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Solomon Eraut
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Solomon Eraut

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The biggest promotion of theism in the U.S. in the last week, I think, was probably the second half of this show I happened to hear on the radio. It's a late night show, which is when people are more suggestible, and it's a show that tries to cover the interests of people who are open-minded on the paranormal but not already decided for religion (or else they'd probably be listening to a religious station instead.)

The guest was an apparently shameless promoter of stories of near death experiences that involve "God" and seem probably made up, including stories on his website from individuals who claim they had thoughts or visions of these things without any "near death" being involved except maybe mentioning that someone they knew died.

He claimed that many "atheists" have had near death experiences of the presence of God, after which they are no longer atheists. He claimed that God usually knows everything about a person and communicates with them "telepathically" during the experience. (Compare DarkMatter2525's idea that "God" is really the believer's self. )

That got me to thinking: If I had an hallucination or a near-death experience in which I felt that I "knew" that some being presenting itself to me was "God" what would be my response? I hope I would remember to ask:

1) Why do you want me to think you're "God"?
2) Why do you think you're "God"?
3) Who's your god, if any?
In the first half, investigative reporter Nicholas Schou revealed how leading journalists and media are manipulated by the secretive agencies they cover such as the CIA. While in the past, the CIA employed reporters and editors in various media outlets, this practice was banned by Congress, so now the organization relies on more subtle ways to control certain members of the press, he suggested. Schou dug deeply into the Gary Webb case – Webb was ...
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+Solomon Eraut There are many individuals who believe in God but not in organised religion.

There are those who are leaders in organised mass religions,, franchised church religions and individual church and cult religions.

There are followers of all those religions with varying levels of commitment and belief in the religions they follow.

As there is no evidence for God I am more interested in the psychological, Sociological and Historical reasons for why people believe in their religions and why they have varying degrees of commitment to their religions.

For some who believe in God but not organised religions, they may be in need of hope and comfort.
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Solomon Eraut

Audio & Video  - 
This YouTube audio talk by movie and culture analysis personality Jay Dyer starts with about fifteen minutes of talk about how well Jay is doing at getting listeners, before getting to the subject in the title.

I've listened to Jay's chats at Hoaxbusters with Chris. What I don't get about his views is how while he looks down everything in Western culture as a conspiracy, a series of manufactured deceptive political movements, "back to Plato," as soon as it comes to some religious ideas from the official propaganda book of a particular ancient kingdom, he seems to accept them as self evident truth. Why is that? Why are the Biblical God and Creationism above all questioning and everything else a decadent philosophy, to Jay?

When Jay starts in with criticizing Stefan, he begins with something about the history of reason. He doesn't seem to respect the very idea of reason or reasoning. He wants you to think of it as a political propaganda movement. He doesn't define reason as asking questions about basic things, although reasoning is part of what he seems to be doing for himself.

When Jay gets to mentioning Sartre by 45 minutes into it, he's saying it's a contradiction to "reject all authority" because then supposedly you would be "following Sartre" and that would be a tradition too. The claim of people who are for reason (and not just second-rate politicos like Stefan) is that using reason means asking questions about basic things, and trying to produce some answers with reasons and evidence, not just taking dogma from some tradition or authority, because if people do that, then who ever thought reasonably about what the dogma is? The dogma might be nonsense, or harmful. Jay defends the side of following some authority (but he hasn't said yet which one.)

Here comes Jay's definition of reason at about 52:00 minutes in. He says, among other things, "Reason is connected with the idea of logos or logoi." This sounds like Jay has formed his views by taking details of terminology from some Christian Bible study as truth directly revealed. I don't know if I can go on with listening to this, it might get worse, but I'm going to try, because it seems like a good investment after I've wasted so many hours listening to Jay and people like him chatting, to find out the true dimensions of the errors or problems in their views.

So Jay is a presuppositionalist, in the sense that he can't or doesn't define reason very well, but he says, "Reason is a tool that God gives us." That's presuppositionalist because it puts belief in God and Creationism, some sort of dogma about what's involved in that, before and ahead of knowing what you're talking about enough to try to define the word "reason."

