holes almost always find ample justification for being a-holes, but that doesn’t mean their justification is valid, well-founded or the true cause.

        3. Then you are the one applying a form of superstition.

          They were bad because they beat someone to death, not because they were “religious.” (Like the description actually means anything… it’s like selling paint that is “a color.”)

          1. Beating someone to death is bad is true. However, a bad action inspired by a religious belief would not a have happened were it not for that belief.

            1. Bull.

              Someone that’s willing to beat an old woman– or anyone else– to death for “religious reasons” will find another excuse.

              Look at the death of the Tuba Man, and other victims of the “knockdown game.”

  20. Add to this: In any Law-based society, the *real* Seven Words You Can never Say are: “You’re Wrong, And I Can Prove It”.

    Hell, in the US especially, not only is Being Wrong considered Bad, in many places and circumstances it’s *legally actionable*. Look at the stuff your car-insurance provider sends you — does it not strike you as Odd that one of the first piece of advice given “if you have an accident” is “never admit fault”, to include something so basic as saying “I’m sorry”? (Apology constitutes Admission Of Guilt.)

    Now does it come as any surprise that whenever something goes wrong, the first action of most people is to shunt the blame onto someone else? Now does it make sense that even when someone is confronted with indisputable evidence of his being wrong, he still wont admit it?

    And doesn’t this tell you what a complete waste of effort it is to try reasoning with heretics and non-believers? Better to kill them all, take their children, and educate the little bastards in the Right Ways. Like the painting title says: “When Guns Speak, Death Settles Disputes”. (And if you’re now thinking “but that means ‘Might Makes Right'”: Welcome to the Desert Of The Real.)

  21. I’m well aware that it is groundless superstition, but I still tend to observe the “umbrella” law – that being the one that says if you bring an umbrella it won’t rain. And sometimes contrariwise. It’s not unrelated to the Gore effect where having Al Gore speak at an event causes snow storms (aka 6 inches of solid “global warming”) in the area

  22. I would love to order your book, but it doesn’t appear to be available for Kobo yet. When it is, I’ll buy it.

  23. Good stuff. I intended to glance at the first page or two, and got pulled through several chapters instead. I may or may not have more to say later, but my first impression is definitely favorable.

    And a thankee to Sarah for facilitating this to my attention.

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