Our greatest suffering do not lie in the present as ideas of perception or as immediate feelings but in the reason as abstract conceptions, painful thoughts, from which the brute, which lives only in the present and therefore, in enviable carelessness, is entirely free

Arthur Schopenhauer in The World as Will and Idea

Our greatest su…

The atheists’ god challenge

Friends, here you shall find what the OP has presented as a challenge. I will, if you allow me, paste the challenge here and then show why the premise upon which the challenge is based can’t stand and advice the author to either formulate a proper challenge or drop it altogether.

The challenge reads as follows

Before you begin the challenge, ask yourself what you consider the probability that God doesn’t exist. You might be 80% sure, 90% sure, 99% sure, or 99.99% sure. So the way this scale works is this: Let’s say that if you are at 50%, you are an agnostic, and at about 75% or higher you are an atheist. If you go too far below 50% you actually become a theist, since you are more sure that God does exist.

Then once a day, for the next thirty days, say these words out loud, with as much feeling as you can muster:

“God, please open my eyes so I can see you. Reveal yourself to me. Demonic forces blinding me, leave me alone.”

Then after thirty days, reevaluate what you consider the probability that God doesn’t exist. If the number goes down significantly, that might be evidence that you live in World B. If it doesn’t, that might be evidence you live in World A.

The first problem with this challenge is that the OP doesn’t seem to know that agnosticism is a knowledge position and one can be an agnostic [a]theist. For agnosticism answers to the question of whether the nature of god is knowable. Having said that, however, it must be noted that there is a bigger problem to be mounted by the person presenting this challenge and that is we must be told what god is! To make the assumption that all of us know what you mean when you talk about god is to be presumptuous.

The next problem with this challenge is the assumption embedded in it, that is, if you repeat certain words several times, then magically it becomes true. Are we back to kindergarten again? What sort of challenge is this you propose to rational adults to engage in? The second assumption it makes is that apart from believing there are demons, he is actually implying that it is these demons that have blinded the atheist! And he has the nerve to call this a respectful challenge! What respect!

So as I told him in my response, let us cut the chase. I can’t even talk about what percentage of belief I hold on the existence of god simply because such a thing hasn’t been defined and the question of its existence is a secondary one. The primary question is and will always be what is this entity and why is it necessary. Once this question is answered, we will move to the next order of day, until then am a naturalist, with no belief in anything supernatural.

And his promise

If you, an atheist or agnostic, are open minded enough to take the challenge, I will be open minded enough to publish your results on my blog, no matter which direction the results lean

To which again, is an offer yours truly will reject outright. My mind is open but not so that my brains can fall off. So, Tim, if you get to read this, you can post it already as a response to your challenge in the knowledge that even if you don’t I have no ill feelings. I think it is a poorly formulated challenge and while you call it respectful, it’s hidden premises border on condescension and insult to people’s intelligence.

I need not say more except to invite you friends to weigh in if there is anything I left out in my response. And while at it, here is a bad way to defend one’s religion.

Man is

his own work before all knowledge and knowledge is merely added to it to enlighten it. Therefore he cannot resolve to be this or that, nor can he become other than he is; but he is once for all, and he knows in the course of experience what he is.

Arthur Schopenhauer in The World as Will and Idea

I suggest they close this faculty

My friend JZ brought this study, if we can call it that, by a Nigerian post graduate student at the University of Lagos purporting to have definitively proved homosexuality is wrong. Those of you on the micro-blogging site, twitter, do know there is usually a love-hate relationship between Kenya and Nigeria which yours truly isn’t interested in today, but I would suggest they close this university for a while.

Please tell me that after reading this,

Mr Amalaha claimed that as the poles of magnets repel those of the same type, this “means that man cannot attract another man because they are the same, and a woman should not attract a woman because they are the same. That is how I used physics to prove gay marriage wrong”

you will not demand that the faculty or department head be asked a few questions and while that is being done, that the faculty be closed to re-asses what their students have been learning. For please tell, how is this science? and by a post graduate student to boot? We have our own problems here, for example 500ml of milk[ a commodity we produce locally] retails at almost the price of a litre of petrol[ a commodity we import] but I think Nigerians have bigger problems. They queue for fuel, which they are the third largest exporter in Africa if my regional knowledge is correct and now they have University of Lagos!

