Showing posts from 2015

On the Mudflats

Written in June, 2004. I am sitting on a log on the beach. It is a beautiful, sunny day in June. The sand is warm on my feet. I often come here in the afternoon, to gaze at the view and think. To the north, across the bay, you can see over the flat expanse of Delta to the skyscrapers of Vancouver. Beyond them, the mountains rise out of the haze. They are blue at this distance, with a few patches of snow still clinging to their peaks. It is low tide. The beach is sandy, then pebbly, and then the mudflats begin. At low tide, they stretch into the bay for a mile or so. A heron is standing in a tidal pool not far away, looking at me with one eye. Let’s go out on the mudflats. The pebbles are painful to bare feet. But then the cool mud is soothing. This is an estuary into which several creeks deposit their loads of silt. To the north, the Fraser River sends a big curling plume of muddy water into the ocean. Some of that plume curls back and settles down here. In a thousa


Two days ago, Donald Trump called for a temporary shutdown of Muslims entering the US. Predictably, this caused a storm of protest from leftists, liberals and mainstream conservatives. Will it hurt Trump’s popularity with his base? Probably not. Will he win the Republican nomination? Probably. Will be become president? Maybe. I don’t agree with any of Trump’s off-the-cufflink proposals. I don’t think building a wall between the US and Mexico is necessary or practical as a way to stop illegal immigration. I don’t think that stopping all Muslims from entering the US is a practical way to deal with the problem of Islam. I don’t think that “parts of the internet should be closed off” (whatever that means). However, my views are not that different on the first two issues. In my opinion, the US should prevent illegal immigration and deport all illegal immigrants. The US should also drastically reduce legal immigration, and be more selective about it. So, although I don’t agree with T

God is a Telomeme

At the end of each DNA strand in your chromosomes, there is a sequence of base pairs that repeats over and over: TTAGGG. That sequence doesn’t code for a protein, but it has an important function. It causes the strand to fold on itself, which prevents it from unraveling. That sequence is the telomere. The concept of God has a similar function. It is not useful as a description of reality. It might appear to be simply memetic garbage, but it has an important function. It holds together a system of memes and prevents it from unraveling. Religion is a way of propagating knowledge down the generations. It is a package that holds accumulated knowledge, especially values. The symbols and rituals of religion are merely packaging for values and traditions that have important functions. Religion is an anchor for the values of an individual and the organizing principles of a society. It provides a foundation for thought and communication: an endpoint of reasoning and debate. It holds

The Nihilist and the Carpenter

A walrus and a carpenter were walking along the seashore one beautiful summer evening. “We should take off our shoes so we can feel the sand between our toes.” said the walrus. “That’s a fine idea, old friend.” said the carpenter. They took off their shoes and continued on their way, letting the waves wash over their feet. The carpenter was in a philosophical mood. “What do you think about life, the universe, and everything?” he asked the walrus. “I am a nihilist.” said the walrus. “There is no purpose to life, no meaning to our existence, no truths that we can know, no values to guide us.” The carpenter thought about this for a few minutes. “But earlier,” he said, “didn’t you suggest that we go for this walk?” “Yes,” said the walrus. “That was my idea.” “And didn’t you suggest that we take off our shoes?” asked the carpenter. “Yes,” said the walrus. “I thought it might be nice.” “How did you decide that we should do those things, instead of something el

Bury My Heart at Szigetvar

Most Social Justice Warriors know nothing about the long history of our movement. Many believe it started just a little while ago. The truth is that the struggle against oppression has been going on for all of human history. This is a little story about the fight for social justice. It happened long ago, not the 1960s but the 1560s, in a town called Szigetvár in what is now Hungary. The great community organizer, Suleiman the Magnificent, the leader of the #TurkishLivesMatter movement, organized a big protest against the Christian white supremacists of Europe who refused to accept undocumented refugee immigrants into their lands. He organized a large group of 150,000 refugee protesters, and they headed north, determined to speak truth to power. After many long days of travel, during which the magnificent leader had to be carried in a litter because of his obesity, the protesters arrived at the city of Szigetvár. It was defended by more than 2000 white supremacist haters, und