By 56:00 minutes in, Jay is getting angry at materialism and using foul language to express that. (That's the sort of point where I would give up on listening to any other YouTuber, no matter how entertainingly idiotic their flat Earth or conspiracy views are. I'll struggle on listening to this anyway.) Jay holds more or less the view that materialists don't have an explanation for how they can think at all or have minds. He thinks materialism is something that's been sold to people like Stefan and they bought it. The problem of materialism in Jay's view of materialism, is that material is chaotic according to Jay, and the world and physics have "process and pattern." Those things don't fit according to Jay.

There are other philosophies of reason than that sort of materialism and Christian presuppositionalism. Let's not have a false dichotomy between those two. There's physicalism and there's idealism and others. There's skepticism where a person explores admitting not knowing everything and still tries to reason about what a person can reason about, but questions the conclusions when they get weird. Has Jay ever cracked a book or website on real philosophy? Obviously from the way he speaks he has, but he doesn't seem to expect that his listeners will have, so he'll just argue to his listeners as if there are only two positions.

58:25 "I mean, come on. How, when are we going to get past retarded philosophy? And when are we going to get past just listening to guys that hawk stuff on the Internet? I'm talking about hawking ideas, and just selling what sounds good to you." (About now would be a good time to quit, seriously. I'll try to play the rest of the video, but it probably doesn't need any criticism after that.)

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After finishing listening and taking some time to think of what the overall point was, I think what Jay was saying was that almost anyone who's promoting Reason, including Stefan Molyneux, is hawking a propaganda scheme that comes from political history, which leads to a false idol, the goddess of Reason of the French revolution, which leads to beheadings (or similar violence or inhumanity implied as the result.) He's implying that you'd be better off just following whatever dogma from whatever authority you were raised to believe, even if, or especially if, that's the Biblical God and Creationism, except not if what you were raised to believe was Reason.

Problems with that include: How can we decide what nonsense to believe instead of reason, and be reasonable about it? Is it even possible to believe anything other than by reason and not just be pretending to believe?

He's not a very good deep conspiracy theorist in the end, because he totally accepts at face value the history of the French revolution and its consequences and the Jesuit and old traditional Conservative argument from that history for the position that their traditional religion should be upheld or else such consequences follow. The Terror of the French revolution was the first instance of political terror, but somehow we're not supposed to apply critical thinking or skepticism to that one case, despite being expected to apply it to every other case of alleged political terrorism. No, we're expected to be afraid of it, and sure that it happened as stated in the conventional history books and sure of what it means, to the degree that we're supposed to base our entire belief systems on it, or to reform our entire belief systems to adjust to the lesson that those events are supposed to teach us.

On the other hand, Jay has a point that the sort of patterns found in the Mandelbrot set, and in the formulas and observations of physics, and in biology, and in the workings of the human mind, show us that simple materialism that considers a chaotic material world as the only reality is naive and worthless.

I'd suggest going at least a little further into philosophy after realizing that naive materialism is foolish, instead of presupposing that the first presuppositional argument you hear, for whatever someone else presupposes, is the truth and is the solution that cuts through all questions of philosophy and religion. Presuppositionalism is a strawberry shortcut and a self-deceptive delusion, if not another propaganda scheme, and isn't actually a way to do philosophy that goes anywhere except to not understanding what begging the question means.
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Solomon Eraut

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A charming experiment. It's related to this piece of experimental music, Piano Phase written by Steve Reich in 1967.
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Solomon Eraut

Distributions  - 
Debian patches software to run with fewer apparent bugs for ordinary users, regardless of attributions or notifying the original authors of projects [Ronoaldo Pereira says in the comments here that Debian does notify upstream.] Debian-based distros such as Ubuntu and Mint may add more patches. Arch Linux avoids patches when possible, preferring to use the latest versions of projects as the authors wrote them and intended.

Maybe the use of distros like Arch puts some pressure on authors "upstream" to make their new versions run with fewer apparent bugs. Maybe some authors prefer to avoid adding lines of patches to their code for bugs that could or should be fixed by toolkits or libraries, which maybe passes the pressure to further "upstream."