If you thought religion was far away from this research, think again

In recent time I found that gay marriage, which is homosexuality and lesbianism, is eating deep into the fabric of our human nature all over the world and this was why nations of Sodom and Gomora were destroyed by God because they were into gay practice

Read that again and tell me, you don’t want to shoot yourself in the head! His god has a way of attending to his mistakes. Wipe them all out, so that when the inspectors come there is no evidence and you can’t tell who was doing what. Me wonders if the young babies, children and pregnant women were all gays so they had to be killed off? I mean just asking 😛

Now for the real punchline, we are told

Recently my lecturer at the Department of Chemical Engineering, Profesor D S Aribuike, pointedly told me that I will win Nobel prize one day, because he found that my works are real and nobody has done it in any part of the world

Me needs a Nobel right away! I mean seriously, seriously, this is cutting edge research that the departmental head is so pleased about. Shoot me, but if this was my university, I would for the time being say I went to a different school.

Chemical Engineers out there, please weigh in and tell us what field of research this is. Yours truly is not a science guy 😛

University of Lagos: Magnets prove homosexuality is unnatural

Let us call this madness

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. [Leo Tolstoy in Anna Karenina]

My friends brought to my attention the blog of a woman scorned who, after 10 years of marriage, discovered her husband was spreading his oats elsewhere and how she has planned to deal with this unfortunate event. We have no intention of going into what we think of the husbands dalliance, no, that I leave for others. She has a launched a campaign to salvage the marriage. To not bore you further with my stories, let us hear she has planned the game

she refuses to speak to her husband until he is “born again”[ I hope you know what that means]. She instead chose to speak to him through other people, blogs, TV interviews and […] to win her relationship back.

All we ask is when they met, she didn’t treat us to the show of love, why now when things have hit a head does she want people to get involved. The sweet nothings she was told, were all in private, they can resolve this matter privately with Jesus[pun intended]

She says in the next paragraph

My life completely changed for the better when I discovered my husband had been unfaithful in our marriage.

Unless there is a typo, yours truly doesn’t know why she is complaining. But maybe there is more, let us read on, shall we?

[…]I realized what I had believed in as my destiny was not what god’s plan for me was.

What was this plan

to share my life with my husband till death do us part.

Reading on, she tells us

I am currently living a new life from the one I knew and am loving it.

Yours truly wonders why, if at all, she is loving it, why does she want him back?

Moving on, there are very interesting revelations from the horse’s own mouth.

She tells us, she no longer answers his calls, doesn’t speak to him. In short, we gather she has resolved to publicly shame him. She tells us

in order to get saved, god made me face my greatest fear which was being rejected by a man I loved. It is true that I was proud. I believed that I was all that and my husband was lucky to have me as his wife.

yours truly would want to know saved from what and to become what? I truly would want to understand what happens when you get saved, for it seems it is not written in her piece.

She tells us, in her own words,

I believe my husband can get saved because god is using me to make my husband face his greatest fear. God never fails and cannot ever be defeated. My husband will get saved. You wait and see.

I bet her husband’s greatest fear, if at all he has any was this day and I don’t know about you, but I don’t see why if she believes her god is powerful as she wants us to believe does she have to choose such a demeaning way to get her husband saved. Isn’t it easy for her god to just tell the husband, you are saved, to spare us this public humiliation.

I find it interesting that she has gone to the level of posting his mobile phone number so that people can call him to tell him to get saved. Yours truly will not call him, but I have a message for him, should he by luck land on this blog. You don’t need to get saved. You can go to her apologize and promise not to sleep around and if you do, not to be caught and continue with your life together or call it quits and while at it sue her for libel, slander and whatever else lawyers use in such scenarios. If you go that line, she may file for divorce and depending on which case is dealt with first, your ass maybe fried!

