On punishment

I have on different occasions shared opinions and quotes on this topic. It is known by regular readers that I am I lean towards abolition of prisons. I also believe with JJR that we should abolish capital punishment in the few places where it is still in the statutes. This doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with what to do with violent offenders. I listen to podcasts on crime and some of the offenses leave me wanting to throw up. The cruelty. The pain caused to families. The violence to the victims. It is all too sick. And the question is, what must society do to protect itself from such?

All that is not the subject of this post.

In this post, I want to ask a question. Different countries have term limits for different crimes ranging from a few weeks to several lifetimes or even capital punishment. The question is, was there a rational basis for say determining that for the crime of sexual assault, the minimum time for rape is 10 years (according to the Kenyan law)? I think the mandatory sentence was ruled unconstitutional. What is to be achieved in the ten years? Could the society achieve the same goal with a shorter sentence? Say 2 years?

What are your thoughts on this matter? Are there rational ways of determining what length of a sentence is required for say a murder? Keep in mind society doesn’t always punish murders. For example, during war, the guy whose side wins i.e kills the most, gets more stars on his shoulder and a presidential commendation for valour and other military honours. It is the killing by individuals not sanctioned by the state that we abhor completely.

Maybe I have this all wrong.

if your religion has you defending absurdities

It is probably time for a new religion.

Here we have a fellow who purports to answer tough questions from believing teens but not before he throws an accusation against atheists. So what’s the question?

God’s ordering the Jews to kill every living thing in certain cities (Deuteronomy 20:16-18): Is the above a correct understanding of scripture? If so, how was it right for them to kill the children that must have lived in a city so large?

Any rational person would say no, it wasn’t right. But not our apologist. First he compares this to WW2 or bombing of the ISIS, two events all right thinking people have condemned. But that is not all. He or she claims to be doing a root cause analysis arguing that this all began with the curse of Noah upon his grandchildren, shortly defending slavery to arguing these people believed in wicked gods so it doesn’t matter if they were all killed, defends the great land grab by Abraham’s descendants (that is still a cause of strife in the middle East) as the final justification for the murder of children. If you find nothing wrong with this, you can’t be helped.

Mike Ruel on the other hand is a comedian. He tells us there is internal and external evidence why the bible is true. I will not even consider what he calls evidence. If the bible is a miracle(inspired, dictated by a deity), no evidence is needed nor can any be adduced. If it is not a miracle, the absurdities found within its pages that are contrary to reason disqualify it from being true. Remember, Hume on miracles has not been answered.

And finally, this can be filed under bad arguments for theism. The author starts from some atheists have argued in favour of determinism to free will is incompatible with atheism and therefore god. This is poor argumentation. Whether atheism is true or false is not tied to whether determinism is true or false. The only question that is important for the atheist is, is there a god? All other questions are up for grabs.

On free will

by Voltaire.

Before you say not again, Voltaire argues that all our actions are caused. And when there are two competing activities, the dominant idea will take precedence. He writes

The will, therefore, is not a faculty that one can call free. A free will is an expression absolutely void of sense, and what the scholastics have called will of indifference, that is to say willing without cause, is a chimera unworthy of being combated.

Free will by Voltaire

He concludes by saying we can only do what we will, but we can not will what we will do.

Schopenhauer in his essay on Freewill wrote

A free will would therefore be one that was not determined by grounds; and since everything determining something else must be a ground ± a real ground, i.e., a cause, in the case of real things ± a free will would be one that was determined by nothing at all. The particular manifestations of such a will (acts of will) would therefore proceed absolutely and quite originally from itself,without being brought about necessarily by antecedent conditions, and thus without being determined by anything according to a rule. In the case of such a concept clear thinking is at an end because the principle of sufficient reason in all its meanings is the essential form of our whole faculty of cognition, yet here it is supposed to be given up. However, we are not left without even a terminus technicus for this concept; it is liberum arbitrium indifferentiae. Moreover, this is the only clearly determined, firm, and settled concept of that which is called freedom of the will. Therefore one cannot depart from it without falling into vague and hazy explanations behind which lurks a hesitant insufficiency, as when one speaks of grounds that do not necessarily bring about their consequents. Every consequence of a ground is necessary, and every necessity is a consequence of a ground. From the assumption of such aliberum arbitrium indifferentiae, the immediate consequence that characterizes this concept itself and is therefore to be stated as its mark is that for a human individual endowed with it, under given external circumstances that are determined quite individually and thoroughly,two diametrically opposed actions are equally possible.

ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER Prize Essay on the Freedom of the Will

May you will what you will in this coming year!

If you have time, I suggest this post. The history of the free will problem

Man a machine

by Julien Offray de La Mettrie is one those books I recommend you read during your December break. He writes somewhere

I do not mean to call in question the existence of a supreme being; on the contrary it seems to me that the greatest degree of probability is in favor of this belief. But since the existence of this being goes no further than that of any other toward proving the need of worship, it is a theoretic truth with very little practical value. Therefore, since we may say, after such long experience, that religion does not imply exact honesty, we are authorized by the same reasons to think that atheism does not exclude it.


Let us not lose ourselves in the infinite, for we are not made to have the least idea thereof, and are absolutely unable to get back to the origin of things. Besides it does not matter for our peace of mind, whether matter be eternal or have been created, whether there be or be not a God. How foolish to torment ourselves so much about things which we can not know, and which would not make us any happier even were we to gain knowledge about them!


[..]It follows that the study of nature can make only unbelievers; and the way of thinking of all its more successful investigators proves this.”

and to end this post, he says about the soul

The soul is therefore but an empty word, of which no one has any idea, and which an enlightened man should use only to signify the part in us that thinks. Given the least principle of motion, animated bodies will have all that is necessary for moving, feeling, thinking, repenting, or in a word for conducting themselves in the physical realm, and in the moral realm which depends upon it.

On free will

It is possible that I have shared this link before but I will share it again because it deals with one of those topics in which I have a very keen interest in especially as what it would mean to our legal systems to finally admit that there is no freedom of the will. What has piqued my interest today is

a weaker belief in free will correlates with poor academic performance.


Believing that free will is an illusion has been shown to make people less creative, more likely to conform, less willing to learn from their mistakes, and less grateful toward one another. In every regard, it seems, when we embrace determinism, we indulge our dark side.

which made me ask myself if this is really the case. I have no belief in the existence of freedom of the will and i find these findings don’t reflect my position. I know. Statistics and all. But I know there are a majority of my readers who are freewill skeptics. How do you judge yourselves? Poor academic performers? Lack creativity- Jeff I am lookin’ at ya?

I will conclude as Tolstoy does in War and Peace

It was necessary to renounce the consciousness of an unreal immobility in space and to recognize a motion we did not feel; in the present case it is similarly necessary to renounce a freedom that does not exist and to recognize a dependence of which we are not conscious.

Tolstoy, War and Peace

Have a freewill free day.

Unbelievable? Chapter 7

On suffering

Justin wants you to know that god is present in your suffering and sees the future even if you can’t. So stop complaining.

An argument has been made by theists and Justin repeats it, that why do atheists complain about suffering if we live in an indifferent world. This question does seem to me to miss the point. The atheist is telling the theist, you have made such and such claims about the universe and were that the case, the following should be expected as matter of course. In an indifferent universe, suffering is embedded in the nature of the universe. In a world with an omnibenevolent being, suffering is allowed to exist. And if that is the case, then either god is not willing or not able to eradicate suffering.

Justin says because there are many arguments for god, god must exist. No argument would be necessary for god were the existence of god obvious.

He quotes this statement of CS Lewis

My argument against god was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust. A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust.

Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, my argument against god collapsed too- for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancy. Thus in the very act in trying to prove god did not exist, in other words that whole reality was senseless, I found was forced to assume that one part of reality- namely, my idea of justice- was full of sense.

First, was he a theist or atheist? Leaving that aside, do we really need transcendence to say this is not fair? Is a toothache the order of things so that one can’t complain if they have a toothache? Must a god be posited to claim that a toothache is pointless? My idea of justice as a reasonable person leads me to the conclusion that we live in an indifferent universe where unless humanity works together to alleviate the suffering of others, their pain and burden becomes unbearable.

Jeff’s favorite argument. Freewill. Justin wants us to believe that it would be a greater evil for god to intervene, which we are told he has done before, than to allow freewill. Basically, we are told to accept that god is inadequate in coming up with scenarios where we maintain our idea of freewill without causing harm to others or ourselves. Where is omnipotence and omniscience when you need it? To Justin it was better in the eyes of god for the African holocaust to happen because of freewill than to intervene to stop it. How many of you find this argument convincing?

Justin says we live in a spiritual war zone and also that suffering draws people to god. I don’t know about you. But for me, there is no logical contradiction in a world where there is a god and there is no suffering. There is nothing that would come in the way of an omnipotent god who wanted to draw people to himself. No human connivance would prevent this from happening.