Which do you prefer? Old patched software or fresh upstream purity?
Patching. This policy is intended to *suggest*, not to enforce. Vanilla Packages. Arch tries, as much as possible, to ship packages as the original author of the software intended. This means that every time we add a patch, we take one more step away from their intent.
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Whichever way makes a package more secure and reliable.
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Solomon Eraut

Theological Absurdity  - 
A self-described rationalist, Scott Alexander, writes a satirical update of Job, in which God explains away the problem of evil as the result of maximizing good in the multiverse. Scott then finds that he's been "scooped" by some theistic theologians.
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Could have been a Monty Python sketch :-)
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Solomon Eraut

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This seems like a useful graphic...
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Solomon Eraut

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The following article on "black holes" and a comment on it led me to write a long comment in response, which might be mildly interesting for those who are following me, so I'm sharing it.

My comment:

I've read about alternatives to lambda cold-dark-matter Big Bang cosmology (lambda CDM cosmology) and I'm interested in discussing it. There are various hypotheses for what would cause light from objects at intergalactic distances to be redshifted. In the Big Bang model, the redshift is caused by the expansion of space. The hypothesis that I now think is most likely (if the Big Bang doesn't solve all its problems) is that cosmological scale redshift is caused by light passing through clouds of matter (whether in the form of gas or plasma or solid particles, whichever causes the effect, mostly likely clouds of neutral hydrogen, which is otherwise hardly detectable.)

The advantages of the hypothesis that light passing through clouds of hydrogen atoms causes redshift is that the phenomenon would be an observable phenomenon if real. So hydrogen redshift is a testable hypothesis. The hypothesis of expansion of space is something no one has observed or measured, except through the observations of galactic redshifts that it is meant to explain. So expanding space is not a testable hypothesis.

One prediction from the hypothesis of hydrogen redshift is that if some relatively nearby object with huge clouds of hydrogen is observed, the light from that object will be redshifted in proportion to the amount of hydrogen the light passes through. Observations of the sun's surface have shown that there's a redshift that increases towards the limb (the edge of the observable surface from the observer's point of view.) That redshift was "mysterious" for a long time, and there have been other attempts to explain the cause of that redshift, but I think the hypothesis of hydrogen caused redshift is likely the best explanation.

Another prediction from the hypothesis of hydrogen redshift is that since hydrogen clouds wouldn't be perfectly evenly (isomorphically) distributed, some galaxies and stars would have much greater redshift than their otherwise estimated distance, from a denser cloud being in the line of sight from Earth to those galaxies, or those galaxies or stars having a dense cloud of hydrogen all around them (dense compared with the usual interstellar and intergalactic densities, still much less than Earth atmospheric density.) That would explain at least some quasars, and without any difficulty or mystery when a quasar is apparently attached to or in front of another object that has less redshift.

The mystery of how a quasar can vary in brightness within a few days, despite being brighter than a galaxy, supposedly according to its redshift-computed distance, would be solved by considering it as an ordinary variable star surrounded by a cloud of hydrogen gas that has enough density that light passing through it has passed through as much hydrogen as the average for traversing billions of light years. Such a hydrogen cloud effect would also cause broadening of spectral lines, which is also observed in quasars.

A third prediction from the hypothesis of hydrogen redshift is that sometimes hydrogen clouds might be enough in density and size to refract light slightly, by a fraction of a degree, which would distort the images of galaxies behind them, while also making those galaxies more redshifted. That effect would account for the appearance of gravitational lensing within clusters of galaxies that appear to be clusters at great distances (about 1 billion to 10 billion light years.)

The great problem for an infinite Euclidean space cosmology is what keeps the background temperature (also known as the cosmic microwave background, CMB) from rising over time to the temperature of the average stellar surface. (That problem is Olber's paradox, which I've reworded in terms of temperature in place of light intensity, to emphasize that there's some conflict with standard thermodynamics there.)
Evidence for Direct Collapse Black Holes

Scientists using the Chandra, Hubble, and Spitzer Telescopes have found evidence for direct collapse black holes. The two possible direct collapse black holes are so distant that they may have formed less than one billion years after the Big Bang.