To Njeri, wake up. Belief in superstition isn’t taking you anywhere. I was not at your wedding, but as a standard, your vows must have included the words what god has put together, no man can put asunder. It is evident, unless you choose not to see, that one party, named god, the same god you are saying has saved you, has failed to keep his promise. Now is the time to wake up and realize god is not going to do shit! If you don’t end this madness, you will continue living the new life you are now enjoying and his life will not stop. He will still get laid. You must realize those words by your pastor didn’t mean much or how do you explain the women who have wrecked your bliss? You can end this whole social media war and talk with your husband, that is if your want to be with him. Humiliating him in public does no good in making you friends or reconciling and if this is the advice you got from your church, you don’t need it. Use your brains in a more rational way. None of us were party to your dating scenes, your disagreements should remain between you, your family and maybe close friends. Come down from your ivory tower, it has no foundation and decide which way you want to go. Am not going to tell you to go back or quit, that you’ll resolve on your own, am telling you to handle this in a more civil way. I also don’t mean to say you shouldn’t feel hurt, by all means cry a river, but once you finish crying, wipe your tears and be firm with whatever route you choose to take. You have this one life, try to make it as pleasant as you can.

You my friends, I know have quite a lot to add here. Am the last person who should be giving marriage advice.

Kenyan woman, Njeri, turns to social and mainstream media to save her marriage

There is everything wrong with this statement

“How to Become an Atheist: by, Living Waters / The Way of the Master–If you are thinking of becoming an atheist, beware. The first step is easy, but it’s not so easy to walk the walk. You will have to ignore design when you can see it everywhere: in the universe, the atoms, the birds and the bees, the clouds and trees, the seasons, the human body, fish, flowers, fruits, feet, and even fungus. And… of course, there is the amazing-looking human eye. Everywhere you look and everywhere you can’t look with the human eye you will see incredible design. Now here’s the really difficult part. You will need to believe that everything man-made: cars, computers, and candies were made by man, etc., but deny that everything in nature–cattle, camels, and cabbages, etc., were made at all. It came from nothing, with no Maker. Once you have done this, crown yourself as being intelligent. Then you will need to find other atheists who believe as you do, and they will confirm to you that you are indeed intelligent. You will also need to believe that evolution is true and that you’re an ape and therefore you are not morally responsible because apes have no moral absolutes. Never forget to always give God a small “g,” and learn believers’ phrases such as “Evolution is a proven fact,” and “I have no beliefs in any gods.” Do these things, and you will be able to call yourself a “new” atheist. How cool is that! Well, not really. You can¹t be a true atheist because you need absolute knowledge to say that there is no God. Besides, you intuitively know that He exists. Still, for sin-loving sinners the benefits of atheism are great in this life. But not the next. So you are really not an atheist, and to keep with your sinful lifestyle I guess you will just have to pretend to be one.

If How to Become an atheist is a book, yours truly hasn’t read it and doesn’t not, even by a long shot, plan to do so. Secondly, if this is the  opening statement, then, I submit that the author is a fool and a silly person.  That said, this paragraph from the said book is so wrong, every bit of it and in a short while yours truly will demonstrate why this is the case.

We are told the first step is easy and all that is expected is we have to ignore apparent design in nature. This is the argument from design couched in bad language. Design signifies purpose. A car is designed to get Jane for point A to B on a road designed by Joyce and constructed to some specification. The maker of the car designs it with a purpose in mind from the onset.  As far as we can tell, this isn’t true for naturally occurring things, unless of course we say an earthquake is so designed to cause havoc and kill as many people as is possible or that a lion is designed with paws just so that it can kill antelopes, then this designer has a cruel sense of humour! And yes, the eye- complexity- Behe’s irreducible complexity; good try but there is nothing that stops the eye from developing to its current state over an extended period of time.