Life is Violent

In the 30 years from 1980 to 2010, the population of Africa more than doubled. That is a natural rate of growth for a human population without environmental constraints. Actually, it is a low estimate, because there were famines, horrific wars, and deadly diseases in Africa during those years. Also, many people in Africa had access to modern birth control. Nevertheless, the population doubled in less than 30 years. So, doubling every 30 years is a very conservative estimate of a natural rate of human population growth without war, disease, famine and modern birth control. Many populations have grown faster than that. Now consider how that rate of growth would increase a population over time. In 30 years, the population would double. In 300 years, the population would double 10 times, so it would multiply by 1024. In 1000 years, the population would double roughly 33 times, so it would multiply by about 8.6 billion. In 10,000 years, the population would double 333 ti

Pyramid Schemes

When I was 18, I saw an ad that said something like “Make $500 a week selling a revolutionary product!”. The product was a package of “life-changing” nutritional supplements: pills, elixirs, powders, etc. The ad said to go to an address for a meeting on a certain evening. Out of curiosity, I went. The meeting was in a big room in a community center, rented for the occasion. First, there was a speech promoting the life-changing product and the potential for selling it. Then various people in the crowd stood up and gave testimonials about how the product had changed their lives: they were healthier, wealthier, having more sex, etc. Of course, it was a multi-level marketing scheme. To join, you had to buy a batch of the product, and then you were supposed to use it yourself, sell it to others, and recruit others to sell under you, in which case you would get a percentage of their sales. At the time, I had never heard of such schemes, but I was not fooled. I understood that it w

The End of Marriage

In the modern West, we have discarded the tradition of marriage without much thought. It has become a hollow, meaningless ritual. In the past, marriage was a life-long commitment and a license to have sex. Now it is just a ceremony. Many people view the abandonment of traditional sexual morality as progress. They see no reason why we should follow archaic norms of sexual behavior. Those norms were justified with appeals to religious authority, not with rational arguments. Now that God is dead, or at least very ill, and we have the birth control pill, there is no reason to follow ancient traditions. However, just because traditional sexual morality was justified on religious grounds, that doesn’t mean it was arbitrary or oppressive. Traditional sexual morality had very important functions. People did not understand those functions, so it was justified with appeals to religion. But it has a rational, pragmatic justification. Traditional marriage had two aspects: Marriage

Mass Murder

I'm sure most of you are aware of the recent shooting in Charleston SC, in which a white man motivated by racial hatred killed 9 black people. Predictably, many people are using this event to promote their political agendas. Some are using it to promote the view that white racism against blacks is a major problem in the US. Some are using it to promote gun control. Some are using it to promote censorship of beliefs they don't like. Some are using it to promote hatred against whites. It is always a fallacy to infer from an isolated incident to a general conclusion. Isolated incidents tell us nothing about the way things generally are. They are anomalies. Sometimes people see a pattern, real or imagined, in isolated incidents such as mass shootings. For example, one slogan says "Why is it always a white guy?", circulating with a picture of some famous white mass killers. The intended message is something like "Whites are evil" or "Mass killings are

Contra Roosh V. on Evolution

This is a response to an article by Roosh V : The Theory of Evolution Does Not Apply to Modern Human Beings . I quote extensively from his article. He, in turn, quotes extensively from the book Darwinian Fairytales by David Stove. I will not identify which passages were written by Roosh himself, and which were quotes from the book. I will respond to everything as if one person said it. However, the source should be pretty clear from the style of writing. This is not a personal attack on Roosh. I appreciate that he is thinking and writing about these issues, but he is very wrong about evolution. I’ll begin with his opening paragraph: I know your blood is already boiling from reading the headline above and that your intellectual self-defense mechanisms have been activated to refute all ideas you are about to encounter henceforth, but make yourself a cup of tea, relax, and consider the following viewpoint that has been concealed from you during your entire life. Okay. I’ve got my