"Our discovery, if confirmed, explains how these monster black holes were born," said Fabio Pacucci of Scuola Normale Superiore (SNS) in Pisa, Italy, who led the study. "We found evidence that supermassive black hole seeds can form directly from the collapse of a giant gas cloud, skipping any intermediate steps."

Read the full story here:


More on black holes:

Image credit: This artist's illustration depicts a possible "seed" for the formation of a supermassive black hole, that is an object that contains millions or even billions of times the mass of the Sun. X-ray: NASA/CXC/Scuola Normale Superiore/Pacucci, F. et al, Optical: NASA/STScI; Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss

#science   #astronomy   #astrophysics   #blackhole   #supermassiveblackholes   #directcollapseblackhole   #chandra   #hubble   #spitzer  
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Solomon Eraut

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I just got my chess program running, written on my own in C, and it found a mate in two, the first time I tried playing with the program set to look ahead two full moves. Do you see it? (The diagram is part of the output from the program. Upper case stands for black pieces, lower case for white. Black to move and mate in 2.)
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I used to try to program things, but ...
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Solomon Eraut

Blog+Links  - 
In case you use the Openbox menu with a right click on your desktop, I'm writing a version of the Openbox menu editor and now it's compatible with Lubuntu.

The original Openbox menu editor obmenu 1.0 from 2006 that Ubuntu still provides isn't compatible, so I had to manually edit my .config/openbox/menu.xml to get going with that version. Then I made my own version and called it obmenux.
obmenux - an experimental version of obmenu
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I've just pushed version 1.3.0 of obmenux. I've added icon support, showing icons and browsing with a preview, so it's easy to set icons in the Lubuntu desktop right click menu.
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Solomon Eraut

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This short short story is a reflection on what's off about presidential campaigns.
A Walk In The Park
A little fictional story about election management.

“Hey!! Wait up!” One man runs up to another in a city park, barely hanging on to all of his gadgets and coffee at the same time. “What was decided about Sanders?”

“Sanders? Oh, he is to be left alone.”

“I thought that we were supposed to block Sanders and set up Hillary for the Democratic lead.”

“Yes, but things have changed. Apparently, we are moving ahead with a new plan. Sort of seizing the opportunity, if you will.”

“What is this new plan? Does it make sense?”

“I am not too sure, everything is still rolling around in my head. I don’t know what to think of it yet. On the surface, it is either genius or complete insanity. Sit down, and I will see if I can make some sense of it.” They sit down on a park bench. “This will actually be good for me as a review... get everything square in my head. They are calling it, ‘Total Emotional Management’.”

“Total Emotional Management. That’s a winner phrase. Someone got paid allot of money just for that phrase, I bet.”

“No doubt! So, the way it was explained to me is this; we are trying to get the election system scripted like a soap opera, and politics in general, to lead people to a logical conclusion. That logical conclusion is that our politician, the one we place, was fairly elected. But what is coming out now is that we also need to entertain the public, because that is really what the public wants,... just to be entertained. Most people intuitively understand that the system is completely rigged, which it is, and they are happy to let that be the case so long as we give them something to distract them and allow them to believe the lie. The reality is that the American Congress is about as useful as the British Monarchy, but if we did not go through the motions of making it appear as though it had real value, then people would get upset and we would have problems. We thought this was just a logical thing, as it worked with Clinton, Bush, and Obama. The fact that Obama was black and stirred up so much emotion was over looked at the time. However, now with the economic situation as it is, and Sanders drumming up people’s emotions, it has become necessary to be more fluid, and more emotional. It was decided to make things more like professional wrestling instead of just a soap opera.”

“That much I am aware of. That is why we got Trump into the race after all.” 

“Yes. That is right. But let me stay in the flow here. In the past, the game involved manipulating the elections where we could, and using heavy pressure on the elected officials who got through the net; to either get them on board or force them out of office. Now, since the elections are completely under thumb, that is not necessary as we can place the person we want. But, the people still need their entertainment. They still need to feel as though the election and the process has integrity. At first, it was supposed to be very simple; get Trump to push people towards Hillary. But, now we realize that we were naive and were not thinking of all the different groups of people and their emotional needs. 