We are asked to either accept they were made by his particular god or they have no maker. One would want to ask why would they need a maker? Is he saying nature isn’t sufficiently powerful to bring into existence atoms so organised that on the one hand we have a stone and on the other a cow or on the other a snake? We then ask, what is this thing you call god? How can a something you don’t know be responsible for what is? How can we know this god or gods have done anything in our universe?

And I make no apologies for being intelligent. I know that I don’t know. It requires diligent and honest study to come to the conclusion that beauty in the things we observe in the universe doesn’t prove god. The most I can infer from my eyes is that I have eyes, nothing in my having eyes would translate to the existence of a god. That would be stretching it.

Well, evolution has nothing to do with my atheism. If the theory of evolution through natural selection were to be disproved, by another scientific explanation, I will still be a naturalist. Atheism is the lack of belief in the existence of gods. There is nothing in the definition of atheism that requires you to understand and accept its truth. It is for this reason there are a whole lot of christians who accept the truth of evolution albeit they contend their non existent god set it rolling. There are no moral absolutes. This argument has been advanced by Craig who argues for a Divine Command Theory. This problem was put to rest many eons ago by the divine Plato. And moral responsibility is best answered when we consider whether our actions are free or not. I intend not to talk about that here.

If it pains you that we write your god as god, you need to deal with your ego issues.

One doesn’t need absolute knowledge to determine the question of the existence of god. In fact, when you take time to think carefully through this question, one needs just a little common sense to come to the conclusion there are no gods and the ones that exist have been created by men in their own images. We have not been told what god is to even start the discussion of whether such a thing really can exist. No, you don’t intuitively know that god exists, you are told what god to believe in depending on which village you happen to have found yourself. If your are Hindu too bad, there are a million gods, if christian you are confused between whether it is one god or three or one in three or three in one and a god that wants to punish for looking at a lady’s beautiful legs and having some right ideas form in your head or you would still be unlucky if you are muslim and your god through his prophet expects you to show everyone your other face at least five times a day 😛

Sin, if they are offenses against a god, then such do not exist for such a thing as god in non existent. And again, it is wishful man who wants to live forever, imagines a heaven and populates with people who believe as he does. What an idle thought!

And finally, it is condescending and borders on rude to say that rational people who have outgrown superstition and are comfortable with living this one beautiful life, are sinful just because they don’t believe as you do. And if you are moral because of the say so of a person who purports to speak for your god, then we have every reason to be wary of you and should give you a wide berth for it is hard to tell you will not kill me on the say so of your supposed god.

The Age of Reason

by Jean Paul Sartre

Covers two days in the life of Mathieu, a philosophy lecturer, whose girlfriend of 7 years has just announced to him that they are expecting a baby. It had been agreed between them, two years earlier, what to do in the case such a thing were to happen. Mathieu does not have the requisite money, 4000 francs, to pay the doctor so he goes first to Daniel, a friend who though having the money refuses to give him. He goes next to his brother Jacques, who offers to give him 10,000 franks on condition he marries Marcelle, an offer he rejects.

There is a twist to the story. It appears in the two years since they had the discussion about what should happen should Marcelle be pregnant, she has changed her mind but Mathieu fails to consult her thinking things are as they always have been. He talks to Boris, a young man so fond of him,who has a cougar, Lola, as a mistress. Boris asks Lola for a loan of 4,000 franks while they are dancing. She doesn’t believe and they end up having a bad altercation in her hotel room where she takes an overdose of some pills that make her pass out. When Boris wakes up, he thinks she is dead because she is pale and unresponsive. He runs to the bar where he had earleir left Mathieu to report what has just happened and entices him to go to Lola’s room to see for himself. To persuade him, he tells him about the money in her suitcase and this works since he, Mathieu, agrees to go and check on her.

Lola wakes up to find Mathieu in her room and he explains to her the circumstances under which he had come. He does not steal the money though. He regrets his cowardice. Later the same evening, he contrives to steal the money which he manages to do while Lola is out of her falt and takes it to Marcelle. She rejects the money and sends him away, marking the end of their 7 year affair. He leaves asking himself if he is really free and wonders for what has he left her.

Lola comes charging to his flat, looking for Boris thinking he is the one who pinched her money because she is old and threatens to press charges. She doesn’t find him at Mathieu’s. He calms her down and explains that he is the one who stole the money and that he is the one who had earlier asked Boris to borrow the money. She doesn’t believe him at first but then a few moments elapse and then demands to have her money back, money which he doesn’t have for they had remained at Marcelles. Daniel comes in just as they are ending their conversation. He hands over the money to Lola telling her it’s from Marcelle and she departs and promises not to press charges. She still misses Boris, who appears to have disappeared albeit briefly.

When they remain the two of them, Daniel tells Mathieu he plans to marry his Marcelle so she gets to keep the baby. Mathieu doesn’t seem hurt or even in the least surprised. He (Daniel) presses on and tells him he is a homosexual and will marry Marcelle so that she gets to keep the baby. It is this revelation that seem to annoy Mathieu but its effect doesn’t last for long as he realizes that he has lost her forever. He finds himself alone and as the book ends, he declares he has reached the age of reason.

It’s an interesting read and for those of you who have some time to spare, I would advice you add it to your reading list.

On choice, free will and other matters

Friends, I haven’t written in a while, life came between me and the blog though I read most of your blogs. My good friend Violet[for those who don’t already follow her blog, you may want to pay her visit] wrote a blog, justification for harmful behaviour in which apart from espousing on two possible belief systems that would influence a person’s behaviour, she proposes a third way, let’s call it Violet’s way and allow me to copy a part of it here

All your behaviour and your actions are as a direct result of your brain interacting with your environment. You can usefully influence the choices that other people make by interacting positively with them and spreading any information you have that can make life a more pleasant experience, both for yourself and others

which I disagreed with to the extent that we hardly are able to chose our genes, training or environment and these three things determine how a person will behave or react in a particular situation. Whereas we are in agreement that the idea that man is born deprived is an absurd and outrageous idea, I think all of us have the potential to act in ways that would be considered bad or good by others and either we lack opportunity or our training is such that we will not go against societal norms.

This post, however, ain’t about my friend’s post but about a post that deals with a related matter albeit from a different angle. The post, terror of choice and free will, explores the same question of free choice [eventually leading to an action]. The author tells us about a job offer [s]he was recently offered and finds themselves quite unable to make a choice between

accepting a lower-paying job with the hope of someday moving out of customer service into something I actually care about, or staying at a job that pays decently, but doesn’t offer the opportunity to progress.

She tells us

I’m not usually on the fence about things. I’m fairly decisive and I stick by my decisions

but now finds herself in a situation where the decision is hard to make. I will make a few concessions before I proceed, that is, she can act in either two ways, either take the new job or retain the old one. That said, what will determine which choice she takes is motive. I think the reason she finds the decision hard to make here is because the motives almost cancel out. Most times, we are able to easily act in one way or other given two competing situations because the motivation for one outweighs the other significantly.

I however disagree with her, when she writes

We have the unique ability to reason and come to decisions independent of immediate environmental stimuli

which I don’t think is true. This would be similar to saying that our actions are free of causes. The case is, that sometimes or rather many times, we can not tell the chain of causes that led to a specific act or that there are complex factors that culminate in a particular action whereas we would deduce from the movement of plant leaves that there wind blowing them. In the case of the plant, it is easy to identify the cause and its effect whereas this becomes quite complex when dealing with the human person. It is, I think, wrong to conclude that since we can’t map the chain of causes, then our actions are free.

She tells us

animals do not really have the ability to make decisions as they’re motivated by base desires: the need for food, comfort and reproduction. Although humans are motivated by the same, our needs are far more complex.

which I don’t think is entirely correct. The motivation is the same for both us and other animals, and that is the will to live. Most people especially in the lower stratum of society are motivated by the desires she calls base and it is only once these are met that one can then have time to philosophize. I could say, that, a greater part of our research efforts is geared towards self preservation, the same desire that makes the antelope in the great savanna to run once a leopard is sighted. However, there are those things we do just for its sake for example art.