“To achieve this elaborate group denial, there are certain rolls that have to be addressed to include all of societies different emotional needs. For this to work, all of the people have to be entertained, which means that all the different emotional signatures need to be represented. In the soap operas they have learned that, not only is there the dynamic of heroes versus villains, but they are various shades of heroes and villains, with all sorts of subtle interactions between them. There is the loud villain and the quiet villain. There is the alpha hero and all the beta heroes looking to take the alpha’s place. I gets crazy and intricate.”

“Oh boy... that is all I need.”

“No doubt. Total Emotional Management means that, instead of hiring people to play a role, we are to manage the people who naturally fill a role. Simply write them into our script. We thought we could sell Hillary in the rabid liberal role, but Sanders is filling it. It does not matter who plays it in the end the script will play out the way we want it to.”

“Does this mean that the media block on Sanders will be lifted?”

“Goodness no! The media block plays into the people’s sense of being the underdog. Basically, it was decided that, instead of pushing back at Sanders, we needed to up our game and include him in the process. He is entertaining a large number of people. They told me that once I understood the big picture, I would see that it is really making our jobs easier.”

“So, as I understand this, we are seeing everyone as a player in the script.”

“Yes! But only if they entertain a segment of the public... or support the entertainment of a segment of the public. Positively, or negatively. Everyone knows that Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are too radical to be elected. But, still, they are keeping at least fifty percent of the population entertained and distracted. Add to that the people who are being entertained by hating Hillary, this election will be a walk in the park. And all these people will play out their usual election fantasy in the same way they play out their lottery fantasy. In both cases, they walk away disappointed.”

“Because, in the end, that is what they want.”

#bernie2016   #trump2016   #hillary2016   #politics  
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Solomon Eraut

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--- Interesting Stuff Alert ---

Blogs you may find interesting for broadening your perspective, or for a laugh if you reject their ideas or tastes. Laughter is healthy.

argued that there would be a slow interesting collapse of civilization: (+Ran Prieur links his music selections on G+. Open comments are at )

further out collapse and prepping ideas, and a theory of human evolution where remnant Neanderthal throwback autistic types are the good humans and Homo sapiens are a usurping mob:

argues for taking the parnormal and theism seriously, alongside conventional astronomy: +M Mahin

not a blog, but a book-like set of pages giving a provocative and unusual view of evolutionary processes +Eugene M. McCarthy (There's no evolution denial or science denial there at all, just theoretical differences and hypotheses that are fully within materialistic possibility, though sometimes outrageous to conventionally prudish discussion of reproduction.)

a group blog that's further out than almost anyone, going so far as to dabble in questioning whether the Earth is flat despite not starting with that subject as their conspiracy theory focus (These aren't the flat Earth fantasy promoters themselves, which I won't link as people who are too far out and frankly stupid wrong to be palatable to anyone who wouldn't look them up on their own.)

mostly harmless funny and far out stuff to spice up your G+ feed +Erik Swiger 

--- That concludes this interesting stuff alert.
     You may now return to your normal mass media programming. ---
June 1. I'm getting burned out on the internet, and I wonder if this is part of a trend. I mean, the internet is still miraculously useful to support offline activities. Which product should I buy? What's wrong with my car? How do I make this food? Will I like this album?
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+Erik Swiger Like the Earth in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, it had a guide entry of only two words (that's all the attention the galaxy could spare) "mostly harmless." That implies there might be space related content, or occasionally something some people would want to block. Also, for short sweet posts, a short sweet review fits. I think the word "spice" was the most out of place there.
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Threads and Processes in Python
I wrote something amusing in Python last night. I was trying to isolate why join() sometimes returns from a Process early, when the exitcode is None and the Process is alive, and instead of isolating it, I made it worse.
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Maybe there could be some extra named arguments on "join", for what parts of the Process you want to be finished when you join it.
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