The one thing I liked about her post is that at the end she writes

[..]jobs is that if I choose the wrong option, I’ll be stuck in a crappy job that won’t afford me the money to buy the things that I want, like a car or a new laptop.

and this my friends is the key to the problem. It is here that motive lies and once it becomes clear, how she will act will be cast on stone so to speak and unless that motive changes, we will tell how she would be likely to act given a similar scenario.

I submit in conclusion that our actions are not free of causes. They are depended on the environment, training and temperament that each person is born with. The one thing difficulty we have in telling why a person A acts different from person B in similar scenarios is our inability to know the motive behind each act of will and the preceding chain of causes. Were this known to us, we would with precision map how each person would act in a given scenario and I bet our predictions would be correct to a very high percentage.

I would like to hear your thoughts on this matter, especially, if our actions are free of causes and whether we are free to make choices or if it is an illusion.

A few things about home

The say

A fool and his money are soon parted

and I contend here, we are country of fools and for this reason we will soon, each one of us will have to part with money, albeit not through treachery but as a result of actions some of us took a few months ago. During the run up to the plebiscite in March of this year, I did write a few posts, which, just like this one was read by few Kenyans where I told them for the love of the country let us be wise. For most people, then and now, it has been a question of us vs them, mainly antagonism between the Luos and the Kikuyus. I said then and I reiterate, when prices of commodities go up, they will not segregate and have a Luo or Kikuyu price, it will apply across the board both for the poor, middle class and rich alike. And until that day that we will wake up to the realization that it is a struggle between a few thieves, yes I call them thieves and the masses, we will continue to grow poor and poorer and the dream of industrialization will remain just that, a dream never to be reached.

The government has recently adopted a VAT bill[pdf], that was passed by our useless parliament which among its strengths is that it creates a less complex terrain for VAT compliance and determination starting with the reduction in the number of exempt goods and services from 3,000 to less than 50. Whereas this is laudable,  the net effect of this bill is to widen the tax base in effect increasing tax. The government is broke, very broke and it is huge, thanks to the drafters of our new constitution. It beats me why a country of 30 million should have 300 plus members of parliament without counting members of the senate and county assemblies, superfluous principal secretaries, several standing constitutional commissions that do nothing towards developing the economy but contribute to increasing our tax burden.

The reactions to the increased tax have been nothing but interesting. They show the level of discontent with the government and I hope it is only a matter of time before we go the Egyptian way. Am skeptical that we can rise up above our ethnic groups to say no as a nation to the political class. We are a nation of fools, that it would take help from the Olympian gods to even open just a few eyes. Everything is looked at through the prism of our person regardless of whether the person in question has swindled the public of funds. This apathy, exhibited especially so, by those Kenyans on Twitter[#KOT], a group one would think represents the middle class and the educated mass of this country is far from depressing.

https://twitter.com/Yekaken/status/375327502379388928

What I find interesting is that the deep political undertones are not far away as can be seen in the tweets below.

And even though there is displeasure with the bill, KOT have a few items they feel should be taxed more

https://twitter.com/superbvince/status/375327053509591040

Before I end this post, I can almost predict that crime will go up. The police or the NSIS can take this information to the bank. There has been no significant increase in the earnings for a majority of Kenyans, unemployment is at very high levels, the value of the local currency compared to international currencies is doing weak, we are a net importer of goods and as a result, the cost of living is going beyond the roof, that is if there is still a roof while the standard of life is taking a dive head first. This situation, which, as it appears to me the government seems to ignore or pretend doesn’t exist is recipe for chaos and civil unrest.

And that friends is where I stop with this update on motherland. I will let you know if and when we decide to say no to this greed but I hope we shall not have starved or internet will have become so expensive to keep blogging.

                                                                                 

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